Monday, November 12, 2012

Stretch It Out

Hopefully you have survived your week without soda! I was horrified that while on a date with hubby over the weekend we happened on a burger place for lunch that had the Holy Coca Cola Machine- you know the one with 100's of choices. I was very pouty as I drank my water and ate my veggie burger. Boo!

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, November 5, 2012


From Prevention Magazine:
Pop quiz! What’s the single biggest source of calories for Americans? White bread? Big Macs? Actually, try soda. The average American drinks about two cans of the stuff every day. "But I drink diet soda," you say. "With no calories or sugar, it’s the perfect alternative for weight watchers . . . Right?"
Not so fast. Before you pop the top off the caramel-colored bubbly, know this: guzzling diet soda comes with its own set of side effects that may harm your health — from kick-starting kidney problems to adding inches to your waistline.
Unfortunately, diet soda is more in vogue than ever. Kids consume the stuff at more than double the rate of last decade, according to research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Among adults, consumption has grown almost 25 percent.
But knowing these six side effects of drinking diet soda may help you kick the can for good.
Kidney Problems 

Here’s something you didn’t know about your diet soda: it might be bad for your kidneys. In an 11-year-long Harvard Medical School study of more than 3,000 women, researchers found that diet cola is associated with a twofold increased risk for kidney decline. Kidney function started declining when women drank more than two sodas a day. Even more interesting: since kidney decline was not associated with sugar-sweetened sodas, researchers suspect that the diet sweeteners are responsible.
Messed-Up Metabolism

According to a 2008 University of Minnesota study of almost 10,000 adults, even just one diet soda a day is linked to a 34 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome, the group of symptoms including belly fat and high cholesterol that puts you at risk for heart disease. Whether that link is attributed to an ingredient in diet soda or the drinkers’ eating habits is unclear. But is that one can really worth it?

You read that right: diet soda doesn’t help you lose weight after all. A University of Texas Health Science Center study found that the more diet sodas a person drank, the greater their risk of becoming overweight. Downing just two or more cans a day increased waistlines by 500 percent. Why? Artificial sweeteners can disrupt the body’s natural ability to regulate calorie intake based on the sweetness of foods, suggested an animal study from Purdue University. That means people who consume diet foods might be more likely to overeat, because your body is being tricked into thinking it’s eating sugar, and you crave more.
Cell Damage

Diet sodas contain something many regular sodas don’t: mold inhibitors. They go by the names sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate, and they’re in nearly all diet sodas. But many regular sodas, such as Coke and Pepsi, don’t contain this preservative.
That’s bad news for diet drinkers. "These chemicals have the ability to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that they totally inactivate it - they knock it out altogether,” Peter Piper, a professor of molecular biology and biotechnology at the University of Sheffield in the U.K., told a British newspaper in 1999. The preservative has also been linked to hives, asthma, and other allergic conditions, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Since then, some companies have phased out sodium benzoate. Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi have replaced it with another preservative, potassium benzoate. Both sodium and potassium benzoate were classified by the Food Commission in the UK as mild irritants to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes.

Rotting Teeth

With a pH of 3.2, diet soda is very acidic. (As a point of reference, the pH of battery acid is 1. Water is 7.) The acid is what readily dissolves enamel, and just because a soda is diet doesn’t make it acid-light. Adults who drink three or more sodas a day have worse dental health, says a University of Michigan analysis of dental checkup data. Soda drinkers had far greater decay, more missing teeth, and more fillings. (Note from Sandee: My husband is a dentist and he concurs with these findings. Across the board he sees more tooth decay in the mouths of soda drinkers whether it is sugar filled or diet soda)
Women who drink just one fizzy drink each day dramatically raise their risk of suffering a deadly stroke, according to researchers at Osaka University, and the risk applies to both sweetened and low-calorie alternatives.          
Japanese researchers followed almost 40,000 men and women between the ages of 40 and 59 for 18 years. Their eating habits were tracked, including how many soft drinks they consumed. During the study period almost 2,000 of the participants had a stroke.
At the end of the study, scientists analyzed the drinking habits of the volunteers and compared the soda consumption of the stroke victims to those who didn't have strokes. Although drinking soda raised men's risk of stroke slightly, the increase for women was dramatic.
The scientists discovered that women who drank soft drinks every day increased their risk of suffering an ischemic stroke — when a weakened blood vessel bursts and causes hemorrhaging inside the brain — by 83 percent when compared to women who never or only rarely drank soft drinks.
Diet sodas fared no better, increasing the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, triggered when a weakened blood vessel bursts and causes hemorrhaging inside the brain. The risk for both types of stroke was higher in women than men, but a new Japanese study shows just how high that risk is — more than 80 percent.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mix It Up

