Category Archives: Fitness, Food & Fun

Fitness, weight management and amusement posts and tips. Exercise options, food facts and fun activities to energize and empower your life.

ACV Detox

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            I believe it’s so important to detoxify the body (mind, emotions and spirit, too) every several weeks or after a long weekend of indulgences like alcohol, red meat and desserts.  Purging your body of unwanted free radicals, digestive waste and toxic residue on a regular basis can help you to be healthier and more energetic and preserve your general well being. For those of you who normally consume a lot of heavy foods and chemicals, it may be even more important to detox regularly!  Fatty, sugary or salty foods (especially preserved, pre-packaged or pre-made) damage the body on a cellular level and cause toxins to build up leading to inflammation, swelling, discomfort and irregularity of the digestive system.  Sedentary living can further exacerbate toxic build-up because lymph (the body’s garbage bins) can only be emptied through movement.  Drinking detox teas, taking liver and adrenal support formulas or programming selective food abstinence are helpful ways to purge unwanted gunk from your gut.  Giving your bowels a break by going vegetarian for a week can help, too.  Another effective way to dump the junk from your body is to stretch and perspire each day, but there are other ways to make sure your liver and intestines (the body’s main filters) stay happily functional and toxin free.  Yoga is my personal detox exercise.  But there are also items in your kitchen right now that can provide a quick, easy and effective detox today.

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            When we go to a party or have a long weekend of abandon from our regular, healthier routine, and we accidentally gorge on rich food and drink, toxins can collect quickly and G.I. relief can become a necessity.  Vacations and their palatable attractions can be as toxic as they are relaxing or exciting, making the skin act up, the tummy bulge and your moods start swaying.  We have to have ways of restoring our healthy glow as feeling bloated or hung-over can ruin a fun getaway, stay-cation, Bar-B-Q or buffet.  An easy, one-day detox is the fix I turn to when I feel like I ate my own weight in processed flour, pie or pulled pork.  Yes, I go there!  Half the fun of being as healthy as possible most of the time is getting to really indulge my appetites from time to time.  I like to try a bit of everything in moderation and share love with great excess.  Otherwise life can get stale.

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           Lots of physical activity, personal or professional pressure and long work or commuting hours can cause stress related toxins to surge.  The Pepto pals of indigestion, diarrhea, gas and upset stomach may be inevitable when we’re throwing nutritional caution to the wind or stressing ourselves with too much recreational to dos (and don’ts).  Acid Reflux disease has become so ubiquitous its practically an epidemic and nobody addresses the real issue: diet, stress and NOT ENOUGH acid in the stomach to break down food.  Some would disagree, but that’s my take.  That’s why “ACV” is so useful as a detox agent and good acid supplement for your tummy.  The detox I use to combat the host of digestive maladies works quickly and its all natural.  When I have too much fun or overdo my indulgences or even feel like I’m starting to get under the weather, I use a simple, harmless detox with ingredients most of us have in our pantries.  It acts like a flush for my whole digestive tract.  I usually feel better within a few minutes and, not to get too personal, I pee out the bloat within a few hours.  It’s cheaper than Lacy Labeaux, Yogi Ginger Detox or Nu-Slim detox teas (some of my favorites) and healthier than Ex Lax.  I have found that nutritional supplements like Betaine Hydrochloride (the acidic enzyme found in pineapple and your stomach) and a healthy spread of digestive enzymes and pro-biotics can help to correct most digestive disorders and promote general digestive well being.  I think it’s better than popping a million Tums or over the counter pharmaceuticals that may do more harm than good.  It’s always worthwhile to try something all natural and see if it works for you than to always turn to harsh chemicals (more toxins) when your body is out of whack.  My tummy is too sensitive for most of that over-the-counter stuff anyway.  But the detox drink I’ve had luck with is too easy and helpful not to share and usually works in a pinch, faster than most alternatives.

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            As with all my posts, I don’t promote this detox drink to treat or cure any disease and anything you eat should be thoroughly researched and taken with caution if new to your diet.  If you’re not sure, ask your doctor first.  You never know when you might be allergic to an ingredient or combination of ingredients!  My main goal is to promote general health and wellness in the readers and followers of my blog and share my experiences and knowledge.  There are many detoxes you can do every so often to promote good digestive health, many lasting days or weeks, but this is a one-shot, single day detox that you can do every week or so to keep yourself healthy or do after particularly digestively challenging events to restore good health.  Hope you like it and can pass it along…

The ingredients: 1 12-oz. glass of water (works best in a glass for stirring), the juice of 1 half lemon, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon of pure organic honey or pure organic maple syrup and 1 to 3 dashes of powdered cayenne pepper.

