Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Fall Meal Idea that’s all treat—no tricks!

Tracie’s Protein-Packed Chili and Bob’s Gluten Free Cornbread!

Its getting chilly outside and sometimes you need a meal that will warm you up inside and out. Luckily, I received Tracie’s chili recipe just the other day and while I was grocery shopping I found that Bob’s Red Mill has a gluten-free cornbread mix. I mostly followed the directions of the recipes but made a few tweaks here and there! I list my tweaks first and then the recipes below.

Also, the serving size for this chili is 12 and for the cornbread, 16. So, for me, I will just eat this all week for lunch/dinner. At lunch I will have a serving of corn bread, while for dinner I will not. For dinner, I will most likely add a side salad or the like.

Crystal’s tweaks to Tracie’s chili:

1) 1 added 1 small red bell pepper.

2) I used 1/3 ground turkey and 2/3 beef. Also, I did not sauté the meat in coconut oil (the coconut oil I have has a coconutty-flavor that I do not like in savory dishes).

3) I added ground cumin with the other spices (2T). I love the taste of cumin, especially in chili. Also, I don’t skimp on the red pepper flakes or green chilis. I like my chili spicy. I added the entire can of green chilis.

4) I did not add the beans or garnish with the dairy.

Crystal’s tweaks to Bob’s cornbread

1) I used about two cups of soy milk (the mixture was still too thick after 1 ½ cups)

2) I used olive oil instead of butter.

3) I baked my corn bread in a CAST IRON SKILLET instead of a 9x9 pan.

Tracie’s Protein Packed Chili

Serves 12


3 pounds grass-fed ground beef

5 T gelatin powder

¼ cup red wine or vinegar

2 cups of beef stock/broth

2 onions, finely chopped

2-4 small green chilies, chopped, or ½ small can of green chilies

2 cans of diced tomatoes (put into food processor if chucks are not desired)

1 can of tomato paste

3 cloves of garlic, mashed

2 T dried oregano

2 T dried basil

¼ t red pepper flakes

1 T Chile powder

3 bay leaves

4 cups of black beans (optional)

Sour cream or shredded cheese for garish


1. Brown meat until crumbly in a little coconut oil or butter (not needed for grass-fed meat) in a heavy pot.

2. Drain fat from pot.

3. Dissolve the gelatin in broth using a separate bowl.

4. Add gelatin/broth combination and the remaining ingredients and simmer for at least one hour.

5. Serve with garnishes.

6. Make sure you add a carbohydrate, such as a sweet potato or a piece of fruit for dessert, to balance your blood sugar.

Modified from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

C = 12g P =35g F = 13g Cals = 310 (this is without garnish or beans)

Bob’s Gluten-Free Corn Bread

Serves 16


1 1/2 Cups milk (rice, soy, dairy)

1/3 Cup oil or melted butter

2 Eggs


1. Have all ingredients at room temperature. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Generously grease 9 x 9-inch gray, nonstick pan.

2. Place dry ingredients in large mixer bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups milk, 2 large eggs and 1/3 cup canola oil or melted butter. Mix on low speed with electric mixer until blended. Beat another 30 seconds with mixer on high.

3. Bake 20 minutes or until nicely browned.

Enjoy!!!! :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The body can heal itself.

If there is anything I have learned about the human body over the past 9 months is that IT CAN AND WILL heal itself! The following quote sums up how I feel about the matter perfectly: "Remember, getting well is easy. All you have to do is STOP doing what is making you sick, and START living new and healthy ways that will heal you."

Three years ago I was diagnosed with hypertension. Stress, body weight, and bad nutritional practices had finally caught up to me. My body’s response to this was high blood pressure. In 2007, my MD prescribed blood pressure pills to me and told me to lose some stress and weight. The problem was that for me weight and stress were intertwined. I told her that doing those two things would be nearly impossible while in graduate school. How long would I be in graduate school was her next question. I told her that I was in year 3 of a 7-8 year program. I bet she thought—well, I hope she lives to see the end of the program.

The next two years were no less stressful. I began to get lax about taking my medication and eventually just stopped taking it altogether. I made myself forget about my diagnosis. I didn’t see my doctor because I knew my pressure was high—my nutritional choices and lack of exercise were all the evidence I needed. I didn’t need a reprimand from my doctor, too.

