Sunday, June 17, 2018

Our next challenge is to eat some bugs!

Hmmmmmmm not sure if any of you ever try to guess what our next challenge will be, but if you do I bet I would have stumped you this week. Once again I am going to challenge you to eat some bugs. You’ll be relieved to know I’m not referring to the creepy crawly, and maybe even leggy and crunchy roaches, ants or crickets-- I’m talking about microscopic bugs—the beneficial bacteria that are naturally present in foods like yogurt or kefir. 

According to one of my favorite nutrition bloggers Monica Reinagel M.S.,L.D./N. from  “Every traditional cuisine has developed some sort of naturally fermented or cultured food. There’s Japanese miso, Bulgarian yogurt, Polish sauerkraut, Indian lassi, and Korean kim-chee. And each of these plays a central role in that culture’s cuisine … and for good reason. All of these foods contain lactobacillus bacteria, which are extremely beneficial to your health. In the days before antibiotics and other drugs, cultured and fermented foods were critical to staying healthy.”

Monica goes on to explain that “The friendly bacteria found in these foods actually set up housekeeping in your gut, where they do all kinds of good things for you: They help digest your food and produce certain vitamins for you. They keep the lining of your intestines slick and shiny. Most of all, they make it harder for unfriendly bacteria to take hold and make you sick.”

In other words if we have a basic population of beneficial bacteria in our gut our digestive system will work better and our body will be healthier and better able to fight off disease.

Monica goes on to explain that “Unfortunately, the traditional methods of fermenting cabbage in stoneware crocks, or burying salted vegetables in pits in the back yard, or culturing warm goat’s milk on the hearth are just not as common as they used to be. Instead, we have ultra-pasteurized milk that keeps for six weeks. Let me assure you that no beneficial bacteria survive the ultra-pasteurization process.”

Personally I love kimchi (I had a Kimchi taco last week- yum)  and Kefir (Kefir is a fermented milk drink made with grains and is believed to have its origins in the Caucasus Mountains. It is available in health food and many grocery stores and it tastes like a yogurt drink but almost like it has a bit of carbonation. My sons love it) but probably the easiest way to get our daily lactobacillus fix is to eat yogurt regularly 

Which brand of yogurt should you buy? Look for brands that advertise “living cultures” (Recent studies show Stonyfield to be the brand with the most active and live cultures)  but it is not necessary to pay extra for fancy yogurts that promote digestive health. Regular yogurt contains all that you need.

It’s pretty easy to work some yogurt into your daily diet. Besides eating it as a breakfast or snack you can easily add it to smoothies or soups or use it in dips or spreads .

And I’m a step ahead of you ladies in your day dreaming. Does frozen yogurt (one of my all time favorite treats) contain live active yogurt bacteria and qualify as “eating yogurt’?  Maybe and maybe not. It seems that while the freezing process does NOT kill the yogurt bacteria some frozen yogurts use heat-treated yogurt, which does kill the live and active cultures. The best way to find out is to ask at your local frozen yogurt shop or look for the NYA Live & Active Cultures seal. What you want is live active yogurt bacteria. And remember if you find a frozen yogurt which contains live culture but also has sugar it DOES count as a sugar day! You might enjoy plain or unsweetened yogurt with some fresh fruit or non-caloric sweetener added. 

For every day that you eat at least 1/4 cup of a fermented food (sauerkraut, miso, yogurt, kefir, kim-chee etc.)  containing live and active cultures or take a probiotic supplement you earn the daily 5 bonus points. Happy yogurt eating ladies! 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Weekly Challenge More Variety in Veggies

I was reading a very interesting study this week that has inspired our next challenge. The first results of the largest study to have ever investigated the human microbiome are in. They have important implications for our dietary practices, resistance to antibiotics, and our mental health.

In 2012, Rob Knight, Ph.D., from the University of California, and Jeff Leach, Ph.D., the founder of the Human Food Project, and Jack Gilbert, Ph.D., who is the faculty director of the Microbiome Center at the University of Chicago in Illinois, set out to found the American Gut Project.

