Monthly Challenge February 2019 – Core

  • DAY 1 – 25 CRUNCHES
  • DAY 2 – 1 MINUTE PLANK
  • DAY 3 – 25 SUPERMAN
  • DAY 4 – 1 MINUTE PLANK
  • DAY 5 – 25 BICYCLES
  • DAY 6 – 2 X 1 MINUTE PLANK
  • DAY 7 – 25 RUSSIAN TWISTS
  • DAY 8 – 1 MINUTE PLANK
  • DAY 9 – 25 BIRD DOGS
  • DAY 10 – 1 MINUTE PLANK
  • DAY 11 – 25 REVERSE CRUNCHES
  • DAY 12 – 2 X 1 MINUTE PLANK
  • DAY 13 – 25 CRUNCHES OR SIT UPS
  • DAY 14 – 1 MINUTE BACK PLANK
  • DAY 15 – 25 SUPERMAN
(REPEAT CYCLE DAYS 16-30)

Monthly Challenge January 2019 – 21 day challenge

Welcome to our Jan 21 day challenge!

This challenge is designed to be in addition to whatever fitness routine you currently follow, which is why it includes very reasonable sets of exercises, and includes things that we don’t often focus on in our daily lives such as nurturing relationships, reaching out to friends, trying new things and focusing on increasing hydration.  You are encouraged to use this challenge as a springboard to build these things into your daily routine and in doing so it is the hope that you will feel better mentally and physically as a result.

Look out for encouraging emails throughout the 20 days, and feel free to let me know how you are doing and how this month’s challenge has been for you.  Below is a reminder of your challenge:

Jan 24 1 mile walk/bike/hike/run
Jan 25 Do a good deed
Jan 26 30 minute workout
Jan 27 Try a new recipe
Jan 28 Drink 4x 16oz of water
Jan 29 25 walking lunges
Jan 30 Buy a friend a coffee
Jan 31 30 minutes of cardio
Feb 1 Eat 4 cups vegetables
Feb 2 25 Situps
Feb 3 Eat no sugar today
Feb 4 Reconnect with an old friend
Feb 5 30 minutes of stretching
Feb 6 1 mile walk/hike/run
Feb 7 Do a good deed
Feb 8 25 Push ups
Feb 9 Drink 4x 16oz of water
Feb 10 10 Burpees
Feb 11 Try a new recipe
Feb 12 30 minute workout
Feb 13 Plan a night out

Nutrients and Nourishment

Nutrients and Nourishment

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As I’m currently working towards a Fitness Nutrition Specialist Certification, I thought I would share some of the information I’m learning with you via these monthly articles.  If we can become better informed about foods and nutrients, it should certainly empower us to make better decisions in our day to day eating and exercise habits.  This first article is just a quick overview of our food and what it contains.  In the coming months we will look more deeply into each of these elements to truly understand how our bodies use them.

First of all think about this?  Do you eat to live, or live to eat?  I have heard this question posed in regards to work – and in this context it is trying to ascertain the same thing.  Are you focusing too heavily on the joy of eating versus the importance of good and healthy nourishment for your body.

Many things influence the way that we eat.  Our age, gender, genetic make-up, lifestyle, family and cultural background affect our food choices.  We use food to project an image, show our creativity, build relationships, show friendship and express feelings.

We eat to cope with stress, or perhaps we don’t eat when we are stressed.  We eat as a reward when we have done a good thing, or we don’t eat as punishment for personal failure.  It would be interesting to figure out specifically what dictates our food preferences, and then to compare that with what we should be eating daily for optimal health.

Our food preferences can begin very early in life.  Experiences we have had as a child cause us to like or dislike a food, and that can carry all the way to adulthood.  To some degree what you eat says a lot about who you are.  Age is certainly a factor.  Infants with wide exposure to various foods will usually try new foods whilst pre-school children usually have a fear of trying new foods.  Contrastingly school age children begin to be braver about trying new things and teenagers tend to be influenced in their food choices by their piers.

Look at which foods appeal to your senses.  Taste, smell and texture play a roll – some people dislike certain foods just based on the texture.  Color, moisture and temperature can also play a roll.  Some people prefer salty foods to sweet, and others the reverse.  Cognitive influences come from learned food habits which can go back to childhood.

If we were to generalize, we would see that in the typical American diet the most common grain is white bread.  The favorite vegetable is the potato (usually in the form of French fries), and beef seems to be the favorite protein.  As a whole, Americans eat few fruits and whole grains, focusing more on cereals, snack foods, juices and sodas.  It seems many Americans do not know what they should eat, and even when they do learn what to eat it doesn’t necessarily make a difference to their daily food choices.

Some other factors that effect food choices are:

Environmental – where do you live, hot or cold, you will choose different foods depending on the weather

Religion – many religions have rules in regards to foods not to be consumed, or certain times when foods are limited.

