Monday, January 26, 2015

Stay Away From Fake Food

I considered having this week’s challenge be to eat only “whole foods” for the entire week but I thought this goal might be out of reach for many of you. So instead I want to challenge you to do your best this week to eat as many whole foods and as little processed foods as possible.

To earn the 35 bonus points for this week you must go at least one full day eating ONLY whole foods. And you must also make a good effort the rest of the week to substitute several of the processed foods you normally eat with real, whole foods.

On your “whole foods” day you should eat only  :

1  Whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry
2  Lots of fruits and vegetables
3  Dairy products like milk, unsweetened yogurt, eggs, butter  and cheese
4  100% whole-wheat and whole-grains fresh bakery or home baked rather than packaged and preserved
5  Seafood (wild caught is the optimal choice over farm-raised)
6  Meats such as pork, beef, and chicken (preferably in moderation)- local and grass fed is best
7  Beverages limited to water, milk , all natural juices, naturally sweetened only
8  Snacks like dried fruit, seeds, nuts and popcorn
9  All natural sweeteners including honey, 100% maple syrup, and fruit juice concentrates are acceptable in moderation

What you CANNOT eat:
1  No refined grains such as white flour or white rice (items containing wheat must say WHOLE wheat…not just “wheat”)
2  No refined sweeteners such as sugar, any form of corn syrup, cane juice, or the artificial stuff like Splenda
3  Nothing out of a box, can, bag, bottle or package that has more than 5 ingredients listed on the label
4  No deep fried foods
5  No “fast foods”
How to Avoid Processed Food in General
1  Read the ingredients label before buying anything. I am sure you have all checked out food labels but have probably mostly looked for fat grams, calorie count and sugar content. While this is important, the best indicator of how highly processed a food is can actually be found in the list of ingredients. If what you are buying contains more than 5 ingredients and includes a lot of unfamiliar, unpronounceable items you may want to reconsider before buying or eating.
2  Increase your consumption of whole foods especially vegetables and fruits. This will help to displace the processed foods in your diet, and will actually make your food selections in general very simple. It is wonderful when your main concern becomes selecting whole foods that are more a product of nature than a product of industry.
3  Buy your bread from a local bakery. Perhaps you’ve made the step up from white bread and you have been buying whole-wheat bread from the grocery store. Yikes- check out the ingredients list. Many grocery store wheat breads list 40 different items on the list. Isn’t it time for a change? Why would there be so many on the list if it only takes a handful of ingredients to make bread? For those of you in Utah I highly recommend Great Harvest Bread Company. Not only do they grind their own wheat every morning, but their honey whole-wheat loaf only has five ingredients – whole-wheat flour, water, yeast, salt and honey. For those of you without a good source of wholesome whole grain bread with only “real” ingredients it might be time to start baking your own
4  In addition to your bread choice, when selecting foods like pastas, cereals, rice, and crackers always go for the whole-grain option. And don’t just believe the health claims on the outside of the box.  Read the ingredients to make sure the product is truly made with only 100% whole grains – not a combination of whole grains and refined grains which is unfortunately how a lot of “Wheat” products are made. The white flour or other refined grain alternative is simply high in calories and low in nutrition.
5  Avoid store-bought products containing high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and those “that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients” according to Michael Pollan. Despite the mixed research on if HFCS is really worse for you than good ol’ white sugar, it just happens to be “a reliable marker for a food product that has been highly processed”.
6  Visit your local farmers’ market the next time you need to restock your fridge. According to Michael Pollan not only will you find “food that is in season, which is usually when it is most nutritious”, but you will also find a selection of pesticide-free produce and properly fed meat products. It is also better for our environment to purchase locally grown products as opposed to the supermarket produce, which travels on average 1500 miles from the farm to your plate.
Lastly, to once again quote Michael Pollan, he says to eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.” If you had to peel, chop and deep fry potatoes every time you wanted French fries then you might not eat them very often. And if you had to buy rock salt and real cream to churn your own ice-cream every time you wanted to enjoy it you’d probably eat it way less often. Only eating “junk food” such as cakes, sweets, and fried foods as often as you are willing to make them yourself from scratch will automatically ensure the frequency is appropriate.

