Are you Comfortable Being Uncomfortable?

Are you Comfortable Being Uncomfortable?

A lot of things have happened in my life since the last time I blogged. The biggest news is that I finally took a leap of faith and gave notice at my day job in retail job as a wine buyer two weeks ago, and will be diving into entrepreneurship full time to pursue my passion in health, fitness and transformational life coaching.  A fellow female entrepreneur and colleague told me “Get comfortable being uncomfortable!” A famous Jillian Michaels quote, which I found ironic and yet perfectly suitable, as Jillian Michaels’ online program was what first got me back to fitness after a hiatus of a few years, and I consequently lost 30 lbs.  That line really hit a chord with me, because it is what is necessary in all ways of life, in order to change and grow as a person.  Let me give you some examples below.


  • why are diets so difficult? It’s because we are uprooting our routines, we are changing the way we eat, and perhaps think, about food, about life, and ourselves.  The food we are used to and have grown to love so much may not be available to us when we want it.  Food is also strongly associated with memories, more so than the actual taste of it. How often have you not thought about that dish your mom made you regularly while growing up you love so much, but when you think about it, was no gourmet meal, and not really THAT great, but brings back a sense of comfort that you crave? Diets are also hard because instead of going for that bag of potato chips or glass of wine (or five) to soothe us when we’ve had a stressful day, or just want to forget about everything and watch the tube and mindlessly snack on junk, we are asked to grab a healthy salad and go for a walk/run. Wtf?! Where’s the fun and comfort in that? Because we, as a society, want to be immediately gratified in that very moment, we don’t think very long term about how our rash choices we make in that instant, can affect our future health and well being.


  • as most of you know, I’m a big advocate of a whole foods, plant based diet. I do encounter resistance to this way of eating, mostly because people are not comfortable with their lack of knowledge about this lifestyle, and they are threatened because they don’t like that I will take away their favorite foods. “But chicken is healthy”, and “There is so much protein in Greek yogurt and it is my favorite afternoon snack”, “only rich people are vegan”, and so forth… They can’t fathom that plants can actually create far more exciting dishes, that not only taste better, but that are better for your health and easier on your wallet. Health and fitness is not just about what you look like on the outside, but it’s how your body is treated on the inside. I believe the latter is something most people down prioritize, because it’s not something they can see with their eyes, until of course, they become gravely ill and are forced to pay attention.   Eating a whole foods, plant based diet also will help billions of animals each year, as they are being abused, tortured and killed daily for the sake of people’s few seconds of pleasure on the plate. This is highly uncomfortable to think about for most people.  They desperately cling to terms like “grass fed”, “organic” and “free range” and claim that the meat they eat come from animals who have lived a happy life on a romantic farm, while the truth is so far from that. All animals end up in the same, horrifying trucks along with factory farm animals, being denied food and water for as much as up to 36 hours, and end their “wonderful lives” in slaughter houses that reek of blood, horror and death.  All living beings want to live. Nobody wants to die so they can become your steak. Animals feel pain, happiness, love and fear. Yes, this is indeed very uncomfortable to think about for most of us, but I think the animals suffer a much bigger level of discomfort than we do, so don’t we owe it to them to at least look into how the meat and dairy industry operate? How our demand for these products, no matter where they come from, encourages an industry which contributes not just to unnecessary killings, but to global warming and world hunger?  When there are thousands of plants available and only a few animals, why is it so hard to consider going plant based? Oh yes, that’s right… it’s uncomfortable. It takes a little effort. It will break up your belief system, challenge your daily meal plan and make you feel upset. I’m sorry, but get comfortable being uncomfortable. The animals will thank you.


