Archive for Health

CAN’T GET STARTED? BE CURIOUS!

Many people come to see me wanting to lose weight. (I would love for people to focus, instead, on being healthy, but that’s a topic for another blog.) In most cases, the greatest obvious nutrition obstacle is the time needed to plan, prepare and prep. Even if you’re not cooking a lot, eating healthily still requires having a plan and executing one takes time. My clients and I also talk about the fundamentals needed to be successful, which include:

  • Paying attention to hunger and satiety
  • Drinking a lot of water
  • Trying to eat as many whole foods possible. (Or, trying to eat as little processed food as possible.)
  • Having healthy snacks on hand
  • Watching the amount of unhealthy carbs consumed
  • Moving your body as much as possible

Then, we proceed to the specifics of their life—their lifestyle, their food preferences, their willingness to cook, their family unit, their work, how social they are, and how much time they are willing to dedicate to good nutrition. All of these will factor into creating the right plan for them. Since we are all different, no two plans will be identical.  Once armed with some structure, many people do very well. And many don’t.

If you are stuck and can’t seem to get started, I want you to be curious. Curiosity is a IMG_1275positive!  Unlike self-deprecation, curiosity keeps your mind open. It makes you take a closer look at your behavior, without judgment, so that you can unpack WHY you act (or not) in a certain way. Often times there is a less-obvious obstacle preventing you from achieving your goals. Being curious might uncover something much bigger—something deeper, that you need to address.

A client of mine wanted to lose weight and so we had several discussions and created a plan. When she got stuck, she became curious. And after some painful introspection, she realized that the underlying issue was that she had to  start focusing on her social life (or lack of one). It was much easier for her to zoom in on weight loss—she kept convincing herself that losing weight would be the answer to all of her problems. Once she uncovered this, she was able to address her deep-rooted issue, which was far more important than simply losing some weight.

From my experience, the worst thing that you can do for your mental sanity is to keep starting something, not being able to maintain it, and stopping. This is so damaging and deflating to your sense of well-being. In this blog, I used the example of weight loss but it applies to anything in your life that you keep starting and stopping: exercise, cooking, meditation, making time for yourself, reading more, learning something new, spending more time with loved ones, etc. Instead of yo-yo-ing, take a breath, stop and be curious. Be a detective so that you can uncover the deeper, hidden issue. You will then be better able to tackle your obstacles once and for all!

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THE SNOWBALL EFFECT

Isn’t it crazy how bad habits, even when kept at bay for a long time, come back? I imagine a knock at the door, opening it and saying “Hello bad habit, welcome back!” Often times one bad habit leads to another. I see this all the time with exercise and clean eating. I’m not sure which one comes first but either a lack of exercise causes a decrease in motivation to eat well, or not eating healthily leads to inactivity. This becomes a snowball effect which is “a situation in which something increases in size or download.jpgimportance at a faster and faster rate” (Cambridge Dictionary). The good news is, the snowball effect can work for you.

A year ago, a new client, “Margot”, came to see me. Margot was in her mid-sixties and not in the best shape. In fact, she wanted me to train her in order to build up her leg muscles so that she could eventually have her knee(s) replaced. Margot was unconditioned. I wasn’t sure how we would get through the first session but we did. Slowly but surely, Margot started making some progress. As she got stronger, she started to do more activities on her own. Her walks around the block with her dog grew longer; her short stints of swimming at her local pool increased. The more she did on her own, the stronger she became, and the more she was able to do with me. All of this exercise and movement motivated Margot to eat healthier. She started paying more attention to her diet and began cooking. She lost weight, felt more energetic and this allowed her to become even more active. A year later, we are both stunned at what she can do. There is no talk of a knee replacement. While I understand physiologically what is happening to her body, I still find her transformation to be nothing short of miraculous. Often times, in our sessions, we  giggle when she is able to do yet another more challenging exercise.

In Margot’s case, the snowball effect is at work in the most positive way. I can visualize the snowball traveling down a hill, getting bigger and gaining momentum. It’s all so glorious when it’s working for you.

If you’re stuck in a rut, have no fear. Focus on one small change and stick to it. That small change can lead to another, and then another and before you know it, you, too,  might find yourself in a wondrous snowball effect!

 

 

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THE BENEFITS OF DECELERATION

I recently went to Boulder, Colorado and while there, I took a restorative yoga class with an incredible instructor, Lara. As the class started, Lara began talking about something that she learned that day about electric cars: She discovered that electric Zdp6sMyoGA.pngcars actually recharge when the accelerator is not being pressed. This means that when the car is going downhill, and decelerating, it is actually recharging. She wanted us to think about this as it pertained to our lives. Since rest is restorative, she wanted to know…….were we decelerating enough?

I sat there feeling as if Lara was speaking directly to me. I came to Boulder feeling broken in every way.  A month prior, I had a bad bike accident. I should have taken time off so that I could rest and recover.  Instead, I chose to ignore all of that just “carried on”, as if nothing happened.  (DENIAL!) Eventually it caught up with me and I re-injured myself hardly doing anything. I hobbled into that yoga studio barely able to walk.

