Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Daily Doses Going Weekly?

I can't believe I've only posted 5 times this month!!!  Ugg!  Things have been so crazy, and work has been so hectic, that I haven't had a chance to post lately!

But I was excited to learn that my family members are starting to try to incorporate more natural eating into their lives!!  If they have some good experiences, maybe they'd like to share them *hint hint!* ;-)

My dad has grudgingly sipped on green smoothies that my mom has been making; my younger sister is starting to take up walking (though not by choice - she's gotta hoof it around her campus!); and my older sister has been limiting processed foods and pushing raw produce!  Rock on, family!!  I'm so proud if I was able to help plant seeds!

I was also excited to hear that some friends of mine are also following some sort of diet plan that pushed foods closer to the way nature intends - fresh produce, nuts, and seeds; and limit the processed junk!  They are looking for more energy and to drop some weight.  And what a great way to do it!

So I hope to hear more stories of people's progress!  I have a few testimonials from some other friends coming up soon!

Have a wonderful week, and try something new today! :)


"May today there be peace in your heart, may you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be, may you never lose sight of the infinite possiblities that you see in yourself and others."  --my friend Miss G.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Stretch It Out!

Happy Monday! Hope the weekend went well for you! Get to try any Tabata or other High Intensity Interval Training over the break? ;-)

Either way, here's a quick task for you (after you check Friday's post and re-read the disclaimer about exercising!) - reach your arms WAY over your head and streeeetch it up! Feel your spine lengthen, your arms press up, and your rib cage expand! Ahhhh!! (Hey! I told you in the last post that it'd be good for you to stretch, so I'm just trying to remind and motivate you!)

Stretching regularly should be a part of a healthy life. So stretch it out! Any activity you do - walking, running, lifting groceries, pulling weeds... your muscles are going to be contracting and flexing. And stretching has its role, too! Of course, if you have any condition, you should check with a doctor or physical therapist about proper care in stretching - it is possible to damage something if you're not supposed to be stretching it in certain ways.

The Mayo Clinic gives 4 reasons why stretching is important. So reach both arms to your right and try to rotate your spine to reach back even farther on your right as though you're trying to look behind you, then look back here! You can use the chair to help deeped the stretch.

#1 Stretching increases flexibility: Big deal, right? If you're not trying to be a yoga guru or contortionist, who cares, right!? Wrong. There may be more importance to flexibility than that. As you age, you'll naturally begin to lose the flex and muscle performance - this can be needed for even menial tasks like lifting your laundry baskets, bending to tie shoes, or bending your knees to walk up a set of stairs. And if you have better flexibility, it can make these and other tasks easier and less tiring.

So rotate that spine the other way, and twist your arms out to the left, and keep yourself loose and limber!

#2: Stretching improves range of motion in your joints: Range of motion helps with better balance and fewer injuries from daily tasks. This is especially important as you age - elderly people have more of a tendency to lose their balance, and due to usually weaker bones, risk more damage! Even if your not at a wizened age, begin implementing preventative care.
Stand up, and reach for your toes! (Or, if you're refusing to get out of your chair, straighten your legs in front of you, and reach that way!!) You may be like my older sister who can practically fold herself in half; or like my younger sister who can barely touch her knees. Either way is fine! Just listen to your body about what is comfortable yet still gives a slight challenge - don't damage yourself!! Find your own edge, breathe smoothly, and know that your range of motion will improve with practice!

#3: Stretching improves circulation: get that blood flowing! Blood is precious in your body - you need to to get to your heart, to your muscles, and to the joints! And if you're trying to recover after a good workout and you have those sore muscles, stretching can help speed that recovery!

Lean your head forward as though you're trying to rest your chin on your chest. Sit up straight, keep the spine aligned, and gently stretch those neck muscles!
#4: Stretching can relieve stress: it helps relax tight muscles - whether they are tight from exercise, or tight from stress. Let it go, my dear. Stretch it out!
Aaaand take a big, calming breath :) Take another. And a third, final slow breath.

Hopefully you'll start to make stretching a standard part of your week (or even a daily activity!) Here are some pointers from the Mayo Clinic about good stretching and safe stretching:

-Focus on major muscle groups, such as calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck, and shoulders. Also focus on muscles and joints that you use routinely.

-Warm up first, or exercise first. It's good to have a little blood flow going already - walk a few minutes, swing your arms or legs... or just stretch after exercise.

-Pace yourself. Reach slowly - don't thrust too fast or too roughly into a position; hold about 30 seconds, relax, repeat. Do 3-4 times.

