The Woman I Am Today

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“The woman I was yesterday, introduced me to the woman I am today; which makes me very excited about meeting the woman I will become tomorrow.” Author Unknown

One of the things I have been enjoying these past few months is interviewing women of various ages and stages of life about fitness. It started out as simple interviews for my blog site but has come to mean so much more to me and many of my readers. I am learning something different from each and every story.  If you missed any of the former pieces on these incredible women, I encourage you to read through past blogs on this site. You won’t be disappointed.

One of the main things I ask the ladies to share is their personal fitness history- going back as far as they can remember. Were they active growing up? Did their parents encourage activity. How did their fitness interests change over the years and decades. What are their present views on exercise and nutrition? Has it changed? What are their fitness goals going forward? What personal struggles and health issues have they faced?

I recently asked one of my clients, 59 year old Ruth Schleifer to write her fitness story.  Ruth spent a good part of her life as a practicing Obstetrician Gynecologist and helped countless women deliver healthy babies. I absolutely love that Ruth gives candid, practical insights. During our sessions together, she often shares her ideas on health and fitness from the unique perspective of not only being a doctor but being a single woman doctor raising small children and balancing a challenging career. I gleaned 3 great lessons from Ruth. 

  1. Childhood experiences and feelings about fitness play a significant role in how we treat our bodies into adulthood. 
  2. You have to make a focused effort to make exercise a part of your daily life. It’s rarely convenient or easy.  
  3. It’s slowly changing but the time has come for western medicine to broaden it’s treatment approach and philosophy. 

Ruth’s first memory of any sort of exercise activity was when her Mom enrolled her in ballet and tap class at the age of 3. Ruth remembers how activity for children in the early 1960s was a normal part of life. “I had my first tricycle at age 3, and would perch my dog on the handlebars and ride off to the playground. My Dad got me my first real bicycle when I was 5 years old. Back in those days, school playgrounds still had actual swings, and 8 foot high monkey bars. The first time I was able to make it all the way across the monkey bars by myself (at age 5) was a momentous achievement that today’s children will not likely experience.”

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I absolutely love the last sentence describing a young girl having a life changing experience on the monkey bars. We tend to look back on past generations and assume that children and particularly young girls were very restricted. We are missing something.  The unabandoned, vigorous play of past generations has been replaced with rules, stipulations, controlled organized activities, and electronic devices of today.

Ruth was inspired when: “in the 1960s and 1970s, the Olympics began to slowly feature televised accounts of women’s gymnastics and figure skating…My (farfetched childhood) dream was to become an Olympic gymnast.”

She goes on to give an interesting perspective and criticism on physical education in the school during that period of time and how it potentially affected physical health:

“Back in those days, physical education and team sports played a prominent role in Elementary Education. I disliked all team sports at that age, and still do. Team sports do not position kids to take responsibility for their own fitness–someone else is telling them what to do. My observation is that former athletes are often in very poor physical health as they age, because they never gained mastery of those skills.”

At age 11, Ruth was “enjoying the solitary aspects of swimming and gymnastics. Even though many girls (and it was 100% girls back then) attended gymnastic practice several days each week, our school had no gymnastic team for competitive purposes. It felt so wonderful to gain mastery over standard gymnastic tumbling sequences. When I was 12 or 13, my Dad sent me to a summer gymnastic camp that was coached by a former PanAm gymnastic coach. That was such a memorable time.”

The stage for physical activity had been set, and Ruth carried these habits forward into her adult years with running, swimming, and aerobics classes. She even stayed active as an expectant mother in medical school taking 3 mile walks after leaving the hospital.

As I mentioned before, one of the things I respect about Ruth is her ability to cut through the noise and give some very clear insights. She openly shared quite a bit on the limitations of western medicine as it pertains to disease prevention and her own personal experience being the patient rather than the doctor.

