More Information on Food

September 23, 2011

Below is a great article about food addiction published in the latest journal by the American Council on Exercise. While I am not entirely positive that it should be called a disease, as they call it in the article, the research backs up my recent post on sugar and its negative effects on the body. It also backs up the viewpoints that processed food, while quick and easy, is a leading contributor to the growing overweight and obesity epidemic, diabetes, and unsurprisingly food addictions.

Here is also an article on the challenges older exercise participants face and the importance of mind-body interaction. Again, it is more evidence that points to exercise as being the best medicine in the battle to prevent neurological diseases in conjunction with “brain teasers”.

Go out and take charge! You alone have the power to improve yourself and your lifestyle. Happy first day of Autumn! I, for one, am super excited. I love fall foods, particularly pumpkin. Also, the cooler weather is a great climate for getting outdoors and doing some exercise or work. Remember, exercise does not have to take the shape of conventional thought. Moving about your garden or mowing the lawn also counts.

At the Kintai-kyo, surrounding gardens. Not the best image but I do love Japanese falls.

As summer gives way to the brisk days of fall, we prepare for the long haul till the holidays. Gone are the dog days when bygones are able to be bygones. Back are the long, tedious hours of continuous labor, unending to-do lists, activities for the kids, activities for the parents, the coming and the going that we so often do mindlessly, habitually.


Like the rest, I also get into a pattern. I go. I keep going even when I feel that there is something important that I ought to consider amid the chaotic schedule I sometimes keep. Something? Someone. That someone would be me, of course.


This week has been a struggle for me. I resurrected an issue that has since past. I would like to bury it again but, as always when my brain digs stuff up, I cannot. It won’t go away. I cannot get it to roll off my shoulders and sink back into the earth, which means that it is time to take care of me again. This means facing facts and making decisions and clearing out the superfluous clutter that has clouded my brain this summer while I’ve been marching on in superhero mode.


It is amazing what clearing out mental clutter can do for you. First and foremost, it alleviates a tremendous burden from your shoulders. Literally. I am amazed how many people who come into my Pilates class have no idea how to let their shoulders fall away from their ears. They sit hunched up and try to get through the exercises because this is just another thing to accomplish on the day’s list. I am also astonished by how much neck and shoulder tension they feel relieved when they finally learn how to let go of their world at the door, and how few of them pick up as much baggage as they dropped off when leaving class. It is awesome to see! I am grateful to be a part of the process that helps them but in the end, it is really their choice.


Just as it is my choice to bury matters I’d rather not deal with until they fester into worse matters or not. Just as it is my choice to cling to negative feelings or not. Just as it is my choice to complain about a topic forever or deal with it, cross the bridge, and get over it. No use crying a river when the solution to the situation rests in the palm of your hand.


I am not sure how I will deal with it. I know I have to. It won’t go away, remember? Besides, I’m the sort that does not like drama in my life. I like to be serene whether or not my schedule reflects it. I will get there, however, but getting there has nothing to do with action.


It has everything to do with accepting one of the most important truths in the world: you cannot control others’ thoughts, words, and deeds; only your own.


I tell myself this again and again. Intellectually, I understand that there are cruel people out there determined to have their own way by any means possible. They have no qualms about stepping on others to achieve what they perceive is success. It is never right to demean another individual. We all are guilty of it. We get tired and frustrated and discontent and a whole slew of other negative emotions which leads to output by speech or action.


I think that is why I struggle. I do not want this to turn into a boiling pot of negativity. I want to take what has been negative and make it positive not just for others but also for myself. See, I’m taking care of myself. Only then can I help others.


So, while I’m working out the kink in my week, don’t forget that single most important rule to live by. You cannot control others’ thoughts, words, and actions…and you really don’t want to. Therefore, if you can, let go of the things that cloud your head. Give your brain air to breathe. Then, whatever remains that proves bothersome, examine it. Deal with it. Accept yourself for your strengths and weaknesses and, if needed, give yourself permission to forgive you (or others). It is good to be emotional through the process. It is never good to take those emotions out on another. You end up injuring yourself more than you will ever harm them.


And what value does health have if we constantly hurt ourselves?

