Monthly Archives: February 2015

Exercise – One of the Four Pillars of Health

cycling on a beachWhen it comes to exercise, most of us simply don’t get enough. Our bodies are designed to move much more than most of us do. Every system in our body performs better when we have regular daily exercise. It doesn’t have to be complicated; Sit less, and move more. You can start that simply.

Besides allowing our bodies to work better and more efficiently, getting enough exercise sets us up for better health by ensuring that our weight and muscle mass stays in optimum range. The more muscles mass you have the more you need to eat to maintain this muscle (wthout gaining weight) and to keep going each day.  If you have more  lean muscle mass, you’ll also have more energy, and you will require more food to maintain your weight.  This is why once a person goes down the road of too little muscle mass (caused by not moving and exercising enough) it perpetuates an endless cycle of gaining weight and attempting to diet to lose the excess fat. Someone with less muscle mass just does not need as much food as one with more muscle mass. Proper nutrition is important (see the post on Diet and Nutrition), but you are never likely to lose the fat and keep it off unless you move your body more. More important than this, you will never have optimum health and vitality without exercise of some sort.

This concept does not have to mean expensive equipment and gym membership….if that’s your thing, but all means go to the gym but if it’s not something that feels comfortable to you that is not a problem. You can still get all the exercise you need without purchasing any equipment at all. The first step is just to begin moving more. It really starts that simply. Don’t let this be daunting for you. Walk more, take the stairs instead of the elevator, don’t park right at the door of the shops but make yourself walk a little further than usual. Move your body throughout the day in as many creative ways as you can think of. If there is an activity that you enjoy, do more of that as often as you can. Do you like to dance? Then let that be your exercise. What a fun thing to do, all by yourself! Pick out a few songs that make you want to move – clear obstacles out of the way in the room, and let yourself go. Love to play tennis, or wanting to learn? What a great form of exercise that is!  You can get on a bike and explore your neighborhood in a different way, take a walk around the block, go swimming (indoors or out, whichever is more accessible for you, go to a yoga class, or play an outdoor game with the kids. Exercise does not have to be difficult or dull. Begin to re-frame exercise in a way that is fun for you and you won’t have to force yourself to do it.  I also think it helps to think of exercise as a way of being good to yourself, of increasing your health and well-being and NOT as a way of looking better.

Once you begin, you may want to go a little further and add more into your daily routine.  If you are happy with the results you get long-term by increasing movement in your life, that’s great. If you have other health problems such as Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, excess body fat (particularly belly fat), or want to bump up the benefits, then you may want to add Interval Training to your routine. A good time to do this is when you reach a plateau with your weight.  If you’ve never heard of Burst, or Interval Training, it’s very simple and there is lots of information you can read about it on the internet. Once the domain of elite athletes, Interval Training has become a powerful tool for the average person too. In a nutshell, all you do is sprint, climb stairs, jump rope, jog, etc. to whatever is your maximum effort (this will be different for everyone, depending on how fit you are) for the interval that you decide – there are different protocols for how long the “interval” of intensity should be. There is quite a bit of research that shows “burst” intervals of less than 15 seconds in length burns the most body fat. Then you rest for 30 seconds. You want to have several “bursts” – different protocols suggest different things – but the intention is to have at least 3 bursts, followed by double the rest time. Then you want to walk at a normal pace for 10-20 minutes. It’s that easy.

You may be thinking that if shorts bursts of 15 seconds of intense exercise is great at burning fat, then longer bursts would be even better, right?  But you’d be wrong. These short, less-than-15-second bursts tend NOT to increase lactic acid build-up in your muscles. The reason that is a good thing is because lactic acid can inhibit your muscle’s ability to burn fat as fuel. When lactic acid is not present, muscle cells can use fatty acids as fuel more readily. The end result is, you can burn fat much easier. (This is a simple explanation that is true, but there is a lot more to the physiology of Interval Training that is fascinating. Research it a bit if you want more science.) There are endless combinations of interval protocols which do different things, but shorter than 15 seconds is ideal for unlocking your body’s fat burning chemistry. And – here’s a bonus – it is less demanding on your body to do such short bursts! Win,win.

Longer intervals, or bursts, are appropriate too though, and may be better for normalizing blood sugar. The idea is always the same….You have a bout of high intensity, followed by a recovery period of 1.5 to 2 times the burst, and repeat this three to five times. Then, have a few minutes of lower intensity walking. Whatever you start with, my advice is to use a combination of different interval training workouts so your body doesn’t get used to what you are doing. Our bodies are cunning at adapting, so keep it guessing! The variety also keeps you from hitting a stubborn plateau.

If you’ve already been walking more as part of your exercise routine, you might incorporate short bursts of jogging into your regular brisk walks. If you’re less fit, perhaps you could alternate leisurely walking with periods of faster walking. For example, if you’re walking outdoors you could walk faster between certain mailboxes, trees, or other landmarks. You can make a little game out of it and easily implement Interval Training into your life painlessly and easily.

An expert on this time of exercise is Yuri Elkhaim. His posts are clear and very readable if you want to find out more about both the science behind Burst Training, and different training protocols.

