Nutrition with the BUFF BRIDE

In our interview with Christen, our BUFF BRIDE, we talked about nutrition and how she’s handling nutritious and sustainable eating while getting in her best shape ever.  Christen and her trainer, Jordan swear by the tracking website and app- “My Fitness Pal”.  It’s a simple way to track how much you’re taking in verses how much you’re burning off every day.  The end result is a better understanding of how much your body truly needs to have a great, energetic day and fuel the workouts that you’re doing.  

We reposted this very nice review and explanation of My Fitness Pal from , which tells you exactly what it offers, how it works, and it’s pros and cons.

Check it out yourself at

My Fitness Pal is a straightforward, simple diet and fitness tracking website perfect for the person who wants basic features without a lot of bells and whistles. The site offers a food diary, an exercise log, a few simple tools and a community forum for asking questions and getting advice. My favorite feature is the ‘Quick Tools’ option which allows you to quickly enter calories, previous meals or recent exercises and workouts. For exercisers who want the basics without much detailed analysis of diet and fitness goals, My Fitness Pal is a good choice.


Price: Free


  • A food diary and searchable nutrition database that includes thousands of common foods
  • A diet analysis that shows a breakdown of calories, carbs, fat and protein
  • A recipe builder that allows you to create your own recipes and even submit them to the My Fitness Pal database
  • An exercise log with a searchable activity database and the ability to add your own exercises
  • Quick Tools that allow you to easily enter calories or copy meals and workouts from previous days
  • Downloadable reports showing your nutrition and fitness progress
  • A variety of helpful tools including a smartphone app and BMR, heart rate and recipe nutrition facts calculator
  • A community forum to share experiences and get advice from other exercisers

The Basics

Food– The Food section includes your diary for the day, listing your meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Entering foods is as easy as clicking on a link and searching the database, which includes a wide variety of foods. The calories are immediately added to your chart, along with a breakdown of calories, carbs, protein and fat. The standout feature here is the Quick Tools option. In this menu, you can opt to add calories to your diary without having to enter other information, which is a godsend if you’re like me and wait until the end of the day to track meals without your labels handy. I also like the ability to remember meals or copy all your meals from the day before.

Exercise– The exercise section is a bit spare, showing your cardio and strength training workouts for the day. Adding exercises works the same way as in the food section. You click on the link, search the exercise database, enter the minutes you exercised and the activity is added to your list along with estimated calories burned. The set up here makes it easy to add strength exercises, which can get tedious if you have long workouts. Once you enter a strength exercise, it pops up on the screen the next time around, so you can easily add the moves you do frequently.

Tools– The tools section is also a bit spare, offering fitness calculators (BMI, BMR, heart rate and nutrition) and other things like weight loss tickers and badges for your website.

Community – My Fitness Pal offers several forums where you can post questions and answers about weight loss, success stories, motivation and more.

Pros and Cons


  • Easy to Use– My Fitness Pal is one of the easiest tracking sites I’ve tried. I love the ‘Quick Tools,’ which allow you to enter just the bare bones or copy meals and workouts without having to go through the databases.
  • Simple– I also loved the simplicity of My Fitness Pal. Plenty of fitness websites offer so many tracking and reporting options, it can get overwhelming. My Fitness Pal allows you to track the basics without a lot of extras.
  • Straightforward Tracking – My Fitness Pal is great for getting a broad view of how many calories you’re eating vs. how many calories you’re burning.


I don’t have many complaints about My Fitness Pal, but people looking for more detailed reports and analysis of diet and exercise goals may find it falls a bit short. There’s no real information about what exercises and workouts you should be doing, which may be a problem for people who need a bit more guidance. You also won’t see a breakdown of your diet – no details about fiber, vitamins and minerals, etc., although you do see calories, carbs, fat and protein.

Overall My Fitness Pal is one of the easiest diet and fitness tracking websites out there. It only took minutes to sign up, add a few meals and exercises and get a quick breakdown of my calories in vs. calories out for the day. For people who don’t want to spend a lot of time entering details or looking at reports, My Fitness Pal is a great choice.

Chloe and the T-Shirt Baseball

Chloe Markowitz is our Director of Youth Programs at the Y.  Besides being great to work with and amazing with our afterschool and youth sports kids, Chloe holds a masters degree in Clinical Mental Health, speaks Spanish as well as English, and is as well traveled as anyone we’ve ever met!  We’ve reposted a blog that she wrote for the blog ‘global circle’, about a service trip that she took to southern Nicaragua.  It’s a touching and interesting read, and tells you a lot about Chloe!



T-shirt Baseball Memory Making


Rutgers students travel to Nicaragua with AJWS Alternative Break program.