“Medical school, residency and a small child presented many obstacles to maintaining a regular fitness schedule. Western medical education actually de-emphasizes self-care! Daily schedules with set sleep/wake times, regular meals and exercise are not a priority for medical students and residents. The obvious problem with allowing this culture to exist is that the providers can not model the foundations of proper health for their patients. Because Western medicine is focused on disease rather than wellness, the basis of health, and healthy living, has suffered under this culture.”

Over time Ruth was able to rebuild her fitness routine despite a demanding schedule and the lack of support from her peers.  She said, “The main challenges one faces in the practice of medicine is the institutional celebration of overwork, and self-neglect.” Again, I believe that the foundation she set for fitness in childhood was solid and was the catalyst to keep her on track through her adult years despite these obstacles. She understood the need to prioritize self care, physical exercise, and healthy eating; and wasn’t going to allow the ignorance of others or the demands of career to take that away from her.

In 2006, at the age of 48, Ruth had her first serious health scare. “A large mass was found in my right colon. This necessitated removal of my right colon and right ovary. While I was fortunate that the mass was not malignant, it was a big surgery with a long recovery time. After returning to activity too soon, I swiftly found myself with a large incisional hernia that required further surgery. After this surgery, it was very hard to select foods that I was able to digest…My surgeon was not at all helpful in recommending sound food choices. Again, the Western training does not emphasize diet and lifestyle as being preventative.”

Ruth continued to make exercise a priority throughout the years. However, as she entered her fifties she came to the realization that so many of us much face:

“By the time I reached my 50s, I was able to experience the limitations of the human musculoskeletal system. Injuries are very common at this time of life. My first injuries began to occur, and were mostly related to overtraining. After knee surgery in 2010, I stopped jogging entirely for several years. My concern about sustaining further injuries and ending up with more surgery, kept me from doing much of anything. This is likely a common phenomenon, but is definitely the wrong approach to take. Older individuals need regular activity to maintain mobility, aid in proper sleep, and maintain a proper body weight. The average adult American female gains roughly 2 pounds per year. This trend was aptly demonstrated in my patients.”

“Four years ago, I was diagnosed with a neuro-visual disorder that led me to discontinue all hospital services. Because there is no treatment or cure for my diagnosis, I was eager to explore other ways to optimize my health. After being drawn to Ayurveda, (a sanskrit word which means the “science of life”), I enrolled in formal classes to better understand this discipline. After graduating from the first year of studies, I was ready to close my practice and move West to continue Ayurvedic studies.”

Ruth goes on to explain the Ayurvedic approach. “Ayurveda emphasizes daily schedules with sleep/wake and meal times, and daily activity appropriate to one’s constitution, as the bedrock of health. After my life and career, this message resonated in a powerful way. Fitness schedules alone cannot create health when the diet and lifestyle choices are erratic and unpredictable.”

Through her Ayurvedic training, she learned to cook foods that worked well for her health. Ruth believes that while there are many “healthy foods”, not all of them are correct choices for each person. Ruth says, “This common misconception leads to the rampant popularity of food fads. Raw foods, juicing, the paleo diet are all examples of schemes that may be fine for some people, but actually can prove destructive for others. The notion of a person’s basic physical constitution, and how to manage the best dietary choices based on that, has not fully caught on in the West. But in Ayurveda, this concept is the mainstay of selecting the correct diet to optimize one’s health.”

This past summer, Ruth slowly returned to a running and training schedule but is much more diligent in making sure to listen to her body.

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“While my routines are shorter and far less intensive that the routines of my younger years, these are the routines that work with my constitution for this stage of my life.”

Ruth’s fitness goal going forward is one I think we can all embrace: “I certainly hope I can look back on being 59, and say to myself, Wow! I feel just as good at age _____ as I did at 59!”

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Becky’s 3 Part Plan to a Lifetime of Fitness

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Because of my background in running, cycling, and bodybuilding, I am often asked if I only coach fitness competitors or competitive athletes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although I have worked with competitors and athletes, the majority of my business is women who want to look better, be active, and improve their overall health. Together we design a lifelong approach to fitness.