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The benefits: The water rehydrates you (the cause of most headaches/hangovers is dehydration); the lemon juice cleanses your gall bladder (fat processor) and aids the liver (toxin filter) and adds vitamin C as an antioxidant; the apple cider vinegar (I call it “ACV” now) adds 22 essential vitamins and provides a pH balanced acid to the stomach and digestive tract – actually balancing acid levels so they’re not too strong or weak.  Often acid reflux is due to not having enough stomach acid to break down food, not too much!; the honey or syrup add some good polysaccharide sugars to boost immunity and cell health; and the cayenne pepper acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, helping tone, flush, cleanse and repair digestive tissue.  All of the ingredients together create both a simple and effective digestive aid drink and a set of detoxifying agents to renew and restore the body’s energy and health, post-indulgence. Lemons1

Directions: In one twelve-oz. glass of water, add the juice of 1 half lemon, 1 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar and tsp of honey or syrup and stir rigorously until blended.  Add the dashes of cayenne pepper while it’s being stirred to better incorporate.  I usually add half the water last to help it mix and then stir like crazy until it swirls like a red tornado.  Sip it up fast (within a few minutes) and prepare for fiery cayenne lips, better digestion and quick detoxification.  Oh, and be near a bathroom the first six to eight hours after drinking while the detox phase is in effect.  This is not a good detox to take before a road trip.  Enjoy! syrup1

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” ~Hippocrates food-or-medicine

As always, I appreciate your feedback.  Please let me know how it worked for you.

~Namaste

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10 Easy, Essential Yoga Poses

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Are you feeling tight, tense, tired or troubled?  You may want to invest in a regular stretching routine to increase your flexibility, beat stress and refocus your mind.  Try this easy, 10-step yoga routine daily and be amazed as it opens your joints, relaxes your muscles and obliterates the blues.  Ten minutes practice of simple yoga poses each day will iron out your kinks, super-charge you with energy and wash your worries away!  The first six poses are done on your back or seated and can be done before you even get out of bed.  All are a great way to start or end your day.

 

1.     BABY POSE – Start by lying on your back (supine) and bring your knees to your chest. Hug your legs and rock side to side for 3 or more deep breaths.  You can also hold your feet or behind your thighs.  We all need a hug and some babying now and then.  Give yourself that relief!

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2.     BRIDGE POSE – Press your feet and palms flat to floor, then lift your hips toward the ceiling.  Squeeze your gluteal muscles upward and pull your abs in for 3 breaths.  Lift and lower your hips as needed, setting your tailbone down last to lengthen your spine and ease lower-back pain.

Bridge-Pose

3.     BACK TWIST – Supine stretch on the floor, reaching your hands and feet apart.  Then hug one knee to your chest and hold that knee with the opposite hand, taking it across the body, twisting your lower spine.  Turn your face away from the crossing knee and flatten your shoulder blades.  Take 3 breaths.  Spinal twisting whisks away tension and toxins that collect along the spine.

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4.     BEGINNER PLOW POSE – Holding your legs near your calves, pull your shins over your face until your tailbone leaves the floor.  Rest the head/shoulders down as you hold your legs for 3 breaths.  You can lift and lower your tailbone as needed.  Plow pose helps blood circulation in your legs and keeps them from getting “restless.”  The image below depicts the “full” plow pose but beginner or “half” plow is done with support of the legs or back with the hands, a chair or an open wall.

plow

5.     COBBLER POSE – The “shoe-maker” pose.  Rock up to sit with souls of your feet together, knees apart to open your hips.  Bend forward, rounding your spine.  Keep your head down toward your feet for 3 breaths.  This pose opens the spine and hips and staves off neck and shoulder tension.  Great for anyone who sits at a computer desk or behind the wheel for hours each day.

