These days your mind is at a constant tug of war with so many worlds. While you can’t tell the world to stop spinning, you can take control by feeding your brain with the nutrients it craves. Using food as fuel you can funnel your focus, harness a sense of control and turn your mind into an ally. While a venti triple dirty chai sounds like the perfect pick me up to focus fast, you risk a heavy crash. Whether for a meal or on the go, nutrient dense foods with a balance of healthy fats, carbohydrates and protein will sustain your energy level when you need it most.
In creating this balance, there are certain foods you can incorporate that contain especially powerful brain boosting properties:
Flavonoids are an important component of berries. Not only do the flavonoids give the berries their gorgeous color, they feed the hippocampus which is the portion of your brain responsible for memory and learning. Their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power helps your blood flow through your body and to your brain without inhibition.
Like coffee, dark chocolate is a natural stimulant but has a fraction of the caffeine so you can get a boost, but avoid the crash. 1 ounce of dark chocolate (5-6 squares) contains ¼ of the caffeine in an 8 ounce cup of coffee. Like berries, dark chocolate contains flavonols and antioxidants which can do the work so your attention span doesn’t have to.
Probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir and kimchee help balance the bacteria in your gut referred to as your gut microbiome. “The key to optimizing our cognitive and physical health lies in the health of our gut. When we feed our gut a healthy diet we are truly fueling maximum health,” explains Bruce Lowell MD of Lowell Metabolics.
The benefit of eating your greens is no new news but, recent studies link the consumption of 2 cups of greens per day with a lower level of cognitive decline*. Greens such as spinach, kale and swiss chard are loaded with Vitamin A, and folic acid which has been shown to improve mental clarity.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are especially high in good fat and vitamin E. Both properties help keep your heart healthy and brain functioning properly, increasing focus and concentration.
Click here for my favorite food for thought… an almond butter berry smoothie bowl!
I am lucky enough to try new workouts on the regular. Some are trendy, shiny and gimmicky… others like BodyBoss Method, let the work do the talking. It’s a straight forward, 12 week fitness guide that uses High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) as the basis to reshaping your body.
BodyBoss explains, “The HIIT technique involves repeated bursts of brief, intense anaerobic exercise performed at maximum effort, alternated with short periods of recovery.” BodyBoss HIIT days consist of 7-8 exercises done for 7-8 minutes and repeated for 3 rounds. This is a total workout time of 24 minutes. When you complete your workout, you continue to burn calories as your body recovers. This is called afterburn or the #BossEffect.
Your workout week begins with Legs and Booty HIIT.
My favorite BodyBoss Leg and Booty exercise is the squat with side kick. You kill two birds with one stone lifting your ass while kicking out your aggression.
With your feet slightly wider than shoulder distance apart, do a squat without letting your knees go beyond your toes. Try to lower yourself back until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
Dig your heels into the ground and press back to vertical, shifting your weight to your left leg. Kick your right foot as if you’re busting through a doorway with your heel. Return to squat and repeat.
Tuesdays are about keeping the train in motion with some light exercise. The BodyBoss schedule reads my body’s mind and creates peaks and valleys in the week so you don’t get burned out. Bike, swim, go for a walk or take yoga.
Arms, Abs and Core HIIT days are Wednesday. I find that working my core always re-energizes my body so hump day is the perfect day for this session. I love V Sit Ups because they’re simple and there are so many variations to challenge yourself.
Start on your back with your feet and shoulders hovering above the ground,
Exhale while you engage your ab wall to lift your upper body towards your lower body. You can keep your legs bent, straight or even twist to either side to work your obliques.
Thursdays are for Cardio. I use these days as opportunities to make a fit date. Running, hiking, cycling and group classes are always more fun with with partner.
Fridays are the big finale. Total Body HIIT days. These days you rotate between only 4 exercises that usually correlate with what you did on Monday and Wednesday. These days usually require less reps but more energy and explosiveness from you. The BodyBoss book says, “Think of it as your Friday super power session!”
