Posts filed under ‘health’

Scale the Strat 2010

In less than a week after doing the Muddy Buddy Race, I competed in Scale the Strat 2010.  This is a charity event, a fundraiser for the American Lung Association, so I had a raise a minimum of $250… and climb 108 floors or 1,455 stairs.  It was the ultimate validating event for someone who climbs stairs as part of her regular workout regimen.  My concern was that I didn’t know how I’d do climbing continuously.  I only have 6 floors in my building, so I always have some built-in recovery time when I come down.  The Strat doesn’t afford that luxury.  It’s all the way straight up.  I was even more daunted when I learned I couldn’t listen to music. 

When the day came, I did it in 17:43 minutes, using the “turtle method”: slow and steady with no jogging or two-at-a-time stairs.  I was BEYOND proud of myself.  It was such a tremendous accomplishment, another huge first for me.  I am already looking forward to next year.  🙂

    

March 24, 2010 at 1:57 pm 1 comment

Exercise may just be the “miracle pill”.

Looking for a miracle?  Lace up your running shoes for a minute or two.

British researchers have discovered that a mere 7 minutes of vigorous exercise every week can ward off Type II Diabetes.  Yeah… you read that correctly… only *7* minutes a week can prevent one of the most debilitating diseases plaguing our country today.  And you don’t even have to do it all at once.  In the study, the participants rode exercise bikes four times daily in 30-second bursts for two days a week.  That tiny bit of exercise significantly improves the body’s ability to process insulin. 

That’s some seriously amazing news.  It astounds me that such a miniscule amount of exercise can have that huge an impact on our bodies.  We can all fit that in every week; there’s no excuse for not doing it.

The same day I read about this study, I saw Frontline’s program on Parkinson’s.  Two sets of monkeys were used in a MPTP test.  (MPTP is a byproduct of a narcotic that has been shown to cause the same signs and symptoms as Parkinson’s disease.)  One set of monkeys was sedenetary.  The other set exercised regularly on a treadmill.  After a period of time exercising or not, the monkeys were injected with MPTP.  The sedentary monkeys immediately demonstrated the symptoms of Parkinson’s.  The physically active monkeys, however, showed almost no signs of the disease.  Even their brain scans were different.  The exercising monkeys had much healthier brain scans than the inactive ones.  All from walking on a treadmill consistently.

As a society, we focus almost exclusively on how exercise can help us lose weight and look better.  But it goes far beyond our looks.  The benefits of exercise are extraordinary on levels we haven’t even begun to realize.

All this a good reminder for me when I get discouraged about not looking “hot” enough or not getting my spins right in pole class.  Those aspects of exercise are really immaterial in the grander scheme of things.  The exercise I’m getting every day is helping me in ways that are literally cell deep, preventing all kinds of nasty conditions that I may never know I was risking.  That is truly a miracle.

February 5, 2009 at 3:00 pm 3 comments

Star spices make great coffee companions

MSNBC has published yet another list of ways to cut 100 calories from your daily diet.  Many of the tips are commonsense and well known.

  1. Flavor your coffee with cinnamon and nutmeg instead of flavored syrup.
  2. Enjoy your salad without the croutons.
  3. Order pizza with grilled chicken instead of pepperoni.
  4. Leave 3 or 4 bites on your plate.
  5. Season steamed vegetables with fresh lemon and herbs instead of butter.
  6. Choose your piece of sheet cake from the middle, where there’s less icing.
  7. Add a splash of 100 percent fruit juice to sweeten fresh brewed iced tea in place of sugar.
  8. Control your portions by pouring an individual serving of pretzels or chips into a bowl instead of eating from the bag.
  9. Ask for the bread basket to be removed from the table.
  10. Dip fruit into fat-free yogurt, and veggies into bean dip or salsa.

#1 is especially interesting.  My first thought after reading it was to suggest using sugar-free syrup instead of regular syrup.  That’s what I do when I go skinny at Starbucks.  I also season my latte with both cinnamon and nutmeg.

There’ve been a lot of reports lately about the newly discovered health benefits of cofee, but cinnamon is a nutritional star, too.  Cinnamon is celebrated for its ability to improve blood sugar control and soothing an upset tummy.  Nutmeg is no slouch either.  It “…appears to have some beneficial effects on mood, possibly enhancing serotonin’s activity.”

