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Cameron Wells is a staff dietitian with the DC nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the Barnard Medical Center, where she guides clinical research studies and leads employee wellness programs to help people choose the best foods to maximize weight loss, lower blood pressure, boost energy, and stabilize blood sugar throughout the day. She can also be found on Capitol Hill hosting briefings on healthy school lunches or meeting with members of Congress to discuss the latest dietary guidelines.
Fittingly for someone so focused on nutrition, Cameron’s food choices are as healthy as they are delicious-looking. She focuses on "eating the rainbow" with meals centered on a wide, colorful variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and proteins such as beans and lentils. Read on for a look at her typical day of eating.
6 AM: “My breakfast today is homemade chia-seed pudding made using unsweetened almond milk and frozen berries that thaw out as the mixture sets overnight, drizzled with agave and eaten with an orange on the side. I’m also a fan of pumpkin-packed oatmeal topped with cinnamon and raisins; sweet potato pudding; and leafy green smoothies, which all provide a variety of vitamins and nutrients like protein, fiber, calcium, and vitamin C.”
Noon: “My go-to lunch is a big colorful salad. Today it’s a black-bean-and-edamame salad with diced red bell pepper, chopped red onion, cilantro, and frozen corn thawed, dressed with lime juice, cumin, and chili powder. Instead of creamy salad dressings, you can easily swap lemon or lime juice with your favorite spices. The same is true of your favorite vinegars.”
4 PM: “Fresh fruit is my favorite snack. I usually always keep an apple in my bag. My second favorite is fresh vegetables with hummus. Water-packed foods like celery sticks, cucumber slices, and strawberries provide instant hydration and lasting energy. This helps fuel evening trips to the gym or nutrition classes I might teach at night with our clinical research team.”
6:15 PM: “Tonight I’m headed to a spin class at Crunch to get some cardio in—I find it is a great stress reliever.”
8:30 PM: “My dinners tend to revolve around green vegetables, beans or lentils, and some form of beta-carotene—sweet potatoes and butternut squash are two favorites. Tonight I had maple-roasted Brussels sprouts with a piece of leftover lentil loaf and sweet potato wedges. The vitamin C you get from both vegetables maximizes iron absorption, which the lentil loaf and Brussels sprouts are good sources of. Studies show carotenoid-rich vegetables, like Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, can help reduce the risk of breast cancer. All you need is three to six milligrams a day, the amount you’ll find in six baby carrots or half a sweet potato. I enjoy putting the science into practice!”
December, in addition to being one of the most festive times of the year, is also pomegranate season. These pinkish red orbs are known for their delicious sweet-tart taste and plentiful juice. Beneath that leathery red skin are hundreds of sparkling seeds known as arils that are an excellent source of fiber and deliver free-radical fighting antioxidants like vitamin C. (For more on why pomegranate seeds are so good for you, read this.) They are perfect for healthy snacking and cooking, but they sure are tricky to get out. Luckily, we’ve got this handy video that shows you the absolute easiest way to de-seed the fruit—no special equipment required. If that still seems like a bit too much muss and fuss, you can find containers of pomegranate arils at many grocery stores.
Pomegranate seeds add a burst of flavor, color, and nutrition to any meal. Try mixing them into leftover turkey or chicken salad; sprinkling them over oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon; or pairing them with squares of dark chocolate for a sweet-tart treat. I also love them as a topping on roasted vegetables, as in the asparagus recipe below.
Asparagus with Fresh Pomegranate Arils
Prep time: 30 minutes
16 asparagus spears, jumbo
2 tablespoons shallots, minced
½ cup chicken stock (or vegetable for a vegetarian version)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ cup fresh pomegranate arils
chives, minced for garnish
1) Preheat a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Coat the pan with olive oil.
2) Add asparagus, and sear on all sides until golden brown.
3) Add shallots, and sauté for 1 minute.
4) Add chicken stock and butter.
5) Simmer stock until reduced by three-quarters, then remove from heat.
7) To serve: plate asparagus, garnish with pomegranate arils, and add chives. Serve with your favorite whole grain.
Rebecca Scritchfield is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and founder of Capitol Nutrition Group in Washington, DC.
