Thursday, May 2, 2019

Taking A Break

I will be taking a break from blog posts for the month of May. Our family has lots of fun activities coming up and I will be traveling most of the month.

I hope to try ice climbing and kayaking in Alaska. I will backpack in Catalina and hike in Mammoth. At the end of the month, I will visit family in Ohio.

Look for more new, informative blog posts in June!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Why Am I So Hungry?

Most of the time, hunger has an obvious cause, like not eating enough or choosing meals that don't contain the right amount of nutrients. Other times, hunger can be mysterious. Consider a few reasons why you may be feeling hungry and discover how to feel comfortably full.

Salt can stoke your appetite
It makes you thirsty in the short term, but over time, a high intake of salt can actually cause you to drink less and eat more. Salt triggers the body to conserve water, which it does by producing a compound called urea. This process requires a lot of calories, so it revs up your appetite. Processed food often has hidden sodium so aim to eat more fresh, whole foods.

You eat too often
When you eat small bites and don't sit down to real meals, you never feel truly hungry or truly full. Eventually, your appetite cues become muted and you're vaguely hungry all the time. Instead, try eating every four hours or so. Sit down and have a meal with protein, fiber and healthy fat three times a day. Supplement with good-for-you snacks when meals are more than four hours apart.

Glossy Images
Stop checking Instagram all day. Beautiful food pictures seduce you, increase cravings and make you want to eat. The same goes for TV commercials featuring restaurants and food.

If any of these reasons sound familiar, maybe that's the key to your hunger pangs. 
Try these tips to feel satisfied and get on with your day.  

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Your Food

Friday, April 12, 2019

Move More #4

We're a nation of sitters. TV binge-watching, desk jobs, and the allure of the internet all contribute to that fact that most of us spend at least 50% of our day sitting down. The more we sit, the higher our risk of first-world diseases of affluence: diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

We need to recognize that it's as important to decrease overall sedentary time as it is to maintain a regular practice of intense, formal exercise. How can we resist the call of the sofa and work more movement into our daily lives? Today's blog is a continuation of an occasional series on moving more.

Enlist Canine Support
Dogs are good motivators. A 2017 study showed that dog owners exercised 22 more minutes per day (usually in the form of moderate-paced walking) than people without dogs. No pups in the family? Consider offering to walk neighbors' or friends' dogs. A neighbor of mine put out a dog-walking request on Next Door and connected up with our dog, Sadie Mae, for weekly walks.

Master Mini-Workouts
Many people assume that healthy movement must take place at a certain time and place: 6:00 am yoga class or 7:30 am run at the high school track. But you can move virtually anywhere and anytime. For every 20-30 minutes you're sitting down, get up and walk for a few minutes. Every time you pass through a doorway, stretch your arms on the door frame. Standing in line at the grocery store, do a few lunges or stretch your calves. Whenever you get out of your car, reach to touch your toes.

Take A Stand
Try a stand-up option at your desk. Studies have shown standing moderately improves work-place performance but standing more undoubtedly increases your options for healthy movement throughout your workday. Try placing a book under the ball of your foot and stretching your calf. You can put your knee on the desk in a half-pigeon pose to stretch your hip. You will be more inclined to shift positions or walk down the hall to talk to a colleague.

Decrease Your overall sedentary time.
Find a canine partner to walk with. 
Choose mini-workouts throughout the day.
Consider a standing desk for your workspace.  

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Your Food 

Friday, April 5, 2019

Use Your Head to Get an Edge

For this season of Lent, I have challenged myself to meditate every day. Until now, I have blogged about it, recommended it, talked about it but have never made the time to practice meditation daily. I am doing well and noting progress. I remind myself that the practice is the important part, not meeting a specific goal. Here are three brain benefits you can discover from investing just a few minutes a day.
Meditation can help your focus become sharper.
By strengthening your pre-frontal cortex, the area of your brain used for planning and decision-making, meditation makes it easier to lock in on what you're doing in the moment. You're creating new neural pathways that help you stay in the moment and that can improve your performance whether you're managing a board meeting, playing tennis or trying to keep the beat in a dance cardio class.