On a trip to India a few years ago, my sister, mom and I took a seven-hour drive to Agra to see one the great wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal, and it was the biggest upset ever. No offense to the architects, as it is a masterpiece, but on our visit it was cloaked in a thick blanket of fog making visibility utterly impossible. Disappointed, feeling like we wasted our precious vacation time, we got back in the car and drove another seven hours back to Delhi.

Fast forward a few years, and I am standing in the heat of the midday sun, breaking from my worksite, playing a pick-up baseball game with some new friends. The players are from an American Jewish World Service Grantee organization, Servicios Medicos Comunales, located in Boca de la Montana of Southern Nicaragua. I am serving as the Group Leader for a week-long AJWS Alternative Break Program with 14 spirited Rutgers students, when I realize that this is my Taj Mahal.

Our task is to work on the construction of a vital Adult Literacy Center. Every day we wake up at 6:30 a.m., eat a breakfast of rice and beans, sing a working wake up song and go off to the worksite to mix cement, haul buckets of water, and hammer wooden beams together. On day two, I notice the workers ripping up an old t-shirt and crafting it into the shape of a ball. It seems that they are prepping for their lunchtime activity, the great Nicaraguan pastime, baseball. I ask Gyorgi, the boss, if we can play too, even the female participants, to which he replies, “Claro, es para todos!” Of course, it’s for everyone! And thus begins a new tradition. The first inning is Rutgers VS. Nica. We fumble with the homemade bat and the t-shirt ball (which turns out to be just as good as a regulation made ball), so I suggest that we mix up the teams because we are getting our tuchuses kicked. One by one we learn nicknames through play, Machillo, Wifi, Chantifla, Chato, Sin Sangre, and even the boss, Gyorgi, of Bulgarian origin, who is known as El Bulgaro, gets into the action. We are even bestowed with our own nicknames. I am affectionately called “La Flijey Flijey” after a girl they know who is always smiling.

Hence every day forward, we build wooden beams and we play baseball. (I mostly just watch in subsequent games as I am more of a cheerleader than an athlete.) One of our participants who does not speak Spanish, Zach, is so taken with their ingenuity and creativity of making a baseball from scratch that he learns the technique. He even decides to make a baseball for them as a parting gift, and a stand out of old wood scraps. It takes him two hours and many blisters to finish, but it’s beautiful and full of heart. He asks every participant what the plaque should say and we all sign it and present it to the workers on our last workday. The Sabbath rolls in and we all breathe a sigh, our first chance to rest.

Hand crafted bat signed by all the workers of Servicios Medicos Comunales

The men still work on Saturday and, at lunchtime, Chato comes to ask me to join them in the workshop as they want to say goodbye. Our site supervisor, Edgar, who has had the patience of a saint over the course of the week as we learn how to hammer, presents our group a meticulously carved and lacquered wooden plaque with two baseball bats intertwined. Each of the men has signed it. My eyes mist as they explain that the two bats signify our bond, intertwined and connected in our work and commitment to their community. There are no words, just hugs and the hopes that each one of us will return to see the center finished.

The great travel writer Paul Theroux once wrote, “Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” This has become my travel mantra as I feel that truly great travel is serendipitous and cannot be measured by checking things off one’s list. We didn’t know at the outset that baseball would fill in the gaps where language could not, but it definitely made for one heck of an adventure.

Chloe Markowitz is a graduate of the Hunter College School of Social Work where she received a Masters in Clinical Mental Health. She currently works as the Director of Youth Programs at the 14th Street Y. Chloe is an alumni of the AJWS Volunteer Corps and is one of the founders of Global Circle where she serves as the Nominations Chair.

Interview with the BUFF BRIDE

 Have you met Christen?

Christen, one of our vibrant young members is getting married this autumn.  She’s been delightful in letting us blog about her workouts at the Y- aiming to be in the best shape of her life for her  wedding. I recently sat down with Christen to ask her how the BUFF BRIDE program is working for her.

The Y-  Hi Christen.  Thanks for speaking with us today

Buff Bride- Sure!

Y-So first let me ask you how you’re feeling so far?

BB- I’d say I’m feeling good about it.

Y- I’m glad to hear that.  How many times are you working out per week. Is it twice?

BB-Twice a week, yes.  Right now it’s Wednesday and Friday mornings.

Y- You know, one of the things I was most impressed with was the assessment.  I really- it’s been a long time since I’ve done personal training myself. But I was so impressed with Jordan‘s attention to what your body can do, that he wanted first to find out about it.  Where he could most help you be more balanced and fluid.  Had you experienced that before?

BB- I have had personal training before, yes.

Y-was it as much focused on balance and alignment before?

BB-Jordan is really good about really making sure I’m aligned and  balanced and stable.  It’s great.

Y-What changes have you noticed so far from the workouts? Anything different?

BB- I mostly feel better. My general mood is better.  Making a point to work out 3 or 4 times a week makes me feel, I don’t know, just better.  I don’t know how else to describe it, but I feel I’m in a groove and happier.