Culture – certainly the culture you are born into plays a part.  If you are like me and were born in another country, you carry many of your food and beverage habits with you to the new country – I’m specifically thinking of my 4pm tea time which my husband has also adopted.  

Lifestyle – this plays a large part.  How much time do you have to cook? What foods are available at your workplace?  Does your schedule cause you to resort to convenience foods, or do you eat out several times a week?

Economics – What types of food can we afford or not afford?  It used to be the refined foods that were available only to the wealthy, and the poor folk grew what they ate and raised their own meat etc.  These days things are flipped around to where the refined foods are the cheapest, and the organic and more healthful choices are much more expensive.

Our goal should be to focus first and foremost on nourishing our bodies for optimal health.  We can do this in a way that will still allow us to enjoy eating and look forward to our meals, perhaps even more so.  Nourishment is necessary for growth and development, for cell and tissue maintenance,  to provide fuel for physical activities, and to properly regulate our body processes.

There are 6 classes of nutrients:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Proteins
  • Lipids (fats/oils)
  • Water
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals

These nutrients can be divided into organic and inorganic.  Vitamins, carbohydrates, lipids and proteins are all organic and contain carbon in their biological structure, whereas water and minerals are inorganic with no carbon present.

  1. Inorganic nutrients:  Water, minerals.  Inorganic nutrients have a simple structure containing just one element
  2. organic nutrients: Fats, Proteins, Carbohydrates and Vitamins.  Organic nutrients have more complex chemical structures.  Carbohydrates, lipids and proteins are made of smaller building blocks and vitamins have an elaborate structure of compounds.

Foods generally do not contain just one nutrient, although we might consider meat a protein and bread a carbohydrate – we are really generalizing based on the fact that protein is the largest part of meat and carbohydrate is the largest part of bread.  However, there are usually small amounts of a variety of nutrients in most foods.  A lot of carbohydrates also provide our body with fiber which is not technically an essential nutrient, but is very important for our overall health.

The purposes of nutrients:

  1. To aid in body processes
  2. To contribute to cell and body structure
  3. To supply energy

Carbohydrates

Main dietary sources: (Plant based):  Starches, sugars, grains, vegetables, dry beans, peas, legumes, fruits.

Main purpose of carbohydrates: To provide your body with energy.

If thinking of water makes you think about hydrating, then the word carbo-hydrate tells you the exact composition of this nutrient.  Carbohydrate is made up of Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen and is an important source of fuel for the body.

Carbohydrates are converted in the body to glucose, a simple sugar compound.  Glucose is what our body uses to provide energy for cells and tissues.   Carbohydrates provide the body with it’s preferred energy source.  In the absence of enough carbohydrates it can use fats and proteins, but using alternative energy sources can deplete our bodies since fats and proteins have other important jobs that will be neglected if they are called upon to become a carbohydrate ‘stand-in’!!

Fats (Lipids)

Main dietary sources:  Fats and oils, natural fats found in meat and fish, dairy products and other less obvious plant sources such as avocado and coconut, olives, nuts and seeds.

Main purpose of fat: The body uses fat as a fuel source, and fat is the major storage form of energy in the body. Fat also has many other important functions in the body, and a moderate amount is needed in the diet for good health. Fats in food come in several forms, including saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.

Lipids are substances known as fats and oils.  But they can also be fat like substances in foods such as phospholipids, and lipoproteins.   Fats are organic compounds containing carbon hydrogen and oxygen.

Another type of fat:  triglyceride. Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) found in your blood. When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn’t need to use right away into triglycerides. The triglycerides are stored in your fat cells. Later, hormones release triglycerides for energy between meals.  Triglycerides are an important fuel source for the body.  Also triglycerides, lipoproteins and phospholipids have other important jobs in the body, such as providing structure for body cells, carrying fat soluble vitamins and providing cholesterol.  Our bodies need cholesterol for important metabolic processes but we don’t need to consume it, our body can make enough using other compounds.  Of course we all know that too much blood cholesterol is not good for us so we need to keep it all in balance.

Proteins

Main dietary sources:  Meat and fish, nuts, dairy products, Soy

Main purpose of protein:  Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.

Proteins are organic compounds made of smaller building blocks called amino acids.  Unlike carbohydrates and fats, amino acids contain nitrogen as well as carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.  Some amino acids also contain sulfur.  The amino acids you get from protein combined with those in the body to make hundreds of different body proteins. We can divide these proteins into two groups:

  1. Structural proteins:  Build and maintain body structures
  2. Functional proteins:  Regulate body processes

Vitamins

Vitamins are organic compounds that contain carbon, hydrogen and sometimes nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur.   Some vitamin functions in the body include:

  • Regulating body processes such as energy production, blood clotting and calcium balance.
  • Keeping organs and tissues healthy.   
  • Extracting energy from carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

Vitamins divide into two groups:  fat soluble and water soluble.

