Food Choices Deprivation Or Empowerment

Pass Junk food

 

“Don’t you miss eating fun foods?” I was asked that question one day…. this person obviously didn’t know my eating habits super well or they’d know my weakness for some occasional chocolate, powdered sugar donuts, or better yet, French fries.

Years ago as I embarked on my health journey, that may have been my mentality. It would’ve have been my mentality if I had banned foods or put them off limits or treated them like I’d never, ever get to have them again.

Not making foods “good” or “bad” has helped me be successful, and stay successful on this path.  I think this theory will work for the majority of people wanting to be healthy.

Oh, in the past I can remember parties or get togethers and “abstaining” from whatever foods/desserts I thought I shouldn’t have.

Let’s be honest, that kinda stuff flat out sucks.

But here’s the weird kicker. What starts out in the beginning as something that feels out of your routine, or daily habit, can slowly be transformed into a new habit and permanent change in our lifestyle.

If you eat “junk” food and it’s your thing to go to, then your taste buds have definitely been trained to eat that way. I’d like to think all of you were raised by moms who attempted to feed you good, healthy food in the beginnings of your life.

As a free willed individual, you grew up and did your own thing. That might involve not eating what mom tried to get you to eat but instead opting for other less desirable choices.

You get it… you train yourself to eat foods that support your health and give you energy or you’re comfortable eating foods that satisfy your emotions and mouth and offer no or minimal nutritional value.

It does make me sad when people make jokes about eating foods that support good health and they don’t participate in eating that way. I’m over here thinking… “that’s your body your living in, the only one you get!”

A mental shift has to occur for anyone to be successful in weight loss and eating in a manner that supports good health.

If you view not getting to eat “junk” food as deprivation, you will not move forward. If you view eating well as punishment, you will not move forward.

We all face temptations when it comes to foods. I have my own that are best for me to stay away from.

I know what it’s like to be in the store, hungry, and all those things I know I don’t need seem to taunt me to buy them.

After all, I’m hungry, right?

But then there’s the stronger part of my mind and body that knows better…. I know how empowering it is to know it’s there and leave it. I know how empowering it is to make good food choices and how I feel after the fact.

And yes, if you are hungry in the store ( a practice I do not recommend 😉 ) there is a plethora of foods that can help you that are healthy to snack on…. really. You don’t have to be drawn in at the candy when you are checking out.

It all takes practice. And determination. And failure.

Yes. I said failure.

You aren’t going to nail this each and every time. In the beginning it will be a struggle. With repeated efforts of success and failure you will eventually have more success than not ( this is where determination comes in… and a bit of stubbornness doesn’t hurt either)

As you practice this you will develop new strength, new strength is empowering when you walk away from something. It gradually turns into something you will just automatically do.

Assess what it is. Think about if you really need it. Think about if it will support your health and fitness goals.

Make a choice.

And you know what, sometimes, it’s ok to get that candy bar.

I had done a long endurance session recently and by midafternoon my body was wanting just all out pure sugar. I’ve come to know this feeling occasionally since I’ve become involved in endurance sports.

I intentionally bought a candy bar. I can’t tell you the last time I had one. It was delicious. That feeling went away after. I haven’t wanted one since.

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It was good…

 

No guilt.

I fully knew I could’ve gotten a “healthier” treat. I also made a mindful decision that I wanted to get that candy bar.

It is empowering when you are in mindful control of making choices regarding what goes in your mouth and how you eat.

As you learn to make eating healthier a priority, you not only feel better and are more energetic, your tastes for the lesser quality food really will diminish. In time, you will find those desired foods will have less pull and it becomes quite easy to ignore them and never have them, and yeah, you won’t feel “deprived” either. You will however, feel empowered.

A successful healthy lifestyle will involve balance. Good days and bad days. The key to success is to keep moving forward. Learn to enjoy how you feel when you make more aware choices of what you eat and when you choose a better option.

In time, it will come almost effortlessly to you.

Tell me was there or has there been a time you’ve felt deprived because you didn’t think you could have some type of food? How do you feel when you make a better choice or a more purposeful decision in what you eat?

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The Madness And Fear Of Endurance Sports

“Every endurance challenge scares me just a little.” ~ Dean Karnazes

It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon. Everyone has left the house so I escaped to my fav coffee cave to write, reflect and think about the week in front of me. It’s hard not to think about the fact that next week on this day, at the time I’m sitting here writing, I will be in the church watching my oldest son get married.

I’m also aware 2 months from today is my first duathlon. Heck, it’s my first ever race on a bike. It’s also listed as the toughest duathlon in the state AND the championship race.

What… on earth.. am I doing in it ?

I decided a while back that there is a certain amount of madness involved with endurance sports.  Some part of the brain has to change that allows you to accept physically hard and challenging things as normal.

As in, sharing with some ladies in my yoga class last week that I hadn’t ridden far the day before, just 16 miles, to which they started laughing and informed me that 16 miles was a lot.

