Tag Archives: healthy lifestyle

The Big Fat Lie in Fitness

I’m going out on a limb here, people…but I’m willing to do it for my readers. Yes, that would be you. There are plenty of fitness folks, pros and enthusiasts alike, who will disagree with this statement because it completely counters their marketing efforts and maybe even their lifestyles. But I’m doing it anyway because…well…I suppose because I’m finally sick of the phony, inflated, trying-to-get-your-money and, most importantly, FALSE claims out there.

In my professional opinion, what is the biggest, fattest lie being passed around in the fitness industry?

 

 

Answer: That working out EVERY DAY is the only way to be successful and see results.

Insert mega eye-roll from yours truly. 

This kills me. Clearly. Or else I wouldn’t be writing about it.

I hope this brings you a sigh of relief because honestly, YOU. DO. NOT. HAVE. TO. WORK. OUT. EVERY. DAY.

The best fitness professionals and athletes out there take days off. They have active recovery days of stretching or light movements. They take time-outs for massage, therapy and R&R. Why? Because it’s hugely important. I’ve elaborated on the importance of recovery one too many times already but if you’re thirsty for more reasons to enjoy tea time instead of treadmill time then you can read one of these articles…

When You Are Tired (of being tired)

Don’t You Deserve a Break?

Frenemies: Exercise Myths We Hold Onto

Recovery Time is Forgotten

Back to the point…the claims that you need to relentlessly work out to see results are plastered all over Pinterest and Instagram. “Fitspirational” messages assault people from bloggers, Twitter and Facebook, too. Unfortunately, I think we’ve all become a little numb to well-intended messages that sting our open wounds again and again.

Let’s take the following examples that make my skin itch…

WHHHAATTT??? The “Keep Calm and Move On” people are pestering us to work out every day, too?! *Gulp.* Whhhhhyyyyy? Maybe it’s just me, but there is nothing, nothing, nothing “calming” about this message. How are we supposed to stay calm when we’re being told by society that we’ve gotta get our adrenaline pumping every 24 hours? Geesh. Just in case this message speaks to you, don’t worry – you can buy sweatshirt, coffee mug and candle-adorned paraphernalia bearing the reminder. Because a soothing candlelit dinner with “WORKOUT EVERYDAY” staring you down sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? 

Okay. Enough. I actually really like most of the “Keep Calm” messaging, so I don’t want to drag them through the mud too much on this one. Maybe I’ll forgive them. Maybe.

On to the next glorious image. This one is reminiscent of a lot of generic Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter posts. Take a good hard look…

Okay…let’s spin this a little. I want to ask you the following question: “Is every day a good day to work out?”

Are you thinking about your answer???

If you’re still debating the answer then STOP!

Correct response: NO!

No, not every day is a good day to work out.

I mean…we get sick sometimes, don’t we? We all occasionally experience nasty shin splints, twisted ankles, broken bones, deflated energy, dry spells of motivation, and unexpected obstacles. I will argue, quite strongly, that these are all times when working out is put on the back burner, at least for a few days. And that’s FINE.

These are two simple examples hand-picked from the flood of “fitspiration” quotes out there that mean well but wear people down more often than they build people up.

The bar is set far too high by messages like this. People come to me all the time, totally intimidated to start an exercise program because unless they can commit to it every day, they feel like they’re not giving enough. This is SO upsetting to me. Seriously guys, this is the stuff I cry to my husband over.

Again, I’m here to set the record straight…

If exercising every day is something you WANT to do and have TIME to do, then great! But, be wary. Our central nervous systems can easily become overrun by relentless programs and our hormones can get thrown way out of whack from over-training.

Plus, once again, be encouraged because…

You DON’T have to exercise every day to see GREAT results.

*Official end of rant.*

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

 

*Image Sources: 

http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-workout-everyday-3/

http://www.coupons.com/thegoodstuff/6-ways-to-create-good-habits/

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Where Does Obesity Start?

I can’t believe that my perspective on obesity in America has shifted so dramatically in the last six or so months. I’ve been in the fitness industry for over a decade and have taken countless courses on metabolic diseases, health and wellness. I thought I knew most of what I needed to know…until I realized that I didn’t. One lesser-known fact that I recently learned has changed everything for me. I couldn’t believe it when I found out. It made my jaw hit the ground and simultaneously made me want to cry. This one simple statistic changes the ballgame for all of us. Big time.

start-of-obesity

While conducting research for a manuscript I’ve been working on for the past year, I came across data about the prevalence of children who are overweight and obese in America. I was curious to read the stats but paused before getting to them. The age range taken into evaluation for childhood obesity is what struck me first. I always wrongly assumed that data on children who are overweight and/or obese referred to school-age children only. Kids get a little wiggle room to grow out of their baby fat, right? But no, the age range that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assesses starts at the tender age of TWO! I was floored. For me, this changes everything. Here’s why…

The fact that the age range evaluated for being overweight or obese is from 2-19 years old reflects the fact that obesity starts way before we are irresponsible teenagers guzzling down chips and soda or even school-age children being served controversial, less-nutritious lunches in elementary school cafeterias. Being overweight or obese literally starts when children are adored for having chubby cheeks and pudge. That got me thinking, how can you tell “healthy fat” tots from “unhealthy and overweight” ones? I dug a little deeper and found that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that parents shouldn’t worry about the weight of children younger than 2-years old, citing that there is no current and relevant information supporting the notion that children who are heavy as babies are going to be overweight later in life. But just one second…

Today, 30% of American youth are overweight or obese (17% obese, according to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011-2014 data), with the prevalence of overweight 2 to 3-year olds being 40% higher than it was in 1994! What’s more is that overweight 2-year olds are apparently twice as likely to become obese as an adult. The older a child gets without outgrowing their extra layer of insulation, the greater the risk goes up. Obese 6-year olds have a 50% risk of obesity at 35 years old and obese 10-year olds have up to a 80% risk! Anyone starting to feel a little uncomfortable about these numbers yet? So, going back to the toddlers…how exactly does a 2-year old hit their second birthday and magically go from being considered healthy to overweight? That’s just not fair to the little ones! Obviously, there are things happening in the FIRST TWO YEARS OF LIFE that have the power to set us up as a society for a host of challenges in our childhood onwards into adulthood.