Meditation can help you push past your limits.
The last rep, the final lap in the pool or mile on the trail - that's the tough one. Harnessing your brainpower can help you cut through the discomfort. Meditators can tone down the part of their brain that judges and tries to control pain. Instead, they are able to view it with a relaxed, non-judging attitude. By training the mind, you can learn to deal with discomfort in a new way.

Meditation can help you gain workout willpower.
Mindfulness is really powerful in that moment right before you decide whether to run that extra mile, stay through class or swim five more laps.  By acknowledging the itch to quit and instead taking a breath to let the impulse pass, you are creating a space to make a better choice - one that gets you some progress.
Meditation is just like working out. The more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it. Recent research has found that just a few weeks of meditation can thicken your brain stem and increase your gray matter. Practice and consistency will strengthen your brain and nervous system the same way lifting weights strengthen your muscles.

Check out these previous blog posts for more on meditation: Cutting Edge Strategies to Improve Willpower and Brain-Body Benefits of Meditation

Stay Active, Keep Moving and 
Begin Mediating This Week

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Your New Favorite Granola

Granola can be a healthy addition to the day. Purchasing a prepared product is convenient but making your own ensures that you consume whole foods without unwanted additives. Plus, you can customize the ingredients for a flavor you love. Use this rubric to make your new favorite granola.

Dry Ingredients (choose 1 from each line):
Start with - 2 cups oats
Add healthy fats - 1 cup almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds...
Add fruit for sweetness - 1/3 cup dried cranberries, dried figs, crystallized ginger.....
Add interest with spices - 2 - 3 tsp cinnamon, curry powder, lemon zest, espresso powder....
Include 1/2 - 1 tsp sea salt

Wet Ingredients (choose 1 from each lline):
Sweet - 1/3 cup maple syrup, molasses, honey......
Healthy fat - 1/4 cup coconut oil, olive oil, butter......
Add texture - 1/4 cup mashed banana, pumpkin puree, unsweetened applesauce....
Finishing Flavor - 2 tsp. vanilla, almond extract, soy sauce......

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Mix dry ingredients in large bowl. In a small pan over low heat, whisk wet ingredients until smooth.

3. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, Stir until well combined.

4. Spread mixture in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Make sure not to overcrowd it.

5. Bake until golden-brown - about 30 minutes.

6. Cool granola. Store in airtight container at room temperature for up to a month.

In the morning, try combining your granola with whole milk Greek yogurt and fresh berries. Maybe you prefer to keep it in the car or your office desk drawer for a healthy snack. You can even use it as a sweet treat in the evening. Experiment with different flavor combinations to find your favorite.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Homemade Granola This Week

Saturday, March 23, 2019

A New Scientific Discovery

I have long touted the benefits of foam rolling and self-myofascial release. These techniques have made a huge difference in my life and I often share the tools and methods with clients. Recently, scientists have discovered more about how foam rolling works in our wonderfully complex bodies.

In early 2018, Scientific Reports published an article reporting that the interstitium is not just a layer of connective tissue, but is also composed of previously unseen fluid-filled spaces that lie just below the skin's surface, as well as around the lungs, digestive system and other organs. Kyle Stull, a NASM trainer, says, "As someone moves, these layers facilitate the sliding and gliding of tissues across each other, allowing for smooth movement."

Foam rolling will create pressure that can help "push" the fluid to move back and forth within these spaces. Stull notes, "Such movement will help to circulate out waste products produced by the cells, which then allows fresh fluid to enter the space. The transfer of fluid helps to revitalize areas of stagnation.... Movement will be reintroduced to this layer, leading to the demonstration of flexibility and improved movement patterns."

My take-away is that there are even more reasons to foam roll regularly! This self-massage therapy not only smooths out fascia and muscle adhesions but also moves interstitial fluid around the cells for healthy function. For more info on foam rolling, read, The Pros of Slow #2 and Workout Recovery and Foam Rolling.

It doesn't take much time or effort to give your body the "love" it deserves. Make foam rolling a priority and reap the benefits of happy, flexible muscles. 

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Foam Roll This Week

Friday, March 15, 2019

Green for St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day and all things green! Today I want to highlight pistachios and share just three benefits of this green nut.

