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Cheesesteaks Don’t Need Steak: Lessons Learned at HLS

Posted Aug 22 2011 7:42pm

Steak Cheesesteak, Veggie Cheesesteak? Read on to find out ;-)

Over the weekend, at the Healthy Living Summit, I met more amazing and accomplished people than I ever thought was possible to fit in a room, tweeted more than I’ve ever tweeted in my entire life and discovered a new kind of bread to obsess about…

Oh and I learned that the Philly Cheesesteak tastes just as good without the steak…

I’d love to recap the entire conference for you, but per usual, I’m a bit late to the game, and I imagine you’ve probably read it all a few times by now. So instead, let’s talk about some of the lessons I learned at Healthy Living Summit 2011:

10 + 1 Sometimes Healthy Lessons Learned at HLS

  • I’m a bit….different: I know, I know – you’re probably thinking, “But Sometimes Healthy Girl, we’ve always known that,”  And my blog IS a bit different than some of the popular healthy living blogs out there. But never has it been more clear to me than at Healthy Living Summit. As people were discussing the attributes of chia seeds and the best brands of protein powder, I was sort of at a loss in contributing to the conversation.

Dear Drink Chia - Thank you for being a sponsor for HLS...and for introducing me to my first ever taste of chia seeds.

Never once have I purchased either of these products. It’s not that they don’t interest me. I’ve just never gotten around to giving them a try. I’m too busy livening my food with over-processed butter spray and Reddi Whip. I’ve always considered my style of eating quirky, yet accessible. Most of the foods I eat can be found at any local grocery store, and they are relatively inexpensive (except in NYC where a bag of lettuce costs $4).

Gold sponsor, Quaker Oats, provided lots of their latest granola bar - the Chewy Smash Bar. Now this was familiar territory.

However, listening to the conversations throughout the weekend and enjoying some samples from the Swag Bag ( Adora chocolate = life-changing) and the lunches ( Great Harvest Bread = addictive) made me realize it might be a good idea to expand my foodie horizons a bit. That doesn’t mean I’ll be breaking away from my Wacky Food Combos anytime soon, but it’s still nice nice to try new things and expand the ol’ menu every now and then.

Lunch sandwiched in between lots of delicious Great Harvest Bread...I lost count of the pieces consumed.

And it wasn’t just the food. There were other differences too. For example, while most people have posted 2-3 times about HLS by now, I’m just getting around to my first post. I need time to decompress – that’s just me, and that’s okay ;-)

I take a long time to write my posts...and I also purchase hometown baked goods and diet pop on breaks at healthy living conferences ;-) .

  • But…we’re all kind of the same: While I felt like a bit of an outsider in certain conversations, I connected with everyone’s core attributes: ambition, dedication and drive to succeed. Most of the women at this conference balance a full-time job, outside interests and family along with their blogs. And that’s not easy.

So many women, so many differences - all with one thing in common.

But I related to how they all do it: Passion. We all have a unique passion for writing, healthy living (whatever version of “healthy” that may be) and connecting with our readers. It was particularly exciting to meet bloggers who I read about every day and whose success inspires me to achieve more with my own blog.

Four women who inspire me every single day. Tina, Courtney, Lisa and Julie.

On Saturday night, I walked around Philadelphia and had dinner with a group of bloggers. On the way back from dinner, I chatted with Janetha and Bonnie about our reasons for blogging and how we mange it all. It was so interesting gaining perspective from two people who have been blogging for a while.

Bonnie doesn't have Fro Yo in Canada....She was excited to get her hands on some ;-) . PS Bonnie I owe you these pics - sorry it took me so long!

Conversely, on the way back to NYC, I had the pleasure of riding home with one of my new favorite bloggers, Jillian from Sprinkle Massacre (best blog name ever), and it was nice to be able to discuss some of challenges we face trying to balance our demanding NYC jobs with our passion for our blogs.

Jillian, an amazing talented blogger AND the best travel companion.

(Photo from Sprinkle Massacre)

  • Less Words = More Effective: I know – this seems a bit ironic coming from the queen of lengthy, some may say long-winded posts. But, Quaker’s keynote speaker Dawn Jackson Blatner’s , speech about action mantras really struck a chord with me.

Good question, Dawn...

She discussed how every action is preceded with a thought, and how we can create short “action mantras” to inspire our own readers. I absolutely loved some of the examples that she shared with us. My favorite was her mantra for patients who often engage in grazing/mindless eating (can you guess why?)

Table/Plate/Chair. Simple as that.

In other words, if I say these words in my head right before I walk in the door every night, it may help me from becoming a victim of Couch Monster /bag of pretzels/cream cheese tub.

