Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The World We Live In

We hear and read a lot about how our food industry and eating habits in America have taken a turn for the worst over the past few decades, and that our food choices were healthier in our grandparents’ days than now. I’ve written about it myself. In contrast, it occurred to me this morning how fortunate we are to be living in these times we’re in now.

I have loved ones who are in their late 60s and 70s and dealing with health problems. They came up
in the age where it was believed that smoking cigarettes wasn’t harmful (although I can’t fathom why common sense wouldn’t trump popular culture on that one!). The no-fat diet fad gave permission to load up on carbs and refined sugar, processed foods and fast food restaurants became more easily accessible (without the warnings of it's harmful effects we have now), and exercising wasn’t trendy, especially for women.

Today we have more information available to us than we know what to do with. Of course, information overload can result in confusion, but our current culture encourages us to be proactive in taking charge of our own health. We’ve come so far in even just the past two decades in what we know. Even if the food industry is more concerned with revenue than the health safety of their consumers, we have enough information to be able to actively make wiser choices.

In addition, like many other things, the fields of sports and fitness have opened up to women more than any time in history. It’s not just okay, but in fact popular for women to compete in everything from bodybuilding competitions, to contact sports, to marathons. If I were my age during the time my mother was my age, I wouldn’t have the option of feeling comfortable training in the weight room with the guys or participating in an obstacle course style competition on a coed team.  I believe that my active lifestyle during my early and mid-life years gives me a better chance for a higher quality of living in my later years than my grandmothers have.

I’m grateful for the progress that’s been made before and in my lifetime. I love that we have the resources to be in control of our own health and fitness choices and the encouragement to make good ones.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday Moment 7/29/13

Summer Morning Muffins
These muffins look deeelicious!!!
How To Make the Best Iced Coffee
I've been on an iced coffee kick. Trying my hand at making it at home.
Nautical Nail Art
People who know me know I'm a nail polish junkie.
Top 10 Things To Do With Leftover Beer
Recycled beer.... hmmm.....
7 Horrible Foods You Should Not Allow Near Your Mouth
Worth the read.
Woman Overcomes Ovarian Cancer With Nutrition
Inspiring story of a woman who put her faith in her body.

If a man achieves victory over this body, who in the world can exercise power over him? He who rules himself rules over the whole world.
Vinoba Bhave

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Stress: good or bad for you?

It’s been a roller coaster of a week for me. My stress levels and emotions have been driven up one
side of the hill and back down the other a few times. Stress has become a dirty word in our language. It doesn’t feel good. But a healthy body is designed to handle stress and grow stronger because of it. Exercise is a form of physical stress. Facing a difficult challenge at work is an example of mental stress. Feeling sad saying goodbye to a loved one is emotional stress. Everyone experiences stress on a regular basis; there’s no way around it in our normal, everyday lives. The challenges we face and overcome cause whichever bodily system being taxed to become stronger in order to handle it again the next time.

The dangers of stress come from being exposed to it over and over again with no relief. In the same way that rest is required in order for the body to become physically stronger after a workout, other systems of the body need rest between challenges in order to recover and become stronger. A body that is continuously exposed to stress without reprieve is at risk because its normal defenses are overcome and become weak.

Relentless stress can be a factor in many health issues: headaches, fatigue, high blood pressure, skin conditions, anxiety, stomach problems… to name a few. It’s like a worm that snakes its way through everything and wreaks havoc.

My natural tendency when stressed is to give in to the paralyzing feeling I get, which throws me off my normal routines. I’ve done it before. When I’m mentally drained, it’s easy to allow myself to skip the gym and not stick with my eating plan. Those things take energy to follow through with, and stress saps my energy.

