Slim Down for Summer: Your 10 Week Plan

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Summer Slim-DownSpring is officially creeping in, with it’s gusts of 50 degree breezes and stir-crazy excitement in the air. That means bikini season in just a few months away!  So before you jump on yet another, crazy crash diet, or start doing juice cleanses every other week, let me help! Below you’ll find a 10 week plan to slim down for summer, revamp your diet, and revitalize your workout routine. If you make the commitment to yourself, your body, and your sweet, sexy summer self, this plan will take you there. Stay in touch in the comments or on our Facebook page to support each other throughout these 10 weeks, ask and answer questions, and keep yourself accountable!

The Organic Beauty 10 Week Slim Down for Summer Plan

Weeks 1 and 2:

These first two weeks are about starting and sticking to a few super healthy habits, before we move on to eliminating a some nasty ones.  First and foremost, spend these two weeks going gaga for greens.  I mean it!  Commit to having a full serving (at least 1 cup) of greens at two meals a day. For an added bonus, rock greens at all three meals!  And when I say greens, I don’t mean pale, flimsy lettuce.  I mean rich, darkly colored, super nutrient kale, spinach, chard, broccoli rabe, dandelion greens, and collards.  Eat ’em raw, eat ’em cooked (just a quick sauté with olive oil or coconut oil, garlic, and a pinch of sea salt and fresh pepper does the trick), throw ’em in your smoothies, your eggs, and your grains.  Greens are a super potent, detoxifying slim down food that is essentially “free” in terms of calories.  So eating those 2-3 cups of delicious greens every single day for the next 10 weeks means less room for other bloating, crappy foods.

Next, work on making lunch the biggest meal of your day.  Having a lighter dinner is one of the fastest ways to promote weight loss and detoxification, while helping you feel more energized and balanced throughout the day!  So make lunch dinner-sized, and dinner lunch-sized (think soup and/or salad), and watch the pounds start falling off.

Lastly, commit to working out, in any way that you enjoy, for 30 minutes to an hour, at least 3 days a week for these two weeks.  This could be yoga, pilates, running, Zumba, swimming.. whatever you love!  Don’t worry so much about the what for these two weeks, just focus on making those three days a week a non-negotiable part of your routine.  Set the days, put them in your calendar, and stick to them.  It works best to have a set three days a week that you work out, so you’re not figuring out where to fit it in every day.  Our bodies and minds thrive on routine, and this is the only way to build sustainable, healthy habits!

Weeks 1 and 2 at a Glance:

  1. Greens at least twice a day
  2. Big lunch/light dinner
  3. Exercise 30 min-1 hour 3 days a week

Weeks 3 and 4:

Now that you’re eating tons of greens every day and working out a solid three days a week, we can start to eliminate some habits that are getting in the way of your smokin’ summer bod.  It’s time to cut out processed sugar.  Completely.  As in, sayonara to Snickers, Skittles, and soda.  Does this mean you don’t get to eat anything sweet until summer?  Of course not!  Stock up on delicious fruit (especially potently antioxidant berries that are coming back into season), and sweet seasonal veggies like tomatoes, beets, bell peppers, corn, fennel, and sweet peas.  The more you incorporate these naturally sweet foods into your diet, the less you’ll be craving crappy sweets that relegate you to tankinis all summer long.  Treat yourself to a couple squares of dark chocolate (like, actually 70% dark chocolate) when you want a little something extra, and sip naturally sweetened tea throughout the day to help curb cravings.  Hibiscus, ginger, and dandelion root teas are all deeply detoxifying for spring, and with a touch of stevia to sweeten, they are a lovely drink to sip on all day long to promote slimming and steer clear of sugar!

Next, let’s amp up your workouts.  Wherever you’re at, take it up a notch.  If you’ve been doing yoga three days a week, add a fourth day of cardio or strength training.  If you’ve been running or using the elliptical machine three days a week, add a day of weights or a boot camp class.  If you’ve been a slow starter and have just been walking those three days a week, commit to taking a class of your choice for two of those days.  Wherever you’re at, amp it up!

Weeks 3 and 4 at a Glance:

  1. Cut out all processed sugar
  2. Eat fruit (especially berries) and sweet veggies.
  3. Use natural sweeteners in tea and coffee.
  4. Amp up workouts to 4 days a week.

