Ladies, Work Out Those Arms!

September 27, 2012

I live and work on a military installation. i am also a familiar face at the base’s gyms, both as an instructor and a patron. As I work out, I often see men hogging the space before the mirrors, checking themselves out. Literally. It makes me crack up, seeing men angling themselves just right to see their biceps flex and pop.

On the sad side, almost no women elbow these gorillas out of the way so they can also share the space. More often than not, mirrors are very beneficial to checking posture and correct alignment while exercising. This can be especially true for arm work, as it is easy to let go of the core, shift through the waist, and use momentum, rather than strength, to lift weight that might be heavier than we ought to lift at that time.

While one of the primary aims for men while working out is accomplishing the big, bulky upper body, women shy away from arm work. There are several reasons for this. First, there is a misconception that women will bulk up. This does not happen because we are simply not men. We do not have the same amount of testosterone in our bodies, the hormone necessary to create the larger, stronger muscles men possess (particularly in their upper bodies, which are almost twice as strong), called muscular hypertrophy. Second and probably the bigger reason is that women are bewildered by the sheer number of choices in exercises and equipment. There are machines, cable machines, kettlebells, resistance bands, dumbbells, bars, stability balls, D-balls, medicine balls…it boggles the mind. Or, here seems to not be enough options because some women are “stuck” at home.

With a little imagination, we can turn many things into gym equipment. Chairs and ottomans can become benches. Cans can act as substitute dumbbells. Steps can be step benches. And so forth.

In my opinion, I feel that gyms are great places. I always recommend that people take advantage of the multitude of opportunities available in those facilities. Trainers are great guides for learning both exercises and how to use exercise equipment. (Note: If you find it financially unfeasible to purchase a membership, by all means, study at-home programs–a group I’m with highly recommends Turbo Jam–to help boost your physical activity.) Group fitness programs, or smaller studios, are also great ways to engage in fitness and still enables you to have a great time.

However you choose to do it, remember that fitness is all-encompassing: cardiovascular, strength training, and range of motion (flexibility) are essential components to a fit, healthy body. As women, we like what cardio does to our waistline, but we forget that strength training  builds muscle mass, which burns more fat. Cardio, on the other hand, leans out muscle mass. A healthy balance, therefore, is necessary.

Here is a simple but effective arm workout. All that is required is a pair of dumbbells and a flat surface upon which to sit (i.e. a bench or chair). If working from home, consider investing in a pair or set of weights, be it a set of three ranging from 3-10 pounds or a full starter set. Costs range from $10-$15 a pair to several hundred dollars.


BodyMaintain.Com. Linked to page for better graphics and/or instructions.


And HERE is another website with animated exercises.

Remember: if working to build strength, lower repetitions and higher weights are better; if working to lean and tone muscle, higher repetitions and lower weights are optimal. Also keep in mind good posture. Shoulders and hips should be in line, and the core should remain engaged. Breathe out through the mouth on the exertion, or work; inhale on the release/rest. To work the heart, keep resting periods less than 30 seconds. More than 60 seconds may be necessary is lifting heavier loads.

Most of all, listen to your body! Too many people, like those military men I mentioned at the beginning, are looking for visual results rather than keeping their bodies safe and sound. It is better to start with lower weights and work carefully than fling big weights around, threatening the lower back by arching as momentum propels the weight up and down, because it makes us “look” better. I guarantee you, for those who know, it really does not, and it jeopardizes your health. Go slow, be persistent and patient, and never give up!

This For That

September 20, 2012

When we cook, we undoubtedly face the reality that a) we don’t have something we need for a recipe or b) we’d like to substitute something healthier. With some research, I found some places that had great food and recipe substitution lists:



Greatist: Choose Better–80 Healthy Recipe Substitutions

What’s Cooking America?: Ingredient Substitutions (somewhat more detailed, with different things than RecipeTips)

Better Homes and Gardens: Easy Healthy Recipe Substitutions

Tips for Vegans/Vegetarians


What are some of my favorites? Well, I’m big into coconut–milk, flour, sugar, oil. You name it, I love the stuff. It is rich in minerals, flavor, and fiber. I love the stuff, and people are starting to find the benefits of coconut. Researchers are finding that coconut oil, for example, may kill viruses, improve insulin secretion, improve calcium and magnesium absorption for the development of strong bones and teeth (while preventing osteoporosis), just to name a few. (Here’s what the New York Times has to say about coconut oil.)


