Tag Archives: Sleep

Where Does Belly Fat Come From?

Belly fat is both bad and good (yes, good!). Hoarding fat around the stomach is nature’s way of ensuring the survival of the human race during times of stress and unpredictable food intake. Why is the stomach the place it’s stored? Here comes the “good” part… Because fat in the abdomen is the most metabolically active fat. This means that just as easily as a little extra pudge can accumulate, it can be rapidly recruited for energy and burned off. When you think about it, it’s really quite clever. It’s like a squirrel tucking some acorns into the fold of its cheek for safekeeping. Our caveman bodies do the same thing. But belly fat accumulation isn’t just about what we eat and how active we are. Let’s take a look at some of the ways it gets put on our waistlines…

The Usual Suspects for Belly Fat

You guessed it; the usual suspects for belly fat include nutrition, physical activity and genetics. Let’s do a brief review…

Nutrition

This is perhaps the most obvious source of stubborn fat in the tummy. It should come as little surprise that sugary foods, trans fats, low-protein diets and alcohol can be detrimental when it comes to keeping off this kind of fat.

What You Can Do: Eat lower-sugar, healthy, natural and unrefined foods that are high in fiber or protein, and keep alcohol in check.

 

 

Physical Activity 

You’re more likely to get a spare tire if you’re sitting at a desk all day and doing little to get moving during your free time. This is fairly obvious. But, what’s less obvious is that just 5-15 minutes of movement in small segments throughout the day can truly help keep your metabolism and calorie-burning engine going. So, formal exercise isn’t always a “must” if you’re leading a truly active and healthful lifestyle. Although it certainly never hurts.

What You Can Do: Be consistent and realistic about your exercise habits and goals. One of the worst things we can do to our bodies is workout like a dog for two or three weeks and then take a month off. Equally taxing on our bodies and minds is setting unrealistic expectations for the kinds of routines we should maintain. Over-lofty plans for exercise do us no good if they end in failure and guilt. Decide how you plan to lead an active lifestyle and/or get in formal workouts. Make sure your plan is integrated into the rest of your life’s priorities and schedules to ensure successful commitment.

 

Genetics

Body shape, appetite and metabolism can be strongly influenced by genes.  Some people are prone to being more “apple-shaped” (i.e., retaining weight in the middle) while others are “pear-shaped” (i.e., retaining more stubborn, less metabolically active, but less dangerous fat in the hips and thighs). Leptin levels, a hormone that controls hunger and calorie intake, can vary according to a person’s genetics. Cortisol regulation can vary family-to-family and influence weight, too.

What You Can Do: If you’re trying really hard on the exercise and nutrition front, and belly fat still refuses to come off, then your genes may be at play. But, this doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do about to help your body. Focus on being holistic and putting more energy into the following…

 

The Sneaky Culprits of Belly Fat

Sleep

There have been lots of formal studies demonstrating the power of ZZZ’s on our health and weight. Both short and poor-quality sleep can lead to hoarding fat around the mid-section. Unfortunately, our busy-busy lives lend themselves all too easily to skimping on sleep, going to bed late and ignoring the snowball effect of increasing cortisol, inflammation and insulin resistance.

What You Can Do: Apparently, the later we go to bed the more we are skimping on deep, non-REM sleep, which occurs in the earlier part of the night. Pay attention, night owls! According to Time Magazine this is a serious problem that is linked to obesity and other health problems. So, go to bed earlier instead of only counting the total hours of sleep you get. Help yourself commit to this by creating a soothing bedtime routine for yourself about 45-60 minutes before you plan to fall asleep. Kids need a bedtime routine…and we do, too!

 

 

Stress

I can always tell I’ve had a few extra-stressful weeks because my stomach will start to feel a bit softer and fuller, even if I’ve been eating healthfully and exercising. Stress takes its toll on my body, and I know I’m not alone in this. Some people are more sensitive to stress than others by nature of their personality, goals and preferences, but none of us, even the most laid-back individuals, are 100% immune to its effects. Studies have shown that some women, with higher waist-to-hip ratios, may be more prone to the negative effects of cortisol production in response to stress than others.

