Longevity of Health & Our Core

I don’t care about having a six-pack, so why should I care about my core? Because. Your. Core. Is. Everything.

Something that makes me a bit crazy is when I hear someone say they need to do some core exercises because they want to rid themselves of belly fat. Typically, that doesn’t end the way they were hoping. Why? First of all, it isn’t just our abdominal muscles. Secondly, you can exercise those abdominal muscles all day long and you aren’t going to get rid of much belly fat. You will get stronger abdominal muscles, perhaps a sore back and often your midriff will get larger because you’ve overworked those ab muscles, and you still have fat on top of said muscles. To burn fat, it takes more than just throwing down a lot of targeted exercises for your rectus abdominis, the transverse abdominis and the obliques. Instead, compound exercises, aerobic exercise and nutrition geared to fat loss is the name of the fat loss game.  But I digress.

Our core is a complex series of muscles that connect from our upper back down to our lower back and hips.  Essentially, it is our entire trunk – front and back.  From our upper back to our hips, our core is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body. These muscles can act as a stabilizer for movement, transfer force from one extremity to another or initiate movement itself. Our core is vitally important for our stability and balance.

Our core primarily works as a stabilizer and force transfer center rather than a prime mover. Yet, people consistently focus on training their core as a prime move in isolation – aka targeted abdominal exercises. They are doing crunches instead of deadlifts, overhead squats and pushups and other functional closed chain exercises. By training that way, not only are you missing out on a major function of the core, but you are missing out on more efficient movement, better strength gains and longevity of health. When it comes to our core our back, hips and pelvic floor should be getting lots more attention.

How does have a strong and well-functioning core impact our lives? As we age, and we are all aging every day, our health, our quality of life and our independence rely on a strong core.

  • Normal life stuff. Bending to put on shoes or scoop up a package, turning to look behind you, sitting in a chair, maintaining balance on an icy sidewalk, carrying groceries, walking up a steep flight of stairs or simply standing still are a few of the actions that rely on your core and that you might not notice until they become difficult or painful. Even basic activities of daily living such as bathing and getting dressed use our core.
  • At Work.Jobs that involve lifting, twisting, and standing all rely on core muscles. But less obvious tasks — like sitting at your desk for hours — engage your core as well. Phone calls, typing, computer use, and similar work can make back muscles surprisingly stiff and sore, particularly if you’re not strong enough to practice good posture and aren’t taking sufficient breaks.
  • Healthy Back.Low back pain is a debilitating, sometimes excruciating problem affecting four out of five Americans at some point in their lives and may be prevented by exercises that promote well-balanced, resilient core muscles. When back pain strikes, a regimen of core exercises is often prescribed to relieve it.
  • Sports & Pleasure Activities.Golfing, tennis, biking, swimming, kayaking, playing with your children or grandchildren are powered by a strong core.
  • House & Yard work. Bending, lifting, twisting, carrying, digging, hammering, reaching overhead, vacuuming, mopping, and dusting all utilize the core.
  • Balance & Stability.Your core stabilizes your body, allowing you to move in any direction, even on the bumpiest terrain, or stand in one spot without losing your balance. A strong stable core protects against falls and injuries.
  • Good posture.Weak core muscles contribute to slouching. Good posture lessens wear and tear on the spine and allows you to breathe deeply. Good posture makes us all look better.

How can you have a healthier core and a healthier life? Core work is different from strength-training programs that isolate a single muscle group. Instead, they challenge as many muscles as possible in integrated, coordinated movements. Core moves should engage your entire body, from head to toe. A good place to start is with activities you enjoy and can incorporate into your daily life such as swimming, bicycling, yoga and walking with fitness poles. Beyond that, get a core assessment from a qualified physical therapist or personal trainer and implement a core strengthening and stabilizing training program in conjunction with developing a habit of incorporating daily exercise into your life.  A professional core assessment will include testing for core stability, static and dynamic strength; the training program will be customized for you based upon the results of your assessment.

Stay HEALTHY. Be STRONG. GET After It.

LYMPHEDEMA – What can you change up?