My favorite BossBody exercise for Full Body days is the Aeroplane Push Up. A plank alone is a great way to engaged your full body, but with a twist and push up added on you’ll be the best kind of dead by rep 12.
From plank position, lower your upper body towards the ground.
Push your arms straight and shift your body weight onto your right hand. Lift your left elbow towards the sky, opening your body outward.
Extend your arm and focus to the sky to form a straight line. Return to starting position and repeat on the left.
My thoughts on BodyBoss
Amazing for Beginners. This book teaches you how to work out. Not only does it tell you what to do, it tells you how to do it. The back of the book has a full glossary of how to do the most basic to advanced moves. For someone just beginning their fitness journey who may never have done a squat in their life, they have a 4 week pre-training program to ease you into the motion before fully committing to the 12 week plan.
Amazing for hardcore fitness fanatics. There is an option to increase the intensity of every exercise in the book. Adding weights, ankle weights, stairs etc, takes each exercise to the next level.
BodyBoss budgets time for stretching. I also love that the book budgets time within the workout for stretching. Long, lean bodies are created by working the muscle then stretching it. Even as a dancer, I take stretching for granted. The Body Boss stretches are simple, but seeing them on the page makes stretching before and after your workout a no brainer.
Option to pick and choose. BodyBoss is effective whether or not you are following their 12 week plan. I love to workout at home or while I travel, but I often spend just as much time thinking of exercises as I spend actually doing them. The Body Boss book gives me a roadmap for my workout, wherever I am in the world.
You can travel with it. Many people skip workouts when they travel because they are away from their local fitness classes, regular running routes, or usual gym equipment. BodyBoss HIIT days require nothing else but the book. I like to take photos of the pages I’ll need while away so all I don’t need to pack anything extra at all!
Supplement my group class addiction. I love group classes with a passion because you show up, do what you’re told and leave in complete exhaustion. ClassPass has recently limited us to 10 classes per month which is not nearly enough. I supplement these group classes with BodyBoss sessions.
-20% CODE: MEAGANBB
Good through May 2017 via link above. I make no profit on this, but let me know if you purchase and try!
I started running recreationally about four years ago. I laced up, plugged in and worked up a sweat giving little thought to form or function. This approach to running contrasts to my life as a dancer. Over the years I have been taught to be aware of what every inch of my body is doing and why. I have memories of repeating the same movement over and over until it became second nature. I would never claim to be a perfect dancer, but I do take pride in being an aware dancer. In January I started to share my workout life online via photos on Instagram, this blog and through my ambassadorship with Adidas Running. I’ve continued upon my run-to-feel-good ways until I scrolled upon this sponsored ad of me to the right. Comments read “yikes, that heel strike tho,” and “her hips are gonna be hurting with that stride”. ……GASP….STOP THE PRESSES… WHAT’S A HEEL STRIKE? SEND HELP. I will NOT be the Kendall Jenner of running.
Meet Jessie Zapo (@jessiezapo). Jessie and I met in January at the Adidas PureBOOSTx launch in Santa Monica. Over the span of seven years Jessie has carved a space for women and new runners in the NYC urban running community. Named “the first lady of running,” Jessie created and produced programs for organizations like Bridgerunners, The Black Roses NYC and Girls Run NYC. During a recent trip to New York I was lucky enough to have some one on one sessions with Jessie that opened my eyes and rocked my running world.
My first revelation on form was understanding how it’s systematically inefficient to lead with your heel. I used to think that a longer stride was created by reaching my foot/heel further and further in front of me. My run was low and heavy but my stride was long so I never thought there was a problem.
A stride that leads with your heel (heel strike) involves 4 steps per stride, while a mid foot strike only involves 3:
MID FOOT TO GROUND
Heel Strike Stride:
HEEL TO GROUND CONTACT
MID FOOT CONTACT
Mid Foot Strike Stride:
MID FOOT TO GROUNT CONTACT
A correct stride is initiated by the knee. The force of your knee lifting into air sends your body upward and propels forward into your next stride. Your foot never reaches in front of the knee that’s lifted- it hits the ground directly underneath.
