live it active


To your health & wealth

Investing in your health is critical for your current and future health. This can be accomplished through regular exercise, eating a more balanced diet, getting 7-8 hours sleep per night, cutting back on the booze, quitting smoking, and learning to relax (to name a few).

Investing, as in investing in your financial future, is also critical for current and future health. Poorly managed debts, accounts, etc. can lead to physical and emotional stress.

This form of stress may not be recognized at first and may be attributed to other facets of life – family, job, health, etc. Yet, eventually the etiology of your stress will hopefully come to light – you receive a hefty credit bard bill, are unable to meet your car payment deadline, or simply cannot purchase the yummy cheese you love – you get the picture. If you get to this point (or if you have already reached it), it is important to take a serious and honest look at your overall financial profile.

Once you are honest about your current financial state, you can start making amends and planning for the future. It’s hard and often anxiety-inducing, but push through the pain. The reward is worth it (much like exercise)!

If you are interested in learning more about health & wealth, I may have the answer. Starting this March, I will be participating in a health & wealth investment group for women (perhaps we will begin a co-ed evening if we get enough interest!). Myself, along with a local and trusted financial planner will share tips and tricks for improving both your financial and physical/mental health. I am extremely excited about this initiative and hope to learn quite a bit on how to successfully manage my finances and plan for the future.

If you’re interested in attending, please be in touch. You do not need to commit to monthly meetings and can attend when it works for you. More importantly, the meetings promise to very informal with only about 20 minutes of speech time. The majority of the evening will be spent in discussion and answering questions.

The day following the meeting, I will post a short synopsis of what was discussed, however, it will be brief as I want you to attend the evening!

M

Picture courtesy of meddygarnet

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Wednesday Workout Tip: Treat Your Injury

Last night at Zumba one of my clients mentioned she was suffering from shin splints. To determine the etiology of the splints we chatted about her footwear, other exercise habits, and the type of floor she was exercising on. Her footwear did not seem to be the problem, more so the lack thereof. Not only was she exercising in bare feet, but exercising on tile floor. I too, have made the mistake of exercising on a tile floor at home which resulted in a tendon injury in my foot (ouch!).

How do you treat shin splints?

Well, this video may provide a few treatment insights. It mentions stretching the calf muscle, icing, massage, and ibuprofen to reduce swelling. It also suggests consulting a physical or athletic therapist, however, if you can, invest some time in managing the injury yourself before seeking a health professional. With adequate rest, icing, massage you will likely experience improvement. If the pain does persist, make the appointment. You may also want to purchase a pair of inserts or look into custom orthotics. Orthotics will provide your Tibialis Posterior with a little more support and help to reduce the likelihood of re-injury.

If you are an athletic or physical therapist and have some other ideas, please share! The more advice, the better.

M


Your 50 Words to Describe Physical Activity

To celebrate my 100th post, I asked my lovely readers to send me words that they (you) use to describe and/or associate with physical activity.

I had a great response and collected approximately 50 words, however, the goal was 100. So, if you have a word that is not on the following list and feel the need to share it, please send it either via email or by commenting on the post. My email is liveitactive@gmail.com.

Thank you to all those that submitted!!

1. Energizing

2. Exhilarating

3. Welcoming

4. Stress-busting

5. Challenging

6. Rewarding x 3

7. Liberating

8. Exciting

9. Empowering

10. Sweaty

11. Exhausting

12. Accomplishment x 2

13. Good pain

14. Burn (as in feel the burn)

15. No pain no gain

16. Endorphin releasing

17. Mood boosting

18. Competitive

19. Post-workout satisfaction

20. Runners high

21. Commitment

22. Dedication

23. Motivation

24. Effing brutal

25. Hard

26. Challenging

27. Freeing

28. Enlightening

29. Focus

30. Necessary

31. Fun X 2

32. Sweaty

33. Difficult

34. Sometimes pain-inducing

35. Sleep inducing

36. Anxiety management

37. Stimulating

38. Inspiring

39. Feel good

40. Smile-inducing

41. Teamwork

42. Social

43. Bonding

44. Zumba high

45. Never-ending

46. Routine

47. Comfy clothes

48. Rewarding

49. Awesome

50. Health

 

This is a great list, but I know there are words missing. Send them my way!