This brings me to my next question: What is happening in the first two years that sets a child up for certain “healthy” vs “unhealthy” habits that are perpetuated throughout their youth? Moreover, what can we do as ADULTS to prevent this? After all, the first two years of life have very little to do with what a child chooses for their nutrition and physical activity and a whole lot to do with what we offer them to eat and how we help them engage (or not) with the world around them. Our attitude towards wellness very directly impacts theirs.

These are my opinions as a health professional so take them for whatever they are worth to you. These are what I see as some of the potential root causes for their unhealthy habits and compromised gut health, and the implications for us as responsible adults.

 

3 Things that Impact Health in the First 2 Years of Life: 

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I. Breastfeeding vs. Formula

I’m a big proponent of breastfeeding but I understand that sometimes formula is medically indicated or otherwise chosen by moms who want or need it for convenience. I will spare you my opinions on women’s rights for maternity leave and the necessity to have both time and a place to pump at work, but certainly those factor into maternal nutrition decisions. I digress. When we compare breastmilk and formula side-by-side, we see a couple of differences in potential nutrition and how some babies are fed.

Breastmilk has been fine-tuned by evolution over the course of nearly 200,000 years and its complexities are only just beginning to be understood. Formula, on the other hand, was first developed on a grand scale in the early 1950s and was heavily marketed as an “ideal food” for babies. Yes, formula can adequately nourish babies. That has been proven, otherwise babies being fed formula would fail to gain weight and survive. But, the debate on whether or not it’s “ideal” is certainly a heated one, with proponents on both sides. Here is where I see formula falling short and having the *potential* to impact long-term health (albeit formula is a miracle for babies who have no other options – it was made to save lives – and is in no way, shape or form the only predictor of health outcomes):

Taste changes in milk

Just like unborn babies can taste their mother’s broccoli or potato chips via the amniotic fluid they swallow, nursing babies experience the diverse flavors of mom’s diet via changes in breastmilk flavor. There are breastfeeding advocates out there who would argue that this helps a baby embrace healthy foods later on during the introduction of solids (assuming mommy eats healthy in the first place, of course!).

Ability to digest

Just as there are experts who have brought light to the fact that one-a-day multivitamins are difficult for the body to digest, others have made us aware that formula is also difficult on a baby’s digestive system due to higher caesin content in the milk compared to breastmilk. Although parents get longer breaks between baby’s feedings while his tummy sorts everything out, this lends me to believe that a baby’s system is taxed by its food source and may not absorb all of it.  For this same reason, some formula manufacturers continue to attempt to make it with less curd to better simulate digestive processes aligned with breastmilk.

Antibodies and gut health 

Antibodies help build up our immune systems and healthy gut bacteria. Breastmilk is full of antibodies that respond and change daily to the specific needs of the baby. Baby gets sick with a cold and mama’s milk provides the medicine for healing. The healthier our gut microbiota, the healthier children (and adults) are in general. Studies are increasingly showing that gut health, inflammation and metabolic diseases (such as obesity) are scientifically linked. This means that protecting our children’s gut health needs to be a fundamental goal of any parent, and breastfeeding is just one way we can do that (and arguably the best way, for children under one-year old).

Bottle mentality

Bottle-fed babies are sometimes subject to parents and caregivers encouraging them to finish the entire portion of milk in the bottle. Babies have varying metabolisms and milk requirements so while it may be completely appropriate for one baby to guzzle down eight ounces of milk in one slug, this may be overfeeding another child. Milk requirements may also vary day by day. In this way, babies and children are not all that different from adults. We all have different needs and overeating can become a vicious and repetitive cycle thanks to our biological tendency to hoard fat when given the opportunity (I’m telling ya…our bodies still think we are getting chased down by bears). It’s important to practice baby-led bottle feeding.

What this means to us (the adults): If you are a mother or have friends, family or coworkers with a baby, try to be as supportive as possible of the breastfeeding relationship. Don’t give women snarky looks when they are nursing in public or a hard time if they are late to a meeting because they had to finish pumping. For women who choose formula out of necessity or desire, try to encourage them to follow baby’s lead and not push them to finish all of their bottles and food unless the pediatrician has medically advised it. Both breastfeeding and formula-feeding mothers can make enormous strides in their children’s long-term health with the introduction of solids and healthy foods…

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II. Introduction of Solids

The introduction of solids is an important time in a baby’s life. The new colors, textures and flavors are all fascinating to babies. While it’s obvious that overfeeding a baby solids can result in too much weight gain, there are some other things to consider that stack up and impact a little one’s health.