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It can be a challenge to juggle the various responsibilities of work and life while maintaining a focus on health, but Katie Tobin and fiancé Elliott Lane have it down to a science. The couple, who live in Southeast DC’s Hillcrest neighborhood, are both athletic coaches: Katie teaches swimming for the DC Triathlon Club; Elliott, a rowing coach for Walt Whitman High School and Thompson Boat Center, teaches in the early mornings, as well as in the afternoons and evenings. They’re also both triathletes, and document their experiences on their blog, 1 Bed, 1 Bath, 6 Bikes.
To accommodate their very active lifestyle, Katie and Elliott are both out of bed before 5 o’clock most mornings. Katie, who holds a desk job in Fairfax County, frequently exercises in the area, but lacking walkable lunch options, habitually plans her meals, snacks, and workouts ahead of time. “People wonder why I carry a backpack instead of a purse,” she says. “It usually contains at least one pair of shoes, clothes, a water bottle, and food—lots of food. I have a standing desk and try to incorporate squats, toe raises, and stretches as I work. I also try to go for a ten-minute walk each day, either alone or with colleagues. It’s a great way to come up with creative ideas.” Elliott is able to return home during the day between rowing practices to cook and train, and often bikes to and from work so his commute doubles as a workout.
Click through the slideshow for a look at this couple’s typical daily meals and snacks—most of which they make at home—plus some time-saving tips for healthy eating on the go.
For the past two years, I’ve been inviting whispering women into my bed. Velvet-voiced, trance-inducing ladies of the night. My wife thought it peculiar at first. But when I showed her what they were up to, she succumbed, too. On occasion, we’ve all slept together. Literally slept. That’s it. It’s not weird. Well, it’s kind of weird. But it’s a weird world out there. Especially when you submerge yourself in digital media, as most of us now do for some five hours a day. Have you seen the internet lately? Beheadings, cat videos, leaked photos of naked celebutantes—it’s only a matter of time before we witness a naked celebutante beheading her cat.
All this sensory overload makes it difficult to wind down. Which is where my sleep whisperers come in. A night owl by disposition, I find it harder than ever to calm the mind and get to sleep. I’ve tried traditional remedies—melatonin, Diphenhydramine, heavy drinking. Then by accident I found something that reliably works without punishing my liver: ASMR videos on YouTube.
ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response—a faux-scientific name bestowed by enthusiasts to classify that tingling, soothing, neurotransmitter-discharging sensation some get when, say, hearing a pleasing voice talking softly, or watching someone slowly and methodically run her fingers through her hair, or listening to Bob Ross scrape his “happy little trees” across a canvas (the late, Afro’d landscape painter is considered the Ahura Mazda of the ASMR movement).
There are now tens of thousands of ASMR “trigger” videos, which are not sexual in nature but which, like porn, cater to every taste. ASMRtists (some are men, but most are youngish women) will stroke the camera lens with a makeup brush or crinkle wrapping paper or whisper softly or trace figures in shaving cream or role-play a doctor giving an imaginary patient a cranial-nerve exam (an ASMR staple). The list of activities is long. All of this in an attempt to hit your hypnotic sweet spot, to immerse you in a warm bath of the mind as you’re carried off to the Land of Nod.
Because there’s next to no published research on the subject, many journalistic treatments of ASMR center around one inquiry: Is this sensation verifiable scientifically? To which I say: Who cares? Science has yet to convincingly explain placebo effects, dark matter, or why people pay money to hear Ariana Grande sing. Yet these realities exist. Science can’t even illuminate why we yawn, yet yawning is precisely what I do every time someone tries to seek scientific validation of ASMR.
Why question what works? And ASMR clearly works, as demonstrated by the sheer number of ASMRtists populating the web and the tens of thousands of views these video-making amateurs with names like “softsoundwhispers” (a British-accented woman who is in my regular viewing rotation) often rack up.
I don’t want to go so far as to say ASMR is better than sex, even though ASMR devotees often refer to the drowsy euphoria the videos provide as a “braingasm.” But the average orgasm lasts 5 to 20 seconds. Whereas, if you find an ASMR video that pulls your trigger, it often runs 30 minutes to an hour. You do the math of which ’gasm provides more pleasure, even if you often won’t make it to the end of said video. I’ve never seen the end of many of my favorites, due to being rendered comatose before they conclude.
