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!

There are a few things regarding exercise that I truly believe are accessible to everyone. I’ll talk about cardiovascular exercise another time but for now I want to talk about working the deep muscles of the trunk–in this case, I’m focusing on the transverse abdominis. This thick band of muscle is the deepest of the four abdominal muscles, provides thoracic and pelvic stability, and compresses the ribs and viscera.

 

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Source: Wikipedia (link above)

 

Pilates focuses a lot on the TA due to the immense strength and stabilization force it creates. To give a good example of its power, and why we as instructors call it the powerhouse, the TA is one of the main muscles recruited to help a woman deliver a baby (the pelvic floor muscles being the others). When I was dancing, a college professor told me that by controlling this muscle, you can really control every movement in your body, making you strong and and your movements efficiently powerful. This is something that Joseph Pilates discovered over a lifetime of studying movement, which fed his understanding of the body, body mechanics, and effective movement. His method, called Contrology, looks at the body as it is now and emphasizes the connection of mind and body through concentration during movement that results in the healing of the body, the improvement of the mind, and the elevation of the spirit.

 

In layman’s speak, that means that anyone can do Pilates. Pilates himself was a sickly child who could not get out of bed and therefore needed exercises developed by his doctors just to be able to do so. Because of this, he made it a lifelong goal to study movement and became an avid athlete, studying a wide variety of disciplines including swimming, running, gymnastics, yoga, dance, and many more, all from which he drew a knowledge base that became the foundation for his Method.

 

There are two exercises that I like to start everyone off with because I feel that they are accessible to all levels of fitness: the Pilates bridge and the 100. These two exercises connects a person with their core. For those who are brand new to exercising or Pilates, and may not be aware of the neutral position so often discussed in Pilates, here is an excellent demonstration of how to find it:

 

 

I consider the Pilates Bridge to be a foundation exercise from which everything is built. It lengthens and moves the spine, stimulating the creation of synovial fluid which helps keep all joints limber, accesses the deep muscles of the core and pelvic floor, and strengthens the muscles of the abs, pelvis, glutes, and thighs. A modification for those who are just beginning is to start with the lower back only, and over time gradually increase this movement to include the middle and upper back till you reach the full position.

 

 

The other exercise that I consider to be important is called the One Hundred. This is the exercise that begins every Pilates workout. It oxygenates the blood, stimulates circulation, and activates the deep core. Try the beginner version shown in this video until you’re ready to move to the next step.

 

 

Two other modifications for those who are not ready to extend the legs in the regular (non-advanced) exercise: when ready to lift the shoulders, 1) keep the feet on the ground or 2) keep the knees bent until you’re ready to extend the legs (first up to the sky and then out to that 45-degree angle). Make sure as you work you maintain that neutral spinal position and have patience with the exercise. Developing strength over time is safe, effective, and reduces the risk of injury. When in doubt, always start small and slow!

 

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Right now I’m working on a couple things as far as minimizing sugar consumption and clean eating. I’m still in the process of figuring things out for myself as well as doing a bunch of research on food and the Western Diet. In doing so, I’ve come across a lot of dialogue concerning body size and health. While I’ve recognized these facts for some time, it is important that more people do also, so I thought I’d share them with you.

 

Myth: If I’m “fat”, I’m unhealthy.

Fact: Weight gain is caused by a myriad of factors, of which about 25% relates to genetics, and even more related to hormones (for women in particular). I have met women who struggle with losing weight who eat well and exercise daily, so one cannot judge just by surface appearance.

 

Myth: If I’m “skinny”, I’m healthy.

Fact: Skinny doesn’t mean a thing in the realm of healthy living. There are people who are thin as a rail who develop heart disease in their 20’s because they lead a sedentary life combined with poor dietary choices. I also know people who start to gain weight the minute they begin eating well and exercising regularly–indeed, this is one way to improve overall health for those who are  medically classified as underweight.

 

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Myth: If I diet, the weight will stay off.

Fact: Dieting is one of the leading causes of regaining weight–and regaining more weight than one previously weighed before beginning a diet! Most people who follow a standardized diet have one of two outcomes: either they have poor results because the diet does not work well for their body type, metabolism, and so forth; or they achieve their weight loss goals and stop dieting, only to regain it all back, plus some. Yo-yo dieting is not a solution to the problem. Exchanging healthy habits for unhealthy ones over a long period of time is.

 

Myth: If I exercise, the weight melts away.

Fact: There is a lot of truth to this statement, yet many people will find this more difficult than others due to a body’s initial homeostatic preferences, hormone- and disease-related issues, current dietary habits, sleep patterns, workplace stress factors, support in relationships (friendship, romance, parents, etc.), medications, mental health…the list can go on for pages.

 

Myth: If obesity runs in the family, there’s nothing I can do about it.

Fact: Genetics only make up about 25% of the picture, and a lot of what is perceived as hereditary actually comes back to the habits you learned as a child. Choices matter even when they don’t add up to the emaciated super-modelesque physique popular culture thrusts upon us each day. They matter a lot!

 

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Myth: If I’m obese when considering a proper diet and exercise regimen to begin, surgery is my only option.

Fact: Surgeries that help reduce weight rapidly should not be looked at as a permanent solution to the equation. For those who are morbidly obese, surgery is a starting point for your weight loss journey. The problem so many people find is that the moment they undo them, they gain back more weight than ever before. If surgery is something you are considering, you must discuss habitual lifestyle behaviors with your team of specialists (physician, registered dietitian, surgeon, personal trainer, therapist, etc.) in order to determine what steps you need to take are right for you. In my opinion, surgery is a last resort and only the first step to consistent, positive lifestyle habits.

