Irony, and Fish For Food

January 26, 2012

Life holds irony. Last Friday, I posted on injury prevention, ways of doing so while you reach for your goals. Yesterday, as I was teaching a stretching class of all things (and I highly promote stretching) I dislocated my left patella. In everyday language, that’s my left knee cap. It was rather weird how it happened: after demonstrating various ways of doing a stretch, I rolled back into the normal version the wrong way. The floor connected with my knee…and my weight and the force in the roll just kept pushing the patella over.

It happened really, really fast. It was painful but not nearly as painful as it could be. The ER doctor on call popped it back into place. (The ambulance medics and the ER staff were pretty darn impressed with me. I had no pain killers on board–I hadn’t eaten in several hours and had no desire to add nausea to my ailments.) My nerves screamed for a bit more through the x-rays, which showed no break and no tissue damage. I’ve been told I’ve got to take it easy for a week or two, one Naproxen (twice daily), and wear a knee brace.

My response: no problem, doc! (Doesn’t mean I won’t teach those stretch variations again!) I have a twinge on the inside of my knee, where the ligaments were stretched. Otherwise, I am in good spirits and have even had a good laugh over it already.


Fish! There is some debate about the slippery, scaly creature in the health community as to whether or not it’s a health food. Personally, I believe it is. (Having read the some of the personal opinions by others–who aren’t doctors, but maybe activists and dieticians–I think some of the claims against fish are waaaaaaayy off the mark.) There is always room that I might be wrong but if I am, I’ll post on that another time.

I love fish. In fact, I would eat fish almost daily if I could afford to. Sushi is one of my favorite ways of eating it too…and before you dog on raw fish, try it. Certain fishes, like salmon and tuna, have very mild flavors that don’t offend a first-timer’s pallet. (If you’re a texture person, try tuna rolls before you go for nigiri-style sushi.) Other lean, mildly-flavored fishes include bass, brook trout, cod and flounder.

When I lived in Japan, I tried to eat fish (sushi) at least once a week. As a result, my high density lipoprotein levels (HDLs) were some of the highest my doctors had ever seen in a white woman. (Rock on!) I felt great. I felt healthy. I was happy because many fishes are gentle on the stomach while filling you up.

So, what do fish and shellfish do for you?

  • They are nutrient-dense, a source of high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals.
  • They contain omega-3 fatty acids, which is primarily responsible for many unique health benefits (2000+ scientific studies demonstrate that a higher intake of omega-3s prevent or treat at least 60 different health conditions, the best-known of which is heart disease, and may lower the risk of certain cancers (including breast, prostate, colon, and lung) and chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure, macular degeneration, and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).) The Mayo Clinic states that the benefits far outweigh the risks here
  • Omega-3s make blood platelets less likely to stick together and may reduce inflammation.
  • Fish oil may help relieve autoimmune diseases such as RA a psoriasis.
  • They contain significant sources of B vitamins.

Fish and shellfish are grouped by their omega-3 fatty acid content. Higher-level fishes include herring, salmon, and tuna; medium-level, freshwater and striped bass, mussels and oysters, swordfish, and rainbow trout; and lower-level, cod, flounder, grouper, haddock, perch, pike, sea trout, shrimp, clams and crab. To select fish, look for freshly cut, colorful flesh (no pools of water); moist, firm, smooth skin; a clean saltwater scent (having been to the largest fish market in the world, I can tell you from personal experience: it did not smell fishy); and bright, clear eyes if the fish is left whole. Flash-frozen fish is usually of excellent quality, even to fresh fish, but should be cooked as soon as possible and not refrozen.

As on the concerns for safety (most of which regard mercury, which can accumulate in a person’s body and cause neurological problems, and pesticides), here are ways to reduce intake of toxic chemicals:

Fish 2. Andrea Gerstmann. All rights reserved to the artist. Please do not copy or steal. Thank you. (She's a great artist. Visit her site, linked to photo!)