When I’ve admitted to friends that I’ve spent an ungodly amount of time watching women brush their hair, or gently ramble about their day, or softly read the poetry of John Donne (as one of my very favorites, a Tennessee ASMRtist named Christen Noel, does), there’s a bit of sheepishness on my end. Confessing to such a habit can earn you the uneasy stares that I imagine people get when coming out as a paint huffer or a Twilight fan-fiction writer.
So laugh, if you must, that I’ve drifted off countless times to ASMRtist “chelseamorganwhispers” role-playing a shoe-boutique employee trying to sell me nude peep-toes with a five-inch heel as she taps on them with her long, graceful fingers (even though I’m more of a closed-toe-flats guy). I won’t be chastened by your ridicule. In fact, I won’t even hear it. I’ll be too busy sleeping through the shame, snug in the arms of Morpheus.
You’ve passed the finish line, retrieved your medal, and gathered congratulations from family and friends. The marathon is over, and so is your training—right?
Not so much. The days and weeks following your 26.2-mile run are some of the most crucial to prevent injury and guarantee a quick recovery. We asked Jason Fitzgerald, a USA Track & Field-certified coach and author of 101 Simple Ways to be a Better Runner, for some tips on how to treat your body post-race—all of which can also help after shorter runs.
1) Start recovery even before the starting gun
“The marathon is a very stressful event,” says Fitzgerald, “so recovery needs to begin well before you start running.” The best way to prevent injury post-race, he says, is to be prepared beforehand by focusing on training that builds in strength exercises—like the medicine ball workout found below—which will limit soreness after the event.
2) Take some time off
“People need to understand how marathon running affects your body,” said Fitzgerald. “Beyond physical damage, you’ve fatigued your central nervous system and caused hormonal damage. It can take three to four weeks to completely recover.”
He recommends taking 5 to 14 days off from running following a marathon, depending on the intensity of the athlete and level of soreness or pain. Try to do 15 to 30 minutes of zero-impact cross-training the day after the race to work on moving tired muscles. This includes swimming, cycling, pool running, or a very easy walk.
Following three to five days of rest, Fitzgerald says runners can start incorporating dynamic exercises and core exercises into their workouts, like the ITS rehab routine listed below.
3) Eat and sleep smart
To jump-start recovery, Fitzgerald recommends that racers focus on carbs to restock glycogen in the muscles minutes after they’re finished running, and drink plenty of water in the days following the race.
However tempting it may be, Fitzgerald says to skip the massage offered at post-race festivities to avoid even more trauma to exhausted muscles.
“The number one way to recover is sleep,” he says. He recommends racers schedule an extra hour of sleep per day the week after to help calm the nervous system and aid recovery.
4) Practice a structured approach to post-race running
Once the body has had ample amount of time to recover and rebuild, Fitzgerald cautions athletes to take it easy when they start running again. The first run back should be a light “diagnostic run”—two to four miles of slow jogging to assess how the body is feeling. He also advises that runners leave a two-month gap between their marathon and the next race, which shouldn’t be a very long distance.
ITB Rehab Routine: These exercises, focused on hip and glute strength, are good for post-marathon recovery.
Tomahawk Medicine Ball Workout: This all-body workout works core strength, glutes, and shoulders. Fitzgerald recommends runners reserve this workout for before the marathon to increase strength and prevent injury.
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When attempting a lifestyle change, some people swear by special diets—going Paleo, trying veganism. Others, like Matthew Chisholm, find success in the old-fashioned philosophy of eating less and moving more. Matthew, 28, works as the deputy chief of staff to a freshman congressman and a veteran of several federal, state, and presidential campaigns. His career kept him busy, but his diet and exercise choices were dragging him down. “Up until last year I constantly felt awful, lacked energy, and looked tired,” he says. “Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I began running and eating well—and since I changed my lifestyle, I’ve lost 40 pounds.”
Matthew’s new routine includes running three to ten miles three or four times a week—he is training for a half-marathon in February—plus two or three sessions of light strength training. While he admits a fondness for the barbecue at Columbia Heights’s Kangaroo Boxing Club, his meals typically center on vegetables and lean protein. Read on for a look at his one-day food diary.
Pre- and post-workout supplements: “First, Amino Lift by USPLabs to provide a burst of morning energy—it usually carries me throughout the day. Then ModernBCAA to replenish the lost electrolytes and for muscle repair.”