I really don’t think so anymore. I don’t think my 20 mile rides are long either.  This is where the madness might be setting in 😉

I will be the first to admit, sometimes it’s not just the distance, it’s also what’s IN those miles that carves out something new in me. Obviously, riding flat roads is usually a piece of cake, throwing in hills and inclines that challenge my body is always a game changer.

It’s definitely a love/hate relationship.

There’s a crazy madness in training my body, learning it’s limits, and then pushing past those limits that’s exhilarating… yeah… we’ll just go with that word for now 😉 Exhilarating.

Endurance is built on hours and hours of consistent training, constant change, and a large part of stubbornness.

When someone laughs and tells me I’m “crazy” based on my current athletic goals, I do believe they are right. There has to be some sort of madness that makes an otherwise sane person believe that riding and running miles on end is somehow… normal.

But alongside the madness is another parallel attribute which is fear.

The quote I opened with is so true and so perfect. And it comes from without a doubt, the strongest, most fit, endurance athlete on the planet.

I feel like I’m in good company if Dean Karnazes admits he gets a bit scared with a new endurance challenge. Admittedly, he does far larger, longer, crazier and insane endurance challenges than I will ever face but at the same time, if someone like that admits to a healthy fear of new endurance events, then I’m in good company.

When I use the word fear I don’t mean like, sitting in a corner shaking and helpless. If that were the case, I’d never be doing what I do. This fear, in my opinion, is one of perhaps a healthy respect of what I’m up against. A recognition that this new challenge has the potential to eat my lunch, and me too for good measure.

There is respect for the miles, the terrain, the elevation, climate, everything.

There is a healthy fear for new territory that has never been physically traveled. Each time I’ve set out to do something new athletically, there’s that “fear” of the unknown.

The “what if’s”……

What if I can’t do it? What if I don’t have what it takes? What if I’m not as good as someone else? ( does that even matter?) What if I haven’t trained enough? Long enough? Hard enough? What if I didn’t prepare in the right way? Am I going to be able to ride such a tough course and then get off and run those last few miles strong?

All of the “what if’s” are related to fear.

Even now, on my training rides, knowing how tough they will be, I usually have that in the pit of my stomach. That fearful respect of knowing how hard it really will be, and wondering again, if I have all that’s required to take on this new endurance challenge.

Somehow, things always seem to change the minute I’m out on the road.  In my gear, clipped in, the miles settling in under me, my mental gears shift along with the ones under my hands.

I focus on the mile I’m in, the road that’s in front of me. I know and have already mentally apprehended the hills and mountains I’ll be riding and remind myself that I’ve already done them before, the challenge is to keep taking them stronger and faster. The fear begins to give way to what I know I’m capable of.

Fear gives way to strength and power. Fear gives way to me understanding that although it’s not easy, it will begin to feel that way the stronger my body gets doing it over and over again.

And then it happens.

I finish a long hard session and feel victorious, empowered and strong. I also feel dirty, sweaty, and hungry.

But the overarching feeling is one of accomplishment. I did it again. The hard workout that planted a healthy fear of respect in me, reminds me I can do whatever I put myself to and that my body is capable of being pushed, and then pushed again, well out of it’s original comfort zone.

By the time some of you are reading this I’ll be out riding the entire course this morning, or will have finished it, another notch in my belt.  This will be my first full and complete ride on it. Last week I did it but the mileage came up a bit short from what the race was. A quick message to race director and I learned the turn point was farther down than I thought. So knowing the exact layout this morning, I’m taking it on.

I know it won’t be easy. I know there will be that niggling fear of the toughness in front of me. I know what the outcome will feel like, so I will press on and push myself into the realm of discomfort, because that is where change occurs.

Endurance sports. ..an odd mixture of madness and fear.  I seem to have both in spades which will help me well in my upcoming race.

The madness will keep me going, building longer training sessions and adding more miles. The fear won’t stop me. I will train, I will prepare, and I will go out and do the best I’m capable of.

And I when I cross that finish line it will be a sweet victory knowing all I stomped down to get to that moment, and it will be worth it.

Do you have something you want to pursue but feel a bit of fear with it? Do you embrace that or shy away from it?  If you do endurance sports, can you relate to a bit of the madness?

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Getting those miles in……

Weddings And All Things Lovely

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This is gonna just be one of those “life” posts.  Because my life is made up of a wee bit more than my athletic adventures, debunking current health nonsense, and offering up sane and practical ways to be fit and healthy.  Sometimes I just want to write about those “other” things.

As in… my first born son will be married in less than 2 weeks!  That my faithful readers, is a big life event for this momma.

Now this isn’t my first rodeo marrying off a child. My middle son will celebrate 2 years married in just a few days. THAT is hard to believe.  In those 2 years of marriage I’ve also received a beautiful granddaughter who turns one in a few weeks.

Will time just slow down already???