Jessie sent me this video from Competitor Magazine to help understand this concept.
In dance class I was always taught to jump off the ground heel, ball, toe and land toe, ball, heel to absorb gravity and protect my joints. This is not the case when you run. Though you will naturally run in this sequence, emphasizing the toe ball heel landing will slow you down. Lifting your knee with a flexed foot, positions your foot to land directly on the ball when you put it down underneath you. Your heel will follow.
Before our lessons, my run felt heavy. I put emphasis down/into the ground with every stride. Jesse encouraged me to think of the action as UP. Your foot is pushing off the ground rather than hitting the ground with every stride. Thinking “UP UP UP” immediately made my run lighter and stride longer. More time in the air gave me more time to propel forward and run faster.
While unplugging and disconnecting are many people’s go to answer to de-stressing, these days this isn’t always possible. Online, offline, at home, at work, in the gym, on the road… Stress is inevitable. As a professional dancer, I’m hyper aware of the fact that a stressed mind a stressed body go hand and hand.
Here are my methods to control the madness and cut the stress.
Tools of Torture.
Mental stress creeps down to my neck and shoulders first, then makes its way down to my mid and lower back. I keep a bucket of stress relieving fun next to my couch to pick up whenever I have a spare moment. Trigger points (knots) develop in your muscle tissues from physical, metal or emotional stress. I use a TheraCane or lie on tennis balls to massage these spots and increase blood flow. I like to use Rescue Cream on problem areas to moisturize my skin and relax my muscles as I iron out the tension.
Sitting still and taking 5 deep breathes helps me relax, but when I have time I like to float. Floatation therapy (sensory deprivation) is gaining popularity among professional athletes and those looking for complete and utter relaxation. In your hour long session, you float in a pool of water filled with 10K lbs of epson salt. This pool is enclosed in a pod or room that blocks all light and sound. Without distraction, you increase relaxation, creativity and clarity while decreasing stress and mind clutter. Note that the first time I floated, I was a mess. I was anxious I was doing it wrong and stressing about not de-stressing. It takes several times to achieve a peaceful Theta state of relaxation.
While any form of yoga or stretching helps me relax, aerial yoga really changes the game for me. In an aerial yoga class, you use a silk hammock to maneuver yourself into positions that suspend your body in the air and allow you to hang freely. There is a tourniquet effect created by wrapping the hammock around your limbs. Though uncomfortable in the moment, when you dismount the pose, fresh blood travels around your body and through your joints. This gives you an adrenaline rush and releases “happy” hormones like endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. All this boosts your mood and makes you feel more energetic, happy and stress free.
Sometimes it’s hard to pop into a deprivation chamber between meetings and unfortunately, the TheraCane doesn’t fit in my purse. My portable means of relaxation are herbal supplements like products from Rescue. Rescue Remedy is made of 5 of Bach’s flower remedies: Rock Rose, Impatiens, Clematis, Start of Bethlehem and Cherry Plum. I reach for an Elderberry Pastille (hard little gummies) to chill out during Los Angeles traffic from hell, to help focus at an audition or while learning choreography. I pack the dropper in my yoga bag and add a few drops of Rescue to my water bottle to enhance my relaxation and deepen my practice throughout class. The Rescue Plus Sleep gummies with melatonin have been key while I travel and adjust to sleeping in new places in new times zones.
This post was sponsored by Rescue, who was kind enough to send me some of their products earlier this year. I’ve since been able to find them at Whole Foods here in Los Angeles.
It’s a chewy nutty bowl of fall comfort. I am loving changing up my normal breakfast routine with these savory oats. Anything goes, especially when you dress the final product with flax oil to tie it all together. I keep it dairy free by use nutritional yeast, but I imagine it being next level with cheddar cheese! Enjoy.