Weeks 5 and 6:

So now you’re been eating big piles of greens at least twice a day, you’ve cut out processed sugar, and you’ve taken your workouts up a notch.  Let’s keep it going!  These two weeks are all about healthy grains.  First things first, we have to cut out the bikini bod’s mortal enemy, refined and processed grains.  This means cutting out the white bread, pasta, the processed cereals (basically any cereal other than granola), and if you haven’t already done so the last two week, all pastries!  Now I’m not saying you can’t have a slice of pizza for the next six weeks, but keep it to just once or twice a month.  Before you get all panicked at the thought of giving up bread, take a breath and chill.  You don’t need to give up grains!  These next two weeks, we are going to amp up your whole grains, which are awesome for weight loss, digestion, balancing blood sugar, and minimizing cravings.  So make sure to have a serving (about 1/2-1 cup) of whole grains at lunch and/or breakfast every day.  Brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, oats and millet are all your best friends!  Have some oatmeal or quinoa porridge for breakfast, or a slice of sprouted whole grain Ezekiel toast with nut butter with your smoothie or eggs.   For lunch, have some brown rice or quinoa with your stir-fry or in your burrito bowl, have some sushi, or just rock some grains alongside a delicious piece of salmon and a bunch of greens for a perfect, balanced meal!

How are the workouts going??  Hopefully by now you are working out a solid four days a week, even if it’s just for 30-45 minutes! If you’re not, hang that bikini up somewhere you’ll see it every day, and repeat to yourself that YOU NEED TO WORK OUT TO LOOK GOOD IN A BIKINI!!!!  There is no way around this.  Even if you are a lucky, naturally slim person, working out 3-4 days a week, every week is going to tighten everything up in all the right places and take your body from meh to WHOA.  So quit messing around and make it happen!  If it isn’t already a part of your weekly routine, I recommend adding a pilates workout to your regimen.  Pilates is amazing for toning abs, legs, and arms, and creating the long, lean lines that we all want for summer.

Lastly, WATER!!  Make these two weeks ALL about water.  Drink half your ideal body weight in ounces, every single day.  If you need to spruce up your water, add a squeeze of fresh lemon or some lemon slices, or get creative and add fun flavor boosters like sliced ginger, berries, and mint!  Drinking tons of water is crucial to slimming down, detoxifying, and getting that hot summer bod.  So make it happen!

Weeks 5 and 6 at a Glance:

  1. Cut out processed and refined carbs
  2. Increase whole grains at breakfast and lunch
  3. Work out 4 days a week
  4. Add Pilates
  5. Drink half your ideal body weight in ounces of water every day.

Weeks 7 and 8:

Alright guys, we’re almost there!  You are now working out 4 days a week, doing pilates, eating lots of greens and whole grains, and you’ve cut out all processed sugar and carbs.  Amazing!!!  By now your body is looking leaner, slimmer, and you probably have a whole lot more energy too!  Take a minute to write down all the awesome benefits you’ve noticed over the last 6 weeks.  This will help you stay motivated for this final month!

For these next two weeks, we’re going to clean up your proteins to make them leaner, healthier, and more conducive to a hot, slim, summer bod.  If you’re a meat-eater, over the next two weeks, work on keeping your animal proteins to lean, organic, free-range chicken, eggs, and low-mercury fish.  Also, start the practice of have two meatless days per week.  Regardless of whether or not you eat meat, focus on healthy plant proteins for these two weeks.  Beans in all their many varieties, nuts, and whole grains are all wonderful sources of protein.  Even greens have protein!  So don’t feel like you need to center your meals around a Protein, with a capital P.  Eating mostly plant proteins, fish, and eggs will give your body all the protein it needs, and will promote a healthy, lean physique year-round, not just in summer!

If you aren’t doing so already, make sure one of your weekly workouts uses light weights to boost metabolism and tone muscles.  For most women, I don’t recommend using dumbbells over 5 lbs., unless you’re going for a super muscled look.  To keep muscles long, lean, and slim, use 3 lb. weights in your workouts at least once a week.  If you’re a dude, you’re free to lift more, but focus on lower weight and higher reps to get a sexy, sculpted look.

Weeks 7 and 8 at a Glance:

  1. Write down all the amazing changes you’ve noticed so far.
  2. Keep animal proteins to organic, free-range chicken, eggs, and low-mercury fish.
  3. Increase and focus on plant proteins
  4. Have at least two meatless days a week.
  5. Add light weights to your workouts at least once a week.

