Original source unknown; posted on Tumblr by Gabygoesroar.

Okay, so this was not quite how my girlfriend put it to me. She actually said, “Why am I fat when I do not even eat fat?” Yet, I hear this comment from women all the time in some form or another. Basically the real question underpinning the panic is, “Why can I not look like the model in that photo/advertisement?”

 

There are many answers to this question. The first, and most obvious one, is that we are not built like TV and movie stars, and models. Our genetics have given us shape, some more than others. In the fashion and media industries, however, there has been a push in recent decades toward an androgynous look. Men are growing more fashion conscious and “pretty,” women are growing thinner and more muscular. One of the most wildly popular models these days is androgynous. Regardless of what anyone’s personal opinion on this subject is, and its consequences (for men too), the fashion and media industries promote these looks as ideal beauty and we are bombarded with it daily, from magazines to advertisements for alcohol (i.e. “a good time”) to the evening news.

 

When I discuss these issues with people, I always bring up media influence because it is vital to understanding our own self-perceptions. Women were meant to be shapely; we bear babies. Men lean out mostly because they can handle more physical labor than women can. Before anyone says that’s a sexist statement, let’s just state the cold, hard facts: men can physically lift more weight for long durations, period. Their upper bodies alone possess one-third to one-half more strength than a woman’s. I argue that there is beauty in or differences. Let’s face it ladies, when I talk to guys (which is frequently because I live in a military community), they always like looking at the fleshiest part of a woman’s anatomy–those same parts that turn us women off if a man puts on excessive weight. That’s right, the two B’s: the bust and the backside.

 

If we did not spend so much time fretting over how flat (or round) our chests are, or how big that unreliable mirror makes our butt look because we’re comparing it to 5′ 11″, 115-pound Giselle, our perspectives might be restored.

 

Original source unknown; posted on Tumblr by Lifeaserica.

But, lets move on, because there is a lot more to this issue of “fat” than the media’s distortion of the human body. The next, and probably biggest, problem is lifestyle. We work harder, sleep less, sit more, move less, and reach for quick meals. With our stress levels blowing through the roof and our bodies wearing out from lack of use, we are hitting up doctors right and left for anti-depressants and other medications to keep us going in this cycle of destruction. Sleep deprivation, stress, and medications are three big factors in weight gain.

 

Diet, of course, is another. And I’m not just talking about fast food. I am talking about what we put into our bodies. The quick, easy, 5-minute boxed meals. Granted, these by themselves are not always bad to eat, but if we look at the actual serving on the box and compare it to what’s on our plates, the reality is many people are eating anywhere from 2-8 times the actual portion size.

 

Yet weight loss is more than what we are eating. It is about what we are not eating. My friend mentioned eating hardly any fats. Fats are vital nutrients our bodies need to maintain basic health. In fact, a deficiency in essential fatty acids have been known to cause dermatitis, but a healthy intake of them reduce major depression and improve brain function. Because our friendly media has harped on fat as being the source of our weight gain issues for so long, particularly with regards to heart disease and Type II diabetes, many of us fixate on the amount of fat in our foods. Yes, watch out for high-fat items, but don’t run screaming from something you like just because it has more than 2 grams of fat per serving. Eating something that has a little more fat but is less processed is, in my book, a wiser choice in the long run. Chemicals we cannot say, let alone spell, are not natural, no matter how much “fat free” security they provide.

 

What are some of the most common dietary pitfalls that increase our waistline? Soda and fruit juice, sugary and fried foods, and to an extent our beloved food friend, the carbohydrate. To prevent packing on extra pounds, switch processed carbs for whole grains and ramp up your intake of fruits and veggies. The NHANES II survey recently shows a big deficiency in the intake of these vital foods. The more you consume them, the merrier–and the happier–your body will feel. Here are some tips on how to boost your veggie intake.

 

And speaking of what we are not eating, how about not eating. Dieting is one of the most frustrating parts of a lifestyle behavior switch. One of my friend’s biggest complaints is that she’s so hungry, her tummy hurts. Well, dear friend, that isn’t what I suggested, so here’s my counterattack plan: eat more.

 

Whole foods are perhaps the best way to stay fuller longer. If you work long hours, make sure you consume a source of protein and a source of fat with every meal. Yogurt and nuts are great options, or add some olive oil to those veggies for a great stir fry. One study suggests that medium-chain fats may lead to greater weight and fat loss than even omega-3 rich olive oil. Studies have also shown that eating a larger breakfast helps curb hunger cravings throughout the day.

 

While there are many more factors with weight gain, including genetics, age, gender, unknown food sensitivities, and leptin resistance, there still are many

Unknown original source; posted on Tumblr by Shefinallylostcontrol.

things we can do to combat what we may not be able to control about ourselves. With regards to families with children, it is vital to learn to say “no” to kids, as the media advertising heightens their “desires” for foods that are not healthy. With regards to ourselves, our bodies were designed to do things. If there is one thing that anyone can do today to help combat weight gain, it is incorporate more movement into their lives.

