Aging In Place

Is having the ability to live in your own home and community safely, independently and comfortably something you desire for yourself?  Personally, this is a primary goal of mine and I’m passionate about coaching others on how to maintain their health and functional strength to the greatest extent possible as they, inevitably, grow older.  Aging in Place is the ability to live in your own home for as long as you can and it is something that you work on starting right now, no matter your current age.

What are some obstacles to Aging in Place?  What are some reasons that individuals must leave their homes for Assisted Living or Long-Term Care facilities?

  • Poor Eyesight and/or Hearing
  • Reduced Muscle Mass/ Less Strength
  • Diminished endurance and stamina
  • Increased risk of accidents due to bone fragility, poor balance, loss of strength
  • Decreased mobility and agility
  • Decreased flexibility

The above-listed obstacles compromise our ability to perform Basic Activities of Daily Living.

  • Ability to move (walk) from one place to another as you go through daily routines
  • Getting in and out of bed
  • Getting in and out of a chair
  • Showering/ Bathing
  • Toileting
  • Personal hygiene.  Oral, skin and hair care.
  • Getting dressed
  • Preparing meals including cleaning up after meals; shopping for groceries
  • Self-Feeding

In order to successfully and safely live independently, we must have the functional capacity to perform the Basic Activities of Daily Living.   What can we be doing now to help ensure that we can be as functionally strong as possible as we age no matter what age we are currently?  Obviously, the sooner we start the better off we will be, but it is never too late to work on these things: 

  • Improve and Maintain your overall Functional Strength and Muscle Mass
  • Improve your Flexibility, Mobility, Balance and Coordination
  • Maintain and Improve your Cognitive Health 
  • Improve your Cardiovascular Fitness 

Exercise, Nutrition, Hydration, Social interaction and Mental stimulation are areas to focus on and are things that we can do, right now.   Watch for my upcoming blog posts  for real-life, realistic things you can start implementing to help yourself live a happier, healthier and more independent life.  There are many things in life that we cannot control. However, there are many things that we can.  Let’s focus on those.   

Stay Healthy. Be Strong. Get After It. 

Music, Movement & Joy

Music.  It makes us happy or it makes us cry – depends on the song and what emotion it evokes.  Music connects us to memories.  We sing if we hear a song even if we are not good singers. We tap our toes, snap our fingers, we move our arms, legs,  heads, or our entire bodies.  I’d be surprised if we consciously make a decision to do any of those things – we just do it.  The music moves us.

So why was I so surprised a few weeks ago when something truly WOW happened?  The best way I can describe it:  Pure Joy.   It made my day, week, month, maybe my year.  It is leading me on new path. What happened?

I lead senior adult fitness classes. I work with older adults to improve their cardiovascular system, functional strength, balance, core strength  – it’s what I do.  I’m passionate about helping others stay healthy, strong and independent as they age.  Music is always part of the workout because music makes us happy, encourages us to move and it sets the tempo, the mood.   The training I’ve done, the fitness classes I’ve led have always been with active adults in a studio setting  – they come to me.  Until recently.  An opportunity crossed my path recently to lead a Saturday morning class in an Assisted Living facility and my intent was to lead a “structured” class which is “how things are done”.  I quickly discovered that that isn’t the case when you are working with much older adults  and/or adults that have varying degrees of dementia. So I do what I do:  I winged it – made it up as I went along – I let the music guide me.

I’d been with these awesome ladies for about a month.  Participation was low.  It was “exercise” class and most folks stayed in their rooms because you know:  Exercise.  The few who were participating were marginally participating; others were with me physically in the room, but not mentally.  The morning that “it” happened, after 15 minutes of a “no go” morning, I told them we’d play “Name That Tune”.  They name it, I’d play it.  Someone asked for Elvis.  I played Elvis. Toes were tapping.  More Elvis.  More toe tapping and fingers keeping beat against chair arms.  Doris Day “Everyone Loves a Lover” got fingers snapping.  Ladies were leaving their rooms with their walkers to come see “where that music was coming from” and then their toes were tapping, hands moving, big smiles on faces.  Chubby Checker and his Twist was next and before I knew it  –  it was game on.  A 90 year old typically in a fog of dementia got up and was dancing, eyes closed.  Someone got up to dance with her, then another.  Another reached her hand out to me and told me she wanted to dance.  As we were dancing, I looked up and saw staff watching in awe taking pictures, taking video and shouting encouragement.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see a very frail 97 year old moving her feet trying to get up – her aide comes to assist her and asked “Miss Margie, are you wanting to dance?  Margie told her “I am going to dance!” so with the help of her walker and her aide helping support her, she danced.  We danced for two hours.  They wore me out.   I played old gospel songs and they sang every single word.  I was asked for “one more fast one”  so Jerry Lee Lewis saw us dancing to the dining room for lunch.   I sat and had a very good conversation with a lady who typically is not able to have a steady conversation. She had been awakened and it was pretty darn awesome sauce.