According to an article from Medical News Today published in July 2013, lymphedema occurs in up to 13% of breast cancer patients, increasing to 40% after lymph node dissection and radiation, and it’s not only breast cancer patients that are at risk: “Surgery and radiation after lymph node removal can cause scarring that blocks the lymph ducts, not only in the underarm but also in the legs, groin, pelvis, or neck after treatment for uterine, prostate, ovarian, or prostate cancer, as well as lymphoma and melanoma.“

WHY am I writing about this topic?  My cousin is a breast cancer survivor and she asked me if there was anything she could be doing differently with her food and/or exercise to help alleviate her symptoms.  Her doctor had advised the lymphedema would progress in severity, but didn’t offer her any “real world” advice beyond what she already knew. Compression garments, massage by specially trained therapists, pneumatic pump therapy and therapeutic exercise overseen by a physical therapist. She wanted to know what ELSE she could personally do. Therefore, I did some research for her.  What I found was interesting and very straightforward.  I keep learning that Food is indeed medicine. What I keep finding out over and over again – what we eat and how we move can make a GREAT impact on our overall health.  What I found out about lymphedema isn’t really any different than basic good nutritional guidelines that we should all be following to safeguard and improve our health.

Lymphedema is a build-up of fluid in soft body tissues when the lymph system is damaged or blocked.  Edema = Swelling.   If you have Lymphedema you know it. It isn’t silent or hidden.   If you have edema or swelling in your hands, arms, legs, feet, neck, groin – please seek medical attention, diagnosis and treatment.  If you have Lymphedema and are reading this – please discuss this information with your doctor to see if it may be right for you.  

If you are a Lymphedema patient and haven’t been referred to a Registered Dietitian –  seek out a referral.   Nutritional support is a vital piece of the treatment plan that often is neglected.  A Health Coach can work with you in conjunction with your medical team to support you in your goals.

Rebounding. Jumping on a mini trampoline.  Rebounding may help move lymphatic fluid through your body and act as a “pump”. If you don’t have a mini trampoline, sit in a sturdy chair and bounce your legs up and down as if jumping on a trampoline.  Before starting any exercise program – consult with your physician.

Lower your sodium intake.  Sodium lurks everywhere and is especially high in processed “convenience” foods. If it’s been packaged, boxed, jarred or canned by the food industry – keep your eye on the label.   Canned vegetables, soups, frozen entrees, condiments, sauces, deli meats and fast food are the primary culprits.   If you cook the majority of your meals from REAL ingredients – you have better control of the quality.   When you are cooking, herbs add flavor without salt.

Potassium rich foods.   We tend to get plenty of sodium in our diets, but not enough potassium. Potassium helps balance out sodium in our diets and is key in helping to decrease blood pressure.   Most folks immediately think bananas when thinking potassium, but they are not the top of the list.  Spinach and dried apricots are high on the list of potassium rich foods.  If you are on medication, always check with your physician or pharmacist since some foods can interact with medications.

Weight Loss.  If you are overweight, losing weight can be beneficial.   The goal is to lose fat while maintaining your muscular strength.  Balanced nutrition and moderate exercise that incorporates weight bearing / resistance exercise is key.  WALKING is an effective, low-impact, weight bearing exercise that most individuals can easily do.   Before starting any exercise program – consult with your physician.

Nutrition.  Balanced.  Lean protein, fiber-rich carbohydrates with an emphasis on eating a variety of vegetables and fruit, and healthy fats.  Minimize sodium and processed grains, sugars and fats.   If you are mindful of crowding OUT fast food and processed “convenience” foods as discussed above – you are on your way to minimizing sodium and processed grains, sugars and fats.  Remember:  Keep it REAL when it comes to your food.

Water.  Drink water as your primary beverage. Get into the habit of having a favorite tumbler that you fill with water and have it with you throughout the day.  Adequate hydration is essential for basic cell function and is especially important for the body to remove waste products.

Flavonoids, Selenium & B-Vitamins.  Flavonoids are compounds from plants that have anti-oxidant properties and are beneficial in reducing inflammation and supporting vein health.  Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. The mineral Selenium also has anti-oxidant properties and has been reported in studies along with B-vitamins as helpful in managing the severity of acute & chronic lymphedema.   Selenium and B-vitamins can be easily obtained in a balanced, varied diet.

Horse Chestnut.  Standardized Horse Chestnut extract is a natural / alternative remedy to support leg edema and to help prevent varicose veins.  As with ANY supplement – consult with your physician. 

STAY healthy. Be STRONG.  Get AFTER IT.

LEMONS (more than just lemonade)

Lemons. Typically, if you eat out at a restaurant, you get a slice of lemon in your water. If you are like me, it is just one of those things and you don’t even think about it much.  I’ve been thinking a lot about lemons lately and of course, I wanted to tell you all about it, or rather, them.