To this end, they used so-called citizen science — the practice in which the public contributes to research by offering their time and personal data up for analysis.
The first results of the project are now available, and they offer clues as to what keeps our guts healthy and bacterially diverse. The findings were published in the journal mSystems.
Citizen scientists help study the microbiome
As part of the project, participants paid $99 for a kit that collected fecal, oral, and skin samples of bacteria.
They also had to answer a survey inquiring about their overall health and any illnesses they might have had, their lifestyle, and dietary practices.
In 2015, the project counted 15,096 samples provided by 11,336 people across the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and 42 other countries.
Among the findings of this widespread investigation are:
 1. The wider the range of plants that we eat, the more diverse our gut bacteria will be. 
2. There seems to be a strong correlation with mental health challenges (PTSD, depression, bipolar etc.) and poor microbiome health.
3. The greatest microbiome diversity was among those that consumed 30 different types of plant each week. 
4. The participants who reported eating more than 30 types of plant per week seemed to have a lower resistance to antibiotics.

I don’t know about you but I am pretty lazy about eating the same vegetables most of the time (onions, spinach, kale, chard, green beans, carrots) And so I hesitate to challenge you to eat 30 DIFFERENT vegetables this week. The thought of that is just mind boggling to me.

But I will challenge you to eat as many different vegetables this week as you can!  I would love you to let me know how many you are able to consume. And to earn the daily bonus points you must eat at least one new vegetable each day that is not on your list of your usual vegetables- so you need to eat at least 7 new ones this week.

Good luck ladies! 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Stretching it out!


Stretch It Out

I know it's down right but often YOUR challenges come from what I need to work harder to make myself do. Recently I'm having a lot of knee pain walking and I'm pretty sure it's for 2 reasons 1. I need to lose some weight 2. I don't stretch enough before hand.

Something that we often overlook in our fitness efforts is simple stretching. And yet this is a crucial part of any physical fitness regime.

Age and inactivity can contribute to inflexibility, stiffness and even loss of range of motion. Yet constant daily practice can help us regain our flexibility and can even take us way beyond where we have gone before. The secret is in gentle, constant, DAILY effort.

How We Lose Flexibility
As we age, flexibility diminishes within the joints. We can also lose flexibility through lack of stretching and physical activity.

Stretching is a physical activity that elongates connective tissues, muscles and other tissues. The benefits associated with stretching include:
Reducing muscle tension and relaxing the body
Improved coordination and freer movement of body and limbs
Increased range of motion in the associated joints
Prepare the body for physical activity
Preventing injuries from tight muscles during physical activity
Creating a mind body connection
Promoting circulation
Reduce the risk of back problems
Reduce muscle soreness after exercise

Ten tips on how to stretch

1. Do everything slowly.

2. Hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds prior to exercise (warm-up) and for at least 30 seconds post exercise (cool-down).

3. Breathe normally and relax while holding the stretch to the point of pain.

4. NEVER, EVER do any bouncy stretching, always hold and relax.

5. Focus on the muscle you are trying to stretch and then try to lengthen it.

6. If a particular muscle group is tight, then stretch it in stages. Stretch as far as you can, then relax it and stretch again. This is most important during cool-down.

7. Move slowly out of the stretch.

8. Remember to stretch both sides of the body.

9. Increasing the range of movement around a joint will help the blood flow to the muscles surrounding the joint and increase circulation that will carry away any lactic acids that may build up in the muscle.

10. Do more stretching in addition to just warming-up and cooling-down. As we get older our muscles shorten naturally, and it is vital for everyone that stretching becomes part of your normal everyday life. Gyms that offer stretch-classes or Yoga, where the aim is to permanently and progressively increase your flexibility are well worth considering if time and money allows.