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6.     SEATED FORWARD BEND – Seated upright, extend your legs forward and fold your spine at the waist.  Your forehead will drop toward your knees.  Hold or hug your legs, stretching forward while keeping your tummy tight.  Take 3 full breaths.  One of the best poses to stretch your posterior – from your feet to the base of your skull.  Neck, back, hip, hamstring and calve tension no more!

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7.     CAT/COW POSE – Turning over onto your hands and knees, arch your spine by tucking your tailbone and looking toward your naval (Cat Pose).  Exhale completely.  On your inhale, sway your back so your hips lift up and your belly drops and look upward (Cow Pose).  Flex your spine through Cat and Cow for 3 repetitions and 3 breaths.  This combination makes your spine supple.

catcow 

8.     DOWN-DOG POSE – Rise up onto your hands and feet.  Press your hips toward the ceiling and your chest toward the knees.  Straighten your arms and legs with flat palms and heels toward the floor, holding in your waist.  Take 3 complete breaths.  Down-dog opens the whole body, strengthens every major muscle group and keeps you from feeling down.  Get it?  Good!

downdog

9.     COBRA/UP-DOG – Lower your knees back to the floor and thrust your hips forward, resting your legs.  Shoulders stay back and down as you look up (Cobra).  Lift onto the balls of your feet, knees coming off the floor. Keep your hips forward, arms straight and look up higher (Up-Dog).  Take your best 3 deep breaths.  Cobra into Up-Dog strengthens the shoulders, opens the hips and simulates an easy back-bend – great for your abs and spine!

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10.  CHILD’S POSE – Time to rest!  Sink your seat onto your heels with knees apart.  Drop your belly between your thighs, lower your arms and head to rest on the floor.  Take 3 or more breaths, really letting go and giving into gravity.  This pose helps you give in to relaxation and recharge your energy systems.child

       *You can also flip onto your back for “Corpse Pose,” the final relaxation pose in most yoga routines.  Both poses help open the mind and promote serenity, allowing deep focus for meditation as the body surrenders.  Observe your breath to find quiet stillness within.  Visualize yourself on a relaxing vacation, concentrate on a beautiful image or chant the sacred “Om” to clear your mind for a few minutes each day.  The practice will wash your cares away.

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**BONUS – Try kneeling or standing Back Bends to align your spine and pelvis or a standing balance like Tree Pose to deepen your mental focus and correct your posture. 

tree-pose

These easy poses can be the basis for keeping your body and mind free of daily tension or for an expanded yoga routine.  Remember to start simple, go gentle and always breathe deeply as you move ahead.  As with all exercise routines, consult your physician before you begin.  I hope these poses help you to live better and develop the peace and freedom you wish to feel.  Be well!  ~Namaste.

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Whole Grains… Whole New Me (Part 2)

 sunset-over-a-wheat-fieldNow that you see how important whole grains are to making you feel full and satisfied – satiated by food – and you understand what some of my personal journey was to implementing better nutrition – I want to let you in on my secrets to losing weight, keeping it off and feeling energized by healthy foods and still enjoying what you eat.  It’s always a challenge making transitions – and what we eat is as much a habit as any other behavior – but it can all be changed over time and we can each adapt and practice healthier behaviors until they stick.  It takes commitment, but its just a matter of developing new habits.  I always tell my clients, “small steps” when it comes to making diet and exercise changes.  You really can’t expect anything to switch overnight.  So having realistic expectations of yourself is also a big part of becoming more active or making more solid nutritional choices.  Patience is the first key to success – then it’s all about education, goal setting, planning, preparation and effort.  In terms of getting great nutritional energy everyday the following is what works for me and many of my clients and friends…

            beveragesBEVERAGE BREAKDOWN:

You can save a lot of your daily intake of calories by simply watching what you drink.  I begin my day with a full glass of water.  Makes sense, right?  I have to rehydrate after sucking up dry indoor air all night.  I live in Florida, but without a humidifier, it still gets dry inside which means the mucus membranes get fried.  I have about seven or eight more glasses or bottles of H2O each day, about 60-80 oz all day.  I do have a cup or two of “lite” or “half-caff” coffee, usually one in the morning, one in the afternoon to keep me going.  I will often have a green tea instead, preferably Bancha or Hojicha Japanese green tea – they’re delicious and a great boost to my focus and energy.  I often have a few sips of Aloe juice, sweetened with organic cane sugar (the only sugar I use in my coffee) a few times a day as a sugar-centric pick-me-up.  However, I’ve learned not to drink much other juice, as most have way too much sugar, offsetting the benefits of consuming it.  OJ is also way too sugary for anyone looking to lose weight.  Its harmfulness to your waistline well outweighs its nutritional benefits. Ultimately juice is like liquid sugar, a potential gateway food to insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction. 