Breakfast: Scrambled egg whites with sliced baby bella mushrooms, jalapeños, spinach, and kale, topped with avocado, red pepper flakes, and Sriracha. Sliced tomato on the side.
Lunch: Grilled chicken breast on a Rudi’s spinach wrap with spinach, kale, tomato, hummus, and harissa. Sliced cucumbers and baby carrots on the side.
Snack: Celery topped with chia-and-flaxseed peanut butter from Trader Joe’s.
Dinner: “When I’m not at a Wizards game or the Kangaroo Boxing Club, I usually opt for poultry or fish. Tonight was grilled salmon with garlic herb butter, and baked Brussels sprouts tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, cumin, and ginger. I also had a side salad consisting of spinach, kale, cucumbers, tomatoes, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.”
So Others Might Eat’s Thanksgiving Day Trot for Hunger
When: November 27, 8:30 AM Kids’ One Mile Fun Run; 9 AM 5K Run/Walk
Where: Freedom Plaza (intersection of 13th St. and Pennsylvania Ave., NW)
Join the organization’s 13th annual run to benefit the homeless. Money raised from the 5K will help provide food, clothing, and health care to those who need it in the District. Team signup is open through November 20, but individual registration continues until race day. $35 for timed participants, $30 for noncompetitive trotters.
Potomac Valley Track Club’s Cranberry Crawl 5K and 10K
When: November 22, 7:50 AM 5K, 8 AM 10K
Where: East Potomac Park
The park’s route is completely flat and accessible for walkers and wheelchairs. The club will serve hot refreshments after the race, and you’ll have the chance to win some tasty cranberry bread. Registration closes before race day, so pay the entry fee ahead of time: $10 by November 20, then $20.
Bethesda-Chevy Chase YMCA’s Turkey Chase
When: November 27, 8:30 AM 10K; 9 AM 2 Mile; 9:45 AM Tot Trot
Where: 9401 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda
The largest 10K in Montgomery County is expected to attract more than 10,000 people from area neighborhoods and across the country. Proceeds will go toward YMCA programs and local Rotary charities for children and families. Registration is open through race day, and begins at 6 that morning. More information about parking, race fees, and packet pickup is available online.
Montgomery County Road Runners Club’s Turkey Burnoff
When: November 29, 9 AM 5- and 10-mile races; 9:05 AM fun run
Where: Seneca Creek State Park, 11950 Clopper Rd., Gaithersburg
For a post-feast activity—once you finish digesting—take the scenic run alongside the park’s deer, which tend to emerge on race day. $10 for adults, $5 for runners under 18. Arrive early to secure a parking spot.
Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot 5K Fun Run
When: November 27, 9 AM
Where: Fleet Feet Sports, 318 Sixth St., Annapolis
For the eighth consecutive year, Fleet Feet Sports Annapolis invites runners to explore the downtown on Thanksgiving morning. Dress as a turkey, bring your kids, strollers, and dogs, and meet outside the store. Upon attending the free event, participants are encouraged to make a small donation to the Bowen Foundation for Autism.
Race to the Rock
When: November 27, 8 AM registration, 9 AM race
Where: Greenwich Forest Triangle, Wilson and Hampden la., Bethesda
Nonprofit Eva Nepal’s ninth annual race will raise funds for education and dental care in Nepal. Wear a creative costume and bring an item you would’ve liked to have on the Mayflower, and you’re in the running for prizes. (Alternatively, you can just run fast.) Don’t want to run at all? Hope on your bike, skateboard, or scooter. $40 for adults (2.4 miles) and $25 for kids (0.6 miles), plus family and school-program deals.
Virginia Run Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot
When: November 27, 8 AM 5K Run and 2K Walk
Where: 15355 Wetherburn Court, Centreville
Rain or snow won’t shut down this Turkey Trot, now in its 26th year. Compete on the USATF-certified 5K course or stroll for the 2K to raise money for Life with Cancer. Register for the 5K ($35) through November 26. If you miss the deadline, the 2K (varying prices) welcomes last-minute signups.
