Posts Tagged ‘healthy living’

The Breakfast Club

September 11, 2013

breakfast plate, bacon and eggs, sunny side upFor many years, we have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It set the stage for healthy eating, recharged our bodies after a 12 hour fast, and prevented us from over eating later in the day, right?

Well, maybe not.

A new report from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition claims there is no study to support that eating breakfast helps us control our weight. Say what?!!!
Researchers reviewed material from many studies and found that eating breakfast had little relationship to weight loss.

A study from Vanderbilt University compared moderately obese adults who usually ate breakfast and skipped it, against a group who did not habitually eat breakfast and were served a regular morning meal. Both groups were given the same amount of calories per day, and both groups lost similar amounts of weight during a 12-week period of time. It is thought that both groups were given a healthier diet than they usually ate, amounting to more than average weight loss.

The bottom line is that if starting the day with a healthy meal feels good and fuels your body properly, go for it. If you wake up with no appetite, it’s ok not to eat until later in the day. As long as you have sufficient energy to power your morning and make good, healthful food choices throughout the day, it’s ok to eat, or not eat breakfast accordingly.

Confused? Yeah, we are too.

The take-away from all of this? Listen to your body, and do what is right for you.

photo: glasshouse images

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Snack Your Way to Sleep

July 3, 2013

1820900101Much has been written lately on nighttime eating. While conventional wisdom advises against p.m. snacking, new information has arisen that may shed some new light on the situation.

While eating a heavy meal and going straight to bed is not a wise idea, eating a low calorie snack before bed could be advisable. What you eat, not when you eat it, could be the key to healthy bedtime eats.

Foods high in a naturally occurring chemical called tyramine, help to regulate blood pressure, but are shown to interfere with sleep. These foods include highly processed meats, aged cheeses, and soy sauce. Fatty foods also take longer to digest, causing difficulties in sleeping.

Foods high in tryptophan, the amino acid found in turkey and often blamed for Thanksgiving sleepiness, are good choices. Foods with high mineral content, such as the magnesium found in nuts, the potassium in bananas and calcium in low fat milk or yogurt, encourage muscles to relax, and promote sleep.

The links between sleep and maintaining a healthy weight are well documented. Eating the right foods at the right times (and avoiding the wrong ones) can be a catalyst for a good night’s sleep.

Sweet dreams!!!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Nutrition Fiction

May 20, 2013

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While flipping through a popular health and wellness magazine today, I was a little surprised at some of their nutritional suggestions.

I am an armchair expert, admittedly with no formal training in nutrition and look to articles written by others to provide me with much of my information. Through this process, I have a heightened awareness of what is good for you, and what is not. Clearly, some of what I read falls into the latter category.

First up on the agenda: The 2013 Healthy Food Awards.

In this segment, 175 readers blind tested foods that the editors and contributing registered dieticians selected and deemed healthy.

The winners all came in a package, something that generally doesn’t spell “super food” to me.

With categories like “best potato chip”, “best nuked popcorn” and “best chewy granola bar” on the list, it’s hard to grasp the concept of these foods being healthy.

The next page featured celebrity chefs’ recipes using kale, which they dubbed “the holy grail of health.”

Alex Guarnaschelli’s Kale and Watercress Soup has white potatoes, whole milk and heavy cream. It is 252 calories per serving.

I don’t know about you, but the soups I usually enjoy are closer to 80-120 calories per serving. The potatoes, when pureed, should be enough to give the soup a creamy texture, making the heavy cream and milk unnecessary. Using broth instead of the dairy, would probably add more flavor to the soup, and a fraction of the calories and fat.

Instead of the suggested garnish of low fat sour cream, how about recommending a dollop of fat free Greek yogurt? It is lower in calories and fat than the sour cream, and is higher in protein and contains healthy probiotics.

As an avid and well-informed reader, I am concerned that a magazine of this type, would feature foods that are processed, high in saturated fat, and not the best, healthiest versions available. This is not a food magazine, where the flavor and ingredients take center stage, nutritional aspects be damned.