Over the past several weeks I have been asking women about their number one struggle with fitness, how they feel about exercise and food, and their main health goals. One of my clients, Becky Thompson, came to me last summer wanting to increase muscle conditioning and improve her overall eating habits. She has come a long way in a short period of time, and I wanted to get her unique perspective on living a fit lifestyle. As Becky and I were talking, three things came immediately to the surface.

  1. First, her spiritual faith plays a primary role in her health. She approaches everything through a heart of gratitude.
  2. Secondly, Becky emphasized the need for accountability. Whether you workout with a trainer, Skype with a coach, or head to the gym with a workout buddy, be accountable.
  3. Third, she explained the specific traits that she wanted in a fitness coach or trainer. They are different than what you might be envisioning.

Becky is a 61 years old retired occupational therapist, married 37 years, with 2 adult children, and 1 grandchild. The first thing that I noticed about Becky was her kind heart and strong faith in God. She grew up in a Christian family where both parents encouraged physical activity as a path to protecting and preserving the life that God has given. Becky combines her spiritual beliefs with her fitness journey and sees eating well and exercising as a way to live in gratitude for this precious gift of life.

Although Becky exercised some through her twenties, it was not until her thirties that she received a big wake up call to the importance of fitness. She was a busy mom caring for her young son, when she was suddenly struck down with a severe illness similar to hepatitis that lasted for several months. She became so sick, that her husband had to drive her and their young son to her parent’s home in Texas. Thankfully they were only living two hours away at the time. Her parents were then able to help care for Becky and her son during this difficult time. Over time her health was restored, and Becky embarked on a more serious lifelong path to staying fit. Rather than being bitter over her illness, Becky looked on this time with gratitude and saw it as an opportunity to move forward in faith. 

Because Becky was an occupational therapist, she had a keen understanding of muscles and anatomy which helped her when she went to the gym. However, she pointed out to me that everything fitness related (from workout clothing to exercise) has changed for women. Years ago there really wasn’t much for women to choose from, and it was primarily all cardio or aerobic based. There were some running tracks at local schools, Jazzercise classes, and Richard Simmons. Women were not really lifting weights, and if they did pick up dumbbells, the weight was extremely light. No one was talking about women gaining muscle or eating for fat loss. Rather everything was based around the scale and weight loss.

When Becky reached her 60s she realized that she wanted more accountability and to make some changes. This was the point where we met. I asked her why she chose me to be her coach, and she gave me some important insights. The truth is there are lots of trainers who can write meal plans or give exercise prescriptions. However, coaching someone to achieve a healthier lifestyle or to meet their fitness goals is an entirely different process. 

Becky said her biggest struggles with fitness were nutrition, breaking a sugar addiction, and pushing herself to achieve her best. She told me that was the very point where I came into the picture. So, I asked her what were the specific things she wanted from a fitness coach/trainer. Becky gave me 3 solid qualities:

  1. Someone who understands the effects of aging on the body.
  2. A trainer who safely works within physical limitations to achieve real results.
  3. A coach who would encourage her and show her change is a very real possibility at any age.

I loved this! If I were to write out qualities to look for in a trainer, I would most likely have listed some more general, common traits. This was a bit of a wake up call for me and made me realize the importance of asking your client what they want from a trainer. Through that process you can learn if that coach is in line with your expectations. So I would add one simple quality to Becky’s list. Choose someone who asks you the important questions and who has traits that are in harmony with your goals.

Each time I write these blogs featuring women, I am continually blessed, pleasantly surprised, and gain new insights that I can take with me and apply to my own life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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So Many Things to Experience. So Little Time: Gyda Climbs Mt Kilimanjaro

 

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Uhura Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest peak in Africa at 19,341 feet. On this climb you will find yourself gaining a significant amount of elevation in a very short period of time. Altitude sickness is a real possibility and can range from being mild (such as headaches or nausea) to quite severe, causing excessive fluid on the lungs or even the brain. Because everyone reacts differently to altitude, all climbers must take measures to minimize illness, such as eating, sleeping, and staying well hydrated.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is both physically and mentally challenging. The climb requires you to dig deep and set aside fears and doubts that you will not have the strength or endurance to make it to the top. Perseverance is the name of the game. You are literally positioned amongst the clouds and experiencing the journey of a lifetime.