Happy Tuesday.

M


15 ways to feel like garbage

A large proportion of my posts are on how to feel good/better/more fit/happy/mindful (you get the picture). This will be my first post on how to feel like garbage/awful/not good (once again, you get the picture).

Why am I informing you about ways to feel like garbage? Well, I am not entirely sure, but I do think that knowing what not to do is sometimes easier to understand and accomplish than knowing what to do.

And the list of how to feel like garbage begins.

1. Drinking a full glass of milk or consuming any dairy product prior to an exercise session. Why? Well, you will likely want to quickly remove the contents of your stomach. Please heed this advice.

2. Eat a large and greasy meal right before bed time. I have done this before (…last night) and will likely do it again. However, I have noticed that such situations have become less and less which is likely because I am aging and frequenting the downtown scene less and thus, not consuming the well known Sun Suns (Guelphites, you know the place of which I speak). All joking aside, this wreaks havoc on your digestive system. Why? Because when we go to sleep all our physiological processes slow down, including digestion. Engaging in late-night eating will also increase the odds of feeling like garbage in the morning. This is largely due to something we call dehydration. The salty food in addition to the alcoholic beverage you drank to wash it down will aid in the process of dehydration. So, in short, limit the late-night eats.

3. Drinking no water all day and performing Hot Yoga.

4. Drinking no water all day and going for a long run.

5. Drinking only a little water (1-2 glasses over the day) and performing Hot Yoga, going for a long run, or engaging in any form of exercise.

6. Eating 3 high-protein meals and expecting to have enough energy to teach a Zumba class.

7.  Going on a calorie-restrictive diet.

8. Drinking 3-4 large coffees per day.

9. Eating McDonalds. As I have said before, I love McDonalds. My love, however, has definitely decreased after recent exposure to a very disturbing image of the “chicken” used for the nuggets and burgers. Yet, even prior to viewing this unnerving image, I have been taking stock of how I feel hours to days after eating a McDonalds meal. Yes, days. Next time you enjoy a greasy meal, record the feelings of your digestive tract  in a food diary.

10.  Eating over 50-60 dates or prunes. Again, this will wreak havoc on the digestive system. And yes, I know this from a friends personal experience. And yes, this friend really love dates and prunes.

11. Smoking. Smoking anything (cigarettes to joints) is hard on your lungs. If you want to run and/or engage in any form of physical activity, smoking will definitely stand in your way as it permanently damages the alveoli in your lungs. These little guys help to bring oxygen into the body and release carbon dioxide as you breathe out. Smoking also damages the cilia (tiny hairs) that line the upper airway which help to stave off infection. So you’re more likely to get sick and if you do exercise, you’re going to experience shortness of breath, chest tightness and an overall bad feeling.

12. Eat a large meal 1-2 hours before exercising. Your body needs time to digest.

13. Going for a long run/intense training session at the gym after not exercising for 2 months +. Your muscles will tighten, your joints will ache and you will be extremely fatigued. Such feelings typically lead to ignoring the gym/exercise for another 2 months +. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

14. Dropping more than 1 lbs per week if you’re female or 2 lbs per week if you’re male. Rapid weight loss is typically a result of some crazy diet. Such diets are unhealthy and will NOT result in long-term success. Such diets or programs include: Herbal Magic, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers (some may disagree with me on this one), PGX, South Beach, and the list goes on. If you want to eat healthier and lose weight, go to a dietitian. I said a dietitian, not a nutritionist. Why? Because anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. That being said, there are a number of nutritionists with formal education. So if you do see a nutritionist ask where they went to school, what degree or diploma they received, and what experience they have. Never be afraid to ask questions when it comes to your health.

15. Getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night. You’ll feel groggy, grumpy, and likely, hungry.

And there you have it, 15 ways to feel like garbage. If you have other ways to feel like garbage, please comment and/or send them to me via email.

Happy weekending!

M

 


“Exercise? In this Weather?”

Yes, you can exercise outside in this wintery climate of ours.