Because I’m lactose intolerant, I only drink almond milk.  But rice milk, soy milk, carob milk or other “nut milks” are great substitutes for dairy milk, too.  Cow’s milk is really not the best thing for you, in my book.  There are just too many chemicals and hormones in there that mess with your body’s delicate chemical balance.  It’s also not something we’d find in nature – when would you ever see a human nursing at a cow’s utter before the agricultural era?  Would you be surprised to see a calf nursing off a woman’s breast?  At least, milk consumption should be kept to a minimum or non-fat, skim milk becomes the healthier choice. Again, this is just my relatively informed opinion.  I know what you’re thinking – “milk has lots of protein and calcium for healthy teeth and bones and is part of a healthy breakfast.”  Some people also swear a serving or two of milk a day helped them to lose weight.  Milk is also loaded with sugar (lactose) and fat – so how does it help you lose weight again?

Finally, let’s chat about the worst form of liquid sugar – alcohol.  Did I just lose you?  Will you never read another post of mine again?  If you’re still with me – I said it – alcohol is just “liquid sugar.”  It’s probably half the cause of diabetes and metabolic syndrome in our culture.  Now, a couple glasses of red wine a day won’t kill you.  On the contrary, it can have great benefits to the heart and blood vessels.  But pounding away more than two beers or mixed drinks a day or getting trashed on the weekend will pack on the pounds and leads to other health problems associated with obesity and blood sugar spikes like metabolic disorder and Diabetes. 

With beverages just remember, it’s liquid – the calories, fat or sugar go down a lot faster and the stomach doesn’t recognize it as filling, so we tend to drink too much of a good thing.  Oh… and soda is THE WORST thing you can drink.  Especially diet sodas!  Their artificial sweeteners have chemicals that cross the blood-brain barrier, confuse the metabolism and negatively influence brain chemistry.  They make us think we’re hungrier and thirstier than we really are and we wind up consuming more or just pigging out.  Plus, they’re often full of sodium and severely dehydrating.  Word to the wise – stop the pop!

steal-cut-oats-imagesBREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS:

We know it’s the most crucial meal to get in, but lots of us leave it out.  We’re just too busy to start our metabolisms in the morning, which really means we’re trying to sleep in longer and won’t bother warming up our engines before we drive off to work.  Then we wonder why we have no energy by lunch, which also often gets skipped.  Begin at the beginning and start your day right.  Your body needs sustenance for energy.  Feed it!  Seriously, ANYTHING for breakfast would be better than NOTHING.  Even that cold pizza or pasta is better than starving yourself.  At least you can burn it off the whole day.  Really, naughty food is probably best eaten early on so you can metabolize it into energy throughout your day. 

I recommend a ratio of three carbs to every protein you eat for most meals, but especially breakfast.  Have some healthy carbs to fire up your energy – whole-wheat pancakes, fruit salad, make a frittata or an omelet stuffed with veggies.  Having dense, dark, hearty breads and low fat cheeses or organic preserves with nut butters can make for a decent start to your day, too.  Plan it out and eat like a king in the morning.  Breakfast is also a time when you can go a bit larger with your portions because you need the metabolic energy – STAT!  Okay, so here’s what I eat for breakfast: Steel-cut Oatmeal – full of fiber, vitamins and nutrients and packed with carbohydrate energy – the good sugars!  Plus, this variety of oatmeal acts like scrub brushes for your gut – cleaning out impurities and reducing inflammation.  I literally eat about five tablespoons each morning and I feel full and energized for three to four hours, basically until lunch.  If I’m feeling hungrier, I throw a couple eggs on top – scrambled or pan fried in olive oil.   Try this easy steel-cut oats recipe so you can see how they work for yourself:

CUT THE FAT with this STEEL-CUT OATMEAL RECIPE:

In a medium pot or large sauce pan bring one-half gallon of vanilla almond milk to a boil, add two heaping cups of steel-cut oats (that’s the real whole grain you want) and lower the temp to simmer.  Add a tablespoon of cinnamon, a teaspoon of nutmeg, half a teaspoon of allspice and two teaspoons of pure Acacia honey and stir everything together.  Stir every five to eight minutes until the consistency is thick, with all the liquid absorbed into the oats.  Usually about 45-50 minutes – yup, old fashioned, slow-cook – the only way to eat oatmeal.  Then add any fresh or dried fruit you enjoy.  I add raisins, cranberries and blueberries in any combination.  Yum!  BTW- Play with the spices until you get the flavor you want and use skim milk, soymilk, rice milk, carob milk, any low-fat milk you like.  This stuff can then be poured into containers, set to cool and then refrigerated for up to a week.  That means you’re prepared to eat breakfast every morning!  Plus, this recipe makes the oats taste and feel like you’re eating delectable rice pudding after it’s been chilled.  But no bad sugars.  My tongue just said, “Hooray!!!”steal-cut2-images

MAKE LUNCH MATTER:

I eat like a prince at mid-day.  Scale back a bit from your fabulous breakfast and choose simple foods like hard-boiled eggs or sandwiches/wraps with whole grain or veggie bases to them.  Make it mostly about the carbs again, only a bit of protein is needed.  Creamy, cheesy, saucy, mayonnaise-laden sandwiches are not a good choice, though.  Go for turkey as a low fat option instead of ham or roast beef.  Pack the veggies on every sandwich – fresh or roasted is great.  Most important, don’t get fast (fat) food!  They have more calories, salt and sugar than an elephant could metabolize, much less a person.  Low sodium soups can be a nice option, too.  Have it with sliced fresh veggies or fruit. 

            For lunch I like either a salad with tons of greens and mixed veggies for lunch or an egg sandwich on whole grain bread with sharp cheddar cheese, humus instead of mayo, a bit of basil, a slice of tomato and lots of fresh leaf spinach all mushed together.  Or I’ll put it in a Panini press!  I use lemon or oil and vinegar for salad dressing.  Leaving out heavy, creamy ranch and thousand island dressings will remove a couple hundred calories from your day.  You can get creative with lunch – but you may want to prep at home and take it to work or you may be convinced to get something less than desirable out of energetic desperation.  Not a position you ever want to be in – so plan ahead!  Bring what you know is good for you to work and set up a healthy habit for each day.  Otherwise you can get roped into munching on lunchroom doughnuts or vending machine junk.  And please don’t “forget to eat.”  You’ll crash the rest of your day.  The body doesn’t care what you feed it when it thinks it’s starving.  So don’t let it starve – feed it something good with regularity so you have real, un-caffeinated energy.

egg saladFINE DINING:

Most of us have our largest and most nutritionally complete meal at dinner.  But it ought to be the most conservative meal of the day.  Eat the smallest meal of your day at night, when your body really doesn’t need much more food energy.  Plus, eating too much and too late can disturb your sleep and slow the metabolism way down.  This is the “pauper” meal, so keep it really simple.  Grilled chicken or fish or eggs over a salad works great – keep it simple and watch the portions.  Make it a small meal in proportion to what you ate earlier in the day.  Here you can really load up with vegetable matter – three times the size of whatever protein you have on the plate.  Get your low-glycemic carbs in, too.  Have whole wheat pasta instead of semolina with rye or pumpernickel bread instead of white.  Try lentils or beans of any variety or sweet potatoes as a side.  Fit in some hearty whole grains, too – at least twice a day – like quinoa, whole grain/wild rice, millet or couscous, which all cook like rice.  For convenience, I make my quinoa in a rice cooker with myriad veggies, like a pilaf – it’s so easy, all combined and ultra healthy.  Who knew?  Plus, more healthy leftovers for lunch the next day. 

My before and after photos… thank you, whole grains:

Photo on 2011-08-01 at 14.37Photo on 2013-07-02 at 20.59 #3

Eating quinoa or brown rice for dinner five nights a week helped me lose 65 lbs in six months and reduced the swelling in my gut so I have “abs” again.  Love them complete grains!  Best advice for dinner – have fun with it and be creative but don’t over-indulge; fill up on veggies and good grains and notice how quickly you feel happy and satiated!  Eat out wisely at restaurants.  They all serve way to much, three times a normal portion.  Get a to-go container right away and put at least half away for another meal or two.  Also, eat slowly and make sure you chew 20-30 times per bite.  When you savor each bite, saliva and enzymes in the mouth help pave the way for easy digestion.