  • Limit your intake of freshwater (especially lake) fish as they are more likely to contain chemicals and carcinogens.
  • Eat smaller, younger fish as they have had less time to accumulate toxins in their fat. Salmon, which live two years, are preferable to halibut, which may live many years.
  • Eat open-ocean, deepwater fish more often.

For safety of freshwater fish, and to help fishermen, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Listing of Fish Advisories (NLFA). This provides information on fish consumption advisories issued by the federal government, state, territories, tribes, and local governments.

Be mindful when you eat. Some people, adults and children, do have allergies to fish and shellfish. Mild reactions include itching skin while medium and severe symptoms include difficulty breathing and anaphylaxis. People with thyroid disorder and a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones should consult their physicians about fish consumption, as fish and shellfish contain iodine and a small amount of oxalate.

If you can, go out and enjoy what the world produces. I’m sure you won’t be sorry. Remember, moderation is the key to a healthy lifestyle. Just as those things we consider as “bad” for us can hinder our health, so can an excess of those things we consider “good” to eat.


Margen, Sheldon, M.D.; and the editors of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter. Wellness Foods, A-Z: An indispensable guide for health-conscious food lovers. Rebus, New York, NY, 2002; p. 309, 319, 320.

Murray, Michael, N.D.; Pizzorno, Joseph, N.D.; and Pizzorno, Lara, M.A., L.M.T. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. Atria Books, New York, NY, 2005; p. 525-533.


A brief end note: as my schedule has changed, I will post health-related topics on Thursdays instead of Fridays.

Injury Prevention

January 20, 2012

My first official post since beginning this blog 😀 And now, onto the topic…


So you’ve made a resolution, right? You’ve made a commitment to getting fit. Be it three days a week or daily, you’re determined to see it through. Or…maybe you’re wavering, undecided about exercise. You aren’t sure that you can do it. (To which I will say, yes you can! Virtually everyone can walk and if not walk, there are stationary recumbent bikes.) You are worried that you will hurt yourself if you try something different or new.


Bravo for stepping out of the box! For even considering it! Being open to new experiences is how we grow as individuals. Go ahead, try it, keeping in mind these tips to prevent injury.


(Before beginning any exercise regimen–particularly if you have been sedentary or are deconditioned–get a physical done and talk with your doctor! Seek his/her recommendations for beginning a regimen before hitting the pavement, gym…whatever. The best prevention is informed decisions.)


1. If you are new to, or beginning (again, you say), to exercise, start slowly. Do not overdo it. Meaning: set a short-term goal to work out, say, 5 days a week. Do not start at 5 days a week when beginning. You are likely to be very sore by the end of it, a deterrent for exercise adherence–the main goal! Perhaps start at 3 days a week and work your way up.


Say you’re an experienced gym-goer who wants to mix things up. The same rule applies. By all means mix it up, but take things slowly. Start with fewer weight reps, or add 1-2 new classes at a time (depending on your tolerance for delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) and fitness level). Keep your short-term goals attainable, so that you can reach your long-term goals successfully.

2. Regardless of where you are in your fitness lifestyle, when you begin something new, let someone know about it. Talk with a trainer and get tips on how to do the exercises correctly; schedule time with a personal trainer if necessary until you safely know what you’re doing. Let the group fitness instructor of that class you’ve been dying to take know that it’s your first time. They should be able to tell you what you need to do to modify and/or call out modifications throughout the class. (If s/he does not cater to your beginner needs, find a different class!) And always inform your trainer or instructor of any medical conditions, pregnancies, surgeries, doctor’s recommendations, etc., before beginning. The last thing any of us wants if for you to collapse!

3. Be mindful of how the exercises feel. This does not mean freak out when you feel discomfort. Your nervous system has to adjust to the new demands you place upon it. Rather, sharp or very intense pain should be noted. The exercise should be stopped immediately, and you should ask your teacher/trainer (then, if possible) about it and whether or not there are modifications for that exercise.

