Happy Birthday!

This week my blog is 4 years old! 

 

 I started the blog in February, 2010 with this post:

I went to the gym today, as a matter of fact I exercised today, for the first time in 38 days.  Will this be the day I restart my fitness-centered life?  Let me back up.  I had been exercising regularly and rigorously for 20 years (minus the last 3 years).  I used to run 20 miles a week, I lifted weights, ran three half marathons, three 10 mile races, and countless 10K and 5K races.  I skied, snowboarded, ice skated, hiked, roller-bladed.  I had a house full of fitness equipment.  I easily exceeded the recommended 10,000 steps a day.

But then I stopped.  A combination of personal issues led me to alter every aspect of my life, including my fitness routine.  I’ve been trying to get back into it ever since.  In the past 3 years I joined 3 different gyms.  In total I’ve gone a total of 7 times  I even started running.  I was up to 4 miles three times a week, but then I stopped.

But, I went to the gym today…

I am happy to report that over the past 4 years I have indeed gotten back into fitness and into healthy eating.  I’ve lost weight, lowered my cholesterol and other health risk factors through exercise and healthy eating.  I’ve run some road races including two half marathons, got back into weight training and started practicing yoga.

This blog is called, Let’s Get in Shape Together, and as the name implies, the blog is meant to encourage you, my readers to also start, or continue, on your own health and wellness journey.  I like to share news and information that I find on healthy living, I try not to get too preachy…. And, I try to adopt the healthy habits that I write about.

If you are a regular reader, you know that I have adopted a near vegan diet, and I have never felt healthier or stronger!  I have several posts on the health advantages of a plant based diet, the health risks of milk and dairy, and the dangers of genetically modified foods.

Lately I’ve begun to change other aspects of my daily life.  I have been using less and less plastic in favor of glass for food storage.  I now use a non-toxic alternative to dryer sheets.  I am even attempting to change my make up and skin care products and make-up to those without toxic chemicals.

I’d love to hear from you on healthy changes you’ve made in your life, or health/wellness goals you have for yourself.

 

 

 

Chocolate — A Superfood?

Let’s start by saying that I love chocolate.

A fellow blogger, Doreen Pendgracs, in addition to writing a blog, Chocolate Travel Diversions, has written a delicious book all about chocolate, Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate.

The book reads like a journal of Doreen’s travels through the chocolate growing and chocolate producing regions of the world; from  the cacao growing regions of Peru, Ecuador and the eastern Carribean to the chocolate producing centers in Europe.  Volume II of her book will focus on great chocolate in the Americas and the Caribbean, and Volume III will include the rest of the world.  I learned a lot about how cacao is grown and made into chocolate and subtle differences in chocolate.

 

The one section of the book that I really could sink my teeth into (sorry), and the one I want to share here is the section that talks about the many health benefits of chocolate.  First of all did you know that chocogasm is a real word?  As defined by the Urban Dictionary chocogasm is defined as:

eating high quality chocolate and experiencing bliss like states of choc-erotic pleasure

According to Debra Waterhouse, M.P.H.,  RD., It turns out that women crave chocolate because we need it “to feel content with our lives, satisfied in our jobs, and able to accept and fulfill and the duties and responsibilities we have in our daily routines”!  It is not only OK to eat chocolate, but we need it!  Of course we are talking about pure (at least 70%) dark chocolate, not chocolate candy…

I learned that pure chocolate contains 380 chemicals including a neurotransmitter similar to THC (cannabis).  Chocolate also encourages our bodies to produce serotonin, and releases endorphins in our bodies — natural anti depressants!

Eating dark chocolate increases the nitric oxide level in our body, increasing blood flow and improving stamina and the body’s ability to recover, and so a little dark chocolate before and after exercise is beneficial!

Another compound in dark chocolate, epicatechin, improves heart health.  The flavonols found in dark chocolate are powerful antioxidants, and may improve our health, enhance circulation, joint function, brain function, lower blood pressure, lower inflammation as well as reduce our risk of Alzheimers, dementia and heart disease, may be good for our vision, and natural fluoride found in cocoa may also make it good for our teeth!

But it is these compounds (flavonoids) in dark chocolate that also make it bitter,  reducing the bitterness also reduces the healthy properties, and so these health benefits are not found in milk chocolate or white chocolate.   Actually white chocolate only contains cocoa butter and sugar and so it isn’t truly chocolate!

