A to Z Challenge: O is for Overtraining

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Yes, this is a real phenomenon! It happens to me from time to time. I didn’t realize that overtraining was possible. I mean, I am not an olympic athlete, so it never occurred to me that my constant aching muscles, or my struggle to sleep, could be related to “overtraining syndrome”.

robot android men running

It wasn’t until I started researching my symptoms that I stumbled across articles related to overtraining. Of course this makes perfect sense. If you train more than you allow for recovery, than the muscles and tendons never get a chance to repair.

We tend to believe that “more is better” with exercise. We get excited about a new sport, getting better at our current activities or loosing weight for that special occasion. So, we hit the gym, and hit it hard. So how do you know if you are overtraining or just hitting a natural plateau?

Symptoms of Overtraining  Syndrome

You are restless at night and having trouble sleeping.Unknown

This is a tough one because many things can be disrupting your sleep. Hormones, eating too close to bedtime and daily stresses from work or kids, are all valid reasons that you may be missing your much needed shuteye. When you exercise too much your body is stressed and can be releasing cortisol, which will stimulate your sympathetic nervous system, keeping you awake. Evaluate your training or exercise program if you are not finding stressors in your daily life, and  particularly if you have any of the other symptoms of overtraining.

You have odd pains in your muscles, joints or bones.over-training-syndrome

This is my big clue that I am doing too much! The pains are mostly in both my arms, and are especially bad when I lay down to sleep. They ache all night, waking me if I make the slightest movements. The pains usually begin in my biceps or shoulders and make their way to my forearms and grip strength. When I am training for a half marathon my hips will hurt. This is the time to back off!

 

You are getting sick more often than normal.overtraining

 

When we tax our body to repair itself, our immune system is stressed and unable to fight off infections as easily as it did before overtraining. Resting will allow your immune system to reboot and regain full strength.

 

You are feeling depressed and irritable even after a great workout.

What-Overtraining-Is-and-Isnt

 

That wonderful feeling after the endorphins are released is great. That runner’s high that you look forward to at the end of a run. If those are not happening you may be overtraining.

 

Loss of enthusiasm for a sport or activity.

overtraining

If you suddenly are no longer the first person at the gym, or have to drag yourself to the soccer field, you may be overtraining. A drop in performance can also be a sign. I know that if I suddenly drop a grade or two at the climbing gym, it is a sign that my body is just too depleted to operate at my basic level.

Some other common symptoms may include: headaches, decreased appetite and increased injuries.

Everyone is different and their body will respond with a variety of these symptoms. You need to listen to your own signals, and learn when you are approaching the edge.

So how do you avoid, or recover from, overtraining?

Build in recovery and rest days to your schedule.10-Effective-Yoga-Poses-To-Cure-Anxiety-14

 

This doesn’t mean you have to do nothing. Think of this as an opportunity to cross train. I will hike, or do yoga, when I need to give my climbing muscles a break. Swimming and cycling are great non-impact activities that will allow you to recover one muscle group while still advancing your health goals.

 

 

 

Improve your nutrition and hydration

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Are you eating properly before and after your workouts? Are you taking in enough water so the cells can make repairs? Most of us can improve in this area! Check out N is for Nutrition if you want a refresher on the recommended guildelines.

 

 

Get more sleep.

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This is the fastest way for your body to heal itself. Sleep is restorative on every level, physically, mentally and emotionally. It will also help you reduce your overall stress and inflammation levels.

 

Consider getting a sports massage.

This can help with circulation which can assist the immune system in removing pathogens. Massage can lower overall stress levels and aid muscle fibers in healing. I try to do this every so often but it can be hard to schedule these into a busy life. If it is too costly, consider other ways to relax the muscles. Soak in a warm tub and gentle stretching can help the cells make repairs.

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Enjoy your workouts! And, watch out for overtraining! 🏋🏻‍♀️

 

References:

https://www.verywellfit.com/overtraining-syndrome-and-athletes-3119386

https://www.builtlean.com/2012/06/05/overtraining/

https://www.oxygenmag.com/training/4-signs-overtraining-11346

https://www.muscleforlife.com/8-signs-of-overtraining/

A to Z Challenge: N is for Nutrition

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When I thought about tackling this HUGE topic, a couple things went through my mind. What should I focus on? I don’t want to give dieting and weight loss advice, as I have already stated, I don’t believe in dieting.

I don’t want to talk specifically about nutrition for extreme body building. Those folks already spend a ton of time working out their own specialized nutrition plans for, lets face it, physiques most of us are not interested in developing.

So what does that leave? How about a quick refresher on nutrition for active people, who are working out regularly and looking to maximize those efforts. Bingo!

Balance-Diet-and-Exercise-750x410

What do moderately active people need to fuel their fitness?