There are many charts and tutorials available on google and youtube. Additionally you may want to take a gym class in yoga or stretching. But whatever you choose to do- do it daily and with gentle consistency.

Our challenge for our last week of competition is to stretch for at least 10 minutes per day. You can include this as part of your daily exercise minutes or do it in addition to your minutes but begin to include daily stretching in your physical routine. For every day that you stretch at least 10 minutes you can claim 5 bonus points. And yes you can stretch on Sunday too- for a total of 35 possible bonus points.

Happy stretching ladies!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Start your day the healthy way

Whatever happened to that age-old advice to “start the day with a hearty breakfast?” These days, many of us either don’t eat at all or we grab ‘n’ go: a bagel, donut or a muffin or at best a highly processed protein bar or shake. If we have the time, we may swing by the local fast food joint for a warm breakfast. Is this what our bodies really need to get us going in the morning?
Breakfast is really just that: breaking – the – fast. When you wake up, you’ve been without food for 8-10 hours so you need to power up your body to meet the day. Tempted to skip breakfast? Don’t! You’ll miss out on important nutrients that your body needs to keep you healthy and maintain steady energy and blood sugar. 
Additionally a heart breakfast first thing in the morning cranks up your metabolism and starts you fully burning calories earlier.Want one more good reason? Studies have shown that if you skip breakfast, you may be more likely to make up those missed calories by over-eating later in the day. Not very desirable, right?
Okay, so assuming that I’ve convinced you that breakfast is important, why not grab a pastry , pancakes or protein bar? Several reasons:
  • Eating sweets and refined carbohydrates in the morning can quickly raise and subsequently drop your blood sugar, making you crave more sweets later in the day.
  • When you eat sugary foods, you’re not getting the proteins, fiber and nutrients you need to fuel your body efficiently.
  • Since our bodies are particularly sensitive to sugars, they should be minimized at breakfast unless buffered by sufficient amounts of protein, fiber and fat.
  • Whole real food is preferable to highly refined commercial items with unpronounceable ingredients. 
About now you may be wondering what you should be eating for breakfast. Healthy meals in general need to be balanced with proteins, good carbs and healthy fats – and breakfast is no exception. Here are some ideas for delicious breakfasts, from out-the-door quick to weekend fare, that deliver all the good stuff you need to get going in the morning

  • Blend up a fresh smoothie with yogurt or kefir, you may want to throw in some fresh kale or spinach. Great with a side of whole grain toast and natural peanut butter.
  • Cook up some whole grain oatmeal or other whole grain hot cereal and serve with nuts (I love walnuts) and fruit (try fresh or frozen berries, raisins or sliced banana).
  • Spread natural nut butters (I prefer the kind the grocery or health food store has fresh ground) on a variety of whole grain breads, crackers or bagels.
  • Toast some whole grain waffles and top with nut butter and fresh fruit. 
  • Dress up your favorite yogurt or cottage cheese with almonds and chopped apple, blueberries or dried apricots. Add a whole grain English muffin with cream cheese, if you like.
  • Scramble up some tofu or eggs with veggies, fresh fruit and whole grain crackers.
  • Make a vegan wrap of tempeh “bacon,” tofu scrambled “eggs” and sliced avocado rolled in a whole wheat flour tortilla.
  • Make “cheese toast” by melting cheddar on sprouted wheat bread and serve with an apple or a pear.
  • Try an overnight muesli or other type of grain breakfast. I will e-mail you my favorite breakfast recipe. 

