Tag Archives: health

Spiritual lessons from physical training

training

Some lessons I’ve learned while working out….

First of all, you need to understand what a victory it is for me that I’ve been consistently exercising for three months now! I loved activity as a kid — running fast and climbing trees were two of my favorite things — but junior high PE class changed all that. (I’ve tried three times to start writing why, but there are so many reasons, it would take this post off-topic. So let’s just move on….) For decades, doing any kind of exercise has been something I don’t like and struggle to stay at it. Mostly, I don’t. Or didn’t.

Three months ago I finally admitted that I lacked the self-discipline to keep up with exercise on my own, and I started working with a personal trainer. The progress I’ve made in that time amazes me! And while I’m loving that clothes shopping is kinda fun again, the bigger victories for me have been in my thinking, and in my spirit.

This is not me! But this is how I feel sometimes when I’m working out.

Here are a few lessons I’m learning, that cross over from physical to spiritual:

1. When moving forward becomes painful, I want to give up. (Especially if we’re talking running.) But if I persevere through the pain, it goes away and then I feel better than I did before I started! And I’m more able to tackle that distance, or that move, or that weight again.

2. Growth requires ignoring the old tapes in my head. Voices that have been there a long time say, “You’ve always failed at this; this time will be no different,” and “You look stupid when you do this.” Whether that’s feeling like a spaz (note: junior high word!) when I’m trying to do a new move, or being afraid people will think I’m weird when I talk about God, those old tapes need to be erased, and I need to put a new message in their place! “With God’s help, I can do new stuff — and get better at it!”

Behold, I am doing a new thing...

3. This was new news to me: To make a muscle get stronger, you need to push it to the point of failure. When you’ve lifted a weight that you’re able to move at first, but then with repetition gets to a point where the muscle just plain gives out, that sends a message to your body: Hey, we need more strength here; send reinforcements! Likewise, don’t be surprised or discouraged when your faith “fails;” this is the point where God’s strength comes to build us up — IF you’ll I’ll lay down your my pride long enough to let Him!

My grace is sufficient...

4. When you’re trying something new and hard, the trainer is there to suggest new tactics when you run up against a difficulty, to spot you if you do start to drop something (my trainer taught me this one), and to encourage you when the going gets tough. Pastor/teacher Chip Ingram talks about how, in the spiritual realm, we often feel like we just need to try harder, when what we really need to do is to train better. The training leads to improvement. And training works best with help! (See a bit of his teaching on this here, and here.) Likewise, God is your partner in your spiritual growth: He can send you new tactics or encouragement, and He’ll always be there to catch you when you fall. But He also sends others to help coach and encourage you along the way. Make use of them!

5. There will be sweat! That’s okay! Maybe you’ve seen a jock type wearing a t-shirt that says, “Sweat is weakness leaving the body!” Likewise, there may be tears as your faith is stretched. But maybe tears are just spiritual sweat?!  🙂

photo credit: Marco Crupi Visual Artist via photopin cc

Your diet soda may be making you fat.

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Studies from multiple sources are discovering that diet soft drinks may not be the healthy choice that most people think they are.

Source of weight gain?

For one study, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio followed 474 diet soda drinkers for almost 10 years. They found that diet soda drinkers’ waists grew 70 percent more than non-drinkers. Even more shocking was their discovery that drinking two or more diet sodas a day increased waist sizes 500 percent more as compared to people who avoided the stuff entirely.
A few other reasons why diet pop may not be as good a friend as you think it is.

Greater risk for diabetes:

Drinking one diet soda a day was associated with a 36 percent increased risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes in a University of Minnesota study. Metabolic syndrome is a condition that includes increased waist size, and puts people at high risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

And it may not just be making you fatter, but sadder, too…

Possible link with depression:

A study presented at a the American Academy of Neurology meeting found that over the course of 10 years, people who drank more than four cups or cans of soda a day were 30 percent more likely to develop depression than those who steered clear of sugary drinks. The correlation held true for both regular and diet drinks, but researchers noted that the risk appeared to be greater for those who primarily drank diet sodas.

Possible factor in strokes and heart attacks:

Just one diet soft drink a day could boost your risk of having a vascular event such as stroke, heart attack or vascular death, according to researchers from the University of Miami and Columbia University. Their study found that diet soda devotees were 43 percent more likely to have experienced a vascular event than those who drank none. 

But how?

Other studies suggest a clue: “Artificial sweeteners could have the effect of triggering appetite but, unlike regular sugars, they don’t deliver something that will squelch the appetite,” says Sharon Fowler, obesity researcher at UT Health Science Center at San Diego.