But that isn’t all. I love it when I can substitute for butter. (NOTE: the only thing I have not found a substitute for butter in yet is cookies. Still working on it, and I subscribe to several blogs that regularly switch butter with other things, but I have not tried those recipes yet.) Here is a short but sweet list of food substitutions (1:1 ratio):


  • coconut oil or olive oil
  • applesauce
  • pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)


I often also substitute granulated sugar with coconut sugar, agave nectar, honey and alcohol-free stevia. As for baking flours, I often combine gluten-free (GF) options, including generic GF all-purpose baking flour, coconut flour, flaxseed meal, sorghum flour, tapioca starch, potato flour and/or starch, cornstarch, arrowroot flour/starch, almond meal, amaranth flour, and ground millet. My usual go-to source for most/all of these is Bob’s Red Mill.


Moving away from the baking arena, I love to eat rice, so I often try to incorporate brown rice into my diet instead of white. When I want pasta, I go for GF options, of which there are many. (Check the shelves on the grocery story–sometimes they are not in the pasta section, but in the health foods’ section.) Sweet potatoes are great alternatives to regular potatoes, as they are loaded with vitamins.


For meats, I generally stay away from red meats except on rare occasion. Instead, I go for lean meats (boneless, skinless poultry and a variety of fish and shellfish) and throw some tofu into my stir fry whenever possible.


I also incorporate a lot of beans into my diet as they are great sources of fiber. (Beans, legumes, and lentils are counted as 1 serving starch and 1 serving protein.) Other great sources of fiber are oatmeal, quinoa, vegetables and fruits. Dr. Oz has a great list of things to reboot, re-energize, and heal four vital organs in your body: the hearth, the intestines, the thyroid, and the liver. (Three of the four organs have videos too!)


And, of course, the more fruits and vegetables we can take in each day, the better our bodies are! Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients and antioxidants that fight free radicals, boost our body’s various systems, and heal us from the inside out. Although I have not done this yet, I plan on getting a juicer so that I can take full advantage of the benefits of juicing. Dr. Mercola has some great insight on juicing and its benefits. (NOTE: I do not endorse anyone’s products on this site, but he is a recognized doctor aiming to get this information out there.) As a side note, I met the Juice Man when I was young; he was quite old at that time (I believe in his 70’s or 80’s) but looked like he was in his fifties and had the energy of a 30-year-old man!


Last but not least, I’d like to take the time to remind us all that switching ingredients for healthier ones does not always mean we’ll be healthier or lose weight faster, or what not. A healthy life is a healthy lifestyle. It takes time to change poor behaviors for better ones. Don’t get frustrated if you find that you like the flavor of butter over the flavor of coconut oil. It’s okay.


What we must keep in mind is that we ought to eat in moderation. Portion control and serving sizes are vital to making sure we do not overeat; and exercise is important for keeping our bodies from wearing down and breaking. I’m serious! The more sedentary we become, the sooner and more often our bodies “break.” Here are a few resources to help figure out how much we ought to be eating:


The Mayo Clinic: Slide Show: Guide to Portion Control

The Portion Distortion Guide

WebMD: Portion Size Plate


Go out, have fun, eat healthier alternatives, get moving, and enjoy life! Remember, life is not about living; it is about living well!

We get in a rut. We get used to what we’re doing. And when we do that, our bodies acclimate to our workouts and we plateau. Moreover, instead of embracing new types of fitness training, we shy away from strange new fads or types of exercise with an unusual name. There are many ways to boost our workouts. Here are a few below:

HIIT vs. Continuous Endurance Training

Kettlebell Core Strength Training

Jump Rope Circuit

Gaiam’s Yoga Answers and Solutions Go-To Guide

Also, here are a couple articles on food and well being:

The Fast-Food Fallacy

Recipe for Great Summer Skin

Build a Better Sandwich

Cinnamon Nectarine Smoothie (one of my favorite health blogs to follow)

On one final note, last week, I saw on a news channel that the best anti-aging and life-extending spices are ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric, but there are a few more to add into your foods whenever you can to prevent neurological disease, regulate blood sugar levels, and so on.

Found on Tumblr, posted by Striving for Perfection (blog)

Fall Recipes (Sept. 2012)

September 6, 2012

My mother in law has given me a year’s subscription to Celebrate Magazine (Phyllis Hoffman). In the July/August issue, I found some great fall recipes that I thought I would share. They are healthy, hearty, and full of flavor.


