Wednesday, February 27, 2013

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Everybody Knows Somebody

This Guest Post was written by Sarah Mashburn Vogel, a friend that Lexy and Carrie have known from our days in a high school youth organization.  Sarah is amazingly smart, funny, talented, successful and an all around fantastic woman.  She is definitely a Smart Sassy Sister!

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Events like this are often held because it’s easy for people not to think about issue that doesn’t affect them or someone they know. So, I’d like to introduce to someone who’s had an eating disorder: me.

For more than five years, I was one of the estimated 20 million people who are living with an eating disorder. There’s no question I was in  pain, but like many people with eating disorders, I was also great at hiding it. I was an overachiever who always had plenty of friends and never forgot to bake a birthday cake or write a thank you note. I even made it through graduate school a year early. On the surface, that’s not the behavior of someone with a life-threatening illness. But that’s the terrible irony of eating disorders. Sometimes people are feeling their worst when they appear to be at their best.  

I also want to touch the topic of weight. Some people assume that a person with an eating disorder has a “look.” That’s simply not the case. People with eating disorders come in all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. I’ve known a middle-aged man deep in the throes of anorexia. I’ve met a college student from Asia who used her eating disorder as a way to deal with the struggles of moving to another country. I’ve even known a 23 year old who lost her life much too early because of an eating disorder. None of them had that “look.”
During my own struggle, my weight was both above and below where it is now. But whatever the number, I still thought it wasn’t “good enough.” That quest to move away from the “good enough” mentality is something I challenge myself to do every day. 

I wish could tell you what led me to recovery. I had plenty of breakthroughs with my therapist. I went to nutritionists and doctors who told me again and again what I was doing to my body was harmful. I had friends and family who intervened. I even spent the night in the emergency room. None of these things really made a difference. For me, recovery came when I realized that I wanted more out of my life than counting calories and thinking about food obsessively.

And when I started opening myself up to life’s opportunities, I built stronger and more meaningful relationships with my family and friends. I met my husband (the cute guy in the picture with me). I got involved in fitness and realized the power of endorphins. Most important, I found the courage to do things I once thought were impossible, like becoming a yoga instructor and leaving a “safe” job for new opportunities. While the journey still continues, I know that I’m on the path to becoming the person I want to be.

While I wish I was the only someone you know that’s been affected by an eating disorder, statistics show that probably isn’t true. 35% percent of people who go on diets develop some kind of disordered eating. Whether you are concerned about a friend, family member, or even yourself, here are a few ways to learn more:

  •  Call the NEDA hotline (1-800-931-2237). The experts there provide help and information.
  • Visit the NEDA website, The website is full of resources that you can use to help someone you know or yourself get support.
  • Not ready to talk about it? Chat about it with NEDA Click to Chat option. Visit Find Help @

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Carrie's Top Ten Healthy Travel Essentials

Good Afternoon Everyone! Lexy and I are in St. Louis for a Board Meeting for the National non-profit Board that we both serve on and we have been having a great time exploring- despite Winter Storm Q!  While vacation should be fun and both Lexy and I definitely believe in indulging in treats and local culinary specialties, there is no need to let being away from home completely sabotage your healthy eating/exercise plans.  This is a list of some of my must pack items that help me stay on track while on vacation.

Carrie's Top Ten Healthy Travel Essentials: 

