Health and Fitness Cos

Health and Fitness Companies

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade vanilla extract just sounds warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it? With the holidays right around the corner, I wanted to make something sort of crafty as a small gift for friends and family. Since I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and I use vanilla constantly, I thought I’d take a stab at making my own. Last week I started my project and I wanted to show you how things are going so far, and tell you how get started if you wanted to give it a try yourself. 

The whole process of making vanilla extract is incredibly easy. I can’t believe I haven’t made it before. Real vanilla isn’t cheap. I usually pay anywhere between $6 to $8 for a small bottle. 

Interested in making some vanilla? Here’s what you need:

  • Vanilla Beans
  • Vodka 
  • Bottles
  • Funnel

You can buy vanilla beans from any specialty food store and some kitchen supply stores. If you don’t have one of those stores nearby, you can order online. The Madagascar variety are the granddaddy of vanilla beans, so that’s what I opted for. I paid about $40 for a half pound. Right now I have about two liters of vanilla steeping and I’ve used just over half the beans. I really didn’t need to buy that many, so I’ll have plenty of beans to make for future vanilla. 

Vanilla Beans and Bottles

Next up you need bottles and vodka. I picked up a bunch of bottles from The Container Store because it was convenient. I’ve seen bottles at grocery stores, craft stores and kitchen supply stores as well. My suggestion is to shop around for a good size that suits your needs. You don’t need to pay a lot for bottles. Just make sure they seal properly.

Vanilla_pouring vodka

I’ve read that you don’t need to buy a fancy pants vodka when making vanilla, but I’d prefer to buy from Sweden where genetically modified foods are largely not allowed. I used Svedka vodka, which is GMO-free. From what I understand, Absolut is GMO-free, too. 

The smallest things make the biggest difference. The only thing that could have possibly made making vanilla any easier was using a small funnel I bought for right around $2. 

Vanilla_one week

This is what the extract looks like one week after steeping. In about five weeks, the vanilla should be ready-to-go! I’m going to leave the beans in. The longer they steep, the stronger the vanilla will get. 

Some tried and true vanilla makers suggest slicing the bean down the middle (length-wise), and others recommend against it. I made a couple bottles with the beans split down the middle, and others simply cut in half (width-wise). I’m sticking with the cut-in-half method. Slicing the beans down the middle seems to make the vanilla a little murkier than what I’d like. 

Here’s a rundown of the steps to making vanilla:

1) Wash and dry bottles
2) Cut vanilla beans in half (width-wise)
3) Drop vanilla beans in bottles (2 – 3 beans per cup of vodka)
4) Pour vodka and close bottles
5) Give the bottles a shake every couple of days
6) After 6+ weeks, the vanilla is done!

Note: You can also use bourbon or rum to make vanilla extract. I’ve never made either, but have tasted them. This vodka-based vanilla extract is a little more traditional.

I got kind of carried away with the vodka and bought way too much (waaaaaay to much). I thought I’d make other extracts with the surplus. I’m currently working on a mint and citrus extract. Stay tuned…I’ll be showing off how those are looking soon. 

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Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show and Dr. Oz. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here.

 

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The Secret Formula for Weight Loss

The secret formula for weight loss is the same for nearly everyone. Fortunately, it doesn’t come in a bottle, you don’t have to go to the store or even pay a penny. In my opinion, this formula is the make or break for long lasting weight loss. Sure, quick weight loss weight loss with short term results can be bought, but a life of health and optimal weight cannot!

Here is my formula that provide the building blocks for any weight loss plan.

1) Readiness: Are you ready to lose weight? Of course, if you’re overweight, your body is ready and waiting, but are you mentally ready to lose weight. Sometimes external factors help us gain motivation, forcing readiness. Maybe your doctor gave you a wake up call, or maybe you saw yourself in a picture and realized how much your body has changed. Motivation and readiness go hand-in-hand. Nagging words from a loved one, or an inflated number on the scale don’t always motivate. In fact, they can have the opposite effect. Usually readiness happens over an over. The next time you’re ready, when you’re ready to pull the trigger, move onto step 2: awareness.

2) Awareness: Not everyone gains weight for the same reasons, so naturally weight loss won’t happen the same way across the board. Dig a little or dig a lot and figure out what caused the weight gain in the first place.

  • Have you been a lifelong overeater? 
  • Do you splurge at night?
  • Do you eat off your kids’ plates?
  • Do you skip meals, or eat too infrequently?
  • Are you eating/drinking foods that throw off your hormones, leading to weight gain?
  • Are you a stress eater?
  • Do you have a hard time avoiding your guilty pleasure?
  • Do you find that your sensitive to certain foods, but eat them anyway?

All of these bullet points, along with probably hundreds of others are the reason we gain weight. It’s incredibly important to become aware and accept why you’ve gained weight in order to make a long-term change. While I don’t write about lifestyle changes enough, doing a little soul searching to help get to the bottom of food triggers and bad eating habits is so very important.