Sugary puree packets

Lots of puree packets look lovely – they are organic, produced by trusted brands and packed full of healthy ingredients. What’s not to love?! The challenge with lots of puree packets is that they are loaded with sugar. Baby is already getting about 17 grams of sugar from a cup of breastmilk and, at one-year old, 11 grams of sugar from a cup of cow’s milk. Clearly, sugar is a natural part of a baby’s diet, but as we know from the obesity epidemic taking flight in the 1990s when sugary sodas were having their heyday, too much of the stuff is definitely not good for our health or weight. Even veggie and fruit puree mixes have a ton of it – sometimes as much as 11-13 grams/packet! Even when you have good intentions for baby eating up all of those peas and spinach mixed in, that’s a ton of sugar! The best bet is to try to make your own baby food or choose lower-sugar, store-bought purees.

Veggie resistance

I will be the first to admit that getting a little one to fall in love with veggies is tricky business, but it’s 100% worth every effort, creative cooking method, and/or baby-friendly spices/seasonings you can muster up. Roughly 38% of American adolescents eat LESS than ONE serving of fruits or vegetables a day. Surely, we can ALL do better than that. We NEED to do better than that, starting right when solids are introduced and kids palates are impressionable. Start early and start healthy!

Time Constraints

Yes, it’s difficult to feed extra mouths, but it doesn’t have to be an elaborate, over-the-top ordeal that’s so stressful that we break down and nuke chicken nuggets every night. If we commit ourselves to eating healthy and slowly introducing our children to the same foods, we only have to prepare one meal; the family meal! I’m totally serious – my son eats everything we do and is just a year old. It’s not because he loves salmon, quinoa and veggies more than yogurt, cheese, bread and fruit, Trust me, he would eat all the aforementioned till the cow’s come home, if we let him. He accepts and enjoys healthy foods because we try to offer him the same nutritious foods that we eat (and when we eat them). It makes things far simpler on us and way healthier for him.

What this means to us (the meal providers): Whether or not we feel like we have loads of extra time on our hands to prepare homemade, healthy purees and meals, it’s really not a matter of choice. It’s a necessity for the health of the next generation. If we give up and let nine-month olds dictate an all fruit and bread diet then how are we going to hold our own when those children are five and we are telling them to eat their peas as they protest saying they don’t like the taste? It doesn’t have to be super scary to healthfully feed young children and there are a million blogs, pins on Pinterest and nutrition resources to help make it easy! Find some or personal message me and I will help you navigate it all!

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III. Modeling Good Eating

Kids are easily influenced by their surroundings. I’ve heard stories about people with babies who didn’t walk until 18 months when suddenly, on vacation with their older cousins, the child decides to morph into a walking toddler to chase after them. Our healthy choices (or lack thereof) are no different. Kids see their parents eating pizza while they have carrots and they are gonna want the pizza. Plain and simple. Who wouldn’t? Pizza is delicious and shaped like a triangle! Since when did an edible triangle not taste amazing? Watermelon, sandwiches, chips… How we influence the wellness of children is fundamental to solving childhood obesity and its propensity to carry through into adulthood.

Eat healthy foods (duh)

It’s as straightforward as that. Eat healthy foods, in front of a baby and young children, and they will be more apt to eat them too. Think of it as a chance for the whole family to get healthy.

Mindless Snacking

“Snacky” foods typically pack a lot of empty calories. In other words, lots of calories from carbs or sugars with very little return in the way of vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy fats, etc. They can also cause children (and adults alike) to lose track of what “full” really feels like thanks to zoning out in front of a cartoon while eating fistful after fistful. Mindless snack habits set children (and adults) up for health problems because of the lack of nutrition and risk of overeating (which leaves less of an appetite for healthy meals).

Food as a tool

It’s definitely tempting to shove food in front of kids for any number of reasons, but when food is abused as a tool for getting children to behave better, we begin down a slippery slope that can tie unhealthy behaviors and expectations to treats. And we all know that if you give a kids an inch they take a….yup, mile after mile after mile. Or rather, cookie after ice cream after soda. 

What this means to us (the “models” for healthy eating): Modeling healthy eating takes commitment on a regular basis and also talking to kids about why you eat what you do. Even babies can sometimes be influenced to take bites of “yucky” foods when you show excitement and enthusiasm about them – or better yet, are eating the exact same thing in front of them. I understand that it’s unrealistic to expect people to eat healthy foods 24/7. I like to indulge a bit too. So, when you do go off the “healthy-food menu” simply make sure that you keep portions small for children (if you offer any at all) and discuss how certain foods are for unique occasions, and that if we ate them all the time, they would make us tired and give us stomach-aches. Your choice if and how you want to discuss the actual weight gain component. 

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There is a lot we can do as adults to impact the upcoming generations’ wellness and a lot starts with nutrition. It’s definitely worth noting that activity levels play a tremendous role in the childhood obesity epidemic too, even for babies. Take them out of their car seats and strollers, and let older children run around for fun – it’s the best exercise [playing] that there is! And if you’re feeling just a little bit daunted about setting a healthy example, focus hard on what it will take for YOU to be more healthy and the rest will gradually fall in place. It’s not fair to leave our children and children’s children in a place where they look down at the scale as adults and think “What the heck?! How did this happen? Where did I go wrong?” You will never regret setting a child up for good health because ultimately, it’s an integral part of what makes us happy as humans.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz-blue-sea

The Pros/Cons of Meal Prep

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If you’ve ever been on Pinterest then you know that it’s pretty much impossible not to have stumbled across people’s personal pins displaying a dozen or so lovely, similar meals packed away into individual Tupperware containers for the week. If you’re not into social media, then maybe you’ve heard of someone who does this; cooks all their week’s meals on Sunday afternoon or evening so they don’t have to worry about what to eat during the work week. Sounds ideal, easy and cost-effective – and it is! But there are some things to consider about planning your meals for the week, whether you’re portioning them out into grab-and-go containers or not.

