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Traci Lee, EAST BEACH YOGA

It’s true. Even the longest journey begins with a single step, and the type of journey is irrelevant. It could be a cross-country road trip, or it could be that first life-changing step to embark on a healthier, happier life.

At the turn of the New Year, many people resolve to lose weight, exercise more and eat a more healthy diet, and nearly everyone is aware of the outcome of such resolutions. The more ideal time is spring, when it’s more pleasant to be outdoors.

Let’s face it, embarking on a new path can be frightening. The familiar words have been heard from our doctors for years – eat less, eat healthier, move more.

We’re not launching a weight loss campaign here, although if you do consume fewer calories (or better calories) and get out of your recliner, one of the side effects will be weight loss. The more important thing is you’ll be healthier, and you’ll feel better. You’ll have a spring in your step and a sparkle in your eye.

We recently talked with three people who help others get where they want to be health-wise – a yoga instructor, a nutritionist and a personal coach – and they all said taking some small, even incremental, steps would prove beneficial in the long run.

How to begin

Lee says the best way to begin is to show up for class. She offers both studio and beach classes, which include public and private sessions. For people just making their first foray into fitness in a long time, private lessons might be a great introduction. In either case, students will have a knowledgeable instructor available to answer questions.

“Start with curiosity and an open mind,” she said. “Explore – there’s more to yoga than just downward dogs and fancy leggings – and we love the leggings.”

First-timers

Lee says to expect the unexpected. Yoga, she says, isn’t a rigid formula.

“It’s more like a dance with your breath,” she said. “First-timers might wobble in tree pose and that’s OK – it’s a yoga rite of passage. Embrace the awkward and savor the moments of zen amid the chaos.”

What about physical limitations?

“Yoga’s got flavors for everyone,” Lee said, when asked if yoga is suitable for people with physical limitations. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all stretchy pants club.”

Lee recommends finding a class tailored to your needs and not being shy about sharing your limitations with your instructor.

“They’re like yoga wizards – they’ll make it work for you.”

Overall benefits

Practicing yoga has several advantages, Lee said, including:

• Mind mastery – Yoga is like a VIP pass to the mind. It’s not just about bending your body; it’s about straightening out the mind.

• Flexibility fun – You don’t need to be a human pretzel. Yoga takes your body on a journey, unlocking hidden stretches you didn’t even know existed.

• Strength stealth – It’s about mastering your body. Yoga introduces you to muscles you never knew you had. From plank poses to Chatarungas, you’re cultivating functional, impressive strength.

• Balance bliss – Ever tried standing on one foot with your eyes closed? It teaches your body to find balance, both physically and metaphorically.

• Serenity superpower – Yoga is the superhero of relaxation. Savasana, corpse pose, is where the magic happens. Internally, it’s a spa day for your soul. It’s the art of doing nothing and everything at the same time.

• Heart hug – Not literally, but yoga is a cardiovascular love affair. Flowing through sequences gets your heart pumping.

Patrice Ross, Sincerely Patrice, Nutritional Coach + Personal Chef

Specialties

Ross says that before becoming a trained nutritional coach and professional chef, she loved to cook and entertain friends and family.

“I can’t say that I have a specialty or favorite cuisine,” she said. “I love to cook. I will say that I enjoy cooking small plates to give people the ability to try a little of everything.”

Simple tips for healthier eating

First off, Ross says, eat in moderation.

“As a nutritional coach, I don’t suggest diets to my clients,” she explained. “I suggest they eat all the things they love, but do it in moderation.”

However, she does advocate for eliminating processed foods.

“The more items are processed the more they lack nutrients,” Smith said.

PORTION CONTROL

“Meals should be vegetable-heavy,” she said. “Every meal does not need a starch.”

THINGS TO AVOID

In addition to processed foods, other items to be avoided include granulated sugar, bleached flour and enriched rice.

“It can seem hard to eliminate these items completely but the key is to minimize and gradually incorporate healthy substitutes,” she said.

