We are now well in to spring time which is commonly associated with cleaning, throwing away, ‘out with the old, and in with nothing’…oops, I may have added my own twist.
Joking aside, spring time is a wonderful time to clean out your pantry and/or cupboards. A lot can accumulate there without you really knowing it. A half bag of old noodles, 6 cans of green beans (yes, cans – all Evan), a hardened granola bar, a multi-colour apple sauce – you get the picture. No, not all of the wonderful treats you may find lining your cupboard bottoms are bad, but they aren’t really all that good either. So ditch the old, wipe the cupboard bottom with a clean cloth, dry, and reorganize.
In addition to ditching, cleaning, and reorganizing, there is something else I would like you to do. During the cleaning process take stock of how many packaged items you have in the cupboard. And yes, of course everything is going to have a package (thought you could sass me, no?), but I mean the really processed packaged stuff.
If you have any of the following, an evaluation of whether you need it is in order:
- Granola bars – of any kind, flavour, brand
- Soup. Unless it’s homemade or sodium-reduced, it shouldn’t be there.
- 100 calorie pre-packaged snacks. Chuck that preservative-laden junk
- Hot Rods. I honestly love hot rods. The saltiness makes me frighteningly happy. A once in a while treat is just fine, but having them on a regular basis is concerning. They are not only salt-laden, but chalk full of nitrates.
- Delissio Pizza or any frozen pizza. I have one word – nitrates (and sorry, this will be in your freezer).
- Stock pile of jams and spreads. This is my weakness. I adore jam and red pepper jelly. Yet, both are full of sugar. While I struggle to give both up, I limit the red pepper jelly to special occasions (as best I can).
- Fruit snacks. News flash: there is very limited fruit of any kind in these little bite-sized pieces of sugar.
- Gatorade/Vitamin Water/Energy drinks: High-fructose corn syrup, unnecessary vitamins, and sugar and caffeine. Yummy.
- Frozen dinners (Michelina’s, Lean Cuisine, etc.) – Please just read the package before your next purchase. They may be calorie controlled, but they aren’t fueling your body with the good stuff. And once again, these will be in your freezer.
- KD. It pains me to write this. I love KD. I love it so much. My mother will testify to this as my love developed at a very young age. However, you and I both know it isn’t good for you.Once and a while is OK, but by that I mean once per month.
Some of you may hate me right now. Some of you may be jumping for joy as your cupboards and/or freezer do not host any of the aforementioned products. Over the course of my independent living years, my cupboards and freezer have held everything listed above. And if I am being honest, I love most of the aforementioned products. How could I not? They are full of everything that we humans are biologically programmed to love – fat, sugar, and salt.
Yet, we must remind ourselves that they aren’t good for us. That if we want to lead a healthy and fulfilling life, we need to eat food as close to its natural form as possible. As Michael Pollan states, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”. And his definition of what constitutes food is very similar to mine, food should be as close to its natural form as possible. So eat an apple instead of apple sauce. Make homemade tomato sauce instead of buying it in a jar. Chop and eat a carrot (those things with the green stem) instead of enjoying the pre-packaged and pre-sugared mini-carrots. Yes, the packagers of mini-carrots coat them in sugar to make them more palatable. Thus, it’s not just the convenience that you like, but the added sugar. Surprise, surprise!
I encourage you to do a cupboard/pantry clean out with a few adjustments to your fridge and freezer this week and/or coming weekend. Give as much away as possible. And while it may pain you to throw some items away, you will be thankful in the long-run.
Photo courtesy of srboisvert
When I say sprints I am referring to the exercises that are commonly coined “suicides”. I have decided not to use that term for a variety of reasons, but mainly because it is in poor taste and it doesn’t aptly describe the activity being performed.
To perform sprints, go to your nearest community park. Find a soccer field. Why? Because you are going to take advantage of those lovely soccer lines. Soccer season is around the corner and thus, they will be painting the lines soon. Until that time you may need to improvise with the distances using sticks or stones to mark 5 meters, 10 meters, 25 meters, 50 meters, etc.
