America's fittest couple

Love + Fitness = Happiness

Sunfest and the Frozen Banana

Since 2012, Jon and I have a tradition of attending “SunFest” – a local music festival in West Palm Beach.  SunFest lasts five days, and we’re always sure to make it there at least one or two nights.  It ends with a big fireworks display that is a lot of fun to watch.

Jon and I had a blast this year at Sunfest, where we were reminded of the origins of the Frozen Banana.

Jon and I had a blast this year at Sunfest, where we were reminded of the origins of the Frozen Banana.

 

SunFest isn’t just a festival to us – it’s what allowed us to discover one of the most life-changing ideas for our diet and fitness programThe Frozen Banana Dessert.

 

Before I met Jon five years ago, I had never eaten a frozen banana.  I never even thought to freeze them.  But on trips to Florida, I noticed that when he made Vitamix-blended shakes for us, he would always pull out a Frozen Banana and throw it in (which made the drink cold, sweet, and refreshing).  Jon would often buy a couple cartons of bananas, allow them to ripen until they were almost brown, peel them, and freeze them all.  (It was convenient in the sense of us having a frozen banana ready when we needed it, but problematic if we ever needed any extra freezer space.)

Enjoy a Frozen Banana as a healthy and satisfying dessert.

Posing this year in front of the cart that inspired an era.

Posing this year in front of the cart that inspired an era.

 

This went on for several months as Jon continued preparing his smoothies. 

Then, we attended our first SunFest in May of 2012, and everything changed.

 

Out of the corner of my eye I saw I girl walking by with a frozen banana on a stick, covered in fudge and walnuts.  At that moment, a lightbulb went off.

Jon has displayed commitment day in and day out to the Frozen Banana Regimen.

Jon has displayed commitment day in and day out to the Frozen Banana Regimen.

I tugged at Jon’s shirt, “Look what she’s eating!  We can EAT the frozen bananas at home and have them for dessert!”  Sure enough, another 20 yards down the strip, we came across the Frozen Banana vendor that was selling these treats.

 

 

At this point, we had only just begun our journey towards a healthy lifestyle, and a typical dessert was still frozen yogurt, sorbet, or “mochi” ice cream. 

Once we incorporated the Frozen Banana, the landscape changed forever.

 

We not only take precautions to have bananas in the freezer, but we also do so by wearing ear-plugs when we go to concerts.  We don't want to risk damaging our eardrums from the deafening noise levels.

We not only take precautions to have bananas in the freezer, but we also do so by wearing ear-plugs when we go to concerts.  We don't want to risk damaging our eardrums from the deafening noise levels.

Our first version of the frozen banana dessert involved melting some dark chocolate in a pan and pouring it on top.  We continued to vary up our topping with nuts, dried fruit, cacao nibs, and coconut shavings.  We also went to Costco and bought some frozen berries, which we added. 

 

For a while we experimented with adding various sweeteners – honey and agave nectar – although now we find the Frozen Banana to be sweet enough by itself.

 

 

Over time, there were many versions of the Frozen Banana dessert, but we have come to trust one particular concoction nowadays.  Frozen banana, with pieces of dark chocolate form our favorite bar (Green and Black’s 85%), plenty of walnuts or brazil nuts (sometimes almonds or hazelnuts as well), and dried fruit (figs, dates, or raisins).

We watched O.A.R. this year at Sunfest -- a band I used to listen to as a teenager.

We watched O.A.R. this year at Sunfest -- a band I used to listen to as a teenager.

 

When you freeze your bananas, make sure they’re ripe to the point of being almost brown -- then peel and store them in a glass container.  When you take out your banana for your dessert, allow it to sit for 5 minutes so it thaws out a bit.  This way, it will be cold but not rock solid, and you’ll enjoy it all the more.  

 

This year at Sunfest, we didn’t have any life-changing epiphanies.  But we still had a blast.

 

Set Clear Goals

My goal is to run a 6 minute mile.

Every morning I start my day off with a hard run.  Some days I feel better than others, but having a clear goal keeps me motivated regardless.

Every morning I start my day off with a hard run.  Some days I feel better than others, but having a clear goal keeps me motivated regardless.

 

An easy time for me right now is 8 minutes.  An achievable time, if I push hard, is 7 minutes.  6 minutes is very difficult for me, but I'm still able to get close every once in a while.  What I want is for the 6 minute mile to be an achievable standard.

 

 

Every workout I push through feels purposeful since I’m working towards a goal. Also, I am more motivated when I hit the track or the treadmill because I know my efforts are moving me in the right direction.  

Jon has been so supportive in helping me reach my goals.  On the weekends I accompany him to the courts and we do an on-court workout together (sprints, suicides, plyometrics, and core exercises).  Doing the tennis workout has made me much stronger during my runs.

Jon has been so supportive in helping me reach my goals.  On the weekends I accompany him to the courts and we do an on-court workout together (sprints, suicides, plyometrics, and core exercises).  Doing the tennis workout has made me much stronger during my runs.


Without a clear goal and an everyday purpose, you will be lost in the clutter of today’s fitness world.

Come Friday, Jon and I are ready to enjoy the weekend because we know our weekly workouts have been focused on a clear goal.

Come Friday, Jon and I are ready to enjoy the weekend because we know our weekly workouts have been focused on a clear goal.

 

It should never be the case that you're going into a workout thinking: "I’m just here to work out.”  You will never be able to stay the course.  Even if your goal is just weight loss, that objective itself isn't concrete enough.   

You need to have clear objectives.  Even if they are small ones. 

 

For example, try running 10 seconds faster around the track next time.  Do an extra few repetitions this time.  Get in one more set.   

 

Maybe you won’t weigh less at the end of that week, but you will be making progress.  And that’s all that matters in the end.  Making progress and getting stronger.

And don't forget your nutrition! A healthy plate of fresh sardines, hot off the grill.  Try to eat low mercury fish whenever possible.

And don't forget your nutrition! A healthy plate of fresh sardines, hot off the grill.  Try to eat low mercury fish whenever possible.

 

Another fun way to get fit is to learn a new sport – or take up an old one that you used to play.  If you join a soccer or basketball league, you will be staying active in the games.  And when you’re competing on a regular basis, that in itself is motivation to improve!

 

You always have to remember to be realistic with your goal setting, and know that sometimes achieving your objective will take longer than expected.  It’s small efforts and little improvements over a long period of time that will allow you to reach you fitness goals.

The Gym Schedule Phenomenon

Since moving to Florida, I try to run outside whenever possible.  But it was a cold and rainy winter this year, and so many days I had to move indoors to use the treadmill.  The rise in my gym attendance allowed me to observe a very unique pattern I wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise, one I now refer to as the “Gym Schedule Phenomenon.”

 

I try to go outside for my runs whenever possible.  But this winter I had to spend more time indoors than I'm used to and soon experienced the Gym Schedule Phenomenon.

I try to go outside for my runs whenever possible.  But this winter I had to spend more time indoors than I'm used to and soon experienced the Gym Schedule Phenomenon.

Our building has a great gym, but there are only two treadmills there.  Many times I would head for my workout on a rainy day, only to find that both were taken.  Pretty soon I developed a certain anxiety every time I would open the gym door, not sure if there would be an open machine (jokingly, I called this “Treadmill Anxiety”).

 

 

But it wasn’t every day of the week that I faced Treadmill Anxiety.   See, on Mondays, every single machine in the gym was occupied.  On Tuesday, usually 60% were taken.  By Wednesday, my Treadmill Anxiety was no longer there because NOBODY WAS AT THE GYM.  Once the mid-week had arrived, the gym was completely free through the weekend, until the following Monday rolled around.

 

The Gym Schedule Phenomenon likely has to do with the fact that at the beginning of the week, people want to make up for the “unhealthy” things they did over the weekend.  Drinking, restaurant meals, late nights out.

Stretching after my workout on a Thursday evening.  The gym was completely empty.

Stretching after my workout on a Thursday evening.  The gym was completely empty.

 

On Monday, the motivation to workout is strong.  A day or two later, not so much. 

  

 

When I worked in the Northeast, the week was such a grind that I would typically spend my entire weekend at the gym – working out and then slipping into the sauna, or enjoying a treatment at the spa.  I wouldn’t dare have a sip of alcohol or eat an unhealthy meal because doing so would have ruined my good feelings during these precious off-days. 

 

Jon and I are sure to preserve our good feelings during our off-days -- using them to do HEALTHY things, not hurt our bodies through alcohol or bad food.

Jon and I are sure to preserve our good feelings during our off-days -- using them to do HEALTHY things, not hurt our bodies through alcohol or bad food.

I would often schedule my off day for Monday, which was the busiest day at work.  With this schedule, I relieved any potential stress and started the week off strong. 

 

The workouts over the weekend actually made me physically and mentally stronger for the long week ahead.  Contrary to what you might think, doing exercise over the weekend – and shifting your off-days to the weekdays (when you have to be at work for long hours) -- proved energizing.