Here are some ideas:

1. Run. Wear a touque, gloves, and start out walking to allow your lungs to acclimatize. They will tighten in the cold, but once you start running, things will get better.

2. Go sledding with friends OR you kiddies. Your kids will think you’re their hero (for that day at least) and if the climb to the top doesn’t get your heart rate going, I am not sure what will.

3. Rent snowshoes.

4. Go skating at City Hall. The ice rink is open for business in downtown Guelph and it looks lovely (I am a terrible skater…). The best part? Heading for hot chocolate OR a hot toddy at Atmosphere or one of the nearby restaurants.

5. Go on a trail ride. Yes, with horses. Just remember to wear a number of socks on each foot, gloves, a vest, and long-johns. There is nothing quite like a trail ride in the winter.

6. Try downhill or cross-country skiing. I love downhill. That doesn’t mean I am good at it, but I get an amazing adrenalin rush, a chance to be outside, and the opportunity to spend quality time with my partner, family and friends. While downhill is good for working those leg muscles, cross-country skiing is good for working pretty much every major muscle group. Additionally, cross-country skiing is one of the top sports for cardiovascular conditioning.

7. Play hockey, preferably outside on a pond. Just be careful about the ice. I don’t think any of you should be heading to the nearby pond just yet.

8. Create an obstacle course. Most Canadians understand the difficulty of merely walking through snow. Why not make an obstacle course (outside, of course) and have a family challenge.

9. Make snow angels. You will definitely want a snowsuit for this activity.

10. Try dog sledding. Now, this adventure can get pretty expensive, but I’ve heard it is worth every penny. Don’t think you’re just going to be standing or sitting on a sled. Oh no. From running, jumping, to gripping the reins, you will be working very hard!

Happy winter!

M


Wednesday Workout Tip: How hard should cardio be?

Good morning! Apologies for the dearth in posts. It is a busy time!

I am currently reading, Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights, by Dr. Alex Hutchinson.

The book is basically a collection of questions and answers regarding exercise. The answers are well researched and as of yet, I haven’t found one that I disagree with and/or know to be incorrect (I still have a bit to read and will keep you posted). The author was a long distance runner and completed his MA and PhD in journalism. I find it a little strange for a journalist to be writing about exercise, but journalists (good journalists) are excellent researchers, so I guess it does make a little bit of sense.

So, how hard should your cardio routine be? Hutchinson discusses the three primary cardio training zones: aerobic, threshold, and anaerobic.

If you are training aerobically, your working muscles are receiving an adequate supply of oxygen to produce ATP (energy for the cells) to continue exercising. Once you reach your threshold, you begin to accumulate a lot of lactate in the cells as you begin to experience oxygen debt. Anaerobic metabolism is when your muscles do not have enough oxygen to sustain the activity you are performing.  As you can deduce, the stages of training are determined by the change in oxygen supply to your cells.

As a general rule (stated by Hutchinson) you should aim for the following:

1. Spend 80% of your training time performing aerobic exercise. Aerobic activity is what you are most familiar with and your heart rate (HR) will be below 80% of your HRmax (220-age will give you a ROUGH estimate). If you don’t have a HR monitor, perform the Talk Test. Can you carry on a conversation? If yes, you are working out aerobically. And typically, it feels as if you could exercise forever (OK, for a long time) at this pace.

2. Spend 20% of your training time at your threshold. How do you know you’ve reached your threshold? Talking becomes more difficult. You can string a few words together, but it takes effort and your HR will be between 80-90% of your max. You should also be only able to continue such a pace for around 3-1o minutes.

2. Spend 10% of your training time performing anaerobic exercise. Talking is almost impossible at this stage of the game. You can maybe squeeze out a few words here and there, but your primary focus is not to pass out (yes, it’s hard, but it’s good for you in small doses). Your HR will be above 90% of your max. Lastly, you should only be able to sustain such intensity for 0.5-3 minute bursts.

Hope this helps! Happy cardio training!

M

References:

Hutchinson, Alex. 2011. Which comes first, cardio or weights? Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.