I don’t think there will be any “Aha” moments here! You need carbs, fats, and protein and pretty much in that order!

55%-60% of your daily calories should be carbohydrates, where the majority are from starches and only 10%-15% from refined or simple sugars.

30% of the calories should be from healthy sources of fat, and 10-15% from lean protein.

The easiest way to accomplish these targets is to eat a variety of foods each day, from low fat dairy, meat and produce. I think most people know a healthy fat from a less than stellar source: Think olive oil, versus butter. And, again, most know that protein from beans, and poultry is leaner than bacon!

Carbohydrates seem to give people the most trouble when trying to diferentiate the type of carb and the best source. Let’s talk carbs for a minute and what happens in your body.

If your cells could choose, they would use glucose as their primary energy source. Simple  sugars are glucose, or very close relatives to glucose, and can be turned into useable energy right away, and therefore gone quickly. Glucose stores are the primary fuel that  is burned in the first 20 minutes of exercise.

carbohydrate

All these simple sugars are used for fast energy

Now, all carbs and fats are fuel, but not all can be used immediately.

As you continue to use up the available glucose in your blood, your cells will have to convert more complex carbs, or starches stored in your body, into glucose and then burn it. Triglycerides are a great example and are being consumed at this point, and you will have enough energy for about a two hour work out.

triglyceride

This is just one triglyceride molecule! See all those Carbon atoms? When the cell breaks those off, energy is released and your muscles function. It takes some time to get in there and break up this guy, but you have a lot of potential energy in here!

 

Finally the cells move onto larger fat molecules, which store the most energy. Those large molecules are broken down into smaller molecules, atoms are rearranged and bam, you have made more glucose to burn and fuel your activity.6c4bbd39756be63a8e8869294fb36421

What this means is that, unless you are working out at a high intensity for more that 60 – 90 minutes you will not need to consume carbs during your work out. Many people make the mistake of overestimating the number of calories they have burned, and underestimate the number of calories they take in after their workout.

 

Do not make the mistake of cutting out all carbohydrates from your diet!

Remember the whole “fat makes you fat” trend? Everyone was cutting out all fat from their eating plans, until we learned that you need healthy fats or your metabolism will not function properly. The same goes for carbs! If you severely limit your carbohydrates and then exercise, you will throw off the timing for your energy needs.

Make sure you have the proper fuel before you begin your workout.

Pre-Workout-Nutrition-Screen-Shot-

 

And you need to eat smart after the workout, this is not a “I did X so now I can eat Y” moment! You need to be honest about how much work was done, and for how long!

Post-Workout-Infographic1

And don’t forget that water!! Hydration is crucial, even in cold weather.

 

The Bottom Line!

Healthy active people need all macrobiotics (fats, proteins and carbs) to perform their activities. If you have some weight you wish to loose, you know what you need to do!

Eat food from healthy sources, and move your body.  🏋🏻‍♀️🧘🏻‍♀️🥊🏃‍♀️🏊‍♀️🧗‍♀️🚴‍♀️

osteoporosis-prevention-nutrition-exercise

References:

https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/the-six-pillars-of-successful-fitness-nutrition.html

https://www.onhealth.com/content/1/nutrition_and_fitness

http://www.gssiweb.org/en/sports-science-exchange/article/sse-59-fat-metabolism-during-exercise-new-concepts

https://ketoschool.com/the-science-behind-fat-metabolism-60f7a3f678d0

 

 

A to Z Challenge: M is for Mindfulness

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Mindfulness is a bit of a buzz word these days. You see it ascribed to a number of activities. Lately I have found it associated with eating, as in slow down, think about your choices, savor the experience.  Sounds good!

We can also apply this to other areas of our daily lives, and not just when we are eating. You don’t have to be in a pretzel formation, chanting a certain word for this to work! The goal is simply really. SLOW DOWN. Be present, in the moment. mindfuldog-wide

This is not a new concept, just newish to the Western world. The roots of mindfulness and meditation is a decidedly Buddhist concept and entered into American practice in 1979. Jon Kabat-Zinn founded MBSR -Mindfuness-Based Stress Reduction. Since then there have been thousands (yes, thousands) of studies that document both the physical and mental benefits of practicing mindfulness.

guide-to-mindfulness

The toughest part of mindfulness is loosing the judgment component. We tend to assign “good” and “bad” to the random thoughts that flow across our minds. This is a big issue for me in particular, I can get caught up in a negative loop that will drive my mood straight into the dumps. And, fast too!Mindfulness

Many experts believe that mindfulness can help people accept painful experiences, after all you can’t change them, they happened. Mindfulness is a process by one acknowledges the thought or emotion, recognize it for what it is, a past memory or pain, then your thoughts move on.

Why take the time to practice mindfulness?