I will start with the pros of meal planning and prep, and then I will get into some of the downsides. To end, I will offer a couple of simple suggestions to help you make informed choices about your food.

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PROS OF MEAL PLANNING

Weekend meal prep is a useful strategy for people wanting to lose weight via portion control and people who track their macronutrients (think bodybuilders trying to ensure maximal protein and minimal carbohydrate consumption). It also makes things easier for time-pressed working professionals and even busy parents!   

It’s Cost-Effective

Planning and cooking your meals for the whole week at once means you’re armed and ready with a set grocery list when you hit the store, allowing you more time to scrutinize prices while you shop. You’re also more likely to buy bulk or cheaper high-volume, low-cost items since you know that no ingredients will go to waste. More money left over to treat yourself!

 

Takes Away Last-Minute Planning

With a plan in place, you’re never going to be the person scrambling to find their way to the office vending machine at lunch time. You don’t settle for less than your well thought-out meals. No last-minute pizza or overpriced takeout for you!

 

Portion and Calorie Control

It goes without saying that you’re in charge of portions and calories when you put effort into measuring out food for each meal. Casseroles, soups and lasagnas might be tricky to figure out calories for, but you can at least put reasonably size portions into containers and not be tempted to overeat come lunch. Meals that are easier to calorie count (if that’s your thing) include salads, sandwiches and proteins with veggies, rice, quinoa, beans or fruit on the side.

 

Reduces Time in the Kitchen

Although you’re going to be clocking in some major hours in the kitchen one day of the week, you’re ultimately saving a lot of time – a bonus if you work late hours leading up to dinner or often have to take lunch at your desk.

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CONS OF MEAL PLANNING 

My mom’s opinion on Sunday meal planning: “Here I’ve worked hard all week and Sunday is finally my day of rest, and you’re telling me I’ve got to spend the whole time in the kitchen?!? Forget it!!!” If you share this sentiment, then maybe you’ll be happy to hear some of the drawbacks of meal planning. But, even if you don’t meal prep on the weekend, you still need a plan in place for healthy foods and cooking during the week.

 

Calories Don’t Change

Meal planning allows for calorie control, presumably a great thing for those of us looking to trim our waist lines. But wait…is eating the same number of calories every day a good thing? Not necessarily, according to science. “Calorie shifting” is an approach to eating that aims for a total caloric amount every week (aimed at weight loss or management, depending on one’s goals), but with varying calories consumed every day. This helps keep the metabolism “sharp” and from adapting to a set daily intake. The good news is that this approach allows you to consume more on days you need it! Our metabolisms are not static and our activity levels change day-to-day, so don’t be surprised, if you’re a meal planner, if some days the meals are too much or too little.

 

Potential Lack of Nutritional Variety

If your meal plan is a PB&J with an apple for every lunch and a chicken breast with broccoli for every dinner, you’re probably saving some money and controlling your calories, but you’re majorly missing the mark on nutritional variety. Where are the dark, leafy greens? What about some foods with heart-healthy omega fatty-acids (like salmon)? Variety in all food categories (veggies, fruits, proteins, grains, etc.) is going to be best for packing in the nutrients your body needs. One idea: Change up the protein and/or veggie with your dinner for half the week. Another: Trade your apple for an orange or mango. Better yet, try a healthier alternative to the PB&J like avocado toast or smoked salmon and capers on multigrain!

 

Susceptible to Stress or Overeating on “Off” Weeks

If you’re the type of person who flails and flounders without a set plan then you may be prone to overeating or stressing out when you don’t have time for meal planning. Ultimately, meal planning is a tool to help you with your work week, but thoughtful eating and confidence approaching on-the-fly food selections is a skill.

 

Boredom

Meal planning is generally not as suitable for those with adventurous and varied palates. If you cook a lot of one thing in bulk and plan to eat it day after day, you may quickly tire of the taste and opt for something else. This means you’ve wasted time, money and food! “There are starving children in Africa!” Eat your leftovers!

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IMPROVEMENTS FOR MEAL PREP & PLANNING

A happy medium can be found if you’re a meal planner. Here are a few ideas to help ensure you’re able to have the best of all words – cost-efficient foods, nutrient density, variety and appropriate quantity!

 

Back-up Plan

It’s important to have a back-up plan for weeks when meal prep just isn’t feasible. There will be times when you’re too tired to do it, when you haven’t hit the grocery store in time, when special events or travel conflict with cooking, etc. Here are a few back-up plans to consider:

  • Create a budget for a week of every month to buy meals from a healthy, affordable restaurant for lunch or dinner. For example, once a month you could plan to buy salads for lunch from your favorite local café.
  • When you miss your weekend meal-prep, plan another day and time early in the week to tackle your shopping and cooking.
  • Try your hand at cooking every other night of the week and make enough for leftovers at lunch the next day.

 

Stash Meals in Freezer

When you meal prep, try making several large-volume dishes at once. Use your slow cooker, oven and stove top to prepare three separate meals so that you can both use and store some of each meal for optimal present and future variety!

 

Supplement with Snacks

If you’re lacking variety in your planned meals, try supplementing them with nutritious snacks. Snacks are also a way to implement “calorie shifting” into your week (see “Calories Don’t Change” above). A few ideas you can easily prep: Kale chips, sliced fruit, carrots and humus, cottage cheese or greek yogurt and fruit, ¼ cup nuts, a healthy nut or protein bar, apple or banana and a TBS of nut butter.