Monday, January 19, 2015

It's time to PLANK

Beautiful Abs and a strong core

I like to alternate our challenges between healthy eating and healthy exercise or other habits. So you guessed it- this is an exercise week. I'm afraid you are often at the mercy of things I most need to work on in my efforts to care for my body so I am going to repeat a challenge from last spring-- THE DREADED PLANK CHALLENGE. 
My work out partner Gail will attest to my weak, pitiful, face grimacing planks. I really need to work on it daily. 
Shape Magazine suggests "Core exercises like the plank help train muscles to stabilize the spine and pelvis so you can avoid back pain and improve posture." I know that's true. Often our sore back, our sore neck and our sore shoulders are all occurring because we have weak core and especially abdominal muscles. 
Since planks are one of the most effective ways to get a good ab work out I would recommend you start a daily plan challenge like this one and continue it beyond this week of competition and maybe even beyond the end of our challenge 

As with any exercise if you give a good and consistent effort you will improve continually.

My older daughter is a Pilates instructor and she recently had a couple in their 50's that could hold a plank for 7 minutes. You too can do incredible things if you make consistent, concerted effort. 

If you find doing a full plank too difficult you might want to begin with one of these modifications
The knee elbow plank
or The Wall Plank

Along with a regular plank the following are extremely helpful in getting your abs into shape.

Why it works: This abs exercise is more challenging than a traditional plank because you're supporting your entire body weight on two points of contact instead of four. As a result, you must work your core harder to stay stabilized.
How to do it:
A. Lie on your left side with your elbow directly beneath your shoulder and legs stacked. Place your right hand on your left shoulder or on your right hip.
B. Brace your abs and lift your hips off the floor until you're balancing on your forearm and feet so that your body forms a diagonal line. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds. If you can’t hold that long, stay up as long as you can and then repeat until you’ve held for 30 seconds total. Switch sides and repeat.

Why it works: This abs exercise involves full-body movement, such as the arms and legs, while incorporating resistance to strengthen your entire core.
How to do it:
A. Start in pushup position with hands two inches wider than your shoulders.
B. Walk hands out as far as possible, then walk back. Do 10-12 reps.
Why it works: This abs exercise uses your entire core to keep your body stabilized and burns additional calories by adding movement (dragging yourself along the floor). It mixes cardio, stability, and strength training to get you fast results.

Alligator Drag

(* You tube has some great videos of how to do this one)
How to do it:
A. Find a stretch of floor that allows you to go forward 10 to 20 yards, and grab anything that will slide over the surface with minimal friction. Dinner plates or plastic bags work on a carpeted floor, while towels work on wood or tile.
B. Start in pushup position with your feet on the slides, towels, or plates.
C. Walk yourself forward with your hands to the end of your runway (aim for at least 10 yards). Rest for 60 to 90 seconds (or as long as you need to recover) and repeat the alligator walk back to where you started. That’s one set. Repeat one more time.
I realize that some of these AB exercises might be beyond your ability (for now!) If they are, do a google search for Beginner Ab exercises and find something more appropriate for your abilities. We must always start where we are to journey to where we want to be.

For every day that you do some type of plank exercise (modify if necessary) this week you earn 5 daily bonus challenge points. Happy abbing ladies and I hope you all continue to carry on with this simple but powerful exercise. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Greek Yogurt!

There’s been a lot of excitement recently over Greek yogurt with sales more than doubling over the past five years.

So What Is Greek Yogurt?
“The difference between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt is that they strain off the whey, [the watery part of milk that remains when milk is curdled] which makes it really thick and creamy," says Karen Roth, a clinical nutritionist. "And because they're removing the whey, there's less sugar, fewer carbohydrates, and a lot more protein compared to regular yogurt."

In fact, a typical 6-ounce serving of Greek yogurt packs as much protein as 3 ounces of lean meat, making it a superstar snack for a healthy body. Protein not only helps build lean muscle and keeps you full, but a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that a diet high in lean protein may be superior to a high-fat or high-carb diet when it comes to warding off weight gain and heart disease.

