Archive for March, 2012

Thought you guys might like this post from http://www.dropthatcupcake.com, a fellow blogger discussing some of the ingredients in our food! Enjoy!

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How to Make a Change

Kevin and I saw an interesting documentary this weekend called Hunger for Change. (I’ll write a review in a few days!) It was pretty good, and got me thinking about the process of changing our habits. The more and more I read about weight loss and dieting, I’m realizing that for most of us, the struggle is not getting enough information about how to live, but instead finding the motivation to change our behaviors. There really are quite a few diet books out there that suggest healthy, well balanced diets and recommend regular exercise, and yet so many Americans are still overweight. Why? Because drastically changing your life is so hard! It’s one thing to read about it, and quite another to put it into practice.

When I look and Kevin and my journey to becoming healthier over the last few years, I have noticed a few things. I hope that these suggestions can help you a bit on the road to becoming a healthier, happier version of you!

One thing at a time. I am terrible at this! Whenever I watch a health food documentary, read about vegan diets or see photos of someone who is super-ripped, I think about how I want to completely over-haul my life. I make plans to eat only fruits and vegetables, wake up and the crack of dawn for a 2 hour workout and plan a 30 minute yoga session every night. And, of course, none of that happens. I hit the snooze button, put off the workout, and definitely eat more than just fruits and vegetables (namely Oreos, which are my nemesis).  Trying to make so many drastic changes makes me feel overwhelmed. The challenge seems impossible and so instead of being successful, I flop down in failure. The times I’ve actually managed to maintain better habits are the things that naturally developed over time. I started bringing one piece of fruit to lunch with me, and then two. I began by having a fruit smoothie for breakfast, which has now evolved into mainly just spinach and kefir, and I’ve found that fried foods aren’t really something I crave at all anymore. All of these changes were done on thing at a time, and over the course of several months or years. When we decide that we want to be a better person, we usually try to tackle all our problems at once, but I think that’s just a recipe for disaster. Instead, focus on just one good change you’ll make; something that doesn’t seem to bad or too hard. Once you’ve successfully mastered that, move on to the next thing. By next year, you’ll be shocked at how far you’ve come.

Visualization. I first started using visualization when I was coaching cross country during my PhD. I had my runners visualize their race, watching themselves do everything right and picturing how strong they would feel at the end. When they pictured themselves succeeding, they were much more likely to have a successful race. Visualization has been used in athletics for decades, but I think it absolutely applies in our everyday lives as well. If we want to make a change, the first step is believing that it’s actually possible. I use this in order to motivate myself to get up early and exercise. I hate waking up early and I usually use any excuse I can to sleep in, but lately I haven’t been able to get my workouts in at night. I know the only way to make myself exercise is to get it done in the morning, but I haaaaate waking up so early. This past week, every night before I go to bed, I visualize myself waking up at 5:45 (ughh) and running. Much to my husband’s surprise, I’ve actually done it!

Add, don’t subtract. This is one idea I stole from the Hungry for Change documentary; instead of trying to deny yourself, think about adding healthy habits to your life. Don’t focus on eating fewer fatty foods, but instead think about adding healthier ones. The entire process of dieting and restricting ourselves leaves us feeling deprived. A diet feels like something we have to survive and I know as soon as I start restricting foods (telling myself no sugar this week, or no junk food), that’s the only thing I can think about! Instead, I’ve been focusing on my goal to eat more fruits and vegetables. I pack at least one fruit, if not two in my lunch, and Kevin and I bought a juicer (which will be another blog!) to try to increase our consumption of vegetables.  The healthier my diet gets, the less I am interested in eating cookies and brownies (although, if you offered me one right now, I can’t say I’d turn it down!).  I don’t think about restricting anything; instead just focusing on the positive things I can add to my life helps me focus on the good stuff, and the bad stuff tends to just fall away on its own.

Have you tried any of these strategies? What are some successful changes you’ve made in your life?