  

Instead of going out late, I spend my time on the weekends cooking healthy food -- usually preparing batches that I can eat during the hectic hours of the week.  Here is a bowl of sauteed vegetables (squash, zucchini, peppers, onions, and mushrooms) alongside two bowls of hot kasha (buckwheat).

Instead of going out late, I spend my time on the weekends cooking healthy food -- usually preparing batches that I can eat during the hectic hours of the week.  Here is a bowl of sauteed vegetables (squash, zucchini, peppers, onions, and mushrooms) alongside two bowls of hot kasha (buckwheat).

Jon and I stick to healthy activities during the weekends.  Here we were enjoying a Delray Beach street fair.

Jon and I stick to healthy activities during the weekends.  Here we were enjoying a Delray Beach street fair.

Training on Saturdays and Sundays will also incentivize you to drink less on Friday and Saturday nights.  Lower your inhibitions and increase your self confidence the natural way -- through working out and improving your body.

 

All of your problems can be solved by working to create a HOT BODY.  And working to maintain that body for many years to come. 

When I have extra time on the weekends, I won't go drinking.  Instead, I'll sit down for a healthy snack.

I'm always posting shots of my healthy weekend routines on Snapchat (@Lyudzz).  Start following me!

I'm always posting shots of my healthy weekend routines on Snapchat (@Lyudzz).  Start following me!

A hot body will get rid of your social anxiety, insecurities, hesitations, and anything else that’s preventing you from getting yourself out of your shell and meeting new people. 

 

Drinking to overcome these issues is the easy way out – and doesn’t last either.  A hot body will also attract people TO YOU – so you won’t even need to break the ice most of the time.

 

 

I say “hot body” here because I really just wanted to get your attention -- but you have to remember that this is just external, easily seen by those around you.  The golden reward that you will gain from living healthfully and investing in yourself is the improvement in how you feel in your own skin, along with confidence and strength that goes along with it.

  

The best way motivate yourself is to have a goal that you’re excited about.  And to know that every time you train, you are working towards that goal.  Your workouts will change forever once you start training to GET BETTER, not just to “spend time” working out.  That’s how I was able to change my own trajectory, and the results have been huge.

 

Also, having a clear goal will give you purpose and confidence.  You’ll begin to notice your body changing, and then you won’t want to skip any training sessions or do anything unhealthy when you have free time. 

 

Your New Body Won't Come Overnight


One of the main reasons people give up on their health and fitness goals (or simply fail to even start on them) is the fact that progress is often made slowly.  Sure, anyone can do a “Master Cleanse” and lose 10 pounds in 10 days -- but trying to get a quick result doesn’t align with what your ultimate purpose should be: finding a stable, long-run path towards a happy, healthy, and fit life.

 

 

Up bright and early before sunrise for a run on the track before work.  Getting fit entails adopting a LIFESTYLE of fitness, not looking for quick-fix options.

Up bright and early before sunrise for a run on the track before work.  Getting fit entails adopting a LIFESTYLE of fitness, not looking for quick-fix options.

Health and wellness come from a healthy lifestyle -- which involves EATING (not starving yourself), being active, and keeping mentally attune (which can’t be achieved it you’re feeling faint from food deprivation!). 

A healthy lifestyle can only be adopted through months and years of repeating the same healthy habits, routines, and rituals… and doing them joyfully!  Wanting to lead a healthy lifestyle should come from an intrinsic motivation to do so – not just because you want visible results (i.e. weight loss). 

 

If you’re invested for the right reasons, the results will come naturally (and you’ll enjoy yourself too, which is most important).

 

 

To invest wholeheartedly in a healthy lifestyle, you need to accept that your life will look very different from the one you’re living now.  But you have to understand this up front, and commit yourself.   It’s the only way.  Given that you’re reading this right now, it’s clear you have the motivation and desire. 

 

The next question is: how willing are you to be uncomfortable…and for how long?

 

Jon and I front row at the Miami Open last month.  Watching the professional tennis players reaffirmed my belief that it's only through years of invested effort that one can achieve his or her desired results.  Most of the these players require many years -- often decades -- of competition under their belt before they can make it to the top.

Jon and I front row at the Miami Open last month.  Watching the professional tennis players reaffirmed my belief that it's only through years of invested effort that one can achieve his or her desired results.  Most of the these players require many years -- often decades -- of competition under their belt before they can make it to the top.

 

Learning new habits and behaviors can feel awkward, and it’s even more difficult to adapt when you’re an adult.  But just because it will be harder, doesn’t mean you can’t prevail. 

 

Your diet is crucial to reaching your fitness goals.  This is a vegetable soup (mushrooms, onions, bok choy, chard, and spices) with a side of fresh avocado.

Your diet is crucial to reaching your fitness goals.  This is a vegetable soup (mushrooms, onions, bok choy, chard, and spices) with a side of fresh avocado.

With enough commitment and willpower, anything is possible.  It’s time to start getting comfortable getting uncomfortable.

 

 

 

My go to workout is running, and I’ve been doing it for a long time now.  I always keep track of my workouts, and so by this point I’ve compiled quite a bit of data.  The results are clear: Every time I’ve gotten super fit, the time frame has always been many miles under my belt, coupled with a discipled eating routine.  

 

Getting fit works in cycles, and it’s certainly anything but a straight arrow path.  You make a climb, plateau a bit (or in some cases maybe even decline slightly for a short period), and then climb up again. 

You need to get fit to get fit.  And then get even more fit to get even fitter.

 

When I first started running in the beginning, I only expected small improvements in my fitness.  Just trying to run a little faster and a little longer each time.  Then, once these improvements became the norm, I sought to increase the pace and amount of time again.  It took many months for me to see progress, but I understood this, and committed.

 

Jon and I love to make soups.  Here is another mushroom-based soup, but with kasha (buckwheat) added.  Mushrooms are a great replacement for meat, which Jon and I have avoided for the last two years

Jon and I love to make soups.  Here is another mushroom-based soup, but with kasha (buckwheat) added.  Mushrooms are a great replacement for meat, which Jon and I have avoided for the last two years

The option was always there to simply cut calories and lose a bunch of weight immediately.   But that wasn’t the goal.   During the training months, I was actually eating more in order to have more energy for my workouts, which was at first very counterintuitive to me. (I’ll admit that in college and even before, I used to restrict my portions to keep thin.  I didn't work out as much, but I was always hungry.  Not a great – or sustainable – lifestyle.)  

 

I resolved to take the long view.  To live, you must eat.  And to live healthfully, you must develop healthy eating habits.

 

Instead of getting discouraged and quitting if you’re not seeing immediate results with your workouts, remember that the journey for self-improvement is a long one.  And it’s not measured in how many dress sizes you can drop in the quickest time frame.   It’s about fostering the knowledge and mentality to treat your body in the right way – consistently and for the long haul.

 

Jon and I eating lunch at Whole Foods -- having brought some of our own food that we cooked at home to complement their offerings.  That's when you know you've taken it to the next level.  (When we come with our own silverware -- as in this case -- the other Whole Foods patrons often seem to stare.)

Jon and I eating lunch at Whole Foods -- having brought some of our own food that we cooked at home to complement their offerings.  That's when you know you've taken it to the next level.  (When we come with our own silverware -- as in this case -- the other Whole Foods patrons often seem to stare.)

By the same token, your diet will not suddenly be clean and perfect.  It took many years for Jon and I to discover the knowledge to cook and eat in the way we do now. There’s no miracle juice or cleanse that will provide this.  It’s all about committing to long-term change.

 

If you “mess up” on one meal, just keep going and make sure your next meal is better.  If you improve all aspects of your life, including your sleep and exercise habits, then these “mess ups” will just become a blip on a long stream of positive behavior.  They will disappear from the picture.

 

When the majority of your actions are pointing you in the direction you want to go, there will be no stopping you from arriving at your final destination.

 

The Lean Lifestyle

At the height of the Creating Substance blog, Jon Pearlman coined and passed on to his followers a golden adage:

Lean is the New Jacked.

The Lean Lifestyle -- facilitated by healthy food, hard workouts, and mental acuity -- is the optimal framework for maximizing potential.

The Lean Lifestyle -- facilitated by healthy food, hard workouts, and mental acuity -- is the optimal framework for maximizing potential.

 

 

America’s Fittest Couple has pursued -- and continues to pursue -- a Lean Lifestyle at all costs.  They no longer eat out.  They prepare all of their own food.  They work out twice per day.  They make these sacrifices because they understand just how valuable lean-ness really is.

 

 

But pursuing a Lean Lifestyle is more than looking good, it's about feeling your best (naturally, if you're feeling good, you're going to look good too). 

 

The Lean Lifestyle is about making a connection with your body and mind.

 

Getting lean entails moving past the clutter.  Shedding the excess baggage.  Getting lean means finding mental clarity and having the capacity to sort through the noise.

Getting lean entails moving past the clutter.  Shedding the excess baggage.  Getting lean means finding mental clarity and having the capacity to sort through the noise.

 

Lean-ness is the removal of excess baggage.  You’re lighter.  Freer.  Healthier.  Sharper.  You can get where you want as fast as you need to.  And not just on the track, but from a mental standpoint as well. 