* By the way one of my favorite breakfasts was at my daughter's mother in law's home-warm walnuts with agave nectar and fruit!  MMMMMMMM!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Weekly Challenge- EAT MINDFULLY

Sometimes I pick the weekly challenge according to what I need and this is one of those weeks. I kid people that because my dad was a fireman and never knew when the bell would ring I was raised to eat fast. Honestly I can count on one hand the times in my entire life when I wasn't the first one done eating. And I know that my rapid eating is a part of my overall problem with over eating. I was reading in the Harvard Health Letter this morning and much of what I will share comes from their essay on mindful eating. 
Imagine you're at your computer, facing a wall of e-mails. After composing a reply, you hit "send" and reach for the tuna wrap on your desk. After a few bites, chewing while glancing at the screen, you set the wrap down, grab a handful of chips, and open the next message. Before you know it, you've finished lunch without even noticing it.
A small yet growing body of research suggests that a slower, more thoughtful way of eating could help with weight problems and maybe steer some people away from processed food and other less-healthful choices.
This alternative approach has been dubbed "mindful eating." It's based on the concept of mindfulness, which involves being fully aware of what is happening within and around you at the moment. In other areas, mindfulness techniques have been proposed as a way to relieve stress and alleviate problems like high blood pressure and chronic gastrointestinal difficulties.
Applied to eating, mindfulness includes noticing the colors, smells, flavors, and textures of your food; chewing slowly; getting rid of distractions like TV or reading; and learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food. 
The mind–gut connection
Digestion involves a complex series of hormonal signals between the gut and the nervous system, and it seems to take about 20 minutes for the brain to register satiety (fullness). If someone eats too quickly, satiety may occur after overeating instead of putting a stop to it.There's also reason to believe that eating while we're distracted by activities like driving or typing may slow down or stop digestion in a manner similar to how the "fight or flight" response doesAnd if we're not digesting well, we may be missing out on the full nutritive value of some of the food we're consuming.
My daughter (a clinical dietitian) highly recommends the book Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Worksby Evelyn Tribole. 
A starter kit
Experts suggest starting gradually with mindful eating, eating one meal a day or week in a slower, more attentive manner.Here are some tips (and tricks) that may help you get started:
1. Sit at the table to eat your meal 
2.. Put the fork or spoon down between bites
3. Close your eyes and savor
4. Focus on fully tasting your food
5. SLOW down (Set your kitchen timer for 20 minutes)
6. Chew more (like 25 times)
7. Don't eat and watch t.v.
8. Don't eat straight from the packaging. Use a pretty plate.
9. Eat with your non-dominant hand
10. Eat silently for five minutes, thinking about what it took to produce that meal, from the sun's rays to the farmer to the grocer to the cook.
·    A treatment for bingers
Several studies have shown that mindful eating strategies might help treat eating disorders and possibly help with weight loss. Psychologist Jean Kristeller at Indiana State University and colleagues at Duke University conducted an NIH-funded study of mindful eating techniques for treatment of binge eating. The randomized controlled study included 150 binge eaters and compared a mindfulness-based therapy to a standard psychoeducational treatment and a control group. Both active treatments produced declines in binging and depression, but the mindfulness-based therapy seemed to help people enjoy their food more and have less sense of struggle about controlling their eating. Those who meditated more (both at mealtimes and throughout the day) got more out of the program.
Kristeller and others say mindfulness helps people recognize the difference between emotional and physical hunger and satiety and introduces a "moment of choice" between the urge and eating.
The NIH is funding additional research by Kristeller and Ruth Wolever of Duke on the effectiveness of mindfulness-based approaches for weight loss and maintenance. Several other studies on mindful eating are under way around the country.

So your challenge for the week is to choose one meal per day and take some steps to eat the entire meal with more focus and mindfulness. Enjoy your meals ladies! 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Exercise that takes less than a minute or two