I’m definitely going to think hard about what the Sometimes Healthy “trademark” action mantra should be. But for now, I’m borrowing from the wise wordsmith, Eminem. I’ve alluded to this phrase before – it’s even the title of my marathon playlist . It’s a short phrase from his hit song “Lose Yourself.” And it’s a phrase I repeated in my head over and over again during marathon training: Success is my Only Mother-F**** Option.”

Just let the great words of one...Marshall Mathers lead you to victory.

Given that I would prefer my mantra be PG, let’s change it to: Success is my ONLY Option. So, any time you feel like giving up on a run, a workout or even something job-related, remind yourself that giving up is NOT an option, but success is ;-) . It works – promise.

  • Goals Are Not Important: Okay…goals ARE important to an extent. But they don’t need to take over your life. One of the panels I attended was “By the Numbers” where  Tina , Beth , Janetha , and   Lisa talked about what motivates them in blogging health and fitness and the ways which numbers can help AND hurt you in all areas.

Hmmm. Numbers. How many TastyKakes and DD coffees will it take until I am no longer a healthy living blogger?

This was definitely an enlightening panel, because I’m guilty of letting numbers get me down, whether it be the scale or the number of readers of my blog on a given day. There was lots of helpful advice, but Lisa’s words really struck a chord with me. She said, “It is okay if you don’t have goals – live in the moment.” Such strong words, in my Sometimes Healthy opinion.

I know I tend to think if there isn’t a goal for something there isn’t a purpose. And that’s just not the case. Lisa’s statement reminded me of that. For example, I’m not quite sure of my goals with this blog at the moment, but I’m certain if I follow Lisa’s advice, it will take me somewhere special.

Hammin' it up with Lisa at sponsor, Frito Lays photo booth

And speaking of Lisa, she has been incredibly supportive of my blog since I started, and I just want to take a little moment to thank her for all the bloggin’ luv. Meeting Lisa exceeded my expectations times a million. She has an outlook on life that is both profound and infectious, and while she has such an incredible handle on the serious stuff, she’s also a blast to be around.

  • I Prefer Dogs Over the Liberty Bell: Well, sort of. What I really mean is that I MUCH preferred Brittany , Julie , Courtney and Heather’s presentation about rising above negativity in the blogosphere (and utilized Julie’s adorable dog, Sadie to relay messages throughout the powerpoint presentation) to our little excursion to the Liberty Bell.

Oh...so this is it?

I think it took us all of two minutes to view the Liberty Bell on Saturday night. (luckily we were all on the same page) I appreciate history as much as the next Sometimes Healthy Girl, but truthfully, when I’m visiting a new place, I’m more interested in experiencing the culture and the food (enter Veggie Cheesesteak) than the history.

Whereas I did a drive-by of the Liberty Bell, I could have sat in the room for hours listening to these successful bloggers talk about how they’ve dealt with negative comments and situations. I found their advice incredibly useful and now have some great ways to deal with negativity, if ever it becomes a problem here on Sometimes Healthy Living Blog.

Courtney and Julie chattin' it up.

Courtney (just as sweet in person, as she is on her blog Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life ) told some great real-life examples, and her ways of dealing with the situations made me admire her even more than I already did.

Julie used her dog to drive home some extremely effective points and made me laugh several times during the presentation (and of course, here I must mention that Julie is every bit as down-to-earth, energetic and kind as she appears on her blog that I read religiously).

The slides in the presentation had me laughing hysterically

And Heather, true to her form, made several statements that stuck in my head and will continue to stick with me for a long time. One of my favorites: “Before you say anything, ask yourself – is it kind, is it true and is it necessary?”

  • My Recipes are Wacky and WHACK: I’ve always known that my “recipes” are weird – that’s why I call them wacky. However,   Stepfani ‘s session on “How to Write a Better Recipe” helped me to realize that I could spruce up my recipes a  bit to make them more reader-friendly.

Americans would rather watch tv than cook...this is not shocking, but the stats are "food" for thought.

She broke down a recipe from the reader’s perspective and talked about the small elements that essential to making a recipe effective. I’m definitely going to keep her advice in mind moving forward.

Now, let’s keep it real, this is the Sometimes Living Blog, not Wolfgang Puck’s blog. I’m always going to keep a certain quirkiness to my posts, even the recipe posts. But implementing small changes to help out my reader is NEVER a bad idea. Keep me honest and let me know if my next recipe post (which is long overdue) is more reader-friendly.

Even my wacky recipes could be a littler more reader-friendly...but they'll stay wacky ;-)

  • Pity Parties Are Not Productive: You probably read a lot about the lovely 5K on Sunday, where everyone enjoyed a leisurely walk/run through Philly and posed in front of the LOVE sign.