Weeks 9 and 10:

Here it is, guys, the final stretch!  Your body is just a month away from being totally prepped for summer, and for some of you, you may already be there!

Keep up all the amazing changes you’ve incorporated over the last 8 weeks.  You’re doing such great things for your body!  These next two weeks, we’re going to make just a couple final adjustments that will get you where you want to be in no time at all.  First, we have to cut out bloating foods.  Retaining water and a gassy belly are major buzzkills when it comes to feeling sexy in slim on the beach, so we’re going to cut those puppies out to give your amazing abs a chance to shine!  Salt, dairy, and gluten are the three biggest bloaters around, so let’s be mindful of reducing or eliminating these foods for two weeks to really get some crazy results.  If you’re cooking your own food, you’re in control of how much salt is in everything, which is great.  Keep it to a pinch of sea salt when cooking, and you’re good to go.  If you’re eating out a lot, you don’t have as much control, so use these next two weeks as motivation for getting your cook on!

If you do ok with a little Greek yogurt, I won’t take it away from you, but cheese and milk are a slim-down (and general health) no-no.  Switch to a nut milk in your coffee and granola, and ditch the cheese altogether.  It’s salty, it’s fatty, it’s bloaty, it’s bad!

If you didn’t already do so in week 5 and 6, experiment with cutting out gluten for a couple weeks to see how it effects your digestion, especially if you experience bloat, gassiness, or feel like your belly just isn’t where you want it to be.  Check out this great resource on gluten-free grains!

Your workouts are settling into a nice routine by now, with a good balance of light weights, slimming pilates, and whatever else floats your boat.  These next two weeks, let’s make sure your boat is floated by some cardio.  If cardio isn’t a part of your 4 days of exercise by now, make it one!  Better yet, do it outside!  Biking, running, swimming, or a great boot camp or crossfit-style class are all awesome cardio workouts which will make sure you’re burning off fat and keeping things lean.  If you really want to amp up these last two weeks, add a fifth day of exercise to shred, slim and ensure that awesome bikini bod.  Even if it’s just a yoga class, working out 5 days a week is an unbelievable gift to your body, your mind, and your health.

Weeks 9 and 10 at a Glance:

  1. Reduce salt (cook more at home).
  2. Eliminate milk and cheese.
  3. Experiment with cutting out gluten.
  4. Add cardio (outside if possible)
  5. Add a fifth day of exercise (optional)

YOU DID IT!!!!

Share your experience as you go and definitely at the end of your 10 weeks here or on Facebook, and feel super proud of the amazing things you’ve done for your body.  Make a note of what worked and felt great, and keep those habits up, past summer, year-round.

As always, if you feel like you need some more support getting to where you want to be, please check out my whole body transformation programs and get in touch!

[Image: Pinterest]

5 Tips for Healthier Treats This Halloween!

Check out the post I wrote for Metromoms.net, just in time for Halloween!

Halloween stands out as the season for eating unhealthy, gut-busting treats and a real challenge for health-conscious parents whose children are surrounded by peers and media enticing them with sweets. As a certified holistic health counselor, I know it takes an insane amount of willpower to be surrounded by all that candy and not partake; and of course, who wants to be that lame parent who puts the kabosh on sweets?

But fear not! As with everything food-related, there are always healthier, while still yummy, choices to make. Follow these 5 tips to ensure that this year’s Halloween doesn’t spell a diet breakdown for you, or a weeklong sugar rush for the little ones.

