COLLAGEN – How to Get More Of It

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 cosmic-daisyneeds.

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.

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

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, if you are not eating a sufficient amount of protein (on average 100 – 125g of protein per day for older adults).  Real food is always best, but if you are not getting enough protein, then supplementing can be a wise choice.

Millie foot Walking picExercise 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 has great benefits for our lymphatic system and bone density.  Bicycling, dancing, taking a group fitness class, lifting weights circuit style are all options. Strength-Resistance training is very important as we age so be sure to prioritize resistance training.  Find an activity and get out there and do it!

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).

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

Collagen Peptides| Collagen Proteins is a supplement that you can consider for boosting your collagen production.  Choose an unflavored powder and mix it in a glass of juice, add it to a smoothie or add it to a batch of banana bread.   There are also Collagen supplements in capsule form.  Be aware of the different types of Collagen. If you purchase a Collagen product, there are products with a blend of different types of Collagen.

  • Type I: This type accounts for 90% of your body’s collagen and is made of densely packed fibers. It provides structure to skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue and teeth.
  • Type II: This type is made of more loosely packed fibers and is found in elastic cartilage, which cushions joints.
  • Type III: This type supports the structure of muscles, organs and arteries.
  • Type IV: This type helps with filtration and is found in layers of your skin.

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, keeping your eye on your health relative to collagen production is essential and vitally important.  It truly isn’t that difficult to do; we just need to know what to do.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It!
I share my thoughts with you to provide information and food for thought aka pondering, Pondering leads to more reading education and Eureka! Moments. However, please don’t take it as medical advice. It isn’t. If you have a medical condition, or suspect that you have one, always seek care from a licensed medical professional.

Exercise As We Age

In my last blog, I shared with you the importance of nutrition, particularly protein, to support our functional strength as we age.   Maintaining good functional strength is important to a goal of being able to Age in Place, which is the ability to live in your own home and community safely, independently and comfortably.

Age related loss of muscle mass and function is called sarcopenia. Muscle is key to motion. As we age, significant changes in muscle mass and quality take place. After about age 50, muscle mass decreases at an annual rate of 1–2%. The decline in muscle strength is even higher, amounting to 1.5% per year between ages 50 and 60 and 3% per year thereafter.  Of those 65 and older, 16 to 18 percent of women and eight to 10 percent of men in the United States cannot lift ten pounds, bend forward to pick something up off the ground or kneel to the floor. After the age of 75, this increases to 66 percent of women and 28 percent of men being unable to lift more than ten pounds.

 Muscle strength is strongly correlated to physical independence and fall prevention. Loss of muscle mass and strength is related to functional impairment and an increased risk for a fall. Leg strength, particularly the ability to rise from a chair, has been found to be a major predictor of frailty and mortality. Leg strength and walking gait speed are two variables predicting fall risk. Additionally, muscular endurance necessary to maintain balance under multi-task conditions such as cooking, gardening or recreational activities, and the importance of muscular power in reactive balance such as slipping on ice or tripping over a curb are important fall risk factors in older adults.

What makes the biggest difference in our skeletal muscle mass and strength?  Exercise.  Specifically, weight bearing and resistance-based exercise which also improve our bone density and decrease our risk of osteoporosis.   Weight bearing exercise are activities that force you to work against gravity. Examples are walking, hiking, climbing stairs, playing tennis or golf (walk don’t ride a cart!), and dancing.   Exercise such as riding a bicycle is a weight supportive exercise.  The bicycle supports our weight.  While bicycling isn’t weight bearing exercise, we are using our largest skeletal muscles to power the bicycle.

Resistance-based exercise is also known as strength training.  Strength training is any exercise that causes the muscles to contract against an external resistance. Resistance-based exercises increase strength, mass and endurance depending on how the exercises are performed.  The external resistance can be dumbbells, rubber exercise tubing or flat loop bands, your own bodyweight or any object that causes the muscle to contract. There are three movements of any resistance-based exercise:  concentric, isometric and eccentric.  Knowing how to utilize these movements properly, how much weight-resistance is used, the tempo of the exercise, and using proper technique to avoid injury and maximize effectiveness relative to your specific goals.  Training techniques differ for strength gains, muscle mass and muscle endurance.  For functional health, older adults need to focus on strength, muscle mass and muscular endurance.  While most everyone can implement a walking program into their life without any type of special training or guidance, I highly recommend guidance from a qualified therapist or a trainer who specializes in senior fitness. SilverSneakers® is a good source for exercise modalities for senior adults.   They have a website and a Facebook page where free information is provided to anyone and if you are a member (available through many Medicare Advantage Plans) you can attend SilverSneakers® classes for free or minimal cost if you are not a member.  I personally lead two SilverSneakers® classes every week.  An online resource I recommend is ElderGym.com  that provides quality information and free senior workout programs that can be performed at home, outdoors or in a gym.

