Its causes are absolutely everywhere. Would you agree?
While I’m here at Resonanz Opera this summer, it’s certainly something that many singers are telling me about. How they feel stressed. How they feel anxious. How it affects their performance.
Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But, that doesn’t happen too much in our society - it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic. If you’re a singer you definitely know what I’m talking about - work, rehearsals, practice, school, gigs, family. We try to do it all and it can take a toll on us.
You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.” It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.
Did you know that too-high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity? If you’ve ever experienced a pre or post show cold, it was probably brought on by stress.
Do you experience any of these? Well, then read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone naturally!
Foods and nutrients to lower cortisol
Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar. Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).
High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest.
Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty. I’m constantly surprised by how many singers still aren’t getting enough hydration.
Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn't just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.
Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate (not the sugary milky kind!). Have a bit to unwind.
Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics! There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you’re eating probiotic rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber.
Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol
It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.
Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol. Every singer should develop mindfulness strategies that don’t only reduce stress, but can improve your performances.
Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it). While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels. Even on those busy days dry to squeeze in a few 5 - 10 minute walks or even better - a 20 minute HIIT workout.
Get enough sleep!
Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways.
Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol. They also happen to be things that will aid your singing in other ways.
Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key. Luckily, most singing involves getting together with others to make music. What could be better!
Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health and voice. There are many proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally.
In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and caffeine. And have more water, fruit, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.
Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.
In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!
Recipe (High fiber prebiotic): De-Stressing Chocolate Pudding
3 ripe avocados
¼ cup cacao powder (unsweetened)
½ cup Medjool dates (pitted and soaked for 20 - 30 minutes)
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 dash salt
Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Try adding a pinch of cinnamon for a deeper flavour.
Singers, in our competitive industry the total package matters. There I said it.
It is a sad truth, but it's there. No matter how glorious your voice, for some companies, directors and fans that just isn't enough.
If it was a perfect world we wouldn't have to put up with that. However, we still should be concerned about our health and most people will agree that excess weight can be a health concern that can ultimately affect our singing and our day to day lives.
Is weight really the issue though?
You totally want to ditch your scale, don't you?
You may have this weird kind of relationship with your “weight”.
I mean, it doesn't define you (obviously) and it doesn’t prevent you from singing up a storm.
What you weigh can matter (as I said, it's unfortunate that some casting is based on the outer package more that the voice for singers), but if we’re talking about health, then weight only matters to a certain extent.
Let's look at your waist circumference (well...you look at yours and I'll look at mine).
Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”):
Do you remember the fruity body shape descriptions being like an “apple” or a “pear”? The apple is kinda round around the middle (you know – belly fat-ish, kinda beer belly-ish) and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.
THAT is what we're talking about here.
Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases).
Yup – that apple!
And it's not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that you may refer to as a “muffin top”. The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs there.
This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that's where a lot of the problem actually is. It's this “un-pinchable” fat.
The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.
And the apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.
So as you can see where your fat is stored is more important that how much you weigh.
Am I an apple or a pear?
It's pretty simple to find out if you're in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape. You can do it right now.
Women, if your waist is 35” or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category. Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.
For men the number is 40”.
Of course this isn't a diagnostic tool. There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases. Waist circumference is just one of them.
If you have concerns definitely see your doctor.
Tips for helping reduce some belly fat:
Get continuing motivation, tips and accountability to reach your goal when you join the FREE Vibrant Body Vibrant Voice community. Join now by clicking here.
Recipe (High fiber side dish): Garlic Lemon Roasted Brussel Sprouts
1 lb brussel sprouts (washed, ends removed, halved)
2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
dash salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400F.
In a bowl toss sprouts with garlic, oil, and lemon juice. Spread on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper.
Bake for about 15 minutes. Toss.
Bake for another 10 minutes.
Serve and Enjoy!
Tip: Brussel sprouts contain the fat-soluble bone-loving vitamin K. You may want to eat them more often.
The holidays have been over for about a week now. Sometimes those holiday feasts are just amazing.
And it's not just the abundance of delicious food but also the people, the decorations, and the ambiance.
It made it way too easy to indulge during the past month. And there are other holidays through the year where the same will be true.
