Exam Express: Collard Wraps with Sweet Pea Hummus and Quinoa. And Is “Strong” the New “Skinny”?


As you know, it’s exam time for me (an Orgo exam tomorrow, and all of my finals finals about a week and a half later). This means speedy eats for me, and therefore speedy eats for all of you. In fact, “hurry up vegan” meals and snacks have been our theme as of late, and it seems to be working out nicely; rather than disappointing you guys with a lack of artistry, I seem to be pleasing you with the accessibility and speed of these meals. Win!

Last week, I showed you all a recipe for a spring tartine with sweet pea hummus. It went over well; in fact, a reader commented last night with the following:

These were amazing! I brought them to a family party and they were the only thing that there were no leftovers for. It was requested that I bring them to the next party too. Excellent recipe and I especially love that I have some leftover hummus to eat tomorrow! As always, thanks for another delicious recipe!

Hooray! I love when meals turn out like this. I like the hummus, too: so much that I ate up my leftovers quickly and am now on another batch. Yesterday, I also had some quinoa left over from my grape and avocado salad with baby kale and quinoa, so I decided to throw everything together in a collard wrap.


Quick, easy, and very delicious. One rarely thinks to put whole grains in a raw wrap—usually we put raw veggies in a grain wrap—but you know me. I like to keep things interesting.

So how do you do it? Easy!

  • 1 large collard leave, stem carefully sliced down (follow tutorial here)
  • 3 tbsp of my sweet pea hummus
  • 1/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • scant 1/2 cup raw vegetables of choice: I used cucumber, red pepper, and some arugula

Follow my collard leaf wrapping tutorial to put the wrap together.




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I’d serve 2 wraps with a nutrient dense salad: maybe one with 1/2 cup lentils or beans, assorted veggies, and a protein rich dressing if you’re seeking extra nutrient density (like my red pepper and hemp sauce). You could also serve the wraps with a small baked sweet potato, roasted vegetables of choice, or raw crackers. On its own, one of these wraps makes a great snack, and indeed I have taken a few to the library in the last few days for that very purpose!

Enjoy these; I certainly have.

Before I go, I wanted to mention a topic that Heather brought up in a recent blog post: the expression “strong is the new skinny.”


I asked you guys what you thought on my facebook page yesterday, and got a mixed response. I’m mixed, too. On first inspection, I love that the message presents strength as a goal to strive for, rather than weight loss or thinness. Hooray!

But in the context of the healthy living blog world, I wonder if sometimes rock hard abs and flexed biceps aren’t becoming yet another another unattainable ideal that is presented to us for consumption. I love exercise, of course, but I find the presentation of any one body type as a categorical ideal/goal—whether it is a thin body, or a body that is “fit” without explicit emphasis on thinness—to be troubling, especially since exercise itself can become compulsive, just the way dieting can.

Anyway, I don’t want to over-analyze the meme, which is likely just intended to excite people about exercise in a positive way. Exercise is healthful and important. But in the context of the blog community, and the many vulnerable readers who visit it, I do think it’s worth remembering that one can be toned without being healthy, and vice versa, and that no particular “trend” should drive the way we feel about our shape. Finally, I’d say that there is no single body shape that we should embrace as an ideal, except that of a healthy body that is treated with respect by its owner.

Happy Sunday,


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Categories: Side Dishes
Ingredients: Quinoa

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  1. there is no single body shape that we should embrace as an ideal, except that of a healthy body that is treated with respect by its owner.

    Beautifully expressed, Gena! I couldn’t agree more.

  2. I didn’t even know that photos of bodies are on Pinterest! I thought most people collected images of flowers, pretty pillows, and cupcakes! Shows how much I know.

    Personally, I don’t think anything should be the new skinny. What was the old skinny? Supposedly what every woman wants? What every woman should want? If so, it seems most people would agree that the “old skinny” was never a healthy idea for most people, physically or emotionally (aside from the few men and women who are just born that way). It was just an unrealistic goal promoted, in part, by culture and the media. I’m sick of being told what I should want! Especially where it seems that the new slogan is code for “you should be thin AND have ripped arms like Kelly Ripa.” Each of us has unique aspirations, and should have the freedom to move toward our own goals at our own pace. The focus on the physical seems to take us away from achieving our true potential as women.

    Great post!

  3. Gena, thank you for once again being “ahead of the curve”. Too often, exercise or food fads take over the blog world and I would be lying if I said some of them didn’t make me re-evaluate my own body image and/or diet.