Like most people, I had to learn the hard way before I was ready to make a change. Our bodies are wondrous—they work so hard for us all the time doing things that we all take for granted. Right now, as you read this, your heart is pumping, your lungs are taking in air and removing carbon dioxide, your digestive system is breaking down and absorbing nutrients, hormones are flowing, new red blood cells are being made, your eyes are blinking, your kidneys and liver are detoxing, your white blood cells are fighting off invaders. In return, we owe our bodies good nutrition, water, a lot of movement, and REST so we can recharge.

I preach to my clients about the benefits of rest and yet I did not follow my own advice.  Pushing through pain is never a good thing! So, if you find yourself rushing around, trying to squeeze it all in,  and pushing yourself too much, sooner or later your body will send you a strong message. Mind did. Please don’t make the same mistake I made!

I am currently on a path of embracing deceleration so that I can properly heal and recharge . I want my life more balanced. Maybe you need to recharge, too?

 

 

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LESSONS FROM THE SHAMROCK

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine went on vacation and asked me to take care of one of her plants. She loved this plant—it’s called an oxalis (a.k.a. a shamrock). I know this sounds ridiculous, but after one day, I fell in love with this plant!

Her oxalis plant had greenish leaves divided into sections and each section looked like a 3-leaf clover. It also had tiny white flowers. What I love about this plant is that it moves—the leaves respond to light and darkness. In the light, the leaves are open and extended; in the dark, they collapse and fall in. It is so much fun watching this plant in action! You have to check out this video to see what I’m talking about.

http://plantsinmotion.bio.indiana.edu/plantmotion/movements/leafmovements/oxalis/oxalis.html

I loved watching nature unfold (or fold) right in front of me! The oxalis listens carefully to its environment and responds to it.

We can learn a great lesson from this plant by responding to our internal environment, too: INFORMATION FROM OUR BODIES. We need to rest when we’re tired, eat when we’re hungry (NOT eat when we’re NOT hungry), and drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Moving our bodies will give us energy; stretching will keep us less IMG_1094stiff. So often, we ignore the messages our bodies are telling us. We need to pay attention and respond!

After my friend came back home, I went out and bought my own oxalis. My plant has 3-leaf clovers with deep reddish/maroon leaves and tiny purple flowers. It’s the ultimate slice of nature sitting right in my kitchen.

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CARB CONFUSION AND INSULIN RESISTANCE

I normally like to keep my blog posts short and sweet. Not only because I believe that “less is more”, but it seems that in this digital age, our attention spans are shrinking. This post will be a bit longer because it is about a confusing subject: insulin resistance (or pre-diabetes) and carbohydrates. I’d like to take the time to go over the basics so that you can understand what’s going in your body AND how tweaking your diet and exercise can make a big difference. If you are not insulin resistant, this blog will give you a better understanding about how carbohydrates function in the body.

CARBS, GLUCOSE AND INSULIN

Of the three macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs), carbohydrates are the most perplexing. Carbohydrates range from incredible healthy (kale) to is-this-even-food? (Twinkie). They include what we commonly think of as carbs: bread, pasta, baked goods, cereals, and grains. But also include foods that you might not even consider to be carbs: fruit, vegetables and dairy. (Yes, dairy! One cup of milk has almost as many carbs as in a slice of bread.)

Whether you’re eating a bowl of green beans, a muffin, or a piece of fruit, carbs break down into glucose, which is a simple sugar. The glucose, goes into the bloodstream, raising blood sugar.

So, after we eat a meal containing carbs, blood sugar rises. When the body senses this rise, the pancreas comes to the rescue by secreting a hormone called insulin. Insulin is magical! It takes the sugar, that is in the bloodstream, and pushes it into the cells. Our cells need this glucose to function. In fact, glucose is our primary source of fuel.

When you become insulin resistant, there is some impairment with this process. Some Natural Remedies For Insulin Resistance Worksugar goes into the cells but not all of it, leaving extra glucose in your bloodstream. Having elevated blood sugar is NOT a good thing for a variety of reasons. First, the body will still sense the elevated blood sugar and will try to bring it down causing the pancreas to secrete more insulin. Not only will insulin levels rise, but this will eventually be taxing to the pancreas, and over time, can cause damage to it. Second, the liver stores excess glucose (as glycogen)  for later use. If there is too much to store, the liver converts that sugar into fat and that fat spills into the  bloodstream as triglycerides. The body then stores the triglycerides in the fat cells. This is how too much sugar can make us fat! Third, having elevated blood sugar can lead to damage to the blood vessels. And since blood vessels go everywhere in your body, damaged blood vessels can greatly affect the vessels to your heart (greater risk of a heart attack), the kidneys (greater risk of kidney disease and dialysis), the brain (greater risk of a stroke), and the eyes (greater risk of blindness). Often times insulin resistance leads to type 2 diabetes. But it doesn’t have to if you watch your diet and if you exercise, which will keep blood sugar stable.