4. Take breaks. Take vacations. Give your body time to recuperate after consistent bouts of exercise. I, myself, take weekends off. There are some who will workout until they reach a goal and then take a well-deserved vacation. The point is to listen to your body. When you’re physically tired, it becomes harder to prevent injury.


But, sometimes, we do end up getting hurt. We do something stupid (hopefully, that is a rare event but living in and amongst Marines has taught me never to assume anything) or a move we did in a yoga class pushed our bodies just a bit too far. You felt that shocking, sharp twinge in a joint, an intense pulling in your low back, or a snap-crackle-pop in a place you’re pretty sure wasn’t supposed to sound like that. Now what?


1. Call your doctor’s office. Tell them what happened. See if they recommend that you come in. For some injuries, the sooner the better.

2. For a sprain or strain (or any other injury until you can get into the doctor’s), R.I.C.E. (rest, ice the injury, compression of the injured area, elevation of the injured area)!

3. Think about what caused the injury. Make sure that, when healed and capable of resuming your regimen, that you discuss how to prevent the same or similar injuries from happening in the future with a trainer/instructor.

4. Don’t give up! Just because you got injured does not mean that you cannot exercise again. It might be a bit scary to get back in the saddle, but do! The benefits of exercise far outweigh the cons.


Now get out and get moving! You’ve got a wonderful life to live, made better by the effects of exercise. Be mindful as you work. Sweat a lot and smile more. You’re doing yourself a whole lot of good!


More on injury prevention

All (well, most; I might have missed one or two) previous entries from Velvet Skies are now uploaded to this blog. I have to say, the process was much easier than I anticipated. Thank you, WordPress!


Many blessing and peace to you all! Happy MLK Jr. Day!

I’ve started a new blog in an effort to minimize confusion on my writing blog, Velvet Skies. Also, as I’m American Council On Exercise certified in Group Fitness and Lifestyle & Weight Management, and have a genuine love of both fitness and helping others, I thought another blog would benefit those who may want to read health and wellness topics I post without having to wade through my writing posts as well.


As you can see, this is a work in progress. I plan on transferring my older posts from Velvet Skies to this blog, so be on the look out! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Miscellaneous Musings

January 9, 2012

Besides having just spelled miscellaneous ‘mischellaneous’


I have undertaken the task of revamping this blog (again), with thoughts of beginning another one specifically for health and wellness posts. I feel that posting them on what began as a writer’s outlet for musings on, well, writing, causes confusion. Perhaps I am wrong, and I am by no means stopping my posts. I just think it will help separate and define both the careers I pursue.


In addition, I have decided that I will blog Mondays and Fridays (before it had been Tuesdays instead of Fridays) as my schedule is full and these seem to be my least congested days. Plus, why not bracket the week with fun?


On the writing front, I am well underway with my edits. I have hit the middle doldrums, it seems. Frankly, I don’t ever recall editing taking this long before. I assume it has, and does, but whew! What a task. I managed to get through 1/4  of Melt Me this past week, with hopes of making it to the halfway point by Friday, Saturday at the latest. My goal is to have this first edit done by the end of January, whence I’ll seek out a few carefully-selected writerly (or avid readerly) sorts for alpha-readers. Eep! I’m getting to that point…and I’m scared! But then, if I cannot handle a few people reading my stuff, I might not want to publish at all…


(At which point my muses glare at me and tell me to grow up!)


I have also started putting together my world for a short story, which has yet to come together. I stumbled across last year’s Jane Austen Made Me Do It contest and made inquiries, and was severely disappointed when the contest-holder informed me that it had been conducted last year, not this year. Ah, well. Cannot have everything, can we? The contest idea did spark other ideas, however, ones related to other stories I have a mind to write someday. I had an epiphany: stories I once believed to be completely, utterly separate from one another are in fact linked. A single technology connects them! But, otherwise, the stories remain stories unto themselves, with no chance of the characters ever crossing each others’ paths. That would just be…wrong.