Fitness Goal-setting

September 9, 2011

Oversplits. Wikipedia.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my goals in recent weeks, not only in my professional life but personally as well. There is a whole slew of things I want to accomplish before I’m 30 such as gain a couple top notch fitness certifications in Pilates and yoga, write a few articles, still be able to accomplish a round-off back handspring tumbling sequence, dance again, oversplits, etc. The sheer amount I want to do seems daunting at times, particularly when I look at financial and locational constraints. It is often frustrating to be in the middle of nowhere and underpaid (or not at all) for the services you provide by people who do not care about what you do.


However, my spirits are always bolstered when I see that what I do–how I persevere–helps others. Today, for example, a female marine was in the same room as I doing abs and getting in her last-minute stretch before she had to change for work. I was in there working on maintaining and increasing my range of motion, otherwise known as flexibility. As I worked into my right oversplit, she finally worked up enough courage to ask how I grew so flexible. I asked her a couple of questions and explained how she could work into a split, working with her for a few minutes. The biggest thing I told her to remember was patience. These things take time.


Which brings me to setting reasonable goals in your fitness regimen (and other areas of your life). As I keep reminding myself daily, achieving goals takes time, energy, and resources. In fact, they take more of these things that you originally think. That is okay, good even. It can keep us from burning out or getting injured. Slow and steady wins the race.


It is how you plan your fitness goals that will result in your success. Here are a few ways to help establish appropriate goals so as to not 1) injury yourself, 2) frustrate yourself, and 3) see slow, steady results:


1. Know Thyself: this old oracular pronouncement should be applied all areas of life. In the health industry, this applies to the limitations, contraindications, and complications of your body, any diseases or illnesses you might have, and your current physicality. The best way to find out where you are is to test yourself. Talk with your doctor before starting a regimen and get his/her advice; seek a second opinion if you are not sure of the solidity of that advice but do not ask personal trainers (PTs) to give medical advice as it is outside their professional scope of practice. If after talking with the doc you are still unsure how to proceed, spend the money on a fitness assessment at a gym and a few training sessions with a PT to get you going in the right direction. These will give you a starting baseline from which to grow and tips to keep you from getting injured.


2. The Tortoise and the Hare: somewhere between 80-90% of people quit their new regimens within 6 months of beginning them. There are a number of reasons why: they aim too high for their current fitness or dietary abilities; underestimate the time, energy, and resources necessary to achieve their goals; tackle too many changes at once; do not keep to a schedule; let life, friend and family derail their progress; get frustrated when they cannot accomplish what they think they ought; burnout or injury from doing too much too quickly; they hate exercise, dietary discipline, or both; or feel intimidated and overwhelmed. Remember: slow and steady. It is better to feel slightly frustrated because you are not doing quite the maximum speed, weight, range of motion, etc., that you feel you are capable of doing than to overwork and suffer burnout, injury, or frustration from unattained short-term goals.


3. Divide to Conquer: we all have long-term goals. A lot of people want to lose X-lbs or change their diet. Again, trying to attain your goals in one step is much, much harder than chopping it up into five, six, or ten short-term goals. Start with one behavior you would like to change. Work on it. Then when you have that under control, add another. Most of us cannot go cold turkey, so why get frustrated when reaching for goals can be fun, rewarding, and motivating?


4. Think Behavioral, Not “Symptomatic”: a healthy life is not about tackling the extra pounds or cutting out the processed food. These are symptoms of much bigger issues. A healthy life is about changing your unhealthy habits that promote things like overweight and obesity. Yet sometimes these unhealthy habits are symptoms of hidden issues within your life. It is always best to tackle these underlying issues first before starting a health and fitness regimen, so seek out proper professionals if necessary.


5. It is Okay to Seek Help: many who suffer from anxiety and depression will benefit highly from beginning a regimen with doctor’s supervision. If you are unsure that you are struggling with an issue such as an eating disorder, depression, etc., but want to change your lifestyle habits to healthier ones, I suggest being honest and straightforward with yourself and then seeking professional assistance.


Go out and define your goals! You alone have the power to change who you are.

I found this list in the latest American Council on Exercise Journal and wanted to share it with you. It is the top 12 fruits and vegetables that are considered the “dirtiest” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Frankly, I’m a bit bummed by it. I love most of the things on here. Therefore, the advice I offer: grow it yourself or go organic.