Mindfulness can improve your mental health

You can reduce stress and anxiety as you focus on your mental state. Recognizing and acknowledging negative thoughts is the first step. Refocusing your mind on positive and healthy events and goals will eventually become easier.  You will find that you spend less time dwelling on thoughts that cause your stress levels to spike. Your overall anxiety levels will decrease. You will be slower at self judgments and passing judgment over others. 40c7b4948342fc7b1cfb1d306a2d7dac

Mindfulness can improve your physical health. This is the essence of biofeedback. Through breathing one can lower their blood pressure, slow the heat rate, and reduce the level of stress hormones in your system. Those with chronic pain also reported less discomfort.  All with just calm, measure breaths.

Mindful Revolution draft 4

Mindfulness can improve your overall well being. Controlling the negative thoughts will lesson the power they hold over you. Being present in the positive moments of the day and focusing your attention on the pleasure in life leaves less time for the negative to take root. People who practice mindfulness report a higher satisfaction in life and deeper connection with the people around them.

Mindfulness

Do you remember, the Mental Health Core Habits of Healthy People? One was that they surround themselves with positive people. For that to happen, you have to be one of those positive people. Practicing mindfulness will take you in that direction. Perhaps not right away. This is a practice after all, and requires some effort on your part.

 

 

There are many books, online tools and apps that can get you started. I prefer Headspace as it is free and these are guided mediations. I have found this to be very helpful in dealing with those times when life is tough, or I am struggling with negative issues.

Practice mindfulness in 15 minutes (1)

Of course a yoga class will also incorporate mindfulness, with the added benefit of exercise! There are also numerous online classes should you want to try that out too!🧘🏻‍♀️

 

Reference:

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition

https://centerforchange.com/why-be-mindful/

https://www.helpguide.org/harvard/benefits-of-mindfulness.htm

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/mindfulness-exercises/art-20046356

https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/benefits-of-mindfulness/#benefits

A to Z Challenge: L is for Level of Fitness

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Our fitness levels are really important, especially as we enter into midlife. The reality is that our overall fitness level begins to degrade long before midlife, in fact there are losses beginning as early as our 20s and 30s. We loose 3% to 6% in those early decades but skyrocket to 20% loss as we near 70 years of age.

Why should you care? The less overall fitness you have, the slower your metabolism, which of course leaves you vulnerable to injury and disease.maxresdefault

Decreased muscle mass also correlated to bone strength. Strong healthy muscles need strong bones for attachment, so new bone must be laid down as your muscles grow. Of course the converse relationship also exists. You lose a third to a half a pound of muscle each year unless you’re strength training and your bones will loose density as well.

osteoporosis-nclex-nursing

 

 

The good news is that this can be reversed at any time! Moving is critical! There are five key tests that are used to determine your overall fitness level. This is a great indicator as to where to focus your exercise goals. They specifically measure your overall strength, flexibility and aerobic fitness.

 

  1. Core strength: You will need a timer for this exercise. Get into a plank formation and start your timer. The goal is to hold this position for as long as possible. Note the time when you can no longer support your body weight and find your age group on the chart below.

plank045360_PlankForeB_02-600x450

core-test

 

2. Upper body strength: This is a push up test, no timer needed. Perform the exercise and keep track of your completed reps. Watch your form! Count only completed push ups.

pushupRW0112BODY_03-600x450

upper-body-test

3. Lower body strength:

This is a timed wall sit. Stand with your back against a flat surface and lower until your knees are at a 90 degree angle. Start your timer, and record when you can no loner hold the position.

3_1wallsit-600x450

lower-body-test

4. Aerobic Fitness:

There are several versions for this as some will have you walk a track for a specific time or distance. This one will be a step assessment. If you choose an alternative test, make sure you use the chart for that specific assessment, as the charts are not interchangeable.

For this, you will need a timer and an 8 inch step. Straighten your back and engage your stomach muscles, then begin stepping on and off the step, alternating your feet. Maintain a steady pace for three minutes, with the goal of taking 40 steps per minute. When the time is up, rest for 30 seconds, then take your pulse for 15 seconds. (You can check your pulse at your wrist using your opposite hand’s index and middle finger.) Multiply the 15 second pulse count by four to get your heart rate per minute.

step-up-b

aerobic-test-women

Women’s Chart

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Men’s Chart

5. Flexibility: This is the sit and reach test. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Stretch your arms forward, reaching toward your toes. If you cannot reach your toes, then bend your knees until you can.

sE4Rs

flexibility-test

 

So, how did you do?😊 Now that you know your strength and weaknesses you can add in those activities that will help you move into a better overall fitness level! The goal is to be a little better than you were the day before 💕

 

References:

https://www.prevention.com/fitness/fitness-tips/how-to-test-your-fitness-level/slide/6

https://saveourbones.com/test-your-fitness-level-with-these-five-simple-assessments/

https://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/fitness_articles.asp?id=1112

http://www.healthreviser.com/content/fitness-level-declines-dramatically-age

A to Z Challenge: J is for Juicing

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Let’s talk about juicing, facts and fictions.

