Summer Storm Blues

Most people think of summer and they see blue skies, hot temperatures, and the outdoors.  Well, an often-forgotten part of summer in many areas would be summer storms.  Here in Illinois, storms are more than a little common.  We’ve had more days of rain in the last few weeks than of sun!  So what do you do when rainy weather puts your plans for exercise on hold?

Indoor Activities

It isn’t necessarily easy to get a treadmill, but there are plenty of things you can do inside to keep yourself moving.  Even doing light aerobic exercise in an open area can be of benefit to you.  More and more options are opening up for this field.  If you don’t think you could keep yourself focused enough to simply work out on your own, try out some workout DVD’s.  There’s a huge variety, with choices for people at all levels of fitness and difficulty.  Another fun choice could be the look into Wii Fit.  This is a pretty hefty investment, so if you plan on trying this, be sure you’re committed to it.

Day-to-Day Tasks

You don’t always have to be “working out” to get good exercise.  Have you ever deep-cleaned a room before?  Really.  The sort of deep-cleaning that makes you break a sweat.  That sort of activity could actually constitute as exercise of a sort.  I’ve found myself pretty worn out after cleaning on several occasions.  If it gets you moving, elevates your heart rate, and keeps you going for over 30 minutes, it’s a good workout!

On Location

Still not sure you can fit in your normal amount of activity?  There are places you can go to get that in.  Most malls have plenty of room for walking.  I’ve resorted to that on more than one occasion.  There have been plenty of times when I felt the drive to go for a walk, but it was too cold or too hot out.  Malls are convenient because of climate control.  There’s also ready access to restrooms, which isn’t always the case if you go for long walks outdoors.  If you’d like consistent access to equipment, climate-controlled settings, and professional advice, gyms and fitness clubs are a great option.

Working out in bad weather isn’t fun.  It never is.  It drains your motivation and sometimes makes it altogether impossible to get active.  Often, weather conditions make it too dangerous.  At times like this, you need a back-up plan.  Slipping up more than a day or two can lead to a break in good habits, and no one wants that.  So, next time the summer storms set in and it’s best to stay inside, have a plan.

Consistency Matters!

Regularity is a little thing that can make a big difference.  Most people have their routines, and aren’t very appreciative when they’re interrupted.  Being consistent can be a make-or-breaker in many situations.  Your diet and lifestyle are no different.  Keeping up a good, consistent routine to take care of yourself is key.  This includes exercise, sleep, eating habits, and personal time.

Plan Ahead

You may worry that occasions will arise where you can’t always follow your usual routine.  Planning ahead can help you adjust to stick as close to your regular routine.  Sometimes when you’re traveling or with different people than usual, findings means to keep your health habits intact seem daunting.  A little forethought is all it takes to maintain your routine, and good health.

Adjust Accordingly

What if there is absolutely no way you can stick to it as well as you’d like to?  Try your best, and make compromises.  Find little ways to make up for it.  Can’t make it to the gym or fit in your normal exercise?  Tack on some extra walking.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Worried that your evening out may make it hard to eat right?  Find ways to cut extra calories and fat from your meal and go light on the things that you’re more worried about.

You can’t always be perfect, but you can still moderate yourself.  You may not always have the best options 100% of the time, but you can provide BETTER options for yourself than what might be easy.

Get Back on Track

Sometimes we all slip up.  Sometimes we just don’t have all the options we’d like to have.  Did you splurge on that last meal?  Did you skip a few days of working out?  So, you goofed.  We’ve all done it, we’ve all been there.  Just work hard to get back on track.  Messing up doesn’t have to be a permanent situation.  You may have actually learned something from your break.  Maybe you figured out the best way to avoid losing your routine.  Maybe you accidentally found something new to incorporate into your usual regimen (hopefully a healthful, beneficial addition).

No one’s perfect, and your routine can’t always be.  While it’s good to be consistent with things such as diet, exercise, sleep, and relaxation, you can still have wiggle room.  It’s most valuable to keep in mind, though, to realize that consistency matters.  Also, be sure to talk to your healthcare professionals about big lifestyle changes such as exercise programs and major diet changes.  Routines are only good to keep if they’re the right routines.

Don’t Pack on the Pounds at a Desk

I’ve had the opportunity to see two very distinctly-different career styles:  desk jobs, and tough manual labor jobs.  My father did manual labor his entire life.  From the time he married my mother in his early 20’s to his passing at age 46, he gained 5 lbs.  That’s all.  Millions of people around America wish they could maintain weight that well.  Dad’s secret was the amount of hard, physical labor he did.  You see, he worked in various areas of construction.  First, he was a roofer.  Then, he did general contracting.  Then, he helped run a heating and air conditioning company.  All of his jobs required a lot of hard, back-breaking work and a lot of unpleasant time out in the elements.  One of the big payoffs (other than providing for my mother, myself, and my 3 older siblings) was that he was always, always in great physical shape.