Once you’ve decided on the lines you are going to use to mark your running distances, you are ready to begin.
Step #1 – Run to the first predetermined line. Run back to the starting spot.
Step #2 – Run to the next line. Run back to the starting spot.
Step #3 – Run to the next line. Run back to the starting spot.
Step #4 – Continue this process until you reach the final line. Run back to the starting spot. You will then run to the second last line and then, you guessed it, back to the starting line. Continue this process until you complete the running distance you initially started with (i.e. starting line to 5 meter line).
Thus, you are completing a pyramid set of sprints. Your should aim to have about 5 lines to run to. You should also do this exercise as quickly as possible. This is fun to do with friends and family as the spirit of competition will only help to increase your adrenalin and therefore, your speed.
Take a 2-3 minute break. Start over. Repeat the cycle 2-3 times.
Cardiovascular? Yes. Fun? Possibly. Good for you? Most definitely.
This Wednesday, at the Ladies Health & Wealth night I will reveal my top four health myths. I know, you can barely stand the excitement. All joking aside, the evening promises to be fun-filled, information-laden, and enjoyable. To be clear, this evening is for women of any age who are interested in gaining better control of both their health and wealth (i.e. information on mortgages, investments, savings, retirement, etc.).
When? Wednesday, April 25th from 7-8 PM
Where? 170 St. David St., Fergus
Price? Free + complimentary appetizers and a drink
Contact? Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope to see you there!
Are you a high heel lover? As I cannot walk more than 5-10 steps in them, I do not fall in this category. Yet, if you do, check out my Monday post on the risks of inflammation of any kind.
This goes far beyond the old adage, “pain is beauty”.
If you’re short on time, but need to fit in a workout aim for 10-15 minutes of high-intensity exercise. If high-intensity isn’t for you, go for a moderate-intensity walk (determined by your ability to maintain a conversation, which you should be able to do at moderate-intensity).
Your high-intensity workout could include:
1. 25 Jumping Jacks (30 seconds)
2. 10, 15, 20, 25 seconds of high knees with rest periods of 5, 8, 10, and 12 seconds of rest in between. (105 seconds)
3. 15 Burpees – Jump up with arms reaching towards the sky, come down, move quickly into push-up position, do a push-up, come back to standing position and repeat. (45 seconds – I am being really generous)
4. 20 Mountain climbers per side. See my outdoor workout for instructions on the mountain climber. (60 seconds)
5. One 30, 45, and 60 second plank. Yes, do all three (with rest in between). If those lengths are two long, shorten accordingly. (135 seconds)
6. Another 15 burpees. I know, I’m mean. (45 seconds)
7. Breathe quietly for 30 seconds (hardest task so far). (30 seconds)
8. 10-12 push-ups. If you can do more, great. You want to ensure that your form is maintained throughout (palms under shoulders, butt in line with back. on either your toes or knees). If you feel yourself starting to tire, take a 10 second rest and start again. (30 seconds)
9. Another 25 jumping jacks (remember, more is always an option). (30 seconds)
10. Stretch for 2 minutes.
This brings you to 9 minutes of exercise (some seconds for rest in there) with two minutes for a stretch. With the little breaks you will take in addition to moving into the next position, I assume you will get close to 15 minutes. If you have time for more, do it.
I am currently reading the book, The End of Illness, by Dr. David Agus. He discusses and suggests a number of relatively small changes that we can make to our everyday routine that could potentially add years to our life. The book is engaging and the topics well-explained, which isn’t always possible for physicians to do as coming down to the layman level is often poorly done.
He talks about NOT taking a daily multivitamin, NOT eating fresh vegetables when out of season, and making all and every attempt to reduce inflammation of any kind.
