Tag Archive | blog

To Fast, or Not to Fast…That is the Question.

As summer comes to a close, you may be feeling like you indulged in a few too many margaritas, barbeques, and ice cream sundaes. Maybe you didn’t get out and exercise in the nice weather as much as you had planned. We live in a society of “extremes,” so it’s not surprising to me that, in the wake of the new fall season, I’m hearing talks of people “fasting” to detox and undo some of the summer over-indulgences.

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Given that there was a period in my life where I did a lot of fasting (in a very unhealthy way, and for unhealthy reasons), my initial reaction to hearing that someone is on a “water fast” makes me cringe and feel concerned. I personally feel that our bodies are perfectly equipped with organs that already do the job, removing toxins through the skin (by sweating), liver, colon, and kidneys.

That said, I do that that the typical American diet includes too much processed food, saturated fats, genetically modified products, and too much sugar. So I actually do support the idea of eating clean as a method to “detox” from all the non-foods that many of us consume. But as far as eliminating food altogether? I feel that it just sets you up for an all-out binge once you start eating again, because that’s what tends to happen after deprivation.to fast or not to fast

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WebMD seems to support my beliefs, and according to their site:

When you fast, your body is forced to dip into energy stores to get the fuel it needs to keep going, so you will lose weight. The big question is how long you will keep that weight off. Because food was often scarce for our ancestors, our bodies have been genetically programmed to combat the effects of fasting. When you eat less food, your metabolism slows down to conserve energy. Then, when you go back to your usual diet, your lowered metabolism may cause you to store more energy, meaning that you will probably gain back the weight you lost and possibly even put on more weight when eating the same calories you did before the fast.

As you fast, your body will adjust by reducing your appetite, so you will initially feel less hungry. But once you have stopped fasting, your appetite hormones will kick back into gear and you may actually feel hungrier and be more likely to binge.

So, in conclusion, fasting (such as with a water fast) for a day or two probably won’t hurt you if you’re generally healthy. Longer than that, though, and you start messing with your metabolism and depriving your body of necessary nutrients that it needs to survive.  And unless it’s part of your religious practices (which I completely respect), I don’t think temporarily starving yourself does much good.  I don’t know about you, but I actually like food and feel like a huge grouch when I’m hungry. If you want my advice, just cut out the crap. Yep, you heard me…lay off the alcohol and stop eating Cinnabon, pizza, Haagen Dazs, and 25-cent wings for a while. Eat fruits, veggies, healthy fats (like avocado), and drink more water and herbal tea…your body will detox naturally and you won’t have to starve yourself. Your body (and your friends, coworkers, and spouses) will thank you.

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Ciao for now!
-E

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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.

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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…

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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…

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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

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