Since that day, I’ve been reading up on how music can affect the memory and how individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can benefit from music. It doesn’t have to be formal programs of music therapy and anyone with time, energy and passion can make a difference in someone’s life.  I’ve watched the documentary “Alive Inside”  and have signed up for training with Music and Memory and have decided to get involved with elders in my community on a volunteer basis.   In my small way, I want to make a difference.  Music. We can all bring some music to folks can’t we?  All of us together can make a big difference.

For more information and a big dose of WOW head over to Music and Memory as a starting place.

Stay Healthy. Be Strong. Get After It.

 

Chamayne – Why She Runs

This is a guest blog from my friend, Chamayne Metcalfe Johnson.  Chamayne and I graduated from high school together in 1981 and are 55 this year.  Age 55 may not be the same as it was for our mothers, but the years tick on for all of us.  One thing that is  different for us is that we are better equipped to change up our habits so that we can be stronger and healthier as we age.  This is Chamayne’s story.

I did indeed have a very special birthday this year. I ran my first 5K race — at age 55.  I placed 5th in my age group and only started running 3 months ago.

Here’s the story: After steadfastly refusing for years, um…decades, when asked by friends, I started running on August 22, 2018. Well, maybe more like shuffle-jogging at times but still…

I had never run in my entire life. And I do mean never. In high school and into my 20’s, I was what most people might consider to be fairly fit and “athletic.” However, there’s a big difference in being “athletic” and being an athlete. I was not an athlete. I never participated in organized sports teams, never had a coach making me run, and therefore, I.NEVER.RAN. EV-ER. And in my 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, well….enough said.

But then…

For the last two summers, for some unknown reason, I’d wake up and see the sun shining, hear the birds singing, and have a real urge to hop out of bed, go out the back door, and actually run. I never did it, but something was just there — a nudging, an itch, a restlessness.

I ran into a teaching friend a couple of weeks into school who made changes to his lifestyle for the sake of his health and because of his loved ones, so that he’d be here for them. He told me that every day, he looks in the mirror, points at himself, and says, “You will NOT be a sorry ass!” For some reason, that hit me hard. It began to motivate even the stubborn no-I’m-never-gonna-run me. It resonated and stuck with me.

The final piece of the puzzle, the determining factor, the catalyst… Kenny. My sweet husband has coal miner’s pneumoconiosis…black lung disease.  He is also a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor. He’d give anything to have his health back, to breathe easily. He’d love to be able to inhale our beautiful mountain air deeply and exhale fully until his scarred belly is concave. He’d love to run. He can’t, but by golly….I can.  And so I am.

All of those things just came together in God’s perfect timing and I made my mind up to start one day after school. I’m doing it. Running. I’m more tortoise than hare, but I am a runner now. I love it. I’ve fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. I’ll probably never be fast but then that’s not my goal anyway.

My goal is not to waste the health that God has so graciously bestowed upon me. I’ve been so very blessed with strong legs, healthy lungs, a heart that’s still beating, and eyes and ears that can gaze upon the majesty of nature and hear the beauty of birdsong as I run.

My goal is to be healthy, to be here for my loved ones. My husband needs me, my mother needs me, my son needs me. I’m doing it for me, for them, and for those who can’t.

I’m doing it for my mother, who due to ulcerative colitis, grief, and other concerns, is in very poor health and begs me to do whatever I must to stay healthy, maintain good balance, prevent falls, and promote strong muscles and bones.

I’m doing it for my mom’s lifelong best friend who’s had two total knee replacements.

I’m doing it for Mamaw, who, before her death, was crippled and confined to a wheelchair by degenerative osteoporosis.

I’m doing it for my brother, Britt, who died by suicide. I think of him often as I run here on the farm.