But it doesn't always stop there. There are post-performance parties and receptions.
Sometimes we overeat on regular days. Or at regular meals. Or All. The. Time.
Overeating and singing do not go well together. Who wants to sing when we feel bloated or in a post-meal coma? Here are three tips to avoid overeating at meals.
(Psst, turn these into habits and ditch the willpower!)
Tip #1: Start with some water
When your stomach is growling and you smell amazingly delicious food it's too easy to fill a plate (or grab some samples with your bare hands) and dive into the food.
But did you know that it's possible to sometimes confuse the feeling of thirst with that of hunger? Your stomach may actually be craving a big glass of water rather than a feast.
Some studies have shown that drinking a glass or two of water before a meal can help reduce the amount of food eaten. And this super-simple tip may even help with weight loss (...just sayin').
Not only will the water start to fill up your stomach before you get to the buffet, leaving less room for the feast but drinking enough water has been shown to slightly increase your metabolism. And of course, we want to keep our vocal folds hydrated.
Tip #2: Try eating “mindfully”
You've heard of mindfulness but have you applied that to your eating habits?
This can totally help you avoid overeating as well as having the added bonus of helping your digestion.
Just as being mindful when you meditate helps to focus your attention on your breathing and the present moment being mindful when you eat helps to focus your attention on your meal.
Do this by taking smaller bites, eating more slowly, chewing more thoroughly, and savouring every mouthful. Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture. Breathe.
This can help prevent overeating because eating slower often means eating less.
When you eat quickly you can easily overeat because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full.
So take your time, pay attention to your food and enjoy every bite.
Bonus points: Eat at a table (not on the run to the next rehearsal), off of a small plate, and put your fork down between bites.
Tip #3: Start with the salad
You may be yearning for that rich, creamy main dish.
But don't start there.
(Don't worry, you can have some...just after you've eaten your salad).
Veggies are a great way to start any meal because they're full of not only vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and health-promoting phytochemicals but they also have some secret satiety weapons: fiber and water.
Fiber and water are known to help fill you up and make you feel fuller. They're “satiating”.
And these secret weapons are great to have on your side when you're about to indulge in a large meal.
Have your glass of water, eat mindfully, and start with your salad to help avoid overeating at meals.
Need help staying on track? Then join us in the FREE Vibrant Body Vibrant Voice Community.
Recipe (Water): Tasty (and beautiful) Pre-Meal Water Ideas
If you're not much of a plain water drinker or need your water to be more appealing to your senses here are five delicious (and beautiful looking) fruit combos to add to your large glass of water:
Tip: You can buy a bag (or several bags) of frozen chopped fruit and throw those into your cup, thermos, or uber-cool mason jar in the morning. They're already washed and cut and will help keep your water colder longer.
What is Metabolism?
This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.
You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight. But what exactly does this all mean and why should singers care?
Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body. It's how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do – including singing.
Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive. And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.
Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:
So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.
Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”.
This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).
The calories you eat can go to one of three places:
As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.
There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate. One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you're not being physically active.
The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.
What affects your metabolic rate?
In a nutshell: a lot!
The first thing you may think of is your thyroid. This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism. Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you'll burn.
But that's not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.
How big you are counts too!
Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial!
As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does. So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be. Even when you're not working out. And lean muscle is a necessity to the active lives of singers.
This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program. Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you.
The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don't want to happen. So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.
Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they're doing “work”.
The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!
Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food. This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).
You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.
Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10% (this is a deceptive number and more on that later), and protein increases it by 15-30%.
But before you go out and start stocking up on steaks, think of this, there is no significant difference between animal and plant protein to TEF. Furthermore, a whole food diet, one rich in healthy carbs (whole grains, vegetables and fruits) will increase TEF by nearly 50% over a processed food diet.
By trading some of your fat or refined carbs for lean protein and whole food carbs you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.
Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow. By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.
The Mind-Body Connection
And don't forget the mind-body connection. There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate. These are areas that we singers quite often have trouble with. Yoga, meditation, breathing exercises are all methods that help reduce stress and improve the mind-body connection.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.
Your body is your instrument and how your metabolism is working will affect your voice in the long run.
To keep your instrument in top shape join our free Vibrant Body Vibrant Voice community.