What You Can Do: Sometimes we are in a stressful season of life and there’s not a ton we can do to move through it any faster. In these times, it’s especially important to care for your health through good nutrition, sleep and exercise so that the effects of stress on your waistline are minimized. Finding a relaxing or enjoyable activity to turn to on a daily basis can help release a bit of the tension and keep it from spilling over.

 

Gut Health

Brace yourselves…this one is pretty mind-blowing…apparently, there are different kinds of bacteria in your gut linked to obesity vs leanness, and overall gut health. In other words, obese individuals tend to have more of certain kind of gut bacteria that changes their energy absorption levels from food (i.e., causing them to absorb more calories from food). Say whaaa? This is part of the reason some experts blame baby formula for contributing to the obesity epidemic – the baby’s gut flora is not developed in the same way that a breastfed baby’s is and thus, energy absorption and overall inflammation may be different. This is also part of the push from some doctors who encourage both children and adults to use daily probiotics, to build up the good bacteria in the gut as a line of defense against a “hostile” gut environment and the damaging effect of processed and sugary foods.

What You Can Do: Probiotics can be expensive but worth it. You might be able to bargain hunt on brand prices online, or strike a better deal by buying them in bulk. Either way, search for a probiotic that has at least three of the five main helpful bacteria strains your tummy will appreciate: L. acidophilus, B. longum, B. bifidum, L. rhamnosus and/or L. fermentum. I have personally heard debate over whether the number of total bacteria in a supplement is important or not. Science is unsure just how helpful the total number is, but I figure it can’t hurt to have more. If you want to play it “safe,” I suggest a supplement with over 10 billion bacteria. For more information check out this article: How to Choose the Best Probiotic Supplement.

 

 

Hormone Changes

Here comes the miserable truth, ladies…menopause changes things. If you’ve been through menopause then I’m sure you know this firsthand. A dramatic drop in estrogen about a year after a woman’s last menstrual period triggers the body to shift from storing fat in the thighs and hips to the stomach. Gooooood times. There’s not much women can do to change the course of nature; HOWEVER…..

What You Can Do: Weightlifting is an excellent way to keep extra tummy fat and those pesky hormones in check. By increasing lean muscle mass, women can help their metabolisms stay sharp through peri-menopause and post-menopause. Bonus: Lower levels of estrogen might allow women to acquire lean muscle mass more easily in later age. With effort, of course.

Best of luck as you figure out how to battle the bulge! It’s something we ALL do throughout our lives so please don’t stress and feel like you’re alone, unattractive or unworthy if your pants are a little tight. No need to stress – just take action and express self-love through the process!

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

16 Health Lessons from 2016

2016. Oh man. What a whirlwind. The world is still feeling a little dizzy from a heated American presidency race, a slew of terrorist attacks, Brexit, ZIKA and chasing after Pokemon. Who wouldn’t be? But, 2016 had its highlights too. If nothing else, we can always learn from the ups and downs alike. Here is what I learned in my year, for better or worse.

6 Lesson #1: Expect the Unexpected

It was a month before his due date when my son decided to make his debut to the world, He was supposed to be an on-time Valentine’s Day baby. Instead, he showed up on January 19th after my water broke and membranes simultaneously ruptured (which in truth made me think I was bleeding out or losing the baby…terrifying). Thus began my education in one of the biggest lessons you have as a parent: Don’t ever think you have it all figured out.

A baby is a person. It has its own mind. And probably shouldn’t be referenced as “it.” This lesson can also apply to the body and our health. Both can take unexpected twists and turns. We may get hit by a car (ahem, been there) or fall unexpectedly ill. Or we may become marathon runners at the age of 50 after a lifetime of avoiding sneakers and gym shorts. You just never know. The unlimited potential in the unexpected is actually a beautiful thing when we learn not to be afraid of it.

