I just heard you groan. You’re thinking, But you just told me that dieting does not necessarily help me lose (or gain) weight. Yes, yes I did. Dieting does not help maintain healthy body weight. In fact, more and more research suggests that dieting actually harms your basal metabolic state, making you prone to regaining even more weight than you’ve lost and having a hard time losing it (again). (Please excuse the advertising at the end of the article linked. It’s the research surrounding Biggest Loser that fascinates me most. Here is also a great article by IDEA.)

 

So, the bad news is that yo-yo dieting can slow down your metabolism and a slow metabolism means that you are prone to working harder for fewer results. And then there are genes, which do account for a certain (if small) percentage toward whether or not we are naturally inclined toward thin or not-so-thin. But here is where the good news comes in!

 

Epigenetics. It’s a word most of us have never heard of before. Translated as “control above genetics,” this is the study of how environment plays a role in “turning on” and “turning off” our genes. Food is one of the main environmental factors we have in our lives and it perhaps plays one of the biggest roles in how our genes function (exercise being another main player).

 

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It seems that Hippocrates was right when he said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Scientists have discovered that bioactive compounds like phytonutrients and antioxidants play a huge role in turning on genes that help us lose and maintain a healthy weight. Healthy lifestyle and diet choices can change the expression of at least 500 genes! This is great news for those of us who struggle with things like sugar addiction because it means that a wide, varying diet full of colorful fruits and vegetables nurtures your entire body right down to genetic expression. It means that you can start remaking yourself one bite (and one activity) at a time–and in 7-10 years, you’ll literally be a whole new person!

 

In my next post on this series, I’ll be sharing the small steps that I have been taking to help reduce my sugar cravings. I knew going in to this that it wasn’t going to be something that happened overnight, but I’m happy to say that I’m slowly seeing results. Looking forward to sharing more soon!

 

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Read the Whole Series here:

Part 1

Part 2

Matcha Tea

Matcha: One Amazing Tea

October 20, 2016

I bet you think I’ve forgotten about my Confessions of a Sugar Addict thread, but I promise I have not! I simply am working my way through a ton of research, theory, and practical personal application to find what methods work well (for myself, but hopefully also for you). Stick with me because I’m coming back to this thread next week.

 

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you one amazing little thing that I’m doing to help cut my sugar cravings: I drink matcha tea 1-2 times each day.

 

I know, your head just exploded.

 

It’s true, though. When I get up in the morning, I have a small cup of match tea that I whisk up and drink. It is the perfect way to start my morning without the jittery side effects that coffee can bring or the ups and downs of sugar consumption via sweet cereal, candy, a latte, etc.

 

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I am privileged to know a tea master, who is training to become a level two tea master (I cannot recall exactly the terminology, but this is a rare honor) and has been going to Japan to learn the art of the tea ceremony. This is an amazing feat because very few Westerners actually get to do this. The last time I talked to her, I think she said there were only a handful of tea masters in the States!

 

So why matcha? Well…….

 

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Almost every Westerner who has matcha for the first time doesn’t like it very well, including Yours Truly. There are two reasons for this. First, matcha has a naturally strong flavor due to the way it’s made. It’s actually a rather long, labor-intensive process that requires shading of the tea plants so that they produce as much of their green chlorophyll as possible; the drying process of the tea leaf but not the rolling; the removal of stems and twigs; and of course turning it into powder.

 

Second, most matcha available on the market is rather low grade. You will know it’s low grade because there’s a bitterness to it. High-grade and Ceremonial-grade matchas are much sweeter and subtler in flavor than many matchas found on the market, which means their medicinal properties also stay intact better. While this does not necessarily mean those products are bad, if you plan on drinking matcha plain on the regular you want to spend the money on good quality stuff.

 

There’s been a big trend on using matcha in food and drink lately, something I saw a lot while I lived in Japan. (The Japanese love the stuff. They even have this incredible matcha-flavored ice cream. I know…..sweets again!) If you’re not sure you want to drink matcha plain, no problem. You can add it to many things, such as these:

 

 

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The great thing is that high-quality matcha is becoming more readily available and more recognized for its benefits. If you are looking to try some, there are two excellent brands that I recommend you try. Please note: I am a tea lover and do not get compensated for sharing my opinions and favorite brands.

 

  • Steeped Tea: they have two grades of matcha, their “regular” and their Ceremonial. Both are excellent. Steeped Tea has such excellent tea, I pretty much buy from them whereas I used to be a fairly loyal Teavana customer.
  • Yesterday’s Cafe: the first place I tried the best grade of matcha. The proprietor is well-versed in tea knowledge (she’s the tea master I referred to above) and makes the best matcha lemonade ever! Plus, she’s got a ton more tea goodies too!