If you type in “juicing for health” into the old search bar, a smorgasbord of topics pop up. The majority are related to weight loss, various juice recipes and information on how to start your own juicing business. The links related to actual science behind this idea, are much farther down the list.

Which tells me a couple things. Most people searching for information about juicing are interested in using it as a weight loss tool, perhaps thinking about meal substitutions or a juice cleanse. And, that like all other herbal and homeopathic supplements, there is little to no regulation associated with these products or their health claims.

In fact, I have only included two references, the only two that were not sponsored by a biased party, that relate to the science of juicing.

Let’s start with the facts:

All juices are higher in sugar content than the whole fruit, or vegetable, from which it was extracted.  Juicing works by pulverizing cellular walls and allowing the water soluble contents to leave the cell. Without the protective cell membrane, ever present airborne bacteria can begin to feed on the sugars released from the produce. Store bought juices have preservatives to slow down this natural process. You should consume fresh squeezed juice immediately. Also, be sure to clean your juicer thoroughly for food safety concerns.

Orange-Juice-vs-small-orangeThe juice has almost 2 1/2 times the sugar and total carbohydrates content of the 1 whole orange, and zero fiber. It takes far less time to drink that glass of juice than it does to peal and eat the orange.

Juicing removes all fiber from the whole fruit or vegetable. In fact the best machines list, as a top selling point, the removal of all seeds, stems, peel and pulp. That insoluble fiber is critical for healthy digestion and regularity. Many juicing fad diets recommend adding Metamucil to their juice to replace the fiber lost. Again, why not just eat the whole food!!

Fiber also provides a satiation that liquid alone can’t. Meaning you will be hungry soon after drinking those calories. Juicing proponents like to point out that there are more vitamins in the glass of juice, but that nutrient equivalent is also in those three orange, and you would not be hungry after eating three oranges!

Juice “cleanses” work in the same manner as all other cleanses and are completely unnecessary. We have already talked about the fact that your liver and kidneys do a perfectly fine job of filtering toxins from your system in our fad diet discussion.

Any weight lost during a juice diet, or cleanse, will be in the form of water and muscle mass. Fat will be regained when the individual returns to a normal, healthy eating plan.

Juicers can be expensive, anywhere from $50 to $400, if you really want to grind all that fiber out of it!

Now for some fiction:

The health claims made by the numerous juicing plans and diet architects, have no science to back up their claims.

Health-Benefits-of-Juicing-Cold-Press-Juicer

Boosting immunity is only short term, long term effects of a juice only diet results in decreased immune response.

“Women’s Issues”? Which ones?

Decrease in body odor? Yikes, who had to sniff the subjects of that research project?😬 Oh, there weren’t any!

 

A top selling point for these plans is the claim that “your kids will love having their servings of fruit and veggies now!”  Seriously! Who are these kids? I don’t know any, certainly did not give birth to any!!  We all want our kids to eat fruits and vegetables, and that is the approach we should take. It is healthier, and if necessary there are multivitamins to supplement our kids’ diets until we find that magical combination of whole fruits and veggies that they will eat. I think adults who eat whole produce are better role models than a cup of green liquid😊.

 

The Bottom Line:

If you love to have juice, and have the caloric room in your normal eating plan, then go for it! Juicing your own will allow you to control the sugar content and mix your own blends. Just don’t over indulge, or use it as a meal replacement. Keep the serving size to 8oz and there is nothing wrong with it. But don’t fool yourself! You still need to incoporate whole produce, and in a variety of colors, to make sure that you are getting all the correct nutrition for the healthiest version of you😊💕

Do you juice? What is your experience with it? Love it? Let me know!

References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/juicing/faq-20058020

https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/juicing-health-risks-and-benefits#1

A to Z Challenge: I is for Industry Trends

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Every year the new “it” workouts take the nation by storm. Some are so “different” that they just don’t interest me, like naked yoga-Ya, not gunna happen here!

I was curious as to what was making the rounds in 2018. Some of these predictions rolled out back in January, when most people are thinking about those dreaded resolutions. But it’s April now, and most have fallen by the wayside already. Which trends and workouts are popular now?

I am excited about where the industry is headed, some really great trends are happening. I took a look at a few more lists, just like my H is for healthy habits post, I tried to breakdown those trends that appeared more than just a few times.

Here we go!

