Pinterest A Grateful Life Lived: April 2015

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Why Strong is NOT the New Skinny

As a female, it is impossible to escape the constant pressure to conform to societal standard.  I mean, unless I'm gonna hibernate under a rock Patrick Star style, I'm going to hear all about the clothes I "should" wear and the body I "should" have. Frankly, it's exhausting!
It has been really neat though, to see the female spirit of determination come out of that.  Women are standing up for themselves and we are seeing female CEOs and movements on social media to reinforce healthy, real women.  I stumbled across an account last week on Instagram called @womenirl, meaning: Women in Real Life.  I love it.  I love the way it encourages us to be ourselves- messy hair, thick thighs and blemished faces included.  But I've also seen a movement go viral that I'm not so supportive of, one that I didn't mind at first but has increasingly bothered me as I see it online day after day.
You may be familiar with it: "Strong is the new skinny."  Uh huh... seems innocent enough, right?  But take a closer look at what this popular phrase- and hashtag- is really saying.  See, the word "skinny" has the connotation of an unattainable ideal, a lofty goal at the least.  It accompanies pictures of emaciated women or those who live life at the gym with their rigorous three hour workouts and hyper-specific calorie regimes. (RELATED:  Let's Talk About Eating Disorders)
Now tell me: Why in the world do we want THAT associated with the word "strong?"  Strong is NOT the new skinny because "strong" is an inner quality.  It might be exemplified in muscular quads or strong arms sometimes, but it is also exemplified in perseverance through tough times and in work-filled days.  It stems from a heart attitude that says: "I will not give up and I will not give in."
Determination.  That demeanor crosses over into all areas of a woman's life.  Yet it's common to see "strong is the new skinny" at the bottom of workout photos and healthy food.  Goodness knows we can do a little better than just slap up a photo of the ideal body and #strongisthenewskinny.  What about the strength of working a twelve hour work day or in choosing to nourish our bodies?  What about the strength of a mother or of a dedicated student?  Those have nothing to do with "skinny," and we shouldn't associate them with that frivolous ideal.  (RELATED: The Different Types of Eating Disorders)

Strong is NOT the new skinny.  Strong is the mom who keeps up with four kids and a part-time job.  Strong is the student who studies her butt off to excel in the classroom.  Strong recovering from an eating disorder, conquering a fear, falling in love.  It's not having a six-pack and it's not looking like a barbie doll.  (RELATED: Things That Have Shaped Me).

At the risk of coming across angry, I want to stress that it is sadness, and not judgmental anger, that has motivated this post.  See, I look around at so many beautiful women and see such a threat from the enemy in their lives, a threat that says we, as women, must conform to a specific appearance and standard.  Being skinny is one of the chief demands, and an extremely unhealthy and stupid one, at that.  But replacing it with the physical goal of strength is ignoring the root of the problem.
Your value does not lie in your appearance.  Your appearance is only a dim reflection of the true "you." Your strength comes from your heart, your core and it goes far deeper than what a mirror can show.  It reaches beyond what any picture can portray or dress size can depict.  It extends past stereotypes and hashtags and pounds and muscle mass.  So, don't forget this, my beautiful friends:
 Strong is NOT the new skinny.  Oh yes, you are strong, but your body strength only scratches the surface of the inner strength that burns within you.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Raising the Bar for Nutritious Snacks

I'm a fan of puns, but there is something that rivals my love of word humor, that is: Delicious foods!  As a student athlete and someone recovering from an eating disorder, I find great delight in perusing the grocery aisles looking for new snacks to challenge myself with or just try for fun.  One of the best snack categories has got to be- hands down- nutrition bars!  Protein bars, granola bars and the like are just so scrumptious that I would be failing in my duty as a blogger if I didn't share my affinity for nutrition bars. (RELATED: Quick Snacks for the College Health Nut)

So here they are, the good and the bad of some brands I've recently tried:

 Power Crunch Bars:
Pros: These wafer-bars are amazingly delicious and surprisingly high in protein, as in: 14g of protein!  One thing I love about Power Crunch bars is that they aren't your typical protein bar that's coated in chocolate, which means they don't melt in the sun or freeze in the cold.  That's certainly a perk.  Aside from that though, they taste amazing and come in numerous flavors like chocolate, peanut butter and mint chocolate.
Con(s): Power Crunch bars are easily smooshed in a backpack or workout bag, making for a messy recovery snack later on.  Additionally, they are very expensive, so much so that I can't really justify buying them myself.
Overall Ranking: 6/10