Number One: Brain Health
Researchers at Loma Linda University discovered that regularly eating nuts improves brain waves. Pistachios created the greatest gamma wave response, associated with learning, processing, retention, and other key cognitive functions.

Number Two: Gut Health
Data from two randomized studies showed that both pistachios and almonds could increase the number of potentially beneficial microbiota in the gut - but the effect of pistachios was much greater.

Number Three: Inhibit Cancer Cells
In 2017, scientists at the Institute of Nutrition at Friedrich Schiller University found that both raw and roasted pistachios inhibited the growth of colon cancer cells while bolstering chemopreventive effects.

Pistachios are lower in fat and calories than other nuts. 
One ounce pistachios = 49 nuts = 159 calories. 

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Pistachios This Week

Friday, March 8, 2019

Pizza, Reimagined

Almost everyone loves pizza. The cheesy, bready salty qualities are hard to resist. But that is, of course, what is problematic about it. The nutritionally void ingredients, low-quality proteins, and additive-packed commercial sauces make it a dietary dud. Try remaking your pizza with high-quality ingredients that deliver nutrients your body will love.

White-flour crust
Refined flour is void of natural vitamins and will rapidly raise blood sugar.

Cauliflower crust is popular right now. You can also try putting your pizza ingredients on a vegetable base like thick slices of eggplant, portobello mushroom caps or large zucchini boats. I compromise with a homemade crust made from whole wheat flour and some unbleached white flour.

Cheese galore
Take-out or delivery pizza usually has an overload of cheese; sometimes it's even in the crust.

Quality over quantity. More flavorful cheese allows you to use less and enjoy more. Select a well-aged cheddar, fresh mozzarella, Gruyere or goat cheese. 

Scarce Veggies
A standard pizza offers a mere sprinkling of veggies.

Broccoli rabe, carmelized onions and well-drained artichoke hearts make great toppers. I lightly roast mushrooms, zucchini and tomatoes before sprinkling them over the unbaked crust.  I always top the finished pizza with peppery arugula. 

Incorporating fresh veggies and good-quality protein will not only add flavor and texture to your pizza creation, it will add a new level of nutrition and enjoyment.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Pizza This Week

Friday, March 1, 2019

Women's Heart Health #4

I'm finishing a series on women's cardiac fitness as part of February's Heart Health Month. Heart disease is a woman's No. 1 health risk. The good news is that 80% of heart attacks and strokes are preventable.

In Your 50's & 60's

Your risk of heart disease goes up during menopause and begins to match that of men's.

Pay Attention to Sleep

Adults who net fewer than six hours of sleep are more at risk than those who rest longer. If night sweats are a problem, keep your bedroom at 68 degrees or lower. If you snore, you might want to be checked for sleep apnea.

Pay Attention to Immunizations

When you're older, having the flu can raise your risk of heart disease because it can affect your blood pressure and heart rate. Consider a flu shot. After 65, discuss getting a pneumonia vaccine with your doctor.

Pay Attention to Vitamin D

More research is pointing to vitamin D deficiency as a factor in heart disease. In addition, older women don't synthesize D as easily. Get your D levels checked annually.

Be aware of your cardiac risks, care for your heart and reap the benefits for a long, healthy life.

 Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Your Food 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Women's Heart Health #3

I'm continuing a series on women's cardiac fitness as part of February's Heart Health Month. Heart disease is a woman's No. 1 health risk. The good news is that 80% of heart attacks and strokes are preventable.

In Your 40's

As you enter perimenopause, estrogen levels drop so you have less of it's protective effects. You may see your HDL (good) cholesterol go down and your LDL (bad) go up. Exercise is your prescription. It raises your HDL and the more HDL, the more protection you have. Change up your workout plan to keep your heart challenged.

Watch Your Waist

For women, a waist of 35 inches or up has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Keep your waistline trim with high-intensity interval training.

Watch Your Blood Sugar

Your risk for Type 2 diabetes goes up once you hit 45. Diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease because it leads to hardening of the arteries. Get your sweet fix from whole fruits to reverse the trend.