Welcome to The Fit Singer’s first podcast. I am so excited to be able to share this interview I had with John Henny.
John has had amazing success with his weight loss: over 100lbs! All by switching to a whole food plant-based diet. I talked with him about his experience and how it’s affected his voice.
I apologize in advance for the poor quality of the interview itself. I must admit that I jumped head first into this project without being fully aware of what it would all entail, but it’s been an exciting start to what I hope will be a regular feature on my blog and eventually a podcast in it’s own right.
Anyway, back to John Henny. If you’re not familiar with him, you should be. John Henny is internationally renowned as a "teacher of teachers." He has trained hundreds of voice teachers through master classes and his online Voice Teacher Bootcamps.
John has been a featured columnist for Backstage Magazine, publishing over 40 articles on vocal technique. John has lectured and taught at USC, The Learning Annex, Mount Saint Mary's, and Paul McCartney's Liverpool Institute of the Arts.
John's students range from beginners to superstars. He is available at his Music Academy in Glendora CA, and from anywhere via Skype lessons.
He also does a fabulous podcast called “The Intelligent Vocalist”. For more information check out his website at www.johnhenny.com.
If you are interested in how nutrition can improve your voice, including boosting your immunity, relieving seasonal allergies, boosting energy and controlling acid reflux, to name just a few, then join the Vibrant Body Vibrant Voice online community.
I would love your feedback on this podcast and on any topics you might like to hear about in future podcasts. Just leave a message in the comments below.
Disclaimer: The Fit Singer does not give medical advice nor claim to cure any medical conditions. If you do have a medical condition, any dietary, exercise or other lifestyle changes should be made under the supervision of your family doctor.
Recently I was enjoying a performance of Mary Poppins in which one of my students was playing the role of Mrs. Banks. Halfway through the first act I started to get a bit of a headache in my temple and my eyes started becoming painfully sensitive to the light, especially when the gentleman started to record and the bright screen of his smart phone assaulted my eyes. This was the all too familiar beginning of a flare up of uveitis. Uveitis is an inflammation of the iris and membrane surrounding the eye. This led to a sleepless night in emergency to get the proper medication. There was a time in my life that the frequency of flare-ups got up to 2 or 3 a year. The treatment requires an aggressive course of prednisone eye drops. Now this all stopped about six years ago when I cleaned up my diet going plant-strong and sugar-free. In fact, all my inflammatory issues went away after that.
So why the flare up now? In my opinion it was a combination of two things. First, I had a virus a few weeks ago. The second was that I consumed sugar. I didn’t mean to. I had a rehearsal to go to and popped into the organic health food store to pick up some Zinc Lozenges. Only later did I discover that they contained sugar - after I used the whole package over the next couple of days. Then there were the couple of glasses of very sweet sherry at a party. It all adds up.
Now the uveitis wasn’t the only thing that flared up with my unsettled immune system. I also got a mouth full of canker sores. Another recurring problem before I changed my diet. Not pleasant when you’re trying to sing.
Ok, the virus – sugar connection may just be a correlation and not necessarily causation, but I have been meaning to write about sugar for a while and this really brought it to mind.
So let’s talk sugar. There has been a lot of buzz about sugar in the last few years and more and more scientific evidence piling up about the health risks of sugar consumption. One of the things that is coming to light in study after study is that sugar and refined carbs like white flours cause inflammation in the body. (Carbs contain fructan, which are chains of fructose, so when they hit your blood stream they are another source of fructose). They increase the production of c-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker in the blood.
Inflammation can be a natural response to acute injury to clear away the cause of injury, dead cells and to promote the healing process. However, chronic inflammation is another condition altogether. There have been some well known diseases of inflammation such as asthma, Crohn’s disease, arthritis, Ulcerative colitis; well basically anything ending in –itis means it’s an inflammatory condition. However, long-term chronic inflammation has now been linked to many diseases including Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, cancer, acid reflux, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
Now that’s not the only problem with sugar. Sugar is also suspected of causing an upset in the appetite hormones leptin and ghrelin, which regulate satiety and hunger respectively. Sugar can cause leptin resistance, so that your brain will not get the message that you are full and can cause you to overeat.