And so, to start your chocolate journey and to read more about how chocolate is made, its health benefits and take a virtual tour of the chocolate producing centers in Europe, I recommend Doreen’s book, Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate!

Reverse Airbrushing?!

I recently saw this article published by the Huffington Post describing how fashion editors are plumping up ultra skinny models so they don’t look sickly.   Notice how in the photo on the right, the  model’s rib cage has been photoshopped so she doesn’t look emaciated.

The original article quotes a former editor of Cosmo who discusses this “reverse airbrushing” a practice she describes as plumping up ultra thin models, adding curves to make them look healthier.  Even supposedly healthy publications are guilty of this practice, “Self, has admitted: ‘We retouch to make the models look bigger and healthier’.”  

So what sort of message are we sending to women?  That we should strive to be ultra skinny but not look emaciated? –– this is physically impossible and dangerous!  Remember my post on skinny fat?  

We should strive for a healthy weight and a fit body.  That means being with a healthy weight range, too thin is also dangerous to our health!  The following chart gives you an idea of healthy weight ranges for women and men.  Keep in mind that these charts are for the average adult.  (An athlete or someone who works out heavily and has an above average amount of muscle mass will be healthy at a heavier weight).   Click here to determine frame size.

Weight Chart for Women

Weight in pounds, based on ages 25-59 with the lowest mortality rate
(indoor clothing weighing 3 pounds and shoes with 1″ heels, and so if you weigh yourself with no clothing or shoes, subtract 1″ and 3 pounds)

Height

Small Frame

Medium Frame

Large Frame

4’10”

102-111

109-121

118-131

4’11”

103-113

111-123

120-134

5’0″

104-115

113-126

122-137

5’1″

106-118

115-129

125-140

5’2″

108-121

118-132

128-143

5’3″

111-124

121-135

131-147

5’4″

114-127

124-138

134-151

5’5″

117-130

127-141

137-155

5’6″

120-133

130-144

140-159

5’7″

123-136

133-147

143-163

5’8″

126-139

136-150

146-167

5’9″

129-142

139-153

149-170

5’10”

132-145

142-156

152-173

5’11”

135-148

145-159

155-176

6’0″

138-151

148-162

158-179

Weight Chart for Men

Weight in pounds, based on ages 25-59 with the lowest mortality rate
(indoor clothing weighing 5 pounds and shoes with 1″ heels, and so if you weigh yourself with no clothing or shoes, subtract 1″ and 5 pounds)
Click here to calculate frame size

Height

Small Frame

Medium Frame

Large Frame

5’2″

128-134

131-141

138-150

5’3″

130-136

133-143

140-153

5’4″

132-138

135-145

142-156

5’5″

134-140

137-148

144-160

5’6″

136-142

139-151

146-164

5’7″

138-145

142-154

149-168

5’8″

140-148

145-157

152-172

5’9″

142-151

148-160

155-176

5’10”

144-154

151-163

158-180

5’11”

146-157

154-166

161-184

6’0″

149-160

157-170

164-188

6’1″

152-164

160-174

168-192

6’2″

155-168

164-178

172-197

6’3″

158-172

167-182

176-202

6’4″

162-176

171-187

181-207

The Season of Over Eating, Over Drinking and Weight Gain

As we start the holiday season, here is some information that is certainly not jolly!

I was reading on a fellow bloggers site that:

 

The Average North American gains 5 pounds a year after the age of 25, and that between 1 ½ to 4 pounds of this annual weightdoctor-scale  gain happens between Thanksgiving and New Year’s?!?

 

And even more disturbing, is the fact that more heart attacks occur during the holidays with a 5% greater increase in heart attacks between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  (There are a lot of factors that may contribute to this statistic such as stress, travel and putting off going to the doctor, but over eating rich, heavy foods is certainly a factor.)

 

When you think about it, all of this weight gain and poor health isn’t surprising. This is the time of year when we over eat, eat a lot of “bad” food, and over drink.