I thank God every day for my husband. On the worst day this week, my mind was reeling with upsetting thoughts and worries about an issue I was dealing with, and I just wanted to sit on the couch, with my computer to keep me distracted, and turn inside myself. Scott talked me into going to the gym with him and getting a cardio workout. He knew it would make me feel better. It was, of course, exactly what I needed to do. Another day I did a cardio workout in the evening at the track at a school up the street. Being outdoors and feeling my body push beyond comfortable limits did wonders for my mood. Both of those workouts were in my normal routine, but I was tempted to skip them.

That leads me to a final point I want to make about handling stress: the importance of having healthy routines already in motion. Your routines can be things that are easy to fall back on without having to put much effort into planning or thinking about “what, why and how.” When you’re overcome with stress, force yourself to do each next step of your routine. For example, if you’re already in the routine of getting up early in the morning to work out, do it, even if you don’t feel like it because you’re nervous about a difficulty you’re anticipating at work. I guarantee it’ll make you feel strong and ready to face the challenge. 

Here's to next week being a great week!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Moment 7/22/13

Friday night at the new Chase Sports Bar in downtown Jackson
What successful people do in the mornings
I love to read about successful people's habits.
Running Interval Workout
Another outdoor workout for your cardio sessions this week.
$5 Dollar Meals
Check out this awesome meal planning blog I found.
Step Up Your Pancake Game
Yummm.... pancakes from scratch

He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.
Thomas Carlyle

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Lessons From Our Kids

The topic for this blog post came from my stepchildren through our conversation over dinner tonight. Kids are so good at keeping us reigned in to the simple, basic ideas that we as adults tend to turn into complicated, over-thought worries.

Not too long ago I made a huge mistake that required my husband to rescue me. Katie and Collin were with him at the time and they love to tease me about it every chance they get. My mistake was that I let my car run out of gas while I was driving, thinking I could make it to the next town before stopping at a gas station. I passed by three gas stations (as the kids LOVE to remind me) between where I started and where I ran out of gas.

Katie and Collin are 8 and 9 years old. The thought patterns of 8 and 9 year
old kids seem to bounce from one topic to another like a ping pong ball, so it’s not surprising that the road traveled over dinner conversation is a bit…um…crooked. Collin was talking about hearing his grandmother say that people are dying in this heat (if you’re reading from a different region, we’ve been under an extreme heat wave this week). His dad said you have to drink lots of water when you’re out in heat like that, and I chimed in with a comment about listening to your body and giving it what it tells you it needs. Somehow, from that, Katie chimed in about me passing THREE GAS STATIONS and running out of gas. And Collin asked if my car dinged at me to tell me it was almost out of fuel. I said, “Yes, it did, and I didn’t listen to it and didn’t give it what it told me it needed so it quit on me.”
Somehow there was a natural tie-in from one topic to the other. If your body is out in the heat and it tells you it needs water and cooler air, you’d better listen to it and give it what it asks for or it’ll quit on you, just like my car did when I didn’t give it what it told me it needed. Our bodies are amazing machines.

I will probably take the time another day to write a more detailed, well-thought-out article on the subject of listening to your body. For right now I just wanted to share this story just like it is to keep it simple the way kids do. I love coming home from a long day of working with adults and concepts that drain me to the refreshing happy energy of the kids.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"What Type of Exercise Should I Do?"

People often ask what the best type of workout is: weight training, running, swimming, biking, walking, circuit training, etc. The best answer I’ve heard is, “the one you’ll stick with.” That answer can feel vague and like the question wasn’t taken seriously, but really, for general purposes it’s the best answer. Of course, there are specific types of exercise programs for certain objectives. Also, people have individual tendencies based on muscle shape and fiber type ratios. For example, some people have more “fast twitch” muscle fibers than “slow twitch.” Those people will be better at heavy weight training or sprinting than cross-country running and other types of endurance training. The opposite is true for people with a higher percentage of slow twitch muscle fibers. That’s one reason different people excel in different types of sports. A person’s individual body type has a huge influence on what the best type of exercise is for him or her.

Quite a bit of science goes into making the best of an athlete’s body type to perfect his or her performance, but it doesn’t have to be complicated for the average person. We need a good balance of muscle and cardiovascular strengthening. It’s not difficult to get both, even if you enjoy one more than the other.