Arlington Turkey Trot
When: November 27, 8 AM
Where: Christ Church of Arlington, 3020 North Pershing Dr., Arlington
Christ Church is partnering with the Arlington Food Assistance Center, Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless, and Doorways for Women & Families for this ninth annual kickoff to Turkey Day. Last year, it raised $42,000. Feel free to wear a costume, bring your dog (on a leash), and push a stroller along the course. Pre-register online. It’s $35 for adults, $20 for kids, and free for little ones younger than six.
Alexandria Turkey Trot
When: November 27, 9 AM 5-miler
Where: George Washington Middle School, 1005 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria
The DC Road Runners course is flat and fast, and culminates in an awards ceremony when the race is finished. Bring two nonperishable food cans or boxes to support Alexandria’s nonprofit ALIVE! $20 for adults, $15 ages 13 to 20, and $5 under 13 - prices increase for in-person enrollees on Thanksgiving, so be sure to register first online.
Fairfax Turkey Trot
When: November 27, 9 AM 4-miler
Where: 9330 Pentland Place, Fairfax
For the second year in a row, the four-mile family event aims to raise money for a local charity. This year, proceeds will benefit Warrior Canine Connection and Fairfax’s Alternative House. $35 through November 26 for adults, $20 ages 8 to 15, and no cost for children under 8.
Freeze Your Gizzard, Cross Country 5K and 1-Mile Fun Run
When: November 22, 9 AM 5K; 9:45 AM 1-mile fun run
Where: Ida Lee Park, 60 Ida Lee Dr., NW, Leesburg
Leesburg’s parks and recreation department has teamed up with Loudoun Interfaith Relief for the 12th annual pre-Thanksgiving runs. The 138-acre park offers a cross-country race, with pre-registration through November 19. $25 for 5K participants, $10 for one-miler. Bring two cans of food on race day; if you wait until then to register, get there before 7 AM to sign up for $30.
On busy days, feeding yourself can be challenge enough—but throw in toddler taste preferences and prenatal nutrition concerns, and a simple meal can turn into quite the headache. As a holistic health coach and mom of two-year-old Jack, Cathy Fenwick has developed some strategies to ease the process, which she teaches to other moms through her business, Umami Health. Says Fenwick, “I don’t believe in fad diets, deprivation, or counting calories—none of those are fun! I believe in real, delicious, and nutrient-dense foods.” She and her husband have made unprocessed foods the focus of their son’s diet from day one, and while he still shows “some of those unavoidable picky toddler tendencies,” he also loves snacks such as chickpeas and sauerkraut. Because Cathy is also six months pregnant with her second child, she tries to incorporate plenty of healthy fats and nutrient-dense foods, plus “tons of water” every day.
Running after an energetic toddler keeps her active, but Cathy also makes sure to walk at least half an hour each day, incorporate family activities such as hiking into her family’s weekend schedule, and fit in yoga and swimming sessions when she has time. Read on for a look at how she feeds herself—and her son—on a typical day.
Breakfast: “When I wake up, I drink a cup of warm water with honey and lemon—it’s a great way to rehydrate your body after a night of sleep, as well as kick-start your liver and digestive system. My husband, son, and I eat breakfast together at home, and it’s a rotation among eggs, oatmeal, or yogurt; today was scrambled eggs with red pepper, cheese, turkey sausage, and some sliced tomatoes. I also love a cup of decaf black tea with honey and milk in the morning.”
Snack: “I usually get hungry mid-morning, especially now that I’m pregnant. I snacked on a home-baked blueberry muffin made with whole wheat flour, honey, coconut oil, and Greek yogurt. I always like to have a cup of green tea, too. Since Jack eats breakfast fairly early (usually by 7), a banana around 9 keeps him going through lunchtime. He’s obsessed with ‘nanas,’ so it’s a banana each day—why mess with a good thing?”
Lunch: “I typically have a salad for lunch. It’s easy to make a bunch in advance so I have it ready to go throughout the week, and salads are a great way to get in your leafy greens and veggies. I added some salmon left over from last night’s dinner. My go-to dressing is olive oil, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard—I don’t use store-bought dressing because of all the additives and unpronounceable ingredients.
"I make soup at least once a week, and that increases significantly in the fall and winter. I use a homemade bone broth as the base for most—it’s easy to make in a crockpot (but takes about two days of cooking), and has a ton of minerals and vitamins that are great for our digestive system, immune system, and bones. I’m not too scientific about soups; I just chop whatever veggies I have on hand and simmer them in the bone broth, and sometimes add some chopped meat or little pasta. Chickpeas are a fun finger food and make a great protein-rich snack for kids. I add grass-fed butter and/or sea salt for extra nutrients and flavor—I don’t think kids need to eat bland foods.”