 

The bottom line is if you’re having issues losing weight via “mainstream” diet and health guidelines, consulting your physician is a good place to start. Depending on your situation, you may need to work with a team of people that include a registered dietitian, personal trainer, psychologist, and other therapists. You should seek referrals from your doctor and anyone else you are currently working with in order to discover and tackle the issues you are facing, but at the end of the day, determination will win the day!

 

There is no one right kind of body shape. We are all created from a unique mold. Embrace your curves (or lack thereof) and think about why you are really here in this world. It isn’t to look amazing every single moment of every single day (not even Hollywood stars that do that). Utimately, it is to fulfill your purpose and live generously.

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.

Sugar. I’ve talked about it before, sometimes at length. But it’s also my guilty little secret–I love sugar A LOT. And when I start eating it, I have a hard time stopping. It’s a vicious cycle and it’s one I really want to stop.

 

I had been thinking about the reality of sugar addiction and then I watched this video by a fellow Jamberry consultant, and decided it was time to talk about this in length:

 

 

Now, I’m not here to recommend a diet plan. If you are interested in something like the ketogenic diet, you should consult a registered dietitian. What I’m really here to discuss is the sad reality of the Western way of eating.

 

First and foremost, if you read labels when you go shopping, you almost always find sugar as a main ingredient in packaged and processed foods. It is well documented that sugar is addictive and in fact can be a replacement for drugs like cocaine. It has even been suggested that sugar addiction should be treated as a form of drug abuse. The change in behavior after eating sugar is undeniable. When my own children have sweets, they become much wilder, less able to entertain themselves, hungrier more frequently, and often less willing to follow household rules. I have found myself eating more food more frequently than I really need to on days that I have anything sweet–and I mean anything sweet.

 

Sugar is in everything. Take a look at this article. (I’m not recommending the services offered here. I just want you to look at how much sugar (in grams) there is per serving in some common foods.)

 

Here’s the kicker! For years, I’ve followed foodie blogs that tout using different alternatives to wheat and so forth because they’re considered healthier (and there’s good argument for the use of many of these alternative flours, oils, spices, etc.). I absolutely love desserts, so whenever one comes up, I look at it…but I had an epiphany this month: just because it uses healthier ingredients doesn’t meant it is any less sweet or less addictive. Let me just repeat myself one more time:

 

Just because it uses healthier ingredients doesn’t mean it is any LESS sweet or less addictive!

 

This is huge, because I think many people want to live healthier lifestyles. There’s huge talk about superfoods, gluten-free alternatives, stevia, bone broth, diets of all kinds…the list goes on and on. I think most who ascribe to a Western diet (and there are some major differences between it and Eastern and Mediterranean diets, which I’ll talk about at length in a later post), who struggle with their own growing midsections, increased inflammation in the body as a whole, heart disease and diabetes, malnutrition (yes, this can happen even if you’re consuming enough calories), and even negative mindset, anxiety and depression–in fact, most people in general–want to eat better. (Including myself! Hello, fellow sugar addicts!)

 

Herein lies the roots of the problem:

 

  1. We all lead extremely busy lives these days.
  2. Convenience foods, like those found in packages, are often quick, inexpensive, and last on the shelf for a long time. (Hint: if they have an expiration date that is longer than a few weeks, that should be a clue as to how “real” the food is.)
  3. Cooking can be hard work and it’s usually low on our daily to-do list. (I mean, let’s face it. Coming home dog tired to a refrigerator full of whole foods just doesn’t sound like fun some days, right? Instead, we say, “Where’s the pantry?”)
  4. Food is often used as a reward and during almost all celebrations and special events–this particularly applies to sweet, fatty, and salty foods.
  5. Uh, hello advertising! We love how convenient you tell us your products are.

 

I am on a journey. It’s going to be a really, really hard journey for me because I sincerely love sweets. However, I want to be healthy instead of filling my body up with junk. My body was created for a purpose–I was created for a purpose–and I need to take care of myself. I’m in my 30’s, I have children who look at everything I do (and they’re asking for sweets way too often), and I don’t want diseases that results from inflammation and weight gain to cripple me. Yes, I’m a yoga and Pilates instructor and shouldn’t all fitness instructors eat raw leaves and twigs and never even bat an eyelash at junk foods? No, sorry. We’re humans too, prone to indulging every so often. My problem is that I tend to indulge too often.

 

I hope you will join me in my quest for an easier way to eat without suffering from the constant hankering of a sweet tooth. I’m sure I’ll bumble, stumble, and rediscover a lot of amazing things along the way, and I look forward to sharing them here with the hope that my own thoughts help you become a better, healthier version of yourself.

I’ve been down and out for the count this week due to the stomach flu. It might have been food poisoning but it seemed to last longer than that so I’m counting it as the flu. It seems to be the thing that’s going around right now, so here’s one of my tips to help calm your stomach: peppermint tea.

 

Mint has long been known as a remedy against nausea and peppermint has been a lifesaver for me this week. It helped me go from being a non-functioning parent on Tuesday morning to someone who could at least tolerate her young children crawling across her that evening.

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I always recommend buying loose-leaf teas whenever possible, as those found in ready-to-brew bags in the stores generally are the lowest, cheapest grade available on the market. I’ve been a long-time fan of Teavana, but in recent years have also found Steeped Tea and Yesterday’s Tea Cafe & Matcha Bar. (I’ve linked the Steeped Tea website to my personal consultant; she’s great and will help you with anything you need! Please let her know Leah referred you!) The last is run by one of the few tea masters in the United States, who really knows her stuff and who is a lovely person. If you love all the kinds of tea, make sure you also check out the tea bags and mesh infusers to find the perfect fit for you!

 

Here’s one last fabulous tip on how to reuse your tea bags, whether pre-made or prepped in your own kitchen: Unique Ways to Reuse An Old Tea Bag. I knew some of these but I found others really remarkable!

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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