THE SPEED OF CARBS

Carbs raise blood sugar at different rates depending on the what you’re eating. We know that all carbs aren’t created equally. Jellybeans, which are all sugar, will convert into glucose much faster than a full fat Greek yogurt, which is high in protein and contains fat. Fat, protein and fiber will slow down how fast the carbs break down.  In fact, that’s the premise of the glycemic index. It ranks carbs on a scale from 1-100, based on how quickly blood-sugar levels rise.

HEALTHY V. BLOOD-SUGAR HEALTHY

If you are insulin resistant or diabetic your goal is to have stable, controlled blood sugar. This can be very confusing because it might conflict with your notion of what’s “healthy”. You can eat a very “healthy” meal that might not be optimal for blood glucose control. Here is an example: a bowl of oatmeal, made with fat-free milk, topped with blueberries and drizzled with honey. While I can rave about the beautiful nutrients in this breakfast, there are too many carbs in one sitting for someone with impaired glucose function. A healthier breakfast, for blood-sugar control, should have a better balance of protein, fat and carbs (with fiber). Here’s a better option:  one slice of high-fiber-whole-grain-bread with some avocado slices and an egg on top. Both the avocado and egg contain fat and along with the protein in the egg,  will slow down the absorption of the carbs. Another option would be to have a smaller bowl of oatmeal and top it with chopped nuts, instead of fruit and milk. The fat and fiber in the nuts will slow things down.

Most people think grabbing a piece of fruit, is a perfectly “healthy” snack. I’m certainly not saying otherwise. However, fruit alone WILL raise blood sugar quickly. Instead, consider having an apple with some peanut butter,  an orange with a slice of cheese, or a pear with a few almonds. If you want a few whole grain crackers for a snack, don’t eat them alone—spread on some cream cheese, hummus, avocado, cheese, turkey, chicken or nut butters.

OH, AND START MOVING!

I can’t possible finish this blog without talking about moving your body. Our muscles NEED glucose to work. If there is excess blood sugar and we are exercising our muscles will pull that excess sugar into the cells. This happens when we lift weights, garden, vacuum, clean the house, dance, or walk. We just have to MOVE.  Just like eating less carbs with protein and fat throughout the day, the more you move throughout the day, the more stable your blood sugar will be. In fact, there was a great article I read about taking a 10-minute walk after meals. Just 10 minutes makes a big difference!

https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/lower-blood-sugar-take-10-minute-walk-meals-study-says/

I’M DONE!

I know this was a long one but I think you now have a better understanding of how carbs work and how you can make little tweaks in both your diet and exercise to help you maintain healthy blood sugar.

 

 

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FORGET THE DUMBBELLS, LIFT THE GROCERIES

There are so many blogs and articles everywhere about the importance and benefits of strength training. I love each and every one! However, we can’t SEE our bones getting 471977680stronger or FEEL our risk of diabetes decreasing. The one thing that we can focus on, however, is our strength gains. And these gains will gloriously spill over into our lives when it comes to doing regular activities.

The other day I was at my local supermarket checking out and bagging my groceries. There was a woman at a checkout very close to me and at her station, there was an employee bagging her groceries. I kept hearing her say, “Not too heavy please”. Of course, I wanted to go over to her and say, “Wanna workout with me and get stronger?”, but I controlled myself.

Strong arms, legs and all of those core muscles will allow you to bend, squat, lift and  carry heavier objects than you normally could. Things like the laundry basket, the water cooler bottle, the wheelbarrow, a suitcase, or a heavy serving platter. It is thrilling to be strong!

So, if you’re debating whether or not to start a strength training program, it is time to start! It will improve your quality of life, since regular daily activities will become easier.

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IS THIN EVERYTHING?

A really good friend of mine had been super skinny her whole life. Unlike me, she could download-small-png-medium-png-large-png-svg-edit-clipart-gZkXyM-cliparteat whatever she wanted and coasted through life never worrying about her weight or whether or not she could zip up her skinny jeans. Then she hit middle age and it all changed. Suddenly, she could no longer eat two Dove ice-cream bars after dinner. She was appalled.

In many ways, my friend had a much harder time than I did. Since I was a chubby kid, I began being aware of food at the ripe old age of ten. It was something that I grew accustomed to as time passed whereas she had to have a crash course in nutrition, food strategies and planning.   To compound the problem, she also didn’t exercise because she felt that she didn’t need to. At 45, she was gaining weight and had to start exercising for the first time in her life. It was rough and took her a few years to figure it out.

Most people think that being thin is everything. It’s not. You can be thin and have high cholesterol, heart disease, nutrient deficiencies (from a poor diet), diabetes, low muscle mass, and/or osteoporosis. The real problem is that many thin people feel that they don’t have to worry about their diet or doing regular exercise—that they have a “pass”. They don’t. You can be thin and also be unhealthy—especially if you have genetics working against you.

So if you’re thin or have a few extra pounds to lose, the same rules apply: You have to move your body as much as you can and try your best to have a clean, healthy diet regardless of the number on the scale or the size of your jeans. Thin or chubby, we ALL have to pay close attention.

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