  1. Be a chocolate purist. When selecting the sweets to hand out (which invariably equals what sweets you’ll have sitting in your pantry, taunting you for weeks to come), opt for candy that is mostly made up of dark chocolate. For example, Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Kisses (20 cal. each), Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Miniatures (40 cal. each) and York Peppermint Patties (140 cal. each) tend to have way less calories than their milk chocolate or caramel and nougat-filled counterparts. Plus, you’re getting a bit of a health benefit from the antioxidants in the dark chocolate. Need that milk chocolaty goodness? Go for a Three Musketeers Fun Size Bar, which, thanks to its airy insides, packs only 63 calories!
  2. Don’t taste the rainbow. Avoid all those brightly colored candies that are full of toxic artificial flavors and colors. Ever notice how you can’t eat just one of those little “fruity” suckers? Which makes them major calorie bombs – 10 little Starbursts have over 200 calories (and zero nutritional value). Instead, opt for chocolate-based candies, which are less likely to have tons of chemical additives. And if you’ve gotta have some fruity love, go for Natural Sunkist Fruit Gems, which are made with all-natural ingredients and colored with fruit and vegetable juice.
  3. Don’t stock your faves. I know this sounds crazy, but don’t buy a huge bulk-sized bag of your number one favorite candy. You’ll have tons leftover, and it’ll be that much harder for you to resist overindulging. Instead, pick up a few bags of candy that you (and your kids) are pretty ambivalent about, which means the only candies you’ll be fighting over are the ones your kids brought home.
  4. Consider the alternative route. Remember that one weird house in your neighborhood that gave out bizarre candy no one had ever heard of? They were probably the family that was doing yoga and biking to work way before it was cool. Be a trailblazer and order up some healthier treats from NaturalCandyStore.com, which has delicious candy that fit every ethos and health concern out there, from vegan and gluten-free to sugar-free and organic.  Unreal Candy is a new company that makes healthier, versions of popular candy (M&M, Milky Ways, Snickers & Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups) with no high-fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors and colors, or GMO ingredients!  Best of all, they’re available at CVS and Target!
  5. Set the rules, and stick to them. A great rule of thumb to keep your kids from turning into psychotic sugar monkeys for the entire week after Halloween is to set some reasonable rules around candy consumption. Lead by example by following the rules yourself. Select a certain amount of candy to keep, and take the rest to share at school or the office — a great way to weed out the bad guys above. Also make sure to set a limit of how much candy everyone gets per day. For example, one piece of candy after dinner keeps the Halloween spirit alive much longer, and keeps everyone from getting pimply and plump.


Natasha Uspensky, CHHC
Holistic Health & Nutrition Counselor
NU Health & Wellness

Natasha Uspensky in November’s Marie Claire!


I’m so excited to be mentioned in the November issue of Marie Claire magazine (with the cover graced by none other than my beloved Ashley Greene)! Geraldine Campbell, writer, fellow foodie and soulful searcher, wrote about her experience working with me on changing her relationship with food, focusing on filling her life with healthy foods and behaviors, instead of the damaging dieter’s mindset of restriction.

Geraldine writes of her journey:

Determined to lose the weight without falling into the pattern of past diets, I sought out New York-based nutrition counselor Natasha Uspensky, a former opera singer whose approach–enjoying food rather than turning it into the enemy–made me feel like I might be able to lose weight and keep my boyfriend.

Sadly, saying yes didn’t mean a diet of croissants, full-fat ice cream, and red wine.  Not that these are entirely off-limits, but Uspensky posits that if we fill our lives with healthy foods and behaviors, we won’t even want the bad stuff.  If I had a nutrient-packed berry smoothie instead of skipping breakfast, I wouldn’t feel tempted to raid the office kitchen with all its animal crackers and chips.  I wasn’t convinced, but I was ready to give it a try.

Under her guidance, I cleaned my kitchen of unhealthy foods (including, yes, a jar of master fat) and filled it with leafy greens, brown rice, almond butter, a few bars of dark chocolate.

I started cooking more, preparing meals like quinoa and black bean salad.  It didn’t taste overly healthy (by which I mean bland and cardboard-like) and I found (truly) that the better I ate, the less I craved meaty, cheesy dishes.  I felt empowered by my healthy choices, and I was bounding out of bed at 6:30 am, hangover-free and ready to face the day.

…I’ve also lost–and kept off–much of the courtship weight without feeling deprived.

I am so proud of Geraldine for her amazing progress, after completing my Two-Week Cleanse and just a couple of sessions! Pick up the issue today to read the full article!

Excerpt from: Campbell, G. (November 2012) The Dieter’s Dilemma. Marie Claire, 256

Holistic Treatment of Migraines and Headaches

Headaches and migraines are among those pesky and debilitating health concerns that are more often than not a sign of an imbalance in the body. A healthy body may get an occasional headache from stress or dehydration, but when it’s a regular, frequent complaint, action needs to be taken.
If you’re getting headaches consistently once a week or more, the first step is to rule out anything neurological.  See your doctor for a CT Scan or MRI. Once these causes are ruled out, it’s important to identify your triggers and get to the bottom of your headaches.  Migraines are actually more often caused by gastrointestinal or environmental factors. Common causes and triggers of headaches and migraines are:

