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Fattening “Health” Foods

I hate to see people unaware of the fattening “health” foods they’re eating.  Every Christmas somebody gets engaged, and every Spring Break the bikinis are near the front of the store.  With all of these weddings and beaches to go to, everybody suddenly becomes concerned about fitting into their new outfits.  Unfortunately, these trends are usually designed for failure. Shocking, right?

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  1. Salads: This is the number one mistake I see out there.  You go out to eat and you order a salad for yourself, thinking of how healthy you are being.  Wrong! The dressing, croutons, and cheese are killing you!  My Dad bought me a Chicken Caesar Salad while I was on Spring Break, since he knows I like to make “healthy decisions.”  However, I took a glance at the nutritional information and noticed that if I ate the entire salad, that would be close to 800 calories!  Holy crap!  I could have 2.5 McDonald’s cheeseburgers for that!  I scraped the croutons off of that sucker and dipped my fork in the dressing before I took a bite (I did NOT pour the dressing all over my salad).  I ended upon only using 1/6 of the dressing and consuming only 270 calories (I even kept the cheese on there, score!).
  2. Drinks: Drinks are LOADED with extra calories, not to mention the sugar and other crap that is not helping your body out at all.  A medium sweet tea from Sonic or McDonald’s is 180 calories alone, and a 12 ounce coke is 140 calories.  Simply drinking a few of these throughout the day can add enough calories to equal an entire meal, without satiating your hunger at all.  Notice I am only talking about how fattening these items are; I’m not even talking about how harmful they are to your health!

Even diet soda is doing you no favors, since it has been correlated through research to increase your risk for metabolic syndrome.  Metabolic syndrome includes abdominal obesity, elevated blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, and high fasting glucose and triglycerides.  In other words, you’re still likely to gain belly fat and be unhealthy.  Another study found that individuals who drink diet soda daily were 67 percent more likely to develop type II diabetes.  Research has found no significant connections between diet sodas and weight loss; in fact, there are many more solid correlations between diet soda and obesity.

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3. Granola/Protein/Power bars:  Biggest. Jokes. Ever.  You might as well be eating a candy bar.  Many of them are loaded with sugar, unhealthy carbs, and white flour.  For example, the Special K Chocolatey Chip Meal Bar has trans fats (even though the label says it doesn’t- don’t get me started on FDA Requirements for labels!), 4 teaspoons of sugar, refined flours, and butylated hydroxytoluene, which research says might be a carcinogen (cancer-causing). Not only are these bars not helpful to your help, they also don’t usually satiate your hunger for long!

4.“Multi-grain:” Okay, so many people read “multi-grain” and think that sounds healthier.  I mean, they’re grains, right?  However, these could be any kind of grains, and rarely, if ever, are whole grains.  Whole grains are sooo important.  The Mayo Clinic states that half of your grain intake should be whole grains because they lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.  They are also rich in fiber, which helps you feel full longer. Refined grains (“white” bread) are no longer complex carbohydrates, so our bodies digest them as sugar.  If you’re making an effort to be healthy (WHICH YOU SHOULD BE!!!), you do not want to make the mistake of thinking you’re helping yourself by purchasing “multi-grains.”  These are advertiser’s ways of pick-pocketing you.  Stick with whole grains to deprive advertisers of your hard-earned cash.  A good rule of thumb is that one serving of whole grains should have at least two grams of fiber.

Now, clearly I have only touched on a very few of these “diet-busters.”  There are literally millions out there to confuse you.  You’re going to make mistakes, and you’re going to learn as you go.  Read your labels, look up ingredients on CREDIBLE online sources, and ask a professional if you need to.

Personally, I like to cheat a little bit.  If you have a smartphone, I highly recommend the “Fooducate” app.  This new-fangled thing allows you to scan a food’s bar code with your phone, and it tells you if it is harmful and why.  I love it!

Now, obviously you shouldn’t deprive yourself all of the time. If you really love sweet tea, soda, granola bars, white bread, ranch dressing, etc., make them a treat and not a habit.  Honestly, if I’m going to consume 800 calories when I’m going out to eat, I’d rather have a great burger than a skimpy salad drenched in Ranch.

http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/getnutrition/nutritionfacts.pdf

http://www.myfitnesspal.com/nutrition-facts-calories/sweet-tea

http://www.fooducate.com/app#page=product&id=8569183C-E109-11DF-A102-FEFD45A4D471

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/whole-grains/NU00204

http://oksanashealthkinesiology.co.uk/multimedia-archive/10-reasons-why-white-bread-is-bad-for-you/

http://authoritynutrition.com/why-is-diet-soda-bad-for-you/

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The Difference Between Pain and Being Hurt

So, it’s Spring Break, and suddenly everybody who has been avoiding the gym like the plague is busy “repping it out.”  Pretty soon, this overuse results in injury, and injury usually equals PAIN.