Fat soluble:  A, D, E and K. Fat soluble vitamins can be stored in larger amounts in the body, and are all transported in the same way.

Water soluble:  C and 8 B vitamins: Thiamin(B1) Riboflavin(B2) Niacin(B3) Pyridoxine(B6) Cobalamin(B12) Folate, Pantothenic acid and Biotin.  Most interact with the energy metabolism pathways.

Vitamins are in a variety of foods.  If you have a balanced diet you will get enough of each and can rarely overdose on any.  But if you overdo supplementation, some vitamins can become toxic and cause serious issues.

Minerals

Minerals are inorganic substances.  16 essential to health:  

Microminerals: 

  • Iron
  • zinc
  • copper
  • manganese
  • molybdenum
  • selenium
  • iodine
  • fluoride

Minerals have diverse functions:

  • Structural roles – calcium phosphorus, fluoride
  • Regulatory roles – control of fluid balance, muscle contraction

Water

Water chemically the simplest nutrient.  While we can live sometime without food, we cannot live long without water.  60% of our body is water so it is essential.  Water is used for:

  • Temperature control
  • Lubrication of joins
  • Transportation of water soluble vitamins and waste

Sources of water:  Water itself is our best source.  We should drink about half of our body weight in fluid oz per day, not including any we sweat out.  We also gain some hydration from beverages, fruits and vegetables

Energy sources: 

Carbohydrates, Proteins, Lipids (but only as triglycerides)

  • Carbohydrates = 4 Cal/gram
  • Protein = 4 Cal/gram
  • Fat = 9 Cal/gram
  • Alcohol = 7 Cal/gram

Sorting fact from fiction

Finally, I’m sure you are constantly hearing of new claims regarding the healthfulness or lack thereof of certain foods, the latest fad diet etc… the media is very good at overstating any new finding that is out there.  All this contradicting information can be very confusing.  How do we sort out the scientific facts from so much misinformation?  First of all consider the source.  Usually news stories are sensationalized, over simplified, facts are distorted, omitted or modified.  Also beware of anything that has the following claims:

  • Quick fix
  • Dire warnings of dancer
  • Claims that are too good to be true
  • Simplistic conclusions
  • Dramatic statements

There is still much to learn about food and its healthful properties.  As scientists continue to conduct studies we will find out more about things that are helpful and harmful and as we learn we will adjust as we have always done.  Just remember this, what you eat really does matter.  Your diet will likely effect your quality of life and ultimately could effect the length of your life.  Making good and healthful daily choices will give you the best chance to live a long and healthy life, continuing to do all the things you love.

New Year’s Resolutions

Turn your New Year’s Resolutions into SMART Goals

New Year … New You!

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Christmas is over, and now it’s time to think about the new year.  That’s the time of year when we all tend to begin thinking about what we would like to accomplish in this new year, and what we would like to leave behind us.  Usually we are looking to get rid of bad habits and pick up some good habits, but often this is easier said than done.  Here are some helpful hints to get you started on that New Years resolution:

You may have heard of  SMART goals.  Specific goals.  Measurable goals.  Attainable goals.  Relevant goals.  Timely Goals.  The acronym just helps to organize our thoughts in a way that can allow us to move towards the things we want to achieve in a realistic way.

1. SPECIFIC.  Make a list of SPECIFIC things you would like to accomplish.  For example:

  • Lose 25 1bs by the end of 2019.
  • Give up smoking by the end of 2019
  • I will no longer be stressed
  • Find a new job

These are your end goals, they are specific and not vague.

2. MEASURABLE.  You have to be able to measure your progress and see that you are continually and successfully working towards your goals.  For example, working towards your weight loss goal is MEASURED by weigh ins that show you are losing weight.  You can MEASURE your smoking habits based on decreasing how much your smoke regularly and consistently until you are ready to stop altogether.   Becoming less stressed can be measured by your general state of mind improving week by week.  Taking steps towards finding a new job is evidence that you are working towards this goal.  When thinking about how measurable your goals are, is where you begin to break down specifically HOW you are going to get from where you are now, to where you want to be.  For example:

  • To lose 251bs in a year you need to: change your eating habits, begin an exercise regime.
  • Next take steps towards those things.  Enroll in an exercise program, begin a new eating regime.
  • To stop smoking:  Begin to reduce cigarettes daily, set a date when you will stop and use the patch or some other form of smoking cessation help to stop completely.
  • To decrease stress identify what stresses you out, and try to change those situations.
  • To find a new job you just need to begin looking or interviewing.

3. ATTAINABLE.  Your goals have to be realistic and attainable.  You don’t want to give yourself an impossible task by an unrealistic date, and set yourself up to fail.  Be sure that what you are setting out to do is possible.