 

Most importantly, however, the biggest factor in weight loss success is simple. It is you. It is you saying that you will do what it takes, whatever it takes, to shed the pounds. It is you telling your doctor that you are tired of the aches and pains and poor self-esteem associated with overweight and obesity. It is not giving up, or getting frustrated when weight loss goes slower than you want it too. (Sorry, but the fact of the matter is that our bodies should lose weight slowly; otherwise, rapid weight loss can cause problems.)

 

Slow, steady, and positive wins the race! Remember, there is no overnight fix for weight gain. However long it took to put on the pounds, it will take that much time or longer to lose them. Be patient. Be persistent. Laugh more, sleep more, eat more, and look at yourself in that unreliable mirror a new way: with pride. I mean, honestly, don’t we all know that no two mirrors are the same, and that they distort how we look?

With ACE and IDEA recently doing a Zumba study, I got to thinking about dance. About what it does to your body. I started dancing in college, and although there really is not a studio that has the kind of teaching I want to pay for (I like pretty strict but encouraging teaching styles) in the area I currently live, I cannot wait to take it back up. (For those of you who love Zumba, great! I have tried it, had fun trying it, but it just is not my style.)

What I do love is the New York City Ballet Company’s ballet-inspired workout. I often incorporate movements from it into my Pilates classes, as J. Pilates first started spreading his methods in dance companies. Some of his first well-recognized dance students were George Balanchine and Martha Graham. Adding dance technique to any class challenges balance and the powerhouse (the abdominals, back muscles, gluts, hip flexors, and thighs), as well as sculpts the muscles of the entire body. It is well-known that dancers have some of the nicest, leanest, strongest yet most flexible bodies of any athlete (and yes, I consider them athletes–try a ballet or modern class before disagreeing).

Here are the warm-up videos (YouTube) from Disc 1 of the NYB’s workout:

Warm Up One (New York City Ballet Workout Disc 1)

Warm Up Two (New York City Ballet Workout Disc 1)

I highly recommend any dance style you might be interested in. Dance not only works the body, it is great activity for the brain, forcing both sides to work simultaneously to complete tasks. I was also once informed by a dance teacher that after football players, dancers had the most rigorous training of all athletes. Lessons are usually reasonable, and more and more adult classes are popping up across the country. If you do not see them in your home town, contact local studios to see if they would allow you to attend class regardless or open up adult-only (usually 16+ years of age) options.

***

Foam rollers. They look like long round tubes but I love them. They are great for myofascial release and massaging tight muscles. These I also use in my Pilates classes. The key is to breathe. It hurts. It hurts a lot, it seems. I just did a short session with a physical therapist who also is a co-worker at the gym I work at, and barely did anything. I still felt it the next day, particularly in my calves. My next purchase will be one. Oh, what a selection! I recommend one that is firm but not too firm; for those who have sensitive skin or suffer from disorders like fibromyalgia, I recommend one that is softer. For more information on exercises and benefits, see here and here, and here are two great videos:

Top 5 Foam Roller Exercises

Pilates Exercises: The Benefits of Foam Rollers

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The last thing I wanted to post was a new find. I have a lot of people who are interested in vegan or vegetarian lifestyles, and that includes me. Max Green Alchemy, where I purchase my haircare products, sent me an online survey/giveaway request this morning sponsored by VegNews Magazine. I highly recommend that you give them a look, and even enter in the giveaway. Whether you are just doing research or really diving into the vegan lifestyle, they have some great tips, resources, and ideas for all walks of life.  Find them on Facebook here.

Food Myths Debunked

August 16, 2012

Hereismelissa. Tumblr.There are thousands of opinions out there about what is good for us, and what is not. With Mrs. Obama leading the march for a healthier America, the push in the dieting industry has never been more prominent. Consider the Sensa advertisements that shake-shake across our television screens. (I am sorry but I have never heard of shaking stuff onto whatever food you want and losing weight. French fries and donuts? Come on, friends!) Also consider the famous faces popping up for the longer-running campaigns like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers. I am happy those have worked for them, but they most likely have the money to afford the expensive brand-name meals. In this economic downturn, a lot of us cannot. And then there are all the books (some of which are decent) and online advice (some of which is also good, but should have credible sources).

What is more well-accepted in the medical, nutrition, and fitness communities are concrete facts. A good night’s rest, balanced diet, and commitment to an exercise regimen of 30+ minute most days a week (broke up into 10-15 minute increments, if necessary), plus the positive benefits of daily activities like gardening and walking the dog, are essentials to a healthy, happy lifestyle. Furthermore, changing the mindset of Americans is vital to promoting healthy mindsets about both food and exercise.