Ouch.

So what do you do?  You hobble to your medicine cabinet, and poke through all of your hair gels, deodorants, and half-used toothpaste tubes until you find a big bottle of ibuprofen.   After complaining for another 30 minutes, you start to feel much better and plan on returning to the gym tomorrow…

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Stop.

While anti-inflammatories are knock-outs for shutting up your whining, they do no service to your muscles.

Anti-inflammatories can actually reverse your healing process, which for the weaklings means more pain in the long run.  Much of muscle soreness is caused by inflammation, which is what anti-inflammatories are on a mission to suppress (duh).  However, inflammation is actually part of your bodies healing process.  After you’ve “killed it” in the gym or on a run, your body increases the blood flow, causing swelling and nerve stimulation, which causes pain.  However, this increased blood flow permeates cells through the body that protect you from infection and facilitate tissue repair.  Clearly, too much inflammation hosts a different wealth of problems, but some is necessary for true healing.   Thus, taking anti-inflammatories for a wimpy but annoying injury can actually keep you whining and limping longer.  Please, spare us!

If you must use anti-inflammatories, research shows that they should only be used in the first 2-3 days of an acute injury (an injury that was caused recently by a traumatic event, i.e. pulled muscles, dislocations, etc.), since a study run by Evan F. Eckman showed that participants who did so resumed walking within  4-7 days.  However, if these medications can be so harmful, why not seek an alternative?  When I got hit by a car in November, I did not want to hinder the recovery of my broken collar bone.  Fortunately, my wonderful sister gave me some Arnica tablets. 

This natural herb is known for treating wounds, bruises, sunburn, skin irritation or inflammation, PROMOTING HEALING, soothing the skin, and relieving muscle soreness.  Furthermore, it has been proven to reduce pain and stiffness caused by arthritis and reduces postoperative swelling and pain.  If herbs were superheroes, arnica would clearly be in an “Avenger.”

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The only caution is to not take the actual plant.  Arnica can be toxic by itself; however, the homeopathic gels and tablets that you buy at your health food store are too diluted to cause any harm.

Of course, there are some situations where modern medicine is needed, but if you’ve only caused a little inflammation, I encourage you to go natural.   I substituted Arnica for pain medication after I left the ER, and I got hit by a freaking car!  However, you should of course make an informed decision about your personal situation, since refusing to take much needed medication will get you nowhere. 

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http://ajs.sagepub.com/content/34/6/945.abstract?ijkey=25c53c0e6c56c754b2e1ddababd0b8b04641bf87&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha

http://runnersconnect.net/running-injury-prevention/ibuprofen-and-running/

http://academic.missouriwestern.edu/rachow/Inflammation%20and%20Healing.pdf

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My FOURTH visit to the ER, yay!

Some of you  may have heard that exercise can help decrease your stress, but how does it do that and how effective is it?

For the past two months I have been struggling with an outbreak of hives.  The doctors I saw had no idea what was going on, the food I ate did not seem to impact them, and they just kept getting worse.  By Wednesday night, my throat was swollen and my entire body was covered in welts.  

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Needless to say, I ended up in the ER that night- for the fourth time in the past 22 months.  Go me!

Even prednisone (a steroid) only provided temporary relief, so I consulted with a homeopathic chiropractor in Tallahassee, Dr. Jensen, over the phone.  He said that hives are the result of an emotional stress overload.  This started me thinking on how we manage stress and how to approach it in a healthy way.

Clearly, this blog focuses on how to obtain and maintain our physical health.  However, our physical and emotional health is very tightly entwined. 

Research supervised by Ulrike Rimmele has been one of the many studies to prove that levels of physical activity do affect the way our bodies respond to stress.  Elite athletes have lower cortisol levels and heart rates than sedentary people, and moderately active people have lower heart rates, but not much lower cortisol levels.  According to wellness coach Elizabeth Scott, cortisol is the hormone that our bodies release when we are stressed, and it is supposed to provide us with bursts of energy.  However, when we have too much of it in the bloodstream for too long, it can affect our cognitive performance, suppress thyroid function, decrease bone density, increase abdominal fat, reduce muscle mass, and of course raise our blood pressure and blood sugar. Thus, it is incredibly noteworthy that exercise can lower our cortisol levels, which can help our bodies handle stress better.