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Lesson #2: Our Bodies Are in Sync with Nature

The only reason I can think of for why my son arrived a month early into this world is that there were barometric changes in the atmosphere as the January 2016 blizzard made its way to the east coast. There is actually evidence of changes in atmospheric pressure increasing the number of women who have their water break. Kind of like hospitals getting flooded by pink-skinned, squealing babies when the new moon comes around. It’s pretty incredible that we are linked so inexplicably to nature.

Lesson #3: Sleep is Crucial

This seems pretty obvious but it’s worth mentioning sleep for the millionth time on this blog. When you lose sleep, things get cray cray. I had the WORST mom brain for months when my son was under six months old, waking up lots and suffering from reflux. Now that he has slept through the night for almost five months, I can still feel the impact of restless nights. My body has become programmed by maternal instincts to wake up at the slightest noise from him. Add in weird hormonal things, a need to pee once every night around 2:00-3:00 am, and my husband snoring (sorry to call you out, love) and there ya have it. Still kind of tired. Not miserably, but just that slightly worn-thin feeling that a lot of parents live with for all 18 years their children are under their roof.

Sleep impacts the way we think and feel. An earlier bedtime can be tough to stick to when the evening hours are oh-so peaceful, quiet and MINE, but it’s so important. I would advise anyone reading this to think very carefully if the quality of their entire life could be improved by minor changes to sleep schedules. Again, it’s important stuff for our mental and physical health.

Lesson #4: Being a Nursing Mom is a J.O.B.

Being a mom is tough. Being a nursing mom is even harder. Yes, it’s a wonderful and beautiful bonding experience but it’s also incredibly challenging to juggle life around the schedule (or on-demand needs) of a nursing baby. We’re talking sprinting in and out of stores and cutting meetings short in order to feed or pump for the little one. Life is a revolving door of boobs in, boobs out. It’s no wonder so many women quit breastfeeding or don’t even initiate it! In fact, according to the CDC, the national average for initiating breastfeeding from birth is under 80%. At six months of age, less than 50% of infants are breastfed and under 20% are exclusively nursed, meaning they have to be supplemented by formula. For more info check out the CDC’s Breastfeeding Report Card.

But the thing about nursing is that it’s your child’s best chance at optimal nutrition and health. I’m not saying it’s the only way or shaming moms who have to do formula or supplement. There are lots of cases where that’s necessary, appropriate and life-saving. But, mama’s milk has everything in it that a baby needs and changes composition over time to meet those needs. Mama’s milk even produces antibodies to help baby get over specific illnesses and build up positive gut bacteria. So, even though it certainly feels like a job to breastfeed, it’s definitely worth trying to for as long as possible from a health perspective. Think of your paycheck as baby’s lifelong health!

Lesson #5: Patience is Everything 

Patience is not an easy virtue to abide by. I think it’s why many people quit their workout and weight-loss programs, and why some mothers give their kids food to appease them when they are fussy. It’s hard to deal with frustrations or a lack of desirable results, but almost always, if we hang in just a little longer, the scales will tip in our favor. Things will change.

Nothing has taught me this as profoundly as waiting for my son’s gut health to mature. He was a gassy, fussy baby in the first three months so I cut out dairy from my diet and we did everything we could to keep the little guy comfortable. In months three to six, he developed GERD (gastrointestinal reflux) and was in extreme pain. While medicine eventually helped keep things under control and we took every precaution we could to help reduce instances of reflux, there was still not a lot we could do except give his body time. Right when we thought we couldn’t handle it any more, our hearts so distraught over a baby who was chronically exhausted, reacting to pain, and having troubles with constipation, his body did a 180. Around six months of age he started going to the bathroom regularly, sleeping more soundly, weaning off his meds, and becoming the happy baby we had caught glimpses of. My patience definitely wore thin many times, but the fragment of it that I clung to kept me going. It kept me aware of the truth in the statement new mothers hear all the time: “This too shall pass.”