Then there is the blood sugar issue. When highly refined sugar foods are consumed they make their way quickly into the blood stream for a blood sugar spike. The liver has to work overtime to convert the fructose into glucose, the body’s main source of energy. When there is more sugar than needed to meet current energy requirements it is sent to storage and becomes fat. Your body also overproduces insulin to take that sugar out of the blood and over does it on shuttling the glucose off to cells. This causes you to experience a sugar crash, that feeling of low energy.
This low energy can lead to more sugar consumption to give you a boost and, in fact, sugar also affects the brain by stimulating pleasure centers in the brain the same way hard drugs such as heroin do. This can actually lead to sugar addiction.
So if you find yourself unable to kick the refined sugar and refined carb habit, it really may not be your fault. There is also a huge lack of education on the effects of sugar. It is pervasive in our diets without our even knowing. Almost all processed foods contain a refined sugar or wheat product. The World Health Organization recommends no more than 10 gram of sugar a day in adults, yet the average American is consuming 35 gram of sugar a day. If you’ve been sugar-free like me for an extended time, you may not be able to tolerate even small amounts of sugar as your body now sees it as a foreign invader.
As a singer who cares about your health and the care of your instrument it would be advised to minimize if not completely eliminate refined sugar and carbs from your diet. If you suffer from any inflammatory conditions it may be critical that you do eliminate it. Aside from overall health, which every singer should be concerned with, conditions of particular concern to singers that can affect performance can include acid reflux, canker sores, irritable bowel syndrome and irritable bowel disease.
Now all these effects are not found in fruit, even though fruit also contains fructose. The whole food matrix of fiber and phytonutrients slows down the absorption of fructose through the intestinal wall, so there is no excessive blood sugar spike, no over production of insulin, no fat storage, no overtaxed liver and no inflammation.
So next time you are at a post performance reception, steer clear of all the pastries and desserts. Satisfy your craving for something sweet by seeking out the fruit platter instead.
If you are interested in learning more about eliminating sugar from your diet or just want to be part of a community of singers who take their health seriously, then join the FREE Diva's Ditch the Sugar 5-Day Detox.
A voice teaching colleague of mine asked me what could be done for a singing student who was suffering vocal and health issues.. She knew it would be beneficial not only for his singing, but for his overall health. Lifestyle changes can be encouraged in anyone that is not taking care of themselves and putting their health at risk, for example someone who smokes, someone who eats carelessly and suffers from acid reflux or obesity, someone who lacks sleep.
So what can you do when you see someone that definitely needs a lifestyle change? It’s a touchy subject. Many people who are in this condition are already probably feeling low self-esteem on some level. We can’t really know what’s going on in their heads. And voice teachers are often not qualified to help, at the same time it is our job to get them to sing at their full potential. At some point, the truth is that the behaviour may be harming them.
The first thing is to let your student know that her body is her instrument and that it needs to be taken care of to reach it’s full potential. Now some people are just not ready to let this message sink in. They can be like three year olds being told to eat their veggies and sticking their fingers in their ears to not hear. Repeat the message often and gently, eventually the fingers will come out of her ears and she will be ready to listen. (This can also apply to peers or loved ones you feel may need some gentle nudging).
Any singing teacher will have experienced this with messages on practice habits, technique, etc. seemingly falling on deaf ears. Repetition is essential. What may seem like a breakthrough is actually the readiness of the person to accept the message.
Behaviour change is usually classified in five stages:
The situation I’ve been describing is a person in the stage of Precontemplation.
What you can do: Your part is to increase the awareness of the importance to change, stressing the benefits. Do some research into the problem. You can make a list of pros and cons of exercise and nutrition, and discuss health risks. Provide education through print and electronic media (such as The Fit Singer site or Facebook page).
You can also discuss myths and fears of exercise and nutrition (For example, many singers do fear that losing weight will negatively impact their voices similar to what happened to Maria Callas. This just is not true if it is undertaken in a healthy manner.). Find out what’s holding them back – lack of belief of benefits, lack of self-esteem (“I could never change my eating habits”), lack of money, lack of support?
Find out what her priorities are.
The following stage is Contemplation. Here the person is starting to think about changing behaviour and may even have a course of action in mind.