4. RELEVANT.  Your goal has to be something that is worthwhile.  Something that you are willing and able to work towards and once achieved will be worth the effort.

5. TIMELY.  Above all you should impose time constraints on your goals.  Rather than leaving them open ended make sure you have a time schedule attached to each goal.  Setting a deadline will give you motivation and a sense of urgency in achieving your goals.

perhaps you want to share your goals with a friend, or you and a friend share your goals with each other and have regular check ins to see how you are doing working towards each goals.  Accountability can go a long way towards maintaining motivation as you move forward toward your goals.

How to live your best life and be your best self

Healthy-Habits

Do you love your life?  Do you enjoy every moment of every day?  Do you look around you and feel how blessed or lucky you are?  If not, why not?   

Conversely, do you wish the days and weeks away until the weekend, or the vacation, or the summer?  Do you find you have more things to complain about than to be thankful for?  Do you have a negative self image?

What happens if life hands you lemons?  Do you make lemonade?

Being a strong and healthy person involves much more than diet and exercise.  In order to live your best healthiest life and to be your best and healthiest self you have to ask yourself a few important questions:

  1. What are the things in my life that really make me happy?
  2. What are the things in my life that make me unhappy or cause me stress?
  3. What changes can I make in my life that will make me happier?

Answering these three questions will help you start to find the path towards a happier, healthier and more fulfilled life.

There might be some things in your life that don’t make you happy but that you can’t change, so the alternative is to try to adjust them in such a way that they become less stressful and more tolerable.  Increasing the positive aspects of your life will inevitably help to decrease the negatives.  Also adjusting your mindset, or the way you think about something can go a long way toward helping adjust a negative situation into a more positive one.  Back to the saying ‘if life gives you lemons, make lemonade’.

If I made a list of the things that make me happy it would be a very long one!  Over time I have adjusted things in my life to the point that I really love my everyday life, and there are very few negatives.

In order to live your best, happiest, healthiest and most fulfilled life you have to be able to say ‘no’.  Say ‘no’ to those things that will cause you stress and take time away from those things that you truly enjoy and love.   

Here is a little formula to get you started:

First, list the things that you may either love about your life, and the things that make you feel good and happy.  Here are a few examples:

  1. Your children/grandchildren
  2. Your spouse/partner
  3. Specific hobbies ie. Tennis, scrapbooking, cooking.
  4. Volunteering
  5. Workouts at the gym
  6. Eating healthy foods
  7. Losing weight
  8. Feeling stronger
  9. Specific friends who make you feel positive

Second, list the things in your life that cause you unhappiness or stress or that you don’t like.  Here are a few examples:

  1. Work – be specific if it’s something at work or the whole job itself
  2. People – who in your life has a negative influence, causes stress
  3. Juggling too many things – be specific (volunteering, other commitments)
  4. Cleaning/washing/yard work
  5. Your hair style
  6. Negative body image
  7. Family relationships
  8. Lack of close friends, community
  9. Unhealthy eating
  10. Lack of time for yourself
  11. Lack of exercise
  12. Negative self image
  13. Lack of sleep

Third, make a list of things you can change for the better realistically.  Here are a few examples:

  1. Plan more exercise into my week
  2. Buy healthier foods and work on eating better and less
  3. Go to bed earlier
  4. Get a new hair do, get a facial
  5. Join a church or a community group
  6. Make time for myself
  7. Hire a cleaner or Gardner
  8. Get rid of excess volunteering that takes time from family & increases stress
  9. Assign meals to different family members to reduce burden on me
  10. Actively work to improve negative family relationships
  11. Job – can I change jobs or improve my current situation
  12. People – spend more time with the people who encourage you and make you feel good about yourself and your life.  Or those who give you good advice and are always in your corner. Conversely, if there are people in your life who cause you stress, then perhaps it’s time to let them go.  Surrounding ourselves with negative people will tend to make us feel more negative ourselves

Forth, make a list of the things that you cannot change but can improve upon.  For example:

  1. My job.  Think of ways to improve your time at work if you can’t change jobs.  Perhaps go part time, or think of other ways to improve your work day.
  2. If you have small children (which can be stressful),  perhaps you can  hire a sitter to take some time for yourself to exercise, go out with friends or your husband, or go get a massage.  Try to make it a weekly occasion.
  3. People.  If the people who cause you stress are family members or work colleagues,  perhaps try to lessen your contact with them where possible, or actively work on influencing them in a positive way rather than allowing their negativity to rub off on you.
  4. Daily responsibilities.  If you hate cleaning but cannot afford to hire a cleaner then maybe spread out the responsibilities to other family members, or try to make cleaning day a fun experience.

Fifth, take steps toward making the changes you have listed.  Do it slowly and step by step you will find yourself feeling better, healthier and happier.  The test is to ask yourself a few simple questions:

  1. When you wake up in the morning, are you looking forward to your day?
  2. Are you thinking good and positive thoughts throughout the day?
  3. Are you spreading positivity to those around you?
  4. When you go to bed at night do you feel good about your day?
  5. Do you sleep well?
  6. Do you feel overall healthier and happier?