Even if you are not an elite athlete, having a lower heart rate significantly reduces your cardiovascular risk.  Janet Renee, a dietitian, points out that the heart is also a muscle, and the more exercise it gets, the stronger it becomes.  Consequently, a well-exercised heart can pump enough blood with fewer beats.  As a result, the body is rewarded with increased blood flow and lower cholesterol.  Renee recommends between 150 and 300 minutes of aerobic activity per week to achieve these results.  This may seem copious at first, but that boils down to 30 minutes to an hour five days per week.  That’s incredibly manageable. 

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Clearly, exercise cannot solve all of your problems (yes, I know some of you are shocked to hear ME say that).  If that were true, I would not have ended up in the ER AGAIN.  Sometimes we have to admit to ourselves when something is bothering us, talk to someone, or seek some counseling help.  Part of my diagnosis with Dr. Jensen was talking to him about what had been bothering me for the past two months. This photo was taken a couple of hours after I got off of the phone with Dr. Jensen.  Talk about a skin difference!

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My skin was only relieved after I was relieved.  So clearly, exercise cannot solve ALL of your stress problems. However, it is noteworthy that my severe condition of hives was not able to be helped by modern medicine.  If any of you are having symptoms that doctors are not able to diagnose, I encourage you to reevaluate how you feel.  Sometimes taking a natural approach can completely change your state of life.  Besides, going to a kickboxing class sure does make me feel better after a frustrating day…

http://stress.about.com/od/stresshealth/a/cortisol.htm

http://healthyliving.azcentral.com/importance-lower-resting-heart-rate-health-6258.html

The Disgusting Pictures on My Desk

Did you know that nearly a 1/3 of cancer risk can be prevented through exercise? It’s true!  In fact, the American Cancer Society claims that if you eat right and don’t smoke you have factored out over half of the cancerous options available to you.  I came across this information last night while studying for my nutrition quiz.  My roommate and I were revolted by one of the pages that showed pictures of lung, mouth, and skin cancer (yes, life with me can be both nerdy and disgusting).  Looking at these pictures made me wonder, why don’t people exercise if the benefits are so life changing? 

ACS points out that simply being overweight causes your body to circulate more estrogen and insulin, which are known to increase risks of cancer when they are in higher doses.  Thus, staying trim is important to reducing cancer risks.  How do we do that?  NOT by taking expensive dieting pills, lying on the couch, or wishing we were born athletes, but by eating a variety of healthy foods and exercising regularly-yes, REGULARLY.   

Let’s start with nutrition.  You have all heard to cut back on sugar, processed foods, empty calories, etc., but what does this actually look like?  A good way to start is by reducing your intake of sugary drinks.  Even “diet” sodas aren’t good for you, and the American Stroke Association found that drinking diet sodas daily increases your risk of heart disease by over 60%.   Yikes! 

Second, eat your food on smaller plates.  Some people actually have a habit of putting food on their plate until it is full.  Making the plate smaller might make you feel more satiated with less food.  Now, I am completely opposed to starving yourself, so remember that if you’re still hungry you can always get more. 

Eating more fruits and vegetables really is important, since these foods contain anti-oxidants.  Anti-oxidants prevent oxidation in the body’s molecules, which prevents free radical atoms from proliferating.  Free radicals are highly unstable, cancerous, and spread over time.  Eating more anti-oxidant rich foods will help prevent this from happening.  Besides, vegetables are so pretty! Image

Now, for exercise, don’t be scared.  Do yourself a favor and do something you will enjoy.  Seriously!  My exercise science professor was lecturing on Thursday about how people only stick with exercises they enjoy doing.  If you like to dance, there are so many different options available (Latin, ballroom, “club,” Zumba, etc.).  Find one you like and stick with it or experiment with them all!  If you’re really stressed out, kick box, lift weights, run, take yoga, or try pilates.  There are so many options out there; if you’re really looking you WILL find something you enjoy. 

The American Institute for Cancer Research suggests 30 minutes of exercise for every day.  This is about the length of a TV episode, but with no commercials!  Also, exercise doesn’t have to be expensive, but even if you do shell out a few dollars it beats increasing the risk of medical bills later on down the road. 

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/dietandphysicalactivity/diet-and-physical-activity

http://www.aicr.org/research/research_science_expert_report.html

http://newsroom.heart.org/news/1249

Thompson, J., & Manore M. (2012). Nutrition: An Applied Approach. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Education, Inc.