 

Meal Plan for 1-2 Meals Only

One way you can ensure that you don’t get bored with your food is to meal plan and prep for just lunches or dinners. This will allow you to take the most time-pressed, stressful or expensive meal of the day and make it easier. By sticking to just one or two meals, you still have room in your daily diet for nutritional variety and flexibility.

 

Hope this is helpful info as you kick-off 2017! Cheers to health and happiness!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz blue sea

When You Are Tired (of being tired)

Our bodies respond to various types of stress in the same way. Relationship tension, work overload, screaming babies (experiencing this one myself, at the moment), physical injury and illness, spiritual disillusion, chemical exposure, improper nutrition, and more, all take a toll and deplete our hormones. Chronic stress can result in adrenal fatigue, a place no one wants to be and where being tired is the status quo. It’s not surprising that millions of people suffer from this every year, to include exercise professionals like me seven years ago.

Here’s what you need to know to help yourself get unstuck from the spiral of exhaustion and how to get back on track with your wellness.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is a state of constant tiredness due to chronic stress overtaxing the adrenal glands. These glands impact hormones such as DHEA, epinephrine and cortisol, to name a few. Even sleep doesn’t seem to fully help people suffering from this type of fatigue. These people also have a hard time getting out of the bed in the morning (different from hitting the snooze button because it feels good), are tired all day, crave salty foods, have weakened immune systems, and have a difficult time managing stress in general.  For more information about the signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue: Adrenal Fatigue Solution.

tired 2Should I Get Help from a Doctor?

If you feel that you’re suffering from a state of constant fatigue, you should do everything possible to set yourself back on the path of wellness. I know from experience that it isn’t always easy and that it takes a lot of dedication. Trust me though, it’s worth the effort. The tricky thing about adrenal fatigue is that it isn’t easy to diagnose, so much of the medical community will not readily recognize it as a condition, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consult your doctor about it.

Addison’s Disease is a form of severe adrenal insufficiency (cortisol levels are extremely, dangerously low) that has been recognized for a long time by both doctors and insurance companies. Adrenal fatigue is a lesser form of this serious disease, where hormone levels may very well fall into a “normal range” during a diagnostic test, but may not be in an “optimal range.” For this reason, adrenal fatigue isn’t easy to pinpoint and insurance typically won’t cover treatment. Additionally, antidepressants and other medicines that a doctor might prescribe to treat some of the symptoms aren’t fixing the underlying causes of fatigue, which are generally related to lifestyle.

I’m no doctor, but I’m a health professional who can say with certainty that just because someone doesn’t have a full-blown disease, doesn’t mean they don’t need a little help. Even if your doctor says you’re perfectly healthy, if you don’t FEEL that way, you need to take responsibility and action. For example, if a person has been through a traumatic accident but isn’t clinically suffering from PTSD, she can still endure quite a bit of subsequent stress and anxiety that can add up over time, especially if there are other areas in her life about which she is chronically stressed or overwhelmed. Similarly, if a woman is overweight but does not meet BMI standards for being obese, it doesn’t mean she should sit back and suffer from less-than-optimal health. Taking control of your life is possible and beating chronic fatigue is too. With or without doctor’s orders!

tired 1How to Feel Energized Again

Treating chronic exhaustion follows much of the same protocol as naturally balancing our hormones. Here are some things to try…

Quality Sleep

Getting at least 7 uninterrupted hours of sleep every night is essential for your wellbeing. A consistent bedtime routine and regular sleep/wake times help your overall “sleep hygiene.” To promote a relaxing transition into sleep, limit screen time for 30 minutes before bed (and DON’T check your phone or other screens during the middle of the night!), do something relaxing for an hour before sleep, adjust the bedroom temperature to your liking, and avoid sleep-reducing foods like alcohol, caffeine, spicy stuff, and dark chocolate.

If sleep is evading you, try distracting your mind with 20 minutes of enjoyable reading, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, a little stretching or a sleep-inducing snack like milk, bananas or turkey.

Specific Kinds of Regular Exercise

Regular exercise that isn’t too late in the day can help you sleep at night and get back into a place of feeling energized. I advise people suffering from chronic fatigue to avoid the following when it comes to exercise (at least until good, consistent energy has been reestablished for a while): HIIT workouts or anything that revs the heart rate up and down from near-maximal range, endurance performance training (marathon running or anything with extreme distances and hours upon hours of training involved), and aggressive weight loss programs.

Losing weight and exercising will certainly help you reduce exhaustion and balance hormones, but if you are already worn out, aggressive workouts and exercise goals can do more harm than good. Stick to a balanced routine of moderate cardio and resistance workouts for a while. It’s probably a good idea to cap your workouts between 30-60 minutes and to give yourself a couple days of light movement (i.e. walking, stretching, gentle swimming or biking) or full recovery every week to aid in overall energy restoration.

Healing via Nutrients and Nutrient Timing

Reducing the amount of sugar, caffeine, alcohol, dairy and processed foods in your diet and replacing them with whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods is one of the best ways to fuel your body for adrenal recovery and hormonal balance. If you find that you are sensitive to any specific foods then avoiding them is also advised as this will help you reduce overall inflammation and stress on your body. Most people are aware that healthy fruits, veggies, fats, whole grains, and lean proteins are going to help their wellness; however, a lot of these healthy-eating people may accidentally mess up good nutrient timing.

Most of our daily energy and activity happens earlier in the day and gradually reduces towards nightfall. In American culture, a large dinner is a staple for the end of the day, but we need this energy from food earlier than we get it. “Front-loading” or eating more calories towards the beginning of the day and gradually tapering towards dinner and bedtime is a great way to get the energy from food when you need it most. This will help you stay fueled at the appropriate times of day and will keep your metabolism “awake.”