-Sara

My Weekend Martial-Arts Workout

It has been a couple of years since the last time I practiced any kind of martial arts. About four years ago I was selected to attend and graduated the Marine Corps Instructor of Martial Arts program. This 8 week long course was, one of the hardest physical feats I have ever managed. Even though the purpose of the course was to teach a particular fighting technique, it is fair to say that this was a purely a physical endurance course and I thrived in this ultra-intense environment. We had little sleep, little food and as much running, climbing and fighting you could handle from sun up to sun down. Now that I’m in the civilian world, opportunities like this are hard to come by, so I jump at the chance to challenge myself. I’m in police academy right now and one of my fellow students, Stacey (who is a man,) is a retired pro-fighter and still runs a martial arts gym. He extended an open invitation to us to come to his gym and get some follow on training and personal attention. I jumped at the opportunity.

I got there about 30 minutes earlier than we were expected. Part of that is the whole Marines are painfully early for everything, but the other part of it was the typical Cro-magnum man in me that wanted to size up my competition. At first I watched a couple of sparing sessions, with both female and male fighters training. I loved it, who wouldn’t? Eye of the Tiger immediately started playing in my head.  Before you know it I felt like Bruce Buffer was calling my name and I was about to make my UFC debut. This quickly was greatly intensified as Stacey brought us into the other room and grabbed a set of hand wraps and starts wrapping my hands. All this positive energy came to an abrupt end when we actually started training.

 We started off simple a basic 1, 2 punch, and then we threw in a rear leg kick. Hey, no worries I was slaying this 150lb bag. In a fighting gym you train for how you are going to fight, so you spar, lift, run, jump rope, box jump, sledge hammer slams, wall ball shots….whatever it is you put out maximum effort for three minutes and get one minute rest. All of this is controlled by a buzzer and a series of beeps; you also get a 30 second warning, before your 3 minute push is over. I learned to loathe these beeps. After a few rounds of this we coved basic knee strikes, push kick and elbow strike. Then we were turned to our own devices to try to work in our own combo’s of everything we have learned that day. The room we were training in was about 20 feet wide and 100 feet long there are heavy bags evenly placed in two rows from front to back with about 5 feet in-between each bag. There are two other classmates of mine who decided to come as well and on the bag next to me is one of his female fighters.

Compared to my classmates I am more than holding my own, however the girl behind me is making me look like I am playing patty cake. The more I struggle to compete with her, the worse I am getting. I consider myself to be in great shape, but in no way am I in fighting shape. Each strike pulls more and more oxygen out of me and each combo is a cause to bend at the waist, and put my hands on my knees pleading for air. I look at the clock and realized that I am only 25 minutes into the workout. We go for another 20 minutes or so, by the end it looks like I am giving the heavy bag some form of Swedish massage. I covered in sweat, my legs and arms are burning, and it feels like I just ran a 10 k. We ended, with hand cuffing techniques and noncompliance take downs.

This is not for everybody I understand that, but if you ever want to try a new work out or just enjoy being completely useless for the rest of the day, give a martial arts gym a try. Do any of you do any training like this or practice a fighting discipline? If so what kind and what is your routine like?

-Kevin

Weekly Review: Nike Fuel Band

Maybe you’ve heard the hype all around the internet; the next big thing will be…. The nike fuel band! They’ve created a small frenzy by only selling about 1,000 of these things at a time in select “pre-ordering” session, creating insane demand for their $149 device.

First of all, what is it?

Nike created a more integral and effective way to track your fitness during the day than a typical pedometer. Nike fuel is a wrist band that you wear either all day or during exercise that can track all types of movement through an accelerometer. The band can sync up with your iPhone and tracks your progress throughout the day. It also comes with a USB port to plug right into your computer (similar to the Nike Plus system). You are able to set a fitness goal for the day and then your iPhone displays a red, yellow and then finally green light as you achieve your goal. Here’s a link to Nike’s website: Nike Fuel Band

Is it worth it?

Maybe, depending on who you are. One thing to note, however, is that I’ve read many many stories already online about people who purchased defective bands. It seems that Nike may have sent the first few thousand out too soon and plenty of the bands are defective. So, be careful and make sure you have a number for customer service.

You might think it’s awesome if….