Photo from HLS website...Sometimes Healthy Girl was not there.

Well…you won’t read about it here.

I woke up on Sunday exhausted and feeling a bit of pain in my foot from walking around a lot Saturday night. I think I knew the 5K was going to be more of a fun-walk than a run, so I could have easily participated. But, in my mind, the idea of half-limping a few miles and trying to keep a smile on my face was just too much.

So rather than join everyone in the 5K, I took the easy way out and went to the gym by myself.

I can sweat by myself ANY time...I should have sweat with everyone else on this day.

While I got in a good workout on the stairmaster, I ended up sincerely regretting it. Seeing the pictures from the 5K made me realize what a great time I missed. Plus, for a girl that reveres cheesy sports flicks , I cannot believe I missed the opportunity to run up the Rocky steps! Rocky = the king of all cheesy sports movies.

Dear Rocky: Sorry for letting you down - I promise I won't do it again.

Mission fail. Lesson here? Sometimes, you just gotta suck it up, no matter how you’re feeling on the inside. Yes, there was a little pain in my foot, but I could have walked the 5K without much of a problem. And, now I’ll always feel a little pang of sadness knowing I missed my “Eye of the Tiger” moment. Sigh.

  •  It’s Called “Stepping out of your Comfort Zone” for a Reason: Because…it’s uncomfortable.

Posing with some fellow attendees...steppin' out of our comfort zones.


I like to keep things light and cheerful here on Sometimes Healthy Living Blog, but as you all know, I also believe in keeping it real. So let me be honest with you: This weekend wasn’t easy for me in the slightest.

At times, it was just plain awkward. That is because as friendly and cheerful as I may appear, I can be extremely socially awkward at times. And there is nothing like attending a two day conference by myself to remind me of just how socially awkward this Sometimes Healthy Girl can be (I know several of us were in the same boat but that didn’t make it any easier).

It's not easy walking into a cocktail party without knowing a soul...But many of us did it.

Thank the lord for wine.

Awkward = sipping wine out of the "straw" and realizing it's a glow stick. Oops.

Admittedly, I quickly downed a glass at the Friday night cocktail Party at Reading Terminal Market  before introducing myself to Julie, Courtney and Tina (pictured above). I then promptly told them, “OMG, I was so nervous to meet you, I had to chug my glass of wine.” Smooth, Jamie. Good thing they are authentic little bloggers who are just as nice as they appear on their blog. Phew.

Soon after the cocktail party started, some of the bloggers and I connected on the pipe dream of raiding the "open dessert bar."

Throughout the weekend I had countless thought-provoking, engaging and inspiring conversations. And I cannot emphasize enough what an incredible conference this was (AMAZING job Meghan ).

However, while I did have a great time, there were definitely times where I felt out of my element. That’s  the point though. I’ll never grow as a person (and neither will you), if I don’t force myself out of the comfort zone every now and then. It reminded me of another mantra I repeated to myself while I was marathon training: If it was easy, then everyone would do it.

Lisa = firecracker. Always surround yourself with people that inspire you to see the best in yourself.

And, thankfully, when you do break out of that comfort zone, you meet people like Lisa, who in my Sometimes Healthy opinion, literally does not have a socially awkward bone in her body. Thanks for taking me under your wing and minimizing those awkward moments, Lisa ;-) .

  • Sharing is more Fun: I was lucky enough to go to dinner with a great group of bloggers on Saturday night. We chose Farmicia , since it had been highly recommended by several bloggers since the conference started.  With an emphasis on local, organic, simply crafted food, it seemed like a good choice for our crowd.

The interior of Farmicia - so warm and inviting, just like the people at our conference.

Bonnie and I just couldn’t decide between the Mega Dose of Vegetables and Grains (what a creative dish name) and the Tres Tamales…so we decided to share.

Sharing is caring...but sharing food is just plain smart.

Best.Choice.Ever

Why pick between this delicious dish and something else?

Simple, yet delicious is the best way to describe this food. I love veggies as much as the next healthy living blogger, but I never knew they could taste this good.

I wished a "Mega Dose of Vegetables" always tasted like this.

Both Bonnie and I loved the white bean salad, so we asked the waitress how the chef made it. Her answer? Just a small amount of olive oil and a bit of rosemary. Who knew you could get that much flavor out of a few simple ingredients?

Food wasn’t the only sharing that went on during our dinner. We also shared stories about some of our past triumphs and pitfalls with healthy living. I was truly moved to hear about all of the things people had overcome to get to this point. I’m a talker, and sometimes I forget how important it is to listen. I’m so glad I got the chance to learn from all of these amazing women on Saturday night.

Toasting to an unforgettable weekend and new friendships.