-Don't bounce! This can actually cause small tears in your muscle (not the good kind used to build muscle), which can leave scar tissue, thereby tightening the muscle more as it tries to heal. This can lead to less flexibility and make you more prone to pain.

-It shouldn't hurt. Expect tension, but not pain. If it hurts, you've gone too far, so back off a little and hold on that edge.

-Relax and breathe - don't hold your breath.

-Ultimately, it's up to you how often you stretch. But it's good to try to stretch after exercising, or at least 3 times a week. You may want to do it more if you have tight joints or muscles.

-Know when to exercise caution. Don't damage anything! Learn what feels right, and listen to your body.

I hope that about sums it all up for you! Have a great week!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Tabata, Anyone?

Happy Friday, my friends! I hope you have a good weekend planned - whether it's to be filled with chores, relaxation, adventure, or sleep - may you enjoy it and feel fulfilled in the end!

I went to the gym this morning, and tried out a new exercise style called Tabata! And what weird activity might that be??

Allow me to first make a disclaimer regarding exercise - I know most of us feel good enough to just jump into things, but just because I have to say this: See your physician before starting any kind of exercise routine. Also, I am not a personal trainer nor exercise physiologist, or anything like that! All I know about exercise is from personal study and experience. Use the info at your own risk ;-)

So Tabata: it's just a modification of the popular High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), a training type that bodybuilder.com calls "the best, quickest way to get in shape, lose fat, and annihilate your competition." Whoa! Well, I'm not trying to annihilate any competition that I know of!

Many personal trainers and coaches will encourage HIIT training to help maximize cardio time. Basically, you do small bursts of exercise, followed by a short rest period ("intervals".) For example, sprint ("High Intensity") for 10 seconds, walk 10 seconds, repeat these intervals multiple times. Or, use a bike, and do the same idea - power pedal 15 seconds, cruise for 10. Or use the stair stepper, or rowing machine, etc. (You may want to skip the treadmill, though, as usually changes in speed are lengthier to respond while the belt has to gradually slow!)

There are many different ratios for the bursts to the rest, but all HIIT plans share the same philosophy:

Seriously vigorous activity utilizes extra oxygen as you pant harder and get your heart rate up even higher, and creates an "oxygen debt" - which triggers different mechanisms in your body than when you have amble oxygen to use. This helps burn off the stored sugars you have in your blood and muscle, and will then utilize fat for energy. Since people are not likely able to sustain this very intense level of activity of prolonged heart rate and full-lung breathing - doing it in spurts is the next best thing. In theory, you don't need to do a long, steady workout to burn the same calories - plus, you get an "after burn" even once the exercise is finished, continuing to utilize fat stores for energy for some time after you have stopped!

In 1994, a group of scientists published a study in the journal Metabolism. They compared a group of people doing typical endurance training (ET) to those doing some HIIT. They found "the HIIT program induced a more pronounced reduction in subcutaneous adiposity (body fat) compared with the ET program" even though less energy was needed! When they corrected for energy costs (ie: if each group were to use the exact same amount of energy for their exercise), they saw that the loss of body fat was nine times greater in the HIIT program than the ET program!

Sounds good, right?

You can see Subcutaneous is the outer layer of fat. But visceral fat is some of the more dangerous fat!
Too much gunk around your important organs! Keep eating clean, and keep moving, and you can lose that "hard stomach" danger!

So what specifically is the Tabata Protocol? I am not sure how this is different than any other ratio of HIIT exercise, other than it incorporates a whole plan of building up time and keeping track of heart rates. But I figured it only takes 8 minutes, so I'd give it a try! (Though I forgot my heart rate monitor, so I just did the exercise to see how it felt and if I'd want to try more in the future!)

The plan:
5 minutes of warm-up
8 intervals of 20 seconds all-out intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest
2 minutes cool-down

So I hopped on an elliptical machine at the gym, turned on the ipod to psych me up, and gave it a go! The first 4 sets - not too bad! Panting hard, quads burning, and lungs really working! But I was enjoying the speed. When you're watching the timer tick for a mere 20 seconds, that's mentally easier to deal with that seeing it slowly plod along to the 30 minute goal... all 1800 seconds of THAT exercise!

The recommendation is to just start with 2-4 intervals, and gradually work up - but I did the first 4 and just felt like going through all 8!

So I kept pumping - push 20 while I bump the resistance to level 13-15, then cruise for 10 seconds at resistance level 2-4...