*A note about eating within a couple hours of sleep: Assuming you go to bed between 10 and midnight like I do, you’ll also want to try not to eat past 8pm or so.  Its difficult for the digestive process to work effectively when you’re lying down.  Your metabolism is relaxed and won’t process energy efficiently when you’re sleeping.  Sleep is actually fat burning mode for the body since the rest cycle is when our bodies process and use up fats.  Isn’t that “fat-cinating?”

SENSIBLE SNACKS & DESSERTS:

This is what I do to curb sweet craving between meals and after dinner – eat some fresh, frozen or dried fruit or an all-fruit ice pop.  I may do a nut butter with apple or banana.  A greenish banana is a great energy snack – as is a handful of dried fruit and nuts.  Humus on a pita works well.  Some sharp/dry cheese with fruit or berries is a sound snack option, too.  I often have another tablespoon or two of my yummy steel-cut oats that are hanging out in my ‘fridge if I want a “cookie” or “pudding” flavor.  I must admit, once in a while I’ll do a fro-yo.  But I wait at least 45 minutes after dinner or a meal to have dessert and I drink more water before indulging.  It gives the body a chance to prep for digestion, especially when richer choices make it to my mouth.  Remember, refined sugar is our enemy, so choose desserts and snacks made with honey, agave, stevia or pure maple syrup before picking up the white stuff.berries-for-heart**A note on shopping for good, healthy food as I’ve described:  READ LABELS!!!  I believe the fewer the ingredients and the more organically grown the better.  WOMEN beware – nearly all nutritional labels are based on a MAN’S 2,000 calorie diet.  Women only need about 1,500 calories a day.  So the label can cause women to eat larger than necessary portions and gain weight.  Avoid all sweeteners, Aspartame, hydrogenated oils/trans fats and fried foods when shopping and keep “white foods” (made of enriched white flour, which turns into paste in your gut) out of the cart.  Also, if you can’t pronounce it, maybe you shouldn’t eat it, yes?

***A note about exercise while changing your eating habits:  Do it!  Challenge your metabolism to work harder for you so you burn calories better and develop the energy output you need based on the caloric energy input you consume.  Losing weight is as simple as “less food in and more work out.”  Two simultaneous efforts that lead to a healthier life style.  So be active six days a week.  Take a long walk, ride a bike, take an aerobics or yoga class, pump some iron, climb stairs, rake the yard!  Just don’t sit for too long and always stretch.

****A note about detoxifying your body:  I think it’s a good idea, every so often, to cleanse my body of built up toxins that cause inflammation and tension in the body.  Aloe juice is quite detoxifying, as is ginger tea.  There are lots of organ cleansing products out there that help flush out unwanted toxins, too.  But my go-to panacea detox drink is 12 o. of water with 1 freshly squeezed lemon’s juice, 1 teaspoon of honey, I tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a dash of cayenne pepper mixed well and chugged quickly.  My bloat disappears overnight and it boosts my energy.  A simple 3-5 day vegetarian fast, fruit-and-veggie-only, is also helpful to clear the body’s gunk. 

The point of this post is not to promote restricting you into eating less or only eating certain foods.  In fact, variety is a good thing and most of us simply don’t eat enough of the right foods for the energy we need.  This and my previous post are meant to guide you to thinking about food differently and to approach what you eat with your energetic needs in mind.  We need sugar, but eating the wrong stuff is killing us.  So whole grains, legumes, fruit, nuts and vegetables are the main foods we should be eating.  Snacking and indulging in desserts should be the exception, not the rule.  They make the body produce too much insulin which kills your metabolism. 

I think you can eat almost anything in moderation, so don’t deprive yourself, just be good most of the time and allow treats now and again.  If your main goal is weight loss you do have to remain vigilant and disciplined until you reach your goal.  Then you can filter in some of the naughtiness again.  Some!  Food is consumed for energy, so we each have to prioritize and select good quality foods to feed our bodies properly, so they give us the function, health and energy we ask from them.  Happy eating, y’all!  Who am I, Paula Dean?  You may also want to avoid contact with anything called a “stick-of-butter pie!”  Most important, try not living to eat – EAT TO LIVE!!! 