 

 

 

Clear thinking only comes along with a mastered body.  Once you get lean, you won’t be swayed by external pressures, or influenced by meaningless noise.  You will find your footing. 

 

Ironic is the fact that the less you weigh, the more thoroughly grounded you will become.  

 

 

And that’s what it comes down to in the end: becoming grounded.   Making a deep connection...WITH YOUR OWN BODY AND MIND! 

 

First make a strong connection with yourself -- your body, mind, and spirit.  If you are able to this, and then are so fortunate to have made a strong connection with JUST ONE OTHER PERSON, consider yourself blessed.

First make a strong connection with yourself -- your body, mind, and spirit.  If you are able to this, and then are so fortunate to have made a strong connection with JUST ONE OTHER PERSON, consider yourself blessed.

 

 

The Creating Substance founder accompanying the Better Half shoe shopping.  Minimizing the number of shoes you own is part of Living Lean.

The Creating Substance founder accompanying the Better Half shoe shopping.  Minimizing the number of shoes you own is part of Living Lean.

 

Getting lean isn’t just about doing away with the excess physical weight, it’s about cutting through the distractions that pervade the modern landscape.  Lean-ness is about learning how to separate what’s important from what’s not – and then shedding the insignificant from your life. 

 

 

When you get home today, take the time to sit yourself down and think:

 

How can I change my life to make it leaner?  What is weighing me down unnecessarily?  How can I go about cutting out the excess baggage?

 

 

We’ve already gone through many tips (click herehere, and here) for leaning down the body – but the mental weight, the weight provoked from a lifestyle ungrounded and unfocused – is much more difficult to shed.  Unlike the simplicity of a diet comprised of healthy, single-ingredient, natural foods, the path towards mental acuity – mental lean-ness -- is unique for each person.  Therefore, you are the captain of your own ship with respect to leaning down your life.  Start steering yourself onto the right course.

 

With enough commitment and persistence, and a little luck, you can attain the Lean Lifestyle.

With enough commitment and persistence, and a little luck, you can attain the Lean Lifestyle.

 

The food is step one.  Once the body is pure, the mind can start heading in the right direction.  It’s not one or the other – you need both the body and mind on your side in order to arrive at peak lean-ness.

 

It’s time to start leaning down.  It’s time to start living to the fullest.

           

 

A Sweaty Winter

It’s been a sweaty winter.

 

America’s Fittest Couple understands the simple fact that if you’re not sweating, you’re not getting fitter.  And if you’re not getting fitter, you’re not moving in the direction you ought to be.

 

Therefore, the Couple made it a priority these last several months -- when the weather's been coldest -- to strap on the necessary gear for peak perspiration.  "Necessary gear"  involves one thing only: the Sweatsuit.

 

Sweatsuit on and heading to the gym for a 30-minute run.  A plate of freshly steamed chard waits patiently for my return.

Sweatsuit on and heading to the gym for a 30-minute run.  A plate of freshly steamed chard waits patiently for my return.

 

The full-body Sweatsuit has become the go-to vehicle for AFC in their quest to achieve the lean body.  And frankly, there’s no other way.  If you aim to burn the maximum amount of calories in your workout (and if you don't want that, your priorities are likely askew), the body temperature has to be elevated.

 

Creating Substance founder Jon Pearlman often hears his peers lament the fact that they don’t like the heat.  They don’t like to sweat.  They don't like to run.  It’s a shame because the heat, the run, and the sweat are the very things that facilitate the transition to top physical form.  

 

It's time to start embracing the heat, the run, the sweat, and the Sweatsuit.

 

The Better Half isn't thinking about style when she heads into her workout.  She's thinking about sweating to the maximum.

The Better Half isn't thinking about style when she heads into her workout.  She's thinking about sweating to the maximum.

The Crimson spirit seems to be integrally intertwined into the Creating Substance founder's sweat gear.

The Crimson spirit seems to be integrally intertwined into the Creating Substance founder's sweat gear.

 

Even though AFC currently resides in Florida, the winter days have been chilly this year.  When the mercury hovered below the 75-degree marker, the Sweatsuit made its way into the sunlight. 

 

Sure, the folks at the local tennis facility and running track turned their heads to see AFC sporting the most unusual of outfits, but this didn't stop the Couple. 

Social acceptance took a back seat to lean-ness.

 

The Sweatsuit has kept the CS founder true to form.  Old Faithful has done his part.

The Sweatsuit has kept the CS founder true to form.  Old Faithful has done his part.

 

As we enter spring, the days wrapped in an extra layer have proven beneficial.  90 degrees and full humidity?  No problem, the sweatsuit kept us true.  We’re lean, toned, and strong – and we’re ready for you, summer!

 

 

 

Staying fit entails staying hot.  And when you’re not in the summer months, that means bringing out Old Faithful – and having the confidence to keep Him on your shoulders while those around you stare, bug-eyed.   After all, you’ve got a bigger purpose.  You're on your way to lean-ness.

 

If you haven’t already, invest in some sweat gear.  By the time the summer months hit, you'll be beach body ready.

   

The Better Half, with a full winter of Sweatsuit use behind her, is ready for the beach.

The Better Half, with a full winter of Sweatsuit use behind her, is ready for the beach.

Say No To Takeout

You can't be lazy.  That's what it comes down to in the end.  

If you really want to be healthy and fit, then you need to know exactly what is in your food and exactly how it’s being prepared.  That means cooking your food yourself.

 

A home-cooked plate of brown rice pasta with sauteed cherry tomatoes and onions, avocado, and roasted asparagus added.

A home-cooked plate of brown rice pasta with sauteed cherry tomatoes and onions, avocado, and roasted asparagus added.

 

When I was younger, I used to get takeout all the time.  I remember in college and just after graduating when I was modeling in New York, the easiest thing to do was order some sushi or a grilled chicken salad.  It was usually done out of convenience, maybe I had a lot of homework that day or a casting to attend.  I could eat while doing homework at my desk or after a long photo shoot, and it was almost always done as a solitary activity.

 

If my friends and I were planning to have a meal together, then we normally would just go to a restaurant.  Since the time was there to spend together, we wanted to enjoy it out, when we were dressed up and having fun.

 

Since I started cooking all of my own food, the concept of takeout now seems strange to me.

Since I started cooking all of my own food, the concept of takeout now seems strange to me.

Now that I’m a few years older and have grown accustomed to cooking my meals, the concept of takeout seems strange to me.  Take, for example, the time that you have to wait for the food to be delivered (let’s say it's 30-45 minutes).  You could have equally just spent the same time cooking something healthier yourself, instead.  And you're probably distracted in the time after the order thinking about when the food is going to come -- and so you're likely not going to be very productive then anyway.  My view is that you might as well spend the time and effort to just prepare a quick meal yourself.

 

Jon and I spent the weekend in Miami recently, and we planned in advance to have a fun night out.  We both dressed up and enjoyed a delicious meal.

Jon and I spent the weekend in Miami recently, and we planned in advance to have a fun night out.  We both dressed up and enjoyed a delicious meal.

I find that preparing meals can be meditative, and it can be something fun and entertaining to do as a couple too.  Even if you end up preparing the meal alone, your partner will always appreciate a hot meal on the table when he or she gets home.  Sometimes Jon and I cook together, but more often than not we take turns cooking.  Generally, whoever is home first prepares the meal, and we enjoy it together when the other person gets home.

While takeout is never an option for breakfast (at least I hope not!), you shouldn't eat your breakfast out if you can avoid it.  Here is a plate of hot steel-cut oats, banana, and fresh berries.  A delicious way to start the day!  

While takeout is never an option for breakfast (at least I hope not!), you shouldn't eat your breakfast out if you can avoid it.  Here is a plate of hot steel-cut oats, banana, and fresh berries.  A delicious way to start the day!  

 

 

Why would we ever get takeout?  That has never even been a consideration.  If we’re going to go out to eat, then we’re going to go all the way.  We'll dress up and make a reservation at the restaurant of our choosing, where we know we'll have a great meal.  Going out to eat is a treat for us, and not something done on the regular.

 

Also, think about all of the waste that comes along with takeout, from the containers, to the plastic bags, to the sauce packets.  When you cook yourself and wash your own dishes, your carbon footprint will be significantly smaller.  In addition to cooking, Jon and I have re-usable grocery bags when we shop, we recycle everything properly, and make every effort possible to run a green household.

 

 

Another fun part of cooking at home is the shopping.  Jon and I always have a great time heading to our local market and stocking up on fresh produce.

Another fun part of cooking at home is the shopping.  Jon and I always have a great time heading to our local market and stocking up on fresh produce.

 

I am an advocate for eliminating takeout because it will not only improve your health, but it will also improve your social life and love life too. If you limit your meals "out" to only when you go out, then you will eat more home-cooked meals.  When you decide to leave your stovetop clear for the evening, then dress up and go out with a friend.  Make it an occasion instead of eating alone in front of your computer or TV.  If you live with your significant other/spouse/partner, then refrain from getting takeout altogether.  Cook for one another and you will grow to appreciate your partner -- and your healthy, home-cooked food -- all at once!