But yeah… I have a wedding coming full steam at me and as I write this today I will admit it’s my first round of actual, all out nervousness and that “OMG are we really ready for this?!” feelings.

By nature I’m not prone to that. I’m usually the more focused and in control of my feelings and emotions person. I don’t get all crazy from my nerves ( shhhh don’t ask hubby about that when I’m hours away from a race 😉 )

But today my mind is filled with all the little details and things still being done. My “to be”  daughter in law has been very good with getting stuff done so that’s helped a lot. I’ve tried to work and help her to the best of my abilities.

Team work, right?

Planning a wedding is…well.. a big deal. There are so many details.. but you know…women…. we are into details.

Just ask us to tell a story 😉

So there are flowers… how many and where do they all go. In the church on the tables, off the rafters haha. What will the tables look like ? tablecloths, plates, decorations etc.

What goes in the church? Just the right touches to add to the beautiful old, antique look of it.

Food. Guests want to eat. We got to sample the goods recently and make decisions on that.

Cakes. Oh. We’ve got cake. We might have cake for days afterwards. They will be gorgeous though and oh so tasty.  I hope I have time to enjoy some of it that day.

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Brides dress… all done. Portraits done.

Bridesmaids dresses and tuxes picked out and ordered.

Mother of groom dress. Ordered and hanging in my closet.

It is stunning.

Unlike many who might try to knock some weight off before the big event, I’m over here hoping to maintain my weight so my “custom made fits like a glove” dress still fits like that on the big day.

How many mothers of the groom are heavy into training for a duathlon with a wedding also on the menu?404

All of that aside… I know… it will happen. My nerves will settle, it will be beautiful, and I gain a new lovely daughter in law in the process.

Marriage. I’ve learned a little about it in the 33 years I’ve been married.

Weddings always take me back, make me think, how I’d do it all over again with the same wonderful man.

I don’t mean for that to sound cliché or corny. It’s just true.

You grow and learn so much about each other in a married relationship. You have good times and bad times. I’m thankful our years have been filled with more good than not.

I’m thankful that no matter what, we’ve always respected each other and I think that’s a huge key to a successful marriage. Even if times aren’t great, love and respect are (I believe) huge factors to longevity.

You learn to pitch in together with common goals. work for things you want together, support each other in their own individual passions (I’m serious when I say my husbands support of my athletic and health shenanigans are huge to me) you go through kids ( and some of the literal hell they roll you through) you deal with aging parents and illness and death, finances, job changes, health issues… life stuff people.  Sometimes it isn’t pretty and you want it to just be over already.

Then there are quiet moments of waking up together and talking about the day or savoring that first cup of coffee together.  Special dates and doing those things that matter to the two of you… things that have been born from years of being together… things that are about you, as a couple.  There are the inside jokes and weird quirky things that are between the two of you that you could exchange in a room full of people and no one would get but the two of you.

You learn about the whole “better or worse” thing that you recite in your vows. In all our years together I can honestly say that nothing has ever caused us to use the separation or divorce words.

And don’t you either.

Those are harmful words and should never be thrown around in your anger with each other.

When you make a commitment to love the other, it may mean you love, but you might not always like each other.

If you’re married and deny that, well, I’d call you out on it …’cause well.. it’s true. You’re two individual people, who different ideas, likes, interests, opinions, thoughts etc.

You will never mesh on everything, and you shouldn’t.

There is such a beauty in the differences of individuals who learn to mold and blend those differences together.

I am definitely the fiery, outspoken one of our relationship. He is calm, sees things in different ways and keeps me tethered when I’d go flying off on a tangent on something. ( Ah he tries… sometimes.. I do go untethered haha)

It’s a beautiful balance of give and take. Learning and growing. Accepting and changing.

It’s the beauty of years of lives being blended together in something sacred called marriage.

So as I work, prepare and get ready to watch my first born son become a wedded man my heart desire is for him ( his brother too) to learn these things. To allow large measures of grace to always permeate their marriage, to allow it to be in their relationship as they grow together. To be patient when they might not feel patient. To be loving even if they don’t feel like it. To be understanding of the others weaknesses and flaws. To be a helper and not a taker. To support, encourage, and build each other up. That they will cling to each other in rough times, and learn to appreciate the goodness of simple, daily life and life events. To not sweat the small things and let them go. To not waste time on being mad or arguing because they are wasting time they could love and enjoy each other. To think of the needs of the other before themselves. To live sacrificially.

Marriage is a commitment. A lifelong one. Is it always easy, no. But the beauty of having another soul who knows you inside and out. Good and bad. Knows your sense of humor and what makes you laugh. Who knows those little things that make you smile and who loves to hear about your goals and dreams, someone who is willing to go the distance with you, works with you and desires to be with you, that my friends, is nothing short of priceless.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m getting back to my to-do list and settling my nerves down.

I’ve got a wedding coming.

 

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Iodine And Your Thyroid Health

I stumbled over the article quite by accident doing research for a post I was working on.