Of course there are going to be those things that occur in daily life to cause us stress, aggravation and sadness.  These types of feelings come and go, and if your overall daily life is a healthy and happy one, you will more quickly recover from the temporary setbacks that life often brings.  I find that our perspective has a lot to do with how we deal with life’s unexpected stresses.  Knowing that we are still so much better off than others in the world can often help us adjust our attitude, and make lemonade out of those annoying lemons.

I do feel that in every difficult situation there is something positive to be learned, even if it just helps us to grow and become stronger as a person.

In conclusion, I challenge you to take a close look at every aspect of your life.  Make the changes necessary to allow you to be your healthiest and happiest self.  We are only here for a short time, and we shouldn’t take any of it for granted.  Spread positivity to those around you, and live and love every day to the max.

Eat the Rainbow – facts about eating vegetables of different colors

Eat Real Food

A Little bit of what you fancy does you good!

My mother always used to say “a little bit of what you fancy does you good,” and I never forgot it.  I quote it to people all the time, to my children and always prefaced by ‘my mother used to say…’  My daughter suggested I use it as the name for my next blog post, so here it is!

In the context of health and wellness, I use this statement as a means to explain how important it is to eat “a little bit” of something real, rather than a lot of something chemically altered or synthetic.  In this day and age of genetically modified, chemically altered and artificially sweetened, so-called ‘low fat’ food products, it is a very important reminder to those of us who really want to eat clean and healthy, while still shedding a few pounds.

Let’s look at a few common things people tend to eat in place of something real:

Diet soda and artificial sweeteners

NO-DIET-SODA

Diet Soda – can you say oxymoron? Of course I’m going to tell you that ANY soda is bad for you.   We already know that refined sugar is bad for us, and a glass of soda contains just under 1/4 cup of sugar!  But what about diet soda?  For some years it has been hailed as something to help with weight loss.

Artificial sweeteners still have an effect on your body by triggering the release of insulin, which causes your body to store fat rather than burn it.  It can also cause you to overeat in other areas feeling that you saved calories on a sugar free soda, so can then eat a bit extra (cognitive distortion).  The American Beverage Association insists the sweeteners used in diet sodas such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharine, are fully studied and completely safe.  However, there are over 900 published studies showing that artificial sweeteners are carcinogenic.  For more details follow the link to an article by Dr. Mercola:

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/10/15/this-artificial-sweetener-shown-to-produce-cancer-in-rats.aspx

Subsequent studies have said that there is no clear connection between artificial sweeteners and cancer, but those were also heavily funded by businesses who use artificial sweeteners in their products…

Artificial-SweetenersThe bottom line here is that it is really best to stay away from soda all together.  Look at your consumption of any sugar and/or sugar-like substances, and do your best to eliminate or at least reduce its presence in your diet.  The only safe low calorie sugar alternative is Stevia, which comes from a plant.  Personally I do not enjoy the flavor of stevia as it is much sweeter than sugar, but if you can take the taste, at least you know you are eating something natural rather than manufactured.

Getting back to the main message:  It’s far better to consume ‘a little bit’ of a natural sweetener than lots.  But it is better to stay away from chemical sweeteners altogether.  Your best options for sweetening agents are  honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave, brown sugar and stevia for a low calorie alternative.  Glucose has also been shown to be a healthy alternative, although it’s slightly less sweeter than sucrose.

natural-sweeteners

You can’t believe it’s not butter?  I can!!!

notbutter-butteritsnotSo this is a hot topic: Should we eat butter, with its high fat content, or switch to one of the many low calorie alternatives offered today?  When I was young, margarine was the big butter alternative touted to have lower saturated fat and cholesterol.  Of course years later we realized that margarine is actually packed with trans-fat, which is way worse for you!  But these days there is a new generation of butter alternatives now advertised with no trans-fat BUT they instead contain a myriad of additives and preservatives. 

Just because something is low in fat doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

thIn fact, these low fat miracle products generally have a bunch of junk in them to make them taste good—extra sugar, chemicals, additives—which in the end are much worse for you than the slightly higher fat content, and prevent your body from losing weight. Skim milk? Might as well call it sugar milk.

Take it from Dr. Oz: “Don’t drink skim milk, you don’t need to. When you take the fat out of milk, what’s left? Sugar! Skim milk is sugar milk. You want to drink 2% milk, eat 2% yogurt…people who have a little bit of fat in the yogurt lose more weight, because your body is satiated.” 

This harkens back to that cognitive distortion thing I mentioned earlier: With ‘low-cal’ products, mentally people think they can eat more, which means more of all that nasty artificial stuff in your system! Higher fat products not only don’t have all the junk added, but also make your body feel more satisfied, meaning you eat less. 