1. Granola
2. Almond Butter: I bring the individual packs of almond butter with me, since they do not need to be refrigerated and can easily be thrown into my purse.  This is a great protein boost for an afternoon snack or paired with an apple or banana for breakfast.
3. Clif Mojo bars: My favorites are the trail mix and the chocolate dipped peanut ones. They are 70% organic and delicious!
4. Individual organic milk/almond milk: I love that you can buy individual cartons of organic milk/almond milk.  These are perfect since they do not need to be refrigerated and I can use them either in my morning coffee or in cereal/granola.   I found them at Kroger for 10 for $10.00.
5. Salty Snacks:  I usually back something salty/crunchy to snack on- this time I chose organic wheat crackers- way more filling and healthy than Saltines or Potato Chips!
6.  Pistachios: both Lexy and I love these! You have to be careful though, because it is all to easy to go through an entire bag of these if you do not watch your portion sizes:). Plus if you get the pistachios that are still in shells, it slows down your eating time!
7. Fruit: I always bring some apples and oranges and bananas.  Also, when Lexy and I travel, we always scope out the free breakfast that the hotel offers and will scoop up some extra fruit to replenish our stock- true Smart Sassy Sisters know if you take advantage of things that are free you have more money to spend shopping!
8. Water Bottle/Nalgene: Drinking enough water is perhaps the single most important thing that you can do for your health! Also, it is much cheaper to bring a case of bottled water or a nalgene filled with water than it is to buy individual bottles of water at the gas station (and that way you are not tempted to get a big gulp soda or a package of Reese cups).
9. Running Shoes/Running clothes: I always pack my running shoes and workout clothes- that way I am prepared to sneak in a quick run at the hotel fitness center (or outside if the weather is nice) during breaks from sightseeing.  Getting some runs in while I am on vacation definitely helps offset the extra treats I indulge in:)
10. Headphones: trust me it will make running on the treadmill go by way faster!

By making sure that I pack healthy snacks and workout gear when I travel, I am able to enjoy vacation without coming home with an extra 10 lbs as a souvenir!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Must have Kitchen Tools

You have heard us share our love for our Food Processors.  They aren’t necessarily a cheap kitchen gadget, but I use mine on a weekly basis.  Check craig’s list, ebay, garage sales, or even your mother’s basement.  It’s vital that it has a sturdy & sharp blade, large bowl and powerful motor.  They are perfect for whipping up almond (cashew or pecan) butter, salsa, pesto, healthy ice cream and more. 

Olive Oil Mister-you can find them online or at any kitchen store for about $15.  When I am cooking I would much rather use olive oil than a can of “natural” cooking spray that includes grain alcohol and propellant (read the label!)  Just pour your Extra Virgin Olive Oil into this mister and pump air pressure in and spray as needed.  It’s great for coating skillets on the stovetop or baking in the oven.  And you control the amount of olive oil you are using instead of just pouring it all around. 

 Salad Spinner-I used to just use my colander to rinse spinach, kale and other leafy greens.  I thought they were rinsed properly, but it amazes me how much water the spinner draws out.  It does take up a lot of cabinet space but when you are dressing a salad or baking kale in the oven, the last thing you want is watery leaves.  You can use the bottom container as a bowl to store or serve your greens as well. 

Garlic Grater Dish-I’ll admit I was skeptical about this but it’s one of my favorite kitchen tools.  It is so simple and easy to use and is only a few inches around.  All you have to do is simply place the food item of your choice on the plate and rub it against the grainy surface and in seconds your food will be finely grated.  Garlic is so small and it’s a harder cleanup in my mincer, my little dish works wonders.  The grate is also so small you don't have to worry about getting big chunks of garlic in a bite.  It works great on garlic, ginger, chocolate, cheese, nuts, nutmeg, and more.

 Mason Jars-Ok, it’s not really a gadget, but we buy these by the caseful!  I like to put almond butter in the half pint size, nuts in the pint and granola and dried beans in the quart size.  Glass jars keep the products fresh and safe and the lids & rings are interchangeable (unless you purchase the wide mouth ones).  A case usually runs about $10 and they are great for drinks (remember Carrie’s party post) supplies, crafting gifts and countless storage options.  Plus those reusable plastic containers get pretty dingy after a lot of uses, not to mention the breakdown of plastic seeping into your food!

What are your favorite kitchen gadgets that you can’t live without? 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Macaroni & Cheese Makeover

One of my favorite comfort foods is macaroni & cheese.  I would buy the blue box with the powdered “cheese product” or the yellow box with the creamy “cheese product.”  It didn’t matter to me, as long as it was warm and cheesy.  There’s a much healthier & more wholesome way to enjoy the flavor of macaroni & cheese without all the chemicals and fillers. 