What you can do: Continue with education and discussion of benefits. This may be a good time to invite them to join The Fit Singer’s Vibrant Body Vibrant Voice Club or the VBVV Healthy Eating Challenge. It’s a good time for you to show your support and help them increase self-confidence.
Next is Preparation. In this stage the person is already making plans for behaviour change and may have already made some minor changes. This is where they may be ready for a program. It could be through a gym, working with a personal trainer or The Total Singer Program. Or, depending on the issue, with some other health care professional.
What you can do: Your role at this point is support. You can offer a referral if they need it. The Fit Singer offers customized support programs.
Action is the first 6 months of undertaking a program of change. At this point most of the guidance, motivation, support and accountability will come from the professional be it physician, therapist, coach, trainer or nutritionist.
What you can do: You can also provide motivation and support. Having a community of supportive people is very important for the person undergoing change. Relapses are a very real possibility at this stage and your support is important in managing them.
The final stage is Maintenance. This is after 6 months of successful adherence to a program of change. Again the health/fitness professional will be helping to revise programs, prevent relapses, and provide support.
What you can do: Your role remains the same as for Action – be supportive and encouraging.
If you are a voice teacher working with a student going through the Action and Maintenance stages of someone making weight loss or fitness changes, you may have to start readjusting the support and breathing practices, which will be most affected by the change. You may also need to help them re-adjust posture as they begin to hold themselves differently.
Whether you are dealing with a student, a peer or a loved one, YOUR support through ALL stages will be one of the biggest factors in providing motivation and success!
Last week marked the launch of my new healthy eating group - The Vibrant Body Vibrant Voice 5- Day Cleanse. This went far beyond the clean eating groups I've hosted before. We had a much more comprehensive meal plan and recipes all contained in an ebook, which I poured hours into creating. Everyone was sent a daily video with tips on eating health and how these choices can affect your voice.
All the guess work was taken out with a grocery list of all the ingredients you would need and daily prep guides so that you could time your preparations and make many things ahead of time. Time management is one of the key elements that keep people from maintaining a healthy diet. This made it all super simple and the recipes were very easy and quick to prepare.
I had people from around the world joining us, as far abroad as Sweden and Australia. This was truly an exciting experience. Many people are just getting their feet wet with eating better, so didn't necessarily use all the recipes in the book during the cleanse and just tried to cut back on processed foods and making healthier choices. But the feedback was great!
One of the participants did it with her husband, who is addicted to spice packets. You know, the ones with tons of salt and flavour enhancers like mono-sodium glutamate, which are not good for your health. His comment was: I didn't know food could taste so good without those packets! High praise indeed. Healthy eating does not mean sacrificing flavour. In fact, it can open up a whole new world of flavours.
Along the way I posted pics of many of the recipes on social media. One of the recipes that elicited the most interested was the Sweet Potato Crust Pizza. Of course it did! We all love our comfort food and if we can make it healthier and guilt free so much the better!!!
The crust will never be the same as a true bread-type crust, but it holds together well and is tasty. So, by popular demand here is the recipe for the Sweet Potato Crust Pizza.
Sweet Potato Crust Pizza:
Sweet Potato Pizza Crust:
5½ cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes (about 2 large organic sweet potatoes)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
3 tablespoons water
1¼ cup gluten-free oat flour
¼ cup coconut flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1¼ teaspoons garlic powder
½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
pinch of chili flakes
Organic pizza or tomato sauce
Veggies of choice (I used spinach and cremini mushrooms)
Steam the sweet potato cubes until fork-tender.
Add the chia seeds and water to a small bowl, whisk with a fork, and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes to create a chia egg.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Add the steamed sweet potatoes to a large mixing bowl and mash them.
Add in the chia egg, oat flour, coconut flour, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, basil, oregano, garlic powder, sea salt, and chili flakes. Stir together until combined.
Line a round pizza pan with parchment paper. Scoop the sweet potato mixture onto the parchment paper and use a spatula to spread it into a large circle on the pizza pan. You should have a ½-inch thick pizza crust.
Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the crust is set and the edges are golden brown.
Remove the crust from the oven and let cool.
Add desired toppings, return the pan to the oven and broil for 5 minutes.