This is a magazine about healthy eating, fitness and wellness. They owe it to their readers to provide them with informed choices. High fat, high calorie soup is not healthy, just because it has a trendy super-food in it.

Processed foods laden with preservatives, huge amounts of sodium and a few unpronounceable ingredients, often in potentially toxic packages, are not healthy, just because they are organic, or lower in calories than their counterparts.

So how does the average consumer get real information about the seemingly healthy foods that are not in fact, as healthy as they seem?

Let me introduce you to a not so secret weapon called Fooducate.
Fooducate is a website and an app for smart phones that offers nutritional profiles culled from a huge database of supermarket foods.  The free app allows you to scan the food’s barcode, and it provides a breakdown of the item’s nutritional data from a list of ingredients to calories, fat and sodium contents, chemicals and preservatives, information about what makes it a good or bad choice, and sums it up with a letter grade. It is a valuable resource for those who want to make wise decisions in the food aisles. The app also offers daily tips, and can help zero in on gluten free or diabetic friendly foods as well.

Perhaps the experts featured in my magazine might benefit from swiping a few of the foods they list, before awarding them best healthy food status.

photo: Glasshouse Images

Ready or Not, Here I Come!

February 20, 2013

Young woman flexing muscles

After 13 weeks of nursing a fractured knee, I am ready to go forth gently to the gym.

It isn’t going to be easy. I lack the strength and muscle tone that I once had just mere months ago, and no longer have the aerobic stamina to push through my grueling cardio intervals.

I know I need to start slowly, but the warrior woman in me is going to need to be tamed to avoid over doing it.

I have worked my way up to enough exercises in the last 6 weeks of physical therapy to be able to go it alone.

Stay tuned, as I work my way back to strong and fit in the hallowed halls of Equinox.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

Resolution Revolution

January 2, 2013

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It’s a new year, and I am trying to start it off with a clean slate:
a clean house, a clean closet (1 down, several more to go) and a clean attitude.

While I believe it’s always time for a fresh start, I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions.

Why do we need to wait until the year begins to commit to a better lifestyle?
Why do we need to put pressure on ourselves to do something, just because the calendar changed?

Statistically speaking, 80% of all resolutions have failed by January 20.

I won’t miss seeing the swarms of people invading the gym tomorrow morning, taking up space, misusing equipment and leaving wet towels on the locker room bench. Only the diehards will still be there at the end of the month, when the rest of us breathe a sigh of relief and take back our turf.

Grocery stores will be fuller, as people vow to eat healthier and lose a few pounds. The crowds will go back to normal when people revert to the convenience of food delivery. The list goes on and on.

This year, let’s resolve not to make resolutions we can’t keep.

Let’s respect our bodies and our minds and treat them the way they deserve to be treated.  The rest will fall into place naturally.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous new year, filled with wonderful times.

Now that’s something I can commit to!

photo:GlasshouseImages 

 

Sites We Love: Slimkicker

October 2, 2012

You all know I can be a bit obsessive when it comes to exercise and nutrition. My concept is to eat as perfectly and healthfully as possible, except when I choose not to.

Ok, I know what you are thinking; don’t we all do that?

The answer is yes, but most people choose to eat poorly more often than not.
Keeping a food and exercise journal is one way to keep yourself honest, and to really understand what you are eating and how much activity you are doing.  There are many on-line journals and apps available to do this.

Slimkicker is both a website and a free smartphone app, that not only helps you log your activity and food intake, but also tracks your intake of sodium, sugar, fiber and fat. Unlike other sites, it helps you set goals and lets you know when it’s time to reward yourself for your hard work.

There is also an on-line community of Slimkickers to offer support, comments or even serve up group challenges.

The company launched in March 2012, and has plans to expand their services in 2013.

We Are Hungry

September 27, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama has done considerable work to help fight the battle of childhood obesity and instill the concept of healthy eating in young people across the country. As a result of this, school lunches have been limited to 850 calories, and kids across America are complaining it’s not enough.

Shockingly, others are agreeing.

According to various university researchers, teenage boys require between 1,800 and 3,200 calories per day. Girls need 1,600-2,400 calories per day. This range is contingent on body composition and activity levels.