 

 

 

A Surprisingly Delicious Winter Salad

SHREDDED_KALE_SALAD_01I really start to miss eating salads this time of year, but the usual summer salad greens are nearly always disappointing during the winter months with their bland taste and texture.

Here is a salad that will not disappoint!  It is made with raw kale, and no – it is not bitter at all. Some of you will not need any convincing to try this, but for those of you who are in the “raw kale is too bitter” camp, I urge you to give it a try. It is yummy!

Winter Kale Salad (serves one, or two if used as a side salad)

  • 100 grams Kale, chopped up
  • 50 grams grated Parmesan cheese
  • big handful of pumpkin seeds (I soak mine overnight in water with sea salt, then dehydrate them in a very low oven)

For the dressing:

  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar (I’ve used White Wine Vinegar before; it was fine)
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

Mix the dressing ingredients together and whisk.  Pour over the chopped kale, blending well Add cheese and pumpkin seeds, and….ENJOY!

I have eaten this salad immediately after I make it and it is very good. But if you want to soften the kale leaves a little bit before you eat it, simply dress the salad an hour or two ahead of time and the acid in the vinegar and mustard will make the kale less chewy.

A very forgiving recipe….I have used more parmesan cheese and pumpkin seeds when I am using this salad as a meal and it made it very substantial and filling. You can also use more or less dressing of course.

Diet and Nutrition – One of the Four Pillars of Health

healthy eating imageThe most important thing a person can do to upgrade their nutrition is to give up processed foods. There is little chance of being healthy if your diet has too many packaged, processed foods on the menu. If this is the case for you but you are willing to learn new ways of eating and are also willing to make some lifestyle changes, then improved health is within your grasp.

If you know little or nothing about how to eat healthy, start by eliminating all the processed foods then begin to increase your intake of vegetables, and you’ll be closer to better health almost immediately.  Once you eliminate the processed stuff, you can focus on adding in more of the healthy plant-based foods to your diet.  Set a challenge for yourself to prepare some healthy but delicious recipes, featuring plants or mostly plants.  Experiment and explore with new and different recipes. There are so many blogs and free sources to get new recipes that you could get started as soon as you make your next trip to the grocery store. (A good way to boost your veggie intake fast is to get organic green super food powder (this contains freeze-dried or dehydrated vegetables and super foods), mix it with a little water or apple juice and a sprinkle of cinnamon, and start drinking it most mornings. It is a relatively pain-free way to get more veggies in you!  Then continue your quest to find mouth-watering vegetable recipes.

Once you make a start in the healthier direction, make it a priority to educate yourself and allow this interest in being healthy and feeling wonderful to motivate you. There are some great teachers in this area out there, like Mark Hyman, M.D., Josh Axe, M.D., Sara Gottfried, M.D. (“Dr. Sara”), The Food Babe, and Kris Carr, to name just a few. Once you begin, you will be amazed at the help and good advice at your fingertips. The key is to begin….right now, right where you are.

Remember to put your focus on the plethora of foods you CAN eat, instead of the things you cannot. If you build your diet on what you must stay away from, your willpower WILL cave in time!  Ask yourself the question, “What great foods can I add to my diet?”  Stop thinking “no, no, no” when it comes to food, and instead make a list of healthy foods you like and have fun creating new meals. Remember that you want to get it right more often than not.  No browbeating yourself! Just start incorporating some healthy yummy food in your diet today.

Here are some of the food guidelines I live by. Maybe they will help you too.:

  • Protein at every meal, plant based most of the time. If you like meat too much to give it up, pay the extra for organic free range meat. There are too many antibiotics, hormones, and chemicals in mass-produced meat to eat this way any longer.
  • Lots of vegetables, some raw.
  • Fruit, but limit the high sugar-content fruit to every other day (bananas, pineapples, mangos).
  • Limit grains and starches, and sugar
  • Lots and lots of water

It is simple, and not at all boring once you get out of the box and explore the possibilities of lovely food you may not have previously considered. If this seems too much all at once, decide to start with one day a week that features healthy and meatless food, and let your creativity run wild.

There are some unwavering truths about healthy eating, then there are lots of opinions floating around out there. It can be confusing to read and hear so much conflicting information….Eat whole grains; avoid all grains – raw food is the way to go; raw food is not sustainable and rots your teeth – use lots of extra virgin olive oil; oh but it’s bad to cook with it (and maybe don’t eat fats very much any more!).  I think the “truths” are to make your diet more plant-based, don’t eat genetically modified foods, and stay away from white sugar and white flour. At least, these are the truths to which my research has led me. I’m sure there are others out there who would disagree. The important thing is for you to find what is the best diet for you. (No, it’s never going to be doritos and snickers bars, sorry).  But you have some wiggle room as to what is acceptable. I took a long time to realize that wheat and gluten was tearing my gut apart – mostly because I didn’t want to know this. Now I know, and as painful as it was to give up wheat, it is now part of my life and is relatively easy for me.

In summary: give yourself the tools you need to get started by doing a little research, collecting tasty recipes, and adding great food to your pantry and fridge. Don’t beat yourself up by placing your awareness on what you cannot eat; just begin to crowd the bad stuff out of your diet by adding in the good.  Enjoy the daily pleasure of healthy, living food.