Slice, serve, and refrigerate leftovers.
*Note: I had some leftover homemade cheez sauce, which I used. You can use other nut-based cheez as a topping as well. I would avoid Daiya or other processed vegan cheez.
If you would like to get your free ebook, the next Vibrant Body Vibrant Voice 5 Day Cleanse will take place July 18 - 22, 2016 after I return from presenting at the 53rd National Conference of the National Association of Teachers of Singing in Chicago, July 7-12th. My session is Good Morning Kick Start where I will be sharing PiYo and Zumba workouts and connecting with over 1,000 of my singing colleagues.
If you would like to join the next cleanse click here.
I’m not big into making New Year’s resolutions myself. When I feel my life is in need of a change I start then and there. Lots of my long term goals and dreams that actually will be coming true this year started last May and June and there are always new things about myself I would like to work on – if I waited for all of it to start January 1 I would have missed opportunities and it may have all been far to intimidating to tackle it at all.
Nonetheless many look to the New Year for a fresh start (and despite what I said there is one new habit I would like to develop starting January 1, which I’ll tell you about later). A fresh new chapter in our lives. Too often it’s a fairy tale chapter of all the wonderful things our life will be with the changes they will make. All too often that fairy tale bubble bursts by Valentine’s Day.
According to Time Magazine, the most commonly broken resolutions are:
So how can we make our resolutions stick?
Don’t overdo it. Choose only one to three resolutions to start with. Tackling too many resolutions is certainly going to lead to failure (if being less stressed was one of them you are actually going to set yourself up for more stress). All three resolutions don’t have to start at the same time either. Staggering them out through the year can make it more manageable as well.
Decide on your WHY. Why is it important to change that? Is it simple it would be nice to do or is there a real need that deeply affects the quality of your life? For example, you want to drink less. Is it because you spend too many Sundays with a hangover or is it because your relationships, your work or your health are on the line because of your drinking? The latter is surely a more compelling WHY, which will more likely make you stick with it.
Set realistic goals. If you want to travel to new places, but are racked with debt, now is not the time to plan a trip to Australia. Likewise, don’t expect to lose 50 pounds in two months (by the way, healthy weight loss is 1-2 lbs/week, so 15 lbs in two months is more realistic).
Set specific goals – specific in time frame to complete, specific in quantity, specific in actions to take. Remember these should all be realistic. For example you want to save $2000 for a trip to Disney World in March - it is specific, but is it realistic? Can you save $2000 in three months? Make it more realistic – Save $2000 for a trip to Disney World next Christmas. You have 50 weeks to save! So open a special bank account and put in $40 each week.
Make it enjoyable. Want to exercise more? Don’t get lured into the gyms unless you know they have something you would enjoy doing. If you like the idea of lifting weights, fine. But that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Maybe a group class, but which one? A Zumba class might be more fun. It feels less like exercise and more of a party and that may be the thing you need to keep you moving. Volunteering? Serving at a soup kitchen, though very noble, may not be for you. As a singer, perhaps you can sing at shelters or nursing homes instead. Don’t underestimate the gift of your music.
Get an accountability partner. You are more likely to stick with it if you have someone to be accountable to. This could be a friend or family member. It can be someone that will join you in making those changes in their own lives or just someone with whom you’ve shared your goal. You can join an online accountability group where there will be other likeminded people with whom you can share your journey. It can be a trainer or wellness coach like me (I work with people online in accountability groups and one on one) or other professional as required (example – financial planner).
Make an appointment with yourself. Write it in your calendar. Exercise time. Meal planning time. Family time. Time for budgeting and going over accounts. If it’s scheduled you are more likely to do it.
Reassess frequently. Every month take a look at where you’re at with your goal. Is it moving forward? Do you need to tweak your action plan? Can you make further improvements on this goal? Is it time to start on the next resolution on your list?
Remember any resolution you make is making a new habit and it doesn’t happen magically. It will require work and dedication. Sometimes it requires the breaking of old bad habits, which is sometimes the greatest challenge. But it will be so worth it when you come to next New Year and can reflect on what you accomplished in the past 12 months. If you need help with nutrition, health, fitness or weight loss goals, the free Vibrant Body Vibrant Voice Facebook community would be a great place to start!