Again, this simple rule always holds true: Chemical ingredients are never a good choice!

Butter itself contains only cream and salt, and is packed with a bunch of vitamins such as Vitamin A, important for our endocrine system and maintaining good vision as well as other bodily functions.  Also vitamins E, K and D, which play a role in maintaining our cardiovascular system.  It contains Lecithin which helps our metabolism work properly, and antioxidants which protect our bodies from disease.

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This brings me back to my main point – ‘a little bit of what you fancy does you good‘ … a moderate amount of butter (maybe not Paula Deen amounts!) in our diet is much healthier than the alternatives out there.

Always go for the natural alternative and teach yourself to exercise will power to not overdo it. Part of changing the way you eat is to learn how to enjoy things in moderation, and doing so will help you enjoy those little pleasures immensely more. 

Fat free half and half and other fat free products

0003450063210_500X500And the oxymorons continue!  My first thought would be ‘what’s the point’!!!  But I assume people who buy fat free products are under the impression that fat is bad, and this is a way to save fat and calories while still enjoying a ‘fat like’ taste.  Well, that ‘fat like’ taste is created by replacing fat with corn syrup and chemical thickeners (carrageenan is most common, and has been linked with cancer in multiple studies) that create the ‘fat like’ flavor and texture.  Most fat free products are the same, instead of fat they add corn syrup and chemical additives.

Half and half is so named because it contains equal parts milk and cream—both natural products.  It’s far better to enjoy a little bit of half & half rather than a fat free alternative.

What about ‘Low fat’ products?

The recommendation for fat consumption is that we get 20%-35% of our daily calories from fat. That’s about 44 to 77 grams of fat a day assuming you eat 2,000 calories a day.  In order for your body to function properly, and your metabolism to work the way that it should, we need enough fat calories.  Saturated fat should be kept to a minimum, with mono and polyunsaturated fat making up the majority of daily fat consumption.

Here are a few foods that contain healthty fats:

  • Salmon
  • Raw nuts (roasting spoils the good oil content)
  • Avocado
  • Olive, avocado, safflower oils
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax meal

Low fat foods, much like fat free foods, often contain other ingredients to make up for the lack of fat.  The key here is to read the label. Don’t trust companies advertising “all natural; healthy; wholesome”—the fact is that these statements mean nothing, and any company can slap them on their products, regardless of whether the statements are true. If you see that the product contains chemical additives and sugars (especially high fructose corn syrup) to make up for the lack of fat, then it might not be the best choice.

diet-and-fat-free-products

The main take-away messages? 

Real food in moderation is always better than low fat, low calorie, diet alternatives. 

Reading labels is so important.  Food manufacturers are always coming up with new chemical ingredients to add to our food to make it last longer, taste better, contain less fat or sugar.  A good thing to remember is that as much as they can test these chemicals before using them, it really is only once humans have been consuming them for years that the real effects will come to light.  

-It’s so much better to try to avoid additives and preservatives, artificial sweeteners and fat substitutes.  Buy natural whole ingredients and either make your own food or choose brands of prepared food that do not contain additives and preservatives.

I try to prepare all my food from scratch so I am in charge of what they contain.   I’m also less likely to eat them as much because they take work, effort and time to prepare.   On occasion I even like to make my own chocolate from scratch,  I maybe eat 2-3 squares of good dark chocolate in a day when I have it available … a square at a time with a nice cup of British tea!  I would eat one square of chocolate in place of a dessert after a meal, so I get a little sweet taste without overdoing my sugar intake.

I rest my case, a little bit of what you fancy does you good.

“Moderation.  Small helping.  Sample a little bit of everything.  These are the secrets of happiness and good health” 

 -Julia Child

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Eat Real Food

Eat Real Food

A Little bit of what you fancy does you good!

My mother always used to say “a little bit of what you fancy does you good,” and I never forgot it.  I quote it to people all the time, to my children and always prefaced by ‘my mother used to say…’  My daughter suggested I use it as the name for my next blog post, so here it is!

In the context of health and wellness, I use this statement as a means to explain how important it is to eat “a little bit” of something real, rather than a lot of something chemically altered or synthetic.  In this day and age of genetically modified, chemically altered and artificially sweetened, so-called ‘low fat’ food products, it is a very important reminder to those of us who really want to eat clean and healthy, while still shedding a few pounds.

Let’s look at a few common things people tend to eat in place of something real:

Diet soda and artificial sweeteners

NO-DIET-SODA

Diet Soda – can you say oxymoron? Of course I’m going to tell you that ANY soda is bad for you.   We already know that refined sugar is bad for us, and a glass of soda contains just under 1/4 cup of sugar!  But what about diet soda?  For some years it has been hailed as something to help with weight loss.