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Lesson #6: Isolation Hurts Health

I’ve learned firsthand that isolation is most definitely no fun. I spent lots of long days home alone while my husband traveled for work and I cared for my son in his early infancy. He was very sensory sensitive as a newborn so I wasn’t exactly able to be one of those new moms toting her baby around to Starbucks, Target and happy hour. I discovered from experience that no amount of Facebook, Instagram, texting or phone calls can equate to being with people in person, seeing their facial expressions, sensing their warmth, and hearing their laughter. “LOL” just isn’t the same. We are inherently social creatures. Our wellness is immediately improved by quality human interactions.  

Lesson #7: Weight Retention is a Choice

I think because I grew up in a small town that I saw a lot of mothers with young children who were overweight. Something about the culture of a small town and rural America seems to lend itself to this a bit more. Anyways, I had this idea that once I became a mom my body would never be the same. But, when I moved to Washington, DC in my early 20s I saw so many older women taking care of themselves through healthy eating and exercise that I was inspired to change my perspective.

Neither age nor motherhood means an inevitable decline into being overweight or less healthy. You can absolutely lose the baby weight instead of retaining it, with some effort. I could too, I realized. And I did! I’m no supermom and I’m not out accomplishing amazing physical or culinary feats every day for my health. I’m simply a woman who is reminding herself that she is the one in control of her weight and health. Not anybody or anything else. I stay on track by simply following my choice to be healthy, day after day after day. With the occasional wine and chocolate. Okay, fine. I eat chocolate every day. Anybody else is capable of just the same.

Lesson #8: Little Things Add Up

One of the ways that I lost the majority of my baby weight during the first few months postpartum was by staying gently active and keeping myself in check so that not every day was pancakes and scrambled eggs day for breakfast. Although for the record, if calories didn’t count, I would probably do that all the time. In the same way, little things that we do for our health can snowball and help us overcome a suppressed immune system, a chronically aching lower back, high blood pressure or any number of conditions.

If we try to do too much too fast, it can backfire. For example, if someone with cardiac issues tries to go out and strengthen their weak heart in a single exercise session, they might quite literally kill themselves. Similarly, we can hurt ourselves if we skip over all the small details and actions that contribute to better health. If we pay those obnoxious little details just a smidge of attention, they will add up and take care of us so well that suddenly we are enthused instead of annoyed by them.

Lesson #9: Sometimes, Health Professionals Suck

Confession time. I was going to a pediatrician at a trusted peds office in my neighborhood. I liked her when I scoped her out as a prospect. She seemed to-the-point, candid and knowledgeable. In the early weeks of parenthood, when it was so critical that our late pre-term baby gain weight, thrive and recover from jaundice, I hung on every one of her scary-sounding words. As he got a little older I started to notice that her bedside manner wasn’t as good as it originally seemed, and wasn’t always contextually appropriate.

At several check-ups she made me genuinely nervous about my son’s perfectly healthy development, all because of how she chose her words. One appointment, she mixed up my son’s weight chart with another parent’s baby. It had been a couple months since I saw her and she whisked through the door in a huff and said very frankly, without so much as a “hello,” that she had bad news about his weight. I hemmed and hawed and said I thought he had been doing okay but that as a new parent with a baby who came early, I was always nervous since he was consistently “behind” his birth-age peers. Which is totally normal and to be expected. I was holding my breath to hear her next words. My heart had started racing. I felt like I was failing at motherhood. Then she said, “Oh, whoops! I completely got you mixed up with another patient. Carter is doing great!” On numerous other occasions, instead of giving me professional advice, she gave me advice based on her own child’s preferences and routines as a baby. That’s just out-of-the-ballpark unprofessional and subjective. Period.

