Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jenny's Thoughts on Moderation and Health

I suppose food and health have always been a focus of my life. 

As a little kid, I decided I didn’t like hardly anything I was forced or asked to eat.  I would put whatever I was supposed to eat in my mouth, and then pretend to wipe my mouth, while spitting the food into my napkin, asked to be excused and proceed to throw it away in the bathroom trash can.  I was obviously a picky eater; except for desserts.  Somewhere along the lines I determined I love all things sweet and chocolate.  (Thanks Dad)  A particular memory of when I was about six or so, is going to Ponderosa (my family was living the high life) and refusing to eat anything my parents put on my plate; until I noticed the ice cream buffet.  Afraid I would get in trouble for not eating the proper food, but wanting ice cream, I didn’t say anything, just sitting there hungry.  Somehow my parents figured out what I wanted and I got the opposite response.  They would let me have all the ice cream I wanted as long as I ate something.  I suppose they were tired of fighting the battle.  Needless to say, I had ice cream for dinner.

You would think having that sort of attitude as a little kid, I would have been overweight (only wanting sweets) but I wasn’t.  Whatever little I ate, I hopped, ran and played off.  I mention hopped because I was so full of energy, I never walked anywhere, I hopped or skipped.  My dad nicknamed me Tigger because of that.  But I digress. 

I think, ultimately, my parents were my source of “healthy” eating, for both good and bad reasons.  My mom’s family has a history of high cholesterol and high blood pressure.  Therefore, my mom began fixing every low and no cholesterol foods she could find, before the “trend” was popular.  My mom has a vast medical background, so she knew enough that fat was bad as was fried food.  She owned heart healthy, anything healthy, no and low cholesterol cookbooks.  Fortunately, my mom was a good cook and wasn’t above trying new things.  So my taste buds were used to having new things on them.  By the same token, however, both my mom and dad always battled their weight.  My dad didn’t have any will power when it came to food.  He told me he had been forced to be part of the “clean plate club” as a little kid, and fully believed he didn’t know when he was full.  He could eat until he was sick.  Out of that, he said that’s why he never forced me to finish my plate.  “I don’t want you ending up like me.”  My mom has all kinds of will power, but despite whatever she cooked that was healthy, she still struggled with her weight.  I think part of that was never having or allowing for time to get proper exercise in, either. 

I must add that my attitude of not liking anything tended to come from my mom.  It seems rather contradictive to say; she would be willing to try out all kinds of new recipes, but when we would go out to eat anywhere, she would stick to what she knew and if something didn’t look or sound appealing, she wouldn’t go for it.  I wanted to be just like my mom, so I followed suit with whatever she did, or didn’t do.  This aggravated my dad.  He had been in the military and been all over the world, so he was able to try all kinds of things.  His favorite was Asian food.  Finally, one day, I got a lecture at an Asian restaurant from him that I didn’t know if I didn’t like something unless I tried it.  For whatever reason, that stuck and I began trying different things.  To this day, I am still grateful for that lecture. And I love Asian food.

At the same time I say I liked very little and really only liked desserts, somewhere I had tried vegetables, all kinds, raw and steamed, with dressing, basically in any form and I liked them…no loved them.  The only one I haven’t really found a liking to is peas.  Tried ‘em, didn’t like ‘em, looks like diarrhea when you eat ‘em.  That being said, as I got older, I understood my parents struggle with weight.  Well, I can’t say I understood, it, but I respected it.  In that sense, I knew I never wanted to deal with that struggle and did everything I could not to end up like either of them. (I don’t mean that offensively, but rather, never wanted to deal with being overweight and then struggling to get it off.)