 

People make a point to see friends and relatives during this season, and these get togethers most often include not only food, but “fancy” food prepared with lots of sugar, butter and cream.  People don’t serve plain baked potatoes at the holidays, but rather a sweet potato casserole complete with brown sugar, butter and marshmallows!  Nor will steamed vegetables do; for the holidays the vegetables are served with buttery or creamy sauces to make them “special”.   Not to mention, at all these holiday parties we tend to “pick” at all the high calorie hors ‘devours and to over drink consuming lots of empty calories!  Plus, you can’t go anywhere without running into dishes of candy or cookies.  And who can resist those, especially when we are a little run down and tired.

 

Yikes!  What can we do?

 

First off, there are plenty of tips out there for not gaining weight during the holidays, and I’m sure you (like I) have read them all.  But, there is no simple fix.  The data proves that no matter what we say, we will not lose the extra weight come January.  The trick is to not gain it in the first place.

 

We can’t eat hundreds of more calories without gaining weight.  Increasing our exercise will help, but keep in mind that a piece of apple pie has 411 calories, add some vanilla ice cream and the calorie count jumps to 640.  An hour of brisk walking (3.5 on the treadmill) burns only 267 calories.  So as you can see, exercise won’t erase all the extra eating!

 

Even though it is the holiday season, we need to continue to eat healthy (that mean’s lots of fruits and vegetables), and eat and drink in moderation.

My Journey to Better Health

I haven’t posted in a while as I felt I was getting “preachy”.  Perhaps too much information about the dangers of animal protein, diet soda, sugar and dairy.  But it is hard not to share what I’ve learned about nutrition and health.  To me it seems so basic — healthy eating leads to a healthy body, and I want everyone to know the information that is out there and to live healthier lives.

 But, frequently I am met with comments such as the one I heard recently, “Yeah, I know all about what is good to eat and what isn’t, I’m just not going to eat that way.”  I simply said OK and stopped talking.  What I wanted to say was, “What???  You’d rather get sick and take pills that may or may not lea to ther problems??  Do you think it will be easier to eat healthy once your doctor ‘orders’ you to??”,  Oops, there I go again….

Rather than spew statistics about dairy consumption and cancer rates, meat and hear disease, or broccoli and it’s cancer preventative properties, I will share with you my real life experience.  Maybe it will give someone encouragement to take nutrition seriously!

I always ate “healthy”, that is I ate a  healthy Western diet — not too much red meat, plenty of chicken, fish and dairy, fruit and vegetables, and not too much dessert.  But I had gained 10 extra pounds that I wasn’t losing and more disturbing, my indicators for heart disease weren’t good:

  • Cholesterol 220 (healthy range is under 200)
  • Triglycerides  a whopping 182 (healthy range under 150)
  • C-Reactive Protein (a measure of inflammation in the body) 5.5 (low cardio-vascular risk is under 1.0!)

So I made some changes.  As with any new situation, the first place I turned was some reading material.  I highly recommend Super Immunity by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, The China Study by Dr. T.Colin Campbell, and the documentary, Forks Over Knives.    I also started seeing a physician who practices not only conventional medicine, but also integrates complementary medicine, balancing medicine with healthy nutrition, lifestyle and exercise.  (Shout out to Sage Integrative Medicine and Dr. Marney Roemmelt, MD).

Now, 18 months later, after eating a near-Vegan diet of mostly veggies, beans, grains, fruits, nuts and no dairy (no milk, cheese, butter or eggs),  my health is substantially better.  I lost those pesky 10 pounds easily, and my risk for heart disease has gone down dramatically:

  • Cholesterol 180
  • Triglycerides 78
  • C-Reactive Protein 0.5

Plus, my sports performance has improved.  (check out No Meat Athlete for information on athletic training and performance on a vegan diet).  I also have more energy, am more alert and have far less colds than before.

While this approach may not work for everyone, the research clearly shows that people in countries who eat less meat and dairy have far less incidence of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and auto-immune diseases that are so prevalent in western countries.  And, before you say, maybe it’s in their genes; research shows that when people from those mainly plant-based cultures move to our western meat and dairy eating countries, within 1 generation their incidence of the “western diseases” matches those of the native population.

So, I encourage everyone to at least incorporate more vegetables and fruits into their diet, to cut way down on meat (including chicken, pork and fish), perhaps to only 3 times a week, and a small portion at that (3 oz) — substitute other protein sources such as quinoa, tofu, tempeh, beans, more vegetables (yes vegetables have protein) and nuts, and cut out dairy!