Take for example, the common cold. When you’re suffering from a cold, your body is being exposed to “a dangerous storm of molecules” as Agus puts it. A little dramatic, yes, but true. He goes on to say that this storm produces “a flurry of chemicals called cytokines” which can have a detrimental affect on your blood vessels. Specifically, it causes them to age, become weathered, and more stiff (which is not good for blood pressure, etc.). Now, just because Agus is a renowned oncologist does not necessarily make him right and thus, further investigation is warranted. Yet, when you’re sick with a cold, you can feel the inflammation taking hold. You feel it in your nose, eyes, throat, lungs, head, etc. When you’re sick, you feel it everywhere. Thus, it is not unreasonable to imagine the damage that said inflammation is having on your vasculature.
Agus also discusses the dangers of repeated injury, specifically repeated injury in sports such as football and hockey. There has been a multitude of studies in recent years that have investigated the consequences of sub-concussive hits on the brain in football players. While concussions are detrimental (which we have known for years), there is also great risk in sustaining repeated small-impact hits. This has been highlighted in a number of NFL players over the years, but was never more clear than in the case of Owen Thomas.
Thomas, was a junior lineman for the University of Pennsylvania. In the spring of 2010, he hanged himself after what his friends and family called an emotional collapse. His breakdown was out of character as he had never experienced depression before. The autopsy of Thomas’ brain yielded very telling results.
Thomas had suffered from the same trauma-induced disease found in more than twenty deceased NFL players – chronic traumatic encephalopathy – a disease linked to depression and poor impulse control. Thomas had never sustained a blow big enough to cause a concussion. Yet, his years of playing football as a teen and during college had caused him to sustain repeated sub-concussive collisions. While the suicide cannot be solely attributed to the brain swelling, it likely played a major role in Thomas’ decision to take his own life. This particular scenario, while devastating, is demonstrative of the damaging effects of chronic inflammation.
There is another reason chronic inflammation is so damaging – it can lead to cancer.
When the body is dealing with chronic inflammation, it tends to focus solely on combating and eventually reducing the inflammation. This takes energy and resources. Specifically, energy is taken away from our “DNA repair shop”. This is because our DNA repair shop requires a lot of energy as it is performing a very intensive and critically important function: it is dealing with the mutations that our DNA is producing all the time. As Agus puts it, “we are cancering all the time”. That is, our DNA is making mistakes left, right, and centre, but we have a backup crew that comes in and cleans up the mess to ensure the newly developed cancer cells don’t build up.
But when we’re in the throes of inflammation, our body tends to focus its energy reserves on combating that problem. And thus, as already mentioned, the DNA repair shop closes down for a while. When the inflammation issue is dealt with it’s back open for business, but sometimes it is too late. Sometimes the cancering has already gone too far and the DNA repair crew cannot undo the already-done damage.
While this information is slightly frightening, it is also empowering as it sheds light on what activities and life events may increase our risk for disease. I have never taken multivitamins due to my fathers lack of faith in them. I do eat fresh vegetables out of season and will likely continue to do so as I strongly dislike frozen. When it comes to inflammation, I’ve always known that the common cold was bad, but I didn’t realize how bad. Now, I will take further steps to avoid catching a cold. Fortunately, I have a fairly strong immune system and rarely get sick. I’ve always known that my son (or daughter) would never play football and this book reaffirms that.
There are a few other tips Agus has for reducing any and all kinds of inflammation:
1. NOT wearing high-heels or any type of uncomfortable shoe (sorry ladies, but would you rather have nice calves or a longer life?)
2. Get an annual flu vaccine (I have never and will never get the vaccine, but Agus recommends it)
3. Asking your doctor why you’re not on a statin and / or taking a daily aspirin if you’re over the age of 40
Completely avoiding inflammation is impossible as it is taking place all the time within our system. Yet, we can make small changes to reduce the likelihood of causing our body to experience further inflammation.
Most of my readers, friends (and Facebook friends), family, Twitter followers – basically everyone within my inner and extended circle – are aware that I teach Zumba and love it. To be honest, I am sure most of my inner and extended circle are tired of hearing about it (if so, I’m sorry, but I won’t stop the raving :)).
I have been teaching since the beginning of December (practicing hard since November) and have noticed some fairly significant changes physically and psychologically. I know that any other type of vigorous physical activity would produce similar benefits; however, as Zumba is basically the only activity I have been doing over the past four months, I can attribute the majority of the changes to it.