But since use of the term "Greek" is unregulated, and because the straining process can require costly equipment, some yogurt brands are pumping out "Greek" yogurts that haven't been made the traditional way. Instead, thickening agents like corn starch and milk-protein concentrate are added to mimic the rich texture of strained yogurt. The jury's still out as to whether these additives make for a nutritionally inferior product, but they certainly detract from the simplicity of traditional strained yogurt. Regardless, there are ways to determine whether products marked "Greek" are genuinely Greek:

1. Read the ingredients. "The best thing for people to do when shopping for Greek yogurt is to look at the product's ingredients list," says Roth. "It should contain only milk and live active cultures."
2. Steer clear of the shelf. Food producers have jumped on the Greek bandwagon by unveiling packaged foods like cereal and granola bars claiming to contain Greek yogurt. These foods don't have the same health properties as real yogurt. They often have a lot of added sugar, and if they're sitting on a shelf, they're not going to have the live cultures in them, so they're really just a sweet treat masquerading as a health food. Steer clear of these foods.
3. Don't count on live active cultures. If you want to ensure your yogurt is packed with probiotics—which have been shown to promote digestive health, boost immunity, and even prevent yeast infections—make sure the label says contains live active cultures, rather than made with live active cultures. You might want to alternate brands of yogurt to insure a wide variety of active cultures.
4. There are several healthy options to enjoy Greek yogurt. I especially like Costco’s Skotidakis Jalapeno Greek dip. It’s a great way to get veggies down AND get a fix of pro-biotics. My daughter is crazy over Chobani’s “flips” – greek yogurt with some little yummies you flip in for enjoyment. Her favorite flavor is Almond Coco Loco. Also some stores are now carrying Greek Yogurt Kefir (a drinkable yogurt).

So your challenge for this week is to enjoy some type of yogurt every day (for every day you include yogurt in your diet you earn the 5 bonus points) ! I would recommend you try Greek yogurt. If you have milk or lactose allergies I recommend you go to the healthy food store or Trader Joe’s. Last time I checked they offer a few alternative yogurts (Coconut milk etc.)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Everyone Needs A Friend

I spent the last 3 weeks in Utah-- enjoying my first white Christmas in a cabin with my Mom, husband and children. It was sooooooo cold but so beautiful. 

Part of the fun time we had together included several trips to the Provo rec center. It is an incredibly huge, clean, fun, extensive work out facility that I so wish was in my community. It includes everything from rock climbing walls, a pool with a lazy river, water guns and a slide that goes out of the building and back in-- to a great indoor track and one of my favorite yoga classes of all time (the teacher spray lavender and peppermint on your feet at the end of class)

Twice when I was visiting the rec center with my daughter she MADE me go in the spinning class room with her (note the room was empty- class was NOT in session). I don't know about you but I'm a bit phobic about spinning. It just seems too over the top for nearly 60 year old me. 

Each time she led me through a short but intense (at least by my estimation) work out and I have to admit I did more than my share of grumbling. But at the end she pointed out that I had "done it". Her point was that although it was hard and although I might have felt like I didn't perform to the level of most of the people that take spinning classes I did give a good effort and get a good work out and I could "claim it." And really I CAN go to a real spinning class and give it a try.  Does that make sense?

Our challenge for the first week of this challenge is to be that type of healthy living partner. 
I challenge you to have contact with your partner daily and do something to encourage her to break out of her slump-- treat her body right, and honor her own health and well being. 

Please think about what kind of help and encouragement your partner needs and be creative. Yes you can send her encouraging messages on instagram, twitter, facebook, e-mail, voicemail, text message. But you can also write something encouraging in the snow, on a balloon, on a can of diet coke, on the chalkboard in Relief Society before class begins. You can drag her with you to do laps at the gym, to belly dance with a groupon, to eat a healthy salad at a new favorite place. 

Put some thought and heart into thinking about what will help your partner make some REAL and important changes in her life. Does she need you to buy her a water bottle and remind her to drink? Does she need you to drag her into an empty spinning room and prove to her that she can cycle? Does she need you to walk with her despite the freezing temperatures and show her you actually won't die if you exercise even in winter? 

For every day this week that you have encouraging contact with your healthy living partner you will earn the 5 bonus points. But you also must do at least one creative thing this week to help your partner with her healthy living journey. And I would love it if you share your creative encouragement ideas in the comment section of this blog or in an e-mail to me. 

Have a great Week #1. And don't forget to weigh and measure yourself tomorrow morning and record it in a safe place.