I’m doing it for Daddy and Pappy who died of heart disease.

I’m doing it for Papaw, Memmy, and my cousin Karen, who each died from stroke complications.

I’m doing it to set a good example for my and Kenny’s kids and grandkids.

I’m doing it to encourage others, especially anyone who’s never run before, anyone in their 40’s, 50’s, or 60’s…anyone who’s never really been active and thinks it’s too late. It’s not! No matter your age, young or old, teenager or grandparent, you CAN make a change. If I can do it, you can do it.

When I first started, Wednesday, August 22, 2018, I didn’t even know if I COULD run. I truly didn’t know if it was possible at 54 years, 11 months, and 6 days old. I have beginning cataracts, damaged cervical vertebrae from a car accident, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, scoliosis curvature from childhood, arthritic-like joints at times, and numerous kidney stones just waiting to be jarred about and send me to the ER again. Not to mention, zero cardiovascular stamina.

I solicited the help of my friend Erica. She and another friend started back in January, asked me to join them, and I practically laughed in their faces as I categorically refused, saying, “This ole gal don’t run!” Oh, but I ate those words, incorrect grammar and all, and now needed advice on apps and some “coaching.”

I started the Fitness22 5K app, an eight-week program. You run 3 times per week, building up run time. You always start each run with 5 minutes walking to warm up and end with 5 minutes walking to cool down. Between warm up and cool down, you alternate run time with walk time. For instance, Week 1 Day 1 is: 1 minute run/1.5 minute walk, 6 times. That’s it. Sounds doable, right?

Guess what? I thought I’d DIE trying to run ONE MINUTE. Yes, 60 seconds! It was awful, even with 1.5 minutes walking in between. But I stuck it out. I did the next day and next day and the next day, week after week. If I couldn’t finish one of the training runs, I’d repeat it again until I could accomplish it before moving on to the next level. At the end of the 5K app, you’ve built up to running 35 minutes non-stop with no walking in between. (I’ve actually worked up to 53 minutes and over 3 miles a few times.)

So, I started running literally 60 seconds at a time, gasping for breath like a galloping horse, and today, I completed a 5K, running the whole way, never walking one step and never stopping one time.

I can’t wait to do it again.       ~  Chamayne

Cortisol & Lowering Your Stress Levels

Cortisol is a stress-induced chemical that is produced by the adrenal glands. This “stress hormone” helps regulate blood pressure and the immune system during a sudden crisis, whether a physical attack or an emotional setback. This helps you to tap into your energy reserves and increases your ability to fight off infection.  The trouble is, relentless stress can keep this survival mechanism churning in high gear, subverting the hormone’s good intentions. Chronically high cortisol levels can cause sleep problems, a depressed immune response, blood sugar abnormalities, and weight gain (especially in the abdominal area).  When cortisol spikes, it tells the body to eat something with a lot of calories—a great survival tactic if you need energy to flee a predator but not if you’re fretting over how to pay bills. You don’t have to “feel” stressed out for your body to be stressed.

Fortunately, an antidote to the body’s fight-or-flight mode has evolved:  the relaxation response.  Here are some things to manage stress that can reduce your cortisol levels and get your body (and your mind & spirit) chilled out.

  • Breathing / Mindfulness Meditation
    • Check out the CALM app or Deepak Chopra’s Meditations
  • Sleep
    • Take a Nap
    • Go to bed earlier
    • Improve sleep hygiene practices
  • Laugh
    • Hang out with a funny friend
    • Comedy – watch a movie; head out to a comedy club
    • Read or listen to a “mindlessly” funny book and escape the world for a while
  • Book a Massage

In addition to keeping cortisol under control, massage sessions reduce stress by promoting production of dopamine and serotonin

  • Cut back or eliminate sugary and heavy-duty caffeinated beverages such as energy drinks

These beverages spike cortisol levels almost immediately

  • Reduce the amount of processed foods in your diet
    • White bread and pasta; candy, cookies, snack cakes, etc.

Processed flour & sugary carbs (usually found together) cause a spike in cortisol & increase blood sugar levels which makes you feel anxious

  • Make sure you are drinking enough water

Just a half-liter of dehydration can raise cortisol levels. Stress can cause dehydration, and dehydration can cause stress. If your urine is darker colored, it’s probably a sign that you’re not drinking enough water. Adequately-hydrated individuals have urine that is light, almost water-like, in appearance.