Bring 1 cup of water to a boil
Add 1/2 cup of Steel Cut Oats and pinch of salt. Lower heat to simmer for 5 minutes until water is absorbed. Stir every minute.
Stir in desired amount of Nutritional Yeast (I added 1 T) or Cheddar Cheese for dairy eaters.
In a separate pan, sauté kale with olive oil. I like to let the kale rest in the pan while on high heat so it chars 🙂
Fry an egg, scoop and avocado, throw it all in a bowl.
Drizzle with Flax Oil. This ties the elements together and adds a delicious nutty flavor. Flax oil is packed with good omegas and fiber.
It’s really difficult for me to stray from my GO-TO Green Shake. It’s delicious and every time I think about making something different I get major FOMO. A recent attempt at #SugarFreeSeptember reintroduced me to some delicious low sugar fruits I had been ignoring. I worked up the courage to experiment with a new favorite.. kiwi! I’m super into the low-sugar tropical vibes so blend it up when you need something light and bright.
Adidas recently launched Adidas Athletics and its Z.N.E. line to help you #findfocus off the court or at the start line. This structured hoodie is thick. It keeps me warm and muffles the noise with the hood on. The pants are super stretchy and are loose enough to wear tights or shorts underneath. I’m a fan of this concept and this line, can’t wait to see more. I’m wear a small top, bra and pant. Links below.
Dance rehearsals are long and snacks are essential. They need be quick bites, easy to eat, non-bloating and energy packed. I recently teamed up with friend and fellow professional dancer Liana Blackburn to share a dance and a snack.
Liana, fresh off the road touring with Selena Gomez as dance captain, is the creator of a YouTube series called Daily Dancer Diet. Not only does she share my passion to dance but also to nourish our bodies with delicious, REAL food. We challenged each other to bring dance snacks that catered to both of our allergies and food intolerances. Liana: gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free. Meagan: allergic to peanuts/nuts (almonds ok) and fish. We danced and snacked the afternoon away full of energy. Of course these snacks aren’t just for your dance bag, they’re great for travel, at your desk, pre or post workout.
Meagan’s Dance Snacks
BERRIES: Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries. Berries are a no brainer- they are are easy to grab on the go, the sugar keeps your energy high and the antioxidants help keep your memory sharp.
ALMOND BUTTER FILLED DATES: Because of my nut allergies, it’s difficult for me to eat protein bars. Most bars contain a variety of nuts or are processed in a facility containing nuts. Barney Butter is an almond butter that is processed in a peanut free facility. That being said, most bars contain a few solid bites of protein, fat and sugar. This is essentially what these almond butter filled dates provide: The pitted date is packed with natural sugar and the almond butter carries the protein and fat. You can get creative and sprinkle some coconut flakes, bee pollen, or chocolate chips on top. The sky is the limit!
POPCORN: I’m addicted to homemade popcorn! It’s so easy. Coat the bottom of a pot with high heat oil like sunflower oil, coconut oil, or canola oil. Pour a layer of kernels to fill the bottom of the pan. Cover and pop until you hear a couple of seconds between kernels popping. I top mine with Flax Oil, turmeric, cayenne, salt and Nutritional Yeast. The flax oil and popcorn itself has a lot of fiber to keep you full as you burn calories while sweating. Turmeric and cayenne are anti-inflammatory and fire up your insides. The Nutritional Yeast contains the vitamin B12 to keep your energy up. This popcorn was left over from last nights’s Netflix and chill so I packaged it up and brought it to the studio.
Liana’s Dance Snacks
JICAMA WITH LIME: Jicama is so underrated! It’s a vegetable but its juicy, sweet and crunchy texture is refreshing. Liana explained that since the flavor is subtle, it takes well to anything you pair with it. She skinned the jicama, cut it into easy to grab sticks and smothered them with lime juice.. so good!
