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.

 

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.

Why SQUATS Should be in Your Life

SQUATS.   If you’re looking for a powerful way to boost your overall fitness and health, look no further than the squat. This is one exercise that should be a part of virtually everyone’s routine. The squat is relatively simple to perform, requires no or very minimal equipment, and can be done just about anywhere.

WHY are they so good?

Builds Muscle in Your Entire Body

Squats work the two biggest muscle groups in your body: the glutes and the quads. Assistance movers for this exercise include the hamstrings and the calves. Squats also help build lower back strength and develop core strength and stabilization. Squats are a functional exercise in that they aid your ability to live a full, healthy life. Anything from getting out of a chair, to squatting down to pick something off the floor requires squat strength. Especially as we get older, proper squat technique is critical to maintain health and longevity.  There are many variations to this very effective compound exercise.

Functional Exercise Makes Real-Life Activities Easier

Functional exercises are those that help your body to perform real-life activities.  Squats are one of the best functional exercises out there, as humans have been squatting since the hunter-gatherer days. When you perform squats, you build muscle and help your muscles work more efficiently, as well as promote mobility and balance.

Increase your Metabolism

One of the most time-efficient ways to raise your metabolism is to have more muscle. Muscle is active tissue and it requires more energy (calories) to maintain throughout the day – even when at rest or sleeping.

Maintain Mobility and Balance

Strong legs are crucial for staying mobile as you get older, and squats are excellent for increasing leg strength. They also work out your core, stabilizing muscles, which will help you to maintain balance, while also improving the communication between your brain and your muscle groups, which helps prevent falls – which is the #1 way to prevent bone fractures.

Prevent Injuries

Most athletic injuries involve weak stabilizer muscles, ligaments and connective tissues, which squats help strengthen. They also help prevent injury by improving your flexibility and balance.  If you can prevent a fall, you’ve prevented a potentially serious injury – especially as we age.

Prevent Disease

Few exercises work as many muscles as the squat, so it’s an excellent activity useful for toning and tightening your buttocks, abdominals, and your legs. These muscles participate in the regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity, helping to protect you against obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Regular exercise is a key player in disease reduction, optimal mental, emotional and physical health, and longevity. Exercise also slows down the rate of aging itself, even stimulating the regeneration of the energy-producing mitochondria in your cells, providing perhaps the closest example of a real-life fountain of youth as we will ever find.

Prevent / Improve Osteoporosis [Increase Bone Density]

Osteoporosis and osteopenia are both characterized by low bone density. Areas that post-menopausal women are most affected by loss of bone density is in their femoral neck (near the top of the femur), hips and spine. Osteoporosis is often called a silent disease because bone loss occurs without symptoms. People may not know that they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump, or fall causes a fracture. Collapsed vertebrae may be first noticed when the person suffers severe back pain, loss of height, or spinal deformities such as stooped posture. The creation of new bone, and how dense, strong, and well-rounded it is in content can be at least partially manipulated by our activities. Weighted squats are an excellent exercise to improve bone density in the femoral neck,  hips and lower spine.

HOW DO YOU GET AFTER IT?

The bodyweight squat (squatting without weights) incorporates elements of resistance training because you’re lifting your own body weight. Using added weight (with a front squat variation such as a Goblet or Zercher squat) increases the intensity of the workout , which builds muscle, accelerates your metabolism and strengthens bone density.

Athletic Stance.  Knees are slightly bent, feet are firmly planted on the ground, and toes pointed outwards slightly, which helps with stabilization. The wider you put your feet, the more it works your glutes and hamstring (back of the leg), and the easier it will be to stabilize. The closer in you put your feet, the more your quadriceps will be emphasized (the front of the leg).

Head Neutral – Straight Ahead.   Pick a spot on the wall that’s in line with your eyes as you are standing straight, then as you squat down, keep your eyes on that spot. Your head is automatically in the correct position.

Back Straight. Chest Out – Shoulders Back.   By keeping your shoulders back and your chest out, your lower back will most likely have the correct natural curve.

Butt Back – Sit Down.  Knees behind your Toes. Weight on Heels.  Each time you squat you should hinge your hips so that your butt moves backwards during the downward phase of the squat, your knees should NOT be over your toes (if you are tall, this may happen, but make sure it does not put pressure on your knees). Finally, the pressure of the squat will be on your heels instead of your toes and you will be able to get more depth to your squat.