Wikipedia weighs in:

(pun intended!)

The effectiveness of diet soda as a weight loss tool has been called into question. 

Changing the food energy intake from one food will not necessarily change a person’s overall food energy intake or cause a person to lose weight. One study at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, reported by Sharon Fowler at the ADA annual meeting, actually suggested the opposite, where consumption of diet soda correlated with weight gain. While Fowler did suggest that the undelivered expected calories from diet soda may stimulate the appetite, the correlation does not prove that consumption of diet soda caused the weight gain. The ADA has yet to issue an updated policy concerning diet soda. 

In an independent study by researchers with the Framingham Heart Study in Massachusetts, soda consumption correlated with increased incidence of metabolic syndrome. Of the 9,000 males and females studied, soda drinkers were at 48% higher risk for metabolic syndrome, which involves weight gain and elevated blood sugar. No significant difference in these findings was observed between sugary sodas and diet drinks. The researchers noted that diet soda drinkers were less likely to consume healthy foods, and that drinking diet soda flavored with artificial sweeteners more than likely increases cravings for sugar-flavored sweets.

Learn more…
Sources:

Quick and easy avocado salad

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This is a repost, but it’s worth it. This is the recipe I turn to every summer when tomatoes are ripe, and I need a quick, easy side dish. Also, my version has evolved, both in ingredients and method, so I’m including my up-to-date version in this post.

Looking for a quick, easy dish to take to a Fourth of July party today? This is it! You can whip it up in about 10 minutes, and although it might taste better if it sits for a bit, you can serve it right away. And because it has no mayo, you don’t need to worry about it sitting at room temp for a few hours. Perfect for a potluck, barbeque or picnic! Plus, it’s just chock full of healthy stuff, and has no sugar in the dressing! Just a minimal bit of honey — which you could leave out, if you want.
The original recipe is from Ina Garten, although she calls it “Guacamole Salad”.
I do make a few minor tweaks. Being the spice wimp I am, I leave out the jalapeno and cut back on the cayenne. But I also add in some chopped cilantro, and as I said, I’ve altered the method.

Avocado Salad

    2 limes
    1/2 t. honey
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
    1/4 cup good olive oil
    1 pint grape tomatoes, halved (or 1 lb. large tomatoes, chopped*)
    1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and 1/4-inch diced
    1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
    1/2 cup diced red onion  
    2 (or more) ripe Hass avocados,  diced at the last minute
    chopped cilantro, to taste
    additional salt and pepper, to taste, if needed

Grate the zest of the two limes (just the green part!) into the large bowl you’ll be using for your salad; set aside. 

Juice the limes and measure 1/4 cup of the juice. In a small bowl, whisk together the measured lime juice, honey, salt, black pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper; then add the olive oil and set aside.

Place the tomatoes*, yellow pepper, black beans, and red onion into the large bowl with the lime zest. Re-whisk the dressing and pour it over the vegetables. Toss well, and store till ready to serve. Keep at room temp if you will be serving within an hour or so; refrigerate for longer storage. If refrigerating, remove about 30 minutes before serving time.

Just before you’re ready to serve the salad, dice the avocados and chop the cilantro, and fold them both into the salad. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve at room temperature.

*If using large tomatoes rather than grape tomatoes, don’t include them at the beginning; add them with the avocado. You may chop the tomatoes ahead of time and store at room temperature.

CDC study shows that being somewhat “overweight” has at least one positive effect.

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I’m not a scientist or a medical professional (so this should not be considered medical advice) but I like to try to find medical studies that back up claims published here and there. The chart below is based on data drawn from a meta-analysis conducted by the CDC, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2013 Jan 2), and posted on nih.gov.
Ninety-seven studies were used for analysis, providing a combined sample size of more than 2.88 million individuals and more than 270,000 deaths. The results showed that those who were somewhat “overweight” according to the standard BMI numbers actually had a lower mortality rate — by 6% — than those whose BMI would fall into the “healthy” range. There was even a slight advantage for those in the slightly obese range.

Click the image to see it larger.
For those who prefer their data in a paragraph to a chart, here it is. The study looked at mortality rates for four groups of people: those with a BMI of 18.5 to 20 (called “normal weight”), with a BMI of 20-25 (“overweight”), BMI of 25-30 (“obese grade 1”), and BMI over 30 (“obese grade 2”). The data showed a lower mortality rate for the the overweight and grade 1 obese groups, by 4-5%. Grade 2 obesity, however, showed a markedly worse mortality rate: +29%.
How does that shake out in height and pounds? Here are the numbers for some average height women (U.S.):

BMI if you are 5’2″

– “healthy”: 110-130 lbs.
– “overweight”: 140-160 lbs.