Snack: “I can’t make it to dinner without a pretty substantial snack. Sweet potato fries baked with coconut oil and cinnamon are chock-full of nutrients and almost like eating dessert, and smoothies are an excellent way to sneak in leafy greens and other fruits and veggies. I made this one with kale, banana, blueberries, pineapple, and coconut water, with ground flaxseed for omega-3s and coconut oil for healthy fat. Jack had a yogurt—I don’t buy the flavored kind, since it’s full of sugar, additives, and other flavorings. We buy full-fat, plain yogurt (ideally from grass-fed cows) and eat it plain or top it with fruit and nuts.”
Dinner: “We try to eat dinner together each night, but that can be hard given that my son eats early and often we’re not all home for his dinner time. If I plan simple meals that are easy to reheat, it’s more likely to happen. We eat a variation on a Mexican rice bowl each week—this time I used farro and included ground beef and black beans for protein. Toppings included avocado, salsa, sautéed onions and peppers, and mustard greens. I never get tired of this meal, and it’s great for lunch, too. I like to drink kombucha with dinner—it’s a fermented tea so helps with digestion, and it’s fizzy, so it’s almost like drinking a wine spritzer. I also take some liquid cod liver oil for extra omega-3s and vitamins A and D, which are particularly important in pregnancy. Fortunately, my son’s a good eater, but I feed him in courses or else he’ll eat only his favorite food. He’s loved sauerkraut ever since he first tasted it at eight months, and it’s great for boosting his good gut bacteria and immune system.
"We don’t eat dessert unless we go out to dinner for a special occasion, but I do like something sweet, so fruit or some dark chocolate is my go-to. Jack likes to finish off his meal with some fruit, cheese, and olives. He also gets a teaspoon of cod liver oil—I buy the strawberry flavor, and usually he asks for more!”
Amy’s, Kinnikinnick, Udi’s, Glutino, Bob’s Red Mill: These are some of the many gluten-free brands you might find on grocery store shelves these days. Some stores have entire sections dedicated to the diet, offering everything from gluten-free breads, cakes, and cookies to frozen meals and pizzas.
Though it’s becoming more popular for companies to offer GF items—great news for those allergic to gluten—it’s also frequently the case that brands are slapping a “gluten-free” label onto products simply to make them appear healthier, even on items that were gluten-free to begin with . . . such as bottles of water.
“This happens all the time and is really irritating to those of us living a gluten-free lifestyle,” says Vanessa Maltin Weisbrod, executive editor of Delight Gluten-Free Magazine and the author of several gluten-free cookbooks.
While packaged GF foods may appeal to health-conscious consumers, the reality is they tend to be chock-full of sugar, carbohydrates, and fat, largely because adding these ingredients makes the food taste better, she says.
“The rise in popularity of the gluten-free diet has led the general public to believe that gluten-free means better for you,” Weisbrod says. “While these packaged products are safely gluten-free and a wonderful replacement for people who need to maintain a gluten-free diet for health reasons, they aren’t necessarily better for you when it comes to nutritional qualities.”
A good rule of thumb: If the item wasn’t healthy as a “regular” product, the gluten-free version won't be, either. In other words, a gluten-free cupcake or doughnut is going to be just as unhealthy as its gluten-containing counterpart.
GF packaged goods also tend to rely on non-fortified—though naturally gluten-free—flours such as almond, sorghum, and buckwheat. These, says Weisbrod, have “nowhere near the same nutritional value as traditional wheat flours.” Although some of those flours may contain fiber, protein, and amino acids, most gluten-free products are made with ingredients like rice flour and cornstarch—which offer very little, if any, health benefits, Weisbrod says.
The healthiest way to eat gluten-free is to stick with fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, lean proteins, and naturally gluten-free whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, and amaranth. If you do buy packaged goods, look for ones that use gluten-free whole grains and flours that are fortified, Weisbrod recommends. Fortified gluten-free flours will provide essential vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and iron.