Now if only the kinks in my story would work themselves out while I edit, I’d be a super-happy writer…

I am back after a wonderful, and much needed, 2-week vacation. Like so many others, I have dived into the new year with anticipation of success. I got back on the horse and have hit the gym every day since the vacation ended. While I did not make any health or fitness resolutions this year, I know many people have, which is why the first post of 2012 is dedicated to them, healthy-style.


Traditionally, most people think of something they wish to change about themselves. For a lot of people, resolutions pertain to weight loss, exercise, and bad habits. The number of resolutions has grown in correlation to the overweight and obesity populations, I believe, which is why you hear so many of your friends say, “I resolve to lose 20 pounds” or “I’m kicking out sweets from my diet.”


These, and other resolutions, are not bad in and of themselves. It’s the journey to the goal that usually does not turn out the way we imagine it would. It’s harder, much harder, than anticipated. Without the tools for success, it can even be impossible.


Why? Because we get discouraged when we start seeing things that we perceive as counterproductive to our goals. The scale is perpetually stuck…or the numbers begin creeping up. That dingdong on the pantry shelf is calling your name…and you succumbed to the sweet temptation. These sorts of things happen, and happen a lot sooner than we think they will. As a fitness instructor, the gyms fill the first week of January but are relatively empty again by mid-March. It is estimated that only 10-20% of people actually accomplish part or all of their resolution goals, which is sad because I believe that the number could be higher.


Here are some tips to help yourself succeed at your health and fitness goals for 2012:


For Dieters:

The most important thing to remember is that any health behavior change you want to make needs to be permanent. How you make it permanent is to make it habitual. Habitual needs to be easy. It needs to be planned. It needs to be mindful, meaning that you must purposefully choose to do the habit over and over and over again until it becomes easy and the first thing you do.


1. Keep a food log on everything you eat, the amount you eat, and how you feel before and after you eat it, for 14 days. Do not cheat. Do not judge yourself during this time. Merely note your current eating habits. Do they stem from emotional mood swings? Do they stem from skipping breakfast? Are you not consuming enough calories? Fiber? Protein? Too much sugar (a personal woe of mine)? Examine the log at the end of two weeks and set goals from the results you get.


2. Progress slowly through dietary changes. Don’t toss everything all at once. Pick one (maybe two) unhealthy food choices to cross off your list and substitute them with a healthy item. Also, remember that it is OKAY to have an unhealthy food choice every now and again. Total denial is not fun. It is not fulfilling. It is not enjoyable.  It’s frustrating, which leads to bad moods and, possibly, bad eating choices.


3. Plan for cheat meals. If you know you’re going out with friends in the evening, eat light, healthy meals during the day so that you can enjoy the hamburger and fries then. You’ll feel less guilt and enjoy your time more than if you are the only one at the table nibbling on carrot sticks.


4. Drink plenty of water. Not only does water help prevent dehydration, the main cause of headaches, it also keeps you full. When you start feeling your stomach nibble at its lining, grab a glass first and wait 15-20 minutes. Also, if you want to eat less, trying drinking a glass before meal times.


5. Try to avoid snacking. Recent research suggests that snacking actually undermines your weight loss goals. Instead, plan 4-5 small meals full of fiber (fruit, veggies, and/or whole grains) and protein (fish is best, followed by poultry; legumes are excellent too) throughout the day. Avoid processed foods (white rice, white bread, quick-fix meals) as these cause your blood sugar levels to spike and drop, leading to more frequent hunger cravings. If you are busy, set time slots aside to have a small bite to eat.


6. Always try to eat breakfast within the first hour of waking. Your brain has used the energy stored in the liver during the body’s overnight fast and needs a fresh supply. It does not need much but it needs something. Not only will this make you more alert, it will boost your metabolism, which has also slowed during sleep.


For Exercisers

First off, and this is so important, do not fear the gym. A lot of new exercisers feel intimidated by the fit bodies that wander around these places. The runners sweating gallons, the bodybuilders grunting as they lift an all-time personal record. Don’t fear them. Instead, use the energy of those dedicated people to drive you in your exercise goals. If you aren’t sure where to start, join a group fitness class or take a few private lessons from a trainer. Instructors and trainers have the tools to help you gain the knowledge you need to succeed.