Artificial sweeteners still have an effect on your body by triggering the release of insulin, which causes your body to store fat rather than burn it.  It can also cause you to overeat in other areas feeling that you saved calories on a sugar free soda, so can then eat a bit extra (cognitive distortion).  The American Beverage Association insists the sweeteners used in diet sodas such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharine, are fully studied and completely safe.  However, there are over 900 published studies showing that artificial sweeteners are carcinogenic.  For more details follow the link to an article by Dr. Mercola:

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/10/15/this-artificial-sweetener-shown-to-produce-cancer-in-rats.aspx

Subsequent studies have said that there is no clear connection between artificial sweeteners and cancer, but those were also heavily funded by businesses who use artificial sweeteners in their products…

Artificial-SweetenersThe bottom line here is that it is really best to stay away from soda all together.  Look at your consumption of any sugar and/or sugar-like substances, and do your best to eliminate or at least reduce its presence in your diet.  The only safe low calorie sugar alternative is Stevia, which comes from a plant.  Personally I do not enjoy the flavor of stevia as it is much sweeter than sugar, but if you can take the taste, at least you know you are eating something natural rather than manufactured.

Getting back to the main message:  It’s far better to consume ‘a little bit’ of a natural sweetener than lots.  But it is better to stay away from chemical sweeteners altogether.  Your best options for sweetening agents are  honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave, brown sugar and stevia for a low calorie alternative.  Glucose has also been shown to be a healthy alternative, although it’s slightly less sweeter than sucrose.

natural-sweeteners

You can’t believe it’s not butter?  I can!!!

notbutter-butteritsnotSo this is a hot topic: Should we eat butter, with its high fat content, or switch to one of the many low calorie alternatives offered today?  When I was young, margarine was the big butter alternative touted to have lower saturated fat and cholesterol.  Of course years later we realized that margarine is actually packed with trans-fat, which is way worse for you!  But these days there is a new generation of butter alternatives now advertised with no trans-fat BUT they instead contain a myriad of additives and preservatives. 

Just because something is low in fat doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

thIn fact, these low fat miracle products generally have a bunch of junk in them to make them taste good—extra sugar, chemicals, additives—which in the end are much worse for you than the slightly higher fat content, and prevent your body from losing weight. Skim milk? Might as well call it sugar milk.

Take it from Dr. Oz: “Don’t drink skim milk, you don’t need to. When you take the fat out of milk, what’s left? Sugar! Skim milk is sugar milk. You want to drink 2% milk, eat 2% yogurt…people who have a little bit of fat in the yogurt lose more weight, because your body is satiated.” 

This harkens back to that cognitive distortion thing I mentioned earlier: With ‘low-cal’ products, mentally people think they can eat more, which means more of all that nasty artificial stuff in your system! Higher fat products not only don’t have all the junk added, but also make your body feel more satisfied, meaning you eat less. 

Again, this simple rule always holds true: Chemical ingredients are never a good choice!

Butter itself contains only cream and salt, and is packed with a bunch of vitamins such as Vitamin A, important for our endocrine system and maintaining good vision as well as other bodily functions.  Also vitamins E, K and D, which play a role in maintaining our cardiovascular system.  It contains Lecithin which helps our metabolism work properly, and antioxidants which protect our bodies from disease.

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This brings me back to my main point – ‘a little bit of what you fancy does you good‘ … a moderate amount of butter (maybe not Paula Deen amounts!) in our diet is much healthier than the alternatives out there.

Always go for the natural alternative and teach yourself to exercise will power to not overdo it. Part of changing the way you eat is to learn how to enjoy things in moderation, and doing so will help you enjoy those little pleasures immensely more. 

Fat free half and half and other fat free products

0003450063210_500X500And the oxymorons continue!  My first thought would be ‘what’s the point’!!!  But I assume people who buy fat free products are under the impression that fat is bad, and this is a way to save fat and calories while still enjoying a ‘fat like’ taste.  Well, that ‘fat like’ taste is created by replacing fat with corn syrup and chemical thickeners (carrageenan is most common, and has been linked with cancer in multiple studies) that create the ‘fat like’ flavor and texture.  Most fat free products are the same, instead of fat they add corn syrup and chemical additives.

Half and half is so named because it contains equal parts milk and cream—both natural products.  It’s far better to enjoy a little bit of half & half rather than a fat free alternative.

What about ‘Low fat’ products?

The recommendation for fat consumption is that we get 20%-35% of our daily calories from fat. That’s about 44 to 77 grams of fat a day assuming you eat 2,000 calories a day.  In order for your body to function properly, and your metabolism to work the way that it should, we need enough fat calories.  Saturated fat should be kept to a minimum, with mono and polyunsaturated fat making up the majority of daily fat consumption.