    I adore what you said at the end about embracing a healthy body as ideal – I’ve written out the quote verbatim on a post-it which is now sitting on my noticeboard above my desk.

  4. Every time I see that on a poster or something it makes me cringe. So instead we are portraying something else for young girls to try and attain that well, just might be utterly unattainable? It makes me sick to realize the pressures we put on ourselves these days…

  5. I’m relatively new to blogging, so i’ve never actually commented on blogs, but this really meant a lot to me. I never really thought about how “strong” might be perceived before, but looking through the comments, as well as what you’ve written, I think “happy is the new skinny” is more appropriate. If you’re happy with your body, chances are you’re healthy-I’ve never really heard of an overweight person not try to change themselves to achieve a healthier structure. And if you’re happy with yourself, chances are, your body will reflect that. That’s just my opinion on it though.

  6. “I’d say that there is no single body shape that we should embrace as an ideal, except that of a healthy body that is treated with respect by its owner.”

    So well said. Just as we should embrace inner beauty over appearances, we should also look inward at our health instead of its external manifestation.

  7. Hello!

    Haven’t had a chance to read through the other comments yet, but I must admit that the strong is the new skinny moto does really bother me. It still has the propensity to appeal to the disordered minds and can be another driver for an unhealthy obsession. Plus, why can’t self-acceptance and loving your body in its natural state be the new strong/skinny? Why must we always be striving to change how it looks? Why can’t we move the focus away from how our body’s look and feel (i.e. strong) and just allow our bodies to “be”. Does that make any sense?

    Sorry, another rant is over! 🙂

  8. Good luck on your exams! I’m sending smart thoughts your way.

    I don’t really have a problem with the strong is the new skinny meme….I guess because when I first read it, I thought not of how a strong body looks but what a strong body can do. In my book, I guess striving for a six pack is the same as striving for skinny. I don’t really differentiate, because to me they are both about outward appearance. But that’s just my take on it.

    I have always thought that focusing on what a healthy body can do is a great way to develop a positive body image, so I can’t really say it’s a bad thing – I guess it all depends on how it’s marketed. (Which I haven’t looked into so can’t comment on at the moment.)

  9. I’ve mentioned this topic a couple of times on my blog and have seen it discussed on others too and really agree with the comments above that ‘fitspo’ might as just well be ‘thinspo’. For me and my body both are equally as unattainable and unhealthy. I’m still trying to heal my amenorrhoea (I’ve never even have a full blown ED or been an unhealthy BMI and still have it!) which my body is showing me has to be at a much higher weight and body fat level than some other women. All the stuff on Pinterest was making me feel so bad, even like a bad HL blogger! I do love visual inspiration so I’m filling my boards with images of larger but still healthy women to help me embrace a curvier aesthetic.

  10. Maybe I’m missing something, but I didn’t get the idea that “strong” has to mean “buff”, “ripped”, or even just “muscular”…and thus don’t think the meme is necessarily meant to promote a particular body type. After all, among the many definitions for “strong” in the dictionary is “of great moral power, firmness, or courage: strong under temptation.”

    That said, perception is reality…so if many you are linking an ideal with the phrase, then it’s probably not so good. I agree with those of you who would like to know: Can we just forego a “new skinny” altogether??

  11. “There is no single body shape that we should embrace as an ideal, except that of a healthy body that is treated with respect by its owner.”

    GENA, YOU AMAZING WORDSMITH! Indeed, in such a vulnerable society as ours we must be very careful with how we promote healthy choices and lifestyles. As soon as we cling to an ideal, we scrutinize the parts of ourselves that don’t meet the criteria. Thereby all self-respect flies out the window, making it nearly impossible to get back to a healthy mind-body. Well, that’s my experience at least. I recently heard this expression and it made lightbulbs go off in every corner of my head:

    “There are two ways to dehumanize someone: by dismissing them, or idolizing them.”

    We are all just humans doing the best we can, and it’s oh so so much harder without self-love! As always, a joy to read! Thanks 🙂

  12. I think there are various definitions of strength and what that looks like. I love going to yoga classes were there are men and women of all body shapes and sizes and the image of a Lululemon-clad woman with a “perfect” body and “perfect” poses is really more of a myth or rarity, at least at my studio. Body shape doesn’t dictate health or strength in my opinion.

  13. I hate fitspiration. I hate pinterist. I think that it’s just another slightly tweaked unattainable body ideal for most women, in the 80s bigger boobs were in, now flat chest is in for models. Women can’t control those things and can make them miserable trying to attain it. Strong comes at many sizes, but it’s not what most of those pinteresters are really going for. I do like collard wraps and I put cooked food in them sometimes too. Such rebels we are!

