Welcome to my blog, Off the Mat, On the Menu, which will explore the intersection between Pilates and nutrition by channeling the principles of Joseph Pilates—and how they relate to your practice, whether you’re a student or a teacher. I invite you to fold your mat and unfold your napkin.
Does your mat know what your mouth is doing?
It should. While we honor Joseph Pilates’s mantra that physical fitness s the first requisite for happiness, we can’t forget that a fit body is a well-fed body. The principles Pilates set for developing the physical mind/body apply just as surely to the nutritional body. There is a cost, for example, to coming to the mat without breakfast (or with a bad breakfast). We may be scooping the belly perfectly, but are we putting the proper nourishment into that belly to take us through our Pilates day? How are we eating to prevent illness, fortify immunity and lengthen not just our bodies but our lives? Our good habits (which will be apparent—don’t kid yourself to our students and clients) shouldn’t stop when we step off the mat or machine.
I know. I have been teaching Pilates for a decade and researching and writing books about food and nutrition even longer. The Mind/body and the nutritional body don’t work independently of each other, at least not for long.
Principle One: Balance.
You can gracefully find your balance in Open-Leg Rocker and Rolling like a Ball because your core is strong, but if the apparatus (your body) that got you there is out of balance because you’re running on empty (no, a sugary cup of coffee and a low-fiber bagel is not a good breakfast), then you’re stealing from Peter to pay Paul to do your Pilates. This bad habit will show up sooner or later in your energy levels, your looks and your mood. A nutritionally savvy breakfast—like a good snack—is a small trick that will repay you big time. If your mind is blank before you come to the mat and you find yourself at Starbucks to fill in that blank, try these instead:
- Put the makings of a smoothie in the blender and chill the night before. A combo of unsweetened yogurt or kefir, ground flaxseed, protein powder, handful of quick oats, and fresh or frozen berries with a few crushed ice cubes gives you protein, fiber, good fat, good carbs and lots of anti-aging antioxidants. And it takes less time than picking up a next-to-no-nutrients coffee and bagel fix.
- Get a good looking wide-mouthed designer thermos that begs to be filled (and/or a cute lunchbox/satchel that begs to be carried). Microwave a seven-grain cereal and top with blueberries or something more exotic like goji berry trail mix, and a splash of hemp or coconut milk.
- Mix up a fruit salad the night before using both in-season fruits and frozen berries. (Chances are you are one of the one in two Americans who comes up short on the 3 or more servings of fruit mandate). Toss in some coconut flakes and crushed roasted walnuts or almonds. Works as a between class snack at any hour.
- Make the following Teasers, which serve as homemade low-sugar high-energy nutrition bars. They’re guilt free and rich and in bone-building calcium, magnesium, zinc and fiber.
- Soak 1/1.2 cups of unsulfured dates in hot water to cover until soft. Drain and set aside.
- Process 2 cups of raw cashews in blender until finely chopped. Reserve ½ cup and mix the remainder with the dates. Optional: mix in ½ tsp grated orange or lemon zest.
- Add enough soy or dairy milk to hold mixture together. Divide mixture into 1 inch balls and roll balls in the reserved cashews. Place on a platter or baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to eat. Keeps for a week tightly covered and chilled. Enjoy!