  • I recently lost my pup, Dallas, to cancer. The day we had to say goodbye was the most difficult day in my life since the day I got notified that my five month old nephew, Mark, had passed away from that very same disease.  “Uncomfortable” is probably not the word to use in these situations, as much stronger emotions were in place, but what struck me , is that I was highly uncomfortable seeing my loved ones around me grieving and in pain. When my husband is going through a difficult time, I immediately want to make him feel better, rationalize the situation, and almost undermine his feelings, and deny him the time he needs to go through the motions, just like I need to do the very same thing for myself. It’s much “easier” to just take all the sorrow and grief on my own shoulders, than to see people I love having to suffer.  It’s uncomfortable, in a big way.  But I have to go through being uncomfortable to give other people the space and the respect they deserve to sort through their own feelings so they can move on in a healthy, timely way.


  • and lastly, of course – giving up a steady income, risking everything to live the life you were meant to live, to follow your passion.  Not many people dare do this, but I believe everyone wants to do it.  Instead, they come up with a million excuses as to why they can’t. “I’m too old”, “I don’t have the savings or funds to build a business”, “Nobody is going to want what I have to offer”, “My idea is old, it’s been done a million times before,” “My spouse doesn’t support me”, “I’m too busy with the kids”, “I’m not smart enough” or “I’m not cut out to be an entrepreneur”, and so on and so on… Excuses are much easier than being uncomfortable right? Not knowing what the next month is going to look like, constantly having to ‘hustle’ to find clients, feeling unsettled and knowing that YOU are the only one to blame if things don’t go well.  It’s easier and much more comfortable to blame others if something in your life goes wrong. It’s more comfortable to throw out one of those lame lines above than to actually start working on yourself, take responsibility for your own life and happiness and stop hiding.


So think about these points for a few moments, and ask yourself “Why am I really not ready to make a move?”  Is your mac and cheese more important to you than those love handles that you keep crying over in the mirror each morning you put on your (too tight) pants?  Or could you perhaps find the creativity in you to make a similar dish with better ingredients that would make your taste buds just as happy?

Would you rather be on autopilot and go to a job every day that you hate but don’t have to think about much, rather than feeling alive and trying to make a difference in the world?  Or can you devote perhaps an hour a day to “me time” and do things that you love, or used to love, but claim you no longer are ‘able’ to do?  Because trust me, you are!

Are you ok with just living a mediocre life being miserable or slightly unhappy, not feeling like you’ve lived up to your potential? Then by all means, continue what you’re doing and have at it. But don’t complain….We all have the same 24 hours in the day, we all have talents and a purpose here on this earth and the opportunity to pursue what we truly are passionate about… it just takes making a decision, making a plan, and of course… being willing to be uncomfortable for a bit until you achieve your goal.

But if you are in the slightest bit curious about what greatness lies in you that I can help show you how to revive, then get in touch and I would love to chat with you!  I believe in you – and the world needs what you have to offer!!


Shrimp + Avocados = one healthy, delicious summer recipe

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe, and figured it was about time to post one that I think my readers would like. As the weather gets warmer, the nights longer and the clothing lighter, I tend to go for more seafood and shellfish and even just vegetarian options for my meals.  I like to take advantage of all the fresh produce now available at all the local farmer’s markets in my area, and what better way to utilize them than in a tasty salad? Unfortunately where I live in the country, we are not able to get avocados at the farmer’s market, but I added some anyway for your healthy fat.

This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks (I have many) called “Spices of Life – Simple and Delicious Recipes for Great Health” by Nina Simonds.  She has a great way of utilizing herbs and spices and a variety of foods from around the world to create very exciting and delicious recipes.

Shrimp may be small in size but they pack a punch nutrition wise, plus they are really quick and easy to prepare.  Four ounces of cooked shrimp contains about 112 calories,  zero carbs  and 24grams of protein! They are also a good source of omega 3 fatty acids, rich in minerals including copper, celenium and zinc, and are very low in fat (1gram per 4 oz).   Select shrimp that have firm bodies and still have their shell on – they should be free of black spots and the shell should not appear yellow or gritty as that could indicate some sort of chemical has been used to bleach the shells (Yes, it does occur).  Purchase displayed shrimp always rather than pre-packaged shrimp, and make sure they have a fresh smell  (should not smell fish but more like seawater).