Even if you don’t swap out your regular syrup, you may want to use cinnamon and nutmeg in your coffee anyway!

June 28, 2008 at 4:24 pm 1 comment

Lifestyle really does matter

“If we grew thinner, exercised regularly, avoided diets rich in red meat (substituting poultry, fish or vegetable sources of protein) and ate diets rich in fruits and vegetables, and stopped using tobacco, we would prevent 70 percent of all cancers.”

Wow!  That’s one bold statement in the first paragraph of Newsweek’s Your Lifestyle, Your Genes and Cancer.  It’s the kind of statement that requires one to pause and absorb.  Seventy percent… think about that: preventing seventy percent of all cancers is a BIG deal.

Research just keeps confirming that the American lifestyle is harmful to our collective health – especially when you consider that healthy populations moving here and adopting our habits see their rates of illness increase to match ours.

The bottomline is that our dietary choices and lack of activity are killing us.  We’ve finally accepted that when it comes to tobacco, but we’re only just now recognizing it in relation to weight and exercise.

I’ve never quite understood how this works but apparently:

“Lifestyle influences a person’s risk for cancer by generating growth-promoting signals that affect cells primed to become cancerous, or that already are cancerous. What primes those cells to become cancerous in the first place are changes in their genes.”

“…most of us are born with good genes that succeed in flawlessly organizing our growth and development. After all, our genes have been optimized by more than 600 million years of evolution; they ought to work well. During the course of our lifetimes, though, genes are damaged in various cells throughout the body. It is these mutated genes that drive most cancers.”

The article explores the science of this thoroughly, beyond what I can comprehend, but much of it seems to come down to minimizing inflammation through a healthy diet and mitigating the by-products of inflammation by exercising.

I exercise regularly already (although I could always do more), so I feel pretty solid on that score.  But, my diet continues to need significant refinement.  I’ve been reasonably focused on clean eating, but I think it’s time to revist my Ultra Prevention and Ultrametabolism books.  These books focus intensively on inflammation and ways to avoid it.  The authors have also published a cookbook to help with recipe prep.  I was impressed when I first read Ultra Prevention, but I was also overwhelmed.  I’ve done much more cooking now and gone more in-depth into clean eating, so I think I might be better able to tackle it this time around.

June 18, 2008 at 12:49 am 1 comment

Silly Me!

When I calculated the nutrition stats for my Whole Wheat Soy Blend Peanut Butter Cookies, I mistakenly did my calculations based on 15 servings instead of 30.  No wonder they were coming out at 340 calories per cookie!  They are actually a MUCH more reasonable 170 per cookie.  Whew!  I was horrified that the calories were so high.  I am still working on the next version of these babies, though.  I want to get them as low calorically as I can while still keeping them yum-o-licious… and clean, of course.

June 12, 2008 at 12:30 am 1 comment

Whole Wheat Soy Blend Peanut Butter Cookies, v1

My No-Sugar-Added Omega Peanut Butter Cookies were simple to make and reasonably tasty, but they didn’t achieve the “real thing” quality I was looking for.  The texture was too dry and crumbly, and the sweetness was off.  So, I have been experimenting once again, trying to come up with a healthy yet decadent tasting cookie.  I’m almost there with this recipe.

I was very excited when I made these cookies tonight. The flavor was great. The texture nearly resembled the chewy ones you pick up at the food court (still a bit dry, though). I thought I basically had it, that with a few more minor tweaks, I’d have created the ultimate healthy PB cookie… until I caculated the nutrition stats.  340 calories per cookie!  Yikes!!  That’s just NOT acceptable, no matter how clean they are or how much good-for-you protein they contain (over 12g per cookie, btw).

I have some enhancements in mind.  So, tomorrow night, it’s back to the drawing board.  Maybe the 15th time will be the charm?  🙂

Whole Wheat Soy Blend Peanut Butter Cookies with Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk Whole Wheat Soy Blend Peanut Butter Cookies, v1

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread
  • 1 jar (approx. 2 cups) Smart Balance Omega Peanut Butter, creamy or chunky
  • ½ cup egg whites (equivalent to 2 eggs)
  • 1 cup Splenda Granular
  • 1 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup soy flour

Directions

  • Mix together the buttery spread, peanut butter and egg whites in a large bowl. When well blended and creamy, add the Splenda and brown sugar blend. Mix until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt, and mix again. Finally measure in the baking soda, baking powder and flours. Stir until well blended.
  • Shape the dough into balls about an inch in diameter. Arrange them on a cookie sheet. Spray the bottom of a glass with non-stick pray and press to flatten each cookie. Then, use the tines of a fork to create the classic cross-hatch pattern.
  • Bake the cookies, on a cookie sheet coated with non-stick spray, at 375° for about 10 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from the sheet pan. Makes about 30 fairly large cookies.