Lemon juice raises the level of citrate in the body, which may help in fighting kidney stones. Note: other citrus does not have this effect. In fact, grapefruit juice has the opposite effect and should be avoided if you are prone to kidney stones.

Kidney stones form when urine in the kidneys becomes supersaturated with stone-forming salts, and when the urine doesn’t contain enough stone-preventing substances. One of these substances is citrate. For people prone to stones, doctors typically prescribe potassium citrate in pill or liquid form.  Lemon juice is full of natural citrate. When added to water, or when made into low-sugar lemonade, lemon juice increases the amount of citrate in the urine to levels known to inhibit kidney stones. Be sure to include some grated lemon peel to your lemon water / lemonade. It is important to be cautious with sugar since it can increase kidney stone risk.  I squeeze an entire lemon into my 32 oz. tumbler of water every morning and I toss the lemon into the tumbler as well after squeezing out the juice. It’s super easy to do this every morning.

Beyond the benefit for fighting kidney stones, lemons have other health benefits.  Lemons are a great source of Vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory agent.  For that reason along, lemons are worth adding to your diet.  But! Lemons have also been found to have two other compounds – a group of chemicals called limonoids and limonene, both of which have documented anti-cancer properties.

Limonene is found in the peel and has been shown in studies to be chemopreventive against mammary, liver, lung and UV-induced skin cancer and chemotherapeutic against mammary and pancreatic tumors.  A study from the University of Arizona concluded that when lemon peel is consumed with hot black tea, the risk of skin cancer is reduced by 30 percent. According to researchers, consumer 1 tablespoon a week of grated peel is all you need to make a significant difference. The limonoid in lemon, limonin, seems to be able to lower cholesterol.

The simple Lemon has so many health benefits. Lemons are easy to find year-round and it takes no time to add some to your water or hot tea. So why not add them to your bag of health tricks?  As always, prevention is the absolute best medicine.

STAY healthy. Be STRONG. Get AFTER It.

ZUCCHINI

Squash is plentiful right now and you may find yourself being gifted with loads of zucchini.  Local farmer’s markets will toss in extra in your bag when you aren’t looking.  You may be the victim of a hit and run: your neighbor hits up your doorstep with zucchini then runs.  What can you do with all that zucchini?  What are the health benefits?

1 medium squash has 33 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 2.4 grams of protein and provides the RDA of these vitamins and minerals:  Calcium 3%; Iron 3%; Vitamin C 58%; Vitamin A 7%; B6 15% and Magnesium 8%.  It also has a whopping 512 mg of potassium, which is great for keeping our blood pressure healthier.

How about reducing age-related macular degeneration?  Yep.  Zucchini has plenty of the carotenoids lutein & zeaxanthin which are powerhouses for eye health.  Manganese too, which aids in the production of collagen which is essential for wound healing and like Vitamin C, manganese is an antioxidant that protects against cellular damage from free radicals. Vitamin C, best known for protecting sailors against scurvy, is a water-soluble antioxidant that also helps our bodies metabolize cholesterol.  Squash in general has high water content which makes it a “high volume” food which means there is a LOT of good stuff for very few calories.

How can you add zucchini to your life?  Chop it up and add it to soup. Make a casserole with layered slices of zucchini, yellow squash, onion, green tomatoes and cheese.  Thinly slice it length-wise and use those slices instead of noodles in lasagna. Slice them in half, remove the “innards” and fill up the slices with marinara or meat sauce, sprinkle with cheese and bake.  Whip up a skillet of calabacitas.

Calabacitas is a traditional vegetable dish in New Mexico that my friend Carla introduced me to years ago. It is easy and delicious.  I always use a cast iron skillet.  Grab one and add a bit of olive oil and put the pan over medium heat; throw in some chopped zucchini along with some salt, pepper and garlic.  Stir it around a bit then add some fresh corn and some green chiles.  No recipe, it is a throw-it-together dish that takes just a couple of minutes to prepare.  Generally, I’d say 2 medium zucchini, 1 ear of corn, and half a can of diced green chiles.  Add to your taste; can’t really go wrong. Get out that skillet and whip up a batch.

STAY Healthy. Be STRONG. Get AFTER It.

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!

 

Collagen. Joints, Tendons & Skin

I’ve been learning some things about tendons, specifically how to give your body the ammunition it needs to heal tendons after an injury or in my case, a tendon injury that required surgical repair.   What I found is that collagen isn’t just for our faces, which is what most of probably think about first when we hear the word collagen.