  • Add more Omega 3 fatty acids into your diet
  • Brew up some black tea

The “cup that cheers” has deep associations with comfort and calm—just think of how the English revere their late-afternoon teatime. As it turns out, science confirms the connection: When volunteers at University College London were given a stressful task, the cortisol levels of those who were regular black-tea drinkers fell by 47% within an hour of completing the assignment. Study author Andrew Steptoe, PhD, suspects that naturally occurring chemicals such as polyphenols and flavonoids may be responsible for tea’s calming effects.

  • Low Intensity / Relaxing Exercise
    • Yoga. Pilates. Tai Chi.
  • Listen to Relaxing Music
  • Sit down with a Coloring book and Crayons
  • Head outside and spend some time with Nature
    • Stretch out and relax in a field of daisies and just enjoy the sun and gentle breeze on your face
    • Lie in a hammock under the stars
    • Grab some binoculars and head out for some bird watching

Get Your Morning Started Right

Looking ahead to the day?  Here are 4 things that you can do each morning to get your day started & give your body and mind some Oomph.

1. STRETCH before you get out of bed. Move those joints (ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck)  and those big muscle muscle groups ( legs, chest, back) and when you swing your legs over to finally stand up: stretch toward the sky.

2. OPEN the blinds & let daylight in.

3. DRINK a glass of cold water. Your body hasn’t had hydration for hours and the cold water will give your body both hydration & oomph. Note: we walk around dehydrated a lot of the time – our brains, lungs, heart , liver, muscles ( you name it!)need hydration, they need straight up water. Our Metabolism needs water!

4. EXERCISE a wee bit after you have water, but before you take a shower or eat breakfast. I’m not talking a full out workout , I’m talking movement & exercise. Walk up & down your driveway. Intentionally walk stairs a few times. Do some jumping jacks        (seated or standing). Dance to a favorite upbeat song.  Ride a stationary bike. 10 minutes – you’ve got it in you !

 

STAY Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get AFTER IT!

Love for your Body, Mind & Spirit

Warmer weather is nudging its way to us and getting outside on a regular basis will be a reality that I encourage to embrace.  The simple act of walking has so many health benefits that if the pharmaceutical companies could capture all the benefits and stuff them into a capsule they’d surely do it and charge several dollars for a single capsule.

Walking doesn’t require any special training. Most folks can do I and it doesn’t take any equipment other than a decent pair of shoes.  You can walk at the park, around town, around the block in your neighborhood, around the perimeter of your parking lot at work on your lunch break, around the inside of a large store or shopping mall (just don’t stop to shop – keep on walking! – then shop).   30 minutes of exercise per days does so many good things for our bodies, minds and spirits. Start at your fitness level.  Walking at a slow pace is fine if that is where you are; challenge yourself to increase the intensity so that you are eventually walking at a pace that talking is possible, but you can’t carry on a chatty conversation with someone.

Let’s list a few things that WALKING can do for you:

  • Strengthens your BONES
  • Strengthens your HEART
  • LOWERS disease risk
  • Keeps WEIGHT in check
  • Can help prevent DEMENTIA
  • Gives you ENERGY
  • It makes you HAPPY

WHOA!  Did you just read that?

Regular walking has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. It lowers levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) while increasing levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol) and keeps your blood pressure in check.   A walking habit can reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and can keep insulin resistance in check. Insulin resistance is a precursor to diabetes and plays a role in many chronic health conditions.  Active walkers have around a 20% lowered risk of developing cancer of the colon, breast and uterus.  30 minutes a day. That’s all you need to reap these benefits.

Walking uses calories – you are expending energy.  Walking is weight bearing so it stimulates and strengthens bones, increasing their density. This is especially important for women.  Post-Menopausal women are at greater risk for osteoporosis. Research shows that post-menopausal women who walk approximately 1 mile per day have higher bone density than women who don’t walk.   Walking helps maintain healthy joints and that is bad news for arthritis.  Walking strengthens and shapes your leg muscles, giving definition to calves, quads, and hamstrings and gives OOMPH to your glutes – especially if you add hills.  If you pay attention to your posture as you walk, your core muscles will get in on the benefits too.