For the greens in the salad, I like to use a mix of romaine, butter lettuce, arugula and some bitter greens like escarole, to get the different flavors (spicy, sweet, leafy etc) and textures.  Ask your local farmer if they have any special or new kinds of greens – always experiment with ingredients and preparation methods, that is what makes wholesome cooking fun!




4-6 servings

Charred Tomato Dressing:

3 medium tomatoes, cored and cut into slices about 1 inch thick

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, smashed with the flat side of a knife and peeled

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice or red wine vinegar

2 tsp ground cumin, toasted until fragrant in a dry pan over low heat

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, rinsed and drained

For Salad

6 cups mixed greens of your choice, rinsed and spun dry arranged in a serving bowl

1 1/2 lbs cooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (I like to grill mine for that extra delicious charred flavor)

1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into thin slices

3 tbsp minced red onion for garnish (optional)

First arrange the tomato slices on a baking sheet. Brush with 1 tbsp the olive oil (you can also spray them a bit with Pam if they seem not coated), broil the tomatoes for about 10 minutes on each side and remove.

Drop the garlic down the feed tube of a food processor fitted with a steel blade with the machine is running. Pulse until finely chopped, then drop in the tomatoes and puree, leaving some chunks. While the motor is running, add the lime juice or vinegar and 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a thin, steady stream. Add the cumin, salt, pepper and chopped cilantro, pulse briefly then taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary.

Arrange the shrimp, then the avocado slices, on top of the greens. Pour some of the dressing over and put rest into a sauce bowl. Sprinkle the minced red onion on top, if using.  And chow down!!



Photo from


Healthy thinking versus “healthy eating”

Some of you know I only post here when random thoughts I feel strongly about pop into my head.  I am not the most consistent blogger. There are so many fitness blogs out there, and most of them just repeat themselves or jump on the latest bandwagon of ‘secrets to weight loss or a flat tummy’ (sorry) which is fine because they will always reach somebody who needed to hear exactly that message right then in order to start their fitness journey.   Personally, I guess I just need to write when I need to “talk” to myself and put  my thoughts into written words.

I returned from Norway a couple of weeks ago and just had a revelation when it comes to diets and healthy eating.  The people who seem to be naturally slim and fit, are active individuals and healthy all around, do not obsess about what they eat. They (most often) choose wholesome food:  grilled chicken or fish, some vegetables, a splash of olive oil and they even allow themselves a couple of spoonfuls of dessert. But the key here is they don’t overdo it, but they enjoy life, food and the company around them. There is no “forced” thinking like “oh no, that has too much sugar, fat, carbs” etc.   They have a glass of wine in good company and allow themselves a piece of cake when they are celebrating someone’s birthday, because that makes them happy and that is what they feel like.  How rebellious!

Nobody obsesses about food more than Americans, and nowhere else in the world are there as many obese individuals.  In the supermarket isles, there are now more “low fat”, “non fat”, “no sugar” products than ever before, which also equals PROCESSED foods.   Just because a food has some (healthy) fat, does that mean it’s bad? Of course not, as long as you are not binging on it. And that’s just the problem:  For those that preoccupy themselves with “bad and good” food, think they can eat twice as much non fat ice cream, because after all – it’s got no fat, right? Eating becomes more of an all engrossing activity rather than what it’s supposed to be: nourishment and enjoyment.


When I lost 30 lbs some years ago, I ate all the foods I was told later on when I started competing, were labeled BAD. I had pita bread and hummus, beans, fruit, Ezekiel bread, cheese and olive oil. And guess what; I was much thinner than I am now (not that that is a goal of mine), I just ate a certain amount and didn’t obsess about food items I couldn’t have.  My body got all the major food groups, so there were no real cravings at all. I want to stop looking at certain foods as “bad” and just eat wholesome, natural foods.  Have you ever noticed that when someone tells you you can’t have something, that is all you think about?  I noticed that big time when I was prepping for my first show, and as a result I ended up binging after my competition. Did it feel good? Was I satisfied afterwards? Not really.  There was no enjoyment in eating until I couldn’t eat anymore.