MARY’S GONE CRACKERS: Mary’s Gone Crackers are gluten free, dairy free and nut free. They’re jammed with fiber and are super durable so they wont turn into dust in your dance bag. Once a specialty item available at those niche health stores, these crackers are now on most major grocery store shelves and come in several delicious flavors.
I recently received a gorgeous pair of Sudio VASA Blå wireless headphones from my friends at Sudio Sweden. At first glance, these headphones are absolutely stunning. After living with them for the last couple of weeks, here’s my review.
Pro: Swedish design is stunning. Each pair comes with a chic matching leather pouch and rose gold clip to store and secure the headphones.
Pro: The sound is great, even my musician boyfriend approves. Sudio explains the headphones have a “tuned driver and amplifier. The combination of driver and amplifier is able to separate the sound of every instrument in every song, thereby giving the listener a true studio experience.”
Pro: Bluetooth/wireless aspect helps streamline my everyday activities. City walks and airplane rides are less of a mess and I don’t have to make sure my phone is within wire’s distance away.
Pro: The headphones are super light, I forget I’m wearing them. Sudio claims they are the lightest on the market thus far weighing 14g.
Con: Despite trying all four ear bud sizes that come with the headphones, they fall out when I jog, dance or workout. This was major for me as I continue my search for a pair of headphones that not only look and sound amazing, but stays secure even with extreme physical activity.
Overall, these headphones are chic and fantastic for all activities except working out.
Sarah Hall is my girl on so many levels. I met her while working on VH1 television show Hit The Floor where us 11 dancers were forced to draw straws to decide who got to sit in her makeup chair. For some perspective- 12 year old boy with severe acne would come out of Sarah’s makeup chair looking like Kim K on a good day. This Emmy nominated make-up artist is not only a former model, she has a bachelors in Biology, is a certified Nutritional Biochemist and Esthetician, and is also a wife and mother of two insanely beautiful children. Sarah is my go to on any skin question- what ingredients are good/bad in my products? what make up is ok to sweat in? will washing my face before AND after my workout dry it out? how do I get the mountain range on my forehead to flatten by tomorrow?
The number one habit Sarah pushes whether it be about my face or my body— you must exfoliate! “[Exfoliating will] enable the skin to generate new skin cells and open up the surface to allow oils to penetrate and increase nourishment,” Sarah explains. This makes so much sense- We spend so much money on fancy products, but debris aka dead skin can actually block their effectiveness. Exfoliating my face twice weekly and body once has made all of the difference. My skin shines brighter and any eczema flair ups settle quickly.
Sarah created Restoration Skincare and explains, “I believe in eating clean and not putting anything on my body that I wouldn’t put in my mouth. I like to feed my skin vitamins and nutrients to promote a healthy status and balance inside and out.” Though I love her Hydrating Mist and deodorant dispensed Body Butter Balm, the Sugar Body Scrub is definitely my favorite. I’m in awe of the simple ingredients: coco butter, coconut oil, raw sugar and vitamin E. I’ve noticed that after I use the scrub and pat dry, the coconut oil and cocoa butter subtly remains on my skin to moisturize it without feeling oily.
Sarah recently hosted a Restoration Skin event at Soule Spa. This Sunday Spa Day was equipped with a brow bar, oxygen facials, shoulder massages, and hand treatments. Naturally, I kicked off the event with a glass of rose accompanied by a plate of brie and brownies. I experienced a brow revolution with Candy who pointed out that my left brow was round and sloped downwards compared to my perky and pointy right brow. She evened me out and taught me how to fill my brows in to lift my face (tail end to center, then define the inside corner point). Candy used Restoration’s lavender hydration spray on a Q-tip to calm my freshly waxed skin which I loved because other calming oils and creams make me break out. Sarah gave me a hand treatment with her Brown Sugar Scrub which I was already sold on and my garden shoulder massage was heaven accompanied by Restoration clove body butter. I went home with a mini lavender hydrating spray and roll on body butter which will keep my skin fresh and dewing during a month of heavy travels.