After our Summer Skinny Competition I got some complaints that we didn't have enough food related challenges so this week is a repeat of a challenge from a previous competition. 
I was inspired the other day by a friend’s story of how she had grown up hating eggplant and was disappointed to have a friend serve it at a meal they shared. Not wanting to appear rude she felt she must choke down at least a little of it, when to her surprise it was delicious! Who would have thought that what had been a slimy ordeal from childhood was actually yummy when prepared with garlic and cooked on the grill?
I had a surprising experience just this evening as I prepared an evening snack for some teenagers that came to our home for a church meeting. I had heard some complaints just a week before when these same teens were served store bought cake and cookies at an event. So wanting to give them some healthier fare I served warm artisan whole wheat bread with honey butter (bought at Costco I just re-heated), sliced oranges and assorted veggies served in a cup with hummus. I couldn’t believe my ears when one of the girls asked what a slice of raw red bell pepper was and another exclaimed she had never before seen a snow pea pod.
Thinking that you too may be in a rut of always eating romaine in your salads, and always eating apples or oranges for your fruit I thought I’d challenge your variety for our bonus challenge this week.
In a recent study Georgia State University nutrition students challenged fellow students to a “nutrition fear factor” test to encourage them to try new foods.
Alexandra Friel, one of the organizers, said, “Everyone has seen the ‘Fear Factor’ television show, and we all tend to think we are a little braver than we really are. We wanted to put Georgia State students to the test.”
So, she headed to DeKalb Farmers Market with fellow student Rebecca Sterns to select food for the taste test. They choose some that might be familiar, such as kiwi, fresh coconut and raw mushrooms, and some that many students had never seen, let alone tasted. Jackfruit, star fruit, pomegranate and durian were on the menu, as well as baba ghanouj — an eggplant dish.
The results? “Everyone seemed to enjoy the experience of tasting different foods that were interesting and healthy to eat,” said student Lauren Sieber. “The most interesting was the durian. It is by far the worst-smelling fruit in the world, but once you get past the smell, it tastes pretty good.”
Listed below are five foods that you may not have tried and they are just a small sampling of the wonderful variety we can choose from in our diet
• Plantains: A staple of Latin American cuisine, they look like large bananas, but are really a starch vegetable rich in potassium and vitamin C. Try the ripe ones (they will look almost black) for your test. Slice it, sauté with a little butter or margarine and a pinch of brown sugar and salt for side dish or dessert.
• Broccoli rabe: This vegetable, popular in Italy, is also called rapini and has slender stalks with broccoli-like flower buds. It can be bitter, so blanch it, toss with balsamic vinaigrette and serve it as a side dish. It is also good in salads or soups.
• Dried figs: If you like Fig Newtons, try a dried fig instead: moist, chewy and flavorful, a perfect snack. There are many varieties. The Southern California Mission fig is one of the most popular.
• Carambola: It’s used in Southeast Asia and is also called star fruit because when sliced each piece looks like a star. Choose a sweet variety, like Arkin. Look for one that is shiny and firm to the touch. Kids will like how it looks, and moms will like the extra fiber and vitamins A and C that it delivers.
• Eggplant: If you like hummus, try something new, like baba ghanouj served with pita wedges or flatbread. This Middle Eastern dish is used as a spread or a dip.
YOUR CHALLENGE FOR THIS WEEK IS, EACH DAY EAT A FRUIT OR VEGETABLE THAT YOU DO NOT NORMALLY EAT (to figure out if you “normally eat it” all foods that you have eaten within the last month cannot be used for this challenge. So each day you should be trying a new fruit or vegetable that you have not eaten in the last month nor during this week of the challenge) For every day that you try a new fruit or vegetable this week you earn the 5 bonus points.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Week #5 Calm Down!!

         For some of us stress plays a part in waylaying our efforts to live healthily 24/7. Despite our best intentions for creating a lifestyle free of stress, many of us seem to face the stress monster at every turn. Perhaps we are dealing with difficult family or work situations. Or we have personally scheduled way too many things into our busy life. Perhaps we struggle with financial or health problems. Or perhaps it is the adversity of those we love that is pushing our hearts to the limit. The good news is there are practical ways to reduce stress in your life without having to spend a whole lot of money. I have really enjoyed the book pictured above 50 ways to soothe yourself without food by Susan Albers (author of eating mindfully). Here are just a few ideas- some from her book.