As I read status updates and blogs about competitors going through their “on season” diets, none of them sound happy. They are hungry, irritated, frustrated and feel weak, they think about food 24/7 and they cannot WAIT until after the show to… eat! Not good food, but what they want to eat are crappy things like Dorito chips, Oreo cookies, hamburgers and french fries… All this just to achieve washboard abs for about 1 day. Hmm… yes sure it is fulfilling to know you can reach a goal like that and to know that you can actually gain the “discipline” to get down to single digit body fat, but it’s only temporary. I don’t want to live my life holding my breath waiting for a specific date,  I’d rather learn to enjoy life every day, and perhaps when I’m back to my normal self with a more relaxed attitude to eating, then decide on a new competition date.


So my goal for the coming months is to regain a healthy relationship with food. Eat when I’m hungry but not too much. Just allow myself to eat whatever I want as long as I can pronounce the ingredients, and is something I can find at my local farmer market.  Enough already with the “sugar free syrups” and the artificial crap, which doesn’t taste good anyway.  I may not give up my protein powder, but then again I only eat that once a day after my workout anyway.  I think all of this is possible, I think I can have a ripped body and still enjoy life and food. Imagine that!   Food for thought, and if this has made you hungry, I’m leaving you with a balanced, healthy recipe that you should not feel guilty about eating – but not too much of it, remember? !  Makes for a light, delicious dinner this weekend and is super simple to make.   I’ve borrowed this recipe from Jillian Michael’s, as she was partly responsible for my first weight loss (I did her online program years ago). Happy eating!! 🙂


Adapted from “Master Your Metabolism Cookbook” by Jillian Michaels

For Rainbow Trout:

Olive oil spray, for baking sheet

1/3 cup (1 oz) sliced almonds

1 slice whole-wheat bread, torn into pieces

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

grated zest of 1 orange

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

4 (4 oz) rainbow trout fillet, rinsed and patted dry

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 tbsp nonfat plain Greek yogurt

For Chipotle Yogurt Sauce:

1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, seeded and chopped, plus 1 tsp adobo sauce

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste

2 tbsp fresh orange juice

1/2 cup non fat plain Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil.

Begin fish: In the work bowl of a food processor, place the almonds, bread, garlic, orange zest and cayenne pepper. Pulse several times until roughly chopped. Pour mixture onto a shallow plate.

Prepare Chipotle Yogurt Sauce:  In the work bowl of a food processor, combine the chile and adobo sauce, garlic, lemon and orange juice, blend to a smooth paste. Transfer to a small bowl, add low fat yogurt and stir until combined. Taste and add more lemon juice or some salt if desired. Set aside.

Season trout with salt and pepper. Brush top of each fillet with the nonfat yogurt. Press the yogurt coated side of each fillet into the almond mixture. Place the fillet nut side up on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake until fish is firm and not translucent in the center, about 10 minutes.

Spoon the sauce onto the plates, place a piece of trout on each and serve with rice or potatoes of your choice.

Calories: 221

Fat: 9.8g

Protein: 25.3g

Carbohydrates: 10.9g



Food choices

When the word “diet” is spoken, why is it that most of us immediately sense restriction, start feeling a bit uncomfortable, get emotions of guilt and in the end, overwhelm ourselves with all kinds of negative thoughts?   “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle”, we hear – and while many of us might mean well, do we really employ this way of thinking?  I believe it took me about three years (up until now) to really believe this and understand the meaning of that sentence. I always thought I had to be “perfect” at everything, better than everyone else.  If not, punishment lay ahead. While I’ve also been on the horrific diet of tilapia and asparagus six times a day and restricted carbs beyond the ridiculous point while I was prepping for a show – I’ve come to realize you don’t have to go to these extremes to achieve, and more importantly, maintain, a great physique. What happens when you look at certain foods a certain way? oooh that food is BAD, oooh no that food is EVIL! that is going to make me fat! The brain sends a signal to your stomach and instantly you are starving, you crave sweets out of nowhere, and you just have to have it. Coincidence? I think not. I’ve had periods where I eat anything I want, and I never get cravings for sweets or candy. Why? Because I know I can have it anytime, anywhere. Where’s the fun in that?? See where I’m going.. like I described in my previous posts, it’s all about the mindset, and the body will follow.