 

  1. Functional training. This sounds odd but makes perfect sense. These exercises are centered around the movements that our body performs in our daily lives. Think gardening, grocery shopping and running kids all over town. Your body needs to bend, lunge, squat, push, pull, twist and walk. These motions specifically involve all your core muscles. How many times have you heard “lift with your legs, not you back”? Strengthening these muscles will help prevent injuries as you go about your daily activities. The goal with this training is to perform relatively easy movements with a strong emphasis on having the correct form.
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Twisting exercises are a great example of functional movement

2. Boxing and kickboxing workouts will increase in popularity. I can say this one works for me! I love my kickboxing class. I work every muscle and get an amazing cardio workout all in 60 minutes.  There is a reason boxers are in such amazing shape!😉 It also fits well with the next trend.

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3. Team coaching and group classes will increase. There will still be one-on-one training available, of course. However, there has been a greater demand for small group work. Many people prefer a strong social component to their exercise programs, not to mention the personal training cost is lower for more participants. Group sizes are often capped at 8 to 10 which provides plenty of interaction with the trainer. And, team coaching often includes nutritional advice, which most people need in addition to exercise information.

group-ex-practical

 

4. At home workout options will expand. I know I subscribed to Beach Body on Demand, because there are days when I only have 30 minutes or an hour, and it’s really convenient to be able to turn on my computer, and fit in a good sweat session. Additionally , online coaching works extremely well in this setting. A quick email or text to a coach with a question or two, and you have your answers in real time!

3-Best-Bodyweight-Exercises-for-At-Home-Workouts

 

5. Mindfulness will be incorporated into all types of workouts, not just yoga! 🧘‍♀️ Taking a moment, at the beginning or end (or both) of a workout to still the mind, and slow your heart rate, are great ways to incorporate biofeedback.

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Of course, there are more than just 5 trends right now. The links below provide information about training with 3D technology, Cryogenics for muscle recovery and low intensity training, which is a great alternative to HIIT,  and using exercise to enhance cognitive functioning as we age.

I do hope you find this helpful and informative! I have to go workout now! 🏋🏻‍♀️😊

 

References:

https://www.self.com/story/biggest-fitness-trends-of-2018

http://ffmag.com/fitness-trends-2018/

https://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/top-fitness-trends-2018/

https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/6892/8-fitness-trends-for-2018

A to Z Challenge: H is for Healthy Habits

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We have talked about how long it takes to form a new habit in E is for Excuses. But which healthy habits are best? 🧐

There are lists, so many lists, out there that are definetly informative. Do you remember the popular book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”? Its great, I read it twice! There is another wonderful article, 18 Effective Habits of Highly Successful People, which is also chocked full of excellent advice.  Of course, there is quite a bit of overlap, not just between these two lists, but among all the other similar lists out there.

I got to thinking, 🤔  about all the lists that I have seen over the years, that compile healthy habits. “Healthy” in this context, is not weight loss! There are many forms of health, and those might include diet advice or exercise recommendations. But a fit person still may be unhappy, or dealing with mental health issues. So, I was interested in a holistic approach, what shows up regularly on those lists?

I am not sure how successful I have been, but I did attempt to distill down as many lists as possible into the main core habits of healthy people, where the “core” is comprised of nutrition, exercise and mental health. Here is what I came up with!

Nutritional Core Habits of Healthy People:

  1. They don’t diet.  Healthy eating is a way of life, and that does not mean they are especially great at living in a deprived state! I am a fan of the “80/20” rule. Eat and drink healthy for 80% of the time and 20% can be for treats or special occasions. total deprivation does not work! 😃Healthy-Eating-Habits

2. They drink plenty of water and limit their intake of pop, fruit juices, alcohol and coffee. I personally will never give up coffee ☕️ . I could loose my will to live! But I don’t add cream, milk or sugar. The overall goal here is to drink more water than all the other liquids.

3. They eat whole foods in the form of grains, produce and lean protein. Again, 80-90% of the time.

Healthy breakfast. Bowl of yogurt with granola and berries

 

4. They eat, some form, of breakfast every day. This is a tough one for some people, but this does not mean a huge, time consuming effort. A mix of protein and healthy carbohydrates will set up a strong foundation for the day.