Watch Your Stress

Research has shown that uncontrolled anxiety (or depression) can be an underlying cause of heart disease. The mental stress raises cortisol, which enhances the build up of plaque in your arteries. Weave stress relief into your schedule, whether it's listening to music, doing yoga, or meditating.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and 
Enjoy Your Food 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Women's Heart Health #2

I'm continuing a series on women's cardiac fitness as part of February's Heart Health Month. Heart disease is a woman's No. 1 health risk. The good news is that 80% of heart attacks and strokes are preventable.

In Your 20's & 30's

Establish good  lifestyle habits now and it will be easier to stick with them throughout the years.

  • Exercise regularly to help keep your cholesterol and blood pressure low.
  • Stop smoking. This can reduce risk of a heart attack by 40%.
  • Limit alcohol. One glass of red wine can positively affect cholesterol. More than that can raise blood pressure.
You've got a good supply of estrogen during these years. This hormone helps increase HDL (good cholesterol), reduce LDL (bad), and relax blood vessels for strong blood flow.

You may become pregnant during these years. If you have complications like high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, or pre-eclampsia, you're at risk for heart disease, especially five to fifteen years post-delivery. In this case, your doctor should monitor you.

In your 20s and 30s, enjoy the protective benefits of estrogen and establish good health habits, not only for now but for the future.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Your Food

Saturday, February 2, 2019

February is Heart Health Month

I'm starting a February series on women's cardiac fitness as part of Heart Health Month. Today I'll share a short overview of heart health. Following blog posts will discuss strategies for heart attack prevention for each decade of a woman's life. Most tips will apply to men, as well, so guys - keep reading!

Heart disease is a woman's No. 1 health risk. The good news is that 80% of heart attacks and strokes are preventable.

Know Your Stats

Check your cholesterol every five years and your blood pressure and hemoglobin A1c (a test for diabetes, which impacts heart health) every two years.  HDL protects your cardiac health - you want a number in the higher range. Look for low numbers in the bad LDL.

Know Your Family History

If a parent or sibling has early heart disease your risk increases. Know what type of cardiac event occurred before 55 for men or before 65 for women to assess your risk.

Know The Signs

Heart attack symptoms can be different for women:
  • pain in the shoulders, neck, jaw, upper back or arms
  • unexplained dizziness or fainting, light-headedness, or palpitations
  • shortness of breath or trouble breathing without chest discomfort
  • clammy sweating
  • stomach pain, abdominal pressure or nausea
  • unusual weakness, fatigue or inability to perform simple activities

If you or someone you know is having these symptoms, call 911 and say, "I think I am having a heart attack." so the EMTs will come prepared.

You care for your outside - clothes, hair and make-up. Be heart smart and care for your inside - your cardiovascular system - just as much.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Your Food

Friday, January 25, 2019

Tacos, Re-Imagined

Need a quick dinner tonight? Tacos are always a crowd-pleaser. But, they are not always the best dietary choice. I'll try to put a healthier spin on this weeknight favorite.

Mass-produced shells or tortillas
Usually made from refined white flour, they offer few nutrients. They also tend to include hydrogenated oils.

The ingredient list for fresh, soft corn tortillas should be limited to corn (masa), water, lime & salt. These tortillas will give you twice as much fiber and anti-oxidants, including lutein. OR, skip the tortillas and build a taco bowl with fresh shredded greens.

Grain-fed ground beef
Cows fed on a diet of grains produce meat high in inflammatory omega-six fatty acids. Feedlot cows are also given growth hormones and antibiotics, which can disrupt human health.

Grass-fed ground beef or steak, chicken thighs, or salmon are good options. Scrambled eggs can give a breakfast vibe. Crumbled tempeh or canned black beans are vegetarian choices.

Packet seasonings typically feature lots of additives, preservatives, salt and sugar.

Make a spice blend using your own cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika and dried oregano. Create a meat marinade with lime juice, garlic and cilantro. 

Pre-shredded cheese
Avoid the added cellulose - wood pulp - added as a caking agent and shred your own.