I had a little background in healthy living/food from my mom so as I got older and was able to make my own decisions about what I ate; I was able to make more healthy decisions.  I have to say though that I wasn’t an entirely healthy eater, nor am I now; it’s a constant process of learning to making the right decisions.  I still love Burger King, Taco Bell, Blue Bell ice cream, Mountain Dew and yes (God help me) Bologna.  However, all these things are in very little moderation.  Very little.  I drink more water than any other drink.  It’s always been my favorite thing to drink.  Part of eating poorly in moderation comes from not only feeling guilty about what I’m putting in my body, but also because I’ve been plagued with migraines my entire life.  Therefore I watch everything I eat or drink—not enough water and too much salt=’s a migraine, not enough water at all=’s migraine, too much caffeine=’s migraine, too much salt=’s migraine…you get the picture.  In my early 20’s, I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, so reading ingredients etc., has become a regular thing for me, to see what may affect this.  My dad passed away from esophageal cancer, so when I began having acid reflux symptoms, I saw the doctor and again, made changes in my diet to counteract the effects I was having.

Aside from eating properly (or not in some cases) I have always tried to keep exercise in my life in some form or another.   Again, this comes from my parents.  I can still hear my mom say “Go run some of your energy off!”  As a teenager, my bike was my constant companion.  As was my “Fabio Fitness” vhs tape. (Insert laughter here)  As I’ve gotten older, I still make daily conscience decisions to get some form of exercise in my life.  I park further out at the store to be able to walk, whenever I eat anything, I try never to sit too long, I get up and move; I have stairs in my house and will purposely make more than one trip for the exercise. I use the Wii (purposely having bought the exercise games). My husband I take evening walks around the neighborhood.  (I might add that my husband struggled with his weight growing up, but after a stint in the Marines, and wanting to continue that weight loss, he became a “gym rat,” and still is. He also knows a bit about eating healthy and making healthy choices, so this helps. He measured our distance around the neighborhood so we know, depending on the route we take, we walk either 1 or 2 miles…) For my birthday this year, I bought myself an elliptical machine and I love it.  It’s not something I use every day, but I make an effort to use it at least once a week.  This may sound bad, but as I said, I tend to do anything I can to get in some form of exercise every day; so if I don’t use it, I do something else.  I am fortunate that my office sits way back off the road and has a very long access road to the main street.  My boss is supportive of me just getting away from my desk and going for a walk. 

As I said, eating healthy and learning more about my body is a constant process.  I love to learn from other people and what they do to stay and be healthy. I love learning new forms of exercise. (One day I will get myself in that pool!) That is very important to me.  I have always and I guess will always struggle with will power against eating the “wrong” things. (I tend to go with the “everything in moderation” motto, but I’d still like the healthy foods to outweigh the non-healthy foods) I’d like to lose a little bit of weight, or at least tone up what I have, but overall I’m happy with how I look for being 33.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Kevin's Healthy Threeway

Hmmm…what is fitness to me? Man, I just can’t sum it up quickly. This may take a minute. I’ll start by saying what it’s not. It’s not P90X, or Insanity, or any number of fitness videos. Sure, those things can be a part of a fitness routine; however, overall fitness is so much more. To me, fitness comes down to a sound mind, body, and spirit. Lame, right? I know. It sounds lame when you say it, but I believe it. I believe you need to be balanced. Lose one part of the equation, and it can all fall apart.

What’s it mean to have a fit mind? For me it means staying sharp. Play Words With Friends, do crosswords,  READ! Reading opens your mind to new ideas, helps your spelling and vocabulary, and keeps you away from the TV. It’s been shown many times over that people who watch a lot of TV take in many more calories in a day. We’ve been wired to eat when we watch a lot of TV, and it’s usually not a healthy salad either. If you’re going to be serious about food choices and exercise, then you need to have an open and flexible mind.

I’m going to talk about something that may keep some from reading on: sound spirit. Alas, don’t be afraid. I’m not seeking to convert anyone to Christianity. I am a Christian, and it influences much of my life. However, whether you share my beliefs, or you’re atheist or agnostic; I have to believe that there is something that makes your spirit stir. For some, sound spirit means spending time outdoors; it really replenishes their spirit. Maybe it’s the same for you. Maybe it’s time alone with a good book. I don’t know, but I’m sure that you know what it is for you. Don’t lose touch with it. Keep those activities close. When you feel defeated spiritually, then it affects you mentally and physically as well.