Well, in the early spring of 2010 I decided to see my doctor. She was pleased to see me. By this time I had lost 20lbs but my pressure was still elevated—still in stage 1 range. She put me on a different medication and told me to come back in early summer.

I continued with my healthy eating and exercising.

When I came back in early summer I had lost an additional 18lbs AND my blood pressure was significantly lowered—just a few points above normal range. She decreased my medication and told me to come back in three months.

I continued with my healthy eating (which were by now permanent lifestyle changes) and exercising but I encountered some challenges. Between my summer visit and my impending fall visit I had two stressful high-paced summer jobs to complete as well as a relocation. I was nervous about what impact this would have on my nutrition and blood pressure.

The first summer job I was able to keep up my healthy lifestyle, however the second job had me moving to UC-Berkeley’s campus, living in the dorms, AND eating cafeteria food. UGH! Somehow I made it through three weeks and actually LOST a lb! I was too excited.

When I arrived back home in August, I resumed my healthy habits and found a new gym. I worked hard.

Two weeks ago I came from seeing my doctor, I lost another 20lbs and my pressure had dropped such that it was in the “normal” range. Additionally, since the dosage of medication I had been taking was so low, she decided to allow me to stop taking it altogether.

I couldn’t believe it. While one is never “cured” from hypertension, it can be controlled. I have dedicated myself to controlling my blood pressure, not letting it control me.

I am living proof that the body can heal itself. I didn’t do anything but stop putting toxins in my body. I stopped doing things that would make me sick and committed myself to consuming “life-giving” substances. As a result, my body was able to heal itself.

"The first step in natural healing is responsibility. Natural healing is about taking control of your life and being responsible for everything that goes in and out of your body, mind and spirit."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Don't tell me poor people don't want access to QUALITY food, fruits, and vegetables!

I live on the south side of Chicago in a veritable food desert--except for Wednesdays from 7am-2pm. This Wednesday I was able to secure the treasures in the picture to the left!

While the Church’s, Harold’s, Dunkin Donuts, Starbuck’s, McDonald’s, Burger King’s, and Subways are in abundance, there are very few healthful options.

In my neighborhood, there are two grocery stores: Dominick’s and Aldi’s. No Trader Joes or Whole Foods or other affordable, QUALITY alternative for those who are trying to steer clear of processed or genetically modified foods. (Whole Foods is not affordable for many but it is a more healthful option.)

On my way home from visiting my family in the super-resourced Oak Park community (Trader Joes and Whole Foods are within blocks of each other), I decided I needed some fresh produce and had resigned myself to stopping at Dominick’s to get some grapes, bell peppers, and greens. However, as I was driving down 71st Street I experienced a “hallelujah” moment! The Farmer’s Market was open!!!! I knew there were a few farmer’s markets operating in Chicago near where I lived but I must admit, I was skeptical about this one. It was on the South Side, which really isn’t a big deal but I thought I would be short-changed because of society’s beliefs that poor people don’t or won’t frequent farmer’s markets. I was pleasantly surprised not only at the quality, but the abundance of the produce offered. Many types of greens, red and green tomatoes, peppers, turnips, squash, pumpkins, corn, and apples were among the pickings for this Wednesday’s market.

And for those of you who think that people with limited incomes PREFER to spend their hard-earned money on fast, processed, food, it’s time for you to think again. I have fast, hard, empirical, [ok more like anecdotal] EVIDENCE that this is NOT the case.

1) A woman nearly elbowed me because I was reaching for the last two broccoli stalks. Turns out she was going for the turnip greens right in front of the broccoli. Whew! That was close. (NOTE: the greens in the photo are NOT turnip greens. But, they were purchased, picked, cleaned and immediately cooked from today's treasures [picture above].)

2) A person parked so close to me [in an attempt to get the LAST parking spot in the lot] that I had to literally SQUEEZE into my car. Benefit to loosing the weight—at least I had less to squeeze in and could actually get in my car! Otherwise, there would have been a problem.

Lesson: DO NOT get between an older, African-American woman and her greens—especially at the farmer’s market where once things run out, that’s it. She will take you out if she has to because she has a PLAN for those greens—the smoked turkey meat (now, I know its probably fat back or ham hocks but I can wish and pray, right?) is probably already simmering and seasoning the pot licker on her stove.