Then there’s me.  My job?  Sitting at a desk, sharing my thoughts with you lovely people (among other responsibilities).  I spend most of my days sitting at my desk.  There are plenty of stressful moments attached to my job.  There’s also those 3 o’clock slumps where it feels danged-near impossible to survive the rest of the work day.  Sometimes, eating feels like the only way to get away from my desk and shake myself out of a comatose state.

On the flip-side, I also help out on a farm.  I carry feed bags, drive tractors, and build fences.  (The guys get quite a kick out of little ol’ me getting down and dirty…I’m only 4’10”, I’m blonde, and I usually have well-manicured nails.)  So, compared to my weekends and evening tasks on the farm, my office job can seem fairly…sedentary.  So, I’ve forced myself to find some good ways to fight the “sit-on-your-butt-all-day-at-a-computer” bulge.

  1. If you must bring snacks, make them healthy.  Carrots, celery, and fruit all make great options.  My favorite (which gets weird looks) is plain Cheerios.  Just regular, oaty Cheerios.
  2. Instead of coffee, reach for tea.  Our break room always has a great selection of tea’s.  Some still have caffeine, and even if that’s not the best option health-wise, it can help wake up.  Lay off the sugar and heavy creams.  Most teas are naturally flavored, and don’t need additives.  In addition, tea’s are rich in antioxidants, which can be really helpful for heart health.
  3. Get up and move.  Instead of turning to food when you’re bored, go for a walk and clear your head.  Go down the hallway, around the office, or down the street.  Granted, this depends on the amount of break time and freedom you have, but a quick walk somewhere can really help jog your senses and fight monitor-hypnosis.
  4. Keep water with you.  It’s easier to ignore snacking urges if you take a sip of water every time you want to munch.  I keep mine in a stainless steel bottle; it keeps it cold, but doesn’t encourage contamination like some plastics will.  It’s also more environmentally friendly that one-time use bottles.  Besides, tons of water means a healthier body overall…and more bathroom breaks, which could be considered part of #3.
  5. Plan your snacks for the day.  Knowing what you can allow yourself as far as snacking goes creates more structure.  Promise yourself that you’ll only eat one of such-and-such at blank-o’clock.  Keep a schedule, follow it.

Gaining weight doesn’t need to be a side-effect of a desk job.  We can all be healthy, whether we work in an office or on a hot rooftop.

No Excuses…Get Active

Nutrim isn’t the only natural supplement I work with.  In fact, right now, I’m helping with a great joint and bone health supplement that’s getting ready to face bigger markets.  Working with this supplement has sort of given me another view of aging.  It’s primarily for people facing cartilage deterioration…and many of these people, oddly enough, are in the same age group as people who are fighting high cholesterol.  Coincidence?  Nope.

Both arthritis and heart health are part of aging.  Some people just have more problems with them (one, the other, or both) than others.

This brings up another point:  many people who should get more exercise do not, and often blame it on joint stiffness or discomfort.

Don’t do that, please.  Please.  For me?  Because physical activity has more benefits than just raising your heart rate and possibly shaving off some pounds.  Using your joints more can actually improve mobility.  Light, simple exercise like walking or swimming each day can make a huge difference.  Don’t just dive into it, especially not if you’re worried about joint pain.  Ease into it, build up to it.  When you go out to get the mail, maybe walk to the end of your block and back, or do some extra walking at the mall when you’ve finished your shopping.  It doesn’t have to be anything too awful special or extravagant.  Every little bit helps.  I often have knee stiffness or pain of my own, and I still really enjoy going for walks (plus, my dog would never forgive me if I started ignoring her!).

Another issues many people attribute their lack of activity to are breathing problems.  As a life-long asthma sufferer, I can understand where this can be a big problem.  If the humidity level is too high, even walking slowly can feel like a marathon!  However, the only way to improve your respiratory health is to work up slowly and get to a level that you feel both comfortable and successful with.

Of course, there are cases when exercise isn’t the answer, but those are rare.  If your doctor recommends you avoid activity, don’t listen to me.  HOWEVER, I know that does not apply to most people.  So, get out there.  Get active.  Don’t let your wheezing or creaking scare you away from those long walks or tennis games.  The activity that’s good for your heart should help you cope with those, too!