And what’s my resolution, for one who doesn’t usually make New Year’s resolutions? It took this past week with a Christmas Day bout of stomach flu and convalescence through this week where I made use of the adult coloring book my daughter gave me, I read books for pleasure and not just knowledge and self-improvement and allowed myself a couple of Netflix marathons to realize that it’s ok to slow down and not to be constantly thinking about my next project. So my resolution is to savor the quiet moments without guilt.
Happy New Year! May this year bring you all the blessings you deserve!!!
As singers we usually need to present a total package. Across all genres image and looking the part is important. Even in the classical world and opera in particular, there has been a growing trend in the last 10 years or so to have singers look the part of the young lovers they play, especially the consumptive ones. Singers, sometimes ones with immense talent, are passed over by directors due to their size. In our visual world with big screen broadcasts of operas, movie versions of musicals and images of singers constantly parading before us on our tv and computer screens, it’s no wonder that there is pressure for singers to slim down. Though I don’t agree with discrimination based on size, there is a more important reason for singers to be concerned with their weight and try to slim down.
Yes, it comes down to health. By being overweight you are at greater risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. You are more prone to acid reflux, joint and back pains, mood disorders and reduced energy levels. How can you effectively deal with the demands of a singing career if you are weighed down with health problems?
Let’s start with what is healthy body composition and how to measure that. There are a number of measurements that you can take with the aid of your doctor or a personal trainer. No one measurement is going to give you the whole picture, but together you can get a picture of where you lie. First of all we can start with the body mass index (BMI). This is a ratio of your weight to height squared (kg/m2).
Where you carry your fat also makes a big difference. Apple shape means that you are carrying more visceral fat around your middle that will constrain your thoracic cavity with the pressure of adipose tissue, which may make breathing more of an effort. It pushes against organs, which can prevent the free circulation of blood. It will also put a strain on your back making it harder to maintain good alignment. It puts you at greater risk of metabolic syndrome. If you take a measurement of your waist circumference a measurement of greater than 102 cm for men and greater than 88 cm for women puts you at higher risk.
Skinfold measurements are another way to determine body fat. This is taken by using a skinfold caliper to measure the thickness of a double fold of skin and underlying fat at various locations of the body. This is best done by a professional with experience of taking these measurements and compared to a chart.
So if you know you are in need of losing weight for your health it is important to undertake it in a healthy manner. No fad diets, no overly restrictive diets, no yo-yo dieting. These are not going to give you long lasting results and if anything, this approach could be detrimental to your voice. Some of these diets do give good short term results, but are not maintainable once you go back to normal eating patterns and in studies it has been shown that the majority of these people go back to their pre-diet weight and sometimes even gain more.
Healthy weight loss will involve a lifestyle change that you will be able to maintain even once you are at your target weight. This lifestyle change will have to include physical activity and nutrition. Neither one on it’s own is sufficient to bring you to optimal health. It is safe to lose up to 2 lbs a week. Eating a healthy well-balanced diet with no processed food is the best way. You may still need to have a slight calorie restriction to achieve your goals, but once you get to your goal, you will have already developed healthy eating habits that you should be able to maintain.
By eating healthily and being physically active with a proper balance of cardio, strength and flexibility training, you shall find that your voice will not suffer at all from your slow and steady weight loss.
Why have there been claims that heavier singers had more powerful voices and that they were ruined by weight loss? There are a number of reasons attributable to this. One is that it was rapid unhealthy weight loss that left hormone levels unbalanced, as well as insufficient nutrients for the body to function properly. Another is that not enough effort was made to develop strong core muscles. An overweight singer has to use more musculature to breath and keep the ribcage open against the pressure of the adipose tissue. As weight is lost, the muscles don’t need to work so hard and can lose their strength if not conditioned properly.
So healthy weight loss with no detriment to the voice is possible. In fact, the fitter you get the more you will find you have freedom in your instrument and the energy to keep up with all of the demands placed on you on a daily basis.
If you would like advice on how to achieve healthy weight loss contact me by clicking here, I’d be happy to answer any questions or sign up for the Fit Singer Boot Camp by clicking here. The next boot camp starts on November 30th, 2015.