You love to track your progress and need motivation. This will give you up-to-the-minute data about how active you are and can be an incredible motivational tool. You may be surprised at how sedentary you are at work, and it can be fun to try to get to that green light everyday. You can upload your results online and compete with your friends or your significant other, so it could be a turning point for you if you just haven’t been able to get an exercise routine going.

Not worth your money if…

You’re a swimmer. (It isn’t water-proof) Or, if you care at all about accuracy. While an accelerometer certainly is more accurate than a pedometer, these devices are typically worn on the upper arm, not the wrist and often correlated with a hip accelerometer. Additionally, instead of using a typical counts-per-minute analysis, Nike has correlated the counts with an algorithm to estimate oxygen utilization, a process they dubbed “oxygen kinetics.”  They then have created their own measure of total work, “Nike Fuel” which is a term they made up. You set your daily goal in Nike Fuel and track your progress that way. You can get estimates of calories burned and total steps taken, but that information can also be estimated through a simple heart rate monitor and pedometer, which would be significantly cheaper.

Overall, if you have the money to spend and you’d like extra motivation, this may be a great product for you. Just make sure you understand how to use the technology and that you’re not too worried about accuracy.

Have any of you guys tried this thing? What did you think?

*We just finished our first ebook! It’s available on amazon and on the kindle! Come check it out: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007VI58SI

 

-Sara

Weight Anxiety: Why Willpower Doesn’t Work

Obsessively counting calories, constantly asking, “do I look fat?” and spending hours in front of the mirror are things we usually associate with teenage girls. Between the ages of 12-18 females focus an incredible amount of energy on the way they look, and as a society we grant them that leeway. However, once we graduate college, get a job and join the real world, it’s expected that we throw those anxieties aside and get on with our lives. I don’t think it’s that easy.

Just looking at the sheer number of weight loss products, books, and diet programs it’s not only clear that we have a weight problem, but that we’re dying to get rid of it. Almost every weight-loss book is covered with a picture of a very thin woman, drawing a tape measure around her perfect waist, and we buy those books in droves. We may hide the fact that we want a perfect body from our friends and co-workers, assuring ourselves that we are “above that” or we’ve grown up since our vain teenage years, but have we really? I’m not sure I have. I have good days where I barely look in the mirror, eat well, go for a good run and feel healthy and happy about the way I look. But there are other days… Writing a health and fitness blog means scouring the internet for new stories or workouts, and that also means being bombarded with airbrushed photos of impossible looking women. Have you come across these? It’s hard not to draw comparisons and begin to criticize what’s in the mirror. This may be where many of our diets begin; we promise to wake up early to run for an hour, only eat vegetables and cut out carbs until we look like the girl in the impossible photo.

Does all this worry actually make us thinner?

The big question, I think, is do these moments of criticism and then promises of motivation actually lead to weight loss and improvements in our health? Probably not. There was a study published recently in Motivation and Emotion discussing the effects that attempted willpower have on our decision-making. When subjects were prompted with words like “fight temptation” “overcome” “exert willpower”, the subjects later on were more susceptible to making rash decisions and displaying poor judgment. This may be why diets are usually so unsuccessful. Forcing ourselves to be in a state of anxiety motivates us for a little while, and then we rebel against the rules we’ve set for ourselves and indulge. However, the study did find that when prompted with relaxing words, the subjects were able to make better, more well thought out decisions. It seems that when people feel more relaxed, they are better able to weight their options and make the best choice.

Focus on the positive

Instead of focusing on what you don’t like about your body or how much weight you’re trying to lose, try focusing on something positive. Pick a healthy choice like including more vegetables or going for an evening walk and then enjoy yourself while you do it. Think about how much that behavior makes you feel better, and how proud of yourself you are for accomplishing you small goal everyday. You will increase your self-esteem and reduce your anxiety, actually improving your odds of losing weight. So, don’t sweat it! You look beautiful.

My small goal this week is to run at least 4 times, and get to the gym to lift at least once. What’s your goal?

Have you every experienced weight anxiety? Did you feel it was a positive or negative influence in your life?