Does this sound daunting, exciting, challenging? Well my client, Gyda DiCosola at the age of almost 60 years old made this journey and is planning Kala Patthar, at Mt.Everest base camp as her next adventure. Gyda was not always this physically active and shares how she overcame a serious health issue and a lifelong struggle with weight.

There are so many simple but amazing perspectives that Gyda gives, and if you read through too quickly you will miss the wisdom and clarity in her words. So I invite you to just pause, and take a little time to ponder. She adopted a simple 3 step fitness plan that led to a healthier lifestyle and her ability to conquer challenges like Mt. Kilimanjaro. Even if you have no desire to scale a mountain top, these 3 steps are applicable for most of us.

Two of Gyda’s phrases particularly caught my attention. First, she changed her entire attitude and outlook on fitness and life as a whole. She said she wanted to be different but realized this was not possible if she kept everything the same. This is part of the personal development philosophy that I try to incorporate in my own life and hopefully encourage in others. Everything begins and ends with our attitude. We all face challenges and sometimes circumstances beyond our control. However, I know that I personally do so much better, when I proactively choose positive actions, reactions, and thoughts.

When it comes to attitude Gyda has it all going on. This woman never complains, and she is definitely not a quitter. There is one part of her fitness story that she does not share, but I feel it truly demonstrates the importance of an attitude shift. Gyda had to have both of her hips replaced about a year ago. When I questioned her about the procedures, she never once complained about any part of the recovery process. I have only heard her express how grateful she is to be able to move and do all the things she loves. Gyda is regularly walking, spinning, hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking, and busy planning several new adventures such as Batton Memorial March in White Sands, New Mexico on Sunday, March 19, 2017. Just this morning she told me that a woman approached her in spin class saying, “Most people that have that kind of surgery are doing water aerobics!” Well there is absolutely nothing wrong with water aerobics. All exercise is good exercise! But, I have to say that I am entirely inspired by this woman.

The second perspective Gyda gives is something I find to be truly beautiful. She was talking about how much she came to love hiking and being outdoors but more importantly that she realized along the way that she liked the person she had become. This is not something born out of arrogance or pride but rather a feeling (as Gyda words it) of “being strong and comfortable in your body.” I say this often and believe it to be true. When you are living a healthy, fit lifestyle you receive a special gift, self-confidence. And, this confidence transcends to other areas of your life.

Here is Gyda’s story and how she is achieving fitness at this stage of her life:

My fitness epiphany happened at age 50 when I was diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in my leg and put on blood thinner. Fortunately, the clot dissolved, numerous tests determined I was low risk for a repeat clot, and I was able to stop medication. But the potentially serious clot was a wake up call and caused me to re-evaluate my approach and commitment to fitness, and life in general. I had been heavy all my life and although I loved to hike, backpack and be outdoors, I had relied on youth not fitness to pull me through. I went through the typical bouts of aerobics classes, jogging, and dieting with varied success, relying on “magic” combinations of foods and restrictive eating for short periods to reduce my weight, which always came back. Of course my goal was to look a certain way, not to be strong and comfortable in my body.

After my illness, I adopted 3 new simple attitudes. First, to simply make healthy choices in everything I ate. No foods were preferred, no foods off limits. I just chose whatever healthier alternatives were available. If I ate bread and had an option for whole grain, that was my choice. If I could have brown instead of white rice, that’s what I chose. There wasn’t anything dramatic, just a commitment to be aware of how I was fueling my body.

The second was a new mantra- moving is always better than not moving. If I could take stairs instead of the elevator, I chose stairs. I parked my car farther away from my destinations to allow for some walking. Again nothing dramatic, just if I had an option to be moving, I chose that instead of being still.

The third change was in attitude. This involved a willingness to shake up how I acted, to just do something or respond differently than my norm, to be open to try anything once. I wanted to be different and how could I accomplish that goal if I kept everything the same? These three things altered me both physically and emotionally. I shed excess weight without dieting. I discovered I really like vegetables. I tried new experiences, taking drawing and horseback riding lessons even though I was not very good at either!