 

Keep Your Treats a Treat and Live Cravings Free

What is "Creating Substance founder" Jon Pearlman thinking?

 

You're not alone if you found yourself asking that question after you read his last post:  The Annual Cake Slice.  As the other half of AFC, please allow me to elaborate.

 

About to bite into a delicious fig.   An all-natural (and delicious) dessert option.

About to bite into a delicious fig.   An all-natural (and delicious) dessert option.

Jon and I eat dessert every day after dinner -- and after lunch too, on the weekends.  We eat dark chocolate, dried fruit, fresh fruit, and nuts, and we always switch up our ingredients so the plates never get boring.

 

 

 

Another option we sometimes include is oatmeal, with dates and bananas cooked in (this is usually made for breakfast, but it's also delicious as a "cookie" after lunch or dinner).  We never buy packaged or processed desserts or snacks. It's just not part of our lifestyle.  Since we only keep natural ingredients in our house, we don't have to resist dessert because we only have healthy options on hand. 

 

 

 

I believe in preparing all of your food yourself.  But that doesn’t mean you should go and bake cookies!  In fact, we don't even have any sugar, butter, or milk in our pantry (and DEFINITELY no artificial/calorie-free sweetener, because that's even worse).  And to be honest, I haven’t missed a single one of those ingredients in the kitchen over the last five years since we did away with them.  My go-to's are dried figs and dates -- they're just as sweet as any cookie or brownie, and much more nutritious.

 

When we do treat ourselves to dessert the way most people define it, it has to be spectacular. It happens so rarely and we don't want to feel the least bit guilty when we indulge.  

It has to be 100% worth it.

 

 

I can actually remember some of the best desserts over the last few years: a tres leches at the Palm Beach Grill, a homemade apple pie served at Thanksgiving dinner, and the delicious slice of rich, chocolate cake from our Valentine’s Day celebration this year (the "Annual Cake Slice," as Jon put it).

 

Jon and I enjoying our tres leches back in 2013.  I can remember each and every "special" (off-diet) dessert I've enjoyed over the years in detail.

Jon and I enjoying our tres leches back in 2013.  I can remember each and every "special" (off-diet) dessert I've enjoyed over the years in detail.

 

In Jon's post, he talks a lot about food cravings.   I sort of remember having cravings for certain foods a few years ago, but I haven't experienced any of late. Thinking back now, I remember in college when I used to feel I absolutely needed a bag of potato chips -- and the thought wouldn’t leave my mind until I had it.   But the thought of potato chips doesn't sound appetizing anymore -- most certainly due to the fact that Jon and I have completely revamped how we eat.

 

 

 

When you go out to eat and say, have a delicious piece of cake that you haven't in many months, the flavors will overcome you.  This is because when you eat clean, healthy foods, your palette is pure -- and so the experience you have when you eat these highly-potent foods is all the more intense.  If you read Michael Moss' book, Salt Sugar Fat, then you know what I'm referring to.  Moss points out, for example, that eating just a slice of bread may be likened to taking a hit of cocaine (due to the roller-coaster blood sugar fluctuation).  So imagine when you add sugar and fat to that same wheat: quite a dangerous combination.

 

 

In addition to giving my pledge of loyalty to Katniss Everdeen after the final installation of the Hunger Games trilogy last year, I've also given my pledge to a cravings-free lifestyle.

In addition to giving my pledge of loyalty to Katniss Everdeen after the final installation of the Hunger Games trilogy last year, I've also given my pledge to a cravings-free lifestyle.

 

Jon and I avoid eating out because the additives restaurants use to prepare even simple dishes are out of control.  That's why you experience such a high (at least if you're not normally used to eating that food) when you go there...and hence, want to return.  But when you end up eating this type of food on the regular, your brain becomes compromised -- like a drug addict's -- and can no longer gauge how much food to take in, which leads to over-eating.  Basically, the powerful (and unnatural) stimuli you receive from the food overrides your natural biological inclination to stop eating when you're full. 

A shot of the banana-date oatmeal Jon and I cook.  If we have left-overs from breakfast, we eat this as a "cookie" for dessert -- a dessert that won't provoke any cravings afterwards.

A shot of the banana-date oatmeal Jon and I cook.  If we have left-overs from breakfast, we eat this as a "cookie" for dessert -- a dessert that won't provoke any cravings afterwards.

 

 

In his post, Jon talked about the after-effects of what happens when you indulge in a "special" dessert.  No matter who you are, or how much willpower you have, you're going to be thinking about those amazing tastes in the days after.  But if you're on a good diet most of the time, those cravings will dissipate more quickly.  Problems start to arise when you're having this type of food more often.

 

 

 

The point is that you should start to become aware of what is causing your food cravings -- and start to eliminate those foods from your diet.  You need to pay attention to how you feel in the hours, and days, after you eat certain foods.  Your goal should be to design a diet that eliminates as many cravings as possible -- because nobody can beat food cravings, no matter how strong you are.  You need to "beat" (remove) the foods that cause them.

 

 

"Cooking light" should mean eating natural foods -- fruit and nuts as a dessert, for example. 

"Cooking light" should mean eating natural foods -- fruit and nuts as a dessert, for example. 

Definitely indulge in decadent dessert every once in a while -- after all, you gotta live sometimes.  But make it an occasion. A special evening to treat yourself.  And then go all out.

 

 

Then go back to a normal diet that's working for you.  And stick to it.  That's the only way to stay healthy, fit, and feeling good (without cravings) in the long run.

 

The Annual Cake Slice

The Annual Cake Slice isn’t just a plate of dessert for America’s Fittest Couple.  It’s a much anticipated and well-documented ritual.  A totem of their committed lifestyle, juxtaposed with their willingness to fit in. 

The Annual Cake Slice was enjoyed -- albeit discreetly -- at the Couple's Valentine's Day dinner.

But the Annual Cake Slice doesn’t just "happen" – it’s a well-planned for event that takes months, and sometimes even years, to arrange.

 

It's worthwhile to note here that the Couple does enjoy dessert on a regular basis.  But their normal dessert menu is restricted, comprised only of fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, and 85% dark chocolate.  But on one designated evening, usually on one of the three holidays the Couple celebrates (Valentine’s Day, Lyuda’s birthday, their anniversary), AFC strays from the usual routine…and indulges.

 

AFC enjoyed the Annual Cake Slice alongside some fresh berries and mint tea with lemon and honey.

AFC enjoyed the Annual Cake Slice alongside some fresh berries and mint tea with lemon and honey.

 

The Annual Cake Slice was enjoyed early this year over Valentine’s Day dinner.  And the Couple is happy to have gotten it over with, as they won’t feel stress from planning for it going forward.  Plus, the 2016 Slice – a Belgian chocolate fudge cake -- was hand-crafted by one of the best chefs in Palm Beach County – and so the calories didn’t go wasted.  Lyuda took the first bite, and then Jon joined her in the festivities (the Annual Cake Slice is always one slice – shared between the Couple).

 

Because the Couple cooks their own meals and rarely eats out, they never experience food cravings on a day-to-day basis.  Yet the Slice always seems to conjure up some late night desire in the days following – and not the healthy kind a young couple ought to experience.  Therefore, AFC takes extensive measures to prevent future slip-ups from any "follow-up" snacks.

In 2012, AFC enjoyed the Annual Cake Slice at the Mather House formal.

In 2012, AFC enjoyed the Annual Cake Slice at the Mather House formal.

In 2013, the Couple took a trip to Disney World and Epcot, and took in the slice at a notable Orlando restaurant.

In 2013, the Couple took a trip to Disney World and Epcot, and took in the slice at a notable Orlando restaurant.

2014 marked a watershed year for the Slice, as the Couple determined that they would arrange the event locally in years to come.  AFC posed here for a shot before their once-a-year dinner on Atlantic Ave in Delray Beach, at that point still thin and cravings-free.

2014 marked a watershed year for the Slice, as the Couple determined that they would arrange the event locally in years to come.  AFC posed here for a shot before their once-a-year dinner on Atlantic Ave in Delray Beach, at that point still thin and cravings-free.

 

Despite the many precautions the Couple takes after the Slice is consumed, a strange thing happened this year that hadn’t in Annual Cake Slices past. 

 

In 2015, the Couple enjoyed the Slice at a family party around the time of their anniversary. 

In 2015, the Couple enjoyed the Slice at a family party around the time of their anniversary. 

 

 

At around two in the morning the Night of the Slice, Creating Substance Founder Jon Pearlman “woke up” (apparently he had never actually fallen asleep) from a sugar-induced blackout that had taken hold of his consciousness just seconds after his first bite of the Belgian fudge, only to find himself stationed at a local Boca Raton 7-Eleven holding two bags of Skittles, three Hostess cupcakes, a Snickers bar, and a four-pack of Twinkies (the Twinkies had already been opened, the contents of which had made their way to his forehead, nose, eyebrows, ears, and all ten of his fingers). 