Other Lifestyle & Wellness Factors

It would be remiss of me to avoid mentioning that the social, emotional, spiritual, occupational, and intellectual components of your life that play into fatigue are important too. Unfortunately, there are too many factors to touch on in just one article, so suffice to say that if you’re overwhelmed or depleted in a certain area of your life, it’s important to be forthright and address it. It’s not always easy to get out of bad relationships or jobs, and it’s intimidating to confess spiritual emptiness and social isolation, but if we don’t meet these challenges head on, even proper sleep, exercise and diet may not be enough to help us feel great. We are WHOLE beings who need health, joy, love, faith and hope.

I hope you can feel energized and well for your entire life. It’s possible if you put in the effort, so never accept feeling less than you deserve to be! 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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Proper Nutrition for Healthy Skin

It might surprise you that what we consume is just as important as the products we use when it comes to keeping our skin healthy.  It’s important to get the nutrients we need to keep our skin looking great.

So, what foods can help keep our skin healthy?

  1. Eat foods rich in Vitamin A.  This vitamin is important for overall skin health.  Foods rich in vitamin A are carrots and low-fat dairy products.
  2. To help prevent age related issues caused by sun exposure, make sure you get plenty of Lycopene in your diet. Some foods that contain Lycopene are tomatoes, guava, and watermelon!
  3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids help nourish the skin and regulate oil production. Fish, flax seeds, and eggs are all examples of foods high in Omega-3s.
  4. Vitamin C. This vitamin can help fight wrinkles. Some foods that are rich in Vitamin C are sweet potatoes, squash, melons, and citrus fruits.
  5. Vitamin E helps repair damaged cells. Get the benefits by eating nuts and seeds.

A healthy digestive tract is also important to keep your skin looking great.  These are some additional nutrients you should include in your diet to help keep your gut and skin healthy:

Fiber – Foods rich in fiber will help your digestive system remove waste.

Probiotics – These healthy bacteria will help balance your digestive tract

Digestive Enzymes – These can assist in helping you get as much nutrition from the foods you eat as you can.  Look for a quality digestive enzyme.

I hope you learned something new from these tips.  Check out our infographic below that illustrates the importance of how proper nutrition and a healthy gut can help keep our skin healthy!

Personal anecdote from Maggie, author of WellnessWinz: When I started taking probiotics and eating veggies at every lunch and dinner, my skin improved dramatically! Wellness is in the little details and adjustments we make in our lives. 

Healthy Skin infographic non-branded

This article was contributed by Samantha Thayer at USANA Health Sciences.  Infographic design by Taylor Romney, and used with permission.  For more information on how you can love life and live it, visit us at our blog, What’s Up, USANA?. Thank you, Samantha and Taylor! I know I learned something and I’m sure readers did too!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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The Skinny on Fat

I have always steered away from talking about the ugly “F-word.” Yes, the word fat makes me cringe. I think of how it was callously thrown at innocent, overweight children on the playground during my grade-school days and I feel my heart fall in my chest. It reminds me of a few heavyset personal training clients from my past who tossed the word around in jest, using it as a lighthearted way to make fun of themselves. Their usage of the word made my stomach twist into a knot.

You think it’s peculiar, right? A fitness professional with a phobia of saying the word “fat.” I seem to have put it in the same off-limits vocabulary pool as using the word “retarded” for mockery and taking the Lord’s name in vain. Somehow, the meanness of the word fat in our society has never escaped me. But, here’s the thing…fat is not an ugly or inappropriate word at all. It’s a scientific one.

 

donuts

 

Fat has taken on so many different meanings in the modern world. Most people associate some kind of deeper meaning with the word when, in fact, it’s simply a macronutrient that fuels and nourishes our bodies. During my Exercise Physiology degree in undergrad, I learned about fat metabolism, fat storage, fatty acids, and more. It was an entirely unemotional experience to learn about it. Fast-forward to the real world, and the various ways it’s used, and I’m paranoid all over again. I think it’s time that stopped though.

Name calling or using the word with malice will never be okay, in-person, behind someone’s back or via cyber bullying. But, enhancing our dialogue about what fat really is, may help us feel more comfortable with it. It may help us start to differentiate between the playground and professional uses of this very important, relevant word. Let’s look at “fat” as a noun instead of an adjective…

 

The Role of Fat in Our Bodies
As you probably know, fat is one of three macronutrients; carbs, proteins and fats. Each of these macros provides our bodies with energy and should be consumed in a healthy diet. The body needs each of them to properly function.

Fats are sources of essential fatty acids and also help with the absorption and transport of Vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins are fat-soluble, meaning they can’t be properly digested and used by the body without the support of fat.

Fat is important for healthy skin and hair. Pass the olive oil! It helps the body regulate its temperature and cell function, and also protects the organs against shock.

This fascinating molecule can also help prevent (yes, prevent!) disease. Fat helps the body dilute toxic levels of substances in the bloodstream by removing them from circulation and putting them into “storage.” The body intelligently holds onto the toxic substances in fat tissue until it determines that it’s safe to release them for excretion or metabolism.

 

Fat Storage: Nature vs. Nurture?

Some people mistakenly think that we are born with a certain number of fats cell, which we hold onto for the rest of our lives. This isn’t true. Although babies may be adorably chubby, they have fewer fat cells compared with the number they gain throughout childhood and adolescence. In the absence of excess weight gain, fat cell acquisition will stabilize by adulthood.