“Female athletes at risk for iodine deficiencies”

What? And what the heck does iodine have to do with anything?

Ok. The facts I do know or am cognitively aware of regarding iodine.

It’s a mineral. Our bodies need it. Our bodies don’t make it. I understood our thyroids need it ( but didn’t know to what extent till I started this project) I knew historically way back in the day Morton’s Salt Company started putting iodine in salt and…well… boom. No more health issues.

That’s it to the whole iodine story. Right?  Nod your head. It’s all you knew about iodine too… admit it.

Ok as a female athlete, I  obviously perked up on that story and checked it out. I mean, come on, I don’t want to be deficient in anything.

Fair to say when you meet with your doctor for your yearly check in, iodine probably doesn’t come up on the list of labs he’s doing for you.

( and for the educational record, all of our excess iodine leaves our bodies by way of urination after our bodies have scooped up what they need that day. Unless you’re also an athlete, then it up’s the game even more as we lose it through sweating as well)

After reading the article, it had some questions at the end to answer. 5 to be exact. If you answered yes to even one you had the potential to be iodine deficient.

I answered “yes” to 3 out of 5.

( do I exercise regularly, do I use less or no salt on my food, do I use sea salt instead of table salt were my “yes” answers)

I have taught myself over the years to use more cracked pepper for seasoning on my food than salt.  I also started using sea salt several years ago because I liked that it took a little amount to season my food, meaning less sodium.

Here’s what I learned on that topic… sea salt, the fancy pink salt or any other non-table salts…. none of them are iodized.

This is what put me on the road to learning more about this mineral, how it works and the role it plays in our bodies as humans, but also the role it plays for athletes. AND to figure out if I had any type of deficiency based on my answers and my athletic lifestyle.

First, some facts.

Iodine is a highly water soluble trace element that is rare in the earths crust but fairly prevalent in it’ seas. It’s also referred to as the “forgotten mineral”, it simply gets little to no acknowledgement in todays health world.  It is used by nearly every tissue in the body . This mineral is necessary for total body health and proper metabolic function. It is largely stored in the thyroid, but adrenal glands, ovaries, breasts, thymus, brain, stomach, and pancreas all require iodine, but the thyroid takes the lions share. of your daily intake in order to create the hormones  that regulate metabolism, generate body heat, and keep all your tissues functioning properly.

Thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), are manufactured in the thyroid gland using iodine. Iodine consumed in the diet circulates in the bloodstream and is selectively taken up by the thyroid gland where, through a series of complex biochemical reactions, it is attached to tyrosine and eventually incorporated in the thyroid hormones T4 and T3.

These thyroid hormones are stored in the thyroid gland until a chemical signal from the pituitary gland, Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), activates their release into circulation. Once in the cell, thyroid hormones help to regulate metabolism and create energy and body heat.

When the thyroid is low on iodine these hormones decrease which can lead to fatigue, cold hands and feet, weight gain, dry skin, weak nails, hair loss, muscle aches, depression, constipation, even cancer and miscarriage.

Women have a special problem being that estrogen inhibits the absorption of iodine and can put us at risk for deficiency.

Our bodies need it in relatively small amounts to function properly. However, this is a mineral we do not produce. Without proper iodine levels our thyroids cannot function properly as it feeds off this mineral. A long time ago, before you and I hit the earth, people had issues with goiters and other awful things because of a lack of iodine. Once that was figured out, those issues largely began to drop. In 1924 Mortons Salt company began iodizing table sale which virtually eliminated those health issues. Interestingly enough, hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are other common symptoms of deficiency. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of hypothyroidism world wide.

However, the numbers in current terms are rather staggering….. according to research iodine deficiency has increased fourfold over the past 40 years and 74% of adults may not get adequate amounts! With doctors suggesting people reduce salt for good health the main “source” of iodine, and salt only having a certain level of bioavailability from iodine, with overall healthier lifestyles there has become a greater increase of deficiencies.

The RDA ( recommended daily allowance, here in the USA) is 150 micrograms for men and women, 220 for pregnant women and 290 for women breastfeeding however these numbers seem to be outdated as this guideline is sufficient enough to prevent goiters  and mental retardation but doesn’t address other symptoms of the thyroid or active lifestyles where it could be depleted. Sort of like the RDA for Vitamin D to prevent rickets. There is a base amount to prevent that, but humans can handle more than the RDA level.

There  are suggestions from my research that although 150 micrograms is the barebones amount people need to prevent health problems, upwards of 1100 mcg’s are tolerable for adults.

Keep in mind, as people often do, they buy into a thought that “if a little is good, a lot will be better”. Not true. Although toxicity is rare to much iodine can cause the thyroid to respond in negative ways. High levels of iodine can cause some of the same symptoms as deficiency , including goiter or thyroid gland inflammation. The thyroid is very sufficient in what it does and only needs so much to function properly.  To much can push it towards hypothyroid symptoms.

