Archive | August 2013

Fitness Motivations

I was at the grocery store last night stocking up on fresh produce, and in casual conversation, I mentioned to checkout clerk that I was heading for a run after I went home. His reply? “Well you don’t need it!” Which I guess was supposed to be a compliment (because I suppose I appear in good shape/fit), but what it did was get me thinking about the motivation behind my workouts…

I’ll preface my own explanation for why I work out by saying that many people I know view exercise as punitive…as a means to an end (losing weight, usually). But in truth, just like with nutrition, it is small changes/improvements over time that yield lasting results. It means doing a little bit when you can, and not having an all-or-nothing mentality. It’s making it a priority but also fitting it into your busy schedule/lifestyle.

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Okay, so back to the point of this post…What motivates me to exercise:

  • Cardio is good for heart health, and I want my heart to tick as many days as possible!
  • Weight training increases muscle mass, which increases resting metabolism (how many calories you’re burning when you’re not doing any activities)…and this helps me not have to count calories to stay at a healthy weight.
  • Strength training/weight bearing exercise is good for bone health, and I don’t want osteoporosis when I get older.
  • Working out gives me a natural serotonin (happiness hormones) boost so I have a more positive mood/outlook on life.
  • Exercise is great for reducing/coping with stress!
  • I feel more toned and strong when I work out. It’s a definite confidence booster.
  • I sleep better when I workout regularly.
  • It’s my “me” time, where I can either zone out or reflect on things I’m too busy to think about during the day.

running silhouettes

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Those are some of the concrete reasons that I have made working out a regular part of my life. It’s become as important to me as brushing my teeth. Working out just to lose weight or purely for vanity reasons never had much staying power for me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have my days when I don’t feel like working out, or when I don’t have the energy for a full-blown session…but when I’m out for a run and I see someone being pushed in a wheelchair, I think to myself about how lucky I am that my body is strong enough to be able to do physically challenging activities. It’s that type of thinking…being grateful and respectful of my body’s capabilities…that keeps me going and drives me from within.

If you want my advice, work out because you deserve to feel good in your body…after all, it’s the only one you’ve got while you’re on this earth…and hopefully you’ll be around for a good long while!

Ciao for now!
-E

The Skinny on Artificial Sweeteners

It started out as an innocent way to save some calories…I put Equal or Splenda in my coffee and tea, used sugar-free creamers, sugar-free syrup on my pancakes, and dumped sugar-free flavored packets into my water (I’m cringing now thinking back on it). Even after I started really focusing on my health mid-way through 2006, I’m a little embarrassed to stay that I continued to use artificial sweeteners…partly because my body had become addicted, partly out of sheer habit, and partly because I was afraid that I’d blow up like a blimp if I started using real sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc.

Now until recently, when I’d heard negative things about artificial sweeteners, I pretty much swept the information under the rug. And honestly, so many people I knew used them too, so it wasn’t like I stood out like the yellow packet-toting renegade that I was…

sweeteners in coffee
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But as 2012 was coming to a close and it was time for resolutions, I started thinking about this dirty little habit I’d held onto and decided to be honest about how this crap was affecting me. I’ll start with some personal observations:

  • The more artificial sweeteners I used, the more I needed to use…what started out as 1 Splenda in a mug of coffee had turned into 3, and virtually every liquid I consumed had artificial sweeteners in it.
  • I was craving sweets all the time, and when I indulged, I was never satisfied.
  • Instead of giving in to every craving, I would just drink more coffee (with Splenda of course) or diet soda, or suck on some sugar free candies…it was becoming a vicious cycle.
  • My metabolism felt sluggish, and for the amount of exercise I was doing and as clean as I was eating, I felt like I should have been in better shape.
  • Most of the people I knew who were naturally thin and seemed healthy to me used real sugar, not Splenda (or artificial sweeteners).
  • With most things in life, if it sounds too good to be true, you should probably check into it!

Now for some of the information I finally decided to listen to about these super sweet, non-caloric chemical packets of doom:

  • Studies show that artificial sweeteners stimulate high insulin levels in the blood which promote storage of body fat (especially around the mid-section). Your body is pretty smart and prepares for the arrival of food/nutrients before anything even crosses your lips. When you trick your body and give it fake food (non-nutritive or non-caloric sweeteners), it gets understandably confused. Your taste buds sense the sweet taste from artificial sweeteners, and the pancreas secretes insulin unnecessarily. Over time, your body gets used to this and basically goes on strike (i.e. insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, etc).
  • Artificial sweeteners may save you calories but there is strong evidence that they promote hunger and increase your appetite–so you many end up eating more food throughout the day. You ingest artificial/calorie-free food with the intention of reducing your calorie intake, but this does not satisfy your body’s need for nutrients and energy. So, you end up feeling ferocious about eating more and more until you satisfy that need. Think about it—we’re currently surrounded by low-calorie, “health conscious foods” and diet soft drinks that contain artificial sweeteners, yet obesity is on the rise.
  • Aside from weight gain and insulin resistance, other health issues include: headaches, gastrointestinal problems, toxicity to the liver and kidneys, and increased cancer risk.