I would assume a number of my participants have also experience similar benefits to those that I am about to list. If you have had a different experience, please share it with us via the comment board!
So what changes have I noticed?
1. Heart Rate. My resting HR has dropped from around 74 bpm (69 bpm on a good day) to approximately 54-56 bpm. That’s a massive drop, especially as I was in relatively good shape prior to starting Zumba.
2. Flexibility. I am able to touch my toes everyday. For some, this is no feat (Oh, the wittiness continues), but as a lanky, non-flexible individual, this is a big deal. After every dance session we stretch for about 5-10 minutes and I know this has led to the vast improvement I have noticed in my range of motion.
3. Sleep. My sleep has improved. On Zumba nights I wake up less, have a deeper sleep, and usually wake up before my alarm.
4. Energy. After class I feel energized. This feeling of increased energy can be attributed to a number of things: great music, vigorous physical activity, moving in a very empowering and sensual way, socializing with participants during and after class, and of course, the many giggles and smiles throughout.
5. Confidence. As previously mentioned, Zumba fitness requires participants to sometimes move in a very sensual way. At first, I found this off-putting (as do most of my participants, at least at the beginning). However, as I have continued to expand my dance repertoire and have become more comfortable with the moves, I find moving in this way to be empowering. Today, I feel considerably more confident on and off the Zumba floor.
6. Metabolism. With any increase in physical activity there is going to be a corresponding increase in one’s metabolism. The majority of you will have experienced this when starting a new exercise program and / or making any slight change to your physical activity regimen. Increased appetite is an indicator of a metabolic alteration. While supplementation is good, try to keep your snacking habits in check as we often tend to over-indulge following an exercise session. Trust me, the calories you consume as prize for your workout will easily surpass those burned during the session. Be mindful of this, but don’t be too restrictive. It’s all about balance.
7. Muscle Tone. My Zumba classes tend to be very fitness focused. Thus, my routines tend to incorporate a lot more squats, lunges, core-focused movements, than other classes you may attend. I, like most other Zumba instructors, also perform a song dedicated to arms at the end of each session. And since starting this arm-focused song way back in December I have noticed a considerable change in the muscle tone of my arms. I have also noticed muscle tone changes in a lot of my regular participants (I am so, so, so proud of you all).
8. Mood. I have noticed that my mood is more consistently happy / contented. I thoroughly enjoy this aspect.
There are two quite simple ways to determine your own heart rate (HR). While such methods aren’t always going to yield the most accurate result, they will be fairly close and they are a lot cheaper than purchasing a personal HR monitor.
Finding your Radial Pulse
Your radial artery runs distally (on the side of the thumb) along the anterior part of your forearm through your wrist and into your hand. It is connected to your brachial artery. It is here, at the radial artery that you can take your pulse.
To do so, take two fingers from your opposite hand and place on the radial artery. Don’t use your thumb as it has its own pulse and would interfere with your reading. You will need to adjust your pressure until you find the sweet spot. This is a more challenging pulse to find relative to the carotid artery (well, at least I think s0).
Finding your Carotid Pulse
The majority of you will be familiar with this technique. If not please click here (as my hair has not yet been brushed this morning, I am not including a personal picture). With your right index finger and middle finger (can use the left if you wish) feel for your Adam’s Apple or the female equivalent. Move your two fingers slightly away from the centreline of your body (i.e. slightly away from the Adam’s Apple). Using a light pressure you should be able to feel the pulsing of your Carotid Artery.
Determining your Pulse (i.e. Heart Rate)
You will need to have a clock of some sort to measure out 10 seconds. With your fingers on the pulse (oh, I am so witty) begin your timer and count the number of beats (pulses) in a 10 second time period. Multiply this number by six and you have your beats per minute (bpm) = your HR.
When to Take your Pulse
I encourage you to take your pulse first thing in the morning (while still lying in bed) to get an idea of your resting HR.