 

 

Exercise Core Habits of Healthy People:

  1. They make fitness a priority. We all have to make choices about how to allocate our precious time throughout the day. Fit people see activity as a mental break and a form of relaxation. They either use it as a platform to clear their minds in the morning, to set a strong foundation for the day to come. Or, it is an opportunity to wind down and destress at the end of the day. Some of us do both 😉brain-exercise-review
  2. They are realistic. If you know you can’t workout 5 days a week, then do 2 or 3. Be honest,  and if you have to miss a workout for kids or the job, then miss it!  But go back to it the next week, consistency is the key.
  3. They exercise daily. And no, that does not mean a heavy sweat session seven days a week. It could be a quick walk at lunch, or around the neighborhood, or taking the stairs when possible. Incorporating small changes will naturally evolve into more intensity as your new habits take root.
  4. They incorporate strength training into their workout routine. This is critical if you are looking to loose weight. If you are jumping on the treadmill and doing the same 30 minute walk at 15 minutes a mile, then your body will adapt, you need to change it up for both your body and your mind.
  5. They choose an activity that they actually enjoy! If you hate running-don’t do it just because you think it is good for you. Engaging in an activity that you truly like will make it fun and effortless.

    icono-del-hombre-del-deporte-en-las-diversas-actividades-43038198Do you see something here that looks fun? That is what you should be doing! Not the work out Jessica Alba does to prepare for her next action role! 

  6. They don’t care what other peoples bodies look like! They do not spend time comparing themselves to other people-celebrities, friends and neighbors are not the answer.

Mental Health Core Habits of Healthy People:

  1. They have healthy emotional outlets. We all need to destress at times. Healthy people have a goto calming mechanism. It may include meditation, exercise, reading or practicing mindfulness. It is not emotional eating, negative self talk or self harm.
  2. They surround themselves with positive people. This doesn’t just happen, one has to make choices, tough ones sometimes, as to who those people will be. Removing a toxic relationship will be hard, but beneficial in the long run.
  3. They express daily gratitude and/or volunteer. There are many studies that demonstrate a strong correlation between volunteering and happiness, and general well-being.
  4. They take breaks from social media and work. This is important to allow yourself time to recharge and reconnect with yourself, as well as friends and family.
  5. They place an importance on rest, recovery and sleep. Much like the break from social media that allows for emotional repair,  this allows the body to repair at the cellular level. Overtraining taxes muscles and over scheduling stresses mental acuity.  Breaks also need to be scheduled and prioritized, just like every other important detail in our daily lives.
  6. They welcome the opportunity to learn something new, engage in novel activities. New experiences create new neural pathways which strengthen cognitive development. The “use it or loose it” concept certainly comes into play as we age. Mental stimuli are critical in the delay of cognitive deterioration and help stem Alzheimer’s, and the onset of dementia.

    636029937439765348-1347766626_791696_orig

 

This is clearly not an all-inclusive, or exhaustive list. And, I think we have all seen some variant of each of these points. There must be some truth in the sheer repetitive nature for these habits! Take a moment to self asses and see if you can’t find room in your goals to make a few small changes. 😊

 

References:

https://www.self.com/story/fitness-habits-to-finally-make

https://www.fitnessmagazine.com/weight-loss/tips/fitness-habits-hurting-your-workout/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/30/good-fitness-habits_n_3646154.html

https://www.mensfitness.com/life/13-habits-healthy-people-do-every-day

https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/ss/twelve-habits-super-healthy-people

https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/18-effective-habits-of-highly-successful-people.html

https://www.simplemost.com/daily-habits-of-healthy-people/

 

 

A to Z Challenge: G is for Genetics

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Have you ever heard someone say “its genetics, nothing you can do about it, so why try?”

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This is one of my pet peeves. I am a molecular biologist by trade, and have spent 25 years educating students about DNA. This is a powerful molecule, no arguing there. And, yes it does matter what genetic material your family has bequethed you. But, just because you have a particular gene, does not mean your fate is sealed!

Oncogenes, which are the genes that IF turned on, lead to loss of cell cycle control. This regulatory loss results in tumors, which may or MAY NOT, be malignant in nature. Do you want a tumor, no. But that tumor does not have to lead to radiation or chemotherapy.

Of course, knowing that you may have a higher chance of developing a certain disorder can be helpful information. For example, both breast and colon cancer are found in my family tree. Knowing that I posses a greater chance of developing one of these diseases has caused me to take certain precautions.

 

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I have my annual physical

 

I have begun regular colon screening at an earlier age than recommended to the general population.

 

 

And, I maintain an active and healthy life style so that I will be at my strongest, physically, should I need to fight off cancer.5-Reasons-to-Live-a-Healthy-Lifestyle-1

I don’t think these are new ideas here. Most people would respond the same way when it comes to facing these challenges.

But, there seems to be a different way of thinking when it comes to weight management. It’s almost as if the exact opposite logic is applied.

Why bother trying if my DNA won’t let me loose weight? Here, many Americans give up the fight and just accept that they are victims. Are they right?

Personal genetics do account for the majority of the predisposition toward obesity. Twin studies have shown that, even in an identical genetic background, one twin can have differential protein production, possibly leading to weight gain. So, is that it? Game over?

No! Proper nutrition and exercise can mitigate the effects of your personal genetics.

 

These ladies are identical twins, and appeared on Oprah in 2005.

