My Week of Clean Eating

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Caprese salad with chickpeas makes an awesome lunch! Recipe below!

By Tara Cushing (@TheBravoBlonde)

Ah the signs of spring…sunlit evenings, chirping birds in the morning, people dieting like crazy for the impending swimsuit season. Add social media to the mix and the diet game has achieved a whole new level. There are now Facebook groups devoted to challenges of all sorts where people can share photos of food, exercises, and bare midriffs to show their progress.

I’ve always been very self motivated when it comes to fitness, I’m also extremely competitive, so when a friend posted about an ab challenge I was all “Sign me up!” One week in and I started seeing a difference, at which point I got invited to do a clean eating challenge. Sure, my abs will really look awesome…”Sign me up!” About an hour later I regretted that choice. The group, lead by my friend and Beachbody Coach, Maria, came with guidelines, rules, and forms to fill out. I hate guidelines, rules, and forms. However Maria convinced me it would be fun, besides, it was only for 5 days. How hard could it be?

Day 1: 

My first obstacle, I realized, would be my morning caffeine ritual. Healthy Tara starts her day with green tea, but on the way to work, unhealthy Tara stops at Dunkin Donuts for a Vanilla Chai. I know it has 330 calories, but I’m a runner, so I ignore that. My Vanilla Chai is my security blanket. I shuffle into work clutching it each morning. It is my lifeline. “Are you aware that it has 45 grams of sugar?” Maria texts me. ‘Killjoy’ I think. “Go ahead and have it,” she tells me “just be aware.” Ha, permission I think…or maybe it was reverse psychology, because by the time I pulled into DD all I could imagine was a syrupy cup of sugar. I reluctantly ordered a small skim unsweetened cappuccino. I saved myself 250 calories and 36 grams of sugar, and I actually enjoyed it. This may actually be an easy challenge. Later that day a colleague offered me a pretzel which I declined (no processed foods on this challenge) she shook her head and as she walked away I heard her  say “Who doesn’t eat pretzels?” Lesson learned day 1, gain healthy habits, become the office weirdo.

Day 2:

Maria (who by the way tells me this is not a diet but my new Vanilla Chai-less lifestyle) convinces me that my daily breakfast of 1/2 a bagel with vegan butter is devoid of protein. I’ve been eating this same exact breakfast every weekday for at least 8 years. I want to tell her that Dr. Oz says that we should eat the same breakfast everyday, but I bite my tongue. Maria suggests I add an egg white. I get up 5 minutes earlier to fry an eggwhite. I then proceed to stress my entire commute that I might have left the burner on and that my beloved dog will perish in a horrible fire. For lunch I’ve made some random chickpea, pasta, basil salad. It’s surprisingly delicious, but I’m also hungry enough to eat my desk. Maria was worried that I wasn’t consuming enough food for my active lifestyle, I’m beginning to realize that Maria knows everything and perhaps I should have her pick my lotto numbers too. I come home to find that my dog and house are safe. At dinner I enjoy some baked french fries without any (sugary) ketchup. I feel like I just did something sacrilegious. I plan tomorrow’s meals wondering if there’s a way to convince Kraft to make egg white singles.

Day 3:

I’m starting to feel the positive effects of this diet, I mean life change, though I honestly thought I was a pretty clean eater before; except for the Vanilla Chais, tortilla chips, pizza, and nightly sinful dessert. While on the topic of dessert, I’m a diehard liberal, but at this point I may sell my vote to the Republicans for a cookie. Maria says I should make healthy cookies, like I have time to make cookies. Overall I’m tired from staying up late watching Tuesday night Bravo, and it’s raining which translates to “I’m the hungriest I’ve been all week.” I succumb to eating part of my lunch at 11am and having some multigrain flaxseed crackers and cheese after work. The crackers are the crunchiest things I’ve eaten all week and it takes all of my strength not to eat the whole package. But the positives, yes those positives, my pants are looser, I have no bloat, and I’m wearing a top that I usually think reveals bumps and lumps in all the wrong places, it only reveals the right ones. Ah, progress. Oh I’ve also learned to check the burner on the stove 6 times before I leave in the morning.