Stay Healthy. Be Strong. Get After It.

Nutrition As We Age

In my last blog post I shared with you the obstacles that can get in the way of our Aging In Place, which is the ability to live in your own home and community safely, independently and comfortably.

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

Exercise, Nutrition, Hydration, Social interaction and Mental stimulation are areas to focus on and are things that we can do, right now.    I’m going to talk about Nutrition today and how it relates to keeping us functionally strong (able to do everyday activities) and how proper nutrition supports muscle mass and bone density which goes hand in hand with being functionally strong.   Having more strength, more muscle mass and stronger bones decreases our risk of accidents and better ensures that we can do the basic activities of daily living.

Age related loss of skeletal muscle mass and function is called sarcopenia.  Throughout childhood and until about the age of 30, muscles grow larger and stronger. In those who are physically inactive, muscle mass declines between three and eight percent each decade after the age of 30 and increases to five and 10 percent each decade after age 50.  After age 50, those who are inactive can experience a 15 percent loss of strength per decade. Of those 65 and older, 16 to 18 percent of women and eight to 10 percent of men in the United States cannot lift ten pounds, bend forward to pick something up off the ground or kneel to the floor. After the age of 75, this increases to 66 percent of women and 28 percent of men being unable to lift more than ten pounds.

Muscle strength is strongly correlated to physical independence and fall prevention. Loss of muscle mass and strength is related to functional impairment and an increased risk for a fall. Leg strength, particularly the ability to rise from a chair, has been found to be a major predictor of frailty and mortality. Leg strength and walking gait speed are two variables predicting fall risk. Additionally, muscular endurance necessary to maintain balance under multi-task conditions such as cooking, gardening or recreational activities, and the importance of muscular power in reactive balance such as slipping on ice or tripping over a curb are important fall risk factors in older adults.

Nutrition and resistance-based exercise are vitally important to minimize sarcopenia and the loss of function as a result.  They go together.  I will talk about exercise in my next column.  We must fuel our bodies with the nutrients it needs to keep us thriving and performing.  This is especially true as we get older since. We simply don’t have time to recover and rebound from poor choices.

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 &/or 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.

Protein. Calcium. Vitamin D.   We need to especially focus on these 3 things since they support healthy, dense bones and muscle mass.   Older adults need more protein than they are likely eating; if your diet is too low in protein, then the rate of muscle mass loss accelerates because you are not giving your body the building blocks needed to maintain or build muscle mass.

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, but you do need to keep your eye on the ball.   Aim to have protein with each meal and snack.  Where to find it?

  • Plain Greek or Icelandic Yogurt, 1 cup   20g
  • Flavored Greek Yogurt, 1 cup                   13 g
  • Cottage Cheese, 1 cup                                 20 g
  • 1 oz.  hard cheese                                          7 g
  • Large egg                                                         6 g
  • Chicken Breast 3 oz                                      30g
  • Turkey Breast, 3 oz                                       30g
  • Ground Beef. 3 oz                                          30g
  • Steak, 3 oz                                                       30g
  • Pork Chop 3 oz                                               30g
  • Fish, 4 oz                                                         30g
  • Shrimp. 4 oz                                                   30g
  • Lobster tail, small                                         20g
  • Scallop, 1 average                                           3g
  • Canned Tuna, 4 oz                                        30g
  • Canned Salmon, 4 oz                                    25g
  • Beans & Lentils, 4 oz                                   13-18g
  • Vegetables        All vegetables have protein, but they are not as rich of a protein source as animal-based protein, beans or lentils.  Asparagus, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Artichoke, Watercress, yellow corn are the top 7 vegetables highest in protein.    1 large spear of asparagus or broccoli has ½ g of protein on average; therefore 10 spears will have 5 g of protein.

Set a goal of paying attention to your protein intake ensuring you are eating protein with every meal and snack. Ask yourself: “What am I going to eat with my protein”?  Challenge yourself to always think protein first when planning your meals and snacks.

Stay Healthy. Be Strong. Get After It.

Chamayne – Why She Runs

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

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

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

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

But then…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 You 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!