So, who’s at risk?

Back to my opening thought, my reasons for pursuing this topic. I’ve been blown away at the information on it, not only from my original intent of learning how it affects me as an athlete but the fact it’s a topic with a lot of information out there. In my research I’ve tried to steer clear of “extreme” thoughts and find common, intelligent information that consistently supports the topic.

As stated earlier, athletes are at higher risk for deficiency due to sweat losses, as well as the fact our bodies flush iodine through urination as well, A liter of sweat contains about 40 mcg’s of iodine which means we could easily lose up to that 150 mcg (baseline amount) without replenishing it through food sources, a multi vitamin, table salt, or a supplement, the chances of deficiency increase.

I had done my  own “sweat test” one day before a workout. I knew I lost a good deal of fluid but I had decided to do my own experiment for a post here on my blog.  I weighed in before and after, sans clothes, and charted my weight. In that particular workout I was a little over 3 lbs less when I finished… that was about 6 1/2 cups of fluid.  A liter contains 4.2 cups. That information alone tells me I could deplete myself considering it was almost a daily norm for me.

I learned that athletes performing at high intensity for prolonged periods of time, particularly in a humid environment, have significantly increased risk of becoming iodine deficient if they don’t pay special attention to replacing this important nutrient through diet, iodine-containing nutritional supplements, or iodized salt.

Looking at those questions on that little test, I fit a profile of an athlete who eats healthy, had already reduced salt, was using sea salt ( sparingly), exercised daily and sweated a lot. As I mentioned earlier, it came as a surprise to me that sea salt and all of it’s fancier counterparts are not iodized.

So what’s the verdict?

Without testing or overarching symptoms, you cannot diagnose you have a deficiency. An iodine loading test can be done to see how much iodine your body retains. Talking with your doctor would be the first and most important course of action if you are concerned over this.

As I obviously fall into a category that might plug me in as “potentially” deficit, I would first discuss any supplements and any testing with my doctor. On my own I will seek out natural food sources to support my iodine intake ( see some foods below).

The main thing I need to cautious over is the fact I am already hypothyroid. I  never really bring this up because well, I really don’t want to be defined by anything. I see my doctor yearly for labs, take my meds faithfully and on time every single day, and pretty much do my own thing and don’t think about it.  Athletically, I don’t feel it’s held me back in anyway.  From all I’ve learned though, taking on a supplement of any kind if you already have this condition could mess with your thyroid production. An supplement needs to be started with a small dosage to allow you time to adapt to it.

Eat healthy, it’s good for you regardless.

Below are some foods that naturally have iodine. By eating a iodine rich diet you should easily maintain a healthy level in your body. It should also be noted, if you take a multi vitamin, they have added the 150 mcgs in for you. But also as noted, that is a very bare bones minimum for a daily intake.

Iodized salt… just one gram can offer 77 micrograms of iodine.

Sea veggies. Seaweed offers the highest amount of iodine on the planet (obviously) Ok… I’m going to try dried seaweed although the idea is kinda making me gag… I’ll let you know…Just a small amount a day is all it takes to easily cover you. Literally,  a quarter serving provides 4500 micrograms of iodine

 

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I wasn’t smiling after I tried it… but I can say at least I tried it, right? It tasted like I had indeed been at the ocean and accidently got seaweed in my mouth. It tasted like salt water, and as I kept chewing I thought it tasted like fish. Gah. It was like the candy in Willy Wonka that kept changing flavors. I will not be able to eat this.  Ewww.

 

Other foods sources that are more normal 😉 are ….

baked potatoes, milk, codfish, shrimp, turkey breast, tuna fish, boiled eggs, greek yogurt, bananas, strawberries, cranberries, canned corn, cheddar cheese, green beans, pineapple, watercress, and white bread.

Of course you can get iodine with a multi vitamin and ramping up weekly intake of fish, milk, yogurt and other food sources from the list.

And finally….

There is a lot of information on this topic and interest in the “forgotten” mineral of iodine that you can continue to read on.

You are your own best advocate in regards to your health and well being. If you have questions or concerns on iodine deficiency, starting with your doctor would be the first consideration.

Of course, intentionally eating whole foods that offer rich iodine sources are the best way to give your body what it needs to function and be healthy.

 

 

Optimal Health

Optimal health. What comes to your mind when you hear those words? A certain image? Lifestyle? A look? Perhaps it’s what happens inside of you that you can’t see… like all systems working great. Is it the “perfect” picture of health? Energetic and vibrant looking? Rosy skin? Clear bright eyes? A lack of illness or disease? Strong with the ability to do all your daily tasks with energy?

As I’ve noted before there are a lot of buzz words out there today that “health” companies use to make their product sound more appealing to potential customers, to sell you on it.  Usually the words are descriptive and designed to make you think that by taking/using their product this very thing will be given to you.

Magically. No effort.