Live well, eat well and be well!

 

 

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Whole Grains… Whole New Me (Part 1)

Grain fieldLet’s talk nutrition.  Let’s demystify that term and rename it “food energy.”  After all, that’s what food does in our bodies – it gives us the necessary power to run everything and perform tasks.  I’m an avid user of the phrase, “I’ve learned that I must eat to live – not live to eat!”  I do have a healthy appetite.  I love eating good food.  But my definition of “good food” has changed over time.  I used to love a Wendy’s chocolate Frosty as a “treat.”  I think we can agree a Frosty is tasty, but just barely qualifies as food and is certainly not good for you.  Even though it may have indefinable soothing effects to the soul.  I also used to love to eat beef and will, on occasion, have a steak or burger, but those times are becoming more rare.  All puns aside, I have dealt with weight and digestive issues since I was thirteen and have gained and lost more weight than I care to admit. Being a yoga instructor and personal trainer, I would exercise nearly every day for hours.  I realized my activity level wasn’t the problem.  It was what I was feeding myself.chocolatecheeseburger 

I wanted to learn more and really “look the part” of the fitness expert I had become and to finally get a handle on the nutritional aspects of my “bulge and purge” body.  I grew exhausted from being a human yo-yo about ten years ago and decided to do something about it… Learn a lot more about nutrition and how the body processes its energy. Here’s what I’ve discovered and practiced in terms of obtaining energetic dietary needs everyday, feeling satisfied by food and still enjoying what I eat.  Everybody’s body is a bit different and it takes discipline to master any practice, especially when there’s so many “palatable distractions” lurking at every intersection, but this set of guidelines works great for me and my clients.  As with any nutritional advice or suggestion, buyer beware.  Any statements here are not meant to diagnose or treat any disease or affliction or promote any action or behavior on the part of the reader.  If you have a condition that requires medical attention, please visit your doctor.  Even though some of the information I’ll mention is pure gold, the following comments should be taken as my personal experience, nothing else.  Get out your spoon… here’s the scoop!

It can be tough to understand what foods are good for your energy, good for maintaining a healthy, trim and energetic body and a concentrated mind.  As a personal trainer I had taken many CEU’s in nutrition and thought I was “in the know” about what foods to eat to stay fit.  But I did more research when I found out I had an unhappy small intestine.  I was bloated most of the time and it felt like I was six months pregnant!  I was diagnosed with the dreaded IBS in 2004 and found out I was also somewhat lactose intolerant.  There seemed fewer and fewer foods I could eat without feeling sick.  And I love to eat! bloat

After reading much about the Macrobiotic and Mediterranean diets in the early 2000’s and having applied myself to following their guidelines I began to see some weight loss results and became more energetic.  But I dropped the ball a few times and put much of the weight back on, feeling more sluggish and increasingly frustrated that I couldn’t follow through with my nutritional goals.  Both diets are pretty straight forward and, like the traditional Japanese diet, rely on consuming mainly whole grains, locally grown food, small portions of animal protein, lots of veggies and some fruit, healthy oils (fish, olive, nut) and only small amounts of sugar and starch.  Although they were simple diets, I couldn’t tow the line for more than 9 months. MEDITERRANEAN DIET

Maybe my lack of resolve was due to a lack of discipline or willingness to change, a shaky will power, a “rugged American individualism” or just a stubborn, rotten “sweet tooth.”  I couldn’t stop eating naughty foods and always went back to consuming mass quantities.  I was a ravenous omnivore.  I still wanted to eat anything that wasn’t nailed down!  I realized my real issue was a lack of knowledge – the power of better information to fix my diet.  Then I read an article about whole grains that changed my whole outlook on food as energy.  I finally figured out why I craved sugars and starches, felt wiped-out half the time and kept putting the weight back on.  My metabolism was a mess.  So was my blood pressure.  I had been riding the “insulin roller coaster” for most of my life.  It was making me fat, sick and depressed… and it was time to get off!