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Mary weighed 420 pounds, 300 pounds more than her genetically identical sister. Mary was prone to emotional eating and had a sedentary lifestyle. She struggled with finding the motivation to change her eating habits, in spite of her, then 13 year old son, who begged her to get healthy. When Chris died in a car accident at the age of 19, Mary found her motivation. By 2014 she had lost 124 pounds through healthy eating and exercise. It took the death of her son for her to take ahold of her own life.

This is a tragic story. And it illustrates the power we have over our genetic makeup. If this woman can suffer this heartbreak, and still look toward a healthier future, than I can spend some time analyzing my food choices.

 

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Identical twins, Karen and Paula, were both overweight. They decided to embark on a weight loss journey together. One sister had a gastric band placed on her stomach, but the other could not afford the procedure and was left with the cheaper alternative of healthy eating and exercise. They lost 308 pounds between them.

Smart food choices and exercise was an effective method for overcoming any genetics!

 

 

 

 

 

But is that really what is driving these obesity numbers through the roof?

 

Americans eat more, period. Our portion sizes have doubled, or tripled while our genetics have ceased to evolve to deal with the massive intake of extra calories. All your cells can do is pack on the extra energy, in the form of fat reserves. Emotional eating is a real struggle, and the constant availability of food (day or night) plays a factor. It is human nature to eat what is placed in front of us.

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The plate on the left is an adult dinner, the middle is the kids menu item, and the right is a European portion.

Obesity rates are lower in other countries such as Asia and Europe and I have often heard, “well, it is their genetics!” No doubt there is some truth to that.

However, when business men and women from Asia and Europe, travel to the US and adopt our Western “cuisine”, their obesity rates, heart disease and cardiovascular disease statistics  reflect our own. Clearly their genetics did not cure them of our fast food, gigantic portion, supersized lifestyle!

The effects of the Western diet was reversed when these individuals returned to their home countries and resumed their normal diets. The rice and seafood of the Asian continent and the smaller portions of whole grains, and fresh produce of Europe, reversed the damage our food caused.

DNA is powerful all on its own, don’t give it any more control than it deserves. Take charge and be healthy and happy!

 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10454109

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/20/twin-oprah-where-are-they_n_4816989.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1332085/The-identical-twins-lost-22-stone–guess-gastric-band.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4410367/

http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2017/03/29/portion-sizes

https://www.mmo-champion.com/threads/1641695-Restaurant-Portion-Sizes-and-All-You-Can-Eat-Buffets

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/22/restaurant-portion-size_n_1534458.html

A to Z Challenge: F is for Fad Diets

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Let me be clear, I am not a fan of any type of diet, even the healthy ones. I understand that it is a lot easier to have someone tell you when to eat, what to eat, count your calories, prepare the meals, provide an exercise schedule, and all you (theoretically) have to do is follow along. And, there are some really great, responsible people with wonderful, healthy programs to follow out there! That type of predetermined schedule can jump start you onto a healthy path.

But what happens when you travel? Or, get injured? Do you know how to take care of yourself when it is not spelled out in digestible, deliverable increments? Have you learned enough about how nutrition works to power your new active life? Hopefully that is the case and you remain committed to working through those tough times and plateaus, that we all have to deal with, to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

All diets work on the same premise: restrict calories, they only vary based on which foods are being labelled as “forbidden” or “bad”.

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The meal plans tend to restrict one food group entirely: high protein/low fat, high protein/low carb,  No fats… You get the idea.

 

 

 

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You may have heard of many of these plans. Each states that theirs is the best way to loose weight, and as long as you follow their strict guidelines, or buy their exclusive prepared meals, you will be successful.

Short term success can happen, but the problem is that this type of restriction is impossible to maintain, forever! Eventually, you will eat from the forbidden side😳.

 

Which leaves the other type of diet. The Fad Diets. Sadly, there are far more of these floating around then the healthy alternatives 😔

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A fad diet is defined as an eating plan that is unbalanced and unhealthy, and promises fast weight loss.

 

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Fad-Diets moreThe authors of fad diets target individuals who want to drop weight without exercise. These plans may cause temporary water loss, but never result in loss of fat.

And, yes, there is a tapeworm diet😬.

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Loss of water causes dehydration and can tax the organs (liver, kidneys and heart). And the weight will return.

Fad or “yoyo” diets severely limiting specific macronutrients can cause the metabolism to destabilize  as it fights to right the balance of nutrients, causing weight gain when the person begins eating normally once again. Worse, the cells will begin to breakdown muscle fibers to acquire the nutrients they crave, leaving the individual with less muscle mass than before the diet😔. This leads to the cycle of muscle loss/fat gain. over time.

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Why do people keep falling for this scam?