Speed walking comes from your arms.  Hold them at a comfortable level at your waist, bent at the elbow, and swing them backwards and forwards as your walk.  Swing them faster and you’ll automatically speed up.  That movement is working the muscles of your arms, shoulders and upper back.  Using all those muscles challenges them and the more muscle we have and use, the more calories we burn, even at rest.

A brisk walk is one of the best natural energizers.  Walking boosts circulation and increases oxygen supply to every cell in our bodies, helping us to feel more alert and alive.  Think about that the next time you find yourself plopped down on the couch watching TV bemoaning that you “never have time” or are “too tired” to exercise. Get up, lace up the shoes and walk for 15 minutes. I guarantee that you will feel better.   Those 15 minutes will become 20, then 30.   Walking can clear a cluttered mind.  Walking alleviates stress and symptoms of depression.  Exercise releases “feel good” endorphins into the bloodstream, reducing stress and anxiety.

Physical activity has a protective effect on brain function and regular exercise can help us avoid brain shrinkage and preserve memory as the years pass.  Dementia affects one in 14 people over age 65 and one in 6 over age 80.   A study from Harvard a few years ago looked at walking and its many benefits.  That study found that later in life, walking becomes as much an INDICATOR of health as a PROMOTER of it.  After age 65, how fast you walk may predict how long you have to live. Researchers have found a consistent association between faster walking speed and a longer life.  Can you get your shoes on fast enough for a longer life with more memory?

In a nutshell:  Walking improves physical and mental function and it makes us feel GOOD.

Stay Healthy. Be Strong. Get After It.

I’ve wrecked my train

In the years of March 2011 – January 2017 I ate a total of 2 doughnuts.  I ate 2 doughnuts this past Friday. I ate 2 doughnuts on Thursday. I ate 2 doughnuts and a bear claw on Wednesday.  I’ve eaten doughnuts all darn year.  Every time I ate one I told myself not to eat it, but I did it anyway.  I didn’t take myself seriously when I said not to.  You see, food is my drug of choice. Doughnuts is a symbol of my struggle.  I push back against the words “food addiction”.  However, yes, I am a food addict.   Foods with the combo of sugar, fat and flour are my drugs.   There is no such thing as “moderation” when it comes to drugs so why do we try to fool ourselves into thinking we can let the food that doesn’t serve us well into our lives.

You see, I had it under control.  I lulled myself into thinking I could let up off the brake and give it a little gas.  I do see that some difficult, stressful life situations pulled me back and I allowed it. Oh.. it was slow.   A little more gas here and there until BAM! I’ve wrecked my train.

I do see things that occurred in my young life from about the age of 4 through my teens that started me on the path of an unhealthy relationship with food.  If I allow myself to peel back the curtain and take a look, I know. It isn’t easy to look, but it’s important to do so.  It is also important not to allow those things to control you and your relationship with food for your entire life.  We do have the power to choose and take control. However, often we must take an unvarnished look at the whys, own up to the reality and choose to move forward with some positive action. We cannot stay in “victim mode”.  To do so relinquishes too much power.

So here I am a few days shy of age 54 and I’m finding myself fighting the same battle – again.  I’m armed with lots of education, history and knowledge of what I need to do, what I must do, what I have successfully done in the past.  Now I must implement it.  Is it easy?  Heck no. Is it possible?  Heck yes.  Is it difficult in terms of complexity?  No. Does it require effort to consistently execute?  Of course.   Worth it?  Oh yes.  Giving up because I wrecked my train?  Oh No!  Blaming anyone or anything else but myself? Nope.  Victim mode is not engaged.  Am I beautiful, smart and worthy of love just the way I am?  Of course.  Blinders on to being fatter than I want and need to be and needing to course correct?  No way.

Are your blinders on?

If you need support, guidance and professional assistance then GET IT.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It.

 

Congrats! You are a Chicken

Congrats! You are a Chicken.

What? But I want to be an Eagle! What do you mean I’m a chicken?

You are a Fabulous chicken! Isn’t that what you were going after?

No. No! I want to be an Eagle, I’ve been working at being an Eagle.