Moving to New Mexico from New Hampshire expanded my hiking opportunities, and I loved exploring the cultural and ecological diversity here. I realized I really enjoy being fit but more importantly, I like who I am. I also discovered I like physical challenges. In September of 2015 a few months shy of my 60th birthday, along with my sister (in her 50s) we summited Uhuru Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa at 19,341 feet. There we released our mother’s ashes into the wind over a blue ice glacier.

I’m now planning a trek in 2018 to Everest Base Camp, climbing to the peak of Kala Patthar at 18,514 feet, with my New Mexico hiking bestie and fitness training partner, Clarissa. So many things to experience, so little time.

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And there you have it…“so many things to experience and so little time.” This, my friends, is the truth. Let’s not allow fears and doubts stop us from experiencing all the wonderful blessings of this lifetime.

Fitness for Every Stage of Life: Tybi Shares Her Path

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When I was reading through Tybi’s perspective on fitness, one word really hopped off the page at me. Balance. It is an aspect of her personality I don’t think I fully grasped when I was working with her. In our sessions we were always focused on the workout, gaining strength, and helping her implement some nutritional strategies. I really missed how good she truly is at achieving and maintaining balance, something I constantly try to emphasize with women I am working with.

Tybi is busy with family and career, but she has managed to find a fitness plan that is working for her. She is honest when she shares that exercising is not her passion, and she doesn’t have hours to spend at the gym. Her passions lay elsewhere with motherhood and teaching science to mid school children. However, she does want to look good, feel good, and stay healthy.

The first thing I noticed when reading her story was her healthy relationship with food. She is not afraid to eat nor is she depriving herself. Rather, she is practicing portion control and making good eating choices most of the time. The second thing I noticed was her great attitude about exercise. She is not worrying about how many minutes she is exercising or whether it is enough. She is doing what she can each day and enjoying the feeling of being outdoors and moving her body. Third, Tybi practices consistency when and where she can. When it comes to staying fit, every little bit makes a difference. That walk at lunch, leaving a little food on the plate at the end of a meal, or having a healthy snack all add up to big changes over time.

I know that there are those who would disagree and maintain that certain cardio and strength programs would be better for Tybi. They may indeed be right on some levels. However, I would argue that any plan you cannot implement in your lifestyle is the wrong plan. We are in this for the long haul and it’s really about finding consistency in the areas that you can on a daily basis.

Here is Tybi’s perspective on staying fit and maintaining consistency in her own words.

As a young child I grew up in San Francisco and our family walked everywhere. After I moved to Albuquerque, I danced for a few years, but I never considered myself athletic and neither did my parents. However, they did teach me the value of home cooking, portion control, and balanced, healthy eating habits. We ate very minimally processed food and small portions.

During my twenties my weight was never a problem. I worked out sporadically but kept within my ideal weight range. I ate what I wanted but never overindulged. When I became a teacher I never had time to go out to lunch. So I got in the habit of packing small portions and healthy snacks.

At the age of 36 I had my daughter. During my entire pregnancy I frequently walked and taught an after school yoga class for parents and people within the community where I worked. I was also careful with my eating habits. My husband is a great cook and that has made it easy to stay on track with home cooked, well balanced meals. Because of the consistency with my activity and eating habits, I did not gain an excessive amount of weight during my pregnancy.

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In my forties things began to shift, and I really started to notice the weight creeping on. I also noticed a loss of muscle tone. My husband and I recently bought a boat and reached a point in our lives where we are able to frequently travel to warm places. This meant I would be spending more time in a bathing suit. I signed up to work with a personal trainer, Carol Covino in January of 2016. I have to admit that one of my main goals other than staying healthy was to feel good in a bikini. I worked out with Carol 2-3 times per week for six months. It was a wonderful experience and I learned so much about nutrition and fitness. I lost ten pounds and have kept it off. I am much more toned, feel stronger, and am comfortable in a bikini. Yet I feel there is always room for improvement.