BMI if you are 5’4″ 

– “healthy”: 110-140 lbs.
– “overweight”: 150-170 lbs.

BMI if you are 5’6″ 

– “healthy”: 120-150 lbs.
– “overweight”: 160-180 lbs.
The study didn’t look at quality of life issues, so if you were to mine the same data looking for incidence of diabetes, etc. the picture might look very different. But I just thought it was interesting that even up to a BMI (body mass index) of 35, being somewhat overweight actually has a positive effect on mortality over the course of the study.
Let us always remember, however, that the mortality rate over all time for everyone is 100%!  [insert ironic smiley face here]
Source of human images used in BMI graph: http://ygraph.com/bmi
Source of numbers used for average height BMIs: http://www.youngmomsconnect.org/downloads/bmi_chart.pdf
Graph created by Jana Snyder.

Diet duel: the Mediterranean diet vs. the low-fat diet

diet-duel

The Harvard School of Public Health recently conducted a study pitting the Mediterranean diet against a low fat diet. The results?

Weight change over 18 months:

  • Mediterranean dieters lost an average of 9 pounds.
  • Low-fat dieters gained (yes, gained) an average of 6 pounds.

Those who stuck with the diet:

  • Mediterranean dieters: 54% stuck with it the whole 18 months.
  • Low-fat dieters: 20% stuck with it.

Dr. Walter Willet, Chair of the Dept. of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health says:

“The real issue is not losing weight—people can cut back on calories and lose weight on almost any diet—but keeping weight off over the long run. Thus it is more important to find a way of eating that you can stay with for the rest of your life. For this reason, any eating plan you choose should be satisfying and allow variety, and should also be nutritionally sound.”

Here’s 12 Mediterranean recipes I want to try.

Quote source: Harvard School of Public Health website

Additional study: A small new study shows that following a Mediterranean Diet helped men at high risk for heart disease reduce their bad cholesterol, regardless of whether they lost weight.

Image source: The Boston Globe, “Mediterranean diet vs. low-fat Ornish plan,” April 15, 2013

Fructose is the new “Fat”

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So, last night, I picked up The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease and perused it in the book store. It’s by an MD and a PhD, and is backed up with lots of studies. In it, the authors explain why sugar, corn syrup and anything high in fructose are so harmful to our bodies in general and especially our heart health. The quick summary: because they’re processed first by the liver. (This article by the editor of Harvard Health Publications provides a quick and easy-to-understand summary of the subject.)

Which isn’t to say that ANY fructose is bad; it’s just the over-prevalence in the modern American diet that is problematic. A meta-analysis published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reached the conclusion that “obesity and diabetes rates were low when total [dietary] fructose intake was in the range of 25–40 g/d [grams per day],” adding the caution that, “Conclusions as to the safe and prudent amounts of fructose consumption will require carefully controlled dose-responses studies in different populations….”

This has prompted me to do some research on fructose found in various types of sweet substances. Here are some things I’ve discovered…

Here is a University of Vermont study (See Table 1) which found that higher grades of maple syrup — those that are lighter in color — may contain lower levels of fructose than their darker cousins.

A short list of the highest offenders, from the Wheat Belly Blog by Dr. William Davis:

Where do you find fructose? Fructose can be found in (roughly in order from most to least):

  • Agave
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Sucrose (white sugar)
  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Maple syrup
Self Magazine’s incredibly helpful nutrition database has a page listing more than 700 foods highest in fructose.
And here’s the opinion of one Paleo dieter, from a forum thread on PaleoHacks:

The monosaccharide form of fructose, which is found in corn syrup, is supposed to be the most harmful. Surprisingly, the honey has about 42gm of monosaccharide fructose per 100gm serving, while molasses has about 13gm and maple syrup has about 4gm (source). So with regard to monosaccharide fructose, maple syrup would appear to be the least toxic.
However, in the previous thread on honey, studies are cited which show that honey does not have the same harmful effects as other sweeteners, and may even be beneficial. This is probably because honey is a whole food whose ingredients have complex interactions that somehow mitigate some of the possible harm from the fructose.

(Update, 3/12/13) And here’s a great post on Green Lite Bites, exploring the nutritional aspects of several natural sweeteners.

Probably more info to come…

I am not a health professional and this post is not intended to be professional medical advice.

photo credit: Wikimedia

Cholesterol vs. Inflammation

fat-free-pudding

What you think you know about cholesterol could hurt you.

Twenty years ago, doctors told us to stay away from high-fat foods like eggs, bacon, and butter because they raised cholesterol and could lead to heart disease.