I’m definitely not a runner. The long distance endurance stuff is not my thing. There are, however, plenty of cardio options for me that I enjoy. Aerobics-type classes, like Zumba and kick boxing give me a great cardiovascular workout with varying levels of intensity and high energy music that keeps my motivation high. When I can’t make it to a class, I do interval training on the treadmill. For muscular strength training, I keep things interesting by mixing up exercises and muscle groups on different days.

Here is an example of the interval training workout I did on the treadmill tonight:
3 min. warm-up
2 min. 5.5 incline; 3.6 speed
1 min. 5.5 incline; 4.0 speed
1 min. 5.5 incline; 3.6 speed
1 min. 0 incline; 7.0 speed (sprint)
1 min. 5.5 incline; 3.6 speed
1 min. 5.5 incline; 4.0 speed
1 min. 5.5 incline; 3.6 speed
1 min. 0 incline; 7.0 speed (sprint)
Repeat these intervals for a total of 30 minutes. For extra variety, I replaced a couple of the 4.0 speed minutes with jump squats on the floor for a minute.
2 min. cool-down

Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday Moment 7/15/13

Cletus says Happy Monday!
Interesting articles from around the web last week:

Blaming the patient, then asking for forgiveness. I heard this speech on a podcast earlier this week, and then I came across it on the internet yesterday. It's a moving depiction of one doctor's passage from judgmental to compassionate when it comes to overweight patients. 
32 Ways to Improve Your Body Image Throughout the Day. I love these easy-to-do activities to help us remember to take care of ourselves as we go through our days.
Outdoor Circuit Workout. This workout is similar to the one I created for my daughter and posted here last week.
Wine and Chocolate: A Perfectly Decadent Pairing. 'nuff said!
Being a Lifelong Bookworm May Keep You Sharp in Old Age. It's possible that exercising your brain to keep it sharp works in much the same way as exercising your body to keep it fit.
13 Refreshing and Fruity Sangria Recipes. Summertime yum!
How to Make Healthy Flavored Water at Home. More summertime yum!

Time and health are two precious assets that we don't recognize and appreciate until they have been depleted.
-Denis Waitley

Have a healthy, happy week!
Nixon Park, Jackson, MI

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Chocolate and Your Health

Chocolate had a bad rap when I was a child. I heard everything from it rotting your teeth to causing your face to break out. The only form of chocolate I knew of was my favorite candy bars: Snickers, 3 Musketeers and Milky Way, to name a few. Now, of course, news of the health benefits of the dark stuff is main stream. The below infogram illustrates some facts about chocolate.

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned the fact that food companies use cheap alternatives to real food ingredients in an effort to maximize profit. Today I read this in a Wikipedia article:

"In March 2007, the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, whose members include Hershey's, Nestlé, and Archer Daniels Midland, began lobbying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to change the legal definition of chocolate to allow the substitution of "safe and suitable vegetable fats and oils" (including partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) for cocoa butter in addition to using "any sweetening agent" (including artificial sweeteners) and milk substitutes. Currently, the FDA does not allow a product to be referred to as "chocolate" if the product contains any of these ingredients. To work around this restriction, products with cocoa substitutes are often branded or labeled as "chocolatey" or as in the case of Hershey's Mr. Goodbar containing vegetable oils, "made with chocolate"."
I have one thing to say to that: GRRRRR!!!!!! Will it ever stop?!

I LOVE chocolate. I even love the darker, less sweet kind. So I was thrilled to learn of the benefits it can have to my health. However, like everything good, chocolate is able to be manipulated and modified to the point of detriment instead of beneficial. When sugar, fat and artificial ingredients are added, the risks of eating it outweigh anything good that would come from the actual cocoa in the product.

Eat chocolate: eat it in moderation, eat the dark kind (less sugar and more cacao), and read the label!