The marketing of these products is nothing less than impressive, but the times I’m choking and rolling my eyes over some of the claims….

Keep in mind these company claims are in turn, regurgitated by the sales people who largely don’t really know what they are talking about either. It has been interesting to note the fine print showing up on many labels now that these products aren’t FDA approved or endorsed.

Ok  I digress… but my current thought was generated from the catch phrase on some products promising this ….

Optimal health

First of all, what does optimal mean ? Webster defines it as most desirable or satisfactory.

Health is defined as the condition of being well and free from disease.

So optimal health could be defined as a desirable and satisfactory state of being well physically ( and mentally) and free from disease or illness.

Sounds good, right ?

Isn’t that something we all desire and should seek to keep? Or if we have health issues shouldn’t they ( if possible) be something we strive to improve or reverse? There are many conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, blood sugar issues etc that can be changed or reversed with improved health.

But here’s where I get tripped up… every. single. time.

Why am I going to take a man made product to help me achieve optimal health? Why am I going to spend my money on a product when I could buy healthy food with it?

It does amaze me that people are willing to do so many things other than what they really should be doing which is focusing on eating real, whole foods and making changes in their nutrition and exercise program.

A focus on better food quality will go a long way to achieving optimal health.  That will show up inside and out on you.

So how does one achieve optimal health?

First, it has to be something we desire and intentionally pursue. It will require consciously choosing a different lifestyle. You will have to be purposeful in your choices and decisions.

Learn to move more. Our bodies need exercise and are made to move. Active, vigorous movement allows our blood and lymphatic system to flow the way it’s designed to.  Not only that exercise benefits our mental well being as much as our physical. Exercise is good for lots of reasons but that’s not my focus today 😉

Food. Obviously, your diet should be loaded with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. They should be present at all your meals.  I don’t think I can stress enough the huge benefits of adequate fresh produce. To me, optimal health is achieved with good quantities of  produce.  Your daily food intake should also include whole grains, lean meats and dairy products.

It should be light on empty calorie foods that offer not a lot in the nutritional category. This includes of course, sugary drinks, alcohol, refined processed foods like cookies, crackers, chips, sweet breads, fast foods, salted foods etc.

Water. Our bodies are made up of a lot of water. Water transports waste from our bodies and hydrates us. Water is essential for our health. It helps our skin do it’s job of regulating body temperature through sweating, water is essential for circulation of nutrients through the body, it aids in digestion and creates saliva. Drink your water.

Your mind. Read. Learn to play an instrument. Take up a new hobby. Go back to school or take a class on something that interests you. Be willing to learn and grow your mind.  Find something that interests you and become an expert on it.

Your soul.  Whatever nourishes your soul, find time for it. Prayer, meditation, scripture reading, devotionals, whatever your personal preference is, find something that feeds your inner being.

Optimal health has the potential to be achieved with a balanced lifestyle that feeds the body, soul and mind. It will also vary from person to person as to what needs to be addressed to reach that goal. It requires us to be intentional in the pursuing and maintaining of it but it will be well worth our efforts.

 

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School Days And Healthy Lunches

Monday was a big milestone for many parents. It was the start of another school year. It meant sending kids off for the first time or maybe it meant moving them up to another level of education.

I’ve observed all of it in a different way.

This is the first year I don’t have a child to send off to school. I had to buy no supplies or sign endless miles of back to school paperwork. I didn’t think of back to school clothes or what I needed to have on hand for lunches.  My alarm didn’t go off getting me moving to make sure everyone would be up and on time for the bus. No teacher conferences or meetings that drone on forever.

Maybe, I should’ve shed a tear or two over it.  I’ve had children in school for more years than I can count now so I’m ready to move on.

I say all that… but…. my kids aren’t really done with their education. I had two head out for college. One, in his second year. The other, back to Freshman status again.

They bought their own supplies. They figured out what they wanted to wear to school. They are adults so they are responsible to sign off on their own paperwork. They get themselves going and figure out what time they need to leave.

It’s all very….. wonderful.

On the other side, my grandson started school. How can this be? This pains my heart as much as when my little ones went off to school. I watch my adult son now contend with all the years of schooling in front of him while I silently ponder, wasn’t it just yesterday, I was holding his little hand walking down the big hall way?

Ok before I go and get all crazy sappy on you…..

One thing that goes hand in hand with school no matter the age, is food. There will be lots of lunches packed and prepared in households with schools arrival.

Lunch boxes will be purchased with the anticipation of what will go in them. ( I can still remember that new plastic smell of a new lunch box)

Let’s take a moment to admire them all fresh, clean, and unscratched.

They will never be like that again once they leave your house 😉

It was a HUGE deal every year, my kids picking out their special lunch box.  Of course, by the time they hit high school, it was a bonus if they managed to toss a random assortment of food into a plastic bag before they flew out the door.