As many of you know, I work as a chef and a wine consultant , and I write about food every day. Not just health food – but fattening, sugary”naughty” foods, paired with wine, beer and vodka, and I have to sometimes attend wine dinners where up to 12-15 courses are served with more wines than a regular person can imagine.  Wine tastings are a weekly part of my job, to stay current on new (and old) releases, and I consult for restaurants and bars who need their cocktail lists updated. So how do I combine my love of fitness for my love of food and wine? I practice restraint, but not restriction. Just because a plate of food is placed in front of me, doesn’t mean I have to finish it, or eat everything that’s on it.  I admit it’s more difficult when I open a bottle of wine – who can drink just one glass?  Seriously… I also want to enjoy myself, so when I hear fitness people trying to teach their audience and clients to “push food around to make people believe they are eating”, that reminds me of someone who’s teaching anorectic behaviors. Life is to be enjoyed, but there are also realistic sacrifices that has to be made in order to achieve a fit body. Can you look get abs like Ava Cowan and Dana Linn Bailey by drinking wine every day and having pizza three times a week? Of course not. What do you want most? What is important to you right at this very minute? If the answer is pizza, there’s nothing wrong with that – I’ve made that many decision many times, but I also made a decision not to feel guilty about it when I did go and get that slice. That’s all!

In daily life, I try to vary my foods a lot, so the feeling of restriction does not occur. Luckily, my profession comes with a certain sense of creativity, access to and knowledge about ingredients and a natural interest in cooking.  Instead of flavoring the food with butter and oil (mmmm….) I add fresh herbs and spices. I urge you all to expand your spice rack!! Beyond the old, boring “Mr. Dash” (oh the horror), garlic powder and lemon pepper. HOW DAMN BORING!! Why are people so afraid of sodium? I never restricted sodium my entire prep, until perhaps two-three days before I got on stage, and I looked like this:


Do I look bloated? LOL. Anyway, as a chef I use a lot of salt, as seasoned cooks believe (rightfully so) that salt brings out the flavor in food and some salt is also necessary for the body to run properly. It is also more satisfying to eat flavorful foods, rather than bland food, when perhaps you are restricting the amount you can eat, to begin with.  My opinion is that if I can’t be stuffed at the end of a meal, let me at least enjoy it while it lasts, lol! 🙂

Anyway, back to my point about food choices; be inventive, read food magazines and articles, watch cooking shows and adapt regular recipes to fit your diet needs. There is no need to add butter, oil or full fat anything (although sometimes that is fun too) – but include items like exotic spices; Indian spices like garam masala, coriander and turmeric, African spices like berbere and raas al’hanout, Scandianvian spices of dill, caraway and anise seed, as well as any chopped, fresh herbs to add into your salad dressings to make the food “pop”.

There are also other proteins out there than egg whites, chicken and fish, people. How about lean meats like bison, elk, venison, octopus, scallops and squab? If you don’t know how to cook them, just look up an instructional video on Youtube, or ask me right here, and I will be happy to help out with a recipe and fabulous cooking method! It’s easy, you will be so happy you learned to make a new dish, and your palate will expand also. It’s a win win! Believe me, in the end you will feel like you are cheating – and hence, are able to stay on this “diet” for the rest of your life and maintain that fabulous body that you have worked so hard to get. I will post some more pictures in the weeks ahead, but for now, I leave you with a beautiful dish I made with venison, brussels sprouts and rosemary-roasted sweet potato “fries” (in the end I ended up eating a whole lot more vegetables than this –  a food I never restrict or restrain from – but for a photo op this looks better 🙂 Who said “diet” foods are bland, boring and ugly to look at?  While we may have found our “groove” in the gym already, our eating habits are always harder to conquer, because temptations exists around us 24/7… You can’t out train a bad diet – so be sure to pay extra attention to your diet in 2013! Stay tuned for more food tips and recipes!