 

In closing, I personally drink matcha because of the sustained energy boost it gives me throughout the day: I drink a cup early in the morning on an empty stomach and wait 30 minutes before I drink anything else so I have time to process the matcha well and receive its benefits. Usually I only have to drink one cup for a pick-me-up, and I’ve never had an issue going to bed even if I do have one in the afternoon. I also enjoy matcha because it helps curb my sugar cravings, which is why I’m sharing this with you in the first place! All of the other benefits are perks! So enjoy that next cuppa!

Working Out with Toddlers

September 15, 2016

A lot of us have been there, are there, or will be there. We’re trying to be healthy and exercise…and we’ve got littles running around, climbing on you or something else, and it’s really, really hard to focus or get a full set of reps in when you’re constantly jumping up to handle some situation. Some days are better than others. Some days you want to throw in the towel.

 

Don’t!

 

One of the things I’ve been doing a lot this summer is exercising out of my own home. It’s hard. I love going to the gym. I love having “me time.” I mean, I really love having “me time.” I need it. It’s part of the way I stay healthy and sane as a full-time parent. Yet this summer was incredibly challenging because a) hubby ended up working third shift at his job, which meant he slept most of the day, and b) I don’t have anyone to help me handle kids (without having to pay a sitter, and that is not always an option with our tight budget).

 

I’ve been analyzing what has and has not been working for me and I think I’ve come up with a short but sweet list of ways to exercise at home while you have (young) children present:

 

Pick a time of day you want to exercise and stick to it.

I recommend mornings since that is when we have the most self-control and self-motivation, but that doesn’t always work for some people. Whether it’s evenings after the kids go to bed or nap time or another time altogether, mark it in your daily calendar and just do it.

 

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Plan out what you’re going to do before you do it.

This way you can exercise without having to dither about whether to grab weight or that DVD, or not, saving you time. This also means that if you want to start a new regimen, you need to discuss it with your doctor (where applicable; for instance, when you’re recovering from childbirth or have an ongoing illness/medical condition), order the appropriate equipment and literature, etc.

 

Set ground rules while you’re working out.

Your kids need to know what is and isn’t safe–and there are things we use or do while exercising that are not safe for children. Educate yourself on them and draw the line in the sand. This will not only establish what is and isn’t allowed as far as behavior and play go during this time, it also sends a message to your kids that they AND your exercise matter.

 

Invite your kids to join you.

As counter-intuitive as this sounds, asking your children to join you during a dance video or while you are stretching out on your yoga mat will lead to them practicing healthier behaviors later in life and a whole lot of good memories too.

 

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Mom and Daughter Exercising

 

When all else fails and you just need some “quiet time”, ask for help!

It’s okay to seek out some help from a friend, family, or a spouse. Offer to trade gym time with a girlfriend or ask your spouse for an hour every day they can spare it. Do not feel guilty or be embarrassed to ask. Remember that you’re worth this time: it will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to handle all the situations life (and your kids) throw at you.

 

Finally, remember to keep a very good sense of humor! Toddlers want to be involved in everything you’re doing and they’re going to want to be at the center of it all. In my own experience, that means sitting in my lap when I’m working on stretches. Take a deep breath, talk to them (I know, not very yogi-like), and delight in their hugs and kisses. They grow up so fast. Enjoy them while you can. These moments will make sweet memories on which you can dwell the rest of your life, even when you’re once again a regular gym rat.

Fitness & Body Image

June 16, 2016

I know I’ve talked about this before, but I’ve seen a surge in referencing the body (particularly, a female body) and being happy with it on social media recently, so I thought I’d touch on the subject again by busting a common fitness myth that is perpetuated in virtually every magazine, fitness or otherwise, in existence today. Whether we know it or not, we believe this myth. We believe that “being skinny” equates to health and happiness.

 

***Insert explosion sound here.***

 

Thinness in the media is not healthy. It is not even real most of the time! If you don’t believe me, just watch this video.

 

 

Don’t misunderstand me here. A thinner body can mean that someone is healthy, but not always. Skinny people are as likely to suffer from heart disease, chronic illness, and other maladies as readily as those considered overweight and obese. Just because someone has a specific body type does not mean they are healthy. Health-related habits play a large role in how healthy someone really is.

 

Yet there is a correlation between waist circumference and health. Those who have extra padding around the belly are more likely to suffer from heart disease than those who carry it on their hips; and both groups are at higher risk for obesity-related illness and disease than those who exercise on a regular basis.

 

Two other things that I want you to consider. First, even if you are someone who goes to the gym for half an hour each day, you may not be doing yourself any good. Too much sitting, whether it be at home or at a job, can actually hinder any healthy changes that any gym activity may give you.