Day 4:

I’m hungry again around 11 am. I decide that the drastic reduction in calories from the way I ingest my caffeine is the reason. However, I’ve grown quite fond of unsweetened nonfat cappuccinos so decide I will from now on eat the fruit portion of my lunch at 11 every morning instead of reverting back to Vanilla Chais. Speaking of fruit it’s been a stressful day and I’m missing the liquid variety, but I’ve sworn off alcohol for this challenge. Tomorrow night can’t come quick enough.

Day 5:

I’ve made it five days without any processed foods, sweetened lattes, decadent desserts, or alcohol. I’ve surprised myself with how many meals I can concoct from a can of chickpeas, a container of grape tomatoes, and a package of basil.I feel less bloated and have more energy, but I ran 7 miles this evening and it’s pizza Friday. I compromise with a salad slice and half a banana for dinner, and I fall asleep before I even have a chance to pour the glass of wine I’d worked so hard for. Tomorrow I have a baby shower to attend. Free from the bonds of clean eating I might just throw myself into the cake. I’ve decided that calories consumed on Saturdays (or any opportunity to eat cake for that matter) just don’t count.

What a difference 5 days of clean eating makes! Bikini season here I come!

What a difference 5 days of clean eating makes! Bikini season here I come!

In Conclusion:

Despite all of my whining, clean eating really wasn’t that hard, or that different from how I normally eat. The changes I’ve made were easy enough that I believe I will continue to eat clean during the work week and indulge just a little bit on weekends. The results I saw in just 5 days are enough to keep me going! Many of you have asked for my meal plan so here is a sample of what I ate in a day along with recipes where necessary:

Breakfast:

*1/2 whole wheat bagel w/ Earth Balance soy free spread, egg white, nonfat/unsweetened small Dunkin Donuts cappuccino

Snack 1:

* 1 mandarin

Lunch:

*caprese/chickpea salad: 1/2 cup chickpeas, 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, 1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes, 1/3 cup fresh mozzarella in bite size pieces, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar,  1 tbs olive oil : layer all ingredients in lidded container & shake

Snack 2:

*2 tbs peanut butter w 1/2 a fuji apple

IMG_8207Dinner:

*salmon burger (no bun) spread with goat cheese

*handful Alexia brand yukon gold baked fries (no ketchup)

*broccoli w/ garlic & almonds: package frozen organic broccoli, 1/2 c slivered almonds, 2 diced garlic cloves: in covered pan on low heat, heat all together until broccoli is thawed and warm

Dessert:

* mock caramel apple pie: 1/2 fuji apple, 1 tbsp peanut butter : chop up apple half into teacup, place peanut butter on top, microwave until peanut butter is melted and apples are soft (about 30-45 seconds)

*For more clean eating ideas, recipes, and to find out about Maria’s coaching please follow her @MariaPaulercio on Twitter.

Southern Charm: A Review

imageBy Lesley Rousso (@mommyrou)

Our favorite Charleston residents are back! Yep y’all Southern Charm is two episodes in already, airing Mondays at 10 on Bravo TV.  When we left the friends last season, Thomas Ravenel and Kathryn Calhoun Dennis were breaking up. TRav was actually sobbing by the way, and flash to the next scene, there they are with their newborn daughter Kensington. Cameran Eubanks and Craig Conover were both working for a living and Shep Rose and Whitney Sudler-Smith were hanging around buying tuxedos and being served by butlers. This season, as we come to see, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Thomas and Kathryn are living way outside of town on Thomas’ plantation. It’s here, she spends most days with just the baby and a nanny.  TRav announces he’s running for office as an independent and Whitney plans on doing a commercial for him. As we see in the previews, this was not the best decision on Thomas’ part. The two are still not married, and quite honestly, it may stay that way.  They are looking for a place closer to town though and are in a monogamous relationship. Kathryn is sweet and loves that baby but she’s young and clearly has a lot to learn. Her hostessing skills seem to be a big source of talk this season.  That baby though, could be the cutest baby ever.