  14. You can only see a six pack if the person’s body fat is very low. So if “strong is the new skinny” is accompanied by images of women with big six packs, those women will have very low body fat!

    I weight train hard (almost to body builder level). I have a six pack and big biceps and triceps. Except you can’t see them because of my body fat on top (well, you can see my arms after I’ve worked them hard!). To get my six pack visible I have to lose a lot of body fat first. But the thing is, I’m not hung up about it and “visible six pack” is not one of my health/fitness goals. I’ve had two children and I’m actually happy with my mummy-tummy pouch! My personal goals are to put on more muscle and yes, lose body fat. But this is not to meet society’s idea of what is attractive. I don’t want to be ‘skinny’ but I do want my body fat reduced for health related purposes and also to show off my muscle definition more– not a vanity thing but it goes hand in hand with putting on lean muscle. I’ve worked hard in the gym and want to see it reflected in my body in the way I appreciate and admire body bulders because they are very disciplined and work extremely hard. Yet people consider this a vanity/wanting to be skinny thing. Wanting to lose body fat and see your hard work is not the same as wanting to be thin.

    I admit I hate the whole “something is the new something-else”, as if some central authority is dictating their ideals to us. Like in fashion, “grey is the new black”– I don’t like people feeling they can decide what is ‘in’, for others.

  15. Appearance has nothing to do with strong. That’s what I hate about the campaign. I do like promoting strength as a goal, but not the idealization of the super lean muscled physique, which, as you note, is also quite unattainable for most. I’m strong (just swam 1.2 miles, biked 56 miles, and ran a half marthon yesterday) but I’m not super lean. And that’s fine.

  16. I agree with many of the above comments re: “fitspiration” as triggering images for those of us in recovery. I am also concerned about the extremes of exercise, which has been touched upon here. I see more people (women in particular) over-exercising and exercising beyond the point of strength and health, yet it is not seen as eating disordered because our society praises daily (and to a great extent) intense physical activity. It is healthy to work your body and build muscle, but it is not healthy to be controlled by exercise or feel as though you must meet some physical goal regardless of the strain it places on your life, your organs and your mental health. Furthermore, you can be strong without looking sinewy, and can exhibit strength even if you don’t run marathons or go to thrice-daily spin class. Yes, getting zero exercise is a major problem for most people, and there should be a place in everyone’s life for fitness, but I’m concerned that our obsession with exercise has us overlooking its potentially destructive grasp on part of the population.

  17. I love collard wraps thanks to you!

    I also find the phrase problematic. In searching “fitspiration” or “thinspiration” on Pinterest, every pin promotes a certain ideal. Even if the message is good, such as “when you finish a great workout, you feel great about yourself,” the picture is of a woman with ripped abs and ultra thin legs.

    I take issue with most phrases relating to body image; I know Abby above talks about it in the post she linked to above, but I had to second the thought that the “real women have curves” phrase is just as damaging to me as any of these “thinspiration” quotes. I wish as women we could celebrate all body types and even more – the other amazing things we do that aren’t body related!

    I read a lot of HLBs, and I’m a runner and a yogi. I feel there’s a lot of value in the blogs and that I’ve learned a lot and And sometimes reading the blogs, even though they are “healthy living blogs” can be overwhelming/triggering because I compare myself to them. So to try to remind myself, I’ll say “I may not be able to run as fast, but at least I can run.” Or, “I might not be able to do that yoga pose, but at least I’m on the mat.” And to some extent I think that’s a good, healthy outlook.

    But I remember Susan from the Great Balancing Act once pointed out in a post that while going through treatment for cancer, she wasn’t healthy, she wasn’t strong. She couldn’t run. She couldn’t get out on her mat. I remember that really affected me. The lesson for me was that we are so much more than our bodies, no matter how they look or feel or how “healthy” we are. And that we should strive towards our dreams and being compassionate, passionate, and supporting others to reach theirs.

    • Definitely a beautiful outlook, Liz! “At least I can run”…very true. At a basic functional level, most of us can breathe without an inhaler, walk without crutches, see without glasses, and hear beautiful music! It’s important to appreciate that each cell in our body is our own, and how much all our cells can do for us when they work in concert! And to simply be happy for the cells we have.

      I, too, am a runner and yogi. A yoga teacher once said something in class that resonated deeply (this isn’t exactly verbatim): “We can take breaths and be extremely grateful that we have to opportunity to not only challenge our bodies, but our minds, and to explore higher conciousness.” Always be grateful 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  18. I love collard wraps! So excited to see the collards at the farmers market soon!