Practice your form with squats using a bench, ottoman or a chair behind you to sit down – squat to.   The depth of your squat (how low should you go): In general, try to shoot for your hamstrings about parallel with the floor, which deeply engages your thighs, hips, and glutes. If you can go lower than parallel that’s fine, just make sure you don’t experience any pain in your knees, or lower back, and always keep your lower back flat, to slightly arched.

 

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.

 

Why Women Need to Strength Train

Muscle. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.  Do you think about it? Do you realize why it is so important?  Muscle is not just for bodybuilders and athletes.  It is for everyone.   It is vitally important for women.  Muscle is critical for our health, our functional strength, our ability to do day-to-day activities, and our body composition. More accurately, it is critical if we want to be leaner – less fat with more fat-free/lean mass.

Why Should Women Strength Train?

  • Improve / Maintain muscle strength
  • Improve / Maintain coordination
  • Improve / Maintain balance
    • These 3 things together help to prevent falls & related fractures
    • These 3 things together allow us to perform everyday activities
  • Strengthen our bone mass – bone density and strength
      • Decreased bone density = osteoporosis and fractures
  • Change our body composition to one that is leaner and less fat
      • Body composition (body fat – lean body mass %) Weighing less on the scale won’t necessarily get us a lower body fat %, in fact, we can have higher body fat & less lean body mass when we simply aim to lose weight.

Fat is what we need to keep our eye on; reducing fat so that we have more fat-free mass than fat- no matter what we weigh.   Fat and weight sometimes coincide, but they are different.   Our bodyweight is a reflection of our relationship with gravity and our weight includes our bones, organs, muscle, blood, fat and water.  Our bodies are more than 60% water.  Our bodyweight varies throughout the day and it varies day by day and week by week mainly due to a big variable:  Water.  When you weigh yourself you are getting all that information.  If your bones are stronger due to a resistance training program then they are stronger and heavier.  We want and need that kind of weight.

Let’s talk muscle.  Typically, when we talk about Muscle, we are referring to skeletal muscle.  There are 3 types of Muscle – Skeletal, Smooth and Cardiac.  Skeletal muscle is a series of muscle that moves the skeleton.  The nervous system is the control center for movement production, and the skeletal system provides the structural framework for our bodies. To complete a cycle of movement production, the body must have a device that the nervous system can command to move the skeletal system and that is the muscular system.  Muscles generate internal tension which manipulates the bones of our body to produce movements.  Muscles are the movers and stabilizers of our bodies.   Tendons are the structures that attach muscles to bone and provide the anchor from which the muscle can exert force and control the bone and joint.  Ligaments connect bone to bone, provide stability and input to the nervous system.  Muscle, just like Bone, is living tissue.  Muscle needs calories and stimulation via exercise to maintain and grow.  The stronger and fitter our muscles are the Better we are.

Exercising and Training are different.  Training takes us out of our comfort zone and it is designed to build brick-upon-brick of your foundation of strength. Working in a way that stimulates and continually challenges our muscles is what strength (resistance) training is.  True strength training isn’t aerobic exercise with weights.  Strength training is using resistance that keeps our muscles under tension and it is training that is progressive.   Without challenge and without progression – we are exercising, not strength training.  There are many tools to use for strength training: Bodyweight, resistance bands, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, etc.  There are techniques and tools that are utilized in progressive & periodized training such as Supersets, Combinations, Complexes, Circuits, Eccentrics and Cardio Intervals.  For the beginner, it is about learning basic compound exercises with good form and building a foundation of stability and strength to build upon.

We all should be builders of our bodies. We only have one so shouldn’t we build it to be as strong, healthy & functional as possible?   To have stability, balance and mobility- we need our muscles.  To do everyday activities with independence and reduced risk of injury – we need our muscles.  To have the body composition we want – we need our muscles.   Don’t have fear of morphing into a rippled muscle bound “bodybuilder” if that isn’t what you want.  Believe me – that doesn’t happen easily or casually.   Becoming a builder of your body = Smart.