 

On the other hand, increased daily activity in any form can actually improve your overall health. This happens due to the fact that while activity increases, the caloric intake stays the same (so long as one’s diet doesn’t change or increase). I think this, in part, is why so many people are loving the FitBit and other activity-logging devices and apps.

 

Here’s another myth I want to end with regards to fitness, and in particular mind-body fitness. Pilates and yoga are not just for skinny people. These practices are meant for every body and everybody! If you don’t believe me, just watch this video!

 

 

The point then: move, and enjoy moving because you’re doing something for yourself. In the end, being compassionate and grateful for yourself, body, heart and mind, is the only way that you will feel happy…and happiness, in my opinion, leads to a desire to be healthy and enjoy healthy lifestyle behaviors!

I Am Invictus

May 19, 2016

Over the last week, I’ve watched what I could of the Invictus Games through Facebook posts. I am really, really upset that all that was offered on ESPN was a recap of the games and some coverage of the Opening and Closing ceremonies. It’s gotten me thinking about an organization that my husband is a part of, 22 Until None. Their goal is to end the rampant suicide epidemic that plagues veterans, a fact that was driven so close to home for us last summer when one of my husband’s men committed suicide in the parking garage of the barracks. It shook everyone in the command up. Many, including my husband, went to speak with counselors about it–he was like one of our kids.

 

The whole goal of the Invictus Games is to spread awareness of the struggles, the triumphs, and the sacrifices that military  men and women from around the world have endured, and how they have overcome them. It is not about survival, for veterans don’t want to be looked at as mere survivors. What they have done deserves more than this casual take. They have done so much more, and have conquered. They are unconquerable. They are unconquered. Invictus.

 

Yoga and Pilates are two passions that I’ve taught for a long, long time, and it’s made me very determined to help those who struggle not only with physical needs but also metal needs. One of the things I love most about the Invictus Games, 22 Until None, Help for Heroes, etc., is the fact that they are reaching out to veterans who may not have any noticeable scars but carry with them the invisible ones caused by the stress and trauma of warfare. It is my intention to reach out to this community and help them through physical fitness and therapy. More and more studies are showing that practices like yoga help ease both physical suffering and mental anguish associated with PTSD.

 

I want to take a moment and just say this to anyone suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD, or other mental states caused by trauma, whether or not you’re a veteran: you aren’t alone. There are people ready to help you. All you need to do is ask; no one will judge you.

 

Don’t let the pain win.

 

You also can be Invictus.

 

 

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I have completely fallen off the blogging bandwagon since January. Let me tell you, I’ve thought about you and this blog many times, but transitioning out of the military, being a mom, and finding work (and working my Jamberry Nails business) have really consumed my every waking moment. Regardless, I am extremely thrilled to be back at Hillsdale College. This little community has really welcomed hubby and I back with open arms. Indeed, I’m tutoring Greek with the Classics Department and I’m offering a few classes both on campus and in the local area.

 

If you live in Hillsdale, Jonesville, Allen, Litchfield, Moscow, Quincy, and Coldwater, Michigan, areas, please check out my Pilates and yoga classes at the Goodlife Yoga Center (the new term has begun, so don’t miss out on lengthening, strengthening, and de-stressing!) and Hillsdale College (contact the school for details). I’d love to see you!

 

I am working on ideas to revamp my blog, as I feel it’s time to switch things up, and would love input. What would you like to see? Share your thoughts and opinions!!!!

May 2016 Bring You Joy!

January 6, 2016

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First off, Happy New Year! I hope that you find much joy in it. When things get hard, think about how far you’ve come instead of focusing on where things went wrong!

 

Second, I know I promised a third part to my major articles and links series in December, but life ate me. Seriously. It ate me. It swooped in like a huge pterodactyl and swallowed me whole. So that third post didn’t get done. Instead, I’m going to spice things up again and change up my posting this year, focusing on shorter but info-packed posts in order to accommodate my busy schedule.

 

Last, I’d love to hear from you! Tell me what you’d like to see from me this year. It can be anything from diet to exercise to mindfulness moments. I’m all ears!

I haven’t been on hardly at all lately. I’ve been caught between three giants that are taking all of my time:

  1. My family, because that’s just where it’s at 🙂
  2. Getting ready to move to MI in December–this is fast approaching!
  3. National Novel Writing Month because it’s awesome!

I suppose I should add Jamberry onto that list. It is taking my evenings and I’m having SO MUCH FUN doing it! I cannot get enough of this product or the company, and am so glad I signed up! Have questions? Ask me, please!

But on to the real reason I’m writing! I’m trying to play catch up this morning, so I’m going to leave you with all the links and articles I’ve collected over the past few months. I really need to share them with you and get them out of my mail box! Because I have so many, I’m going to share them in three installments. This is the first! Enjoy and please feel free to contact me! I’d love to connect.

