Top 5 ways to feed your soul (and jump start your metabolism)

Do you ever experience that ridiculously full feeling after a meal? We’ve been told so many things about our diet and how it relates directly to digestion. Drink more water, eat more fiber, eat more of that, eat less of that, bla bla bla. It’s all so confusing and seems to change every five minutes. So rather than changing anything that we eat, here are 5 tips to boost your metabolism and make you feel better after a meal:

1. Eat slowly

This is my #1 rule. Eating slowly is so hard to do sometimes. Unless, you’re one of those people with the magic ability to NOT stuff your face. (That’s not me.) Eating slowly allows you time to enjoy your food. Our bodies digest food slower than we eat it and you’d be shocked how much less you eat when you take the time to put the fork down in between bites. Plus, the meal lasts so much longer, so the bliss continues!

2. Savor your food – feed your soul

One of the hardest parts of being a hard worker is that we tend to eat on the move. While eating in between meetings is alright once in awhile, try to remember to stop, sit and enjoy your meal. Don’t eat food that you don’t thoroughly enjoy, because sometimes you’ll forget how amazing flavor and texture can truly be. Take one bite, chew it slowly and think about what flavors stick out to you. Think about what you love about each ingredient. Maybe next time you’ll realize how good that sandwich was rather than cringe at how full you feel.

3. Invite friends to join you

Most of us eat alone these days. Especially in America, we work ourselves into the ground and end up eating alone on our couch with a glass of wine while watching our favorite show. Eating is a cultural, physiological practice, which is meant to be enjoyed with others. When you eat with a group of friends or your family, you tend to find more joy and comfort from your meal. So next time you’re driving home thinking of ordering Grubhub or Postmates alone, call up your mom or your best friend and invite them over. Have a party!

4. Carry around healthy snacks  – so you don’t go into starvation mode

I know for me, whenever I don’t bring snacks with me to work, I get hangry and rush off to the closest taco stand. Instead of ordering 2 tacos, I order 4 and I eat them as if I’ve never eaten in my entire life. I let myself get far too hungry which simply becomes a stomach ache and instant regret. Yes those tacos were great, but I could barely taste them since it was apparently a race to inhale as much shrimp, salsa and guacamole as humanly possible. So don’t be me at lunch next time. Bring nuts, peanut butter, apples and maybe a raw protein bar to hold you over. We aren’t neanderthals!

5. Cook…all the time.

Cooking is not only one of the most enjoyable pastimes for many, but it is a way to understand what goes in to creating the meals we love so much. Humans began their existence by hunting, gathering, preparing and sharing their food in a slow, drawn out manner. Some cultures understand the social connection we are meant to have with food, but for some reason Americans tend to purchase and stuff, rather than cook every meal. When we cook, we have more control over the calories we consume, we can reduce stress and perhaps build relationships if we cook with friends. So pop open that recipe book!

Special thanks to Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. 

Tips for traveling alone

What if we love travel,  but we wouldn’t dare to leave home by ourselves? It can be daunting to even think of going somewhere you’ve never been without a friend or family member with you. All I ever read in travel blogs are ‘must-dos’ before you settle down, and they often include a bullet for traveling alone. So why is that no one seems to do it?

Here are five tips to build up the courage to travel alone and to make it worth while.

1. Start your adventure in your own town.

Be a tourist in your hometown for a day. Take yourself on a date, don’t go to your typical spots and walk around without looking at your phone. See your hometown as if you’ve never been there before. Remember though, don’t look at your phone while you walk… take a look around and see how it feels to wander by yourself.

2. Find a place you’ve wanted to go for a long time.

There’s got to be somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Pick out a place that you would feel safe if you were there alone. For some, it’s Charleston, South Carolina, for others it’s Dubai. Don’t put limits on yourself!

3. Plan specific places to go.

Once you’ve chosen a destination, find some of the best spots to hit while you’re there. Whether it be certain beaches, museums, restaurants or hikes, find them and write them down. Don’t stop there though, investigate and document all the intricate ways to get there. Keep the directions in a journal so you can take it with you. (Use pictures and maps as well!)