A few examples of good gluten-free items to look for the next time you’re at the store: Bob’s Red Mill makes whole-grain rolled oats, Udi’s sells whole-grain gluten-free bagels, and 1-2-3 Gluten Free offers fortified gluten-free flour mix.
Since SoulCyle opened its first franchise in DC earlier this year, it’s been cheering on class-goers with “SoulCycle-isms,” the inspirational slogans intended to encourage riders—or, as they’re referred to in class, “the pack”—to crank the resistance a bit higher and pedal a bit faster. Using phrases like “the more you give, the more you get,” the studio preaches that the only thing standing between you and a better, strong body—is you. But what becomes obvious after trying a class is that there are myriad ways to get in the way of your own SoulCycle success. Sessions can be confusing, and a bit overwhelming, for first-timers—so much so that this fall, SoulCycle introduced Soul 101, a three-class package that walks beginners through the basics of the course.
We tried it out—our first experience—and came away with nine things to do should you want to fail spectacularly at SoulCycle.
Set up your bike wrong. Riding supposedly gets more comfortable over time, but it may be a while before you get used to the hard sliver of plastic. In the meantime, try to set the seat at a notch that leaves too much space between handlebars and seat, and you can spend the class awkwardly hunched over, trying to bring your unfortunately short arms closer to the handlebars. Raise the seat higher than the handlebars, and you can enjoy putting all your weight on the bruising bike seat instead of balancing your weight on your forearms.
Wear shorts. SoulCycle recommends “form-fitting pants or shorts,” and we suggest the latter if you want to spend the class wincing as your thighs chafe against the seat. SoulCycle sells athletic tights in the studio lobby—which would eliminate this problem—but that would require arriving a bit early to procure some. Which brings us to...
Arrive late. SoulCycle suggests you arrive 15 minutes early for a class to change into appropriate footwear and locate your bike. But you are a chronically tardy rebel, so you arrive your customary five minutes late in order to better enjoy stumbling around a dark studio to the tune of the instructor barking over Ariana Grande, trying to find the bike you reserved ahead of time. Once you find it, spend another few minutes attempting to adjust the thing to fit your body—a fiddly process in the best and most fully lit of times (see first tip)—without the benefit of the advice the instructor dispensed before class began.
Drop your towel. The handlebars of each bike are conveniently draped with a clean towel for mopping up sweat during this high-intensity workout. Go ahead and knock that baby onto the floor immediately, ensuring you’ll spend the rest of the class drenched in perspiration. Don’t worry about the studio’s four fans ruining the sauna-like effect, either—they’re conveniently shut off so the temperature of the room can steadily creep upwards throughout the duration of the class.
Get on a bike with no weights. Let’s be honest: You didn’t really want a full-body workout, and toned arms are overrated. To avoid participation in the upper-body exercises, enhanced by two-pound hand weights that hang beneath the bike seat, choose a bike that’s missing a set before the class starts. If you change your mind, you’re going to have a blast getting from your bike to the box of extra hand weights beside the instructor’s podium: your feet are clipped into the pedals, and unless you’re a seasoned cycler, dismounting is awkward and impossible without the exact knee-turns-in-ankle-turns-out twist that causes the clips to release.
Develop an allergy to scented candles. Get a little tummy-toning action going by sneezing your way through the class, thanks to SoulCycle’s custom grapefruit-scented candles. They’re the first thing to hit your senses when you step into the store, and when the lights go dark for the class to begin, the room is lit by the cluster of candles that line the instructor’s podium.
Have sensitive ears. We weren’t kidding about the instructor having to shout through a headset to be heard over the pounding remixes of Beyoncé or Taylor Swift. Forget your earplugs at home so you can enjoy leaving the studio with the same slightly shell-shocked sensation you have after a rock concert.
Be musically illiterate. You’re great at clapping—on the offbeats—so when the instructors direct you to ride with “the pack” and to synchronize your swaying, twisting, and “tapping it back” with the other cyclers, you’ll have no problem being the only one moving right when everyone else leans left. Even better: You can keep an eye on your complete lack of coordination in the wall-size mirror that faces the class.
Put yourself on a tight “fitness budget.” Slim down with the SoulCycle “diet” by swapping your weekly food allowance for class registration fees: $30 per session, $3 for shoe rental, and $2 to $3 for water. The locker rental is free, though.
SoulCycle DC. 2301 M St., NW; 202-659-7685.