  • Alcohol, especially beer and red wine
  • Certain foods, such as dairy, chocolate, peanuts, some fruits, sugar, foods with monosodium glutamate (MSG), onions, meats, some cooking oils
  • Poor diet or nutritional deficiencies
  • Blood sugar imbalance (skipping meals)
  • Inflammation
  • Environmental toxins
  • Fluctuations in hormones — for example, during pregnancy, before and during your period, and menopause
  • Certain odors, such as perfume 
  • Stress, physical or emotional 
  • Too little or too much sleep
  • Caffeine
  • Smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Some medications
  • Heat, high humidity, and high altitude

  • Try identifying which of these factors play a role in your headaches, and eliminate them for at least two weeks.  Keep a symptom journal or tracker (I like Chart Myself) to help keep track of the factors that influence your headaches.  The specific holistic treatment approach you’ll take will be dependent on what your triggers are.  For example, if you primarily get headaches around your period, focusing on balancing your hormones through diet and supplementation will be key.  Or if your headaches come on when you are stressed or overworked, you’ll want to focus on stress management, relaxation, and, of course, a diet that supports your adrenals and immune system.

    That said, there is definitely a holistic headache treatment protocol that can help all sufferers…

    • DIET:
      • It’s important to balance blood sugar with regular, filling meals, particularly in the first part of the day.
      • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, fast food or processed food, artificial or chemical sweeteners, preservatives, additives like MSG and artificial flavors and colors, sugar (which headache sufferers will want to cut out completely), dairy, gluten, excessive animal products (particularly red meat and any meat containing nitrates) and hydrogenated oils
      • Opt for a clean, whole foods, mostly plant-based diet of vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats
    • LIFESTYLE:
      • Stress management is vital for headache sufferers.  A relaxation practice like yoga or meditation are HUGE and non-negotiable for living headache free.
      • Regular breathing exercises
      • A consistent exercise routine 
      • Quality sleep
      • Quit smoking and avoid being around cigarette smoke
      • Drink half your body weight in ounces of water a day
      • Rid your home of toxic chemicals
      • Naturalize your beauty regimen
    • SUPPLEMENTATION:
      • Supplementing your diet is vital to filling in the nutritional blanks left by food.  Consult a my supplement guide for some great general supplements everyone (especially headache sufferers) can benefit from.  Of particular importance are:
        • Magnesium (200-600 mg a day) — a deficiency in this nutrient is a common cause of headaches
        • Vitamin B2 (400 mg a day) or B Complex — another supplement especially beneficial for reducing the frequency and duration of headaches
        • Omega-3 Fish oil (2 g a day) — the most vital supplement to combat inflammation
        • Chlorophyll (1 tbsp in water twice a day) — a cleansing, purifying and detoxifying supplement
        • Apple Cider Vinegar (2 tbsp in water twice a day, or at onset of headaches)
        • Feverfew (50-80 mg a day) and Butterbur (50-75 mg twice a day) and two herbs known for markedly decreasing intensity and frequency of headaches when taken regularly for up to 4 months.
    • ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES:
      • Acupuncture
      • Reflexology
      • Massage
      • Chiropractic
      • Homeopathic treatment

    Feel free to contact me for a consultation to develop your own holistic headache treatment protocol and to get healthy!

    ——-
    Natasha Uspensky, CHHC
    {Photo from My House Called MD}

    The Key to Sustained Weight Loss

    Sustainable Weight Loss
    I’m sure by now you’ve read about the French diet paradox (those slim, beautiful women who somehow are able to eat pastries, butter, fat, and wine without consequence), or have witnessed for yourself that enviable friend who all the foods you wish you could eat, guilt-free, for brunch or lunch, and still manages to maintain her skinny physique.  What is the secret??  Something so easy, and so engrained in our DNA that you won’t believe how naturally you’ll be able to reach and maintain your body’s healthiest weight without uttering the word “diet” ever again.
     
    From our hunter-gatherer ancestors to the eating cultures of East Asia, much of Europe, and even the Pacific Islands, most of the day’s calories were eaten in the earlier part of the day, with dinner being a much lighter, more supplementary meal.  Though this has always been a natural way for our bodies to consume calories, this runs very much in contradiction to the American way of eating, as well as the fad diets so many people fall prey to.  Our metabolisms are not designed for small meals every two or three hours, and they certainlyaren’t designed to take in the bulk of the day’s calories at dinner (traditionally Americans’ biggest meal).  Our bodies do best with three meals a day, with breakfast and lunch being the time to bring out the big guns.  Finally, there is some scientific proof (for those skeptical of empirical evidence): A new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham suggests that we’re built to consume high-fat meals in the early part of the day and low-fat meals in the latter.
     