I was at a wedding last week and after a short ceremony and then a few minutes of standing and visiting while pictures were taken, my good friend's husband said "I need to go sit over there". His wife replied "No sit right here so we can watch the photos being taken and enjoy the garden." "No" he said "These benches don't have any backs on them." As he exited to go and rest his aching back his wife said "You know all he does all day (he is retired) is sit in his recliner." 
This isn't the only activity I've watched this gentleman miss out on because of his "bad back". And honestly I am not negating actual back issues. But in many cases it really isn't your back that's the problem it's your front.
I can remember after having babies my back would hurt when I vacuumed the floors. But honestly I think my back hurt because my front (core) was so weak that my poor back was having to do all the hard work. 
The strength of your core is crucial to living a healthy active lifestyle.  The term core refers to your body minus your legs and arms. Functional movements are highly dependent on this core, and lack of core health and strength can predispose you to injury. In fact in many cases when you fall and incur injury (sprained wrist or ankle, broken arm, hip etc.) because you tripped what actually happened is that you tripped and were unable to correct your course and catch yourself. Your core muscles were too weak to come to your aid so you plummeted all the way to the pavement.
Core exercises are one of the most important parts of a well-rounded fitness program. Aside from occasional sit-ups and push-ups, however, core exercises are often neglected. Yet it pays such dividend to work on building core strength.My good friend and work our partner recently completed a month long plank challenge and I was AMAZED at her improvement in yoga class. So many of the moves that are the hardest for me were performed so gracefully by her with her new found core strength. 
And the crazy thing is that although a plank challenge is taxing it only takes a couple of minutes to complete, I have one young friend that never gets in the shower without planking first. 

Core exercises improve your balance and stabilityCore exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in harmony. This leads to better balance and stability, whether on the playing field or in daily activities. In fact, most sports and other physical activities depend on stable core muscles.
Core exercises can help tone your absWant more-defined abdominal muscles? Core exercises are important. Although it takes aerobic activity to burn abdominal fat, core exercises can strengthen and tone the underlying muscles.

Strong core muscles make it easier to do most physical activitiesStrong core muscles make it easier to do everything from swinging a golf club to getting a glass from the top shelf or bending down to tie your shoes. Weak core muscles leave you susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries.

Core exercises can help you reach your fitness goals                      Aerobic exercise and muscular fitness are the primary elements of most fitness programs. But to have a truly well-rounded fitness program, you should include core exercises in the mix as well. 

Core strength needs to be safeguarded as you age. My girlfriend Gail and I have a sweet girlfriend that when she was 94 year old friend she was sore for days if she did something as simple as step up on a stepstool to dust something. On the other hand my daughter that is a Pilates teacher recently had her class doing a plank challenge  and asked them to HOLD A PLANK FOR 3 FULL MINUTES . An older gentleman in the class (in his 60’s) said “My wife and I can plank for 6 minutes”. The whole class was impressed and after the younger students dropped out at 3 minutes the gentleman went on to plank for 6 minutes and his wife continued to 7. (He explained he can go to 7 also but if he goes to 7 she tries to go to 8 and he didn’t want her to hurt herself.)

So what is your challenge for the week? I would like you to practice planking every day and I hope you will continue this challenge beyond this week and complete this monthly challenge.

I am including 5 methods of planking so you can begin where you must. Choose just one method of plank you are able to do and for this week follow the proscribed times for each day. Remember it’s not where you are at now, but that you begin to make dedicated daily positive progress. For each day that you give your best effort to plank once a day as proscribed on the chart you earn the 5 daily bonus points. (Exercise points are never awarded on Sunday so just 30 points possible this week)

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Starting with a clean slate

And here we are again! Some are new to our healthy living challenge and some have participated several times in the past. But we all step forward this week together. We weigh ourselves and take our measurements (and hide this info in a safe place) and we begin to be accountable for our health choices once again.

Each week you will look here (I usually gave the new blog post up by Sunday to give you time to grocery shop if needed) for our weekly bonus challenge. And this week it is the following.

FOR EVERYONE: (No matter how many times you have competed.)
1. Read or re-read the FAQ's and RULES tabs on the blogs site
2. Weigh yourself and take your measurements
3. Begin logging onto every day to record what you eat and drink.
4. Contact your partner every day this week and remind them of one reason YOU want to make healthier choices.

1. Join and friend at least 3 ladies to be support to you. (You can find names in the header for out healthy living group)

And if you do the above you can claim the 5 daily bonus points for a total of 35 points this week