1.Choose a mantra/prayer- Something calming that has special meaning to you. Perhaps a favorite scripture phrase or the verse of a hymn. Here’s one recommended in the book Tranquility “Calmness beside me. Stillness around me.  Compassion inside me. “ Repeat to yourself during stressful times.
2.Use humor. Search humor on Pinterest- make a board of pinterest links that make you laugh. Read your favorite comic strip. Listen to a few minutes from your favorite comedian (mine are Brian Regan and Jim Gaffigan)
3.Stay away from Zebra thinking (couching everything in severe terms). Be on the look out for “perfect” “disaster” and “Impossible”. If you hear yourself saying these words, try to counter them with a less extreme term, like "sometimes," "occasionally," "good enough" and so on. In the context of eating, typically these words form sentences like "I'm a complete failure," "I've totally ruined everything," and "I will never be able to stop stress eating." Instead, focus on a more realistic statement, such as "I am often able to soothe myself with activities other than eating."
4. Light therapy. Sunlight or bright full-spectrum light on your skin can significantly improve your mood. It's one of the main forms of treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a mild form of depression some people experience during the winter months when there is little sunlight. Sunlight helps reset your internal clock and increases your serotonin levels. When you feel you need comfort, sit by a window in indirect sunlight or go outdoors for thirty minutes—but don't forget to use sunscreen and sunglasses. If there's very little sunlight in the wintertime where you live or if you can't get outdoors, investigate buying a therapy light. These are bright lights you can use indoors that have the same healing effect as sunlight does.
5. Sip hot or cold tea. If there's a pattern to your stress eating, you may want to schedule teatime for yourself at some point in the day when you might be prone to eat for emotional reasons. Tea is chemically complex. It has many different ingredients that affect neurotransmitters and other mood-regulating chemicals. Chamomile is one type of herbal tea well-known for its soothing and calming properties.
6. Apply a warm or cold washcloth. To calm your body, put a damp washcloth over your eyes, feet, or forehead. Choose a warm or cool cloth depending on what sounds the most soothing to you at the moment.
7. Organize a closet or a drawer in your desk. Pick one small project. If you choose too large an area, you might feel overwhelmed and therefore could feel worse. There is something calming about making even one small area totally orderly and neat.
8. There is a well known saying “When all else fails take a bath.” And there does seem to be something magical about soaking in a warm bubbly bath. When patients with Type 2 Diabetes soaked in a hot tub for 30 minutes, 6 days a week after only 10 days they had lost weight, needed smaller doses of insulin, slept better and felt an increased sense of well being.
9. It makes scents! Pure essential oils have many powers including helping to lift your spirits. Seek some out at the health food store and keep a bottle in your purse or desk. Those considered the most soothing: chamomile, rose, peppermint, lemon, eucalyptus, and lemongrass.
10. Handwork- knitting, cross stitch, crocheting- Knitters talk enthusiastically about the therapeutic nature of knitting. The sound of the clicking needles and the movement of the hands does wonders to clear and sooth the mind. The reaction response received from hand work causes the same bodily reaction as meditation and yoga. So stitch away (note you can learn how to knit and crochet on you tube now)

Your Challenge For Week 4 is to focus on calming yourself without food. I highly recommend reading Susan Alber’s book but I am sure you can come up with many methods of your own. Be creative and try new things not already a part of your daily life. You are welcome to use any method you come up with- you are not restricted to the list above. For every day that you purposefully set aside at least 5 minutes to do an activity that is self-calming you will earn the 5 daily challenge points. So chill out ladies!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Week #4 It Ain't Easy Being Green!

I read that it was common for our ancient ancestors to eat up to six pounds of leaves per day. Imagined them walking along from one place to another, just picking and eating leaves as they went. Can you imagine eating a grocery bag full of greens each and every day?

Dark green leafy vegetables are, calorie for calorie, probably the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food.

Although we have only been requiring you to eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies (hoping at least 3 of the 5 are veggies) daily you should really be aiming to eat at least five servings of just vegetables daily (that’s about 2 1/2 cups of cooked vegetables). As long as they're prepared in a healthy way, leafy greens, like other nonstarchy vegetables, are a great addition to your diet and offer countless health benefits.

Leafy greens are full of vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting phytochemicals. They are rich in fiber, an important nutrient for weight loss  and maintenance because it keeps you feeling full and helps control your hunger. Fiber can also lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and help to temper blood-sugar swings by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates into your bloodstream after meals. This lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Leafy greens also contain a lot of water, which helps keep you hydrated and contributes to beautiful skin and hair.
Some leafy greens, like collards and kale, are particularly rich in calcium, which helps keep your teeth and bones strong and reduces your overall risk for osteoporosis. Calcium also contributes to muscle function and blood-pressure management. Leafy greens contain potassium as well, which further protects against osteoporosis and helps manage blood-pressure levels. 

The antioxidants like vitamin C, lutein, and zeaxanthin that are contained in leafy greens may help reduce your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Vitamin C helps the body make collagen too; collagen is a major component of cartilage that aids in joint flexibility, may reduce your risk of arthritis, and keeps your skin and hair healthy and beautiful. Research shows vitamin C may also slow bone loss and decrease the risk of fractures.

Leafy greens that contain beta-carotene, such as collard greens, spinach, and Swiss chard, contribute to the growth and repair of the body's tissues. Beta-carotene may also protect your skin against sun damage. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body, and food sources of beta-carotene are the best way to get your vitamin A fix, since extremely high doses of vitamin A in supplements can be toxic and lead to bone, liver, and neural disorders as well as birth defects. Food sources of beta-carotene are entirely safe, though, since the body regulates how much beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A.

Leafy greens are also an excellent source of folate, which can reduce your risk of  cardiovascular disease and memory loss. And since folate contributes to the production of serotonin, it may help ward off depression and improve mood.

The vitamin E found in green leafy vegetables works with vitamin C to keep skin healthy as you age. This vitamin also helps protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays and may help reduce your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.