Top with fresh avocado or guacamole for healthy fat. Add some belly-friendly plain Greek yogurt for an extra dab of protein.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Nutrition-Rich Tacos This Week

Friday, January 18, 2019

Sweep Away Stress Granules #3

Most of us agree that stress has a physical affect on our bodies. New research has revealed that our cells release substances called stress granules which can greatly affect our health. My blog post from January 4th discusses the physical process of how they are created. Last week, I shared two tools to help prevent the buildup of stress granules. This week I share two more:

Choose Color
As a part of their normal process of generating energy, our cells release free radicals - harmful, unstable molecules that create oxidative stress. This can lead to a pileup of stress granules. Anti-oxidants in brightly colored vegetables can prevent and reverse oxidative stress. Fill 70% of your plate with vegetables and aim to include different colors at each meal. Dark leafy greens, red peppers, yams, broccoli. Include colorful seasonal fruit - apples in the fall, citrus in the winter, berries in the spring and stone fruits in the summer.

Clean the Air
Early research indicates there may be a link between environmental toxins and stress granules. So far, lead and mercury have been implicated, but there are likely others, so it's smart to reduce your exposure to pollution. Concentrate on what's inside your home, since indoor air can be just as polluted as outdoor air. A recent study found that volatile chemical products - pesticides, furniture coatings, cleaning agents and personal care products - now rival transportation as the top sources of pollution in cities. Consider investing in a good air purifier.

Side note about outdoor air: You can stop worrying about the exhaust fumes you encounter when you run, bike or walk outside. Turns out, you'd have to cycle outdoors for up to seven hours a day for those negative consequences to add up, according to research from the University of Cambridge.

Get rid of stress granules before they accumulate and cause harm. 
Be aware of indoor air quality and fill your meals with vegetables of all colors. 

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Your Food

Friday, January 11, 2019

Sweep Away Stress Granules #2

Most of us agree that stress has a physical affect on our bodies. New research has revealed that our cells release substances called stress granules which can greatly affect our health. Check out last week's blog post to find out how the process works.

Here are two potent tools for preventing the buildup of stress granules:

Exercise brings more blood to the brain and has many positive effects that help prevent the accumulation of stress granules. It increases the delivery of nutrients, oxygen, and healthy growth factors to your neurons and it speeds the removal of toxins from the brain. Neurological experts still don't know the best exercise for the brain but they found that people who did at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times a week were less likely to have a build-up of damaging proteins - the ones that research has associated with stress granules.

Plaque Attack
Keeping your gums healthy is a surprisingly effective weapon against stress granules. One source of stress for the body comes from dental plaque and gingivitis. They create inflammation, sending molecules called cytocines through your system, hurting the cells. Brush at least twice a day, floss daily and visit the dentist two times a year. Between meals, you can chew sugar-free gum. Some have a sweetener called xylitol, which may lower your risk of cavities.

Check back next week for two more tools to combat the buildup of stress granules. 

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Your Food

Friday, January 4, 2019

Sweep Away Stress Granules #1

Most of us agree that stress has a physical affect on our bodies. New research has revealed that our cells release substances called stress granules that can greatly affect our health.

It starts when something stresses you: air pollution, or a virus, or your boss. Your cells launch into repair-and-recovery mode. As part of that process, the body produces proteins that help rebuild your cells and RNA, the chemical messengers that trigger the release of health-promoting compounds. These RNA agents carry out the repair process by clumping together, forming stress granules.

When they do their job properly, these particles protect the cells from damage, essentially creating a temporary shelter so the body can better repair itself. Once the stressor is gone, the stress granules are easily swept away, typically in just 10-15 minutes.

Normal cell on left. Cell with stress granules (in yellow) on right.

But when something interferes with the cleanup operation, stress granules accumulate. That build-up may be linked to Alzheimer's and cardiovascular disease.

Scientists don't know for sure why the cleanup operation is aborted. Suspects include nutritional deficiencies, chronic disease, or living in a heavily polluted area.

On-going stress is another potential suspect. When you're under pressure, your body releases hormones called glucocorticoids. One theory is that constant exposure to high levels of these hormones can result in stress granules accumulating, which leads to the neuronal atrophy and degeneration that's characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.
Stress Granules and toxic Tau Tangles

The bottom line: You need to get rid of these particles before they cause harm. Check back next week for strategies to combat stress.

Stay Active, Keep Moving and
Enjoy Your Food