For example, sugar can be eliminating by embracing the natural sweetness of certain foods, or using honey or a less-refined sugar for sweetening. Substitute wheat flour for bleached flour. And enriched rice is easy to replace – there is couscous, quinoa, basmati rice, jasmine rice, wild rice or brown rice.

Roasted Corn and Shrimp Chowder

• 4 ears of corn

• 6 jumbo shrimp

• 1 C diced onion, celery, pepper

• 1 C seafood broth

• ½ C heavy cream

Season 2 ears of corn and roast in oven then chill. This can be done while preparing other items. Cut corn off the cob of raw ears and roasted ears. Sauté diced onion, celery and peppers and raw corn. Sear shrimp in sauté and remove. Add 1/2 C of broth and 1/2 C of heavy cream. Add mixture and 3/4 of roasted corn to blender and puree until smooth. Return to sauté pot and add shrimp. Cook on low until shrimp are fully cooked. Top with remaining roasted corn and serve.

Asian Style Walnut

Lettuce Wraps

•1/2 C. walnuts, soaked overnight. • sesame oil

• fish sauce • 1/2 C rice • 1/4 C sliced cucumber, yellow beets. • Cumin, coriander, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste • yogurt sauce to finish • butter lettuce leaves

Pour water off of soaked walnuts and chop in a food processor until it has the consistency of ground beef. Sauté walnut meat in sesame oil. Add a few drops of fish sauce, cumin, coriander, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, salt & pepper. Add 1/4 c water and simmer til walnuts are soft. Add rice to the pan with walnuts. Remove from heat. Prepare butter lettuce leaves. Fill with walnut and rice mixture, top with sliced veggies and yogurt sauce.

Laura Martella, Clean food expert Accountability + recovery coach

Laura Martella has had years of experiencing counseling, encouraging, nudging and cajoling people toward good health, whether that means they need to develop better eating habits or commit to a sober lifestyle. We visited to talk food and get some encouragement.

“Diets fail,” she said. “The key is to eliminate chemicals and eat healthy food.”

Be Healthy

One way to ensure having healthy food is to pick one day a week to plan your meals and do meal prep. You’ll save money and eat better food. Another is to have an accountability partner who can check in with you on a daily or weekly basis to offer support.

Martella says if coffee is a morning must, make sure it’s black.

“Drink black coffee instead of all the syrups, creams and inflammatory ingredients,” she said. “If you drink these high-sugar drinks in the morning, you’ll get a sugar high, followed by a sugar crash, which causes you to crave more.”

In fact, your carb cravings will increase, and it will get that “sugar ball” rolling.

Suggestions

Martella wants everyone to avoid fast food. That one popular chicken sandwich everyone loves has 55 ingredients, most of which can’t be pronounced by a layperson.

Even fast food salads aren’t a healthy option.

“They have between 500-800 calories,” she said. “But if you must, get a salad with no cheese and no croutons and add a protein. Dress it with your own extra virgin olive oil or lemon slices.”

Baby steps

“Baby steps are steps,” she said. “It’s progress, not perfection.”

Martella said people should work on changing their lives one habit at a time.

She adds that our taste buds have been hijacked by the food industry.

“It only takes 7-10 days to recalibrate the relationship between your brain and your taste buds,” she said.

Food x health

Many of people’s health problems are the result of inflammation, and there are numerous foods that cause inflammation. Cooking oils, like canola, vegetable, sunflower and safflower should be avoided. Use only extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and for high temps, avocado oil.

Inflammation has been linked to several maladies including heart disease, autoimmune disorders, irritable bowel syndrome and osteoarthritis.

“New studies are connecting inflammation to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s due to inflammation of the brain,” Martella said.

A recent Harvard study, conducted at McLean Hospital, concluded that the right foods could help with mental illness.

Feel better

“I didn’t know how bad I felt until I started feeling good,” is something Martella has heard time and time again in her line of work.

She’s passionate about helping people and after suffering through a number of illnesses herself, she’s found what works for her and wants to share it with others.

“I know that if I can change, anyone can, and that’s why I do what I do,” she said.

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