Tag Archive | Emily Silvia

My Birthday – Older, Wiser, and Stronger!

886412_768538955085_315174731_o

Me recreating the iconic “The Son Of Man” painting by Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte

Well, yesterday was my birthday. Yayyyyy for being another year older, wiser, and stronger. If you read last week’s post, you know I was feeling a bit stressed out (which actually happens just about every birthday because I get overly pensive and reflective about things I wish I would have accomplished). And thankfully my head cold was practically gone on Sunday. I spent the weekend with friends and went apple picking upstate, which was super fun and actually a pretty physical activity as we had to hike through the hills to pick the apples!  It was like a full-body workout, we got to be outdoors, and it was fun to boot!

squat-rack
Source

So yesterday, I kicked off my birthday with an early morning workout. It felt great to be back in the gym!  I started with some cardio on the elliptical and then was feeling so good that I did squats at the power rack (instead of using the Smith machine) for the first time ever!  To my pleasant surprise, I was able to do about the same weight as with the machine, even after taking a week off from the gym!  I really focused on my form, squeezed my traps together to give the bar a nice shelf, and let my legs and glutes be the power source. It was awesome! And it reassured me that I’d done the right thing by giving my body a rest last week when I was feeling run down.

IMG00590-20131007-1218

These were delivered to me at work! How cute!!

The rest of my birthday was better than I could have imagined.  Between phone calls, texts, facebook posts, private messages, and in-person interactions, I think I received somewhere around 300 well wishes for a happy birthday. I mean, wow. On top of that, I got flowers, a cake and singing at work, several over-the-phone serenades, and scheduled dinner and drink plans for the next 2 weeks to celebrate my born day.  The outpouring of love was surprising, overwhelming, and incredibly humbling. What touched me most of all were the countless messages that express how much I’ve touched someone else’s life by being a source of encouragement, motivation, or support. That, to me, is about the best compliment a person could receive. ❤

IMG00591-20131007-1602

Grateful for another year…Happy Birthday to Me!

On my birthday this year, I’m reminded that it’s not about being the best…it’s about being YOUR best, and evolving every year.  It’s about becoming wiser, stronger, and healthier.  It’s about leading by example and inspiring others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more.  Erma Bombeck said it best:

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, I used everything you gave me.

Ciao for now!
-E

Advertisements

Sometimes Stress Comes Around and it Knocks You Down…

Do you ever feel like so many little things are stressing you out that it just snowballs into one giant stress cloud that you can’t seem to get away from? Well that’s been me this past week. Some career choices on the horizon, working too much, an upcoming birthday (and with that, feelings of “I thought my life would be different/better at this age), and a few other things going on…it just sort of hit me all at once.overwhelm1Source

Normally I would workout rigorously to relieve the stress, but this week my body has rebelled and all I’ve wanted to do is sleep. I tried muscling through (literally) and going hard at the gym, but then when I woke up yesterday with a sore throat, I realized that my body was telling me to sloooowwww downnnn and rest.

So last night, I was in bed by 9pm and slept in until 7:30  this morning (rather than getting up at 5:15 to get ready for a pre-work day gym session). When I got up, I initially felt guilty for skipping the gym (especially because I had taken off the day before), but I also know better than to over-do it when my body is telling me it needs rest. I’d rather take two days off and have a great workout when I go back than push myself and have a bunch of sub-par workouts and still feel lousy.rest-daySource

It’s taken me years to figure out this balance and practice good self-care. We are all susceptible to stress and things we cannot control, so it’s important to figure out what works for YOU to feel better and manage that stress. Sometimes knocking out a gym session will do the trick, but sometimes you just need 2 or 3 days (or maybe even longer) to let your body unwind, recuperate, and feel   stronger.