1. Apples

2. Celery

3. Strawberries

4. Peaches

5. Spinach

6. Nectarines (imported)

7. Grapes (imported)

8. Sweet bell peppers

9. Potatoes

10. Blueberries (domestic)

11. Lettuce

12. Kale/collard greens


But wait! Did not think I’d leave you without good news, did you? Here are 15 of the cleanest fruits and vegetables, called the “2011 Clean 15):


1. Onions

2. Sweet corn

3. Pineapples

4. Avocados

5. Asparagus

6. Sweet peas

7. Mangoes

8. Eggplant

9. Cantaloupe (domestic)

10. Kiwi

11. Cabbage

12. Watermelon

13. Sweet potatoes

14. Grapefruit

15. Mushrooms


Check out the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Shopper’s Guide, a free PDF download available at A iPhone app is reported by ACE to be available soon. Happy shopping!

When Trying Is Not Enough

September 2, 2011

“Do, or do not. There is no try.” -Master Yoda-

Theangryfish. All right reserved to the arist. Please do not copy or steal. Thank you.

As a child, this tiny grain of wisdom that had exploded onto the silver screen almost a decade before my birth has impacted my way of thinking on my pursuits. The two biggies are fitness and writing, the things I want to make a living from. Want to–yes, because for the former there are no jobs currently in my present location (so I’m volunteering and still making an impact where I can) and because for the latter I’m not yet done writing my novel (but soon will be).

So what does a tiny wizened alien have to do with me? Well, simply this. For many years I have been trying. Trying to lose weight. Trying to stay fit. Trying to write. Trying to get published. Trying this sort of diet or that sort of writing program. Trying, trying, trying.

My first kick in the teeth came from Holly Lisle, a writer whose written and done all sorts of amazing things to give back to the writing community. (For more information, see the Writer Links in the sidebar.) I was depressed. My husband was overseas with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unity. I wanted to write but I did not seem to have the interest in it and that bothered me. I have always written. It is something I do to live, to be happy. So my apathy was disconcerting and had me browsing the web for “help” and “ideas”, etc. What did Holly tell me? Simple: stop talking about writing and start doing it.

As a fitness instructor, it is highly discouraging to watch fresh faces flood the gym and the aerobics room at the new year, eager to stick to their resolutions, only to watch the numbers shrink as one excuse after another pops up. Granted, I’ll give the real emergency, short or lengthy, as a valid excuse. Life happens and it isn’t always kind. I will also give the summer holidays we like to take. People need vacations to revitalize themselves. They’re healthy.

Then, excepting these two things, why is it that around 85% of people fall off the fitness wagon within 3 months? I think it is because they do not know how to resolute properly. “I’m going to lose 50 pounds” or “I want to quit eating fat” are resolutions that sound great but for most people are nothing but a bunch of hot air. They have great intentions and most give it a good try. So did I. But intending and trying don’t cut it when you want to succeed.

At a certain point, most people stop trying. There are two forms to this. What happens most often (sadly) is that they give up. They revert to their former ways with the idea that they are beyond help or are in some way fated to be fat, unhealthy, or unable to succeed at their dreams.

The other, smaller, group of people stop trying and start doing. They do whatever it takes–some sleep in their gym clothes and shoes!–to get fit. They do whatever it takes–some get up at ungodly hours to get 500 words down on a page, or sketch an idea–to succeed. Benjamin Franklin said that success meant going to be early in order to get up early. It is a great idea, one I am a firm believer in, but not everyone likes or can do it. However, if we look at a great example of doing, it is Ben Franklin.

Personally, I finally stopped staying I wanted to be a writer and became one. I stopped saying I wanted to be fit and did it. Now I’ve stopped saying that I want to eliminate as much sugar as possible from my diet and have started that process as well. It is hard. No one ever said success was easy. But those who succeed want their dreams and goals badly enough to do something about attaining them.

For those of you who are struggling with weight loss, I highly recommend reading Tom Venuto’s blog. (See sidebar.) I tend to agree with the man on 99% of the stuff he writes. Plus, he lives what he preaches. Whether or not you take his Burn the Fat challenge is your decision in the end. I think he offers a lot of great advice, like that given below, to people looking to get healthy. See, that is the real issue with yearly resolutions: they focus on the symptoms instead of tackling the problem (i.e. the problem is not that you are fat; it is that you are not moving or eating appropriately, etc.).

Remember Master Yoda. If need be, channel whatever you believe is the Force–it will be with you. Most of all, do!

Good luck on achieving success!