By set 6, it was getting tough! But I'd come this far, by golly, I was going to make the last 2 minutes!!

*Pant pant, puff puff, BURN!*

And then... ahhhhh, cruising for 2 minutes at level 3... peace. When I finished, my thighs felt like I'd done a pretty decent workout focused on the quadriceps! Wow! And I was shocked how long it took for my heart rate and breathing to return to normal. (Guess I gotta work on that recovery health!) But it felt good! I love running, so I plan to continue working up to my goal of 5-6 miles; but when time is short, I think this will be a nice alternative practice to add to my life!

You want to "feel the burn"? Try some ratio of interval training! Push yourself, dig in, and see what ya got!

But don't forget that any activity is healthy, and all forms of exercise are beneficial - strength training is good for the muscles and bone density. Cardio in steady rates is good for endurance of the heart and lungs - plus helps you sweat out those toxins! ;-) And don't forget stretching! Flexibility is important for keeping a healthy range of motion, preventing injuries, and keeping circulation moving.

So whatever method you choose - get moving! Even if it's as simple as a walk at lunch. Or hey - next time you come to read a post here, stand up and do some stretching while you read!! Just get that blood moving, and take care of your body! And be excited - you can get a decent workout in 8 to 10 minutes if you really need to! (No, that won't totally make up for an otherwise chip-eating couch-potato existence... but baby steps to health can be addicting!)

Lots of love and lettuce chips!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fad Diet History

There was an interesting article in Time Magazine earlier this year that I stumbled on.  It was a brief page that shared some of the odd diets that have come and gone over the last thousand years!  (Yes!  One thousand years ago, people were still worrying about their weight!  Sort of a shame, if you ask me.)

But here are some of the crazy schemes they uncovered:

1087: William the Conqueror became too fat to ride his horse, so developed the alcohol-only diet.  Doesn't that sound like party time??  I think it'd be more fun to watch others on that diet than it would be to actually BE on that diet!

1829: Sylvester Graham starts the "Vegetarian Graham Diet" that includes his now renowned treat - the Graham Cracker!

1863: William Banting markets the first known "Low Carb" diet.  (Which has been reintroduced over history, most recently from Dr. Atkins)

1900s: Tapeworm pills are marketed.  (The worms crawl in the, the worms crawl out...)

1903: Horace "the Great Masticator" Fletcher instructed people to chew 32 times then spit the food out.  (Can you imagine those dinner parties?!)

1928: The Inuit Diet - another low carb diet that pushed meat and fats

1934: Dr. George Harrop started the "skim milk and bananas" diet (which I read made a comeback across seas last year or so...) 

1960s: The "Calories Don't Count" if you chug some vegetable oils after eating, thanks to the mind of Dr. Herman Taller.  Yuck!

1966: The "Sleeping Beauty" diet - just get sedated and you'll sleep through meal times!

1990s: various restrictive diets like Cabbage Soup Diet, Master Cleanse, etc. 

And I'm sure there have been many other diet schemes through time.  But those were the ones in the article!  I just thought it was an interesting read.  Perhaps I will be thought of as a crazy old loon some day for pushing so much fresh produce, but so be it!  I still believe it's the best way!

Happy eating, everyone!


Friday, August 13, 2010

End of the Veggie Run!

Welcome to the end of the work week! (For most, that is.)

I am here to give you the update on how our final Fruit and Veggie Run went!

Wednesday I was feeling great - still loving the abundance of fruits, though admittedly a little tired of salad with no dressing ;-) But I just kept at it - last day, right?? And we had dinner plans with the dad, meeting at Applebee's.

Uh-oh. That sounds tantalizingly dangerous!

So, what's a good little nutritionist do? She plans ahead! I scour their website and hunt down the menu to see what would be acceptable for me. Lo and behold, a beautiful salad is part of their menu! The Asian Crunch Salad - romaine lettuce, cucumber, red onions, roasted red peppers, and sweet peas! I decide to just order it without the chicken and almonds, and dressing on the side.

I don't need no steenking dressing! I has my lemon!

(Mine came without the chicken though!!)
So, with that plan in mind - off we go! The only splurge I make is to keep the almonds - I am hungry and the salad just doesn't sound filling enough without some extra protein. So there it is! A lovely salad - and I devoured that sucker!

....and then we sat there for another hour conversing and laughing and having good times, and Dave had half of his burger sitting there, taunting me.

Evil burger.

A chink in the armor - I ate that half of that acid-forming burger.