 

 

 

Upon gaining consciousness, the Creating Substance founder bolted out the door and sprinted down the dimly-lit streets, all empty at that late-night hour, tears of shame irrigating his cheeks between bits of cream filling.  It was not until he reached the Homestead doorstep that he realized the only thing he was wearing was his boxer briefs and Lyuda’s “tapochki” slippers.

 

When he finally made it back to the bedroom, he was relieved to see that Lyuda was still there and sleeping like a baby.  Tongue-tied and overcome with embarrassment, it took Jon a full day to relay to Lyuda the events of the night – yet being the incredibly supportive girlfriend she is, the Better Half reassured him that even more serious precautions would be taken in years to come to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

 

The Couple made it to Miami this weekend for Jon's real estate conference.  The events that surrounded the Annual Cake Slice weren't discussed with any of the other attendees.

The Couple made it to Miami this weekend for Jon's real estate conference.  The events that surrounded the Annual Cake Slice weren't discussed with any of the other attendees.

The Creating Substance founder put himself together since the Slice, wiped away any remnants of Twinkies from his face and extremities, and stood firm in his go-to pose this weekend.

The Creating Substance founder put himself together since the Slice, wiped away any remnants of Twinkies from his face and extremities, and stood firm in his go-to pose this weekend.

AFC is back on their normal diet and the cravings have dissipated.

AFC is back on their normal diet and the cravings have dissipated.

 

With this troubling experience behind them, AFC now recognizes that the Slices are becoming more potent with each passing year (likely due to scientific advancement in ingredient production).  The Couple has already discussed plans for the 2017 Slice, and they vow to prepare themselves more thoroughly next time around.  

 

 

Stay tuned next year for a more successful Annual Cake Slice outing.

 

 

 

 

 

Vacation: A Time to Experiment with Your Workouts

When it comes to fitness, vacations can take a toll because you're outside of your normal routines and comforts.  Often, you're within the confines of a resort and don't have access to healthy food options, or you don't have your personal trainer blocked in for an 8am slot.

 

Yoga and running are staples of my workout routine that I can incorporate wherever I am.  But I still like to change up my training whenever I'm out of town.

Yoga and running are staples of my workout routine that I can incorporate wherever I am.  But I still like to change up my training whenever I'm out of town.

I never think of vacation time as a break from my workouts.  I know that if I don't move my body, stretch it out, and take care of it, I'll feel stiff and terrible. So when Jon and I travel, our first priority is to feel good through exercise.  I run and practice yoga every day, and it's something I can always fall back on when I'm away from home, as there's usually a treadmill in the hotel (at least in America), and yoga can be done anywhere.

 

During my trip to Israel, I biked on the Tel Aviv coastline to get in my cardio.

During my trip to Israel, I biked on the Tel Aviv coastline to get in my cardio.

What I love most about vacation time is that you can use it to learn new workouts when you're in new places.  They might not always be as intense as the workouts you're accustomed to, but you can learn a lot about yourself and your fitness when you don't have all the usual tools (or facilities) at your disposal.

 

In Japan, I ran on the field during the day and speed-walked through the Tokyo streets at night.  The two-a-day workout regimen kept me fit and feeling my best.

In Japan, I ran on the field during the day and speed-walked through the Tokyo streets at night.  The two-a-day workout regimen kept me fit and feeling my best.

 

When Jon and I were in Japan, I started running on a field near where we were staying, simply because there wasn't any other option.  It was a large soccer field at one of the local universities, and it was there that I took a liking to running on soft surfaces.  Running on that field, versus running on the treadmill at home, which I had become accustomed to, felt so much better on my body and I continued running this way when I got back to the States.

 

Last August, when we were in Montauk, I started attending Soul Cycle classes.  I had heard about the studio but hadn’t lived near one.  I loved the music and the energy of the instructors.  It was such a welcome break to do a group class that was totally different than the solo runs that I was used to!

 

Montauk was great because I discovered Soul Cycle!  Whenever I go up to New York for a weekend trip, I'm always sure to schedule in a class.

Montauk was great because I discovered Soul Cycle!  Whenever I go up to New York for a weekend trip, I'm always sure to schedule in a class.

 

During our vacation in Spain last summer I tried many different gyms and was exposed to new methods of training.  First of all, the gyms in Spain are hardly air-conditioned -- and I immediately realized how much this was helping my workout.  You want to be fully warm and sweating while you’re working out -- and most gyms in the U.S. keep the temperature really chilly.  Cold makes your muscles stiff, which can cause injury.

 

In Spain, the gyms also offered group "classes," but the classes were given on large TV screens each hour, and so there were no instructors.  They were able to offer many more classes this way, but I must say that it was a bit strange.  

 

In Spain, my workout sessions at local gyms, combined with my spur of the moment training in the evening (after Jon took me on a ferris wheel ride at the docks, for example), kept me lean enough to fit in the door of the "thinnest" building in Europe.

In Spain, my workout sessions at local gyms, combined with my spur of the moment training in the evening (after Jon took me on a ferris wheel ride at the docks, for example), kept me lean enough to fit in the door of the "thinnest" building in Europe.

 

I tried another weird workout in Spain where the trainer pulsed electricity through my muscles, as I did some repetitions of simple exercises.  He claimed that the electricity helped the muscles get a better workout, and that you only needed 20 minutes of this, three times each week -- and this would be enough for achieving a high fitness level.  In looking back, I'm still skeptical because I subscribe to the adage, “If it’s too good to be true, it usually is.”

 

The point in all of this is that vacation should be seen as an exciting opportunity to switch up your regular routine.  So wherever you go, check out what the local aerobics studios are offering and what the neighbors enjoy doing to stay fit.  You may learn about something new to bring home with you!

 

Jon and I celebrated the New Year with a mind of exploring new fitness strategies during our travels in 2016!

Jon and I celebrated the New Year with a mind of exploring new fitness strategies during our travels in 2016!

Tea Talk with Jon Pearlman

AFC’s love for tea has inspired a new Instagram series, “Tea Talk with Jon Pearlman.”  In these short videos, the Creating Substance founder provides useful tips, tricks, and commentary for reaching peak fitness.

 

Enjoy some "best of" clips from the new Instagram series.

 

Some points that have been addressed thus far:

1)  The importance of having your dishwasher perpetually running so as to keep you strict with your diet.

2) Why sticking to a regular schedule of tea intake will allow you to eat less.

3) Caffeine-free tea varieties as the best hot drink option for reaching your physical peak.

 

4) Why drinking tea in an old Abercrombie "tea" shirt will enable you to direct your energy into the right channels – namely working out.

 

AFC plans to launch several other Instagram series in conjunction with Tea Talk, so stay on the lookout:

 

- Snack (Carrot) Time, with Lyuda Bouzinova

 

Snack (Carrot) Time, with Lyuda Bouzinova, is a new AFC Instagram series that will be launched shortly.

Snack (Carrot) Time, with Lyuda Bouzinova, is a new AFC Instagram series that will be launched shortly.

 

- Morning Run Companion (beginning at 5:45am, weekdays), with Lyuda Bouzinova

- Avocado Juggling, with Jon Pearlman and 60 avocados

The Creating Substance founder takes juggling -- and the purchase of avocados -- to a whole new level.

The Creating Substance founder takes juggling -- and the purchase of avocados -- to a whole new level.

 

-  Midnight Outings, a horror series with Jon Pearlman

 

AFC is working hard to expand their social media outreach, and they appreciate the incredible support so far received from fans across the globe.

Valentine's Day: A Psychological Trial

Just when you thought the holiday season was over, along with its three foundational pillars -- heavy drinking, over-eating, and unnecessary off-days from workouts -- Valentine’s Day hits you out of nowhere.  While V-Day certainly creeps up on most, Jon Pearlman is always prepared months in advance, as it is one of three central events celebrated each year at the Homestead (alongside Lyuda’s birthday and the Couple's anniversary). 

 

The Creating Substance founder has little room for error when it comes to producing a successful Valentine's Day celebration.

The Creating Substance founder has little room for error when it comes to producing a successful Valentine's Day celebration.

 

The modern calendar seems to revolve around the question:  which holiday is coming up next?  A euphemism for:  what’s my new excuse to eat more and get drunk?  Or, from the standpoint of the folks choreographing this new-age calendar:  how can we suck out more money from these people and make them sicker (less fit) at the same time?   Fortunately, AFC is able to avoid most unnecessary holiday additions throughout the year, but, due to an insistence from the Better Half, the Couple goes all out every February 14th.

 

 

This year, the Couple celebrated over a three hour-long dinner (mostly talking during this time, as the Couple still adhered to strict portion sizes) followed by a night "on the town."  The truly fit understand the repercussions of late nights out, yet AFC made the exception this weekend for the once-a-year event.

Jon Pearlman's mental state was still intact when the Couple commenced with the evening festivities -- but found himself in a most precarious situation at the "after party."

Jon Pearlman's mental state was still intact when the Couple commenced with the evening festivities -- but found himself in a most precarious situation at the "after party."

 

The dinner went smoothly, and after the dessert was served at midnight, the Couple headed directly to Royal Ponciana Way, the gathering ground for the Palm Beach nightlife crowd.