Additionally, take your pulse pre-, mid-, and post-exercise session. It’s good to get an idea of how high your ticker is going during your respective cardio and weight training workouts. Your HR maximum should be close to 220-age. However, this formula isn’t a perfect science as my HR maximum should be 195 bpm, but is actually 204 bpm.
And there you have it, how to take measure your own HR.
Want to learn how to better manage everyday stressors to lead a more productive, meaningful, and manageable life?
Want to learn how to better manage your financial portfolio?
If you answered yes to either or both of the above questions you should join me on Wednesday, April 25th at 7:00 until 8:00 PM at the Brew House On The Grand in Fergus for a ladies health and wealth event. Yes, sorry men, this is a ladies only event.
The health part of the evening will be covered by yours truly and the wealth part will be covered by Alix Greene, a financial advisor with TD Waterhouse. TD Waterhouse will provide a complimentary beverage in addition to yummy (and hopefully somewhat healthy) snacks. The Brew House On The Grand has generously donated their “meeting” room (a.k.a. party room) for the evening.
Alix and I plan to speak for about 5 minutes each and will be available for questions following our respective presentations. We aim to make this more of an informal conversation as opposed to a didactic presentation.
If you have any further questions please email me at email@example.com. As the party room has a maximum capacity we would greatly appreciate if you could let us know if you’re interested. We expect drop-ins, however, it would just be nice to have an idea of numbers.
If successful, we plan to do 2-3 more evenings before the summer kicks-off.
As promised, here is Part Two of my interview on fat shaming with Jenna Brady, PhD candidate at Queen’s University who is investigating the role dietitians in bringing about social justice.
In Part One, we discussed what fat shaming is and discussed specific examples of it in popular culture and current media. I received a few questions regarding the post and I would love to receive more.
OK, let’s get to it…
Live It Active (LIA): Michele Obama’s recent “Let’s Move” campaign attracted both positive and negative press. What are your thoughts on the initiative? While the campaign does refer to America’s rising number of obese children, it is not targeted solely at overweight or obese children. It is geared towards improving the health and well-being of all children in America. Do you think this type of program is misguided and if so, why?
Jenna Brady (JB): Language is important. It frames how we think about things. Front and centre on the home page it reads “the Epidemic of Childhood Obesity” and “White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity”. This campaign is targeting “childhood obesity”. The language they are using to talk about getting kids health espouses a weight centered paradigm. Even worse, this is taking aim at kids. It is absolutely misguided.
LIA: Paul Campos, author of Lawyers, Guns and Money stated that Michelle Obama’s initiative is an exercise in fat eliminationism and fat shaming. If this campaign is an exercise in fat shaming, what can the government as well as society at large do to promote health and well-being? Could it be as simple as recontextualizing / reframing the objective of the program and thus, using different terminology?
JB: To promote health and well-being we must go a little further than just reframing the issue. If we are still working from a weight centered paradigm, it doesn’t matter how we frame the issue. Promoting health and well-being means starting again. It means understanding health differently. It means eliminating the hatred of fat in our society. It also means addressing the glaring social inequities that prevent people from being healthy. The ubiquity of food insecurity in North America should alarm all of us. Eliminating food insecurity for example, is an urgently needed first step in promoting health for all.
LIA: Why do you think we, as a society, continue to engage in fat shaming?
JB: This is a good question. I think there are many complex reasons behind the continuation of fat shaming. First of all, fat shaming is running rampant in our media. It is very difficult to change people’s attitudes, especially those that have been well ingrained. One such attitude and widely accepted belief is that body weight is an indication of one’s health status and that if you are fat you are not only unhealthy but are not doing enough to take care of your health. This erroneous assumption thus leads to a number of moral judgements about fat people’s behaviours; we assume they are lazy, greedy, or don’t care about their health.