There is a certain way that health professionals can make you feel, even when they have to deliver bad news. Their tone and demeanor is everything. It can change lives just as much as their diagnoses, programs and scalpels. And sometimes, even when a professional is smart and trustworthy, they can suck at communicating the right way. Be it a doctor, nurse, physical therapist, personal trainer, OBGYN, or any other health professional, you know when they are out of line. For example, there’s a right and a wrong way for personal trainers to motivate people who are dangerously overweight to get back on track. Should the overweight client be shamed? Absolutely not. Should they be reprimanded? No, of course not. Should they be made to feel afraid? Ideally, no. That behavior on behalf of any health professional is unacceptable in my book. Which brings me to my next point…

Lesson #10: Fire and Rehire (your health professional)

If your health professional acts in a way that makes you uncomfortable (see Lesson #9), you fire them. Period. You don’t let them drag you through the mud. You don’t let them make you feel unworthy or paranoid. Again, you fire them. You find someone who can take care of you in the right way. Simple as that. Don’t hesitate or be afraid to do it.

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Lesson #11: Human Physical Development is Mind-Boggling

I know everyone is all crazy about babies learning to crawl, walk and talk, but I find the little details that my son discovers about his body to be just as fascinating. Okay, once he walks I will probably be ecstatic like every other normal parent. Recently, he has discovered that he can intentionally shake his head side-to-side like a “no” except he is super happy doing it, can touch his tongue with his fingers, can pinch his belly fat (haha), can scratch surfaces with his nails (eek!), can carefully stack objects on top of one another, and can play peekaboo with doors, blankets, curtains and anything he can hide behind. Believe it or not, this is the short list. 

I’ve been totally baffled as he has discovered things like lateral and rotational movement, balancing on two feet without support, and how to feed himself using his hands, So many things that we take for granted and don’t even think about are exploding like fireworks into his awareness. Every single one of these little things makes us human. Every one of the little things we can do so effortlessly as adults helps define our physical experience in the human body. It’s truly incredible and we are truly lucky to have such amazing vehicles to transport us from cradle to grave. Sorry if that’s a touch morbid to you, but to me it’s a thing of pure beauty. 

Lesson #12: Our Bodies Are All Insanely Unique

WARNING: TMI AHEAD. READ ON WITH CAUTION!

I’ve always heard that exclusive nursing is a form of birth control, for the most part. But a mere six weeks after having my baby, I got my period. Yup. Undeniably, my period. And I was breastfeeding around the clock. This is one very simple example of what tends to be a universal truth: There are no hard and fast rules that apply to all of our bodies. We all have some fundamental needs as humans like air, food, water and shelter, but we are each so uniquely designed that we can’t assume that what happens to one person’s body will happen to ours. This is why I much prefer to personalize workout programs rather than assume that one program meets the entire populations’ fitness needs. It doesn’t. It never will. 

Lesson #13: Doing Things Too Fast Will Slow You Down

When we push ourselves too hard for too long, it hurts our health. I know this firsthand because it’s something I have to work hard to keep myself in check about. In fact, just this holiday season I’ve found that I’ve reached a point of “burned out” because I ran on all cylinders for several weeks straight. I was working to finish writing a book, take care of my 10-month old while my husband traveled for work, get holiday shopping and wrapping done, host a party and do all the cooking, and manage normal chores, dog walking, errands, etc. I’m completely worn out. But, it’s not just that I’m tired.

Like other instances in the past when I’ve been a touch too hardcore, my body is now suffering from inflammation and stress. My joints ache, my stress-response is out of control (think heart racing over something stupid and minor like hearing a dog barking for a while next door), my tolerance for indulgent foods is zero, and my sleep is a bit wrecked. These are just a few examples of how our bodies break down when we chronically stress them. When we get to a place like this we must go back to basics; eat well, sleep well, rest, keep blood flowing with light exercise, focus on things that balance us mentally and spiritually. Sounds like a good recipe for the holidays anyways!

Lesson #14: Support Systems are Necessary

Without support systems, health inevitably suffers. I mean, we can all claim to be super woman (or at least try to be), with minimal outreach to others for emotional and physical support, but then we suffer. Big time. Our health thrives when we have the opportunity to lean in to others for help when we need it. It allows us to have recovery time and to build our strength back up so that we can face the world.

