Here it Comes Again. (& how to really start getting Healthier

It is a new year and those “lose weight in 3 weeks” diets are out in front of you in full force.  One I saw this week promised 14 pounds lost in 24 days by eating nothing but boiled eggs, vegetables, fruit and water.  Said diet hawker proclaimed that this combination would trigger fat burning and “detoxification”.  He/She/It left out the part about how that weight would be mostly water, stored glycogen and muscle; that this is a low calorie diet that would trigger weight loss not because of the magic combination but because it is low in calories; that the body doesn’t burn stored fat first when you subject it to a low calorie diet; that your body will down-regulate it’s metabolism; that the muscle you’d certainly lose would cause your body to need LESS energy/calories which means you will end up with a higher bodyfat % at the end of said diet and you will end up fatter when you stop said diet and eat something more; that your bone density will suffer; your skeletal muscle will suffer; your functional strength will suffer; your energy & joie de vivre will suffer; and you will deem yourself a “failure” when said diet fails you – AGAIN.

Losing fat is different than losing weight.  Our weight is water, muscle, bone, stored energy (glycogen), fat, undigested food and our hair. When we weigh ourselves, all that is getting calculated. Out of all that, the only thing I want to lose is the excess fat unless my hair is shaggy and I need a trim and my gastrointestinal tract will take care of that undigested food eventually.

I truly care about all of you or I wouldn’t be writing this, so forgive me when I say: I don’t care about how you physically look. Your beauty (your full package YOU) has nothing to do with how your body looks. I do care about how healthy you are now and for the rest of your life.  I wholeheartedly believe that if you have vibrant health and energy you WILL look awesome.  See how that works?  I also believe that if you focus only on how much you weigh and how quickly you think you can change your scale number that your health will suffer and you may not look or feel so awesome. But here is the thing: You will need to change up some things for the rest of your life, not just 24 days or 30 days or 120 days. Here is the other thing: those changes don’t need to be drastic, all at once and certainly don’t need to be ones that just don’t fit in your life.  Don’t do anything to lose weight that you won’t do for the rest of your life. Consistency with healthier food and exercise choices is what you need for the rest of your life, not random food restrictions and excessive exercise for a short period.

If you are reading this and thinking where do I start making these lifestyle changes –

Do this, consistently:

  • Drink more water every day.  Get yourself a 32-oz. insulated tumbler (stainless steel pretty much rocks!) and keep that tumbler with you. Take it with you in the car, to work, to the gym, keep it at your desk. Drink water with your meals.  Don’t leave home without it.  Aim to drink 2 of those a day.
    • Put a filter such as PUR on your faucet at home
    • If traveling, fill it up at a gas station using the “water” button @ the soda fountain. If asked (I’ve never been) – say I’m filling up with water – just filled up my fuel tank.
  • Eat a large salad with a variety of vegetables, some protein and healthy fat (olives, nuts, avocado, olive or avocado oil, egg yolk) every single day.   Make that salad large, filling, satisfying and delicious.
    • Salad is WAY more than iceberg or any other kind of lettuce. In fact, it should be. It can be a chopped salad or a slaw salad. Mix up your greens and vegetables. Throw in some fruit. Protein. Healthy fat.
    • Be mindful of what you use for dressing. The purpose is to dress your salad, not drown it.  Read labels. Better yet, make your own. Consider using cottage cheese to dress it (if you like cottage cheese).  Consider a dollop of olive oil or avocado oil mayo with a bit of sea salt.  Consider a squeeze of citrus and some olive oil.  Dress it.
  •  Get 30 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise each day.  Take a walk. Ride your bike. Dance & do bodyweight exercises to music – standing or sitting.  Jump on a mini trampoline. Walk around Lowe’s warehouse. Play tennis. Rake your leaves. Rake your neighbor’s leaves.
    • Turn off the TV, get off the couch.
    • Go outside and play basketball with your children
    • After 30 minutes – you will feel great! Our bodies are not meant to be sedentary.

Work on those new habits.  Do them consistently.   Once those habits are established, then add something else.  BAM!

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG. Get After It!

Avoid the Hump

That hump that you see on the upper back that is often called a dowager’s hump. A dowager’s hump is a severe rounding of the upper back. In older women, it is a sign of advanced osteoporosis; the result of compression fractures of weakened vertebrae. These fractures can be painful, although in many cases there are no symptoms other than abnormal posture. This change is not a “growth”; it is an alteration in the shape of the spine due to weakened, damaged bone.