When it comes to fighting obesity which is about having less fat – we need our muscle.  Muscles need calories; Muscles shape and define our bodies; Muscles move our bodies and keep us balanced and coordinated.   Be aware that many weight loss plans are detrimental to our muscles, our bones, our metabolism and our health.  If we take care of our muscles we can become fat-burning machines as a normal course of business; we will have stronger bones; we will have a good framework for our bodies that will improve our functional strength, balance and coordination.  And yes –look pretty darn FABulous.

Maintain a nutritious diet that keeps you thriving, don’t lead a sedentary lifestyle and have strength training in your life – Do it for the Health of It.

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?

 

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.

Functional Aging. For. The. Win.

No matter how old we are chronologically – we are absolutely aging every single day.  It is never too early or too late to start making some changes that can make a huge difference in how we age.

First of all, what is aging?  Aging is the gradual loss of functional ability and it varies by individual.

Our chronological age is measured by the years since our birth.  Functional aging relates to attributes: Our appearance, our mobility, our strength and our mental clarity.  We cannot change or control our chronological age, but we can absolutely make a difference in our functional age. We can functionally be younger (or older) than our chronological age.  Lifestyle choices make a Difference. The interaction of lifestyle, environment and genetics affects the aging process. The lifestyle choices we make relative to our physical activity and nutrition are up to us as well as some healthier choices within our home environment.

Some statistics:  Currently adults 65+ make up 12.5% of the US population. Projections are that by 2050 that number will be 25% or greater than 70 million individuals.  85% in that age group suffers from at least 1 chronic condition and 57% of our annual total healthcare expenditures in the US are within that age group or $12,000 for every older adult.  Many chronic conditions are greatly affected by our lifestyle choices – up to 80% according to many functional medicine physicians and researchers.   What is the most prevalent cause of death in older adults?  Heart Disease.  Coronary artery disease develops early, but symptoms do not present until later in life.  If we lead a healthier lifestyle, the less impact coronary artery disease has on us. The later in life symptoms present equals a longer life with less disability.   The earlier we adopt healthier lifestyle habits the better.

What is the number one habit you can adopt right now that will make the greatest impact?  ACTIVITY.  Be more active every single day; physically and mentally.  Sit less, move more.  Get up out of your recliner and get moving.  Take a walk.  Take a bike ride.  Sweep your leaves off your deck instead of using a leaf blower.  Make 2 trips instead of one when carrying in your groceries.  Visit your neighbor and ask him or her to go with you to Lowe’s and walk around the warehouse if the weather isn’t cooperating for an outdoor walk.  Do some bodyweight exercises such as wall push-ups or squats while you brush your teeth, prepare dinner or while you are on hold waiting for someone to answer the phone. If you do have a favorite TV show you think you just can’t miss – you can do planks for your Core strength while you are watching.   Look for opportunities – they are there.

I’m going to be blunt.  Being sedentary is a shortcut to the cemetery.  I’m not hankering to get there any quicker and I certainly want to be independent and feeling as great as I possibly can all the way to the grave.  Let’s be honest:  I want to look as great as I can too.  Why not?  Life is going on now so why spend any of it feeling less than awesome if you can do something about it?

When it comes to exercise, make it weight bearing for your heart, bones and muscles. Walking and dancing are weight bearing exercises.  Taking part in a strength training program that incorporates cardio-respiratory, stabilization, and power is vitally important throughout our life, but especially when we are over 30.  Yes, 30.   Our bone mass peaks around age 30 and starts gradually declining after that. After age 50, that decline accelerates and that significantly increases our risk of osteoporosis.  In addition to bone mass decline, we are also losing skeletal muscle each and every year unless we are doing something about it. We can put the brakes on that decline by using and challenging our musculoskeletal system: skeletal muscle, bones and joints. Without strong bones and muscles we lose our strength and mobility which means our independence; and we are at risk for injury, fractures and death.   One-Third of adults over age 65 will suffer an accident, primarily falls. 25% of older adults die within one year of sustaining a hip injury due to a fall.  WHOA!  Many of these risk factors are preventable and can be modified by exercise interventions.

With that said, you need to be smart about starting a new exercise program especially if you are an older adult and/or have medical conditions.  Seek professional guidance and training from individuals who are trained to work with older adults and will work with your healthcare provider to ensure you are training safely and correctly.

Have your own health care improvement plan and get started today so that your functional age knocks your chronological age out of the ball park.   The earlier you start the better.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG. Get After It.