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Strength Just Killed My Soul

Many women decide to only do cardio exercises because they “don’t want to get bulky.”  Admittedly, I used to be one of these people.  However, I have been recently studying Mark Lauren’s publications, and he has revealed to me how silly I was being!  Not only will strength training help you build a sleeker physique, but it will also help you maintain one, all without bulk!

There is a common misconception that cardio is the best way to burn fat.  Now, I LOVE cardiovascular exercise, so a small piece of my soul died when I heard otherwise.  Do not misunderstand me, cardio is still fantastic for you, since it increases your endurance, burns fat, and strengthens your heart; however, strength training increases your metabolism rate.  When you strength train, you build muscle (duh), and muscle increases your metabolic rate, which means you burn more calories even when you are just sitting on your bum.   Aerobic training alone can actually burn your muscle along with your fat, so while you  may burn more calories in one session than you would lifting weights, your metabolism rate stays about the same. Thus, when you do cardiovascular training, you usually burn more calories during your workout, but when you push through strength training you burn more for the next 48 hours.  That adds up!

Okay, so many ladies hear this and worry that they are going to transform into Ms. Olympia.

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Don’t be so conceited!  No matter how hard you try, you will NEVER gain that much muscle without some…err…medical assistance.  The human body does not naturally become incredibly bulky, especially for women.  Fitness Forum explains that women naturally carry more body fat than men, which prevents us from getting bulging veins in our muscles (so sorry to disappoint, for any of you radicals out there).  Kristen Fisher, a journalist for Livestrong.com, points out that testosterone is a key hormone in muscle building, and females have 20 times less testosterone than males.  So really, ladies have nothing to lose with strength training!  Increased metabolism rate without looking freakish?  What are you waiting for?!

I do not have much experience with lifting weights, and I understand that many people may find lifting intimidating.  Personally, I intend to take a weight training course next year, but not everyone has that option.  I suggest starting by working with your own body weight.  Attend a Pilates class, or buy a couple of DVDs if you do not have that option.  So far I am enjoying Mark Lauren’s Book “You Are Your Own Gym,” and if his workouts are as great as I anticipate, I will recommend them as well.  If you are complaining that your body is too heavy, then it should make some great resistance, right?

When Running SUCKS!!!

Last Tuesday I went on a run, and guess what? It SUCKED!  I felt exhausted and dehydrated the entire time, and could not wait to get back home!  Some of you may laugh at this, but I do not normally feel that way when I run.  I usually feel empowered, focused, and peace-filled.  Regardless of my red face and panting breaths, I finished my run.

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(Photo Credit: www.neverstopfitness.com)

                Finishing this torture reminded me of why many people do not run…because it can really suck!  However, when approached properly, running can be both enjoyable and life-changing.

1. The burning sensation is also felt by your fat!

While the individual’s metabolism varies according to the size and pace of the athlete, running burns more calories than biking or walking.  For example, to burn 563 calories in an hour, a 155 lb. runner would have to jog at about 5 or 6 mph.  However, a biker would have to speed along at 12-14 mph.  I LOVE to bike, but running does burn more calories.

2. Your heart will smile 🙂

When you run, your arteries are contracting much more rapidly than usual, which causes them to remain elastic, so your heart does not have to work as hard.  This results in low blood pressure and makes the heart more efficient.  According to a study at Vanderbilt University, people who did not run supposedly have 36,000 more heartbeats per day than a runner.

3. You can mend your bad relationship with your lungs!

Not surprisingly, running pushes your lungs to their maximum potential.  Even when we take deep breaths, we have a tendency to only use about 50% of our lungs.  However, when you are charging down the sidewalk on a hot day, your lungs are not allowed to sleep in!  Running strengthens your lungs so much that even smokers have recovered their full lung potential through this sport.  Now that is noteworthy!

Okay, so now I might have y’all feeling guilty about not running, but dreading getting started.  Do not let this be the case!  Forcing yourself to run past your potential is not only undesirable but unhealthy!  Yes, UNHEALTHY!  I have personally battled many running injuries, and they are not worth the extra calories burned (Note to self: you cannot keep the results when you are on crutches!).

The best running plan that I have found was published by Runner’s World (I like to call it the “Bible of Huffing and Puffing!”).  I did not create this program, but I would like to share it because it is the plan that I am currently using as I recover from my injuries.  This is a week by week approach to running, starting with walking for 30 minutes and building up to running for 30 minutes.  Please note, I cannot be credited for developing this program, it was created by Budd Coates.