Needless to say, over the course of the years, with many kids, I had quite a few lunches at school with them. It was a treat to have your parent come eat with you… well.. for awhile.. until they wanted to pretend like they… had no parents.

The lunch selections that were revealed by their young peers were often, interesting.

There would be the standard cafeteria fare which my kids often begged to eat but were quickly disappointed when they had it.

My oldest pleaded with me to let him eat the spaghetti they were serving the next day.

He was in maybe 5th grade at the time.  Why not? I let him. I already knew what to expect when he came home that next day.

“That spaghetti was gross! It was nothing like yours! I’m never eating stuff at school again!”

I figured I’d let him make his own conclusions that the school spaghetti would be Chef-Boyardee from a can and not the homemade variety he only knew.

Many children come with a healthy balance of foods in their cute boxes or bags. The treats were often devoured first, followed by the second better option, with the healthier things being at the bottom of the consumed list.

I remember one child plopping down across from me ( they are always so excited when a parent is there… any parent… you automatically adopt a table load of kids 😛 ) she dumped her lunch on the table and it was nothing but a bag of various sweet items.

I tried not to look horrified. I may have failed miserably in the attempt.

I choked out… ” Wow, that’s an interesting lunch” to which the child smiled at me and said “I made it myself!”

I’d certainly hope so.  I wondered if the mom had any clue what her child had assembled for lunch that day.

With school beginning and lunches packed, as parents we will make efforts to offer our kids tasty, portable meals that will hopefully sustain them through a busy, active day.

With childhood obesity at an all time high, we need to be mindful of the foods we provide for our kids, in our home, as well as what they will take to school 5 days a week.

One of my sons teases me about being in school and that he was the kid dragging out a water bottle to drink while the other kids had “juice” boxes. ( Note, many of these are nothing more than sweetened drinks with a nod of “juice” in them) and he had cut up apples while no one else would eat fruit.

Of course he goes on to say I split Oreos in half… haha… he is the most… “dramatic” child I have.

I reminded him he got the whole Oreo 😉

Hey, all I can say is I tried as a parent to offer the best foods to them I could.

Our kids can only eat foods we provide for them. We are responsible for the foods we bring home to them. If there is limited junk/sweet/treat foods they won’t be able to eat them.  We need to stop thinking chips/cookies/donuts/muffins/crackers/sodas etc are a necessary food group. If we teach them that healthy whole foods are tasty from an early age they won’t have a problem taking them in lunches.

Healthy tips/suggestions for lunches

~ If you want to send “juice” boxes, read the label to make sure they are juice or are labeled as such. Many proclaim to be but only offer a tiny percentage while the rest is sweetened water. If the first ingredient is “high fructose corn syrup” look for something else.

~ It really is ok for them to take water in their lunch too. You can buy small mini bottles to fit in boxes.

~ Offer whole grain breads over white bread.

~ Baby carrots or other veggies are often a fun snack. Include a small container with some dressing if your child likes that.

~ Prepare fruits or veggies to make them easier to eat.

~ Protein foods will keep their tummies full feeling. Cheese sticks, hard boiled eggs, yogurts all are good protein sources and easily portable.

~ Don’t underestimate the nutritional value of a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Peanut butter is nutritious, filling, and a great healthy eating option. It offers 8 grams of protein  for 2 tablespoons

~ Opt for whole wheat crackers and breads

~ Milk can be purchased at school which is often colder and more palatable than if it comes from home in a thermos or container. Yikes.. the days of warm milk….

~ Sweet treats are fun and kids enjoy them. Just limit the amount that goes into their lunches. Excessive treats take away from the actual idea of having “a” treat.

~ Consider making roll ups with turkey and cheese in whole grain tortillas instead of using bread.

~ Individual fruit cups are less perishable, look for ones without added sugar.

Our children have busy, active days at school learning, playing and constantly moving. Make sure the bulk of their calories are nutritious and filling to give them energy for their entire day.

Do you have any lunch box tips or tricks for healthier eating ?

Brown-Bag_Healthy-Back-to-School-Lunches

Yoga, Again.

Yoga. I’m at it again. Well, I’m attempting to be at it again perhaps I should say.  I went to some classes a year or so ago and have been doing my own thing.

I took home what I learned and at night while I watched some tv I’d get on the floor and roll out my muscles and then put some of those moves into practice. It felt rather nice to stretch and work my body in a different way than what my usual fare was.

But I haven’t done any organized classes since then… until now… and I’m thinking it will make a good “rest day” activity.

With all my training for the duathlon, I am definitely kicking my own tail and figured a little yoga could keep me loose for doing what I love.

Last week was my first class. Or is it? Is it my first class or a continuation of what I had already learned ?? ha

20170824_074243
Hair and make up done with my athletic clothes?? I feel like a poser haha  Off to my first ( in awhile) yoga class…

 

 

Anyway, it all came back to me really fast. And I quickly remembered a few things about it…

Yoga is a lot more slow paced

I’m fairly high energy and thrive on it athletically. Coming into a yoga class where all the sudden it’s single moves, being held, and a focus on my breathing …. yeah… a different game from flying down the road on a bike or running for miles.