One of my biggest struggles with exercising is finding time in my busy schedule. I don’t hit the gym as much as I did when I was working with my trainer, but I have kept fitness as a big part of my weekly routine and try to make finding time in my schedule a priority. I attend the gym about two to three days per week. I power walk a mile every weekday during my 30 minute lunch and eat a light lunch that I have packed during the walk. Someone might think five miles a week is not that much but it is so much better than nothing and it feels great to be outdoors. When I go to the gym, I lift and do 30 minutes of cardio. If I can’t make it to the gym, I work out at home. With the help of the internet you can find so many ways to work out at home with minimal equipment.

As far as eating goes I limit portions and simple carbs but don’t deprive myself. I do struggle with staying consistent with both food and exercise when we are traveling. We are taking more vacations, and I am still learning how to moderate my eating and make time for working out when I am out of my daily routine. A cruise need not turn into a week long binge session.

My thoughts about health have really changed as I have gotten older. I look at people in my life who have embraced aging, remained active, and are more fit than those who are decades younger. I am inspired by these women! I will never be a fitness fanatic but I aim for consistency with my current “fitness plan,” and am determined to remain active and healthy as I age. With this frame of mind I believe I will be looking forward to the next decade and beyond instead of dreading it. I hope that someday I will be lucky enough to chase my grandkids!

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THE PATH TO A HAPPY, FIT LIFESTYLE

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We are coming into our third week of 2017, and January is already flying by. I thought this would be a good time to talk about the fitness lifestyle, self acceptance, and breaking the guilt and shame cycle.

I know what this time of year can be like. We start the new year excited with plans to eat better and workout regularly. Life gets hectic and we start to slip a little on our nutrition goals or miss a few workouts. This is often where the guilt creeps into our thoughts and leads to an “all or nothing attitude.” Rather than guilt spurring us to be more consistent, it erodes our motivation by telling us we are not strong enough. This leads to more skipped workouts, less consistency with our eating habits, and even giving up entirely.

I had a client once tell me “Carol, I just need to be stronger and stop making excuses! I tell myself that I am going to do better but am just not motivated and I can’t seem to get my act together. But I need to do it!” As she was saying those words, I could see a look of shame and distress cross her face. The look was saying, “I am not good enough or confident enough to make changes.”

Fitness is a lifestyle, and one you are good enough to achieve! Fitness is not a single 8, 10, or 12 week program. It is not the diet in the latest best selling book. It is not just one transformation program. All of those things have a place, and I use those methods to help women learn lasting nutrition and workout habits. But, fitness really begins with our attitude and how we feel about ourselves. We have to break the cycle of shame and the “all or nothing” mindset. Shame will never create the type of body you desire. Guilt will never create confidence. It simply breeds more guilt. Working out is a process where we learn our bodies, become increasingly comfortable with who we are, and build confidence. We don’t need to achieve a total transformation to begin this process. We can start today changing how we see ourselves.

Here are my three ways to begin a fitness lifestyle that is joyful and shame free.

Practice being judgement free – If you skip a day of working out, don’t judge yourself. If you had less than a perfect meal or day with your eating plan, don’t dwell on it. You can always get back on track tomorrow.

Focus on one simple nutrition or workout habit at a time rather than trying to tackle all the changes at once -Try choosing just one action you can consistently do, such as having a healthy breakfast or working out 3 days per week for 20 to 30 minutes. Then stay consistent with that one thing. Keep it as simple as possible in the beginning. You can always build on the positive routine you have set.

Journal for fitness – I recently wrote a newsletter on this subject that I encourage you to read. It is a practice I started last year and am finding to be beneficial for me with my fitness, business, and personal goals. When you write down your thoughts without judgement, it helps you to be fully present in the moment rather than stressing out about what needs to be done next. It also give you insight into deeper feelings that may be interfering with your fitness path. I like to start with a prompt such as “today I feel…” or “today I have a big idea…” I always include a section for gratitude, because living in gratitude helps me be joyful and content. I then write my schedule for the day using the insights I gained from journaling.