So how can you avoid the hump?  By implementing osteoporosis prevention and bone density improvement measures via nutrition and weight bearing and resistance based exercise.

What are the Risk Factors?

  • Genetics– Women are more at risk, but anyone of thin build and of Northern European or Asian descent is at higher risk. Studies of mothers and daughters have shown that heredity plays a role in bone density. Men are not immune to osteoporosis. Bone loss is more gradual in men, but once they reach age 70 their risk for osteoporosis increases significantly.
  • Menopause– After menopause, the rate of loss of bone density and muscle increases.
  • Poor intake of calcium– Calcium intake in the diet plays a vital role in bone mineralization during the growth years and is essential to depositing an abundant supply of calcium into the bones as we continue to age.  In general, women over 50 need 1200 mg of dietary calcium; men up to age 70 need 1000 mg., then 1200 mg after age 70.
  • Lack of Vitamin D– Vitamin D plays a pivotal role in allowing the body to absorb calcium. Many people do not produce enough vitamin D or get enough from food. Vitamin D deficiency can be a problem for older adults and those who are homebound or bed-ridden.
  • Inactivity–A sedentary lifestyle promotes bone loss as well as muscle loss. Conversely, muscle use promotes the building of bone. Regular physical activity strengthens both muscles and bones, slows down bone loss and decreases the risk of injury from falls.
  • Smoking– The relationship between bone loss and smoking has been confirmed by numerous studies.

What Can You Do?

  • Eat more Calcium-rich foods
    • Dairy Products such as milk, cheese, yogurt (low sugar Greek & Icelandic yogurt will also provide additional protein)
    • Dark Leafy Greens
      • Collard greens; Kale; Spinach; Turnip & Mustard greens; Broccoli Rabe; Beet Greens; Bok Choy; Swiss Chard
    • Beans
      • White Beans & Black-eyed peas are the richest sources
    • Other Foods Rich in Calcium
      • Okra; Sun-dried tomatoes; Broccoli; Canned salmon & sardines (eat the bones); almonds; dried figs; oranges; tangerines; kiwi; rhubarb; dried apricots; dates; prunes; kumquats; mulberries; seaweed; sesame seeds; black-strap molasses. Calcium-Fortified orange juice.
  • Make sure you get enough Vitamin D
    • Vitamin D enhances calcium absorption and supports bone health. As we age, we lose the ability to synthesize Vitamin D. In addition to eating more Vitamin D rich foods, ask your doctor to routinely screen your Vitamin D levels.
      • Oily Fish is rich in Vitamin D & Omega3 fatty acids. Trout, salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, halibut, swordfish
      • Portabella mushrooms
      • Beef liver
      • Hard boiled eggs (the D is in the yolks)
      • Cod-Liver Oil
  • Eat Magnesium-rich foods every day
    • Magnesium enhances calcium absorption and supports bone health. Most adults are deficient in magnesium.
      • Spinach; Almonds; Pumpkin seeds; Avocado; Dark Chocolate (60% cacao or higher); Black beans; Banana; Lentils; Goat cheese; Broccoli. Cashews
  • In general, eat plenty of vegetables and fruit
    • Potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and beta carotene (found in fruits and vegetables) have been associated with higher total bone mass.
  • Be less Sedentary
    • Aim to be a mover, not a sitter. Turn off the TV and get up and do something! TV is a tremendous contributor to a sedentary lifestyle. Volunteer your time to a non-profit organization.  Get outside and take a walk. Go visit a friend and go to the grocery store and walk the aisles.  For more ideas on how you can develop of habit of Moving More and Sitting Less (even if you don’t leave the house) visit:  Quitting the Sitting @ www. QuittingTheSitting.org
  • Engage in Weight Bearing activities
    • Walking, Dancing, Weight Training, Bodyweight Isometric Exercises

Aim for 30 – 60 minutes; you can do it all at once, or in increments of 10 minutes throughout the day; start where you can and then build up to a consistent 30-60 minutes daily.

Practice Good Posture.  Stand and Sit up straight. Back straight; head neutral and shoulders back.   Don’t slump when you sit. Develop the habit of walking, standing and sitting with good, erect posture.   An exercise to practice daily:  Stand up straight, shoulders back. Shrug your shoulders up then bring your elbows back to bring your shoulder blades together.  I call that the Shrug-Stretch.  Practice it in front of a mirror so you can see how it is working.  It feels good, it works the upper back muscles and helps keep your scapulas (shoulders blades) in good shape and that contributes to better posture.

 

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It!