Quest Bars:
Pros: Quest bars are the holy grail of protein bars in the fitness world, and for a good reason!  They are incredibly delicious and have great macros- 20g of protein and a good balance of carbs to fat.  Plus, all the chocolatey flavors have giant chunks of chocolate in them, which I love,  especially after a few minutes in the oven.  I'd be hard pressed to choose a favorite, but perhaps Chocolate Chunk or Strawberry Cheesecake.  By the names, these bars sound like fancy deserts, and they pretty much are.  Quest's website even lists a myriad of recipe ideas involving the bars.  Some are super creative, but I've just stuck to the plain old rectangular bar thus far.
Con(s): Like Power Crunch bars, Quest bars are incredibly expensive ($2-$2.25 each), which makes it difficult to justify purchasing.  Yet, they meet my mealplan requirements for a snack very well and there are occasional sales online/in stores/at GNC.  Because of the price, Quest bars remain my "treat" snack and I only have them about once a week.  Additionally, they have a ton of fiber in them so as a heads-up, I wouldn't recommend them as a side with beans.  Just sayin'
Overall Ranking: 9/10

ZonePerfect Bars:
Pros: ZonePerfect bars are a perfect protein bar to take on the go, and I eat them all the time because of their amazing taste and great macros- 15g of protein in most.  They have less protein than many protein bars, but contrary to what everybody and their mother thinks: More protein is not always a good thing (and FYI: 15g is still a lot!)  ZonePerfect bars have a great crunchy layer to them and come in multipacks that also save a bit of cash, but that's if you can decide on one of the multiple flavors.
Con(s): My biggest complaint when it comes to ZonePerfect bars is also one of my favorite things about them: They are coated in chocolate, thus: They aren't ideal for storing in the car during the summer months.  Aside from that, the taste isn't as good as a Quest bar and the bars can sometimes fall apart when I try to break a piece off, but they are still a definite winner in my book.
Overall Ranking: 6/10

Good Greens Bars:
Pros: As much as I complain about Ohio, I'm still a buckeye girl at heart and I love that Good Greens is an Ohio company!  Their bars come in multiple flavors, with some being a chewy, fruit-like bar and others being coated in chocolate or greek yogurt.  The coated ones are amazing and I can't get enough of the silky texture and addictive taste.  You wouldn't even guess that these bars are vegan and contain 9-12g of protein.  Plus, they contain lots of fruits and vegetables like broccoli and apple.  My favorite flavor is probably chocolate chunk or chocolate raspberry.
Con(s): While I'm fanatic about the coated flavors, I'm not a fan of the regular greens bars- like wildberry- that taste akin to an artificial fruit stick.  I also have noticed that since Good Greens is based in Ohio, its products aren't available at some grocery stores and where I do find them, Giant Eagle, the price can be steep if they aren't on sale.  They are a lot more reasonably priced than Quest or Power Crunch bars though.
Overall Ranking: 8/10

Clif Bars:
Pros: Clif bars still remind me of long hikes and high school cross country.  Why?  Because they are an athlete's best friend.  They are loaded with a good amount of calories and a great balance of carbs, protein and fat.  They only have 8g of protein but they aren't meant to be a protein bar.  They are a dense, pre-workout bar and for that they are stellar!  If apple pear strudel or chocolate brownie doesn't pump you up for a mountain trek, I don't know what will.  I've also found that they are debatably even better when warmed in the microwave for 21 seconds (not 20 seconds, not 22). They are often on sale for less than $1 and are easily transportable because the chocolate free flavors aren't prone to melting in the sun.
Con(s): While Clif bars are a great source of energy, they are also high in sugar which is a concern to some people and should be recognized.  As an athlete, that sugar is very beneficial, but if cookies and candy are already staples in your diet, your sugar levels are probably already sufficient.  And while Clif bars do have amazing flavor, they aren't going to have the rich-tasting chocolate chunks of a Quest bar, or the crunchiness of a ZonePerfect bar.
Overall Ranking: 9/10

Luna Protein Bars: 
Pros: From the makers of Clif bars, comes a superb delight that is taking the nation by storm.  It sounds like a movie promo, right?  While Luna bars are yet to star in a feature film, they are a hit with their chocolate-coated deliciousness.  When I first wrote about these a few years ago, the cookie dough flavor was my favorite and then it was mint chocolate.  Then, I liked lemon vanilla and now I'm obsessed with sea salt caramel.  Will the madness ever end!?  Luna bars just keep getting better and better, and because Luna is a large enough company, you can find them most anywhere at a decent price.  With 12g grams of protein and a great balance of carbs and fat, they are a great bar for post-workout or just a mid-day snack.
Con(s): Luna bars are even more chocolate coated than ZonePerfect bars, which makes a huge mess when they are out in the sun.  Additionally, I still have the wish that Luna will develop a "mega bar" version because these bars seem a lot smaller than other brands.  A few bites is such a tease, but it works out well when I'm in a rush and need something quick I guess.
Overall Ranking: 9/10