1 3-pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 15-ounce container ricotta
1 large egg
4 cups baby spinach, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup grated mozzarella


1.    Heat oven to 400° F. Place the squash on a rimmed baking sheet, cut-side down, and roast until tender, 40 to 50 minutes.
2.    Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, spinach, garlic, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper.
3.    With a fork, gently scrape out the strands of squash and add to the ricotta mixture. Mix gently to combine.
4.    Transfer the mixture to an 8-inch square baking dish, sprinkle with the mozzarella, and bake until browned and bubbling, 18 to 22 minutes.
If you like it spicy you can certainly add siracha, chili powder or any other kind of spice or seasoning.  I also tried it with green peas instead of spinach and it was tasty.  Broccoli might be another great option.  We eat a lot of spaghetti squash, so it’s nice to switch up the preparation every once in a while, so it doesn’t taste like the same menu. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Birthday Reflections!

I love birthdays.  One of my favorite television shows of all time is the Gilmore Girls and I could not agree more with the Gilmore Girls’ idea of a “birthday week”- I mean birthdays are so much fun, why not stretch out the celebration as long as possible?:) For me birthdays have always been less about the presents and the cake (though lets be honest what smart sassy sister does not love presents and chocolate:) and more about hearing from all of my friends and loved ones.   Every year I am reminded of how blessed and lucky I am to have so many wonderful people in my life who love and support me.

In the past two years, however, my birthday has taken on an even more special significance for me as it is an annual reminder of the start of my weight loss journey.   The impetus for the start of my journey was when I realized that I would turn 30 that year- and I knew that if I wanted to make a change in my life, now was the time to do it.  Last year, on my 31st birthday, I celebrated officially losing 100 lbs.   Today, on my 32nd birthday, I am celebrating successfully maintaining my 120 lb weight loss for over a year!   When people tell me they are dreading turning 30, I just smile, because turning 30 for me was the start of a brand new life- so far my 30’s have been fabulous!

When I talk about my weight loss or health journey, one of the things I always try to stress is that the transformation is so much more than just being able to fit into a size 4 pair of jeans (though that is a great bonus:)  it is about discovering what you are capable of and who you are as a person.  I used to say that I am a totally different person now than I was before I started this journey- but recently I have realized that is not entirely a correct statement.  It is not that I am a different person, but rather that through this journey I have learned to step out from behind the extra baggage and fears and insecurities and let the true Carrie shine through.  Since I drive Lexy crazy when I go on and on about emotional or abstract concepts, here is a list of practical concrete examples of how this journey has changed or impacted my life:
  • I believe in myself and I know that I have the willpower and dedication to accomplish anything that I set my mind to.  I no longer think “oh I can’t do that” or “that’s impossible”- instead if there is something I want to do or accomplish, I research it, come up with a plan and do it!
  • I am a runner! I have run in 4 half marathons, numerous smaller races, and joined a running group where I met friends who I never would have met if I had not started this journey!
  • When someone tells me I look beautiful or that I am pretty, I no longer try to deny it or think they are just trying to be nice- I can graciously accept the compliment.
  • Clothes shopping is so much more fun- not to mention I am super excited about the adorable size 4 dress I bought to wear out on my Valentine’s Day date with my boyfriend!
  •  I have learned so much more about healthy cooking, nutrition and eating as clean and eliminating as many non-processed foods/poisonous chemicals as possible.
  •  I started a blog with one of my dearest friends that has almost 17,000 page views and has given us a forum to share and connect with others who are on their own health journeys
  •  I started a garden and learned to grow my own vegetables (yes, its yuppie farming, but still I think its pretty cool:) 
  • I can go rock climbing, or skiing, or dancing, or hiking, or numerous other physical activities that I never would have been able to do before. 
The list could go on and on- my life has completely transformed.  So today I’m celebrating my 32nd birthday a happier, healthier, more confident woman who is truly blessed by all of the wonderful people and experiences she has in her life- and who is so excited about all the future has to offer!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Conscious Box Review

I am sure you have heard of the monthly box craze with popular options such as Birch Box, Yellow Box, Makeup Monthly, PopSugar and Crave Box and countless others.  My sweet husband got me a subscription to Conscious Box for Christmas and I love it!  Each company has their own particular details, but the concept is simple-you pay a monthly fee and have a “grab bag” of items shipped to you.  Some items are full size, some are samples and there is usually a really nice variety so you can try out lots of different products.  I researched and tried some other food & fitness related boxes, but I settled on Conscious Box because of the minimally processed and organic items I receive, they also have Vegan and Gluten Free boxes if you are interested. 