This year let’s focus on a different type of transformation – one that occurs from the inside out. 

Reducing Belly Fat: 7 Day Commitment

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As a personal trainer and fitness coach I receive numerous questions each day on how to reduce abdominal fat. Typically, people request specific exercises that they believe will address the issue. While working the abs can create muscle and improve core strength, nutrition and lifestyle habits are the key to seeing true results. Everyone has some abdominal fat, even those who have a flat stomach. However, too much belly fat affects your overall health. Some of the fat is directly under the skin (subcutaneous) and is the easiest to lose. However, you also have deeper fat called visceral fat that is around your heart, lungs, liver, and other organs. You need some visceral fat to cushion your organs. However, if you have too much you may be at risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases.

There is no magic supplement or secret diet that will reduce belly fat. However, here are 7 tips for reducing the visceral abdominal fat and improving overall health. Making several changes at once can be overwhelming and even discouraging. Many people get caught in a spiral of repeatedly starting and stopping. Try committing to just one of these for seven days. Be mindful of how you feel at the end of the week.  Then choose another goal to tackle the following week. Small changes add up to a big difference over time.

  • Eat lots of plant based foods that are high in fiber. Women should have a minimum of 25 grams per day and for men it is a minimum of 38 grams per day. Fiber helps to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) levels.  It control blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar. Fiber also aids in achieving healthy weight because high fiber foods tend to be be more filling than low fiber foods. Thus, you are likely to eat less and stay satisfied longer.
  • Make a decision to reduce added sugars and fructose and to eliminate sugar sweetened beverages entirely. Consider eating whole fruit which has fiber and many health benefits. Read all labels and keep in mind that sugars and fructose can hide in items like bread and ketchup.Sugar is half glucose and half fructose, and fructose in significant amounts can only be metabolized by the liver. When you eat a lot of refined sugar, the liver is overcome with fructose and must turn it into fat. Studies have shown that it increases belly and liver fat, leading to insulin resistance and metabolic problems. 

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  • Balance your fats by cutting back on processed foods containing vegetable oils (corn, soybean, sunflower, and cottonseed oils) and increasing Omega-3 fats. Both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential for a healthy diet. They are different than most other fats, because they are not just stored and used for energy. Rather, they are biologically active and play important roles in inflammation. While both are essential, the problem arises when our diet consists of far more Omega-6 than Omega-3, because the two will compete for the same conversion enzymes . Omega-6 fatty acids are the building blocks of pro-inflammatory hormones, while Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. The average American consumes far too many Omega-6 fats from processed food and way too little of the Omega-3 (found in salmon, albacore tuna, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds). The average ratio is 16:1 and higher. The amount of Omega-3 in the American diet has dropped nearly 90 percent in the last three decades. A diet high in Omega 6 and low in Omega 3 will not only result in changes to how we store body fat, but could ultimately lead to chronic illness such as heart disease.

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  • Ditch the white carbs. Your body breaks down white bread, pasta, rice and potatoes into glucose faster than table sugar and this increases your insulin levels.

 

  • Skip or limit the alcohol. Alcohol provides no nutrients and is simply empty calories. In addition, it can cause bloating and fat storage around the midsection, as well as dehydration.

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  • Exercise. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days per week. However, to really torch visceral fat you may need to increase the intensity once you have built endurance.

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  • Sleep more. A lack of sleep results in higher cortisol levels during the day. Cortisol is a hormone that is released that breaks down body tissues and when elevated  depletes lean muscle. The body wants to maintain its normal circadian rhythm with proper light and dark periods for wakefulness and sleep. When these are altered, it has a negative effect on the body with accumulation of visceral fat.

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References:

Duke University. (n.d.). Fiber—How Much Is Too Much? Retrieved from https://studentaffairs.duke.edu/sites/default/files/u110/TooMuchFiber082015.pdf

Slavin, J. L. (2008). Position of the American Dietetic Association: health implications of dietary fiber. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 108(10), 1716-1731.