It seems that the issue is not really calorie restriction. It is the quality of the food being served.

It is important to note that most fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy, fish, poultry and lean cuts of meat are relatively low in calories. An 850-calorie lunch, consisting of fresh, healthy food would likely be more than most growing kids would be able to consume in any given meal.

A group of high school students in Kansas have put together a protest video, set to the tune of “We Are Young” by F.U.N. and retitled it “We Are Hungry.” The video claims that the lunches are not sufficient to provide the energy needed to participate in sports.  It shows kids sneaking off to fill up on fast foods and processed snacks to give them more sustenance to get through the day.

Once again, the point has been missed. Any athlete will tell you that high calorie, high fat, high sugar, processed foods are not the key to performance, and often make people feel sluggish after eating them. Providing fresh and healthy “real foods” are the key to controlling weight and energy levels. Educating youth on proper nutrition, and giving them the right foods to help make healthy choices is a better idea.

Cycle Snob

August 21, 2012

I admit it. I am a cycling snob.

I am a devoted follower of just 3 instructors, who are all known to be among the best in their field.  Every time I try a substitute, I am disappointed and vow never to stray again. With my knee still not quite ready for primetime, having 2 of the 3 on vacation this week posed a fitness dilemma. Should I be open and give someone new a chance? Maybe this time they will be great.
I open-mindedly (okay, very skeptically) approached classes last week with new teachers thinking it might just provide a shock to my system or at the very least a new experience. Once again, I was disappointed.
I have been trying to figure out the delicate balance between a great instructor and a less than stellar one. I mean, we are essentially riding a bike to nowhere for a designated period of time, with loud music playing. There is only so much variation that can take place. So what’s the big difference?

Pedaling away on a bike that doesn’t move requires motivation and variation. The great teachers keep you going with a constantly changing menu of sprints, standing runs, climbs and flat roadwork. For me, terrain based classes make the ride a more realistic experience.

The lesser instructors get you moving but the responsibility for your intensity is entirely in your hands. The work is often monotonous, with long stretches of single speed, unchanged resistance and not much encouragement. In order to work up a sweat, and get your heart rate up, you need to crank the intensity on your own. The 45 minutes of class feel like an eternity, and often leave you tired, not energized.

The great teachers plan each of their classes out in advance to ensure that you are challenged and get a well-balanced workout. They are often training vehicles which help you build strength and endurance, versus someone who just gets on the bike and pedals away with little thought to how the participants might evolve to meet their fitness goals.

The great teachers push you beyond your limits. They somehow motivate you to move out of your comfort zone and into a place where you never thought you go. They aren’t sitting quietly on the bike. They are walking around, screaming, coaching, encouraging and making you fight for every pedal stroke and every breath. These classes are crazy hard, and without them pushing me, I know I wouldn’t be able to achieve that intensity.

The not so great ones are spinning away on their little platforms, offering very little in the way of guidance or motivation.

As a fellow cycler said today,” I feel like they are talking to the wall or ceiling, and not really resonating with me.”

The great ones let you know where you are in the ride. They tell you what is coming up, and lead you through the segment. They let you know how much time you have left in the intervals. It makes it easier to really push your boundaries when you know you only have 30 seconds to go before you can back off and catch your breath.

The music is important, and very subjective. Even if your taste in music is different from the instructors, variation between songs and a good strong beat is key.  A 45-minute playlist of house music tends to blend together into one long song.  The average not so great teacher tends to have the class do a lot of tedious standing runs with a sprint or two thrown in for good measure. Tedious riding and monotonous music makes for a boring ride. ‘Nuff said.

The great teachers are precise, and have the class moving as one unit, or competing as teams. There is no ambiguity in the ride. The not so great classes often become free for alls, with many people doing their own thing to break up the boredom, or make the ride easier or more difficult.

Yes, I am a bit hardcore. I go to the gym to get results, and I love feeling sweaty and breathless at the end of class.  I feel as though I am in the hands of true professionals, who take their work and my fitness seriously. I love the sense of accomplishment when I make it through a particularly difficult patch without pulling back. My goals are to grow and develop my stamina, endurance and strength.