Anytime you are faced with a change you want to make to your health, always look to nutrition first and what you can do differently to support your body in taking care of itself.  If you don’t go to the source, you are merely putting a band-aid on something and sometimes you are working against your body if you don’t provide it with the nutrients it needs.

Collagen is an abundant protein in our bodies and it is found in our muscles, bones, skin, blood vessels, digestive system and our tendons and ligaments.  It is what gives our skin strength and elasticity and is what keeps our joints, tendons and ligaments healthier and moving with ease.  Tendons are thick bundles of collagen that connect muscle to bone and allow movement, while ligaments are flexible bundles of collagen that connect bone to bone and protect your joints.

Good collagen production can also ease the pain of osteoarthritis.  As we age, our collagen production naturally slows down.  This degenerative process is accounts for signs of aging such as wrinkles sagging skin and joint pain due to weakened or decreased cartilage.  Collagen helps our tendons ligaments and muscles heal after an injury or surgery.

Collagen is a long-chain amino acid compound of the individual amino acids proline, glycine, hydroxyproline and arginine.  Collagen accounts for 30% of protein found in the body and 70% of protein in skin.   Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.

The good news is, there are some things we can do nutritionally to help support collagen production.

First, a couple of things to stop or dramatically cut down on:  Smoking, excessive sun exposure (yes, that especially means tanning beds which are harmful in so many ways to our skin) and junk food/sugar consumption.  We need the Vitamin D benefits of real sunshine, but we don’t need to be baking ourselves.  Smoking, excessive un exposure and a diet high in added sugar speeds up the deterioration of collagen.

Now, the good things to add to your diet that support collagen production.  The biggies are:  Protein / Amino Acids and Vitamin C.

Vitamin C supports collagen production.  Eating fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C helps our bodies to maintain and build collagen.   The top 10 foods for Vitamin C are:  Oranges, Red Bell Peppers, Kale, Guava, Kiwi, Green Bell Peppers, Brussels sprouts, Broccoli, Strawberries & Grapefruit.

Protein from plant or animal based foods such as eggs (the protein is in the egg whites), beans, lentils, plain or lower sugar Greek or Icelandic yogurt, cottage cheese, hard cheese, quinoa, fish (canned tuna & salmon are easy options) chicken, turkey, beef, pork and to a lesser extent: nuts, seeds and higher protein vegetables.  Vegetables highest in protein are:  asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, artichoke, watercress and yellow corn.  Nuts and seeds have protein and healthy fat.  However, you cannot depend upon nuts and vegetables as your primary protein source.   Quality protein powders whether whey protein or vegan proteins such as hemp, brown rice or pea protein with added BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) can be used to supplement your diet, but I don’t recommend relying on supplements.  Real food is always best.

Collagen Peptides are another supplement you can consider for boosting your collagen production.  As with any supplement, it is only as good as our body can absorb it; capsules and pills are not as well absorbed as liquids or powders that are added to liquids.

Exercise is beneficial for our overall health so it’s no surprise that exercise supports collagen production.  30 – 60 minutes of continuous exercise each day (30 minutes minimum, but building up to 60 minutes is optimal and you can do it in two 30 minute sessions).   Walking is excellent and can be done by almost anyone anywhere.  A walk around town, at the park, the parking lot at lunch, the perimeter of a large warehouse store or up and down your driveway gets the job done!  Jumping on a mini trampoline is also a good option that also has great benefits for our lymphatic system.  Bicycling, dancing, taking a class, lifting weights circuit style are all options.  Find an activity and get out there and do it!   Eat your lunch and take a walk during your lunch break.

Other foods to eat more of to support collagen health.

Red fruits & vegetables due to the lycopene they contain

Dark green vegetables are rich in lutein and vitamin C

Beans help produce hyaluronic acid which is a lubricating fluid found in skin,       eyes, joints and connective tissue

Prunes & Blueberries are high in antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals before they can do damage

Omega 3 fatty acids help create an ideal environment for collagen production. You find Omega 3s in seaweed, fatty fish, walnuts, chia and flax seeds as well as cod, flax, walnut and mustard oil (can be found in Indian food stores).

Bone Broth made from beef or chicken bones is rich in collagen and can be consumed by itself or used as a base for soup.

 Ensuring that we are eating nutritious foods that support collagen production is important for every single person.  If you are an older adult, or someone who is recovering from an orthopedic injury or surgery or an injury or surgery involving your skin, then keeping your eye on your health relative to collagen production is essential and vitally important.  I hope that I have shown you that it truly isn’t that difficult to do; we just need to know what to do.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

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 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.

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.

 

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?