Do you see what just happened here? It is like what my mother and I’m sure generations of mothers and grandmothers have repeated through the years: “You are the company you keep”.   If you want to be an Eagle then you need to surround yourself with Eagles and model your habits and behaviors to those that the Eagles have.  If you want to be an Eagle, but hang out with a bunch of chickens then you are pretty much setting yourself up for failure as far as being an Eagle. Before you get all riled up “But Jen! nothing wrong with a chicken – chickens are pretty darn groovy”.  Hey! You got it, I know it – chickens are pretty darn awesome sauce, but not if you want to be an Eagle. Get what I’m saying?

If you have goals that you want to accomplish, then you need to be sure you are setting yourself up for success.   That means you will be arming yourself with the right tools, surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals, taking yourself out of your comfort zone, will be making some changes and you need to be prepared to be challenged. Change isn’t easy and it is almost always uncomfortable.  If we want to make changes, yet wrap a warm blanket of the same-same around ourselves then what do we end up with?  We end up wanting and saying we want to be an Eagle, but we are not doing what we need to do to become an Eagle. We are still hanging out with chickens because we know the chickens, we know how to be a chicken, the chickens tell us “there there it’s OK you deserve to give yourself a break, you deserve it, tomorrow is another day, you don’t really want to be an Eagle anyway”. Pat pat, soothe soothe. This goes on tomorrow and the next day, the next month, the next year.  You are beating yourself up, bemoaning “ohhh I want to be an Eagle, why can’t I be an Eagle?  I work so hard, I just must not be cut out to be an Eagle”.  The chickens are still soothing you, commiserating with you, telling you what you want to hear.  The Eagles?  They are like – hey chick! If you want to be an Eagle come on over here with us and let us show you how it’s done.

We Become What We Want to Be by Consistently Being What We Want to Become Each Day

If you have goals you want to accomplish, arm yourself with the proper tools to accomplish those goals.  Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who walk the walk, talk the talk and have the behaviors and habits that make them what it is that makes you want to be like them.  Be willing to surround yourself with individuals who will tell you what you need to hear, not want you want to hear. Surround yourself with those who will push you and challenge you and support you in the changes that you are seeking to make and will hold you accountable to yourself.  It will likely be uncomfortable, but if you want it – Get After It!

Toss off that comfy blanket – you have some soaring to do.

Food or Calories? Which to Focus On?

You’ve decided it is time to get in shape and get healthier.   You embark on a diet and a workout plan.   You start eating “healthy” and you launch into a rigorous exercise regimen.  You stick with it for a while until you just get tired of it. You get hungry. You feel deprived.  You get tired of worrying about how many calories you are eating and what you are burning off doing all that exercise.  You throw in the towel because this “getting healthy” stuff is just not for you.  Have you ever experienced this?

Healthy.  Healthy Food. Eating Healthy.  Those words get used a lot.  Have you ever stopped to consider what it truly means?  What is Healthy food? What is eating Healthy?  What is Healthy?

HEALTH is the state of complete physical, mental & social well-being; not merely the absence of disease or infirmity

Using that definition then “healthy food” must be food that supports a state of complete physical, mental & social well-being.  Right?  What about the concept of “good food” vs. “bad food”?   Now we may be getting closer to what folks mean when they say healthy food vs. unhealthy food. They must be talking about “good” vs. “bad” food.  Gotcha!  Where are those lists? There must be a standardized list – right?   Here’s the thing:  Get 10 people together and ask them that question; I’m betting you will get lots of different answers. I don’t like to categorize food as good or bad.  Why give food that power? The Power is Yours.

What I do like to do is to talk about choices – better choices relative to nutrition, satiety and health promotion.  To me, “healthy food” is food that promotes health. Body, Mind & Spirit. Healthy food is nutrient dense, it satisfies and it supports your vibrant lifestyle and keeps your body fit and strong.  I’m betting few folks will argue against the powerhouse nutrition of leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables.  They are filled with phytonutrients, vitamins & minerals that support vibrant health. However, let’s beREAL– eating nothing but leafy greens and cauliflower doesn’t exactly make our spirits soar.  Chocolate cheesecake pretty much makes my spirits soar.

Keeping on with keeping it REAL – a steady diet of bacon cheeseburgers and chocolate cheesecake isn’t likely to keep my overall health soaring.   It is a balance of choices.  We need to tweak our choices depending on what goals we are tackling with our health and that includes our body weight.   The intensity of the tweaks may vary, but we must have an overall way of eating that works for us, that supports our health and it needs to be something that we can sustain for the rest of our lives.   We can white knuckle through most anything for a short period of time, but keeping up with a plan that is overly rigid, doesn’t support the very important spirit part of our health and it is going to fail us in the end.   There is indeed room in a healthy diet for a bacon cheeseburger (and chocolate) if that is what you love.