 

 


The brain of a conditioned hypereater

On Monday I touched upon how the change in the composition of food over the past 2-3 decades has contributed to a considerable increase in North American food consumption. Today, I want to discuss the difference between the brain of a conditioned hypereater to the brain of a non-hypereater.

Kessler, along with a colleague, Dana Small, developed a questionnaire to help differentiate between conditioned hypereaters and non-hypereaters. The scale they developed had 11 statements that allowed them to distinguish between “high” and “low” degrees of conditioned hypereating. Such statements included, “When it comes to foods I love, I have no willpower,” and “I have days when I can’t seem to think about anything else but food”.

When we have an urge to eat something, there is a release of dopamine in the reward centre of our brain, specifically the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala. This is referred to as the anticipation phase. This surge in dopamine increases our motivation to seek out the food that we initially desired. This feedback loop continues until we accomplish the task of locating and ingesting the food. Once ingested, the release of dopamine decreases, however, the ingestion of the food causes a release of endorphins – our natural opioids. This is referred to as the reward response. This is the response of a non-conditioned hypereater.

Small and Kessler wanted to examine the response in conditioned hypereaters using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and self-report methods. Participants were first asked to smell a chocolate milkshake with the aim of eliciting the anticipation phase (i.e. secretion of dopamine) and then to taste the milkshake to elicit the reward response (i.e. secretion of endorphins).

In non-conditioned hypereaters, the continuous smell of the milkshake eventually becomes less pleasant overtime due to habituation due to a decrease in the secretion of dopamine. But the response in the conditioned hypereater was significantly different.

The smell of the milkshake did not become less pleasant overtime. In fact, the conditioned hypereaters self-reported that the smell became more pleasant overtime. Additionally, Kessler and Small noted a significant difference in the amygdala of hypereaters; the amygdala continued to remain activated during the ingestion phase. To remind you, the amygdala is associated with the anticipation of reward, not the reward itself.  Therefore, the activation of this area of the brain should become lessened during the ingestion/consumption phase.

Thus, “eating rewarding food can enhance the drive for more rewarding food”. It would appear that the motivation to continue eating becomes heightened by the process of eating in conditioned hypereaters. In non-conditioned hypereaters the process of eating lessens the drive to eat more, which in turn, allows the individual to stop eating once sated.

As Small states, “The heightened amygdala response drives the whole circuit out of whack”.

Fortunately, our brains are fairly malleable and Kessler does touch upon various ways to combat conditioned hypereating. I will be talking about such strategies in future posts. Stay tuned.

M

 

 


Are you a conditioned hypereater?

The term, conditioned hypereater, was coined by Dr. David Kessler in his book titled, The End of Overeating. He defines conditioned hypereating as a “syndrome, or a condition characterized by a cluster of symptoms” such as “loss of control over eating; lack of feeling satisfied by food; and preoccupation with food”.

Some of you may resonate with the aforementioned symptoms; some of you may not. When speaking with patients, colleagues, and through examination of his own behaviour Kessler noticed that many individuals (of all shapes and sizes) spoke about the power of certain foods. The power was so strong that it often took over, removing any form of personal control and/or logical reasoning ability. Others he spoke to said that such individuals just lacked willpower. Kessler thought differently.

In his book he explores the notion of conditioning, amongst many other topics. How have we become conditioned to eat more and more food? Why do we continue to eat, even though we are sated? In large part, Kessler blames the American diet which has changed considerably over the past 30-40 years or so. More specifically, he talks about the food we eat at restaurants, fast food chains and the pre-packaged meals from the grocery store. It seems, from reading his book, that such food is no longer food. Well, it is still food (because we are ingesting it and it is providing us fuel), however, it is not necessarily the food you think it is.

For example, take the Southwestern Eggroll from Chili’s. The majority of Canadians I know have visited the USA at some point in time and may have had the opportunity to enjoy a meal at Chili’s (I did, just this past New Years Eve). The dish is described on the menu as “smoked chicken, black beans, corn, jalapeno Jack cheese, red peppers, and spinach wrapped in a crispy flour tortilla, served with creamy avocado and ranch dipping sauce”. You’re likely thinking, this sounds pretty healthy…guess again.