    Think about it this way… You wake up (still exhausted), have a cup of coffee and maybe a bagel for breakfast at 7am, are starving by 10am, reach for a granola bar, or some sweets around the office, make it to your light lunch of salad or a sandwich, totally crash by 4pm, needing more snacks, sweets, or coffee to get through the rest of the day, and then come home, tired and hungry, for a huge, calorie-ridden meal at 8pm.  Your body doesn’t have the chance to burn off that big meal before bedtime, so you go to sleep with everything still sitting in your belly, and wake up exhausted, in need of that coffee that starts the whole thing up again.  Sound familiar? 
     
    Now try this on for size… You wake up well-rested, have a delicious breakfast of eggs, avocado, whole grain toast and some fruit, have tons of energy all morning without even thinking about snacking, have a big, leisurely lunch of salmon, quinoa, salad, maybe even some sumptuous dark chocolate for dessert, are full, energized and productive all through the rest of your day, sailing by that 4pm mark without even glancing at the birthday cake in the break room, come home, still not starving (since you had that awesome big lunch), have a nice light salad or some soup dinner, and go to bed where you enjoy deep, restful sleep.  Sounds a lot better, doesn’t it?
     
    Eating larger meals with healthy fats in the first half of your day is not only more satisfying and energizing, it also prevents metabolic syndrome, obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.  And think about those extra empty calories you’ll be able to avoid!  Those late afternoon snacks, lattes, trips to the vending machine, or dips into the cookie jar on the receptionists desk are all a function of low blood sugar.  Big, healthy breakfasts and lunches (with healthy fats, protein, whole grains, and veggies) eliminate the need for any snacking by keeping your blood sugar consistently balanced.  Meanwhile, light, low-fat dinners give your body very little to do in terms of digestion and fat-burning at night, which allows you to detoxify and rest your whole system while you sleep.  Waking up feeling light and refreshed eliminates the need for coffee and sugary breakfasts, which in turn allows you to make healthier food choices right from the start.
     
    So if you make one change to your diet, make it this one!  You’ll be amazed at how much more simple and natural losing weight and being healthy is when you let your body do what’s designed to do!
     
    Ready to make a change, but feel like you need some guidance?  Contact me to schedule a Skype consultation to get started!

    What’s All The Buzz About Gluten?

    By: Cindy Moustafa

    Cindy Moustafa, B.S., A.F.A.A is finishing her Master’s degree in Nutrition. After working in marketing, she decided to pursue her passion for nutrition. Cindy has experience helping others to lose weight and get healthy, including children. She helped build an after-school weight loss program for children and also taught the classes. Cindy uses her knowledge and passion to drive others. For nutrition consultations or additional questions, please contact her at CinnM@hotmail.com.

    Recently, while in JFK airport, I noticed that there was an entire section in the food terminal dedicated to gluten-free products. I was both surprised and excited, being that I have just started eating a gluten-free diet. Some of the food choices were great and included Kind bars and hummus. Other foods were just junk food with the attractive “Gluten-Free” label on the front, giving the impression that a gluten-free cookie is somehow healthier than a regular cookie. Gluten has been getting a lot of buzz lately, and the public seems to be overwhelmed with misleading facts about the protein. Read on to get the real facts about gluten and if you should really be on a gluten-free diet.


    What the heck is Gluten? People will buy a product stamped “Gluten-Free” without having an idea as to what gluten even is. But they know they heard it on the Dr. Oz show and someone, somewhere said to stay away from it. Gluten is simply the protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Oats are debated by some to contain gluten as well. So foods such as breads and pasta that are made with wheat flour (white, whole-wheat or multigrain) contain gluten. Also, many companies use gluten in their processed foods to help bind the ingredients together, so less obvious products such as Ketchup or tomato sauce may contain gluten as well.

    Still a Cookie!