The number of fat cells we have as adults appears to be linked to our genetics, but there are also many lifestyle factors (diet, exercise, inflammation, etc.) that can cause the number to be higher than our DNA-dictated amount. Our genetics may also play a part in where fat is stored in our bodies. Some family lines will consist of “hippy” women while others may be barrel-bellied. Even in families or individuals with more weight retention in the stomach, there are differences in how that fat can be stored. Some people have more subcutaneous fat (located beneath the skin) while others have more visceral fat (located behind/beneath the abdominal wall of muscle).

 

fork

 

Will Eating Carbs Make Me Fat?

Muscle for Life explains the common misperception of high vs. low-carb diets as such:

“High-carb diet = high insulin levels = burn less fat and store more = get fatter and fatter

And then, as a corollary:

Low-carb diet = low insulin levels = burn more fat and store less = stay lean”

This thought process is what some might call “pseudoscience.” Although insulin causes fat cells to expand (via absorption of fatty acids and glucose), it doesn’t lead to a person gaining weight. Eating in excess of the body’s energy demands is what leads to fat gain.

People on low and high-carb diets can lose fat at equal rates. It all depends on eating less energy (i.e. fewer calories). Yes, it’s true…that co-worker of yours who nimbly picks at popcorn and cookies throughout the day can lose weight if she isn’t eating very many overall calories compared to what her body demands. Keep in mind that weight gain vs. loss isn’t the full picture when it comes to health though!

 

Fat and Disease

Fat cells produce and secrete hormones and other substances that are vital to metabolism. When fat cells are large, these secretions happen at higher levels. This can cause all sorts of health problems that correlate with obesity, including diabetes, hypertension, liver disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer and more. In short, one excellent means of disease prevention is to lose weight through a healthy diet and exercise. I know, not groundbreaking news…and, yet, knowing this information doesn’t seem to result in more people taking action to protect their health…

The Washington Post Magazine recently published “Our ever-expanding waistlines,” a page of graphics about present obesity rates in America compared to rates from 2010, 2005 and 1995. The data represents information from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Current obesity rates exceed 30% in 22 states, with three of those states above the 35% threshold. What’s more staggering is comparing these numbers to 20 years ago. Back in 1995, roughly half of the states had rates as low as 10-14.9% while the other half hovered in the 15-19.9% range. Not ONE single state had obesity rates higher than the 15-19.9% range. Let that sink in a minute…Not. One. Single. State. was at the level of obesity that exists today.

What does this mean?! Obviously, we’re eating more today than ever before…and exercising less. To combat this issue and prevent disease, we’ve got to look at our entire lifestyles though, not just diet and exercise (although that’s a darn good place to start). We must ask ourselves “why do we eat too much?” Is it stress? A hectic schedule? A feeling of control? There are often a lot of emotional complexities behind this unhealthy phenomenon. We must address ourselves as whole beings to fully embark on the path towards wellness.

 

ice cream cone

 

Weight Loss; i.e. “Fat Shrinking”

How do we get rid of this excess fat? Well, here’s the bad news first…

Your body can’t get rid of fat cells. That’s right, they are there to stay. It’s a bizarre reality that our bodies are capable of making additional fat cells but can’t ever eliminate them once they exist.

Now, the good news…

Although you can’t lose fat cells, you can make them smaller. Yup, losing weight shrinks your fat cells. If you lose 30 pounds of body weight and reduce your body fat by say, 10%, then you have done an excellent thing for your body and overall health, but you haven’t gotten rids of the fat cells themselves. Next time you step on the scale, and see that you’ve dropped a few pounds, you can call out: “Honey, I shrank my fat!”

Now that you’re jazzed about making your fat cells miniscule, keep in mind that you don’t have control over which areas of your body you shrink fat/lose weight from. You can’t target any single area of your body. This can be quite disappointing for women who just want to get rid of their love handles while keeping the fullness of their chest. It means that underarm jiggle and inner thigh fluff can’t be pulverized. *Sigh.* Nonetheless, if you stick to healthy habits, your body will eventually lose weight from all over, including from your “problem areas.”

 

See, the F-word doesn’t have to be scary and intimidating! Once we take a microscope to it, we see that it’s mostly on our side. Fat is meant to protect our health. So, it’s up to us to stay healthy and keep fat from getting out of control and  becoming harmful. It doesn’t like to hurt us, but, if we get too excited about donuts and pizza, what choice does it have?

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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7 Ways to Ramp up Your Core Workout

There is no single “perfect” core exercise that trumps all the rest. For example, one person may perform a core routine with minimal effort or poor form, reaping fewer results from it compared to a hard-working friend who knows how to properly engage her muscles with each rep. So, instead of giving you a list of the “Top 5 Best Core Exercises,” I’m giving you a list of ways you can ramp up any of your favorite core routines for optimal tone.

how to ramp up your core workout

1)    Use Gravity

Gravity genuinely makes a world of a difference for many types of exercise. For example, which do you think is harder? A) Leg Pressing 150 lbs or B) Free Form Squatting 150 lbs. The answer: B. This is because of gravity. Anytime you work against it, you have to more actively engage the core for support.

Example Exercises: 

Planks, Decline Sit-ups, Captain’s Chair Leg Tucks/Raises, Roman Chair Back or Side Lifts, Balancing on One Leg + Medicine Ball Twists, and more!