NCBI. (2012). Greater fructose consumption is associated with cardiometabolic risk markers and visceral adiposity in adolescents.

Gretchen Reynolds (May 2015). The New York Times. Ask Well: Reducing Belly Fat.

Mayo Clinic Staff. Healthy Lifestyle: Nutrition and Healthy Living Dietary Fiber Essential for a Healthy Diet. 

Kristen Domonell (November 2015). Dairy, Gluten and the Truth About Inflammatory Foods 

Arthritis Foundation: 8 Foods that Can Cause Inflammation

Kris Gunnars, BSc (November 2013). How to Optimize your Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio

Chris Kresser. (May 2010) How too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3 is making us sick 

NCBI: The Importance of the ratio of Omega-6/Omega-3 essential fatty acids. The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, Washington, DC 20009, USA. cgnh@bellatlantic.net

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. n−3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation, and inflammatory diseases. Philip C. Calder. 

Leproult, R., & Van Cauter, E. (2010). Role of Sleep and Sleep Loss In Hormonal Release and Metabolism. Endocrine Development. 17:11-21.

 

 

How Important is Breakfast? Behind the Hype

According to the American Diabetes Association, blood sugar levels rise as we age and typically increase by 1 to 2 mg/dl per decade after age 30. Rising blood sugar levels can affect the quality of life and decrease life expectancy. However, there is research that suggests that eating a healthy breakfast at the right time could help in the prevention of blood sugar problems and diabetes.

A study in Japan followed almost 5,000 middle aged adults for over a decade and found that those who skipped breakfast were twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. Two recent 2015 studies found that the American lifestyle of eating a light breakfast such as toast and coffee with a large dinner at night was detrimental to controlling blood sugar. It was discovered that eating more calories at breakfast, when the glucose response to food is lowest and consuming fewer calories at dinner, when the glucose peaks after meals, resulted in more stable blood sugar levels throughout the day. In other words, it is better to eat a larger meal in the morning when your body is better able to process those calories.

A highly controlled study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Sleep explored the timing of meals and its effects on the glucose levels. Initially participants ate breakfast at 8:00 a.m. and the last meal at 8:00 p.m. and slept normally through the night.  Their blood sugar levels were normal.  Then they flipped the timing of the meals.  Subjects had breakfast at 8:00 p.m., dinner at 8:00 a.m., and slept during the day. The glucose levels were 17 percent higher in the evening. The finding suggests that the circadian system (physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24 hour cycle and respond to light and darkness) strongly affects glucose tolerance and that the timing of both meals and sleep were of significance.

I was formally one of the toast and coffee Americans.  Despite what studies say or find, I have discovered the benefits of eating a good breakfast.  Properly fueling my body in the morning provides more energy for my workouts, and I am better prepared to tackle the day.  In addition, I have found I am less likely to binge on other unhealthy foods throughout the day. I begin every morning with an omelette, oatmeal, and strawberries.  Try this simple omelette recipe.  Easy to make and fresh ingredients.

IMG_1041

Ingredients:

Trader Joes Olive Oil Spray

1 whole egg

8 TBSP liquid egg whites

Garlic Powder 

1 TBSP jalapeño pepper chopped fine 

1 TBSP Pico de Gallo or fresh chopped tomatoes

Small handful fresh baby spinach leaves

Spray a small skillet with olive oil spray and turn to medium heat. In a bowl whisk together whole egg and egg whites. Pour into the skillet and heat for 2 minutes. Top with garlic powder, jalapeño, and pico or tomatoes.  Add spinach leaves. Continue cooking until egg sets and begins to brown. Fold omelette in half and serve.  

References:

Statistics About Diabetes: American Diabetes Foundation Association

NCBI.nim.nih.gov, Breakfast Skipping is Positively Associated with Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Evidence from the Aichi Workers Cohort Study 2002-2011

Brighamandwomens.org Press Release You Are When You Eat: Link Between Blood Sugar and Internal Clock Explored. April 13, 2015

University of Missouri study, April 29, 2015

Tel Aviv University study, March 2015