I LOVED that this market was CROWDED with folks. It let’s me know that folks are NOT content with the food choices that were just down the street—Harold’s, Shark’s Fried Fish, Baba’s Steaks and Fries, etc.

And that gives me hope.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The BEST Sportsbra EVER (especially for those who are amply supplied!)

Ladies, I just have to be frank on this subject. With personal matters such as this one, I usually just keep my mouth shut, however, I can't keep this good thing to myself.

We all know a good, supportive bra is NOT an option--but a REQUIREMENT, especially for fitness and exercise.

It's hard enough controlling 12, 15, and 20lb weights--we don't need our extremities flopping around either! That's dangerous for us--and other innocent bystanders!

If you are a full-busted woman like myself, have I got the best sports bra for you! The brand is 'Enell' and this bra is so supportive! When I jump NOTHING else jumps with me except my legs!

The bra comes in a variety of sizes (32C-52DD) and cost the same as you would pay for a really good department store (think Wacoal from Macy's) supportive bra. Enell has its own sizing chart that corresponds to regular bra sizes but you should measure yourself again just to make sure you get the right Enell size.

When I say this is the best, recent investment I have made--I have NOT lied. This bra is a winner!

Find an Enell retailer near you!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Finally! The Secret to Losing 60lbs OVERNIGHT!

Every time I run into someone I haven’t seen in a long time, they exclaim, “You look great!”
I chuckle and graciously accept the complement because I know what’s coming next. They lower their voice, almost to a whisper, and say, so “what did you do? What’s your secret?”

I respond, in a similarly lowered voice, “You know everything they tell you regarding eating right and exercising?”

Eagerly, they say, “yeah…”

“I did it.”

“Oh.”—obviously disappointed.

“Yep, I changed what I ate drastically and I started exercising vigorously. It took lots of time, but I have been able to lose 61lbs and 5 dress sizes and keep it off by making changes that are no longer ‘changes’ but part of my normal life. I know that I have to exercise most days of the week for the rest of my life. Good thing I like to exercise!”

“I don’t think I can do that…it’s too hard.”

“It is hard but it is doable—anything worth having is hard work, right?

That’s how many conversations go regarding the life transformation I am experiencing. In most of those conversations, there is never time to discuss what, specifically, I did/am doing, so here I will take the time to share the most important life changes I made to get to where I am.

I decided, for me, when enough was enough: when I was tired of looking at an unhappy me in the mirror. This happened for me in December, 2009.

I finally realized that “willpower” would not get me to where I needed to be. I needed help. The power of my will, alone, was extremely weak.

I joined a fitness program, ran by Dustin Maher, called Fit Fun Boot Camp AND I enlisted a friend to go with me. I initially signed up for a trial period but enjoyed the extremely difficult workouts and friendly atmosphere so much that I continued my membership for 6 months. THIS CHANGED MY LIFE.

In the midst of working out with Dustin, Abby, and eventually Amber, I changed my eating habits (originally using an eating plan from Dustin/Abby).OH MY GOSH—this was and continues to be difficult.In December 2009, it had gotten to the point that I was eating out most days of the week using the excuse of having a busy schedule for not having time to cook.There was just NO excuse for all the pop I was drinking.Well, maybe there was: my favorite, Ginger Ale, was on sale for $1 at the grocery store! When I started boot camp in January—out went the pop.Cold turkey.It wasn’t as bad to stop because fortunately the pop I was addicted to had no CAFFEINE!= No withdrawal symptoms.

I also stopped eating out but here is what I replaced my eating out with:

  • Lean meat—chicken, tilapia, turkey breast
  • Whole grains—healthy choice whole wheat bread with no artificial sugar, brown rice, all nat ural granola.Eventually the bread became sprouted wheat bread and I did not have it after lunch.
  • Fruit—mainly apples, oranges, bananas, and berries. Melons when they are in season—I love cantaloupe!
  • Vegetables—Collard greens, spinach, and green beans are my favorites and the ones that I can cook—they are the simplest to steam or sauté in a bit olive oil. I leave the starchy veggies like potatoes and corn out.

