Monday, May 23, 2011

The Marsha Challenge

That is no ordinary loaf of bread or food in a jar.  No, this supposed meal right here is the beginning of a new project.  I had a friend reach out to me for a little help recently and after careful consideration and thought, I decided this was a need I could fulfill.  Before I proceed with any more details I must warn you however, I am no expert and certainly not certified or trained in any professional way with the information I am about to propose to you.  I know this all sounds cryptic but I feel obligated to throw out this disclaimer so that as you read my words and follow as this challenge unfolds, you will take everything as just one person's opinion and experience and not as absolute truth or fact.  Got it?  Good!  Now we can continue...

We shall call this "The Marsha Challenge".  All names of real people have been changed to protect their identity.  NOT!
Seriously, the only photo I have of Marsha and it is completely on accident...she is the one in orange.  Sorry Marsha!

About a week ago, Marsha approached me asking for a little guidance with her health and fitness.  As I have already clarified, I am no expert, but I have some experience in that department, so I agreed to help.  Her plea for help was two fold...getting her booty back in shape for an upcoming trip and cleaning up her diet.  Marsha already knows a thing or two about eating healthy, but she was also looking for a little inspiration for cooking dinners for her family. 

At first I was a bit hesitant.  Again, I am no expert and I was worried about the responsibility of someone else's success resting on my shoulders.  So I made a few things clear to Marsha: first, that if she wanted my help it had to be about long term health, not necessarily weight loss.  The weight loss will surely come if we implement the right methods, but this is about sustaining a full and healthy life, not trying to reach a certain number on the scale.  Second...I AM NOT AN EXPERT.  She also had to relinquish all rights so that I may blog about our entire experience.  She agreed wholeheartedly. 

So here is what the challenge requires on my end:
  • Create food and fitness guidelines for Marsha to follow
  • Create 2-3 strength workouts and a few interval workouts that Marsha can use
  • Teach Marsha the strength workouts and interval workouts
  • Workout together 2-3 times a week
  • Prepare 2 wholesome dinners a week for Marsha and her family, including recipes 
  • Work with Marsha on kitchen and cooking techniques and skills to inspire her in her own kitchen
Here is what the challenge requires on Marsha's end:

  • Cardio 4-5 days per week with a minimum of 120 minutes total
  • Strength 2-3 days a week (taking a Pilates class or yoga class for 3rd strength if desired)
  • Stretch 2-3 days a week for 20-30 minutes (also stretching after workouts)
  • Rest 1-2 days a week
I stressed to Marsha how important it is to rest to allow her muscles to repair.  Stretching is also another important component to a healthy body, especially as we begin to age.  I want to live a long life, but only if my body will continue to move freely without pain and stretching is key to making that happen.  Many people who want to lose weight focus only on cardio, but strength training is just as important to building a healthy, lean body.


Marsha and her family are "veganish".  For them this means they are about 99% vegan.  For this challenge Marsha will continue with a vegan, plant-based diet.  We have also placed a few guidelines in place to help guide her eating.  This does not include calorie counting or specific meal plans.  Rather a focus on whole foods.  These guidelines are inspired by Michael Pollan's Food Rules.
  • 2 servings of fruits or veggies with every meal
  • Pre-packaged foods must have 5 ingredients or less
  • Ingredients should easily be readable by her children
  • Avoid any package foods that list some form of sugar as one of the top 3 ingredients
  • Avoid all refined sugars, eating only natural forms including agave, honey, 100% maple syrup (no high-fructose corn syrup and no artificial sweeteners) stevia is fine to use.
  • No deep-fried anything
  • No fast food
Marsha was also given an assignment to look through the Food Rules book and choose 5 other rules that she will follow during our challenge.  I am also going to pick out 5 more for myself.  I encourage you to do the same if you would like to follow along with our challenge!

Today, Marsha and I met for our first workout together, as well as a lesson in the kitchen.  I also prepared a dinner for her and her family last night and gave that to her.  Here is how today went:


Strength Workout 1:

  • 3 point Shoulder Raise (5-8 lbs) borrowed from Peanut Butter Fingers
  • Cable Punch
  • Tricep Dips
  • Leg Raises
  • Leg curls
  • 3 point lunges with bicep curls (10-15 lbs)
  • Barbell Row (20-30 lbs)
  • Side and Front Plank (30 seconds each)

We followed this 30 minute strength workout with a 45 minute run/walk covering about 2.5 miles
After our workout, Marsha and I headed to my house where I gave her a tour of my pantry while we went over the guidelines.  We picked out all the food in my house that didn't fit the "rules" and I agreed to take this challenge with her.  (Starting now, I just ate a bowl of cereal that does not fit into our guidelines...sorry Marsha!)

I gave her her first VeganFaith dinner and showed her how easy this is to fix.
VeganFaith Sloppy Joe's

1 cup lentils
4 cups water
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves minced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 (small) can tomato paste
1 tbsp chile powder (more if you like spice or not serving to children)
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp agave
1 tbsp yellow mustard
1 tsp salt or to taste
 Don't you love these adorable recipe cards?  My sister-in-law made these for me for my birthday!  I am obsessed and was so excited to get to use one!

In pot, bring 4 cups water to boil.  Add lentils and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.

In medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook for 5 minutes.  Add minced garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the rest of your sauce ingredients, tomatoes, tomato paste, mustard, agave, and seasonings and simmer until heated through.  

When lentils are cooked, drain and add to sauce.  Let simmer about 5 minutes longer to allow the flavors to marry.  Serve over whole wheat bread or buns with steamed or raw veggies on the side.
I packaged the Sloppy Joe's with a loaf of homemade, whole wheat bread.  I have been testing this bread recipe for about a few weeks and have finally come up with a great mix.  

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Loaf (made with bread maker)

1 1/4 cup warm water (110*)
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup oatmeal
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds

In bread maker pan, pour in water and honey.  Sprinkle yeast on top and let sit 5 minutes to activate.  Add the rest of your ingredients, set your bread maker to 1.5 pound loaf on light crust setting and let it go.  I love my new bread maker!  Let me repeat: I LOVE MY BREAD MAKER! 
In go the ingredients, and out pops a warm, fresh loaf of bread!
No fuss and no mess!

After we talked about the dinner, we decided to have a little fun in the kitchen as I demonstrated how to make one of my favorite foods: spring rolls
We set the table for two and enjoyed the fruits of our labor.
Hint: bake your spring rolls for 20 minutes in a 350* oven and they taste so much better!  The veggies inside are warm and bursting with flavor!  We used this easy tahini dipping sauce for our spring rolls.

Marsha and I had a wonderful morning together.  And we both learned so much.  Not only is this going to be helpful for her, but it will keep me motivated and also encourage some new creative juices in the kitchen.  It will be a challenge for both of us, but I am excited and ready for it!  

How about you?  Would you like to take "The Marsha Challenge"?  Email or comment with any questions or for more details!