  • Sometimes I Waste Free Food: I feel really guilty about this one, but since I was surrounded by lots of mouth-watering free food all weekend, I noticed how I tend to “try a little of everything” when it’s free.

With such a delicious spread at Friday's cocktail party, I had to nibble on all of it!

At Friday’s cocktail hour, I just had to try the Cheesesteak Empanada. How could I not?

A Philly Cheesesteak Empanada dipped in carrot dressing...had to take a few bites.

But I admit, I only had a couple of bites.

Oh, and I just couldn’t resist making myself a giant bowl of oatmeal, complete with chocolate chips, bananas, milk, almond butter and more…

Oatmeal bars = healthy living blogger's dream.

Quaker sponsored an Oatmeal Bar for Sunday’s breakfast. Like all healthy living bloggers, I heart oatmeal, so, I couldn’t resist. But, I had other plans in mind for brunch (see below).

I only had two bites of the giant bowl of oatmeal…but I’m glad I saved room for later.

  • Real Men Eat Fro Yo: As you probably already, we had an exciting encounter with a recently engaged reality tv couple at Philly’s Sweet Ending frozen yogurt.

Of course I couldn't ask for a pic...so I creepily took pictures of others.

I think we were all pleasantly surprised with how sweet and down-to-earth Ashley and JP were. And perhaps more importantly, with how good-looking that JP was. What a looker! I would have asked if he had a brother, but my shy side took over. Sorry, mom.

Oh, and the frozen yogurt was pretty good too.

It wouldn't be a healthy living blogger post without some fro yo shots right?

So much so that we went back for another round after dinner on Saturday. It was no 16 Handles, but what is?

So there you have it – my lessons learned at HLS. Sorry for the lengthy post – once I start, I just can’t stop. I can promise you I gained a lot more insight than just how gorgeous winner of the Bachelorette is, but I had to pick and choose. Hopefully, I provided a good mix for you!

But, back to the Veggie Cheesesteak.

As I mentioned, although Quaker was kind enough to sponsor an Oatmeal Bar with a whole lot of fun toppings, I only had two bites. I had it in my head that I would eat the second cheesesteak of my life in Philadelphia (as you recall, the first was at the Yankees game last weekend).

Unfortunately, the schedule was pretty packed over the weekend, and since I was leaving at 11 AM with Jillian to drive back to NYC, it looked like I might not have a shot.

I rushed over to Reading Market and roamed around in hopes of finding a place that served cheesesteaks at 10:30.

The market was my last hope for cheesesteak glory before leaving Philly.

Sadly, the place I had seen the previous evening was closed.

I spotted this stand during the cocktail party...sadly it was closed on Sunday morning.

So, I roamed a bit more. I think roaming around markets is my absolute favorite thing to do when I visit a new city.  Because when you do that, you’ll surely stumble upon a hidden gem.

Like a stand that serves cheesesteaks for breakfast, lunch AND dinner. There were so many options, but I couldn’t resist the giant sign bragging about the “original veggie cheesesteak.” Sold.

The cheesesteak stand that defies meal times.

The cheesesteak took a bit longer than I thought – I was really cutting it close to the 11:00 planned departure. While I waited, the woman at the register asked if I was a vegetarian. I said, “No, I just like vegetables, and I’m a tourist, so I decided to get the veggie cheesesteak.” The answer seemed to satisfy her.

Watching my brunch cheesesteak take shape before my very eyes.

As soon as I took the first bite, I knew I had made the right decision. It tasted just like an original Philly Cheesesteak, with that characteristic choppy combo of Provolone cheese, sweet peppers, mushrooms and onions. Soy crumbles replaced the steak, and I didn’t even miss it. You all know I’m not the kind of girl to claim that I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter tastes like actual butter. Similarly, this didn’t taste EXACTLY like the steak version, but I thought it tasted just as good.

Along with the drive home with Jillian, it was the perfect way to end an enlightening weekend in the City of Brotherly Love.

So, cheesesteaks don’t need steak…and healthy living bloggers don’t need chia seeds.

But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it all :-)

And with that, I’m off to try something I’ve heard about a lot on all of my fave healthy living blogs. Spinach in a smoothie!

Expanding my horizons one spinach smoothie at a time. Next up - Sometimes Healthy Girl takes on Chia Seeds!

Wish me luck!

I’ll leave you with this hilarious sight I saw in the window of the Reading Market chocolate store.

Now, that’s what I call effective advertising…probably not the best idea for an “action mantra” though…

Question:

What’s one of your favorite new healthy food products and why? Perhaps I’ll give it a try!

Ever had any socially awkward moments? Feel free to share to make me feel cool.

When was the last time you were inspired?

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