Adapted from a recipe on the Hillbilly Housewife’s website.

June 11, 2008 at 5:21 am 2 comments

Exploring Alternative Lifestyles

No, I’m not talking about romantic preferences here; I’m talking about “non mainstream” food and/or philosophical lifestyles. Sometimes they are the same thing. Take veganism, for instance.

The response to the new book Quantum Wellness has prompted me to consider buying it… and consider adopting a vegan diet plan, at least for 21 days like Oprah.

Being on a fiscal diet as well as a physical one has made articles about extreme anti-consumerism very interesting to me. Most recently, the article “For frugalists, bargain hunting is a lifestyle” caught – and held – my attention.

We tend to accept the status quo: what we see on TV, what our friends and co-workers are doing, what’s presented to us at the supermarket. It’s rare that most of us venture outside the norm and try something different. I did that when I swapped my office chair for a ball, and it still draws comments, questions and sometimes mockery today. I also get raised eyebrows when I talk about my stair workout. Sweating during the workday seems nutty to some. And these things aren’t that far off the radar.

Veganism is becoming more commonplace, particularly with the rise in popularity of food stores like Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s. These stores make it easier to live the lifestyle by offering pre-packaged items that meet all the criteria. I think it’d be easier for me to follow a vegan diet than it would a raw one. I’ve gotten more comfortable with cooking than I was before, so the recipes seem less daunting to me now.

As far as the anti-consumerism/frugal living ideas go, I haven’t worked up the nerve to try dumpster diving, especially for food. I want to do it, though, at least once… just to say I’ve given it a go. I’ve always believed that we should try most things once in our lives, if only to broaden our experiential horizons. Plus, I’d like someday to be able to live as inexpensively – but as richly – as possible, and if this is a way to achieve that goal, I want to explore it.

I have benefited from hand-me-downs including exercise shorts, a suede jacket, dresses, handbags and shoes. I never turn down a secondhand item that’s offered to me. Even if I don’t use it for the intended purpose, I can always find something else to do with it. One used purse I was given became an art project. I’ve sold other items at garage and yard sales. It feels good to recycle things while enjoying a “new” item that I might not have been able to afford myself.

Sometimes the fiscal and the physical goals work against each other, like when you’re spending extra dollars on organic produce at a store across town. With some planning, though, I think you can accomplish both goals successfully.

It’s food for thought… literally and figuratively! J

June 6, 2008 at 4:54 am 1 comment

Birthday Reflections

Birthday Reflections Today is my birthday.  As many of us do when a birthday arrives, I’ve been thinking about where I am in my life, at this age.  Excitingly enough, my life is the best it’s ever been.

  • I’m the smallest/lightest I’ve ever been as an adult, wearing a size 4/6.
  • I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in, getting in four to six days of cardio and two sessions of weight training consistently every week.

Even though it makes sense to list these things first because of the blog’s subject, it still seems like I’m giving them too much importance.  But, the fact is, they are important.  For me, losing weight and exercising has not been about vanity, although appearance has played a role.  These accomplishments are the result of me taking charge of my health and wellbeing… watching the physical deterioration of people I loved and deciding to do everything I could to keep that from happening to me.  They represent years – literally, years – of persistence and commitment through really tough personal challenges.  They represent starting over again, time and after time, because I was unwilling to give up in spite of how hard it was… and how hard it continues to be.  This says a lot about how I feel about myself and my ability to stick to it, whatever “it’ may be. 

  • I have wonderful boyfriend to share my life with.

Wow!  This truly is incredible.  As my marriage went south, I began to doubt that a quality relationship was in the cards for me.  The divorce and subsequent dating misadventures reinforced the doubt.  And, yet, here I am, a year and a half into an amazing experience that’s blossoming into a genuine partnership.  We had some ups and downs at the beginning, but we overcame those to start again with an appreciation for what we both bring to the table.  We continue to get better as we go along.  It’s beyond cool.