4. Plan for problems.

Bringing extra money with you while you travel alone will help you relax in tense situations. If you lose your train ticket, you need a late night bite in a decent area, or you want to upgrade to a better hotel room to feel comfortable, allow yourself that luxury. Traveling alone can be stressful enough, so keep yourself packed with financial support. (Not with cash, but money in credit cards.)

5. Don’t be afraid to make friends when you get there.

Yes, being safe when meeting strangers is imperative. But there are so many incredible people who embrace lone travelers as if they were family. Find a cafe that matches your style, bring your laptop and get some work done. I’ve found that working in a bustling place encourages new friends to inquire about what you do. From there, you’re able to share who you really are with them and potentially create new relationships that could last a lifetime. Or – perhaps sit at a wine bar before the dinner crowd arrives and befriend the bartender. Bartenders seem to know all the ins and outs of a town. Start there!

Traveling alone is definitely for the brave. Luckily, you’re brave… so don’t wait for someone else to find interest in places you’ve always wanted to visit. Get out there and make life what you want it to be.

Stop, and turn around

It’s been quite awhile since I last wrote. Maybe because I’ve not felt as inspired or maybe because I’m nervous that what I have to say isn’t interesting enough to share with the world.

But today, I feel like sharing.

I’ve noticed a lot of my friends merge into careers that they maybe wanted, maybe didn’t want…but nonetheless, they seem to be fine. Generally, we go from college to post-grad thinking that we are going to slowly, consistently move upward. Sure, we might get a job that we are using as a stepping stone, that we don’t enjoy immensely but can tolerate… and then a two years go by. So really… we are just falling into the normal routine that is the American tradition…and why is it that I’m having a really hard time being okay with that?

My career path has been unexpectedly different.  It’s taken a rough push backward, a few confusing circles and some small steps to the left and right. I got my dream job right when I graduated. My favorite media company that made a true difference in the world hired ME. Interestingly enough, my dream job wasn’t what I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful for the position but when I decided it was my dream job to work there, I didn’t know that step one was generic 9 to 5. Probably because I always expect fireworks, bursts of color, magic and inspiration in everything around me. Including my jobs.

I think when we get to a certain age, our “dream job” isn’t actually what we had in mind. This is a cliché however… this is something cynical people have told us over the years, that our dream jobs are going to shift and soon enough we will be driving home at 7pm on a terribly average Thursday to a cold empty house where we’ll have about 3 hours to make dinner alone, (something that tastes mediocre and blends two or three types of ethnic foods from Trader Joe’s) watch two or three episodes of something on Netflix, brush our teeth and go to sleep.

This is what we are supposed to accept? Constantly, people who are secure and in a steady place in life will tell me,

“Well, real life is hard. It’s always going to be hard. You’re going to have to put your time in and do something you don’t enjoy for a couple of years until you have that break into the position you’ve been hoping to get.”

All I hear, is:

“Go give away X amount of years of your life in order for it to be good later.”

Sorry, but I don’t accept that and I don’t have to. That was 1985. 1985 was the 9 to 5 desk jobs concept that our parents created and accepted. Computers brought people into a gigantic space with no color on anything. If I don’t see color I don’t see anything and I just get uncomfortable.

There’s article I stumbled upon a few weeks ago about the most common regret people have on their death beds. It was,

“I didn’t do exactly what I wanted to do. I did what I thought I was supposed to do.” 

This was the first time I’d heard the notion, because I was swept up in the current with everyone else and didn’t think I could do what I wanted to do. I’ve mentioned this to my parents, mentors, peers, but for some reason they’re responses are always, “well that’s really hard to do and doesn’t pay the bills.” Instantly I sink into another heap of disappointment.

Now, I’ve tried to see this concept differently. by understanding that there is a way to balance doing what you want to do and putting in the hard work. There will be late nights that you don’t get paid overtime for, or people you meet who try to put out your light. But I honestly believe that living your life takes more courage than they tell us. If you want to work in a flower shop and not climb the corporate ladder, then work in a flower shop and don’t climb the corporate ladder. We don’t have to do the most impressive things. Impressive things are not the same things as those that make us happy. We don’t have to work at a big company, we don’t have to chase money, we don’t have to work in an office, we don’t have to fatten our resume just to impress other people, we don’t have to accept that paying the bills trumps every dream we ever wanted. Thats not naive, that’s just changing the conversation. We can pay the bills doing anything… look at YouTube stars, look at bloggers, look at people inventing apps, look at those kids choosing to not do what they were told is the only thing they can do to succeed. There isn’t an ONLY WAY. You just have to remind yourself, that no matter what job you choose to do, no matter what career path you give up, or what job you turn down in order to do something less impressive, that you are the type of person that succeeds at anything and everything you do. If you believe that, then those risks you took along the way will pay off, regardless.