 

AFC hadn’t been out past 10 o’clock in months, and the moment Jon Pearlman set foot into a packed Cucina Dell’ Arte, he was taken aback by the sites, sounds, and smells that awaited him. 

 

He held Lyuda’s hand tightly as he scanned the surrounding faces.  They laughed and bantered amid deafening music.  They knocked back shots and placed orders for individual pizzas, which for some reason were still being served by the bar's kitchen at that late night hour.  Overcome with panic, the Creating Substance founder bolted right back out the door from whence he came, his Valentine’s Day date trailing behind him and trying to calm him.

 

AFC's post-meal festivities were cut short once the Creating Substance founder was exposed to the heart of nightlife.

 

“They’re just having fun,” the Better Half consoled.  “That’s what people do.  They don’t mean harm.  They’re just trying to connect with new people and learn about them.” 

 

But in those moments, Jon Pearlman was blocked from absorbing these well-reasoned deductions.  He had been jolted at his very core, and needed urgently to return to the Homestead for a hot cup of organic chamomile tea – a natural remedy he knew would relieve his anxiety.

 

The Couple awoke early the next morning for an intense, 35-minute run, the flowing sweat droplets representing a purging of their scarring recollections.  But such is the nature of the unfamiliar, Jon Pearlman rationalized some hours later while revisiting the night's events in his fragile state of mind.  Next year on V-Day, he will be sure to cut the evening short at the meal’s conclusion.

 

 

 

       

The AFC MBA

During my days at Harvard, I was always a bit skeptical of the business school.   I was never too sure what – if anything -- went on there.  Sure, the buildings were fancy.  The landscaping was pretty.  They even had four of their own tennis courts.  But what exactly was this business of teaching business all about? 

 

 

Dean Nitin Nohria headlines the HBS webpage:  “This must be where the world’s best thinking about business and management takes place.” Dean Nohria, unfortunately, is wrong.

The best thinking about business and management is occurring in a small region of South Florida…off a small street in Boca Raton…in a small corner of the Homestead kitchen, where Jon Pearlman can often be found in the early morning hours minding his own business -- the business of managing 60 avocados.

 

Jon Pearlman often manages the avocados in his underwear, preparing a double batch of guacamole with chopped red onion, tomato, lemon juice, cilantro, paprika, cayenne, sea salt, and fresh black pepper.  When Lyuda isn't writing a blog post, she's there to photograph him.

Jon Pearlman often manages the avocados in his underwear, preparing a double batch of guacamole with chopped red onion, tomato, lemon juice, cilantro, paprika, cayenne, sea salt, and fresh black pepper.  When Lyuda isn't writing a blog post, she's there to photograph him.

 

When it comes right down to it, you don’t need $190,000+ to learn about management.  All you need is a local market and the balls to double down on a bulging shopping cart – and the guts to tell the checkout clerk with a straight face that you’re the owner of a local restaurant.  And then full commitment to secure that each little piece of your bulge is treated with respect, and consumed at peak ripeness.

 

Avocado Management has much more significance than managing avocados.  AM represents a lifestyle of accountability.  

Avocado Management has much more significance than managing avocados.  AM represents a lifestyle of accountability.  

 

 

Avocado management isn’t just about managing avocados.  It’s much more.  It’s about energy conservation.  Financial prudence. Extra time with loved ones -- along with the security of knowing your loved ones' needs will be met. 

 

 

If you have the avocados you need ready at the times you need them, you’ll have peace of mind.  You won’t need to drive back to the grocery store at an inopportune moment, or be sent to the back room for a time-out after your partner hits you with an unexpected request for the “butter.”

 

Avocado security is emotional strength.  It's self-confidence.  Some might even argue it's a route towards spiritual fulfillment.

 

Dean Nohria hasn't visited the School of Avocado Management.  Had he been exposed to the leadership exemplified day in and day out by Creating Substance founder Jon Pearlman, Dean Nohria would surely have adopted a new position on the locale of the world's best thinking about management.  

Dean Nohria hasn't visited the School of Avocado Management.  Had he been exposed to the leadership exemplified day in and day out by Creating Substance founder Jon Pearlman, Dean Nohria would surely have adopted a new position on the locale of the world's best thinking about management.  

 

 

If you haven’t already done so, AFC urges you to head to the store today and bring home your avocados.  Never deny yourself, or your loved ones, the nutrition and happiness you deserve.

 

 

Start managing.  Your M.B.A. is more attainable -- and more affordable -- than you could ever have imagined.

 


Stay Tuned for More AFC Management Classes!

Banana Management

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Wild Black Rice Management

Evian Management

The Year of the Cabbage

Working full time while staying really fit can be very difficult -- if not close to impossible. But if you commit yourself fully, you can do it.

 

Steamed red cabbage.  My go-to when I'm in a time crunch.

Steamed red cabbage.  My go-to when I'm in a time crunch.

 

 

Last year, I started an intense, new job in the Northeast that required more hours and more energy than I had ever experienced before.  I was super excited about the opportunity and was motivated to perform well in my position, but I made a promise to myself that my fitness wouldn't suffer as a result of it.  I had already built up a pretty strong foundation in my fitness, so I said to myself:  if nothing else, at least I would maintain what I had.

 

I decided that I would work out five days each week, and try to get in a second, lighter workout on three of those days.  I resolved to take Mondays and Tuesdays off (since they were the most hectic at work) and work out on Saturdays and Sundays instead.

 

I bundled up for my 6:00am morning rides to the office gym.  This was a picture from the spring, because in the heart of winter there was NO LIGHT AT ALL.

I bundled up for my 6:00am morning rides to the office gym.  This was a picture from the spring, because in the heart of winter there was NO LIGHT AT ALL.

 

On Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, I drove to the office before the sun came up. There was a gym in the building so I would work out there (the routine involved an intense run, followed by core exercises and stretching -- I didn't have time to get too complicated with what I was doing), shower, and then head directly to my office.  In many instances, I ended up eating the bulk of my breakfast AFTER my workout, once I had gotten to the desk.

 

When the lunchtime lull hit, I didn't wait around.  I used my hour break to head back down to the gym for another (lighter) workout.  Usually it would be another 20 minutes on the treadmill followed by a 10 minute plyometric routine (squat jumps, lunge jumps, and kangaroos).  I would eat my lunch at my desk when I returned.  While this was hard in the beginning, the workout routine soon became automatic -- and mentally restorative.  It became a welcome break in my day, a stress reliever.  It also helped my appetite when I finally sat down to eat my lunch.

 

But the workouts were just one piece of the puzzle -- and figuring out the food was a whole other issue.  Not just what to eat, but the timing of it was equally important.

 

Waking up to this didn't stop me.  I got in the car before the crack of dawn and made it to the office gym for my workout.

Waking up to this didn't stop me.  I got in the car before the crack of dawn and made it to the office gym for my workout.

I had to get to my workout.  I wasn't going to let the demands of my new job -- or a New England snow storm -- take a toll on my fitness.

I had to get to my workout.  I wasn't going to let the demands of my new job -- or a New England snow storm -- take a toll on my fitness.

I knew the best way to manage the food was to prepare it the day before.  I always knew what I would be eating for my next meal, which eliminated any possibility that I would be caught hungry and forced to eat something unhealthy. Thankfully, there were several large refrigerators at work so it was easy to store groceries and the prepared meals there.


Steamed red cabbage with chopped scallions, avocado, kasha, and spices.

Steamed red cabbage with chopped scallions, avocado, kasha, and spices.

If I had the luxury of time to enjoy a dessert (usually on the weekends), I would always have a plate of frozen banana and carrots to ease my cabbage digestion.

If I had the luxury of time to enjoy a dessert (usually on the weekends), I would always have a plate of frozen banana and carrots to ease my cabbage digestion.

 

I quickly figured out that the simplest meal for me to eat would be cabbage...steamed red cabbage.   While the accompaniments to the cabbage changed -- wild rice or kasha, avocado or a piece of fish, raw carrots or raw celery -- the cabbage itself was the foundation.  On the weekends I had a little more time, and so I would prepare stir-fry vegetable dishes with more variety: broccoli, cauliflower, onions, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, etc. 

 

 

My coworkers often teased me about my cabbage intake and my mom voiced her concerns over the “lack of variety” in my diet.  But it was my only option. Sure, I could have bought pre-packaged frozen vegetables, but I didn't want to shortchange the quality of my plate -- and eating fresh vegetables (ideally organic) is the only way to go.

Get yourself a large pot and a steaming basket, and get to work.

Get yourself a large pot and a steaming basket, and get to work.

 

I was so busy when I wasn’t eating and so hungry by the time that I sat down to my portion that the cabbage always tasted AMAZING to me.  Mind you, I had to eat it cold because I didn't want to use the microwave.  That's when you know you're truly hungry -- when you find cold cabbage that was steamed the day before delicious.

 

 

The thing is, it worked!  During the year I not only maintained my fitness level, but it actually improved.  I was soon running faster and feeling lighter -- and my weight hadn't changed one pound despite the high intensity of the new job.