FiberOne Protein Bars:
Pros: I'd never really tried FiberOne bars because they are pretty skimpy in the nutrition department, but when these bars came out a few months ago, I had to try them!  The caramel nut brownie have the best macros at 16g carbs, 7g protein and 6g fat. FiberOne Protein bars are also the most economic option of the bunch, with a 6-pack box costing only $3.48 at Walmart.   I also love that these bars have a real crunchiness to them and are chocolate coated as well.  They pair with an apple to make my perfect bedtime snack.
Con(s): The chocolate coating seems to be a double-edged sword when it comes to these bars, and the FiberOne bars are no exception.  And, while they are bigger than LunaProtein bars, they aren't very big themselves.  They also have lower macros than most of these bars, which means they might not satisfy your hunger as long.
Overall Ranking: 9/10

PureProtein Bars:  These bars look nearly identical to ZonePerfect bars, in my opinion.  But they are ZonePerfect's less-expensive twin that doesn't sacrifice on taste.  These bars are amazingly chocolatey- helllloooo deluxe chocolate- and have great crunchiness to them as well.  It's also important to note that while these bars have as much protein as Quest bars, they are half the price (less than $1 each in a multi-pack).  Oh my goodness: With their low sugar and impressive macros, these bars are a must-have on your grocery list.  You won't be sorry!
Con(s): PureProtein bars might be inexpensive but that's only if you buy a multipack, which is something to take into consideration.  Additionally: they are chocolate coated which is a bummer for those hot summer days.  And if you  look closely at the wrapper, you'll notice a small disclaimer (that should be on Quest bars as well) that these bars can have a laxative effect because of the sugar alcohols.  I personally haven't had a problem, but I also haven't eaten them before a serious run or workout.
Overall Ranking: 9/10

Bearded Brothers Bars: 
Pros: I was so excited when I got some samples of these bars this past fall, and I must say they were well worth the wait.  The bars are made in Texas and are vegan and raw, not to mention they come in a compostable package.  There's less than 10 ingredients in the bars and they are actually things I know, like almonds and organic dried mango. And the ingredients make for an amazing snack.  Coconut mango and bodacious blueberry are just some of the flavors.  And I love that these bars are more fruit based, it is a refreshing taste in the world of chocolate-laden bars.  These bars are also unique in that they have more fat than the others on the list, which is great because fat is your body's preferred fuel!  Bearded Brothers bars don't sacrifice in other areas though; they still contain 6g of protein and have tons of vitamins.
Con(s): Although these bars are 100% natural, the dried fruit in them takes a toll by giving the bars a whopping 20g of sugar.  This isn't a problem for most athletes, but as I said before: It can be a drawback.  Other than that, the only really drawback is that these bars are from a small, Texas company and can't be purchased in stores in the Midwest.  You have to order them online at this point.  But with the delicousness of these bars, I'm hoping they'll catch on soon and be available in stores near me!
Overall Ranking: 8/10

Greens +plusbar:
Pros: I discovered +plusbars when I was looking to try something different than Clif bars for once.  These hit the spot because they are amazingly chocolatey.  They are very smooth and similar in texture to the Good Greens bars, but have the best chocolate taste out of all these bars.  These bars come in numerous flavors and  have 15g of protein with green superfoods and no GMOS.
Con(s): +Plusbars are in the middle ground when it comes to cost, but are sometimes on sale for $1.  They are chocolate covered though, so they aren't ideal for hot cars or warming in the micro.  It's also important to know that these bars- like Clif and Bearded Brothers- have a lot of sugar (19g).
Overall Ranking: 9/10

Epic Bars: 
Pros: What do you get when you take animal based protein and create a nutrition bar with it?  Your answer may very well be: "A gross snack," but I encourage you to keep your mind open.  I initially was interested in these bars because they have 14g of protein, 6g of fat, no added sugar and are 100% natural.  So today, I finally tried my turkey almond cranberry bar.   My first bite was skeptical but I soon decided that Epic bars are unique and have an amazing taste.  They are similar to a jerky, but break off easily enough to eat.  No, they aren't chocolate, but sometimes I'm in the mood for a savory bar and Epic bars are perfect for that!  It tasted crazy good in a way I didn't expect, but perhaps that is because it's so original compared to the rest of the nutrition bars out there.
Con(s): While these bars are available are health food stores and my local Kroger, they are among the most expensive at $2 each.  They also have a very polarizing taste that I loved, but imagine some people wouldn't care for.
Overall Ranking: 8/10

What other bars or snacks should I review?  I love to hear from my readers, so let me know in the comments below!