  • Protein powder—a protein shake with milk and fruit after boot camp and sometimes for a meal.
  • Gelatin—this is a new addition but I love it so much! Gelatin is similar to protein powder but it has no flavor and you can mix it into pretty much anything to get an extra protein boost. I mix mine into juice, tea, and sometimes my Amy’s Lentil soup!
  • Water—no substitutes or mix-ins for me. Just drink it. Lots of it.
  • Currently, I am on a Gluten/Dairy free diet. All I can say is I feel so much "cleaner" on the inside. I rarely have gas (sorry if that's TMI), indigestion, etc. Try it for a few days. For me, it just means I am not eating bread, yogurt, cheese, and milk. Things I used to eat daily. I don't miss them much at all.
  • I DO allow myself cheat meals, snacks, etc. but don't let these get out of hand. Sometimes I crave Harold's chicken. I let myself have it. Life's too short to be deprived.

As the pounds began to melt, I decided what I wanted to do for
me during the summer of 2010 and the future. I had gotten bogged down in “responsibilities” that I needed to be freed from. I decided to move back home to Chicago AND take a summer job in California. Still, two of the best decisions I made this year.

The best lesson I have learned is how to listen to what my body is telling me. Yes, my body tells me when to stop. However, I NEVER stop after the first time. EVERY time I can ALWAYS give MORE. When I feel like I all I have is one step left, I force myself to do two. When I feel like I will die in 30 seconds, I go 15 seconds more. This is REALLY crucial. We are so trained, in American society, to stop at the first sign (not even the manifestation) of pain. The pain hasn’t even arrived and we are ready to stop. I don’t stop before the pain, because of the pain or in the presence of the pain. Sometimes it hurts but I keep on. This process has not killed me. In fact, as soon as I stop, the pain subsides—like it was never there. That’s what lets me know it’s a mind game. Pain is a master deceiver. But, I have learned to be the ultimate master of my body.

I exercise most days of the week.
Most days mean I try to exercise 5 days a week. I mix up my workout: I go to boot camp (basically circuit training that incorporates cardio, strength, and core training); I take Zumba classes; I run on the lake; I ride my bicycle; I run up the stairs to my apartment (all 13 flights) multiple times. I do whatever gets my heart in the target zone over a period of at least 45 minutes. Most importantly, I workout like each one is a “last chance workout” and I have FUN.

So, that’s what I do and will continue to do for the rest of my life. My immediate goal is to lose 100lbs.
With these life changes I know I will overshoot that goal. I’m not worried. I’m excited and thrilled.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Is a MARATHON in my future???

All of my life's journeys so far have taught me one thing: I am definitely not a sprinter. I am more of what you would call a "marathoner".

A marathon can be defined as:
1. a foot race over a course measuring 26 mi. 385 yd. (42 km 195 m).
2. any long-distance race.
3. any contest, event, or the like, of great, or greater than normal, length or duration or requiring exceptional endurance: a dance marathon; a sales marathon.
My educational journey=marathon
My journey to physical fitness=marathon
My desire to leave this world a better place than I found it=marathon

Yes, my life is already defined of events, greater than normal, that require exceptional endurance.

Exceptional endurance is what I saw in the faces of the marathoners who participated in the Chicago Marathon this past Sunday (10/10/10). As I looked into their faces, I saw not only endurance but also determination, pain, and hope for the finish line! They ran their hardest; some walked but all pressed forward and though I didn't know anyone running the race that day my heart beat wildly for all of them. As I watched them run down Franklin Street, just past the 20K mark, I searched their faces; looked at their shoes; scrutinized their gaits because I wanted to know just what it took to run a marathon and most importantly whether I could do it myself.

Tears welled up in my eyes because deep down inside I knew the answer: why yes, yes I can, and will run a marathon!

"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired." - George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Re-viving "Meet Me In the Yellow"

It has been nearly a year since I posted anything on my blog.

A few days ago when I was on FB I noticed the link to and for a split second thought about deleting it...Something told me no, and I'm glad I didn't.

Currently, I am writing my dissertation and one would think that should be enough writing for any one person? Well, I am not so sure. I need lots of mind space for dissertation thinking and writing and if I don't let these random thoughts and musings free, I won't be able to write my dissertation with clarity! Well, that's my rationale. LOL

So, here I am--I'm going to try with this blog again.

First post coming soon! :)