Now on to the main course, sound body. I’m learning that sooo much goes into a fit body. Most of us don’t have the dedication to carve out a dedicated time to exercise 3-6 times per week. Life just gets in the way, right? Well, yes and no. My biggest struggle isn’t my diet, but it’s making time to be as physically active as I’d like. A year ago I was running 25-30 miles a week. That, along with light weight training allowed me to stay at a level that I was very happy with. Physically, I have never been in better shape than I was in during my early 20’s. I was reasonably fit from being pretty active in high school, but I was a growing boy with a hyper metabolism. When I got to college I got really serious about fitness. In a span of 9 months I once went from 185lbs, and maybe 14% body fat, to 225lbs and 7-8% body fat. I did it by lifting weights seriously 4-5 times a week and playing a lot of basketball. I was young, had time, and it was easy. From my mid-20’s to my early 30’s I was never really serious about fitness or my diet. I was very average in every way. Now, I’m reaching an age (34 next month) where I can’t be so nonchalant about it.

Last June I made the decision to eliminate red meat from my diet. It was an unintended consequence from reading a book that has absolutely nothing to do with red meat or food at all for that matter. I read “Born to Run”. Some of you may have heard about it. That book is what got me running. That book made me believe that I was capable of going out and running more than a mile at a time. That book made me want to go out and run more than a mile at a time. I started by running on the treadmill at L.A. Fitness. I think I could only run for 1-2 minutes without stopping at first. I decided to start running intervals. I would run the equivalent of a lap and a half around a track, and then I would walk half of a lap. I was able to do that for maybe 20 minutes at first. The next step was running a mile, and then walking a quarter to half of a mile, then repeat. Soon, I was covering 3 miles. Next I could run 3 miles nonstop. At that point I decided to start running outside. Man, what a difference! Running outside is about 20% more difficult. I was immediately humbled, but not discouraged. Within no time I was running 4-6 miles at a time, and didn’t even feel like I had done anything until I had run at least 3 miles. I was doing that 4-5 days per week.

Red meat. How does that tie into running? I realized that if I wanted to run well, then I had to fuel my body well. Junk in equals junk output. I can really tell a difference when I fuel my body with good foods. I decided that I was eating far too much read meat, and far too many processed foods that were filled with ingredients that I had never heard of and couldn’t pronounce either. I had never heard anyone say, “you need to eat less chicken and/or fish,” but I had heard and read that it was important to moderate how much read meat you take in. Let me be clear though. I’m not suggesting that you have to stop eating red meat. It was strictly a personal choice. I haven’t had red meat in 14 months now, and I don’t miss it a bit. I started by substituting ground turkey for ground beef, and now I mostly eat organic (free range, no hormones, or antibiotics from local farms) chicken and as much fish as I can. I try to snack on apples, bananas, nuts, and Newman’s organic pretzel sticks instead of chips and cookies. I find that I’m satisfied quicker and easier. I really struggle with vegetables. I hate lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower, peppers, onions, cucumbers, etc…I think you can see the pattern. I will basically eat corn, green beans, and potatoes. I like sweet potatoes, and I can sometimes tolerate spinach. I found that I can tolerate asparagus, but I don’t love it. I’ve tried to eat salad, but I hate all salad dressings. Hate. Seriously. Don’t ask about ranch. I’d rather be water boarded with hot sauce for an entire day than eat two bites of lettuce dipped in ranch dressing. Seriously. My solution for eating more veggies has been juicing them. I bought a Breville (highly recommended!) juicer and started to juice up some stuff. It’s amazing! My favorite recipe is lots of spinach with apples, carrots, ginger, and a little bit of lemon. It looks like liquid grass, but I think it’s delicious. I have found that I really enjoy drinking vegetable juice made from fresh organic vegetables. I literally feel a surge of energy for a few hours after drinking a glass of homemade juice. I also drink 100+ ounces of water per day. I cut out sodas at the same time I cut out red meat. I might have one soda a month now. I just don’t enjoy it anymore. Diet sodas are forbidden for me too. I think my body knows when I’m taking in artificial sugars, and it makes me crave the real thing which means sugary junk food. I hated drinking water at first, but now I’d prefer it over almost anything else.