I take a lot of pride in being a go-getter who goes and gets things done. But when the going gets tough, I can get exhausted. This year I had to learn to swallow my pride and ask for more help to get simple things accomplished. And ya know what? I’m living to tell the tale. It wasn’t so bad after all. The help of others has gotten me through 2016. It has been paramount to my health. And sanity.

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Lesson #15: Good Health Takes Work

This probably seems so obvious. It kind of is. But so many of us KNOW the things we need to do for our health and yet, we don’t take action. We understand how to feel better but living out that lifestyle seems really difficult. Honestly, sometimes it can be. Buying fresh foods and preparing them takes a lot more effort than zapping something in the microwave. Going for a brisk walk or hitting the gym obviously requires more energy than sitting back and scrolling through social media. Although I’ve found that fingers can get tired too.

As my child has gotten older I’ve been challenged for the first time in a while to figure out how to stick to healthy choices and put in the effort to take care of not just him, but ME! Mama’s health matters, too! A few things that have helped me are walking into the grocery store with a list and a plan, acknowledging that efficient 30-minute workouts can be just as beneficial as lackadaisical 60-minute ones, and making sure that I’m in bed at the exact same time every night to ensure enough sleep. Maybe some of these simple things will help you too.

Lesson #16: Health is a Blessing

It’s a bit of a cliché, I know. But. HEALTH IS A BLESSING. Drop the mic.


Without further ado, I wish you all a very healthy, very happy holiday season! See you in 2017!

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Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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Recovery Time is Forgotten

WW Happy Winter

Many women are aware that exercise and eating well are essential for good health. Many women also know that good work/life balance, as challenging as it is to achieve, can help them feel more satisfied. In spite of all the things we remember to work towards on a daily basis, there is one crucial thing women frequently forget to make time for. It’s often referred to as “the forgotten training variable” and it’s an important component of wellness. The forgotten variable of exercise and healthy living is recovery.

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your perspective, we don’t reap any benefits of exercise until we have recovered. Yes, it’s true. Exercise is a stress applied to our bodies and it’s only once we have recovered from this stress that our bodies becomes stronger and more capable.

Stress isn’t always a bad thing. Stress stimulates the body and helps it become resilient. An article about stress and recovery, The Making of a Corporate Athlete, written by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz for the Harvard Business Review, cites that stress is not the main thing that hinders professionals from reaching their peak performance. What does hinder professionals from reaching their “Ideal Performance State” is the absense of a purposeful recovery.

WW Recovery in Winter

Loehr and Schwartz explain in their work that “Sustained high achievement demands physical and emotional strength as well as a sharp intellect. To bring mind, body, and spirit to peak condition, executives need to learn what world-class athletes already know: recovering energy is as important as expending it.

Athletes and professionals must go through cycles of peak performance and subsequent recovery or “off-seasons” in order to rejuvenate and thereby successfully enter back into their demanding daily grind. Many professionals burn out and athletes get injured when they do not allow for proper recovery. What would happen if a CEO refused to take vacation for years on end and worked 80-100 hrs/week? What would happen if an elite runner trained at race speed every workout in between Olympic trials? Peak performance is something we briefly achieve, not something we maintain for long periods of time. In between moments of reaching “our best” we must work in cycles of effort/expenditure and recovery.

For the average person, a balanced training approach (not including nutrition) is four pronged and includes achieving the following: 1) cardiovascular health, 2) strength, 3) flexibility, and 4) RECOVERY.  ACE Fitness offers a great explanation for why this fourth prong, recovery, is so crucial:

“The best workout program in the world won’t create the effect you want if you don’t get the proper rest and allow the appropriate time for your body to recover from the exercise. In fact, training too hard, too often, with little recovery can actually be bad for you and lead to Overtraining Syndrome (OTS), which could cause weight gain, sleeplessness, poor immune system function and other physiological issues that can keep you from reaching your fitness goals.”