Articles

Are You Wearing the Right Shoes?

What are the Benefits to Fasted-State Cardio?

Build Your Biceps Workout

Turkish Get Up

Improve Wrist Mobility

TRX Plank Variations for a Stronger Core

Pilates/PNF for Improved Balance?

15 Yoga Poses that Improve Balance

16 Poses for a Strong and Stable Core

A Yoga Practice that Won’t Bear Weight on Hands/Knees

5 Lessons Yoga Taught Me About Failure

But I Thought All Yoga Was Therapeutic

How to Incorporate Pumpkin Into Your Diet

Food Swaps for Increased Energy

The Encyclopedia of Chicken Stock

5 Ways Einkorn is Different From Wheat

Emerging Male Eating Disorder Tied to Supplement Use

Free Radicals: Antioxidants and Exercise

Using Essential Oils for Kids–What is Safe?

Choosing a Carrier Oil to Enhance EO Therapeutic Properties

Tisserand Institute Special Report: Undiluted Truth: Cinnamon Oil

Argan-Avocado Soap-free Face Wash

How Well Does Before School Exercise “Build Our Kids’ Success”?

Regular Exercise before Pregnancy Key to Minimizing Common Pregnancy Pains

Recipes

Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal

3 Vegetarian Recipes to Try

Chop Fall Salad

Paleo Chicken Tenders

Oatmeal Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pumpkin Maple Cookies

Autoimmune Protocol Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend

I’ve had one of those weeks. The ones that drag you through the mud. In fact, today I’ve rather felt a little like mud. But that’s okay! Days like this can get you down but you don’t have to let them! One of the most valuable lessons I have learned is the power of positive thinking! It’s as simple as recognizing a negative thought, acknowledging it, and replacing it with something positive. It’s not always easy, but it is important! I hope you’ll give it a try. In the meantime, enjoy these articles and recipes!

Articles

8 Hormones Involved in Exercise

Concurrent Training Can Jeopardize Strength Gains

The Effects of Alcohol on Muscle Gains

How to Dead Lift

Steady State vs. Interval Training

4 Moves to Help You Master the Pull Up

6 Effective Squat Variations You Need to Try

Heart-pumping Plyometrics Workout

Upper Body Explosive Training Workout

10-minute Core Workout

10-minute Glutes Workout

What You Don’t Know about Food Labeling Could Undermine Your Health

Post-workout Tips

15 Ways to be Kind to Your Adrenals

Citrus Oils and Breast Health

About Carrier Oils

Recipes

Zucchini Bread Baked Oatmeal

Cinnamon Oatmeal Pancakes

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Pancakes (vegan)

Caprese Avocado Toast

Greek Tacos

Grilled Polenta Rounds with Black Bean & Avocado Salsa

Chocolate Chip Blueberry Bars (w/flourless option)

Pineapple Mango Sorbet

Almond Biscotti (gluten-free)

Pie Crust (gluten-free)

The Benefits of Matcha Tea

August 13, 2015

After I had my first daughter, we did her baby shower in a tea shop. The owner is one of the few tea masters in the USA, and she expounded upon the benefits of quality Matcha tea, a powdered green tea that one whisks into a frothy hot drink…or mix it in with some lemonade or your favorite quick bread. The uses of it are endless. An avid tea drinker, I was fascinated. As a writer, I’d done some research on tea but had not come across much on matcha.

Found on Flickr. All rights reserved to the artist.

Found on Flickr. All rights reserved to the artist.

Lately, people have been expounding upon all its benefits. There are reports that it fights cancer, burns more fat and calories, and may even have anti-aging properties. The tea master’s favorite reason to use matcha was boosting energy, something I definitely noticed when I was taking it regularly.

Matcha has become a trend of late, something that may or may not be a good thing. (I never do like trends when it comes to foods because they tend to be fads rather than real lifestyle behavioral changes.) While I hope that more studies will come out on matcha, I still suggest drinking it in its most natural state: in hot water. Some people think it tastes like grass, but to me good quality matcha has a sweet, smooth, even velvety flavor that is uniquely its own. The tea master told me to make matcha by doing the following:

  • Mix 1/4-1/2 tsp. matcha powder in 1/2 c. hot (not boiling) water
  • Whisk until frothy

It’s that simple. You want to buy ceremonial-grade matcha green tea whenever possible. This means paying a little more. A lot of store matchas are cheaper and that means they’re bitter and inferior in quality. The Tea Lady Boutique is the tea master’s online store and a great place to get good matcha (I’ve tried and like it) and I’m looking forward to doing an update about Steeped Tea‘s matcha. Both are ceremonial-grade, which means you’ll pay around $30+ for a package. Keep an eye out for the update!