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What if I told you that I had discovered a rare mineral, only found in the deepest part of the rainforest, and extracted this “unique and unlabeled” ingredient. I then put that compound into capsules and am marketing my amazing new weight loss supplements. I then get some “experts” to pen testimonials. Those experts claim that test subjects lost 20% more weight when taking my supplements, while dining on only marshmallows, for 1 month! And they never had to break a sweat!! Clearly this is the secret that Western Medicine doesn’t want you to know about!

Any rational person would see this as the scam that it is, right! Right?

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What should you avoid?

1. Diets that focus on only a few foods or food groups.  Any plan or program that excludes major food groups is too limiting in nutrients to be healthy. Examples: Cabbage soup diet, grapefruit diet, raw food diets,

2. Detox or cleanses. These are just plans to get you to spend money and consume less calories. They are completely unnecessary! Our livers and kidneys are perfectly capable of filtering and flushing contaminants out of our systems.

“All the flushes and cleanses are pure nonsense, unnecessary, and there is no scientific basis for these recommendations,” says Pamela Peeke, MD

3. Diets with ‘miracle’ foods or ingredients-These plans usually center around a miracle root found only in some remote region, that must be consumed 6 times a day, and only sold by one person or company. How convent for that guy! The reality is that the only supplement you may need is a multivitamin, the rest of your nutrients should be from healthy, whole food sources.  Some current examples of these fads include bitter orange, green tea, and apple cider vinegar. I know, some celebrity says this is how she fits into her runway dress, so it must be true! Ya, it’s not.

4. Fasting and very low-calorie diets.  Fasting for weight loss is counterproductive. Your metabolism will crash and begin to digest muscle for nutrients. Fasting will cause short term weight loss in the form of muscle, fat and water, but fat will be regained. Current examples are the Hollywood Diet, and Master Cleanse.

5. Diets that sound too good to be true. Low calorie diets that promise 5 to 10 pound loss per week are completly unrealistic. At best you should be loosing about 1 lb/week.

6. Lack an exercise component-if you are severely limiting your caloires, and cutting out protein or carbs, you will not have the energy to move around, let alone exercise! Any healthy, responsible program will incorporate some form of modest activity. Just accept that if you want to really make a permanent change!

 

References:

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center http://www.upmc.com/patients-visitors/education/nutrition/Pages/fad-diets.aspx

https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/fad+diet

https://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/features/worst-diets-ever-diets-that-dont-work#1

https://wit.edu/wellness-disability-services/wellness/education/fad-dieting

 

 

 

A to Z Challenge: E is for Excuses

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“There isn’t enough time in the day to workout”

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“Organic food cost too much”

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“I will take my dream trip when I loose some weight”

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“I am too old to workout”

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“lifting weights is boring”

 

 

 

 

 

“I don’t like to work out alone, but I can’t afford a gym membership”

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Do you see your favorite excuse on this list? Perhaps you have more than one “goto” reason that keeps you from getting started on your fitness goals? Maybe you love to start a new health/fitness program, but find that you loose your motivation quickly thereafter.

You may have heard that it takes 21 days (or three weeks) for a lifestyle change to take root. And that timeline may be true for a committed individual who is making a modest change (let’s say, drinking a glass of water before a meal). However, when the change is more complicated, like adding in walking for 30 minutes a day, the time frame shifts dramatically. Study participants took anywhere from 50 to 84 days to incorporate just a simple 10 minute walk after breakfast! Clearly exercise habits are tough for people to add into their already hardwired routine.

The study I am referring to was published in The European Journal of Social Psychology. Study participants were given modest exercise goals, such as 50 sit ups after dinner, or a 10 minute walk after a meal. The subjects reported their success at maintaining the task. The results were quite varied, and it took anywhere from 18 to 254 days to create the new habit. 254 days! That is almost 1 year 😳.  This study puts that average closer to 66 days, nowhere near the 21 days that we have all heard about!

If you had been expecting that your new goals would get easier in just 21 days, and after 5 weeks you still have to struggle to accomplish the task, you might be thinking that this just will not work for you. It will work! It will get easier! Persistence is the key. We just need to understand that this is a lifestyle change and not a quick fix!

If you are interested in stopping the excuses, I would like to direct you to a blog that I find really helpful.

Beachbody On Demand has articles, recipes and simple, healthy food swaps to get you going in a healthier direction. The link below will take you to a discussion on breaking those excuses!

 

12 Top Weight-Loss Excuses and How to Stop Making Them

 

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References:

https://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/fitness/slideshows/fitness-excuses?slide=5

Good habits

https://fee.org/articles/how-long-does-it-take-to-form-good-habits/

Breaking a habit

https://www.blackmores.com.au/everyday-health/how-long-does-it-really-take-to-break-a-habit