WW Sleep

I get it. This is a hard pill to swallow because American culture, and the many roles a woman plays in her life, make it very difficult to take a break. How many of you have multi-tasked on a much needed “sick day” answering work emails, doing the laundry, or running out of the house at lunch to do errands? Is that really recovery? How many of you have traded in sleep for extra hours of work? (Raising my hand!) 1/3 of Americans get less than the healthy amount of suggested sleep. They trade it in for work. This lack of rest could quite literally be killing a nation by adding to disease and issues with health.  Yikes!

You don’t have to forgo rest though – it’s okay to take a break! In fact, once you return to better health via rest then you will be in a better physical and mental place to take on the next great challenge in your life. Promotion?! Child #2?! Kickboxing class?! Organizing your closet?! Taking a break to relax, get enough sleep, or allow your body to recover from stressful exercise will both feel good and help you to do good. You will have more energy to share. This is truly a scenario where giving to yourself should be top priority. You have permission to think of yourself first and to be a little “greedy” with your time. Simply relax, lady. Recover. Oh, just enjoy! 

WW HH and Relax

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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References:

file:///C:/Users/Maggie/Downloads/Loehr-Schwartz_Making%20a%20Corp%20Athlete.pdf

http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy-living-article/59/3581/recovery-the-forgotten-training-variable/

https://hbr.org/2014/10/research-more-than-half-of-female-execs-were-college-athletes

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/12/15/americans-are-trading-sleep-for-work-and-its-literally-killing-us/

Detox Diets: Do They Work?

Have you ever tried a short term fix to lose weight? If your answer is yes, join the party! If you think that crash diets or detoxes are the solution to your problems then I’m going to request we hit the “PAUSE” button. Right now. Diets such as “The Cabbage Soup Diet” and “The Grapefruit Diet” are touted by high profile celebrities for helping individuals lose large amounts of weight in as little as a week or two. Detox diets are becoming extremely popular to relieve bloating and guilt after overindulging. There’s one big problem though; these diets don’t work! 

For starters, who really wants to eat cabbage soup for every meal? Sure, cabbage is high in fiber but come on! Also, how many of us can really maintain the benefits of a juice detox plan for longer than a week or two (at most) before rebounding to higher caloric consumption levels and regaining water weight?

Let’s go a step further and ask ourselves: “why are these diets so enticing?” The answer: because we want a quick fix. We want to believe that something short term is the solution to kick starting us down the path of righteousness and good exercise/eating behavior.

It’s not enough for me to ridicule these diet plans without providing sufficient evidence that there are superior alternatives. Please don’t fret. I’m ready to shed light on why crash diets aren’t the solution, and best of all, how you can take easy, immediate steps to feel better, lose weight and detox your body.

Question: Why are crash diets so popular?

Answer: Ladies, there are two realities we’re dealing with: 1) we have a harder time losing weight than men (thanks to hormones and good old Mother Nature), and 2) we are typically the decision makers when it comes to household spending habits. This means that we are prime subjects of endless marketing campaigns. Companies understand that we are emotional buyers/spenders and that we get frustrated with our biology. Voila! Thousands of quick fixes are designed by companies and marketing teams to attract us. With each new promising product or diet, we open our wallets hoping “maybe this time it will work!”

WW Shopping Bags

 We’ve all been there! 

Question: What’s the deal with detox diets?

Answer: Detox diets are an extension of fasting, a practice within many religions to cleanse the body and the mind for spiritual purposes (for example: Muslims, Catholics and Jews fast on Ramadan, Lent and Yom Kippur). Today, many people choose juice fasts and detoxes for quick weight loss and getting rid of “toxins” rather than spiritual clarity and sacrifice. Unfortunately, there are several issues with choosing detoxes for these reasons:

1) Frank Sacks, MD, of the Harvard School of Public Health states that the concept of your body ridding itself of toxins via detox diets has “no basis in human biology.”

2) According to WebMD and others, detox diets “may be risky and even backfire.” For example, extreme yo-yos in caloric consumption actually lead your body to hoard belly fat, not eliminate it.