Pink Slime

Have you guys seen this stuff?? If not, guess which McDonalds food this is?

If you guessed ice cream, you’d be wrong. Try chicken McNuggets. Ew.

It’s one of the biggest stories going around the internet, especially now because the controversy has drawn in school lunches. Let me back up; what is pink slime?

It can be made of chicken or beef, although most of the stories in the news right now are about the beef slime. This photo is taken of chicken slime. Basically, the chickens are put in a mechanical separator to “de-bone” them. All the other parts get blended together to make this lovely soft-serve.

In beef, all the leftover parts of the cow are blended together (minus the de-boning), heated and spun to reduce the fat content. You end up with a gooey, sticky pink slime that can be added to fattier cuts of meat to decrease the total percent fat. If the process and texture doesn’t gross you out, this will. Pink slime has a higher incidence of e.coli and salmonella because some of the parts are from the outside of the cow. In order to compensate for the disease, the pink slime is treated with ammonia.

This product has been used for quite some time in school lunches and only recently have schools been able to request slime-less beef.  Unfortunately, because so many manufacturers use this product, it’s nearly impossible for school to find suppliers that are slime free, so if your kid eat lunch at school, odds are they’re eating slime.

If you’re looking at the meat you buy in the grocery store, hoping to see pink slime listed there, you won’t find it. Manufacturers aren’t required to include the ingredient because it’s still qualified as beef.  If you get lucky, the product may be labeled as “lean, finely textured beef” and its estimated that 70% of the beef we buy contains pink slime.  This also means that almost every burger you buy at a fast food restaurant contains the pink slime, however many restaurants are now starting to advertise the fact that they buy slime-free meat. Even Taco Bell has jumped on the band wagon, which made me think, “how bad is this meat that Taco Bell won’t even serve it?”

Kevin and I aren’t vegans, but I definitely keep having my eyes opened about the way we eat meat. Organically raised, grass fed, free range beef may very well be incredibly healthy, but how can I ever find meat like this? Do you all have free range meat you can buy locally?  Is this enough to make you give up meat altogether?

-Sara

March Madness Fitness

Well it’s that time of year again, the best time of year! MARCH MADNESS!!!! Even though I don’t ever watch college basket ball, every March I decide that I know everything about this sport. I seem to picture myself as some kind of Vegas number maker and submit a skewed bracket (and lose).  Sadly, my wife always seems to win our family bracket challenge, even though she watches even less college basketball than I do.

March madness seems to affect my workouts every March as well.  Along with my epiphany of college hoops know-how, I somehow fancy myself an undiscovered Lebron James. Since I’ve been swimming so regularly, I felt like nothing could really challenge my cardio…….well once again I have a misconception about basketball. This week, I went to the gym and didn’t really feel like swimming or weight lifting and I refuse to use any form of cardio machine. However, I happened to glance over at basketball court, and saw a pickup game going on. So, I quietly enter the basketball court and made my way over to the bleachers and tied to act like I wasn’t all that interested in playing (didn’t want to seem desperate, plus I suck so….I wanted them to ask me to play so, it’s their fault when my team loses).  Well it worked; they immediately asked if I wanted to play. My plan was to sit on the sideline to size up the competion, but this plan failed and not wanting look like a creepy man-watcher, I jumped in.

If I said I was horrible at basketball that would most likely be very insulting to people who are horrible Woops….I can barely dribble, have no shot and my attempt at a lay-up looks like I am a dog chasing a cat whose leash runs out. Thankfully, they didn’t care; they needed an even number and I filled the void. However,  I soon found myself at half court bent over with my hands on my knees, even though the court was filled with people who look far less fit than I am. They have managed to expose a weak link in my armor. I really don’t do much speed work, well none at all really. The fact is that basketball can really be physically demanding and you can achieve personal fitness goals through this game. I got schooled by slightly overweight middle aged men.

I’ve taken the rest of this month to actually improving my speed in addition to my endurance. It’s something I’m not that comfortable with, but it’s always a good idea to challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone. What do you do to keep your fitness routine challenging?

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