  • I have a terrific job that is intense, exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time.

My new gig has taken me in an unexpected direction and is a daily learning experience.  Plus, I am finally back to the salary level I was before I relocated here, actually a little bit more.  Not to mention the excellent retirement benefits.  Woohoo!

  • I remain blessed with a fabulous family and fantastic friends.
  • I am the proud of owner of The Best Cat on the Planet.
  • I live in a spacious condo which I’ve been able to fill with my own original artwork. Even better, it’s on the second floor, so I get at least an additional set of stairs in every day!  🙂

Happy Birthday to me, and a giant “thank you” for all the blessings I enjoy every day!

May 26, 2008 at 4:25 am 1 comment

Short on Shut-Eye

Obesity… smoking… drinking & drugs… these are seen as national health problems. Lack of sleep? No big deal. The common refrain is, “I’ll sleep when I die.” Well, death – or at least serious health problems – may come sooner than we think because we’re not getting enough shut-eye.

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention four-state study on sleeping habits reports that, “with late-night TV watching, Internet surfing and other distractions, Americans are getting less and less sleep.”

“And all this sleeplessness can be a nightmare for your mental and physical health, CDC experts cautioned, calling sleep loss an under-recognized public health problem. Sleep experts say chronic sleep loss is associated with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disease, depression, cigarette smoking and excessive drinking.”

I can testify to the truth of the findings. I’ve blogged about how my urge to eat rises exponentially when I’m overtired. I’m aware of it, which means I can fight it off to an extent, but it’s still a struggle. I also notice that, after a good night’s rest, my mood improves. Sometimes the improvement is striking.

So why can’t we just shut off the TV, close the laptop, put down the book… and sleep? What’s driving us to stay awake?

For me, a generalized sense of urgency pervades my mind. It keeps thoughts of work and my “life plan” running through my mind at a fast pace, pushing me to research, review and strategize so that I’m ready to take action as soon possible the next day.

Just this week, I’ve started to talk myself through these cycles, remembering that I don’t have to solve every problem this minute. Sleep also gives the brain a chance to process information in a whole different way, so getting adequate rest will actually help me take care of what’s keeping me awake at night.

March 2, 2008 at 2:30 pm Leave a comment

Scared of the Scale

I hated being weighed at the doctor’s office, so much so that for a long time I would avoid medical visits unless absolutely necessary. Once I learned that I could refuse being weighed, I was more comfortable making appointments. And, now I’m fine with it, although, as I have blogged previously, residual fear remains.

The fear of the doctor’s scale is apparently pervasive among women. According to research reported in the the NY Times’ article The Dreaded Weigh-In, “…women experienced high degrees of discomfort at the prospect of being weighed in the presence of others.”

” ‘Weighing concern may make these women, particularly those who are overweight and already at risk for certain ailments, less likely to visit a doctor,’ ” said lead author Andrew B. Geier, a doctoral candidate in the department of psychology in Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences.”

Mr. Geier suggests putting the scale in a private place, so that the numbers aren’t visible to every patient at the doctor’s office. That’s a good idea, but it doesn’t go far enough. I wasn’t just worried about other people seeing my weight; I was worried about seeing it myself. I didn’t want to be weighed at all. I felt I would be judged by the nurse weighing me and then by the doctor when she reviewed my chart.

Considering my lifestyle change, it’s clear that I now fully appreciate the benefits of maintaining a lower weight. But, I believe that in addition to scale privacy, giving patients the option to refuse being weighed is a better way to go. My recommendation is that patients are first asked if they’d like to be weighed. Then, if they say yes, they are taken to a private location to do it.

It’s more important that women go to the doctor than it is to record their weight. Docs can generally tell if a person’s too heavy by looking at them, so the conversation about health concerns related to weight can happen regardless of whether there’s a specific number to discuss.

Even more important, not focusing on a number opens the door to a broader conversation, covering topics such as exercise habits, work/home issues, and the actual food choices –fruits, veggies, whole grains, etc. – the person is making. After all, good health goes well beyond a person’s weight; it’s about the lifestyle practices that usually lead to the weight. Talking about those practices is much more likely to lead to a healthy patient than fixating on a number will ever be.

March 1, 2008 at 2:07 am 1 comment

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