What is a person to do when they want to make changes to their eating to improve their health and their body?  Start with educating yourself so that better choices can be made; get some guidance and support.   In general, my advice and my approach is to first focus on the food.  That means food quality and better choices.  Calories can and do come later – at least an overall awareness of them as they relate to your energy expenditure.

Typically, folks who set out to count calories are counting calories without changing up the actual food.  How many doughnuts can I eat and still come within “x” calories per day isn’t really the best way to go about it.  You can quickly reach your calorie limit and still behungry Hungry leads to fail.  

Focus on crowding in some better choices – food with higher nutrient density which is typically lower in calories and is more filling and satisfying.   The balancing act is to crowd IN those foods while gradually crowding OUT some of the foods that haven’t been serving you well.  Small consistent steps that lead to big lifestyle changes.

The Power of Pineapple

Food is medicine, and it is delicious medicine.  We are indeed what we eat, and if we eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, we are giving our bodies premium fuel.

Let’s talk pineapple.  When it comes to produce, remember: Fresh is always best!  Frozen is the next best.

The fruit is made up of many individual berries that fuse together around a central core. Each pineapple scale is an individual berry.  Pineapple contains:

  • Bromelain – an enzyme that has anti-inflammatory properties
  • Vitamin C – lots of it!
  • Manganese – a mineral important to bone health 
  • Thiamin – a B vitamin that is involved in energy production

In 1493, explorer Christopher Columbus found pineapples on Guadeloupe Island in the Caribbean. The fruit is also native to southern Brazil and Paraguay. Historically, Hawaii was the world’s largest pineapple producer and source for U.S. pineapples. Today the largest producers include the Philippines, Brazil, and Costa Rica. Pass over sour-smelling or bruised pineapples. Fruit from Hawaii or Central America tends to be freshest.

To make your pineapple softer and juicier, keep it at room temperature for 1 or 2 days before cutting.  One cup of fresh pineapple chunks has about 82 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, is low in sodium.  Pineapple is a tropical fruit and tropical fruits are a higher in sugar.

Don’t stress over sugar that is in your produce, because that sugar comes with nutrients and fiber. Instead, be mindful about how it fits into your total intake.  For example, make sure you are eating a balance of foods, not a lot of any single food.

Last but not least: Pineapple is a fabulous meat tenderizer because the Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme.  Use pineapple juice in marinades for flavor and to tenderize.  Pineapple juice works very well as a marinade for jerky.

What are the benefits of adding some pineapple to your life?

  • Anti-Inflammatory benefits – especially cited as helpful with reducing osteoarthritis pain
  • Can reduce tumor growth
  • Blood clot reduction
  • Immune system support
  • Bone strength
  • Eye health
  • Aids digestion

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It!

 

Fiber for our Body & Brain

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Having just one of these conditions doesn’t mean you have metabolic syndrome. However, any of these conditions increase your risk of serious disease. Having more than one of these might increase your risk even more.  If you have metabolic syndrome or any of its components, aggressive lifestyle changes can delay or even prevent the development of serious health problems.  Daily exercise and changing up the types of carbohydrates that you eat have significant impact on these conditions.

Where to start?  Choose to eat more complex carbohydrates, that is, foods higher in fiber.  By eating more fiber-rich carbohydrates, you should be crowding out refined, processed carbohydrates.  Pay attention to the types of carbohydrates that you eat! Make sure you are choosing carbohydrates with fiber.  This is important. Focus on the TYPE of carbohydrates that you are eating.