Refined sugar, refined grains and bad fats had slowed my body’s energy systems to a crawl.  They were also the reason I craved eating more of the same.  I learned that sugar was also damaging to my internal tissues, acting like a molecular razor blade – slicing and dicing my innards!  The only way to combat their metabolic meddling, their damaging side-effects and their nearly addictive draw was to replace them with what my body really wanted – high-energy yielding whole grains!  They had the right balance of healthy sugars, vegetable proteins and oils, plenty of gut-scrubbing fiber and the right nutrients to re-energize my sputtering engines.  My metabolism was craving more energy from the food I ingested, so I had to give it better quality energy through more nutritionally sound foods.  But, what to choose?  I was hungry and I needed answers!

sugarlips

I found out that when we want something sweet or starchy to eat, it’s really because we’ve run out of complex carbohydrates – the essential building blocks for energy production in the body!  But the body won’t discriminate – if it’s hungry and needs energy it will take anything resembling a complex carb – even a simple sugar – to fill its needs.  Your body needs the entire grain – germ, bran and endosperm – to get the greatest nutritional benefits from eating grains.  Most processed, refined wheat flours (most of what we eat as carbs these days) is only made of the endosperm – the starchy part of the grain that makes our blood sugar spike.  Enriched white flour also turns to paste in the gut, creating a sludge that prevents the assimilation of nutrients and puts a drag on digestion and the body’s immune response.  And don’t even get me started on how many carbohydrates we consume that are made of corn!  It’s almost indigestible with little nutritional value.  Why do you think it looks the same at the end of the digestive process as it does at the beginning?  I digress. 

whole_grains_facts_seedMy point is, we need sugar to live, but the refined stuff can only crash your metabolism.  I realized every time I reached for a cookie, sugary cup of coffee, bowl of boxed cereal or pasta, sandwich with wheat flour bread or a slice of pizza, my body was actually telling me I wasn’t getting enough “good carbs” – whole grains, nuts, legumes, fruit and vegetable fiber.  I needed more good carb options and the ability to make better choices… and I was “starving!”  My health and even my career depended on it!  I had to make the change…

wholegrainsmealTwo years ago I learned to cook and eat whole grains twice a day.  Now I cook them ahead of time so they’re always available as a sound meal choice in my ‘fridge.  I’m proud to say I’ve lost 65 lbs. since March 2012 and have kept it off for over two years, losing over eight inches at my waist!  I wear a 32 inch waist now – the smallest I’ve been in ten years – and I look and feel better than I have in probably as long.  And no more IBS!  I’m a new me, thanks to this pretty simple nutritional tweak and a few other informed dietary choices. 

wholegrains_saladMy favorite whole grains are steel-cut oats (which I make taste like rice pudding without any refined sugar or dairy milk) and quinoa, my wonder grain of choice for sweet, savory, salty or spicy fiber-filled meals.  In my next post I’ll be discussing my overall nutritional program and some recipes.  Check it out and see my link below for more information on what whole grains are and what they can do for you and your family’s health.  It’s really amazing, we humans actually evolved with whole grains, on the same timeline.  They’re our evolutionary nutritional match.  Their natural boost to our metabolisms make fat storage melt off the body and make us feel full.  They clear the intestines, reduce tissue inflammation and give us hours of vital energy and brain power.   Who doesn’t need that?

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It’s a wonder, considering their healthy effects, that whole grains are not a greater focus when it comes to fighting obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.  As in all things, education is everything when learning to make better dietary choices.  I also think it’s strange that people have to sift through so many misleading labels and clear away so many myths when it comes to purchasing, cooking, ordering and eating whole grains.  Maybe it’s our rushed, stressed-out, overly convenient society or our need for instant gratification that’s to blame.  But I’m a fitness and wellness expert and a bit of a philosopher, not a sociology professor.  Please do your own research and implement the best information you find into practice so you can be the judge.  We’ll reconvene on this pressing issue soon.  It really is a big deal to me anyway, since I think it saved my life!  Be well and check out some photos of my progress below…

whole_grains_4Whole-Grain-Maze1

View this link to see what foods are considered whole grains.

The incredible shrinking me (March 2012-September 2012)… Lost 65 lbs.!

Denny249lbs2   Denny249lbs.   Photo on 2011-08-01 at 14.37   Photo on 2011-04-29 at 17.11 #2   Denny2013A      Photo on 2013-07-02 at 20.59 #3     

Awesome results, right?  You can have the same great returns…  Just go “grainy!”

Check out my next post, “Whole Grains, Whole New Me! Part 2” for recipes and tips…

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