Community Service and Your Health

Helping Others Helps Yourself

I’m a strong advocate of community service.  I do work with FFA, 4-H, the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and some other smaller, lesser-known groups.  I do it to help others, but also because of the feelings of fulfillment that I get from my work with these groups.  I also feel that the organizations I volunteer with are causes worth supporting.  These merits of community service combine to one major result:  my emotional health.  People who help others are generally happy people.  Research has shown that in many cases, happy people find it easier to stay healthy.

Physical Side-Effects

In addition to promoting your emotional health, there’s physical benefits of being active in your community.  I’ve noticed that when I’m out, working on a volunteer project, I’m hardly ever sitting.  At the end of the day, I’m tired, but it’s the good kind.  Many organizations involve a lot of light labor, like walking and standing for long periods.  Automatically, this is better for you than sitting around!

Plenty of Options

Some great ideas for involvement in the community can range from youth organizations, to fundraisers, to getting involved in your city or town’s government.  Animal shelters are always looking for volunteers, as well as homeless shelters, food pantries, religious youth groups, and city beautification projects, to name a few.  In other words, the demand for volunteers is massive.

Find the One That Fits You

Look into not-for-profit organizations in your area.  There’s a charitable or educational organization to fit anyone’s needs.  What’s more, these groups are always in need of help.  Consider it.  You won’t just be helping others, you’ll be helping yourself.If you want to do something good for your heart, do something that’s good for your soul.

Getting Healthier Can Be Shockingly Simple

Complicated Diets Shackle You to Self-Defeating Mindsets

If you’re like just about everyone else, you look at health like an all-or-nothing, gigantic goal that’s unattainable. It’s overwhelming so you don’t even start. I know because I feel that way a lot of times. It’s a self-defeating mindset though. Long-term health is negatively affected because it seems to hard to do anything about it short-term.

Carrying Health Baggage From The Last Diet You Tried.

I don’t blame you for thinking this way. There’s lots of noisy information out there. It’s hard know what to do short-term. Plus, you may have already tried something for a few weeks and failed. We all carry a little tried-everything-already “health baggage” around.

Simple Day-to-Day Decisions Make You Healthier, Not a Grand Scheme

In reality, long-term health can only be achieved through a simple short-term approach. It’s truly more about the nuances of what you eat, or what you do. It’s not about any grand scheme or plan of perfection.

Improving your health is in the margins: it’s achieved through small steps. You can just start building each step one after the other.

2 Cunningly Simple Approaches to Flip Your Notions of Health on Their Head:

  • One, learn just a little about the health benefits of the basic components of food (you can do this on the mypyramid.gov website in about 20 mins).
  • Two, adopt a strategy of making decisions before you have to (when you go into a restaurant decide what foods you can eat before you look at the menu.).

What Will You Say Immediately After You Get a Few Nutrition Habits Under Your Belt?

I hear the same response, “I feel like I woke up from a sleep”, right after people start adopting simple nutrition habits. Doing basic stuff like getting enough water all-day, every-day; avoiding foods high in sugar; lowering fat content; and, getting exercise leads to a result you can feel really fast–usually in a week or so.

Suddenly you have energy all day. You have stamina to get through the day and enjoy. Seemingly out of the blue you start loosing weight. It’s like you just woke up and realized there’s this whole other life they could be living–an “awake life” (higher energy, lower weight) and the “sleeping life” (no energy, crash-craving cycle, defeat and depression).

I think there’s two things that astonish people after they start improving their health one simple step at a time:

  • They didn’t even know they were sleeping health-wise
  • They didn’t realize they didn’t realize the impact small, everyday decisions where having on their life (good or bad).

So, pick 1-2 things you can start doing for the next week to improve your health. Don’t worry about what you’re not doing. Just master a few things. When you’re ready you can move on to doing 2 more things. You’ll know you’re ready for the next steps because you’ll either be bored or confident. Either once you approach the next step you won’t have to spend you effort juggle all the new habits at once.

Heart Disease Gets an Early Start

The Earlier You Start, the Better

Atherosclerosis and the problems it causes get an early start in life.  Cholesterol starts depositing in the arteries of Americans at an early age.  A study in 2003 looked at the arteries of 17 and 18 year old being assessed for the Austrian army.  The signs of atherosclerosis were already present in these young men.  This study concluded that the development of atherosclerosis begins early in life.

http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/reprint/108/9/1064?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=austian+army&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT

This means that waiting until later in life to make lifestyle changes is not the best course of action.  While it’s never too late to become healthy, living a long life of healthfulness is the best option.