Oops! I ate a Pound Cake

One minute it was nestled in its covering of aluminum foil hanging out on the bottom shelf of my freezer, the next minute it was being sliced by a bread knife and then it was hanging out in my belly.  That slice was tasty, how about another? My boxer dogs were watching so they got a slice too.  Frozen pound cake has a really nice texture – who knew?  WAIT.  Why is that loaf now half a loaf?  Oh geez Louise.  More slicing takes place followed by a quick walk to the front porch where said slices are tossed to the cold wind for birds, squirrels, coyote (hey! anybody but me) to eat.

Did you get a good pic of this in your mind?  Have you ever done anything like this? YA. Me neither. HA! Yes folks, I ate a pound cake.  Oops!   It happens to the best of us.  Those darn frozen baked goods, just can’t trust them to stay put.

What did I do next? Did I pull my hair out? Thrash about beating my chest and crying woe is me?  Did I call myself a loser, an out of control pound cake eater? Did I pledge to drink nothing but water with a sprig of mint the rest of the day to make up for the pound cake train wreck?   NOPE.   It was a pound cake and shizz happens in life.  I don’t eat frozen pound cakes every day. Heck! I’ve challenged myself to eat more vegetables every day for goodness sakes.  So now what?

I wiped the crumbs from my mouth and went on about my day with awareness that what just happened, happened for a reason and I’ve got to fix it so it doesn’t happen again because let’s face it , it wasn’t one of my finer moments.   Although, it was pretty darn tasty.   Hey! it was pound cake.

So what happened?  Plain and simple, nothing mysterious at all.  No out of control addiction. Aliens didn’t take over my body.  I was HUNGRY.   I also love baked goods. If it is a cake or cookie I’m in love with it. I also know that said cakes, cookies and other “bread-like substances” or as I refer to them EBLS (extraneous bread-like substances) are my trigger foods and I will always be able to eat my body weight in them.

Hungry. If we allow ourselves to get too hungry, we don’t make great choices.  

Hungry and we have our trigger foods in the house = a train wreck waiting to happen. 

Where did I go wrong?  I went a bit too gung ho in my quest to eat more vegetables.  What I know about myself (and this is true for most individuals as well) that I must have protein, healthy fat and some fiber-rich carbs to keep myself satisfied and not hungry.  If I eat a big vegetable-only salad or a big plate of vegetables as my primary meal, I’m ready to eat the leg off the kitchen table (or a frozen pound cake) within an hour.  I know better, yet I screwed it up.  Some protein such as beans, a boiled egg, a chunk of cheese, some chicken and some healthy fat such as avocado, olives or walnuts would have turned my vegetables into a satisfying meal.  I simply didn’t eat enough. We must Eat if we want to make better food choices and have the body composition that we seek to improve or maintain.

Where else did I go wrong?  I broke my own rule. One that I established for myself, not because I’m weak, but because I’m Strong.  I kept a known trigger food in my house within easy reach.  Freezing doesn’t slow me down – I know that.  And yet, I got complacent.  We are all susceptible to our trigger foods no matter how well we’ve done with changing habits and making better choices.  I’m not a special snowflake. I knew better.   Don’t trick yourself into thinking that you can keep your poison in the house easy to grab and put it in the fast lane to your belly.   Don’t play games with it.   Be REAL with yourself about your trigger foods and choose to take control.  It isn’t weak to admit that you just can’t live with them under the same roof.  It is Strong to admit it and take action. With that said, I don’t ban my trigger foods from my life or my lifestyle eating plan.  I choose to not have them in my house.  If I want a piece of cake, I enjoy a slice of cake. I just don’t keep a cake in my house because I’m very REAL with myself: there is zero way I can keep an entire cake in my house and not eat the entire thing.  I’m in control and I get to choose who has the power. I choose me.

So, there you go.  I ate a pound cake.  I’ve learned, I’ve moved on.  No beating myself up or starving myself the rest of the day to “make up for it”.  After all, letting myself get Hungry was what led to the OOPs!

What is your OOPs! and what are you going to do about it?

 

Nutrition’s Role in Functional Aging

Nutrition. What is it? It is nourishment for our bodies and we obtain it from the food that we eat and it is critical for our health.  However, do you give it enough thought?  I’m pretty sure we all think about Food; how it tastes and what we like to eat, but I’m afraid that way too often we don’t think about the nutrients that our food supplies us (or not).  Our bodies are amazing and they can survive on pretty much anything we feed them, but can they Thrive?  Sadly, most individuals don’t think about their Health until their Health forces them to think about it. Now is the time.  Now is when we should be focused on what we are feeding our bodies, what we are giving our bodies as nourishment to Thrive, not just Survive.  Don’t wait until something goes wrong – do it Now.