Autumn Chopped Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Makes 8-10 servings


2 heads green leaf lettuce, chopped

1 5-oz bag dried cranberries

1.5 c. chopped, toasted walnuts

2 red Anjou pears, chopped

1 4-oz container Gorgonzola cheese crumbles

Apple cider vinaigrette (follows)


Vinaigrette (makes 2 cups)

1 c. apple cider

3 Tbs. apple-cider vinegar

2 Tbs. honey

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 shallot, chopped

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 c. extra-light olive oil


In a large bowl, combine lettuce, cranberries, walnuts, pears, and cheese crumbles, tossing gently to combine. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve immediately.


To make the vinaigrette, combine cider, vinegar, honey, mustard, shallot, salt and pepper in an electric blender; process until blended. With blender running, add olive oil in a slow, steady stream; process until blended.


Crunchy Cornbread Muffins

Makes 2 dozen muffins


8 Tbs. butter, cut into small pieces (alternatively try a butter substitute of your choice–my suggestion)

2.5 c. self-rising buttermilk white cornmeal mix (Celebrate tested with White Lily Self-rising Buttermilk Cornmeal Mix)

2 c. whole buttermilk


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Evenly divide butter between each cup of 2 (12-cup) muffin pans. Place muffin in pans in over for 2 minutes to heat pans and until butter is melted. In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal mix and buttermilk, stirring to combine well. Spoon batter into hot muffin pans, filling each cupt half full. Cook in pans for 2 minutes before removing.


White Chicken Chili

Makes 8-10 servings


2 Tbs. olive oil

2 c. chopped yellow onion

2 qt. chicken broth

2 19-oz cans cannellini beans, drained

2 15.5-oz cans great Northern beans, drained

2 4-oz cans diced green chiles

2 Tbs. ground chili powder

2 Tbs. ground cumin

2 tsp. garlic powder

1.25 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground red pepper

4 c. shredded pepper Jack cheese

1 c. sour cream

6 c. chopped rotisserie chicken


In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Add chicken broth, beans, green chiles, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and red pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce head to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cheese and sour cream, stirring just until cheese is melted. Add chicken; cook 2-3 minutes, or until chicken is heated through.


And here are a couple wonderful appetizers!


Warm Cajun Shrimp Dip

Makes 6-8 servings


1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened

1/4 c. mayonnaise (or substitute–my add)

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1.5 tsp. Creole seasoning, or to taste (tested with Tony Chachere’s)

1 c. chopped cooked peeled shrimp

1/2 c. shredded pepper Jack cheese

1 1-lbs. round loaf hearty white bread (I always prefer sourdough)

1 Tbs. sliced green onion

Garnish: lemon wedge, cooked shrimp

Assorted crackers/breadsticks (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and Creole seasoning; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Stir in shrimp and shredded cheese.


Using a serrated knife, cut a 1/2-inch thick slice from top of bread loaf. Carefully hollow out inside of loaf, leaving about a 3/4-inch shell. Reserve bread pieces for another use.


Spoon shrimp mixture into bread shell; lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray. Wrap in foil; place on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and back 15 minutes more, or until heated thoroughly. Sprinkle with green oinion. Garnish with lemon wedges and cooked shrimp, if desired. Serve with assorted crackers and breadsticks, if desired.


Pumpkin Hummus

Makes about 3 cups


1 16-oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 15.5-oz can garbanzo beans, drained

1/2 c. tahini (sesame seed paste; usually found on ethnic food aisle in grocery stores)

2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1.75 tsp. salt, or to taste

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

2 Tbs. roasted, salted pumpkin seeds

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

Pita bread, bell pepper strips (optional)


In the work bowl of a food processor, combine pumpkin, garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, salt, and garlic powder. Process until blended, stopping occasionally to scrape sides of bowl. Spoon mixture into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds, and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with pita bread and bell pepper strips, if desired.


And as always, look for healthier options to substitute for those that may offer too much fat or sugar! Enjoy the remaining days of summer, and start loving the foods of fall, my personally favorite time of year to eat!


(My apologizes for not having pictures. I was unable to get the pictures off the Celebrate Magazine website. *Sigh* But I promise all these foods look so yummy!)