    Strong is the new Skinny just screams “you are not okay the way you are” to me. Get stronger, get harder, and you’ll be just as good as the skinny folks. I’m for pursuing health, without an image attached to it, because health looks different on every single person.

  19. Those collard wraps look fantastic! I can’t wait to try making the sweet pea hummus.
    I’m incredibly conflicted about the idea of “fitspiration”. Actually, the *idea* itself is great – but I think the biggest problem with it is the images attached. Almost every picture I have seen promoting “strong is the new skinny” has a very muscular but albeit skinny girl. Speaking from personal experience I can say that there are so many of us out there who are fit and strong, but cannot maintain that super muscular, toned, tiny physique without extreme dieting. Strong is fantastic – but I don’t think it should be defined with an image. I don’t think any ideal should be defined with an image, but in this day and age it’s incredibly hard to get around that. I do think that the truly strong can look beyond the image and just ‘be’, and treat their bodies well – with food and exercise, and it will be different for every person.

  20. i love the look of these wraps. I will try to make similar ones with nori sheets tomorrow, i much prefer them sushi style but if I ever find collard greens around here, I will give it a try too!
    I agree with the point that the new “strong” is yet another ideal in the healthy living community that is hard to achieve. Again it is striving for something (very often) unachievable and not realistic, at least when comparing yourself to someone you want to be and training to be as muscular, strong and healthy looking as that person. I think we should put more focus on individualism and point out the strong sides each one of us has- each one of us has different strengths and we should all be proud of them!

  21. Gena, thank you for addressing this. I’ve been on the verge of writing a blog post about this very topic, because it dawned on me, just in the past month or so, that I was kidding myself thinking that my desire to look like Zuzana or the Tone It Up girls was any different than wanting to look like Kate Moss. I have been beating myself up over the fact that I eat healthy and do intense workouts and still don’t look like these women. It’s the same thing I used to feel at the peak of my bulimia. You make such an important point….Thank you.

    And on a lighter note: Yeah collard wraps! : )

  22. I loathe this phrase! I’m so glad you and Heather are bringing this up, especially in the blogworld. The Pinterest/Tumblr “fitspiration” has gotten out of control and it just masks more disordered body image. I know I used fitness blogs for the same thing – wanting to control and perfect my body into a societal ideal. These sights are still promoting the sick idea that we have to look outside ourselves to gain health, when really, it has to come from within.

  23. Good luck on your exams! And I have mixed emotions on “strong being the new skinny” too. I agree with you that being strong doesn’t make someone healthy just the way being skinny doesn’t either. It sounds like a good message, and maybe we are reading too much into it, but it’s true that any addiction is unhealthy, whether it’s striving to be skinny or to have that unrealistic perfect body. It reminds me of a great line in the documentary, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead where one of the characters was on a juice fast to lose weight, but after awhile it wasn’t about that anymore and he said that from now on it was all about just being, “healthy, healthy, healthy”.

  24. This look delicious!!

    Not a fan of those sayings, I see them a lot on Pinterest.. Just makes me feel uncomfortable. I don’t know, it’s weird! It’s always something we HAVE to be: skinny, fit, curvy, like if you are skinny, you aren’t good enough now. I strive to be healthy and ME! I want to be ME! 😉 I love exercise too, but I don’t need to fit into a box because now being fit is “in”. Just my thoughts.

  25. Just read a few more comments. It’s good to hear your perspective on this, Ela. I don’t think I agree with healthy is the new skinny either, because some of us will never be totally healthy. I have a thyroid disorder and have to take medication every day for the rest of my life. I tried every other option first and nothing worked. I will never be totally healthy and I suspect that there are a lot of people like me. Jamie made a good point, however, any message can be obsessed over and taken in the wrong context. I’m loving all of the great comments!

  26. I agree with both you and Abby- there need not be an ideal body type. I’m one of those girls who will never be skinny. It simply is not my body type, the proportions just aren’t there. I’m in no way complaining, I have a great body- a great, muscular body. In highschool, there were times that I felt bad about myself because the only way I could stay slender was with muscle. I envied those gorls who were sticks, but at the same time they envied me because they had a hard time building muscle no matter what they did. When I saw this, I couldn’t help but to think that, even if it was subconscious, this was a way for women like me to comfort their old high school selves. At the same time, however, those people who are natuarally really skinny and have a hard time putting on mass or simply do not enjoy spending hours a week in the gym, are probably made to feel bad about themselves by this meme. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it due to my personal experiences, but that’s my take.