Not everyone feels that way. There are many people who just like the group atmosphere and aren’t interested in facing that feeling of extreme discomfort and pushing past it. For them, there are lots of instructors out there to choose from.

So go ahead and call me a cycling snob. I’m sticking with my 3 favorite instructors, “loyal to the end.”

photo: Glasshouse Images 

Yoga Barbie

June 19, 2012

The fitness world is abuzz this week, bashing athletic apparel retailer Lululemon, for an ad campaign that features the new Yoga Teacher Barbie doll.

The doll, which is sold exclusively at Target, features Barbie in yoga apparel, and comes with a pink mat and a Chihuahua (?!) The box bears the slogan “ Yoga makes me feel alive.”

Lululemon spoofed the doll on their website saying:

“We’re so excited to announce the launch of our new Perfect Balance collection, inspired by our Silicone Valley yoga ambassador, Tiffani!

Her 1 year goals include mastering tree pose in high heels and travelling across the country in the convertible of her dreams.”

Deanne Schweitzer, the company’s VP of women’s design stated that they are “so excited to elevate the doll industry from mediocrity to greatness, one XXXS Groove pant at a time.”

Facebook fans rebelled with a backlash of comments related to the doll and the campaign.

Barbie is often associated with negative body image for women and young girls, due to her unattainable physique.

While I understand that a plastic doll falsely idealizing a women’s body is not in keeping with Lululemon’s yogic philosophies, is it really that bad?
Barbie is an iconic toy that little girls have played with for over 50 years. She often symbolizes what many of us aspire to. I personally attribute my career as a fashion designer to the time I spent with my Barbie dolls, dressing her in couture inspired outfits, and later designing some of my own.

It seems that every time we look up to a model, an actress or even a plastic doll, the health and fitness blogs go crazy, saying that they project un-realistic views of a woman’s body.
I work hard at the gym and aspire to achieve the strongest, healthiest and yes, sexiest body that I possibly can. I am not turned off by those who look better than I do. In fact, they inspire me.

I don’t compare myself to a little plastic doll, and I think accusing her of being “brainless” is kind of silly when you think about it. (Operative words here: plastic doll)

Why do we expect companies who make clothing, cosmetics and other items, which are created to enhance a woman’s beauty, to only show us “real women?”  The average woman is over weight and out of shape. Do I really want to aspire to that? Isn’t that feeding negative body image issues in another way?
Lululemon has removed the campaign from their website, and issued the following statement:

“Hey Everyone, We really appreciate all the conversation and feedback happening here. I want to clarify that this is absolutely not us poking fun or mocking our guests, but rather us taking part in a conversation currently happening in the yoga community. We believe in sparking conversation and it’s never our intention to offend or upset anyone. While we welcome and encourage dialogue and feedback, any posts that contain offensive language or personal attacks will be removed. Again, thank you all for sharing your thoughts and taking part in this conversation with us.”

House of Mouse Launches a Healthy Marketing Initiative

June 7, 2012

Today, Disney announced a new initiative that would impose strict guidelines on the foods that are advertised on their TV shows, radio stations and sold in their amusement parks.

With First Lady Michelle Obama by his side, Robert Iger, Chairman of the Walt Disney Company unveiled plans to ensure that all food advertised, sponsored or promoted through its media outlets meet federal dietary guidelines and encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables, limit portion sizes and calories, and have a reduced sugar, saturated fat and sodium content. The plan will be fully implemented by 2015.

Iger also announced the new graphic symbol called a “Mickey Check”, which will appear on all branded food items sold at parks, resorts and grocery stores which feature Disney characters on the package. These foods currently include fresh fruit, dairy items and drinks. The “Mickey Check” features the tag line. “ Good for you – fun too!” and will serve to assure parents that the food they are purchasing is healthy.

The Disney announcement fully supports Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, which promotes a healthy and active lifestyle for children. Having Disney’s iconic characters helping fight the battle of childhood obesity is a pivotal change in how we market to children.


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