    Why is Gluten bad for you? This is a controversial question because going gluten-free isn’t right for everyone. Many people today experience gluten sensitivities, which is akin to lactose intolerance. It’s believed by experts that this sensitivity has arisen from the overexposure to gluten from processed foods and a heavy carbohydrate dependency. In cases of intolerance, the body cannot digest gluten completely, so the person eating it can suffer from bloating, diarrhea, constipation, cramping and an array of symptoms (over 250 listed). Many people are misdiagnosed with IBS, when the real culprit is a food sensitivity. This is not to be confused Celiac Disease,an autoimmune disorder, in which the body attacks gluten and damages the intestine lining. As a result these individuals suffer from malnutrition and can experience life-threatening consequences if they eat something slightly contaminated with gluten. Gluten-free diets are also being associated with thyroid disease, autism and other disorders. It’s believed that those suffering from these ailments should avoid gluten because their body attacks it and makes their condition worse, so if you fall under this category it’s worth trying to go gluten-free. A last point, is that gluten-free foods are typically whole, natural foods so anyone can benefit from going gluten-free a few times a week.

    How do I know if I have a sensitivity to Gluten? You can see a holistic health professional, as they are more experienced and exposed to food sensitivities, to get an allergy test through blood or stool samples. An alternative (and cheaper) way to test is to COMPLETELY take gluten out of your diet for 2 weeks. Then, slowly add the food into your diet and listen to your body! If you feel symptoms after having a pasta then gluten is most likely the culprit. Try a piece of bread the next day, if you get the same results then you’ve found the problem. Be warned that this takes discipline, but is completely worth it to relieve you of all your digestive problems. I went gluten-free after being diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and while it was challenging, I did feel better. I also noticed that my stomach wasn’t upside down after breakfast, where I always has whole-wheat toast. I had grown so custom to feeling like crap that I didn’t even realize something was wrong until it felt right.



    I’m Gluten-free…now what? The best way to tackle a gluten-free diet is to follow the advice give by nutritionists. Make all your foods whole, natural foods and avoid processed junk. A gluten-free cookie, as mentioned earlier, is still a cookie. Just keep a clean diet and you’ll find that being gluten-free isn’t as difficult as it seems. It gives you a chance to be creative in the kitchen! Below is a list of foods to focus on when going gluten-free:


    Healthy Gluten-Free Foods

    • Sweet Potatoes (any potato is GF)
    • Brown Rice
    • Gluten-Free Pastas and Breads
    • Quinoa
    • Farro
    • Buckwheat
    • Vegetables for adequate fiber and vitamins
    • Fruits
    • Protein powders
    • Legumes/Beans including hummus
    • Amaranth flour
    • Arrowroot starch
    • Coconut flour
    • Corn (anything corn-based)
    • Sorghum flour
    • Soy flour
    • Tapioca starch
    • Teff flour
    • Xantham gum (serves as a binder in absence of gluten)


    With the growing awareness of gluten sensitivities, there are many options today that there weren’t a few years ago. Breads and pastas taste just like the original. Try different brands to see what you like, or of course, bake it yourself!