What do our bodies need?  Food with nutrients: vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, phytonutrients, omega 3 fatty acids, and fiber.  These are substances that our bodies need to thrive, not just survive.  We find these nutrients in vegetables, fruit, unbroken whole grains, healthy fat from whole food sources and lean protein (animal & plant-based).  We should base our diet (the way we eat) on these whole foods. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is an across-the-board great dietary habit to get into since produce is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. The more colorful the better; Think dark green, orange, purple, yellow and red.

When it comes to your food, keep your food choices as close to their natural state as possible. For example: a  baked white potato has excellent nutrition while deep fat fried French fries are not such a great choice. Both choices are indeed potatoes, but the nutrition is vastly different.  French fries are an example of a treat food, not a regular staple of our diet.

Throughout life, we need to have a good foundation of nutrient dense foods in our diet. As we age (& especially if we want to age well) our nutrition needs are even more important and there are some specific nutrients we should be mindful of to keep our bodies thriving.  We are all aging every single day.  These guidelines are for everyone, but are especially critical after age 50 when bone density and muscle fiber density and strength decrease dramatically and we need to take extra effort with nutrition and exercise to push against the tide.

Calcium

We must get enough dietary calcium to maintain bone health as well as our muscles, nerves, heart, and blood clotting.  Low calcium levels cause bone to break down; post-menopausal women are at greatest risk and that risk increases 5 years after menopause.  In general: Women 50+ need 1200 mg/day; Men up to age 70 need 1000 mg/day; Men over 70 need 1200 mg/day.

Vitamin D enhances calcium absorption and supports bone health. As we age, we lose the ability to synthesize Vitamin D and we often need to supplement; ask your doctor to routinely screen your Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D-rich foods:  Oily fish (trout, salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, halibut, swordfish). Portabella mushrooms. Cod liver oil. Beef liver. Hard-boiled eggs (the D is in the yolks).  Oily fish is also rich in very beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids.

Dietary calcium, what are the richest sources?  Low fat dairy products (milk, cheese, Greek yogurt).  Beans (white beans & black-eyed peas are the richest sources). Dark Leafy greens.

The vegetables with the highest amount of calcium: Collard greens; Kale; Turnip greens; Mustard greens; Spinach; Okra; Sun-dried Tomatoes; Bok Choy; Broccoli Rabe; Beet greens. Other foods rich in calcium: canned salmon (be sure to eat the bones); almonds; dried figs; oranges; tangerines; kiwi; rhubarb; dried apricots; dates; prunes; kumquats; mulberries; seaweed; sesame seeds;  black-strap molasses.

Don’t depend on calcium supplements which may not be well-absorbed by your body. Instead:  incorporate more of these foods that are rich in Calcium and Vitamin D to your daily diet.

Protein

Protein is present in every cell of the body and is needed to perform a variety of functions from muscle repair to immune function to fluid balance.  Our bodies don’t store or manufacture the protein we need, so we must get it from the food we eat. Older adults have an increased need for protein to improve bone health, strength, function and muscle mass – all of which decline with age. In general, older adults need between 1 – 1.5 g per 1 kg of body weight.  To keep it simple: 100 lbs. of bodyweight = 50 – 75 grams of protein. Protein is found in a variety of animal and plant based foods; ensuring you are getting in a good amount of protein isn’t difficult.  Aim to have protein with each meal and snack.

Hydration

Older adults have lower sensitivity to dehydration due to a lower thirst sensation which in turn decreases kidney function.  Being mindful and staying on top of your water intake is vitally important. Get in the habit of drinking water throughout the day and take care to drink more water if outdoors or in a hot environment.  Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink water – get in the habit of keeping a tumbler of water with you at all times and drink regularly throughout the day.  Making water your primary beverage at meals is another way to ensure better hydration levels.   Water means water.  Since thirst sensation is low and kidney function may be impaired due to lower levels of hydration, don’t fill up on beverages that are not beneficial to your hydration.  In general, adults over 50 should aim for 3 liters per day.  A liter of water is 4 1/4 cups.   To make it easy, purchase a 32 oz. insulated tumbler and strive to drink 3 of those each day.   If you want some flavored water, try adding slices of citrus fruit, strawberries, cherries, cucumber or fresh mint leaves to your tumbler of water.

As always, if you have a chronic medical condition or are on prescription medications, consult with your physician about your specific dietary needs and/or ask for a referral to a registered dietician.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It.