Organics. That’s important to me too. We made a conscious decision to do all of our shopping at Whole Foods. It’s a 90 mile round trip for us, and it’s completely worth it. It has become very important to me not to eat anything with trans fats, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, or any other numerous fillers. Pick up a jar of Peter Pan peanut butter and you’ll see a list of ingredients that you probably didn’t know was in peanut butter. The peanut butter we use has one ingredient: organic peanuts. Amazing concept, huh? When it comes to veggies, if it grows in the soil, then it’s very important to me that it be organic. That vegetable is absorbing what is put into that soil. Put non-organic fertilizer and pesticides into the dirt and it goes into your potatoes, carrots, beets, etc…When you shop at Whole Foods it’s just so much easier to get good fruits and vegetables. It’s also easier to eat foods that are made from whole organic ingredients, and not a bunch of processed fillers. My mantra is that if I can’t pronounce it, then I don’t need to eat it.

I’ve rambled a LOT, and I don’t feel like I’ve made a really cohesive point, but that’s kind of how I approach fitness. It’s a culmination of a lot of little choices. Buy good food. You’ll eat less because it’ll fill you up quicker since it’s more nutrient rich. We bought a week’s worth of groceries from Whole Foods for less than $70!  Don’t look for the closest parking spot. Park an extra 50 or 100 feet out, and enjoy the extra walking. Take the stairs. Tap your foot if you sit at a desk. You’ll burn extra calories all day. Go for a walk on your lunch break. Start walking your dog if you have one and don’t walk him/her already. Start making small changes to your diet; you’ll stick with it easier that way. Read a book. Read a fitness magazine, maybe you’ll find new inspiration. Find a workout/accountability partner. Just do more than you’re doing now, and you’ll gradually start to become more fit. Fitness doesn’t have to be 5am trips to the gym, or 2 hours lifting weights to work one particular muscle. Fitness is a total lifestyle. It’s not what I do, it’s becoming who I am.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Angie, My Fit and Wonderful Wife

Fitness began for me around 8th grade when my muffin top started to pop. I was always an active, energetic kid, but when it became less and less cool to run around pretending to be a horse, I slipped toward the sedentary. Things like junior high cheerleading helped, but by the time I hit high school I was learning that I couldn’t eat just anything. I LOVED ranch salad dressing...and not the kind that’s made from mayo and buttermilk, it was Hidden Valley Ranch...the kind that’s filled with hydrogenated oils. Other favorites included Arby’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, and the occasional 7 Eleven Slurpee and nacho tray. My mom would cook meals, but they were often boxed foods and if we were eating fruit it was the canned stuff from syrup. She tried, but she was working a lot and the quick, industrialized foods were easier AND we loved them. I don't blame her for not fighting it much.

During my senior year of high school my best friend and I started to work on our lifestyles. Gym class was mandatory at school, but during our summer break before college we would meet up and work out, go for runs around our favorite pond or head to the mountains near Denver for long hikes, plus we made more effort to eat a little better. At first I could only run about 8 minutes and I would do run/walks, but I worked on building from there.

College was a difficult season for me where I went too far the opposite way and I got a little obsessive about cutting calories and working out. I had some buried emotional stuff that I hadn’t dealt with and I found I was taking it out on myself and instead of gaining “the freshman fifteen,” I lost fifteen pounds. I had no energy, my hair lost its shine and my face became sunken in. My friends and family were really worried about me, and I got into some therapy and worked through residual issues that I had from growing up with elements of dysfunction in my family.

During the latter part of my college years I found a more balanced, healthy approach. I am constantly growing and learning new things, but my general philosophy now is to be kind and respectful to my body. I started running 5K races, and trained up for the Portland Marathon, which I ran in 2004. It was so incredible to see how my hard work could allow me to accomplish something like that.