Cameran has gotten married to an adorable doctor. She continues to work in Real Estate, using a spare office at her mom’s building. Gotta love Cam, she’s my type of girl. She can hang with both the girls and the boys and spends a lot of time counseling these boys on their various acts of debauchery.

Speaking of debauchery, Miss Patricia, Whitney’s mom is back.  Between her butler, her travel bar, and hilarious commentary; she is easily my favorite cast member. She pulls no punches and is totally my idol.

Craig is still working (I’ll use the word working loosely here) at a law firm but refuses to take the bar exam.  I think it’s because he’s too busy drinking everything that isn’t nailed down.

Shep has actually opened a restaurant, that he calls a dive bar and has plans to move to the beach with Whitney for the summer.  People, I don’t even think we’ve scratched the surface of the debauchery. Shep’s friend Landon is also back in town, rounding out the cast.  No more Jenna I guess. Landon, has returned to Charleston, where her sisters live after her recent divorce from her husband in LA

All in all, the first two weeks did not disappoint and from the previews, things just get better. Y’all know where to find me on Monday nights, if y’all need me. Just be aware that I’ll be speaking in a southern accent.

An Open Letter to Dolce and Gabbana

imageDear Mr. Dolce and Mr. Gabbana,

Interestingly enough, I was reading Marie Claire over the weekend and saw a pair of heels in Nina Garcia‘s spring fashion week diary that I was attracted to. They were Mary Jane style with locket heels that opened to reveal golden hearts. Do they sound familiar? I’ve never purchased anything from your brand (quite frankly your overpriced merchandise is out of my financial league, and to be honest if it wasn’t, I’d be more of a Chanel girl), but recently I’ve had some moderate success in launching a small side business, and thought, “Hmmm, maybe it’s time to treat myself to something decadently extravagant.” Well, as they say, you know, timing certainly is everything.

Sunday was an extremely busy day for me, it always is. In the morning I take my twin 4 year old boys to baseball practice, then we do snack at Starbucks, followed by weekly errands, a family dinner, and then, once those adorable and exhausting little ones are tucked into bed, I work well into the night on my side business before I get up at 6 am for my regular day-job. During the day I saw some mentions on Social Media that you had put your well heeled feet into your mouths, but did’t really have a second to investigate. Finally, in the late of night as I fell into bed, I saw a comment from one of our PricelessLife.org Co-Founders about tossing her D&G perfume in the trash. Tossing away a pricey fragrance? Now I needed to investigate. Investigate I did, and within five minutes I was outraged! I was supposed to be asleep, but instead I took to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to make sure everybody that I know, and everyone they know, knows what you said.

People are saying you offended the gay community, and rightfully so, but your hurtful, hateful, and ignorant comments extend far beyond that. Your stance that children conceived via IVF are “synthetic” and “chemical” is one of the most offensive and vitriolic statements I’ve ever read. The reason it is so heinous, is because the attack is on children. Beautiful, innocent, natural children. Those two little boys sleeping as I read those statements are my miracles, the answers to prayers said and tears cried over and over and over. They are not bionic, they are not chemical, they are not synthetic in any way. They were conceived with the same ingredients ANY baby is conceived with, an egg, a sperm, and love, just maybe we took a long drive to parenthood as opposed to a fast flight.

When you take a journey, the method you take rarely matters, it’s that you’ve gotten there. Once my children were born I never saw them as anything other than children. The same goes to say for any child born by any method to anybody. Whether conceived naturally, or with assistance, whether born to a mom and dad, two moms, two dads, or adopted, a baby is a baby. A baby is the purest most natural thing on this earth, and YOU two are the ones that are contaminated.

I am glad that you have chosen not to have children. You obviously don’t have the capacity to love children and thankfully you seem to be aware of that, but please don’t ever call my children, or any child for that matter, “synthetic” again. Fashion is made of synthetics, not people. It’s too bad your hearts can’t be open like the ones on those shoes…the shoes I will not be buying!

Best Regards,

Tara Cushing

Founder/Editor in Chief
TBBReality.com
@TheBravoBlonde

Co-Founder/President
PricelessLife.org