Obese Children Show Signs Even Earlier

A more recent study presented to the American Heart Association showed that obese kids had arteries that looked like those of someone 30 years older.   The researchers of this study noted the importance of exploring the effects of weight loss and healthier lifesyle decisions for these children.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_71522.html

These studies point to an important fact: heart disease is progressive.  Since this is a long term issue it takes good choices every day to avoid atherosclerosis and its side effects of heart disease and stroke.  Living healthfully from a a young age is a great way to avoid atherosclerosis.  However, if you’ve waited a little longer, don’t feel like it’s too late.  Healthy habits are a good idea of any age.

Tell Me About Fat and the Fat Content of Foods

Get the Skinny on Fat

Is fat good or is fat bad?  In America over the last 50 years this question has become more difficult to answer.  Part of the issue is that there is not one statement that can be made that would take into account the complexity of what fat is and what it can do in the body.

For all natural forms of fat it is good to stick to the addage- everything in moderation.  I believe this issue of fat being good or bad is most properly addressed by the balance of foods in the diet.  If a diet is primarily composed of animal based foods then saturated fat becomes a fat that can have negative side effects.

Bad Fat

Too much saturated fat can lead to an overabundance of calories which can contribute to obesity.  An excess of saturated fat can also lead to elevated cholesterol levels.  In turn, high cholesterol can lead to heart disease.  It is because of these two issues that the government and health athorities began recommending people decrease fat in the diet. 

Good Fat

These experts were not always specific about what type of fat to decrease and many people got the impression that all fat is bad.  It turns out that there are some fats that are beneficial.  Most plant based foods contain what are called essential fats, fats that our body can’t operate without.

Let the Good Outweigh the Bad

There are diets which are high in fat and heart healthy.  The Mediterranean diet, for example, derives 40% of calories from fat, whereas the typical American diet derives 33% of calories from fat.  This diet has been well studied and shows great benefits for the heart.  The Mediteranean diet consists of beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, potatoes, fruits and vegetables.  It contains some fish, poultry, dairy products and olive oil.  Very little red meat and eggs are eaten.

While we should not overindulge in plant-based fatty foods, it is important to find a balance in the amount of fats from plants sources and animal sources we consumed.

The TLC Diet

Get Some TLC

To help people on the road to lower cholesterol naturally the goverment has created the TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) diet.  This diet is designed to help the typical American drop their cholesterol naturally.  The government suggests that doctors first recommend the TLC diet, for those who do not have heart disease, to help their patients lower their cholesterol before trying medication.  This is a great approach for people who would like to avoid medication.  Success rates are good, especially if the diet is started early.

Get to Know the TLC Diet

Below are some of the components of the TLC diet:

  • Reduced intakes of saturated fats, 7% of total calories
  • cholesterol, 200mg/d
  • Theraputic options -increased viscous(soluble) fiber; plant sterols and stanol
  • Weight Reduction
  • Increased Physical Activity

It Really Works!

Diet has been refered to as the “cornerstone” in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.  It is important to take heart and cardiovascular disease seriously and heed the diet recommendations of our doctors and government agencies.  In this case, implementing a good diet may not only help us avoid medications that can carry side effects, but you are likely to experience positive side effects by eating better and getting more exercise.  It’s a win-win situation.

Study- Nutrim increased HDL, decreased LDL, decreased fasting blood glucose, and significantly reduced body weight and BMI.

Nutrim Offers Hope

One pill that does it all.  Isn’t that what most Americans are looking for?  How about a powder that does a lot?  One research study showed that Nutrim powder might be as good as it gets without any crazy side effects.

The Plan

The study was carried out in 38 middle aged, overweight males with high cholesterol and normal blood pressure.  The men were split into two groups which ate two diffent diets for 8 weeks.  The first group followed the American Heart Association (AHA) step II diet with low amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol and exercise.  The second group was given this diet with the addition of Nutrim oat bran.

Nutrim and Cholesterol

The Nutrim group increased their HDL on average 10 points(27.8%), lowered their LDL 47(27.3%), and lowered their total cholesterol about 48 points.  The other group also saw improvements in LDL and total cholesterol, but the decrease was not as great as with Nutrim.  The other group did not see an increase in their HDL like the Nutrim group did.

Nutrim and Glucose

Fasting glucose also dropped 6 points in the Nutrim group where there was a slight increase in fasting glucose in the other group.   Both groups had significant weight loss, but the Nutrim lost more weight (13lbs compared to 8lbs in the other group.)

Tolerance of Nutrim

Even though the Nutrim was in a higher dose than normal it was well tolerated.  This study utilized Nutrim in bread, which had significantly better flavor and texture compared to the wheat bread in the other group as rated by the participants.