3) If you find yourself frequently looking towards detox diets you are probably in a cycle of poor eating habits (emotional eating binges, excessive partying/boozing, eating out for lots of meals, etc). If this is the case, I encourage you to ask yourself if there is a higher purpose you can look to as your anchor in life so that you can simplify external pleasures (that become stressors when excessive) and be fully satisfied from the inside out.

WW Girl PrayingQuestion: Have you ever tried detoxing?

Answer: Yes! Years ago I attended yoga teacher training at an ashram in India. Part of the training was to learn how to detox the body. This included a vegan diet and cleansing rituals. The other teachers-in-training and I did everything from neti pot (cleaning our nostrils with a saline solution) to a stomach cleansing (chugging salt water on empty stomachs and forcing ourselves to throw it up). Trust me when I say, it wasn’t always pretty and I had major reservations about entering into a “mob mentality” and doing things I didn’t believe in. When it was all said and done though, I did find merit in having a clean body but I also established the belief that detoxing can be done in our day to day lives without such extreme actions.

 India 2 033India 3 007I’m sharing these photos with you to be transparent – we live and learn. Please be open and receptive to the process! And P.S. – Neti Pot, although undeniably NOT attractive, is very safe, natural and effective for clearing the sinuses! To this day I prevent many sinus infections with this technique.

Question: How do we detox and keep our bodies clean without taking extreme measures?

Answer: Three simple truths: Sleep, Exercise, Clean Eating

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Sleep – It’s incredible how sleep “detoxes” our brains. Maria Konnikova with The New York Times is one of many writers over the past year to discuss the brain’s important janitorial role while we sleep. Her article, “Goodnight. Sleep Clean.” explains how the interstitial space (area between brain cells) in your brain actually expands at night so that the brain can flush out toxins. There is actually growing evidence to suggest that a lack of sleep might actually contribute to dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. That is enough to convince me! Rest well, ladies!

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Exercise – According to Danielle O’Connell with Livestrong.com, exercise is a powerful, natural detoxifier:

“Exercise helps the body’s organs of elimination to function optimally simply by getting them going. Moving the body helps to circulate both blood and lymph. The more they circulate, the more the liver and lymph nodes can do the job of cleansing and purifying the blood and lymph.

The digestive system works well and more regularly with consistent exercise. When you exercise you breathe deeply with your lungs. The oxygen that you breathe in travels though the blood to the brain and muscles. The lungs increase their capacity as the heart muscle grows stronger, and they produce and give off carbon dioxide as a waste product of aerobic exercise. The skin is cleansed from the inside out by the cleansing process of perspiration. Many toxins can be eliminated through the skin by sweating.

Another way exercise helps to detoxify the body is by reducing the body’s subcutaneous fatty tissue. Toxins get stored in the fatty tissue of the body. Therefore, when fatty tissue is reduced as a result of aerobic exercise, the toxins are released and can be eliminated through the cleansing organs.”

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Clean Eating – WedMB suggests “If the idea of detoxing appeals, you might try ‘clean’ eating that focuses on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein -basically, whole foods without a lot of processing. That’s good for you and more likely to give you results that last, especially if you make exercise a habit.” It’s incredible how a simple, healthy diet does the trick! I have tested this theory many times over the years – if I’m starting to feel run down, it’s almost always because I’m eating more sugar, refined carbs (aka bread, yum!) and drinking more glasses of wine on the weekends (ooohh, Merlot). If I change these habits and focus intently for several days on eating “clean” then I feel my energy pick back up to a strong, conquer-the-world level. Try it!

If you made it to the end of this article, congratulations! It’s a lot to get through but I hope that now you see that you’re already primed and ready for change!

Try one day of 7-9 hours of sleep, a good workout, and clean eating at every meal and WOW! You WILL feel the “detox difference!” 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

References:

http://blog.thedetoxmarket.com/glow-1-1/

http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/diet-fitness/diets/detox-diet.htm

http://www.livestrong.com/article/206993-exercise-for-detox/

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/12/opinion/sunday/goodnight-sleep-clean.html?_r=0

http://www.webmd.com/diet/detox-diets