 

Now that I'm living in Florida again, I have a bit more time to enjoy life.  I bought a new pair of sunglasses this weekend.

Now that I'm living in Florida again, I have a bit more time to enjoy life.  I bought a new pair of sunglasses this weekend.


The lesson here is that planning ahead and keeping things simple are the keys to a successful fitness program.  And it IS POSSIBLE to accomplish this while working a full time, demanding job in the real world.  I'm proud because I was able to prove to myself that I could do it.  And it made me tougher.  I'm living in Florida again, and while the job I'm working now is certainly no walk in the park, the mental and physical strength I gained from the Year of the Cabbage hasn't left me.  I'm more resilient and feeling better than ever.    

 

 

With the mental toughness from the Year of the Cabbage behind me, I am feeling more resilient and stronger than ever!  I'm enjoying life a lot too because nothing stresses me that much anymore.

With the mental toughness from the Year of the Cabbage behind me, I am feeling more resilient and stronger than ever!  I'm enjoying life a lot too because nothing stresses me that much anymore.

So if you find you're lacking time and energy, start to get back to square one.  Forget the fancy equipment, trainers or gym classes.   All I did was get on the treadmill and run as fast as I could...with the goal of trying to go faster every week. I didn’t buy a small library of diet or recipe books either.  I just picked up some cabbage at the store (maybe a few other veggies on the weekend) and prepared my meals ahead of time – by steaming or baking.  I focused on eating the absolute healthiest, simplest ingredients.

 

 

No more Seamless orders.  You are always better off cooking your own food – because then you are 100% in control.  You know exactly what went into your dish and can make the portion as you see fit.  Use 2016 to experiment a little. Who knows, it might just be your own Year of the Cabbage.

Europeanize Your Life

Before we get into the content of this new post, AFC would first like to welcome you to our newly designed site!  We’ve put much time and energy into reformatting our content so you can reap the most benefit.  Please check out the "Guide," where you will find a table of contents directing you to all of our information on fitness, nutrition and the AFC healthy lifestyle.   Now – let’s start thinking some more about how to get fitter, but going forward we will be “importing” a bit of our strategy.

 

 

AFC is purchasing wild black rice from Italy in bulk.  This is one of many strategies to come for upping your fitness level by Europeanizing your life.

AFC is purchasing wild black rice from Italy in bulk.  This is one of many strategies to come for upping your fitness level by Europeanizing your life.

 

 

Anybody who’s visited Europe knows that the people there look entirely different than our own home-grown breed.  They’re smaller, leaner, and generally healthier-looking – and when you’re there you can spot an American in a crowd from miles away, just based upon body shape alone. 

 

 

 

Why are these people looking and living so differently?  Well, it’s probably the case that the looks and the living are somehow intertwined.  After all, these people are socializing over entrées equivalent in size to appetizers in American restaurants (or palette-cleansers at the Cheesecake Factory).  They’re fitting into “large” size clothing that is being sold as sizes “small” and “extra-small” at American malls.  They’re members of community-based, locally-owned sports clubs -- not warehouse-size gyms owned by publicly traded companies.  And at their sports clubs these Europeans are building lean and functional muscle through tennis, paddle, soccer, and swimming – while fostering life-long friendships with neighbors in the process (ladies – the oversized, sunlessly-tanned “gentleman” in the tank top loitering by the elliptical, I hate to report, isn’t looking for a life-long friendship…nor is he your neighbor).

 

 

The "Taste of America" store in Valencia, Spain -- which offered a broad spectrum of American food and beverage products.

The "Taste of America" store in Valencia, Spain -- which offered a broad spectrum of American food and beverage products.

As you can see here, this list included: Jelly beans, Froot Loops, Spam, Goldfish, soda, Kool-Aid, beer, whipped cream, cookie crips, pretzels, and "Friday's" brand onion rings and mozzarella sticks.   Hmmm.....

As you can see here, this list included: Jelly beans, Froot Loops, Spam, Goldfish, soda, Kool-Aid, beer, whipped cream, cookie crips, pretzels, and "Friday's" brand onion rings and mozzarella sticks.   Hmmm.....

During their trip to Spain, AFC was invited to the home of Alvaro Iturriaga, a tennis player who Jon was practicing with, where a home-made paella was served.  The European lifestyle involves preparing healthy meals with fresh ingredients at home, and inviting friends over to enjoy them.

During their trip to Spain, AFC was invited to the home of Alvaro Iturriaga, a tennis player who Jon was practicing with, where a home-made paella was served.  The European lifestyle involves preparing healthy meals with fresh ingredients at home, and inviting friends over to enjoy them.

 

 

 

Over the summer, AFC took a two-week trip to Spain and observed the differences between the European and American cultures first hand – and the Couple soon became intrigued about how to implement the positive aspects of the European lifestyle into their own.  Through much experimenting and research, the Couple has finally arrived at some simple solutions for improving fitness, nutrition, and overall lifestyle, based upon the European mentality.   

 

 

AFC snapping a selfie on their European trip this summer.  Much was learned there, and the knowledge has slowly been implemented into the Couple's lives.

AFC snapping a selfie on their European trip this summer.  Much was learned there, and the knowledge has slowly been implemented into the Couple's lives.

 

 

 

This will begin a multi-part series, authored by the Worse Half, examining this conundrum in detail and titled AFC: EUROPEANIZING YOUR LIFE.

 

 

This post is just an introduction, with more content to come…but keep this one advice bit in mind as you move into the weekend:  Start focusing on the nutritional quality of your food, not the calories.  This is a huge piece of the puzzle in terms of why the Europeans look the way they do, and why they’re eating much smaller portions.  The food itself is higher in quality, and therefore they’re feeling fuller from less.  In simple terms:  they aren't shopping regularly at "Taste of America."

 

 

 

That’s a start, and more to come.  Stay on the lookout for more content from this new, intriguing series. 

A Great Trip to New York

This past weekend, Jon and I were guests at the wedding of one of my best friends from college, Michele.  It was hosted in a beautiful venue in New York City -- the Edison Ballroom -- and we made the trip up from the Homestead to attend.  

 

AFC dressing it up for the wedding this weekend in New York.

AFC dressing it up for the wedding this weekend in New York.

 

Jon grew up in New York, and I lived in the city for four years as well -- so we have many friends there that we reconnected with during our trip.  The last time we were on a trip in New York we decided that we wouldn't worry too much about cooking -- and we ended up eating all of our meals out.  This turned out to be a huge mistake!  Even though it was only several days, we returned feeling horrible.  We knew not to make this same mistake again.

 

It was great hanging out with friends Friday night over drinks at The Modern.

It was great hanging out with friends Friday night over drinks at The Modern.

 

I usually take Sundays off and so I was happy the wedding was scheduled on Saturday evening.  I planned to just rest the following day, and having this cushion allowed me to enjoy my time at the event even more.  I planned to work out Saturday morning (we arrived on Friday night) and I reserved a bike in the local Soul Cycle studio.  I got really into Soul Cycle this summer in Montauk, and was looking forward to taking another class since we don’t have it down here in Florida.

 

 

Friday afternoon before we left, we packed our dinner with us -- kasha and veggies with avocado (we also had a bag of fruit, nuts, and chocolate to snack on -- but this turned out to be our dessert!). Everyone knows that there is nothing good or healthy offered at airports, much less on the plane. If you want to keep fit, it's really important to stay prepared with your own food.  When we got hungry at 8:30, which was the time we finally arrived at Jon's apartment, we were happy to have this ready to eat!

 

 

Jon was up at the crack of dawn on Saturday, and had already prepared healthy food for the entire weekend by 9 o'clock (not to mention getting in a run around the reservoir in his sweatsuit too).  I somehow lucked out by getting a private chef, trainer, and loving boyfriend all in one!

Jon was up at the crack of dawn on Saturday, and had already prepared healthy food for the entire weekend by 9 o'clock (not to mention getting in a run around the reservoir in his sweatsuit too).  I somehow lucked out by getting a private chef, trainer, and loving boyfriend all in one!

 

 

We had initially planned to go to Whole Foods Friday night to get food for rest of the weekend, but we were too tired and had arranged to meet friends out anyway.  The next morning I woke up to the sounds of pots and pans banging in the kitchen.  It was only 8 o'clock by that point, but Jon had woken up early and gone to the store.  He bought everything we needed: fresh vegetables, kasha, fruit, and nuts.   He had prepared a batch of oatmeal by the time I walked into the kitchen -- and I had a quick bite before heading out the door for my Soul Cycle class.  When I got back from my workout, I saw large bowls cooling on the counter with our dinner and lunch for the following day.  Somehow I lucked out and got a personal chef, trainer, and boyfriend all in one!

 

 

We managed to do everything we wanted to in New York -- shop, catch up with friends, and walk around the city -- all the while making sure we were prepared for the big night on Saturday.

We managed to do everything we wanted to in New York -- shop, catch up with friends, and walk around the city -- all the while making sure we were prepared for the big night on Saturday.

Jon agreed to pose with this lollipop, but he refused to eat it.

Jon agreed to pose with this lollipop, but he refused to eat it.