Also, our understanding of bodies and health is steeped in biomedical and neoliberal discourse. We medicalize bodies so that fatness becomes something that requires intervention or treatment. Science is not apolitical; that is, science is not free of values, morals, and judgement. We tend to see science as being objective and not having a role in political currents, in the case the politics of health. Rather, science has been used to support the biomedicalization of bodies and fatness. This, in conjunction with neoliberalism’s focus on individual responsibility for health and deregulation of the health care system means that individuals are blamed for what we have constructed as a medical problem. Fat people become the fall guys and gals for a political ideology that has been framed as a medical problem.
LIA: Are there any benefits to engaging in such behaviour? Please explain why or why not.
JB: There are no benefits to prejudice, ever. And that is what fat shaming is.
LIA: Fat shaming seems to be everywhere these days, including in children’s literature. While reading another popular blog, Obesity Panacea, I stumbled upon a post about the recent publication Maggie Goes on a Diet. In rhyme, this book chronicles Maggie’s journey with dieting. How can we protect children from this type of thinking? How can we can encourage beautiful, healthy bodies at any size?
JB: We need to speak out about this nonsense. Marilyn Wann, a fat activist, started a campaign called “I stand” in response to campaigns like the one you mentioned above as well as other media that support fat shaming like this book. We need more of this. We need to get on board with these ideas as a society. Perhaps most importantly health professionals, namely dietitians need to actually read and understand the literature on the connection between body weight and health as well as HAES. It is their ethical obligation to do so, however, I hear many dietitians perpetuating the messages that underlie fat shaming.
LIA: As a former dietitian, mother, and doctoral student studying the role of dietitians in advancing social justice, what are your solutions/suggestions on how to deal with the growing number of individuals classified as overweight or obese? Should we leave everyone well enough alone? Would this not have an impact on our already stressed healthcare system? No, not everyone who is classified as overweight or obese is metabolically unhealthy, but a large proportion are and thus, will likely require a significant amount of medical attention. How do you feel about this issue? Any thoughts on how we can address it?
JB: It is not about leaving everyone alone – that is also not helpful to supporting our population’s health. My answer to this is Health at Every Size (HAES). HAES emphasizes eating well and moving in ways that support good physical, mental, and emotional health. It does not take body weight as an indicator of current or improved health status. People can improve their health status and not lose weight. Eating well and moving can improve other indicators of health such as blood pressure, fasting blood glucose and other indicators of metabolic health in the absence of weight loss.
We do need to do more to support the health of Canadians, particularly those who have lower-income and possibly even experience food insecurity. The way to do this is not to tell fat people to lose weight. To me, it means making real changes to the availability of affordable and nutritious food as well as safe, affordable, and accessible ways of moving our bodies. Even if weight loss was correlated with improved health, which it is not, this would only improve the health of some Canadians. Why narrow the focus like this? To me, it is better to support everyone in eating and moving in ways that are joyful, satisfying, and that contribute to their overall sense of well-being, without judgement.
I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Jenna for being a willing participant in this interview. I (and likely many of my readers) appreciate your sincerity, honesty, and frankness in regards to this contentious issue.
I have learned a great deal from this interview. I have learned even more from talking to fat people and former fat people about fat shaming and its deleterious consequences. Interestingly, a friend of mine who has lost approximately 60 lbs. over a period of 2 years and has kept it off, said she wanted people to compliment on her weight loss. She wanted people to notice her hard work, her changes, her skinniness. She wanted to hear “You look great; have you lost weight?” which I feel is another example of fat shaming as it suggests you only look great once you’ve lost weight, that you weren’t beautiful before.
It is my hope that with more information sharing such as this interview, more research about the detrimental consequences of fat shaming, and more campaigns to increase awareness regarding this ever-present issue, that we will help to reduce the stigma surrounding fatness. This is no small feat; it will take the voices and conviction of many. Changing such a well ingrained and accepted attitude towards fatness – that fatness is equated with poor health, sloth, laziness, and in many cases, revulsion – will take much time.
It’s a complex issue (I know, I know, fairly obvious point). But, it is. However, the more we know, the better we can be at limiting our role in fat shaming. And in limiting our respective role, the more healthy (in all ways) our society will likely become. Funny how that works…