Eating higher-fiber foods improve your health in many ways:

  • Controls your appetite
  • Gives you long-lasting energy
  • Helps you reach & maintain a healthy weight
  • Provides vitamins, minerals, antioxidants & phytonutrients
  • Provides balance for blood-sugar levels
  • Helps reduce blood-cholesterol levels
  • Helps reduce blood pressure
  • Promotes a healthy digestion
  • Enhances brain function

What are some higher fiber (2.5+ grams per serving) carbohydrates?1 cup of vegetables; 1 average size fruit; 1 oz. nuts/seeds; 1 cup legumes; 1 cup unbroken grains = 1 serving

VEGETABLES & FRUIT (fresh or frozen are the best options)

 Spinach, Collard Greens, Kale, Turnip Greens, Artichoke, Carrots, Broccoli, BrusselsSprouts, Cabbage, Onions, Sweet Potato, White Potato, Pumpkin, Apples, Blackberries, Pears, Blueberries, Raspberries, Avocado, Guavas, Kiwi, Dates, Figs, dried Figs, dried Plums, Oranges, Strawberries, Banana

 NUTS & SEEDS

 Almonds, Pistachios, Pecans, Walnuts, Flax seed (ground), Chia seed, Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds

 LEGUMES (a class of vegetables that includes beans, peas & lentils; are a good plant-based protein source)

 Lentils, Lima Beans, Pigeon Peas, Pink Beans, Pinto Beans, Black Beas, White/Navy Beans, Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans, Kidney Beans, Black Eyed Peas, Split Peas, Green Peas, Peanuts

WHOLE GRAINS (unbroken grains that must be cooked before they can be eaten. Flour is an example of a broken grain as well as any other grain products that are not in their natural-whole state)

Old Fashioned/Rolled or Steel Cut Oats, Quinoa, Rice, Pearled Barley, PopcornWhole Grain, High Fiber Cereal with minimal ingredients:  Bran Flakes, Grape Nuts, Shredded Wheat with Bran

 By adding more of these foods into your diet and crowding out foods made with processed flour (which usually come with sugar and unhealthy fats) you are on the path of better health – now and in the future.   Don’t wait until you have a serious health condition to pay attention, do it now!   Prevention is the best medicine.  Food is Medicine.   When we eat better, we feel better.   Often, we don’t realize how great we can feel until we do – or the reverse of that:  how bad we feel until we don’t.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It.

Food vs. Treats

Definition of FOOD: any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.

Definition of TREAT: an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure.

We don’t need treats every day, however we do need FOOD. Treats are the exception, not the routine. Americans have it backwards. We tend to eat too many treats, not enough FOOD. Cheetos are not FOOD, they are a TREAT.

My friend Denise loves the saying “You are not a dog, don’t reward yourself with food”.    That should actually be changed to: Don’t reward yourself with TREATS.

How many times have you said: I’ve been good so I’m going to eat “x” or haven’t had this in a while so I’m going to treat myself – I deserve a REWARD. No. You are not a dog. Stop it with the food rewards. Instead: if you want to eat it. Just eat it.  Eat it because you CHOOSE to eat it.

With that said, we all have trigger foods and foods we gravitate to; foods that we crave and want. Foods that we often know we shouldn’t eat and say we want to eat less of, but we think we can’t because we just “have to have them” and we Just. Can’t.  Stop.  I was 230+ pounds of walking bread carbs minus bones and vital organs. If it was bread, a cookie, a cake, a bar, a cracker I was eating it. That was all I wanted.  I’d grab and eat it without any desire or room for anything else.  Eating that way didn’t keep me full or satisfied, and I craved more of the same.   When I made the decision that I was FINALLY going to get a handle on my food and fitness, I took a hard look at what I was eating. I also took a look at the stressors in my life that were contributing to my stress eating.

I found an outlet for stress relief (EXERCISE) and I steadfastly worked on increasing protein rich foods in my diet.  Protein and healthy fats were my focus.  Quickly, I found that those foods satisfied me, kept me fuller longer and I felt better. I wasn’t as sluggish and I had more energy.  As I concentrated on getting in my protein, the refined   carbohydrates or EBLS as I like to call them (extraneous bread-like substances) took a backseat. I didn’t have room for them and I found that I didn’t crave them any longer.  I ended up crowding out the “EBLS” by crowding in more protein and fiber-rich carbohydrates and healthy fat.

My point is this. If there is a food or group of foods, you want to cut back on or stop entirely:  JUST DO IT. One step at a time. Be steadfast and stick with it for a few weeks, let your body do its thing and adjust. Don’t sabotage yourself with “I’ve been “good” so I will reward myself with just a bit of X (insert your trigger food)”.  Stick with it.  You WILL stop wanting it as much.  Once YOU are in control, then you can choose to have some if you want. You are in control, not your cravings.

Mindset switch.YOU are in control. You CHOOSE.  And! Remember to keep FOOD and TREATS in the proper perspective.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It.