Archive for Health

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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A STRETCHY RESOLUTION

Happy 2017!  It’s a new year and many of us are setting resolutions that involve health and stretching_yoga.jpgweight loss. Well, I have another suggestion that you might want to consider: START STRETCHING. There are so many benefits of stretching but I would like to focus on one: stretching will make daily activities easier.

The number one complaint that I hear from my clients over 50 is that they feel stiff—especially when they wake up in the morning.  I often hear things like, “Rhonda, I feel creaky.” This is because as we age, our muscles tighten up and tight muscles lead to a restricted range of motion in our joints. Stretching will help lengthen our muscles so that regular activities such as lifting a laundry basket, rushing to catch the train,  or climbing stairs will be easier.

Over a year ago, I felt like a stiff tin man needing an oil can. So I started to stretch and it has made a world of difference to my body. Stretching is vital and underrated—we are conditioned to think that other activities are more important. They’re not. In fact, stretching will actually make all activities easier—whether you’re working out or simply moving.

The best way to stretch is when your body is warm—ideally after a workout. Stretching should be slow and steady—not bouncy or jerky and you need to hold a stretch, for 30 seconds. If you don’t know where to start,  google “stretching routine” under videos and you will see hundreds of wonderful programs to give you some ideas. Then, you can create your own routine that works for you.

So put STRETCHING on our new year’s resolution list. Ten minutes a day will be life changing! It was for me.

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JUST DO IT! 😉

I hope you noticed the winking emoji next to the title because I’m not talking about imgres.jpgexercise, here, I’m talking about……..um……..yes……..SEX. It turns out, that sex is actually good for us! Unfortunately, as we get older, sex winds up  in the same category as exercise: We really aren’t thrilled about the idea, yet once we do it, we’re really glad that we did.

Web Md lists 10 Surprising Health Benefits of Sex and here they are:

  1. Keeps Your Immune System Humming
  2. Boots Your Libido
  3. Improves Women’s Bladder Control
  4. Lowers Your Blood Pressure
  5. Counts as Exercise
  6. Lowers Heart Attack Risk
  7. Lessens Pain
  8. May Make Prostate Cancer Less Likely
  9. Improves Sleep
  10. Eases stress

For the full explanation see http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/guide/sex-and-health. It’s a great list, although I think they’re pushing it a bit with #5! Still, moving counts as something so this holiday season, get busy and have fun!

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I’M SCRATCHING MY HEAD!

When it comes to diet, exercise and lifestyle, here are ten things that make NO sense to me: 85a80ce7c53efb60fd6097879907a83e

  • Eating “healthy food” that you can’t stand but you eat it anyway because it’s low calorie and/or healthy.
  • Believing that there is ONE NUTRITION PLAN that works for everyone.
  • Doing exercise that you HATE.
  • Believing that chronic stress will not eventually bite you in the ass.
  • Going on a very low-calorie diet to lose weight quickly.
  • Drinking your calories.
  • Paying too much attention to electronic devices instead of listening to your body.
  • Going to a nutritionist and following his/her plan that you don’t like.
  • Going to a personal trainer who doesn’t challenge you.
  • Thinking that taking care of everyone else, but you, will have a good outcome.

All of these will derail any chance of losing weight and being healthy.

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