Here’s the description from their website:  Conscious Box brings healthy, organic, sustainable, and purpose-driven businesses right to your door. What's inside your Conscious Box changes every month, with 10-20 products that are certified organic, fair trade, vegan, cruelty free, or more. Only most socially responsible companies are included—so you can be sure they're putting people & the planet first!  Conscious Box is great way to discover new businesses that are committed to the philosophy of sustainability, conservation, and social responsibility.

I love this concept because I wouldn’t necessarily buy all of these products in the store, but it’s a great way to try lots of different things and then go purchase them if you like them.  And if you don’t, then you won’t feel bad about wasting money since there are at least 10 other items in your box.

December 2012 Goodies
In December I really liked the 7th Heaven Naturals face mask.  I was able to get 2 uses out of it and left my skin feeling refreshed.  I also enjoyed the 18 Rabbits Granola with crunchy pecans, almonds, maple, and just a hint of coconut.  And I tried the Beanfield Snacks chips made out of Beans instead of potato’s.  Crazy huh?  Brian is hooked on the St. Claire's Organics Ginger Sweets.  They were a little too intense for me, but I am glad he liked them.  Avalon Organic’s Soothing Vanilla Rosemary Lip Balm is also a favorite.  It’s not sticky and tastes and smells wonderful.  And I loved the Divine Chocolate Spice Cookie Bar.  We had to buy another one at Whole Foods since we devoured this one so quickly.  My skin gets extra dry in the winter and the Eden Allure Argan Oil was a perfect way to keep it moisturized.

January 2013 Treats

In January I fell in love with the Qbel Whole Grain Crispy Wafers.  I got mint but had to go and buy peanut butter & dark chocolate also.  It was like a delicious and nutritious kitkat bar.  I haven’t tried my Pamela’s Chocolate Brownie Mix yet, but it looks amazing!  The Peeled Apple Clusters were a little too crunchy for me.  We both really liked the Teechia High Performance Super Seeds Cereal with Chia, Flax, Quinoa, Amaranth, Ramon and Pumpkin.  It’s a perfect alternative for prepackaged oatmeal when camping.  I also got a Larabar which I’m sure you have learned by now is one of my favorites! 

My February box will arrive soon, I can’t wait! 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Easy Baked Penne with Ricotta and Basil

There is something about winter that makes me crave comfort food.  One of the things that has made successfully maintaining weight loss a lot easier for me is finding ways to convert traditional comfort food recipes into healthier versions. The recipe below is a healthier take on a pasta casserole that I adapted from a recipe from It is simple to make and also freezes great. By substituting whole wheat pasta, skim ricotta, and lean ground turkey, this recipe can serve to satisfy those comfort food cravings without breaking the calorie bank!

Ingredients: (for 6 servings)
  • 1 pound penne rigate pasta (I use organic whole wheat pasta)
  • 1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 (25-oz) jar of marinara pasta sauce (I usually use tomato basil, though I think a garlic or veggie sauce would be good as well)
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3/4 c shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey (optional- the original recipe does not call for this but I usually add the ground turkey to add protein to the recipe)
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. If you are using ground turkey, brown the turkey with some onion and drain.
  3. Cook penne according to directions on package, then set aside and let cool for 5 minutes
  4. Combine ricotta cheese, basil, 1 1/2 cups of the pasta sauce and pepper in a large bowl
  5. Transfer pasta to the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss gently to coat.  Stir in the ground turkey.
  6. Spread 1/2 c of the remaining pasta sauce over the bottom of the baking dish (I usually use a 9x13) 
  7. Spoon the pasta mixture into the baking dish and spread out evenly.  Drizzle remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
  8. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes
While I really enjoy this recipe, I have noticed that it can have a tendency to be a little bland if you do not add onions to the ground turkey or add some additional spices such as basil and pepper.  I think that next time I make this I will use a more flavorful pasta sauce.