Y- Do you find that in your life it helps to have a discipline about something?

BB-Yes!  I work best when I’m in a routine.  This forces me to go to the gym at least twice per week, and then make a plan to go at least two more times a week on my own.  This really fits my life.

Y-Excellent.   Would you say that having the appointment, knowing that someone is waiting for you help your routine at all? I keep thinking that if I had a buddy at Yoga I’d show up more.

BB-Yes, definately…working out with my friends for Yoga at the Y  helps a lot.  We’ve actually been doing that for almost two years.  I find that I’m not nearly as motivated if my friends can’t go.

Y-which yoga classes do you go to now?

BB-We love the Monday and Wednesday night yoga classes with Laura.

Y- What do you like best about Laura’s  classes?

BB-Monday is definitely easier.  I like that it eases you into the week and is an hour.  It’s good on a Monday because you can relax and unwind after a busy start of the week.  Wednesday is more intense and a challenge on a day when you’re ready for that….and of course it’s longer too.

Y–Yeah, sure…I’d actually forgotten that!  But wait, aren’t you working out Monday morning and then doing yoga at night?

BB- (laughs) I haven’t actually done that yet.  Ideally I’d like to but it hasn’t worked out yet.

Y-I don’t know…that seems pretty intense to me, to do both.   It would be for me.

BB- yeah…I’m figuring how to get that 3rd  strength training in per week and still make it to yoga.  Last week I did the 3rd strength routine at night and skipped a yoga.

Y-It’s always a work in progress to figure how these things fit into a busy life.

BB-yeah, true.

Y- Are you reading the blog at all?

BB-I do!  And my friends always let me know when there’s a new one.  They love it.

Y-Good.  I actually tried your workout myself.  The circuits, the yoga warm up.  By the time I got to the elliptical my muscles were so wiped. I was tired!  How did you do that?

BB- We’ve been starting with the elliptical lately.  It helps wake you up. It also helps having Jordan there.  He pays attention to what’s happening so I don’t have to switch the levels myself.

Y-Hmm.  Maybe that was my problem.  I was NOT smooth.  But even two days after I was sore.  I work out fairly regularly and this was a challenge.  So one other thing, what’s the most challenging thing about this?  Is there something particularly difficult about the experience?

BB-The biggest challenge is waking up and getting into the routine of this.  It’s a change, the timing.  But I like the morning, once I’m up and on my way I really enjoy it.  I don’t have any excuses.

Y- would you say the best part is actually having that routine, having the lifestyle?

BB-Yes, I am a very disciplined person.  once I get comfortable with a routine I can function well within it.

Y- I think maybe that’s the best part about a sustainability, you know, not just for the earth but for your body and life.  It’s really about getting into a system that works for you.

BB- right

Y-I’m so glad it’s working for you, Christen.  I could have called and found out that you hated this.

BB- (laughs) No, it’s definitely good for me, I need someone there.  Having him there makes a big difference.  So glad I have the opportunity!

Y-We’re glad you’re doing it.  You know, there are times when I’m working out myself and I really want to get into shape, and the thing that trips me up is the eating part.  The nutrition part.


Y-I was reading a blog from a fitness queen with amazing abs, and she was saying that it’s so easy to eat well, just eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible, eat 6 small means, low fat when you can, and the rest falls into place!  I thought, is it really that simple?  Are you finding that to be so?

BB-(laughs)  Again, it’s about  routines that I find work for me.  I get used to my go to meals,  my banana and oatmeal in the morning, things like that.  Um, I don’t know.  I was on Jenny Craig for awhile and now I’m finding how it works on my own.  I’m doing ‘my fitness pal’, which has helped track what I’m eating.  But once I’m in a routine of bringing the right snacks from home, I find I’m in a pretty good place.  At least for the weekdays.

Y-What trips you up?  Is it weekends?

BB-Yes!  weekends and going out to dinner with my friends.

Y-Christen, I think that everyone who reads this will agree with you.  It’s the social aspect, the few drinks, the dinners with friends.

BB-Yes, even minimal social drinking.  I try to make it a point to only drink one day per week.  If I’m strict with that I can allow myself a splurge on the weekend.  I can afford the calories.

Y- So overall, do you think that this plan is sustainable?  Is it a marathon and not a sprint?

BB-It is.  Morning is the time I workout now.  I am making the time to do it, and it feels like something I can go forward with.

Y-I’m really glad to hear that.  One of the things we wanted to do with this was provide inspiration for our members by seeing someone make a plan and stick to it.  So on that note, can I come by and take pictures of your workouts sometime soon, and share them on the blog?

BB-Sure!  We workout at 6AM.

Y-6AM? Okay!  I’ll take the early shift and be there, and I promise not to hover!