It’s such an input/output process: you are what you eat. I love to live in a body that is strong and has great lung capacity. I love variety, so I mix running, yoga, plyometrics, all sorts of cardio machines, swimming and biking (it comes and goes, but I love them all) and I follow free training videos that I can find online: stuff like the Tone it Up ladies, Tracy Anderson, and BodyRock is my very favorite. If you search them on you can keep your workouts challenging and fresh. MUSCLE CONFUSION! I’m a mommy and I work full time, so I sneak my workouts in during my lunch breaks: they’re usually 20 minutes of cardio and 20 minutes of intense bursts of interval training: burpees, lunges, hundreds of squats each week, push ups, ‘manmakers’ (seriously, find a video of them online!), that kind of thing. Variety is the name of the game. On weekends I tend to get my longer runs in (usually 3-6 miles). I typically work out 6 days a week, but I’m not spending 2 hours at the gym working my left shoulder muscle, I’m working my whole body and living my life and I’m ready at any given moment for an impromptu game of football, volleyball matches at family reunions, or to jump into an ultimate Frisbee game without popping a lung.

My philosophy with food is to eat the real stuff – I always keep a bowl full of fruit on the counter and I LOVE steamed veggies with a little butter or olive oil and all kinds of seasonings. I eat lots of nuts, sushi, and a fair amount of dairy: cheese, yogurt, and milk. I ascribe to the small, frequent meals and I try to earn my carbs with tough workouts. Don’t get me wrong...I follow my cravings and eat dark chocolate, ice cream, fudge, and we love dinners like pizza, burgers, tacos, pasta or chicken with yummy alfredo sauces, but we always make or meals from scratch. I have done my best to eliminate hydrogenated oils, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrups from my diet. I make small, minor improvements like when I stopped drinking Diet Cokes last year and I was reluctant to give up Taco Bell bean burritos but yes: I have. I limit my alcohol intake on week nights to one glass of wine or beer with dinner, and on weekends I allow a little more consumption, but not much more than that.

I think my biggest success story was when I was pregnant with and delivered my son. I went into it expecting to have a normal hospital birth, hooked up to an epidural, but when I watched a movie called The Business of Being Born I really explored the option of natural childbirth. We asked if I had that option with my initial gynecologist and was told, “you’ll have your child according to protocol: you’ll be strapped to the bed and you won’t be able to move around.” The thought of birthing a child when I couldn’t even have the force of gravity on my side made me feel claustrophobic and powerless, so we did a little research and found a birthing center that would accept my insurance and I could labor naturally. They wouldn't induce me. The epidural wasn't really an option. I got to go through the whole process in the caring hands of the midwives at Sutter Davis. The doctors and hospital were there, so I knew if things went really wrong they wouldn't hesitate to escalate it. 

I had a delightful pregnancy: largely, I believe, because my body is used to rising to the occasion when extra blood volume and oxygen is in demand. I would feel my best when I worked out like normal. Less puffy, invigorated, flushed with endorphins.  I jogged regularly well into my 8th month, which drew some comments. I didn't like to run on my own out in the neighborhood, so I would often just trot along on the treadmill at the gym. "What if you fall?" people would say. Or, "my friend is a doctor and he 's worried you're hurting your baby." I had educated myself about the many benefits of active pregnancy (lowered risk for pre-term labor and gestational diabetes, etc.) and would still do the elliptical, walk my dogs, and I would do light weight training and gentle yoga right up to the day I went into labor. I got to shuffle around my delivery room and I labored for hours in a hot shower...I finally pushed over pillows on the bathroom floor.

I had gained 40 pounds while pregnant, and 5 days after I had my little guy I was walking on the treadmill again. At my 6 week appointment I was down 20 pounds, but I still cried during the drive home. I think the hardest part about pregnancy in terms of body image is when you’re still stretched out. I had never walked and felt my belly wobble. I would lose a couple pounds each week and finally after about 7 months I got back to where I like to be. I’m lucky to have married a man who encourages me toward a more fit, healthy lifestyle and I think we establish that as a standard for our kiddo. It has nothing to do with wanting perfection, striving to look like someone in a magazine (I know Photoshop work when I see it), and I’m most likely not the skinniest girl in the room at any given time, but I operate from a calm, confident place AND I like my butt. I like myself.