2)    Increase Your “Lever Length”

Lever Length is basically an exercise pro’s lingo for the distance between your core and your limbs. The longer you stretch your arms or legs away from your body while performing a core exercise, the tougher it will get. Here is one easy to imagine scenario for how an increase in lever length can amplify the difficulty of a move – Imagine you’re picking up a heavy bucket of rocks. Is the bucket going to be more difficult to lift (i.e., it will feel heavier) if you A) pick the bucket up with your arms close to your body or B) pick the bucket up with your arms stretched far away from your body as you lift? The answer: B.

Examples of Increasing Lever Length:

Change a crunch with knees bent to a crunch with knees straight

Change a sit-up with a weight on your chest to a sit-up with a weight overhead

Change a side plank with one leg crossed in front for support to a side plank with the top leg lifting high into the air and the arm reaching high too

increase lever length

3)    Don’t Forget Your Back

A ton of people save their core exercises for the end of a workout and then tend to focus those five short minutes or so on abs (crunches, sit-ups, the like), but it’s equally important to work your back muscles. Although you probably don’t often stare at your back in the mirror while you might regularly evaluate your belly, it’s still important to work it out – and not just for toning reasons. Since many people sit at a desk for the majority of their day, it’s important to counteract the stretching and stress on the back by providing it with proper support. Plus, if you perform a back exercise after every 2-3 ab exercises, you may notice that you’re getting a bit more out of your ab exercise too, since your entire trunk is getting worn out versus just one part of it.

Example Exercises:

Trunk Lifts, Supermans, Swimming, Swan Dives, Saw, Double Leg Kicks, Prone Gluteal Raises, Pelvic Tilts, and more!

4)    Move in 3 Directions

I wrote an article in Feb. 2015 called Move in ways you never thought possible! that was all about gaining mobility and function by moving in all three planes of motion: frontal (front/back), saggital (side to side), and transverse (twisting). Moving in all three planes of motion also yields excellent full body tone, especially for our midsections! Plus, it helps to prevent injuries. So, I encourage you to think outside of the box with your core workouts. Do a million sit-ups and not a whole lot else? Time to switch it up with some side bends or obliques! Do a bunch of straight kettlebell swings? Time to add in some woodchops! Here are some ideas…

Frontal (front/back) Exercises:

Crunches, Double Leg Lifts, Sit-ups, Knee Tucks

Saggital (side to side) Exercises:

Side Bends with Weight, Side Planks, Isometric Crunch + Side Reaches

Transverse (twisting) Exercises:

Oblique Crunches, Woodchops, Side Leg Drops/Circles, Across Body Twists

move in 3 directions

5)    Use Proper Breathing

It astounds me how few people know how to engage their transverse abdominus during core exercises – and it’s so important! So, now is the time to really pay attention, especially since engaging this corset-like muscle both helps prevent injuries AND helps flatten the stomach. I recently wrote an article for Mad Dogg Athletics that explains how to recognize whether or not you’re engaging this muscle (which is activated by the breath since it’s attached to the diaphragm):

So, how do you get the flat abs that you want?

“The key is to focus on whether or not you’re actively drawing your abs in with every core exercise that you perform. You should be able to exhale and squeeze your core in and also hold it tight while both inhaling and exhaling (demonstrating even better control).

You can even get a friend to video tape you while you perform a set of crunches. The first time performing the crunches, just do them without thinking too much. When watching this video, you may find that your abs look a little bit rounded at the top of your movement. This shows that you’re engaging the rectus abdominus (six-pack muscle) but not the transverse abdominus.

During the second set of crunches that you video tape, try to focus on exhaling as you crunch up (note: you should always try to exhale as your abs shorten/work hard). While you exhale, mentally and physically focus on actively drawing your stomach in. When you watch this video, you should see that your abs look a little more drawn in or flat at the top of your movement. The two videos may not look dramatically different but, as you can imagine, if you keep your core more actively engaged with every set and rep then you will reap better results.”

6)    Incorporate Cardio

If you’re not prone to set aside time in your workout exclusively for core exercises, try to sneak core in during cardio. This will have your abs burning even faster due to the oxygen deprivation you’ll be fighting against. It’s really not that difficult to do either – just pick high-intensity core moves and alternate them with jumps, sprints or burpees, or perform cardio moves from plank positions like the following:

Example Exercises:

Mountain Climbers, Plank Jacks, Planks w/ Knee Tuck Jumps, Plank Hand to Toe Reach + Tap, Plank Diagonal Knee Tucks, and more!

core + cardio

7)    Add Weights

This one is pretty obvious, but it often takes a bit of confidence (not to mention control) to start throwing around weights. So, be judicious when selecting which exercises to add weight to, especially if it’s fast moving and you feel unsure of yourself. Otherwise, have no fear of weights – they will help you tone, especially if body weight exercises aren’t giving you strong returns anymore.

Example Exercises:

Kettlebell Swings, Overhead Plate or Dumbbell Lifts, Planks with Dumbbell Exercises (Rows, Twists, Kickbacks), Woodchops (w/ Cables, Ball, Dumbbell), Twists with Plate or Dumbbell, Weight-Loaded Ab Machine, Captain’s Chair Lift w/ Weight Belt (or ball btwn legs), and more!

I have no doubt that these clever maneuvers can work for you! More than anything, getting the midsection you’ve been wanting for years is about putting in the effort, keeping exercises varied (for fabulous tone), and eating healthy (to reduce body fat and reveal the muscle you’ve worked hard for). Lastly, if you are just getting started with core exercises or if you’re a bit out of practice, I encourage you to check out last week’s article Core Support: KeepMeTight, to learn about additional ways to boost your confidence and core strength.

Do you have any signature tricks for your core workouts or any favorite ab exercises?! I’d love to hear about them in the comments section!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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