Then a damaging blow to the armor!

The men wanted dessert - and oh what a dessert it was! A Maple Butter Blondie and a Chocolate Chip Cookies Sundae staring me in the face.

My rational mind began telling me all the reasons that I didn't want those resplendent foods: they're not really food, they're just "edible foodlike substances," I have worked too hard to bomb that heavily; processed food junks up the system, dairy can cause mucus formation for me... ok, well maybe one little bite....

And those men and their small stomachs! They couldn't finish their desserts! So I did. Ah well, it was enjoyable and tasty - though quickly past the pleasure of the taste buds and then just sat like a brick in the stomach. And that dairy and/or burger sure did affect my mucus production. I felt more congested and drainy that night than I have in a long time!

My body began working to digest all of that, and I don't know if it was just coincidence, but I was so tired! I couldn't even stay awake on the drive home! Thankfully Dave drove!

And the next morning, I woke with a lethargy like none other, and still some mucus buildup in my throat. And no appetite. By the time lunch rolled around, I felt somewhat hungry again, so I enjoyed a fresh veggie salad - but something was still undigested. That salad felt like it just sat there, blocked, and I felt all bloated and cramped. Yuck!

So it's back to my lighter fair again! Yesterday I went back to fruits and veggies and a few nuts. And this morning - so much better! I went to the gym, did my 3.1 miles on the treadmill - and didn't want to get off! So I just kept a'truckin'! Then for the last few minutes, I even cranked up the pace a bit! My 3.1 miles turned into 4.85!! Ahhhh, the body just seems to function better on lighter, colorful foods!

I have a luscious alkalizing green smoothie with me today (my happy desk companion as I type!) and some soaked wild rice to wrap with spinach and sprouts for lunch.

To quote my dad's old-time computer game hero, Duke Nukem: "Ahhhh, much better!"

Happy Friday! Lots of love :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Viva la Veggies!

Good evening, everyone!

Sorry for not posting lately - I guess I let my "staycation" get me a little lazy! My goal to sweat every day ALMOST happened... but I let a visit from my sister give me "reason" to slack. Ah well. I know I could have gone for my jog while she rested, but it was just such a nice cozy home, and I didn't feel like leaving!

But it's back to the grind! Dave and I have been enjoying playing guinea pig on ourselves. 6 days, nothing but fruits and veggies. (Is this a long-term plan? No. It would not be something to recommend long-term, but for less than a week, we were curious!)

Day 1 started out great! Dave admitted that his system was loving the easy digestion, and that he didn't feel so "bogged down" with trying to process junk. He was a whirl-wind Mr. Mom and spent the whole day checking off tasks left and right, and getting the home all clean!

Then the end of day 1 came.... and we both crashed. Tired, and I had a splitting headache. But we just went to bed early, slept a solid 10 hours (yikes!) and began days 2 and 3.

Those days were rough (I would have posted, but we were so tired from it!) Still felt lethargic, some brain fog, and the headache only slightly diminishing. Fruit-packed smoothies helped give us some natural sugars for energy; and adding some veggies helps sustain the long term health. Saturday evening, I pulled out some veggie wraps for us. Dave's supportive comment: "when I saw those plates of nothing but veggies - no cheese, no dressing... I thought I was going to die!" A little dramatic, but that's my man! And that brave soul managed to eat two entire wraps!

Admittedly, with only lemon for seasoning, they were a little bland, but still amazing nutritional sources! So much goodness wrapped into one little bundle! And easy on the digestion!

Pure Veggie Wraps
Shredded carrots
Raw corn
Mung bean sprouts
Broccoli sprouts
Lemon Juice
Large Veggie Leaves (ie: collards, Romaine, cabbage)

Top a large leaf with items of choice, squeeze a little lemon juice if desired, roll and devour!

I enjoyed cabbage leaves just because they are so sturdy. The Romaine tended to break and leak more! But all are good and healthy!

Day 4 is bringing back some energy. Dave was actually up and awake today, and I feel great! Having fun playing with the kids at work (enjoying some old-school Michael Jackson "Thriller" with one little boy!) and finding time to let you all peek in on our craziness! :)

Dave has forbidden me to mention the "holy name of Chipotle" for the next few days. Ha! He has also had dreams of Oreo Cakes, and dwells on thoughts of hot dogs and M&Ms. Hopefully his cravings for junk will soon start to lessen - mine have! I am craving fruit! Craziness!

I hope your week is off to a wonderfully energetic beginning! See you again soon!