    Cindy Moustafa

    Personal Trainer & Nutritionist

    5 Ways to Stave Off Winter Colds, Boost Immunity and Energy!

    Winter really is the time to go a little extra distance in terms of self-care.  But committing to take these few simple, holistic steps will cut down on those sick days, help cure winter blues, and get you through these cold, dark days in one, happy, healthy piece!
    1. Sleep: This is where we should take a page from the books of our large furry mammal friends.  Our bodies use a lot of energy to keep us warm in the winter, and that, combined with more bugs floating around, and the lack of sunlight equals a need for a LOT more sleep.  Even if you’re a “I’m fine with 5 hours” kind of person, really opt for 8 hours of sleep a night MINIMUM during the cold months.  You’ll have more energy, higher immunity, and less tendency toward seasonal blues! Opt to sleep between the hours of 10pm and 7am, which is the most restful time in the body’s cycle, and also ensures the most exposure to those scant daylight hours.  I promise, the party life will still be there for you come spring!
    2. Bundle Up: Contrary to some misinformation floating around out there, you really can get sick from exposing yourself to the elements (and I don’t even mean the full monty kind of exposure).  Wearing clothes that aren’t sufficiently warm, leaving your throat, head, and nose exposed to cold winds all can affect both your body’s ability to retain it’s heat and your mucous membranes’ ability to keep out nasty bugs.  
      • Aim for dressing warm enough so that when you’re standing outside, you’re pretty comfortable (i.e.: not shivering, hunched up against the cold, and cursing the gods of winter).  This means sweaters, scarves, hats and gloves.  Worried about looking like an abominable snow-person?  Opt for layers that go a long way, like thermal undergarments, tights or leggings under your jeans, and warm top layers that you can peel off once inside.
    3. Stay Lubricated: Once you’ve got your giggles out of the way, consider this: Dry, cracked skin on your hands, face, and in your nose is like leaving big gaping holes for germs to get in through.  In the winter months, it is even more important than usual to stay moisturized, inside and out.  This means using a humidifier a night (to keep your nasal passages, throat and skin moist), using a good quality moisturizer on your face and body every day (I like Desert Essence Organics Sweet Almond Moisturizer), and drinking lots of water and hot teas throughout the day.  
      • Water hydrates and lubricates your system from the inside, and also flushes out toxins to keep you from getting sick.  Opt for warm or hot water instead of cold in the winter months… it is much easier on your system, warming and psychologically more comforting, and also very detoxifying for the lymphatic system!
      • Hot teas can have a similar effect, and many herbal teas like ginger, echinacea, slippery elm bark, and elderberry have wonderful immunity boosting effects!
      • I am also a fan of Emergen-C or Airborne during the winter months as well, especially if you find yourself in crowded areas like trains and airports, or if you’ve been in contact with a sick or sniffly person.
    4. Let Food Be Thy Medicine: Especially in the winter months, don’t underestimate the power of great diet.  Eating antioxidant and nutrient rich foods, healthy plant proteins, and lots of quality oils in the winter will go SUCH a long way toward keeping you healthy.  Stock up on garlic, dark leafy greens, all kinds of beans, and hearty root veggies for the winter, and try to eat home-cooked food as much as possible.  Not only is eating this way going to ensure the biggest nutrient-bang for your buck, but home-cooked meals are also substantially more nourishing, which has positive psychological effects as well.  
      • Opt for hearty soups and stews (like this Thai Sweet Potato Soup), and increase your intake of healthy fats, like nuts, olive, coconut, and sesame oil, fatty low-mercury fish, and avocados .  These foods will nourish you from the inside out, give you much more energy to burn, warm your body, and heighten your immunity!
      • If you start to feel a little sniffle or tickle in the throat, chow down on some major immune-boosting foods, like this Yummy Cold-Busting Salad, jam packed with anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-microbial nutrients!
      • The one vital winter nutrient you just can’t get enough of from food is vitamin D, which is super important for immunity, mood, and energy.  Supplement with a high-potency sublingual vitamin D drop like Bio-D-Mulsion Forte to make sure you get enough, especially if you live in cold climates where you can’t get 15 minutes of direct exposure to sunlight every day.
    5. Keep Moving: It’s easy to let your typical workout routine fall by the way side when it’s 25 degrees outside, but it’s important to find ways to keep moving and fit some exercise into your routine every day.  This might mean finding a workout video (Netflix has some great ones!) to do at home, or finally getting your courage up to try bikram yoga if getting to the gym fills your with thoughts of shivering torment.  If you do get yourself to the gym, make sure to finish your workout with a steam in the sauna, which helps to raise your body temp, sweat out those toxins, and nourish you to the core.  Even if you only do 20 minutes a day, maintaining a regular exercise routine in the winter will boost your energy, increase serotonin levels, and help keep your immune system on top of its game!
      • For an extra mood and energy boost, pick a sunny weekend afternoon to bundle up and get outside for some skiing, a snowball fight, sledding, or just a brusque winter walk.  The sunlight will boost your mood, while the heat from moving around while layered up will help warm your body and burn off extra calories.  

    Health Coaching Featured in Oprah Magazine!


    An article in the last issue of O Magazine, entitled “Do You Need a Health Coach?  Pointers from the Pros”  discussed the many benefits of working with Health Coaches.  This is just the latest in an onslaught of press my new profession has been receiving in the media..  Its so great to see someone like Oprah recognizing the amazing things that we can do for people!

    Working with a Health Coach can help you reach and maintain your ideal weight (permanently!), attain your health goals, manage stress, have more energy, more fulfilling relationships, and an overall happier, healthier lifestyle.  All without popping needless pills or subscribing to silly fad diets.

    Visit NU Health & Wellness to schedule a free consultation, and get on the path to a new and improved you.  Don’t live in NYC?  No worries!  I work with clients over the phone as well as in person.  Here’s to getting it done in 2011!