It is not what you do not eat but what you do eat. It is never wrong to indulge a little when going out with friends. What matters is limiting the foods known to be more detrimental to our health (high fatty foods, processed foods, sugary foods, etc.) while increasing our consumption of those foods we know to be more beneficial to our bodies (vegetables and fruits are the biggest).

Here are some links debunking food myths:

The 13 Biggest Nutrition and Food Myths Busted

6 Myths about Organic Food

10 Stubborn Food Myths that Just Won’t Die

Why We (Mostly) Hate Soy (an opinion with some great resources)

You Are What You Think You Eat (ACE and IDEA)

And here are a couple articles/videos from the beloved Dr. Oz on dieting myths:

5 Diet Myths Making You Gain Weight (Video)

Dr. Oz’s 99 Diet Foods Shopping List (Video)

Supercharge Your Energy (Video)

Are Food Allergies Making You Fat? (Video)

As summer starts winding down, we are finding the harvest season kicking into high gear. In southern CA, where I am currently, the farmers markets are crammed with produce and other fresh, organic, health-conscious foods. Here are some great vegetarian recipes to try and enjoy.

Breakfast

Spiced Oatmeal with Bananas and Almonds, in Eat-Taste-Heal: An Ayurvedic Guidebook and Cookbook for Modern Living by Yarema, Rhoda, and Brannigan.

1/3 c. sliced soaked almonds

4 c. filtered water

1 c. rolled oats (if gluten-intolerant, use certified gluten-free oats)

2 Tbsp. raisins

1/4 tsp. allspice powder

1/4 tsp. ground cardamom

1/4 tsp. ginger powder

1 banana, peeled and sliced

1/3 c. organic whole milks or cream

2 Tbsp. maple syrup

1. Place the almonds in 1 cup filtered water overnight. peel off the skins and slice. (I also use sliced almonds and soak them in warm water for several minutes, until softer).

2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring 3 cups water to a boil. Stirring continuously, pour in the oats and then add the raisins and spices.

3. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches a smooth, creamy consistency, 7-9 minutes. Stir in the banana and sliced almonds.

4. Serve in a bowl with cream/milk and maple syrup.

*Consider substituting 1/4 tsp. cinnamon powder for allspice and ginger for an alternative (or Pitta dosha); alternately, substitute tapioca for oatmeal, using 2 cups water and cooking slightly longer (or Kapha dosha) and top with honey instead of maple syrup.

Lunch

Tofu Salad with a Sesame Dressing, in Everyday Harumi: Simple Japanese food for Family and Friends by Harumi

10 oz. soft/silken tofu (I prefer firmer tofu)

3.5 oz. bag mixed salad green

1 c. toasted sesame seeds

1/2 c. soy sauce

scant 1/3 c. superfine sugar

4 Tbsp. sesame sauce (see ingredients above)

1-2 Tbsp. rice vinegar, unseasoned

1-2 Tbsp. finely chopped leeks, washed and dried

2 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger

1. to make the sesame sauce: Grind 2/3 c. of the toasted sesame seed in a mortar until sticky. then add the soy sauce and sugar and combine. Finish by lightly grounding the remaining 1/3 c. toasted sesame seeds. Add them to the first mixture and mix into a smooth paste.

2. Drain the tofu. Cut it in half and horizontally then into four, making eight pieces in total.

3. Put the salad leaves into a bowl of iced water to crisp. Drain, dry, and refrigerate.

4. To make he sesame sauce dressing: Put the sesame sauce in a bowl, add the rice vinegar, and mix. then add the finely chopped leeks and ginger.

5. Place the tofu on a plate, pour over the sesame dressing, put the salad leaves on top, and serve.

*Tofu and sesame are ingredients that really compliment each other and once made, this simple sesame dressing can b used with a variety of dishes. You can buy prepared sesame sauce in most Japanese supermarkets but it is easy and rewarding to make yourself. Be careful when preparing the tofu. If it is drained too much it will lose its soft texture but too little and it will be watery. Don’t assemble this salad until just before you are ready to serve.

Dinner

Spinach Dhal, in Best Ever Indian Cuisine by Baljekar, Fernandez, Husain, & Kanani

1 c. chana dhal or yellow split peas

3/4 c. water

1 Tbsp. oil

1/4 tsp. black mustard seds

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic

1 inch piece fresh ginger root, grated

1 fresh red chili, finely chopped

10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed

1/4 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 tsp. garam masala

1/2 tsp. salt

1. Wash the chana dhal/split peas in several changes of cold water. Put into a bowl and cover with plenty of water. Leave to soak for 30 minutes.

2. Drain the pulses and put them in a large pan with the water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes until soft.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large heavy pan and fry the mustard seeds for 2 minutes until they begin to splutter. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and chili, and fry for 5-6 minutes. Add the spinach and cook for 10 minutes or until the spinach is dry and the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the remaining spices and salt and cook for 2-3 minutes.