  27. Happy Sunday to you! You made me smile by pointing out the “inside out”-ness of grains wrapped in a veggie.

    As always, you give me more reading and food for thought. I’ve seen “strong is the new skinny” on Lori and on Lori&Michelle’s blogs. It’s always made me feel somewhat alienated, I have to say. As we’ve discussed before, I don’t build muscle easily (perhaps due to celiac and poor absorption, poor adrenal function, hypothyroid, who knows..) and even at my strongest I’ve never looked “ripped” by any stretch.

    So, more so than the “skinny” goal, it invites me to push toward something unattainable and hence feel dissatisfied. Additionally, the rebellious side of me is so adamantly wedded to “skinny”–for me, not for anyone else, and whether or not I’m actually skinny at the time–that the meme just underscores my feeling of “otherness” and makes me think “not for me!”

    I hope those comments aren’t triggering–I’m just being honest, with myself as well as with you. Abstractly, just how an independent-minded person responds to a meme that aims to prescribe a goal.

    Good luck with your exams and preparations for them!

    • Ela I do not mean to be rude or anything, but do what to clarify…we have never said strong is skinny!!!! ever!!! we say strong is sexy. different things. We appreciate your comments and support, but did what to clarify this. Looks like we will have to a post on this topic as we think people are getting the wrong opinion. sorry about that. and Ela you are beautiful and strong just the way you are 😉

      • Ladies:

        Just to be clear (I know your comment was directed to Ela) I just joined Pinterest this week and didn’t have you two in mind with the post. It’s a general thought (spurned on by Heather) about the idea of fitspiration, but I certainly don’t mean to single anyone out! Heck, the fit trend has been part of the blog world since I’ve been a part of it, and I’ve always had mixed feelings.


  28. I totally agree w/your perspective on body image and how focusing on a physical ideal – any ideal – can easily lead to unhealthy/obsessive habits, especially among us prone to a perfectionist mindset. Moderation and enjoying the process and benefits of exercise, without regard to a specific physical outcome, keeps things in check for me.

    Lots of luck tomorrow, Gena! xo

  29. Thanks you for this! I think the whole strength>skinny shtick is fantastic, but blogs seem to be referring to physique when discussing it and then proceed with a bunch of “progress” photos of them trying to obtain rock hard abs, eating grilled chicken and broccoli for dinner, etc.

    I would love to see more talk of strength being a positive mental attribute; having strength in your beliefs, attitude, confidence, so on. Otherwise, in the end, strong being the new skinny really isn’t a new frame of mind, it’s still a way of achieving a certain body type.

  30. I’ve also grappled with my thoughts on the “strong is the new skinny” messaging. On the one hand, I definitely feel that the expression, especially when accompanied by images of fitness competition-type bodies as it often is, can bring on an exercise obsession and create a, perhaps unrealistic, standard of what is good enough in terms of our bodies and workout regimens.

    However, ANY message can prompt an obsession. Even seemingly innocent messages about living a life of balance can create an obsession with achieving perfectly harmonious balance in life.

  31. I think healthy needs to be the new skinny. Healthy is different things for different people due to our own bioindividuality. Once people stop trying to compare themselves so a socially imposed ideal we will all become more healthy and self accepting.

  32. To be honest, I’m over people saying anything is the “new” anything when it comes to body image and acceptance. I’m not pimping myself out here, but the link below expresses my thoughts and had a great discussion in the comments.

    Why does anything have to be held up as the “ideal” when it’s impossible for a majority of people to look that certain way? While I appreciate the fact that strength is accepted and encouraged, that is also not possible for a lot of people, just as being stick thin isn’t possible for others. By excluding naturally thin people as not fitting the “new” ideal, it’s just as demeaning as saying thin is in or large is preferred or any other body generalization.

    So while I agree that strength is most certainly something to strive for over skinny for the sake of skinny, I think health–physical and mental–should be the “new” thing, and stay that way forever. Wishful thinking, but we can encourage it with our language and our own acceptance of others–at any size.


    P.S. Good luck on your exams!

    • Thanks for sharing the link, Abby! I’m going to mention it on Facebook and link back, too. I think you were spot on about this very topic: the very dangerous glorification of any single type of shape.

      • No big deal and you don’t have to mention it, as I didn’t include it to pimp myself out, but it basically said everything I feel about the topic (and I’m too lazy to repeat myself here.) 😉

        You have incredible readers and although the topic frustrates me and I usually tend to ignore it, I appreciate such educated and insightful conversation as usually happens here!