Week One Run 2 minutes, walk 4 minutes Repeat 4 times
Week Two Run 3 minutes, walk 3 minutes Repeat 5 times
Week Three Run 5 minutes, walk 2.5 minutes Repeat 4 times
Week Four Run 7 minutes, walk 3 minutes Repeat 3 times
Week Five Run 8 minutes, walk 2 minutes Repeat 3 times
Week Six Run 9 minutes, walk 2 minutes Repeat 2 times, then run for 8
Week Seven Run 9 minutes, walk 1 minutes Repeat 3 times
Week Eight Run 13 minutes, walk 2 minutes Repeat 2 times
Week Nine Run 14 minutes, walk 1 minute Repeat 2 times
Week 10 Run for 30 minutes Don’t stop! You can do it!!!

While this program will make running more enjoyable, you will always have days where you are lacking motivation. For me, that time was this Tuesday.  Right around the last four minutes of my run, I wanted to quit, but then you have to start asking yourself, “What am I four minutes away from?”  Are you four minutes away from a smaller waist? Lower cholesterol?  Feeling more confident?  NOT dreading clothes (especially swimsuit) shopping?  Are these goals worth more to you than four more minutes of comfort?  You know the answers to these questions, so the only question is…

Why aren’t you doing it?

The only solution is to give your sweaty self a kick in the butt and get moving!

I Think My Trash Is Speaking To Me…Is Yours?

This Monday morning started off with an astonishing scream from my roommate, Ariana.

There was a roach in our room. Oh no.

Our battle consisted of throwing our shoes, running around the dorm with half straightened hair, looking for a dude willing to crush it for us, and sitting like this for the rest of the week:

 

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(Notice, while she’s sitting on the chair, my hands are shaky, causing the picture to be blurry. Yes, we do admit we are pansies when it comes to roaches!)

Anyway, this scare has led us to be more mindful about taking out our trash, and I receive interesting stares when I take out my trash bag of banana peels, carrot clippings, and yogurt containers, and toss it into a dumpster full of of soda cans, Reese’s wrappers, and McDonald’s bags.  I don’t want to start preaching about the eating habits we shouldn’t have; instead, I want to tell you all about one you should have.

Guess what?  You dieters might need to eat more.

Yep, you read me right. I see a lot of posts and hear a lot of talk about only eating a few calories a day.  You might think this will make you thinner, but honestly, it actually can slow down your metabolism, decrease your chances of remaining on track, and (if you’re like me) will make you VERY irritable!

Calories are energy, and when you don’t eat enough, your thyroid slows down your metabolism to compensate for the lack of energy.  It’s a survival instinct.  When our bodies aren’t receiving the calories they need, they enter into “starvation mode,” so to speak.  Your body knows you aren’t getting enough food, so it tries to hang on to its calories for as long as possible. Yep, that’s right.  Your body thinks it’s saving your life, and the zipper on your jeans is screaming in agony.

Many people tell me that they don’t understand why they can’t lose weight, I mean, they don’t even eat breakfast!

 

I’m being dead serious.  Don’t send your body into starvation mode!

Also, don’t think of the way you eat as a “diet.”  Diets are not permanent, so neither are their results.  If you’re looking for a change that will enhance the rest of your life, you’re going to have to improve your lifestyle.  Let’s face it, do you really want to limit yourself to a ridiculously small amount of calories per day?  I don’t!  Food is my friend.  If you’re not satisfied with the way you are eating, you won’t stick with it, and you will never have consistent results.  With swimsuit season right around the corner, take these words to heart!

Don’t forget, feeling hungry + tired= ticked off!  Fuel your body so you can live and enjoy your day completely.

Now, I’m not giving anybody free reign to go binge and eat ANYTHING.  Everybody needs to eat different amounts because of varying sizes and metabolism rates.  A good rule of thumb is to cut 500 calories a day.  To lose one pound of fat, you have to burn 3,500 calories, and if you cut 500 a day, you can lose about a pound a week.  This might be slow going at first, but it’s a much more manageable task than starving yourself! I suggest tracking what you would normally eat in a day, and then cutting 500 calories from that and seeing how that works for you.  If your weight isn’t budging, you may have to cut some more, but at least your metabolism won’t be drying up. (Remember, if you exercise a little bit more, you can burn off part of those 500 calories and keep both pieces of bread on your sandwich. Ha!  Take that Supermodel Diet!)  Even so, be wise about what you are eating too. Your body uses the food you eat to build the cells that determine your entire physique.  You literally are what you eat!

What’s your question for this week?

With a completely serious face, I ask you, if a roach were in your dorm room, what would it find in your trash can?

Okay, maybe not a COMPLETELY serious face…