So, do exactly what you want to do and don’t apologize. No matter how bold it might seem.

T.

Let’s talk about salads.

So it’s common knowledge that salads are generally good for us. If we load a salad with ranch, which I know we love, then it might add about 500 calories to our “healthy” salad.

In Paris, I’ve come across a salad that is quickly becoming internationally famous. Its called “salade chevre chaud.” If you’ve been here, which most of my friends who are studying abroad have, then you know what this salad is. Sometimes it is just cheese melted on small toasts over arugula or some kind of bed of lettuce. Sometimes we will get les pommes de terre, or hard boiled egg with tomatoes, carrots, pomegranate, avocado, parmesan cheese, apples, walnuts, or whatever else they decide to throw in.

Still, this salad has puzzled me completely. How do the French take a simple salade chevre chaud and switch it up completely? At the St. Regis restaurant near the seine, they have the cheese melted on small toasts over a simple bed of lettuce. But in the 14th arrondissement, at a small restaurant I couldn’t find the name of, this is what they gave me.

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So there is honey on there…with cucumber. I was SO confused when the waiter put it in front of me on my tiny table. The other funny thing is, they won’t write all the salad’s ingredients on the menu. Sometimes you will get a menu in your hand or occasionally it is posted on the wall and they bring the chalkboard over to your table. This salad was fantastic. It looks good in the picture, but to be starving and see that salad placed in front of you…there’s nothing better.

We all know I love food more than anything…well, not more than yoga.

MY POINT is that when you come to Paris, which we know you all want to now, you must order a chevre chaud salad just because of how much fun it is to wonder what is going to be in it. The herbs they put in the goat cheese (that’s what chevre is) makes the salad. Or, sometimes it’s the honey drizzled all over the salad as salad dressing.

How smart is that? Honey rather than salad dressing? Think about how much we try to be smart with what we eat…yet the salad dressing we love, which might be 1,000 calories, is drenched all over the ingredients. We need to pay more attention.

But salad isn’t just about the way it tastes, it’s about the way it looks as well. The image of the salad gives your mind an impression of the experience you are about to have. The smells help with that as well.

Salad doesn’t have to be a boring bed of greens.  If you are making a salad at home, use butter lettuce. There is something about the texture and flavor that changes the dynamic of the salad. There are so many salads that are made with butter lettuce in Paris.

I think they get it.

Now go cut up some goat cheese, throw some herbs on there, cut up some toasts, bake them in the oven and make your masterpiece… 🙂

T.

Sangria: medicine for the soul

Last weekend, I was in a country that seems to understand that quality doesn’t mean a quantity of euros.

HOLA BARCELONA.

To get you to understand the environment I was in, I’ll post a landscape before I dive in to the beautifully cheap foods in Barcelona.

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Isn’t that beautiful? I know we see thousands of photoshopped landscape pictures all over advertisements and billboards, but that is an actual unedited picture…which I took.

So now you that you have an image of where I was, I will give you the low-down. Europe seems to be the most expensive area of the world, but I have discovered a city in Spain that understands how to bring in the big bucks.

It’s about quality. If you want to have a successful restaurant, you don’t need to charge thirty euros for a plate. Just IMG_0467charge fifteen euros for a pitcher of perfectly blended sangria and burritos. It really is that simple, people love burritos while in the sun… at the beach. We stumbled upon Carabela. The price range is from three-nine euros. So if you can’t afford much, you can definitely afford a gourmet meal like this one.

There were four of us in Barcelona eating at this juice and cocktail cafe and every single one of us, after trying multiple sangria mixtures throughout the city, agreed that this was the cafe we wanted to come back to three more times. That is really saying something. And here it is… so pretty.