There’s a reason why yoga is all about a turning inward, an inner mental focus and stillness.

It is a physically and mentally calming activity. I will freely admit it takes some work to rein in my active thoughts and just key in on what I’m doing, how I feeling, my breathing , and nailing whatever pose we are being led in.

Yoga forces me to slow down.

But before we go on… what IS yoga… exactly?

Maybe when you hear the word the mental image comes to you of a seasoned man sitting on top of a mountain lost in meditation for days on end.

I tease, but I’m sure there are images you may get when you hear the word.

Yoga is an ancient practice that has become increasingly popular. it is a meditative practice that leads you to focus on your inner self and to quiet your mind and thoughts.

Supposedly the reason why there are no mirrors in classes is so that you can focus on what you are doing and not be worried about what you or your neighbor look like in a pose.

The goal during yoga is to challenge yourself physically but not feel overwhelmed. At this point your focus is on your breath while your mind is accepting and calm.

I know from what I do on the road, how very important my breathing is to what I do. Deep, even  paced breathing serves me well not only on the long stretches, but more importantly when I’m doing things like taking on big hills when I need my breathing strong and even and not shallow and rapid.

BUT get me in yoga pose, and I need to remind myself to breathe! ha

So the act of yoga is to quiet us, to quiet and relax our minds as well as our bodies. It’s almost humorous to me writing that line… because some of those moves are just flat out hard and not necessarily “relaxing” for me although it seems to come later after I’ve been stretched out well. Maybe it’s ’cause I’m still new at it and in time I will reach that perfect state immediately.

Are there other benefits to yoga?

Besides the obvious benefits of relaxation and mental clarity there are many benefits to actively practicing yoga.

On a physical level, yoga helps improve flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance.

About that strength thing… I remember my first class finding out how many moves really do require a great deal of strength. It was nice to have some strength to fall back on in those poses. I can see with consistent effort, yoga would build more body strength.

On an energetic level, yoga teaches you how to cope better with stress by cultivating a sense of ease in both active or passive poses.

On a psychological level, yoga helps to cultivate mindfulness by shifting your awareness to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that accompany a given pose or exercise.

Trust me, you are aware of the sensations holding some of those poses!

Yoga is also good for circulation, improved posture, flexibility, it could help with fighting arthritis, builds muscle strength, protects your spine, and  yoga could also help you become a more conscious eater as you become more mindful of yourself. Yoga can also help you become more focused as you have to learn to focus on the present. It can also improve your balance and better balance means less falls. This is especially a problem as we get older. Practicing balance moves could prevent falling.

Also, another by product of yoga is deep sleep, some studies suggest. Of course I’ve found long rides or runs can also contribute to it as well 😉

My yoga goals

If I want to have a flexible, loose body for the things I do on the road, yoga will be good to help keep my body loose and flexible.

Going to a once a week class will solidify moves in my head and then I can continue to use it as a rest/recovery activity in the evenings.

I need time to slow down in a physical way. Yoga reminds me that my high energy needs to be tempered sometimes and that’s ok.

I want to stay bendable! My instructor had us in this pose that was almost a half split and she encouraged us that with a little practice it would come to us. I did the splits ages ago but you know, I grew up and stopped doing stuff like that.

Back bends, head stands, the splits… activities we seem to put away as we get older. She said she never stopped doing them.

It was a reminder to me, and to all of us really, if we want to keep using our body and have it be strong and flexible, we need to always be using it.

Age isn’t an excuse to not use our bodies.

Stretching, bending, pushing ourselves a bit more shouldn’t be limited to a time in our lives, but it should be something we do ALL our lives to be strong and productive so we aren’t limited  in the physical bodies we live in.

Use it or lose it.  I don’t want to lose it.

It’s why we get weak, we don’t use our bodies to lift, bend, stretch and move.  It’s why we stop being able to run because we act like it’s an activity for just the playground. It’s why we allow ourselves to sit on the sidelines as we get older because we haven’t used our bodies in the way they are meant to be used.

And a few of my favorite poses I realllllyy like….

BEGINNERS-Pose-Child-Pose
Childs pose. This is my go to move to just stretch my back, shoulders and spine. This is a “rest” move during yoga. It feels amazing.

 

front fold
Front fold. I love this for stretching out my legs and believe it or not, hanging upside down can feel really good.

 

yoga poses - Tree Pose position (vrksasana)
Tree pose. Excellent for balance practice. This is fairly easy for me but I attribute it to all those single dead lifts I do 😉

 

warrior
I saved my favorite for last. I love all of these poses. They do require a great deal of strength and maybe I enjoy doing them because they feel strong and powerful.

 

 

Tell me. Are you a yoga lover? Have you tried it before? Or actively practice it now? What benefits have you seen with it ?