4. Drain the split peas, add to the spinach and cook for about 5 minutes. Serve at once.

Dessert

Toma con Cugna (Toma with Nutty Fruit Chutney (Piedmont)), in The New Regional Italian Cuisine Cookbook by Hess, Schinharl, and Salzar

2 c. white grape juice

1 firm pear

1 peach

2 fresh figs

2 Tbsp. each hazelnuts, almonds, and walnuts

1 lb. fresh toma cheese (see Tip)

Lemon balm leaves for garnish

Preparation time: 35 minutes

Cooling time: 1 hour

Per portion: ~405 calories

1. Bring the grape juice to a rolling boil in a medium saucepan and cook until it has reduced by half for about 10 minutes.

2. Peel, core, and dice he pear; peel, pit, and dice the peach. Rinse, trim, and dice the figs.

3. Toast the hazelnuts, almonds, and walnuts in a dry skillet; remove the nuts from the skillet and chop them coarsely. Add the fruit and nuts to the grape juice and let the mixture simmer for about 5-10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Set aside to cool for about 1 hour.

4. Either slice or spoon the cheese into dessert bowls; top the cheese with the fruit chutney and garnish with the lemon balm.

TIP: Toma is made from either cow’s milk or a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk; it has a semisoft texture. It is a regional favorite either plain or with dessert specialties. It is rarely available in the USA; substitute with Brie or Camembert if you can’t find it. Cugna, also called cogna, is also available in a savory mustard variation that is usually served with meats.

*For those who do not eat cheese, consider substituting toma for a form of soy/vegetarian cheese that is similar.

Foods For Thought

August 2, 2012

As we grow more into the computer age, away from our roots of hard labor and menial everyday tasks, the sedentary lifestyle takes a stronger hold upon us. Not only do we see our bodies swelling in size, but–more alarmingly to me–our minds are suffering. Computers, while great (and I love mine), do not require us to recall as much as we used to. We type our next appointments into our smart phone, set an alarm, and forget about it. We access our email account, which keeps much of our lives on file at our fingertips, it seems, to see what we have coming up tomorrow. Furthermore, diet and exercise both play a large role in our mental health, and many of us are not getting enough of either.

 

In a recent poll published in the June 2012 issue of SportSmart magazine (published by Consumer Reports; featured in July/Aug 2012 ACE/IDEA Fitness Journal), a vast majority of women stated that their main reason for not eating healthier was cost. Here are the statistics:

 

  • 57%: Eating healthful foods is too expensive.
  • 47%: Social settings are too tempting.
  • 39%: Life is too short; I want to enjoy what I eat.
  • 33%: It’s hard to find healthy options when eating out.
  • 29%: I don’t have time to prepare healthy meals.
  • 25%: My family prefers less healthy meals.
  • 20%: Unhealthy habits are too hard to change.
  • 18%: Healthy foods don’t satisfy my appetite.
  • 13%: I’m not sure which foods are healthy.

 

I myself have thought of these same reasons on many occasions. It is much easier to find a quick fix. I enjoy foods that are considered “unhealthy,” though through much practice, I have learned to do it through moderation. Not only do I go for foods that are better for my body, but I try to get those in that are better for my mind. With some organizations projecting a rise in neurological disorders of almost 15% by 2020, and the growing awareness of debilitating disorders like Alzheimer’s and Dementia, it is important that we behave in a proactive manner to combat what is happening to our minds.

 

In Ayurveda, it is believed that food is one of the main ways we heal our bodies. (Eat-Taste-Heal is a great guide/recipe book for those interested in learning more.) Some of my personal favorite foods are fish and turmeric. Here are some great foods to boost your brain. Pick the Brain also has some great tips for providing yourself with a memory boost in natural, healthy, proactive ways. For more information, check out Food for the Brain.

 

Some quick, but not necessarily easy, tips for improving concentration and memory function:

 

  • Exercise.
  • Do crossword puzzles.
  • Start memorizing something. (For me, this year, it has been Psalms.)
  • Learn a new language.
  • Eat more veggies (and fruit).

 

We only get one body and one mind. Having watched my grandmother slip into Alzheimer’s through most of my early teens until her death, I know how devastating it is to see someone you love call your mother “Sebby” instead of “Debbie.” I don’t think there is a person in this world who wants to unknowingly treat their relatives and friends with ill-will. It is well known that those suffering from neurological disorders find it frustrating. They are trapped inside themselves.

 

Do what you can, therefore, to minimize this awful (potential) effect of age. Eat right, get moving, start memorizing, and learn to forgive often. A sad but harsh story from my husband’s side of the family: his grandmother had bottled her contempt and rage for so long, that when she finally sunk into dementia, she tried to kill her own husband (though he never would admit to it).

 

Namaste!