1. Start small but challenge yourself. If you have been sedentary for quite awhile, an hour’s walk is probably too much to begin your regimen with. Instead, choose 20 minutes at a brisk pace that will get your heart pumping and body sweating. If 20 is too much to do at once, do two bouts of 10-minutes each. Work up to at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day, the recommended amount for healthy adults by the U.S. Surgeon General. If it’s weights you want to do, try lower weights and more repetitions until you get the hang of the exercises; or use machines (ask a trainer if you are not sure how to use them), again with light, manageable but challenging weights. You will feel sore but the soreness won’t be so great that it derails your intentions.


2. Be okay with the physiological side effects of exercise. We all sweat, breath heavy, feel our heart pound, and feel sore. (I currently feel sore. That’s what two weeks off does to you…but I feel great!) To combat these, drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise. Also, be sure to set aside 10-15 minutes at the end of your routine to stretch. Flexibility is hugely important to an exercise regimen. It allows the body to relax, re-lengthens muscles, and (most importantly) prevents injury.


3. Join a group exercise class, or have a friend join you at the gym, if you know that you struggle working out alone. The feeling of support created promotes adherence to exercise goals.


4. Don’t freak out if the scale “gets stuck” or “creeps up”. If the numbers don’t change, it may be your body readjusting to its new weight–this is necessary so that you lose weight safe and effectively, without adverse side effects. Keep up the great work. The numbers will move again. If you gaining weight, stop and think. Are you working out on the days that you told yourself you would, for the time you committed to? If so, you may be gaining muscle mass, which burns more calories per hour than fat! For women, you may also be seeing natural weight gain that is associated with menstruation. Don’t fret! Keep up with the work. The most important thing to remember is that exercise is important to your health, and that the numbers aren’t the only factor. Next time you see weight gain, ask yourself these two questions: “How do I feel?” and “How do my clothes fit?” Clothing is, possibly, the number one way to tell if you are on track or not (loosening meaning good progress, tightening meaning get back in there).


5. Set small, reasonable goals to achieve your big, overall goals. Don’t say, “I want to lose 20 pounds.” Instead, say, “I want to lose 1-2 pounds a week (which is healthy weight loss) until I lose the extra 20 pounds that is stopping me from fitting into that great dress.” Give yourself a reward at the end of your hard work. A massage, that cute piece in the clothes’ store. Whatever it is, reward yourself for a job well done. Most of all, stop and see how you feel. Good mood and positive self-confidence are the greatest rewards of all.


For Everyone

Here are a few things that you can do to make your life healthier, regardless of resolution:Sleepy Cat. Please click the photo to the blog site that has it posted. She's got some great ones. Please also do not steal or repost.


1. Sleep more. Get that 8 hours in. In fact, if you can catch a cat nap, even better. Naps reduce stress and give you a boost of energy.


2. Breathe deeply when life does not go your way. Take deep breaths in and out through the nose, eyes closed, for a few minutes. This will help you clear your mind and deal with negative emotions. Stress is one of the leading causes of weight gain and bad eating/exercising habits and our lifestyles is full of it.


3. Take time for yourself. Always. 20 minutes. 1 hour. Whenever you can. Do it. You’ll thank yourself later.


Most of all, remember that all goals, small and large, take more time, energy, and resources than you originally think. Don’t be put off by this. Be flexible. Life is about living, not about having things done. Enjoy the journey. It won’t always be easy but it will be worth it.


Also, make sure that you journey for yourself. Resolving to lose weight or exercise because someone else thinks you ought to is the fastest way to fall off the wagon and hate, hate, hate what you’re doing. If you have started a regimen for someone else, take pause. Reevaluate. Be honesty with yourself. You may not be ready for the changes–or as many changes–as they want you to make. Do it for YOU!


I wish you much success in your short- and long-term goals this year. Write them down! Post them where you can see them. You can do it!!