Kessler had an anonymous food industry source break down the meal in entirety.

“The tortilla is deep-fried which reduces the water content from 40% to 5%, replacing it with fat” (yummy). “The chicken”, the industry source said, “has been chopped and formed much like a meat loaf, with binders added which makes the calories easier to swallow” (yes, all those binders allow you to chew less, allowing food to go down faster and thus, allowing you to eat more before you realize you’re full). What is a binding agent? Ingredients that hold moisture such as autolyzed yeast extract, sodium phosphate, and soy protein concentrate. The industry consultant added, “the green stuff in the meal allows people to think that they are eating something healthy”.

Looking at the actual meal break down, Kessler writes that salt appeared 8 times on the label while sugar appeared only 5 times in the form of corn-syrup solids, molasses, honey, brown sugar, and sugar.

How has this type of reformatted, calorie-packed, revolutionized food conditioned us into eating more of it? It’s high in fat, salt and sugar. And when we eat more of this stuff, we want more of it. It is a never-ending and unfortunate cycle. This leads to the hypereating aspect. And as you would guess, hypereating begets hypereating.

Anyways, I think that is enough for today. Later on this week, I will talk about what happens in the brain to conditioned hypereaters that may help to explain why some feel a complete loss of control around the foods they love.

M

 

 


Happy Belated New Year!

My apologies for the dearth of posts over the last week or so. I am away and decided to put the computer away…which lasted about 1 day. Yes, it’s sad. I seem to have caught the technology obsession that plagues most of my generation and, well, most other generations.

I just wanted to touch base and wish you all a very happy New Year! I appreciate that my wishes are exceptionally belated, however, I thought “better late than never”!

With the beginning  of the new year, many of you will be making resolutions. Many of these resolutions will likely revolve around weight, looks, and health. I have touched on resolutions already, but thought a few more words wouldn’t hurt.

1. Don’t go on a diet. The bottom line: they don’t work and never will. By avoiding certain foods you are constantly reminding yourself of what you can and cannot have. And thus, you will more than likely develop a fixation and perhaps food lust for those “sinful” foods and potentially eat more of them. Research has shown (cannot quote the exact source at the moment) that when we eat foods that we have deemed sinful (e.g. cookies, cake, ice-cream) we actually experience a greater reward/pleasure response. Yes, our brains actually secrete more endorphins than they would have if we hadn’t given that cookie sinful status.  Do NOT start a diet.

2. Don’t join a gym. Typically, new gym joiners go once or twice and push themselves to the point of mass destruction. Two days following the intense workout, they will experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS is uncomfortable. If you are a new gym joiner and this is the first time you have worked out in weeks, months or years, you will experience DOMS and thus, likely associate exercise with pain. This is unfortunate and will likely deter your from entering the gym again. While first-time exercise is likely to induce a little bit of pain, it doesn’t need to be excruciating. I would encourage you to start small (e.g. walking, cycling, canoeing, skating) and work towards more intense and challenging workouts. Once you are feeling a little more confident in your exercise ability, join that gym. Yet, if you need some guidance, encouragement and ideas on how to get started investing in a personal trainer may be a good idea.

3. Be cautious when selecting a personal trainer. There are so many personal trainers out there, and a large proportion have no formal education in exercise science, kinesiology, physiology, etc. They have received personal training certifications from weekend courses and some have received certification following a 4-year undergraduate degree. Either route is going to, without question, produce some duds. It’s really important that you talk to the gym and/or the individual personal trainer about their training, their personal experience, their continuing education strategies and so on.

4. Find a partner in crime. Making a change is so much easier when you have someone else in tow.

5. Don’t make a resolution, make a life-long change. Say what? I know, I know, I’ve been talking about resolutions and now I am telling you to NOT make a resolution. I apologize for the confusion. What I mean is that don’t make a resolution that isn’t sustainable. When you write down what you would like to change, ensure that the change is realistic and sustainable over the long-haul. If you’re resolution is to eat bean soup for lunch everyday because it is “so low cal”, please ask yourself if that is sustainable. And please, please, please be honest in your answer.

Happy Friday!

M



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