 

Because we had healthy food prepared, it was easy for us to do everything we needed to in our short time in New York – see friends, shop, and get ourselves ready for the wedding.

 

 

The wedding party was a blast and there was plenty of delicious food, including some stone crabs -- which probably took our same flight up from Florida!   The dinner was delicious, and both Jon and I ordered the same entree of Chilean sea bass with black rice and bok choy -- an entrée that happens to be our favorite combination.  Literally.  Someone once asked me what I would have as my last meal -- and I answered with certainty that it would be sea bass.

 

When it comes to fitness, preparation is the key.  Here I am preparing our food on Friday afternoon, which we brought with us on the plane ride up.

When it comes to fitness, preparation is the key.  Here I am preparing our food on Friday afternoon, which we brought with us on the plane ride up.

 

The next morning we woke up late and had to head right to the airport.  We already had our breakfast prepared from the day before (leftover oatmeal) and our lunch packed too -- which made it easy to slip out the door in record time.

 

 

This trip was a great success because we were able to celebrate my friend's wedding, while staying healthy and fit at the same time!  

Take Your Breakfast to the Next Level

 

Jon has recently gotten to the next level of breakfast-eating.  How do I know this? Because the other day I looked over and he was eating black rice with banana at 7:00am!

 

The next level of breakfast.  Black rice from Italy mixed with banana, dates, Brazil nuts, and dark chocolate in a to-go container.

The next level of breakfast.  Black rice from Italy mixed with banana, dates, Brazil nuts, and dark chocolate in a to-go container.

 

While I have also dabbled in the rice for breakfast game, it was purely out of necessity -- when I found myself in a rush, and forced to eat leftovers from the night before.  While this may work every once in a while, eating rice for breakfast on the regular probably won't strike your fancy (or even mine, for that matter!).  But will I rule it out completely for the future?  Probably not.  Jon has been doing it and it seems to be working wonders for him.

 

 

 

For those of you who are on the initial stages of your health and fitness journey, you may have just moved up the ladder from eating cereal to oatmeal.  And that's a positive step because Jon and I still eat oatmeal often.  It tastes great in the morning and it's easy to prepare (we prepare ours on the stovetop -- which is much healthier than quicker options that can be heated up in the microwave).

 

A hearty portion of steel-cut oats with dates and banana cooked in.

A hearty portion of steel-cut oats with dates and banana cooked in.

 

 

Breakfast should be the simplest meal of the day.  When working out, I actually break it up into two parts so that I don’t overeat before my training.   Basically, I take my regular portion and eat a small bit of it before heading out for my run, and then leave the rest for when I return.  That way my body still gets the nutrients it needs but I don't feel heavy while I'm working out.

 

Getting in a nutritious breakfast -- and splitting it up into two portions, one half before and the other half after my workout -- has worked wonders for my physique.

Getting in a nutritious breakfast -- and splitting it up into two portions, one half before and the other half after my workout -- has worked wonders for my physique.

Some of the toppings I add to my oatmeal:  walnuts, raisins, dark chocolate, and frozen banana with cinnamon. 

Some of the toppings I add to my oatmeal:  walnuts, raisins, dark chocolate, and frozen banana with cinnamon. 

On my off days, however, I enjoy a nice leisurely breakfast.  Typically, I cook a pot of steel cut oats, as mentioned earlier.  I pour a nice serving in a bowl and enjoy it with a fresh (or sometimes even frozen!) banana -- and maybe even add some other fruit or nuts.  Lately, Jon and I have been cooking dates and bananas right into the oatmeal to make it sweeter and more flavorful.  The leftovers of this concoction can be eaten after lunch or dinner as a really enjoyable dessert.   Think oatmeal raisin cookie… only the healthy version.

 

 

When I know that I won’t have much time in the morning, I toast a piece of bread (rye bread preferably -- Mestemacher is a great brand) and spread avocado on top.  I’ll pair that with a piece of fruit and some nuts.  Another breakfast treat I make is toast with dried dates, which I spread on like jam (be sure to remove the pit!).  What I've done is taken the classic breakfast toast serving and made it far healthier:  avocado in place of butter, and dried fruit in place of jam.  There are no added sugars, colorings, or preservatives in these toppings (and of course there are no pesticides either, because the food is organic).

 

 

AFC out on Atlantic Ave in Delray Beach this week.  While we are always sure to have a good time and enjoy life, we never mess around with our breakfast.  So that means no brunch on the weekends, unfortunately.  But hey, you can't be fit without sacrifice!

AFC out on Atlantic Ave in Delray Beach this week.  While we are always sure to have a good time and enjoy life, we never mess around with our breakfast.  So that means no brunch on the weekends, unfortunately.  But hey, you can't be fit without sacrifice!

Bananas are a crucial component of the champion breakfast.

Bananas are a crucial component of the champion breakfast.

AFC avoids caffeine since it can cause you to crash later in the day, or even during your workout -- hence detracting from your ability to sustain a high level of athletic performance.  If you must get your daily fix, make a cup of chai tea instead of coffee (Organic India and Tazo are my favorite brands for this.)  I actually used to drink coffee regularly but have quit over the last two years -- and if you’re looking to do the same, be sure to stay tuned because I will share how I did this in a future post!

 

 

Be a champion and start to take your breakfast to the next level.

AFC Food Shopping

Every other week, America's Fittest Couple makes a trip to "The Boys" market in Delray Beach, Florida.  The Boys offers a wide selection of organic fruits and vegetables at a fraction of the cost of Whole Foods, and so on the Couple's weekly trips, they don't mess around during the half-hour of produce-gathering.

 

Enjoy this entertaining (and what some might label, "disturbing") window into AFC's weekly food shopping.

 

Going to The Boys can be stressful because there are always hoards of people there "deal-hunting" -- but this doesn't deter the Couple (or at least Jon) from finding their aggressive side in the face of surmounting competition.  Thank the Lord Jon grew up in New York City and was indoctrinated with an unbounded aggressivity from a young age!  It's certainly serving him well in daily rounds of a retired Florida resident.

 

 

 

Lyuda stationed in front of the two shopping carts at the checkout aisle.

Lyuda stationed in front of the two shopping carts at the checkout aisle.

 

Lyuda, in contrast, usually likes to take her time, and she is a lot more respectful of the other senior citizens shopping there.  She often steps aside when another elderly patron makes his or her way in front of her to select an apple or two -- while Jon can be seen a meter or two away shoving twelve or fifteen into one of the three carts he's operating from.   Yet it's worth mentioning here that Lyuda's accommodations have more to do with her natural kindness than any particular tolerance for other organic shoppers.  Unfortunate is that by the time Lyuda finds her share of food to place into the carts, Jon has already stocked them to the brim with the household necessities, and so often her efforts go wasted.

 

 

While shopping at The Boys can at times be stressful, the Couple does enjoy their outings.   Probably their favorite part about it all is stocking up their fridge once they get home.  According to Jon, "There's no better feeling than knowing 25 pounds of organic onions are an arm-reach away."  

 

The Couple usually buys enough food at one go to last them one or two weeks (which is made possible by their uncanny ability to "manage" this food -- understanding what goes bad quickly and what stays longer, and then structuring their eating habits accordingly). 

 

 

It was all worth it in the end.  No matter how many years it shaved off our lives from all the stress.

It was all worth it in the end.  No matter how many years it shaved off our lives from all the stress.

 

Work to find a market in your area that sells organic produce at an affordable price.  Then head directly there and have no shame.

 

Cooler, Our Adopted Son

America’s Fittest Couple implements many “toys” at the Homestead.  The primary one is a cooler.

 

Cooler travels with us wherever we go.

 

The cooler has come to assume a central role in the life of AFC, and this is not by chance.  Whenever the Couple has plans to leave the Homestead, the organic food is packed – with a hearty supplement of ice – into the cooler.  It’s only in this way that AFC can leave the Homestead with peace of mind, knowing their healthy food is an arm-reach away.

 

Jon was traveling alone on business this past week, and adopted "Hercules," a young man with much cooling potential.

Jon was traveling alone on business this past week, and adopted "Hercules," a young man with much cooling potential.

 

The cooler has become somewhat of an orphan child that the Couple adopted.  He knows his place in the family, fulfills his duties, provides much gratitude to his parents, is always polite and accommodating, and never speaks out of turn.  What more could you ask for in a young man?

 

 

 

 

 

If you want to be fit, you need to be prepared.  To be prepared, you need to have healthy food on hand.  To have healthy food on hand, you need to have a cooler.  Which leads us to deductively reason:  if you want to be fit, you need to have a cooler. 

 

Don't "test your willpower."  Have a cooler in the car at all times.

Don't "test your willpower."  Have a cooler in the car at all times.

 

And mind you, “healthy” food also means safe food -- and this is why the cooler is so important, as it prevents the growth of bacteria and other food-born illnesses.

 

 

 

 

 

Once you get a cooler, your life will immediately change for the better.  And if it doesn’t, please send your neglected cooler to the Homestead -- AFC will be sure to provide it with much love and affection.  As the Couple does to all its children.

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