As I sip my coffee and write this, I’m already starting to feel the itch for a workout, which makes me grateful that I took a couple days off. Tomorrow is going to be a killer gym sesh…I can feel it already 🙂

Ciao for now!
-E

Digging Deep for Motivation

I have to be honest, I haven’t really felt motivated/inspired to blog this week. Maybe it’s because I did a grueling workout Saturday that forced me to take a few days off from the gym to let my body recoup…which kind of threw
me off my game. I confessed this lack of motivation to my friend and, genius that she is, she suggested that I write about finding motivation. Brilliant!  It makes sense because so many of us, myself included at times, struggle to find the motivation to drag our butts to the gym or squeeze a workout into our already jam packed schedules.  Just like with my workouts, this blog is a commitment that I’ve made to myself and, of course, to those who read it.  And just like with working out, sometimes I just don’t feel like it! Haha

motivation word cloudSource

Now sometimes, it’s good to take a little break…like if you’re sick, injured, or sleep-deprived. Self-care comes first, but there’s a line that we all walk that requires us to know when we truly need a break, and when we are being a tad lazy and self-sabotaging.  How do you know the difference??  Well, for me, that means thinking about how I’ll probably feel after I do the thing I’m procrastinating on. With a workout, sometimes I know I’ll feel better if I do it, but realize I need to scale back the intensity so I don’t push myself over the limit.  With the blog, I think of how disappointed in myself I’d be if I didn’t at least write a little something for the week (since a once-a-week posting was my original goal/commitment to myself).get motivated~Source

If you’re reading this, is there anything you’re procrastinating on that you think you might regret if you don’t do it? Remind yourself of your goal and of your commitment to yourself, and think of how accomplished you’ll feel after you finish it.

You can do it!

🙂

Ciao for now!
-E

Exercise – It’s for EVERYbody but it benefits MORE than just your body!

A recent discussion with a friend of mine, who is recently getting back on track with making fitness a priority, prompted me to write about the mental health benefits of exercise. You see, my friend had been having difficulty getting back on track amidst running her business, recently giving birth to a new baby, raising her two other kids, and keeping a home together. She was worried about making time to workout, what if her body didn’t respond to exercise the way it once did b.b. (before babies), etc.

exercise makes you happySource

As her friend, it was hard for me to watch her struggle…she has been stressed out and a little down lately, and I know from my own experience that, regardless of the physical benefits that she’d reap from regular sweat sessions, exercising would really boost her mood and be a great stress outlet.

Many of you already know about the mental health benefits of working out, but with society cramming images of perfect bodies down our throats, it’s easy to focus solely on the physical/aesthetic benefits. So, as a reminder, here are a few ways exercise can improve your mood:

1. Reduce Stress
One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. When we work up a sweat, our body increases its concentration of norepinephrine, a chemical that can decrease the brain’s response to stress.

exercise reduces stressSource

 

2. Increase Happiness
In addition to releasing chemicals that help us deal with stress, exercise also releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among those    who are clinically depressed. In some cases, exercise can even be as effective as antidepressant pills in treating depression. And it doesn’t have to be pumping iron or sprinting on the treadmill at a gym…go for a walk, a hike, rollerskating, etc for just 30 minutes a few times a week and you can instantly boost overall mood.exercise helps depression

Source

3. Relieve Anxiety
You might be surprised to know that a 20 minute jog is actually better at alleviating anxiety than a warm bubble bath. During (and after!) a sweat sesh, the brain releases chemicals that help us calm down, and doing moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise (interval training, anyone?) can reduce anxiety sensitivity.

4. Boost Brainpower
This one is awesome…Several studies on both mice and humans have shown that cardiovascular exercise can stimulate the creation of new brain cells (for my science geeks, this is known as neurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance. Research also suggests that higher intensity workouts increase levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning.

brain on exercise

Source

5. Sharpen Memory
Regular physical activity boosts memory and our ability to learn new things. Getting sweaty increases production of cells in the hippocampus—the part of our brain which is responsible for memory and learning.

I talked to my friend about some of these and she finally just bit the bullet and hit the gym for the first time in a while…and she said she felt immediate results. She told me she felt less stressed, more in-control, and her overall mood was just better. Hooray!

Give it a try and see for yourself! The proof is in the pudding 🙂

Ciao for now!

-E

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.

b9978938z.1_20130826130202_000_gg62427a.1-0Source

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

Source

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.

eat cleanSource

Ciao for now!
-E

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.

CALHIL_LOGO_062306_cvSource

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

Source

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
Source

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.

artificial is bad
Source

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!

Source

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