Here are a few foods that contain healthty fats:

  • Salmon
  • Raw nuts (roasting spoils the good oil content)
  • Avocado
  • Olive, avocado, safflower oils
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax meal

Low fat foods, much like fat free foods, often contain other ingredients to make up for the lack of fat.  The key here is to read the label. Don’t trust companies advertising “all natural; healthy; wholesome”—the fact is that these statements mean nothing, and any company can slap them on their products, regardless of whether the statements are true. If you see that the product contains chemical additives and sugars (especially high fructose corn syrup) to make up for the lack of fat, then it might not be the best choice.

diet-and-fat-free-products

The main take-away messages? 

Real food in moderation is always better than low fat, low calorie, diet alternatives. 

Reading labels is so important.  Food manufacturers are always coming up with new chemical ingredients to add to our food to make it last longer, taste better, contain less fat or sugar.  A good thing to remember is that as much as they can test these chemicals before using them, it really is only once humans have been consuming them for years that the real effects will come to light.  

-It’s so much better to try to avoid additives and preservatives, artificial sweeteners and fat substitutes.  Buy natural whole ingredients and either make your own food or choose brands of prepared food that do not contain additives and preservatives.

I try to prepare all my food from scratch so I am in charge of what they contain.   I’m also less likely to eat them as much because they take work, effort and time to prepare.   On occasion I even like to make my own chocolate from scratch,  I maybe eat 2-3 squares of good dark chocolate in a day when I have it available … a square at a time with a nice cup of British tea!  I would eat one square of chocolate in place of a dessert after a meal, so I get a little sweet taste without overdoing my sugar intake.

I rest my case, a little bit of what you fancy does you good.

“Moderation.  Small helping.  Sample a little bit of everything.  These are the secrets of happiness and good health” 

 -Julia Child

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Don’t Get Discouraged

Don’t get discouraged!!!

This is a short article addressing one of the biggest hurdles people face when trying to achieve their health and fitness goals.  It’s easy to figure out what you would like to achieve and where you would like to be in 6 months, a year or two.  What is not so easy is making that journey from where you are now, to where you want to be.  The most important thing to remember is that there is a lot to be learned on that journey, and perhaps the result you end up with may fall a little short of your ideal, but remember that each of us is unique and different.   What is ideal and healthy for your body may look different from the next person.

Things to remember:

  • Do NOT get discouraged!

If you have a bad day/week, remember the journey you are on and keep moving forward.  It’s so easy to let one slip up sabotage you entirely.  We are all bound to have days and weeks when we do not stick entirely to the plan, but as time goes along and ‘the plan’ becomes more and more a part of your regular routine, you will find you slip out of it less and less.

  • Do NOT compare yourself to the next person.

We are all different and unique.  We all have our own genetic make up, which for better or worse will to some degree influence our outcome.  You may find that fit and healthy for you is not necessarily what you envision, but it’s the best for your body.  You may have inherited health issues that work against your desire to be fit an healthy, but remember that we all do the best with what we have.  You will always be better off, fitter, healthier and happier when you eat and live a healthy lifestyle.

  • Think positive!

Don’t allow negative thinking patterns to influence you on a day to day basis.  Tell yourself how well you are doing, and how much healthier you are getting daily.  When you have a good day or week, be proud of yourself.  When you have a bad day or week, brush it off.  Tomorrow is a new day, and you get a do over!

  • Keep track of your goals and make the achievable.

Listing your goals, and tracking your progress towards them is important to help you stay positive and encouraged.  Even if you gained a few pounds, you can look back and see that you still have an overall weight loss – if weight loss is your goal.  Give yourself achievable goals.  For weight loss, 1 1b a week is recommended.  Losing too much too fast can result in weight being gained back.  Remember that 1 1b of weight is equal to 3500 calories.  So all you have to do is burn 500 more calories a day than you eat to lose 1 1b weekly.  You can burn 3-500 calories during a good workout!

  • Keep moving.

No matter what, it’s important to keep your body moving.  Whether you have missed a few classes due to scheduling issues, or took some vacation, your body still needs to move.  Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming are all easy things to do and can be fun even when you are vacationing.  Don’t take a vacation from exercising, that should be part of your every day along with making good food choices.  If you have to sit for hours at a time for work, make a point of getting up and walking around every 45 minutes or so.

  • Surround yourself with people who encourage you.

Try to be with people who are like minded or who will encourage your efforts. There will always be those who are negative about fitness and health since they haven’t managed to incorporate it into their lives, and resent others who have.  The mind body connection is very real, and when you feel good physically it will positively affect you psychologically as well.  Then you will be someone who can encourage others to take charge of their health and fitness.

In conclusion remember the bullet points above.  Write them somewhere you see every day and remember to actively follow them as you work towards your goals:

  • Don’t get discouraged
  • Don’t compare yourself to others
  • Think positive
  • Keep track of your goals and keep them achievable
  • Keep moving
  • Surround yourself with encouragers