Awareness of weight gain isn’t always that transparent. Sometimes we have a bunch of triggers that prompt us to eat more, not eat enough, or just eat poorly. If you’ve got one reason, or multiple, it’s important to address them…all! It may not be entirely your fault for being stressed (leading you to the freezer for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s), but it’s your responsibility to do something about it. If you don’t, things will never change.

3) Commitment: After you’ve gained a little awareness of why it is, exactly, that you’re not eating right, you need to commit. Not for a day, not for a week (although they’re both good starts), but for the long haul. The “long haul” can seem overwhelming. I completely understand this. I once actually said aloud, “I don’t think I can ever live without French fries.”  No, I wasn’t in my teens and yes, I was serious. For many, including myself, commitment grows, so be patient. No junk food, processed food, or plateful of indulgence has to power to make you feel as good as clean, healthy food.

The tricky part of commitment is sacrifice, and this is where people fall off the wagon. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to SAY NO to party food, cocktails, 30 solid days of holiday eating, quick-and-easy fast food meals. Along with commitment comes planning. After, and only after, you’ve gotten your head around the fact that you have to sacrifice are you totally committed. Like I said, you don’t have to be perfect, so plan carefully and try not to make exceptions. Pick and choose the days you want to enjoy a decadent dessert, for example. Make sure it’s not often (read: no more than once every couple of weeks – max), and stick to your guns.

Now that you’ve got your foundation, get going! Many of us know exactly what to do to lose weight. You don’t necessarily need a coach, program or book – BUT these tools enforce accountability, which even for the best of us (myself included) keep the process going. If you need advice, I’m here! Contact me, and we’ll get going.

This October I’m kicking off The 10 Pound Club. Want more information on that? Email me today!

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Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show and Dr. Oz. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here.

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Flywheel v SoulCycle: The Calorie for Calorie Burn Off

I had a chance to take classes at both Flywheel and SoulCycle – both indoor cycling studios. I took the Flywheel class in Chicago’s Gold Cold neighborhood last Tuesday and SoulCycle on Saturday in New York’s Upper East Side neighborhood. I from Chicago and typically do not travel to a different part of the country to take a classes , but I happened to be in the Big Apple with friends and thought I’d give it a shot.

 

What’s the Difference Between SoulCycle and Flywheel?

 

Both are fast-paced indoor cycling classes – similar, but not quite the same as a garden-variety spinning class. Both classes use light hand weights to break the class up by throwing in upper body strengthening exercises. Flywheel uses two and four pound bars that are neatly tucked away toward the front of the bike…I didn’t even know they were there until our instructor asked the class to grab them. SoulCycle uses small dumbbells that are placed under the seat.

Flywheel’s “never coast” philosophy means that energy and the rider’s power output stay high throughout class. The class is set up like a stadium, with bikes surrounding the instructor’s stage in a semi-circle shape. The instructor selects the music. Alicia, our instructor, chose a a bunch of fun songs to keep us energized- even going old school, including Technotronic’s “Move This” (remember that?). The Flywheel class pushed RPMs really high, but also incorporated some tough hills that slowed our legs down quite a bit. A computer measured our power output, so there was always something to reference in terms of how hard we were working.

SoulCycle’s class had a cool zen vibe to it. It was sort of like listening to a yoga instructor…on a bike. But it worked. Energy was really high and the music was good. Music will make or break a class for me, so it’s really important. We started with Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” but then built in artists like Kanye West and Snoop Dogg. It was pretty eclectic. Our instructor, Maya, was a lot of fun and managed the packed Saturday morning class with a great attitude.

The Calorie Burn Breakdown

I wore my heart rate monitor for both classes. I’m more curious to see how high my heart rate got in each of the classes (both in the mid 170s). Even though I don’t base the quality of a class (or any workout) on the calories burned), since I had the calorie output, I thought I’d post it.

Fly Wheel Calories Burned

Calories burned in a one hour Flywheel class.

 The class I took at Flywheel was only one hour, but I started my monitor about ten minutes before class. I really just sat around, so the calories burned were nominal. Based on this (and this is very unscientific), the total calories burned per minute during Flywheel were 9.55. The benefit in terms of what it did for my body, came from my heart rate getting pushed up through vigorous exercise, then dropping down while climbing hard.

Calories burned during a SoulCycle class.

Calories burned during a SoulCycle class.

The class I took at SoulCycle was 45 minutes, and I started my monitor about ten minutes before class again. I burned 9.13 calories per minute during this class.

I taught spinning classes for seven years, and in that time, I don’t think I once measured how many calories I ever burned. Even though the philosophy of both types of classes are different, riders turn their legs over really fast. I was really happy with both classes and loved the energy in each of them. The quality of the class was also really great, which made the difference.

You might also like: Is a Keto Diet Really Safe & Healthy for Everyone?

Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show, Dr. Oz, Oprah.com and SHAPE magazine. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here.

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