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Those are freshly cut bananas, strawberries, oranges, limes, lemons all mixed together with some sugar, red wine and either lemonade or strawberry juice. We took a sip and starred at each other…thinking…smiling…confused… we couldn’t believe the wonderful mistake we just made. We simply walked up, were warmly greeted and sat down. That’s all! We tried sangria at other restaurants down the pier but nothing even came close.

It is truly amazing how easy it is to tell whether a restaurant takes four extra minutes to prepare their foods and drinks or if they throw it together. You think you know flavor, but when you find something that smacks you in the face with it, you begin to understand how important it is to do your research before entering a restaurant. Save those dollars for foods that do more than put nutrients into your body…find foods that make you close your eyes while you’re eating them.

And then this happened. A sandwich! A simple sandwich I could make at home, but because it was so freshly prepared, I knew it would take some time and love to accomplish this masterpiece. Avocado, lettuce, goat cheese, tomatoes and salsa on perfectly grilled toast. Not white bread you notice..this isn’t the United States.

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Remember, I don’t just blog about every food I eat while abroad. I only write about the foods that seem to jump off the plate and into my heart. I am leaving these images so large because I need you to see the intricate detail of the ingredients…it is vital you understand just how perfect the meals are.

And finally, so that you stop drooling and go find some food yourself, I’ll leave you with this last mouthful.

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Its called a magic burrito. Not because it has a wand and shouts “expelliarmus,” but because it looks like a painting and tastes like a trip to Playa del Carmen.  “Magic burrito” isn’t that actual name of it, but I am officially going to forever call it that.

In addition to the savory, tender chicken pieces, beans, cheese, some special sauce and other warm goodness, the chips and guacamole take the plate to a whole new level. You need that contrast of texture in the crunch of the chip and the cool, fresh waterfall of an avocado dip. IMG_0487

Now that you have some insight, go to Barcelona and visit this wonderful restaurant on the water. It is all outdoors, on old benches. Not to mention the adorable pup that meanders around and greets you with those puppy eyes. Take my advice because I will never write about a food that won’t move you.

T.

We eat

Une croissant au citron
Une croissant au citron

Oh boy. I knew I’d be scared to begin blogging about food in Paris. But the thing is, the restaurant food is not the problem. It’s the crêpes. I can’t handle this.

Crêpes are made from flour, water, sugar, milk, eggs, butter and salt. From such simple ingredients, how do you build a reputation, let alone a country? To Americans, crêpes are Paris in a nutshell. When you put a crêpe in your mouth, you aren’t just giving in to your body’s sugar craving, you’re accepting another culture.

While walking along Rue Saint-Honoré in the 1st arrondissement, you know you are conforming to the idyllic concept of Parisian life. You have the seine to your left and the most high end shopping temptations on your right. What does this have to do with food? Gosh, everything. Because shopping takes up so much energy, you just want a bite to eat…sugar please!

What about the man on the corner with the large circular griddle, spinning the batter around with that tiny little stick? Doesn’t seem normal, but when he scoops that Nutella on his spoon, slaps it on to the hot crêpe and spreads it around slowly like your watching a food porno, you have to stop. You just don’t have a choice. Think I’m wrong? Try walking by that smell and not spending 4 euros.

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Le Pain

We’ve learned a lot about what food means to Parisians. We get it… cheese, bread, and wine. It seems to be all they need to survive and all be a size 0, men included. Plus, with a Pâtisserie on every single corner, except for Sundays or Mondays when they are closed, you are guaranteed to get fat. There is no surprise that bread in French is “le pain.”

Hate to break it to you, but what all this really means is that Americans have a hard time stopping. Now, of course I am generalizing from observation and personal experience, but we just can’t have one croissant. We want four. If we only eat one now, we will have the other four in about fifteen minutes.

Americans see French people eating exactly what we are told not to eat…and not just one time during the week… they eat their baguettes, croissants or quiches every single morning. That is the thing though, they have one…

So for my Parisian experience, I am aiming to avoid all corners with crêpe stands until the desperation reaches its peak. Until then, I’ll be good and eat macaroons.

T.

P.S. If you want to know what it feels like walking down the street in Paris, click on this link 🙂

Paris, from me to you.