Taking into account my own personal observations, combined with the endless information on the internet and in medical studies about why artificial sweeteners are bad, I decided to give them up in 2013. I went cold turkey.

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Here’s what happened:

For a week or so, I went through withdrawals—headaches, stomach cramps, mood swings, etc. But rather than making me want to go back to them, this further solidified that I’d become addicted to a poisonous chemical that was likely wreaking havoc on my insides. I stuck with it. I started using a reasonable (2 tsp or so) amount of raw sugar in my morning coffee, using honey (if anything) in my tea, and drinking plain old water. After a couple weeks, I noticed that I started craving less sweets, was eating less overall without feeling deprived, and could actually taste my food better than ever. I had more energy and actually started to feel my metabolism revving again. Now, 7 months later, I can’t believe I ever even used the fake stuff. I’d never go back…

feeling great!

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Now I’m not suggesting that you start dumping mounds of sugar in your coffee, drowning your pancakes in syrup, and eating pastries for dinner. And if you’re diabetic, you should talk to a doctor or nutritionist about managing your glucose levels and sugar intake. What I am saying is stop confusing your body. If you are craving something sweet have a little sugar, but stay away from “fake” foods. Eating a whole-foods, balanced diet and occasionally indulging in a few real sweet treats is a better alternative than tricking your body with artificial sweeteners – which ultimately leads to a sluggish metabolism, obesity, and a host of other issues.

Do yourself a favor and put down the yellow (or blue, or pink) packets of fake chemicals that are doing damage to your precious body, and eat real food for a while. Take it from a former addict, the change is SO worth it.

Ciao for now!

-E

Why Has “Diet” Become a “Four-Letter” Word?

Diet

If we look at the primary definition of the word diet, it simply means- food (sidebar: as you can see, I love Wikipedia).  But with today’s focus on weight loss, most people think of a diet as a four-letter word…as a temporary/fad plan someone goes on to lose weight. These “diets” will have a certain gimmick or theme (Atkins, South Beach, etc), and are centered around temporary deprivation as a means of achieving weight loss.

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The main (and obvious) problem with these “diets” is that many simply don’t work long-term because people find them unrealistic, too restrictive, too costly, too complicated, or too inconvenient to maintain.

Most importantly, restrictive dieting (too little calories or inadequate balance of carbs, fats, and proteins) messes with your nervous, endocrine (hormones), digestive, and musculoskelatal systems. Furthermore, with regard to caloric restriction, it’s a fine line. Yes, you want to burn more than you consume, but consume to little and your body thinks it’s starving and slows your metabolism to try to conserve energy. Take it from someone who has been there, done that…temporary weight loss from a starvation/overly restrictive diet isn’t worth it. You’ll wreck your metabolism and lose lean muscle mass instead of fat.

So I’m going to tell you what you’ve heard many times before: What we need to do is reconsider the way we think about food. Rather than thinking we should temporarily go on some fad “diet,” we should be thinking about making changes that we can realistically achieve and sustain for a lifetime.

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Just eat food. Eat real food, be active, and live your life.  Pay attention to how your body feels when you eat certain foods…if you tune into it, you will realize that you have an innate intelligence about the inner workings of your anatomy. Eat what makes you feel energetic and alive.  But forget all the dieting and weight loss nonsense.  Eat for health and nutrition the majority of the time, but if it’s your birthday and you want some cake, eat some damn cake and enjoy it!  Each one of us is unique, different and truly beautiful in every shape, age, ethnicity, and any other form. Focus on health and a balanced lifestyle, not weight, and treat your body with the love and respect it deserves.

Ciao for now!

-E

What is “Wellness,” and How Do I Get It?

As with any goal, you have to know where you’re going (or what you’re striving for) before you can achieve it.  So, presuming that most of you reading this are interested in health and/or “wellness,” let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Wellness is generally used to mean a healthy balance of the mind, body and spirit that results in an overall feeling of well-being…The term has been defined by the Wisconsin-based National Wellness Institute as an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a more successful existence...with wellness being the result of personal initiative, seeking a more optimal, holistic and balanced state of health and well-being across multiple dimensions.

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So, simply put, the state of “wellness” entails actively participating in your own health and state of balance.  It’s about making a commitment to yourself to live a certain type of life…one that enhances your own personal experience of being on this earth.  For me, this means focusing on having a positive state of mind, career satisfaction, meaningful personal connections, balanced nutrition, and a healthy and active lifestyle.

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Now it may go without saying, but it is my belief that nutrition and fitness are the foundation from which other facets of wellness stem.  But, putting that aside, I want to kick off this blog by inviting you to take a look at your life and contemplating what “wellness” would look like for you, personally.  What goals do you need to work on to be healthier, happier, more balanced?

A healthy attitude is contagious but don’t wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier.  -Tom Stoppard

Food for thought…no pun intended 😉

Ciao for now!

-E

Ciao for now!

-E