America responded and stopped eating fat. In its place, however, we ate more sugar and other carbohydrates.

How did that work out? Not great.

As a whole, Americans grew fatter and sicker than before. Scientists back then may have reached the wrong conclusion.

As more research uncovers the role diet plays in cardiovascular disease, it’s becoming obvious that fats aren’t the only villains in the picture. Increasingly, scientists are recognizing that you should also watch out for some carbohydrates—specifically, sugars and refined grains. “I believe that a diet containing moderate amounts of saturated fat is OK, and possibly better, than a low-saturated-fat diet that is rich in sugars and refined carbohydrates,” says Ronald Krauss, M.D., director of atherosclerosis research at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute.

Now a growing number of medical experts say weight gain, heart disease, and other illnesses are not caused by high cholesterol, but by something different: inflammation.

Dr. Beverly Teter, a lipid biochemist at the University of Maryland, said scientists wrongly blamed cholesterol for heart disease when they saw high levels of it at a damaged blood vessel. Teter believes the body put the cholesterol there to fix the problem, which was actually caused by inflammation.
“It’s the inflammation in the vessels that start the lesion,” she explained. “The body then sends the cholesterol like a scab to cover over it to protect the blood system and the vessel wall from further damage.”

Good things cholesterol does in your body:

– can protect against respiratory and gastrointestinal problems.
– helps create vitamin D.
– the brain contains more cholesterol than any other organ and needs it in order to send messages from one brain cell to another.

Foods that fight inflammation:

– that are high in Omega 3 fats
– olive oil
– avocados
– cold water fish
– coconut oil (fights colds and the flu and has even reversed the symptoms of Alzheimers, ALS and Parkinson’s Disease in some people.)
– walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans.
– pumpkin and sesame seeds
– natural saturated fats (maybe; science is still sorting this one out).

Foods which, in excess, cause inflammation:

– Omega 6 fats
– vegetable oils
– mayonnaise
– margarine
– anything containing high fructose corn syrup or other sugars
– white bread, white pasta, white rice

Foods which, in any amount, cause inflammation:

– trans fats (Which is a man-made fat, and for which the Harvard School of Public Health says there is no safe level to consume.)
– any packaged food containing the word “hydrogenated” on the label.

Condensed from an article by Lorie Johnson at CBN and an article by Rachel Johnson, Ph.D, M.P.H., R.D., at Eating Well.

I am not a health professional and this post is not intended to be professional medical advice.

photo credit: Nicola since 1972 via photopin cc

Kicking the sugar habit? Here’s the most important thing to know.

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Kicking the sugar habit - sugar monster, or sugar dragon

Sugar really can be quite addicting.  Dr Eric Stice has famously said, “Sugar activates the brain similar to the way cocaine reacts”. I think that those who call it “toxic” are going overboard, though. As Dr. David L. Katz says, “the dose makes the poison.” And Americans are definitely over-dosing. On average, American adults eat about 100 pounds of sugar a year. (Source.)

(Click these links for some stunning graphics showing how much sugar and corn syrup the average American consumes in a day, week, month, year and lifetime. Care for a dip in a hot-tub full of corn syrup, anyone?)

I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia in high school, so I was trained early on to stay away from or at least go easy on sugar, but later in life, I got a little sloppy with it. Eventually, between my weight gain, migraines, and moods, I finally realized that I needed to get back to that super-cautious approach to sugar.

Here’s a short video by “Mama Natural” with some tips for kicking the white stuff:

I especially want to note this point that she mentions in passing:

Eating sugar creates craving for more sugar.

Understanding this made a big difference for me. Before I realized this, I might indulge in some sweets a few times a week because, hey, a little now and then isn’t that bigga deal, right? But the sweet itself isn’t the only cost: it can kick off bigger cravings one or two hours later, and depending on your vulnerability, those cravings might last for days. As I’ve made clear before, I do believe in the occasional indulgence for very special occasions. But when I do, I know I’ve got to get back on the no-sugar horse the very next day and tough out the cravings until they subside.

The great thing is, the reverse is also true. The more you stay off of sugar and other white carbs, the more your cravings will subside. The first week or two is gonna be tough, but after that it gets lots, lots easier. If you are physically addicted to sugar, you may need to do a slower withdrawal in order to manage bothersome side effects. For more info, see this article on how to get through sugar withdrawal.

So if you’re trying to punt the sugar monster, hang in there! You’ll be glad you did!

the hard truth: if you want to get rid of cravings, you've got to get rid of sugar.

* Find Just Me(gan)’s blog at http://tallydogs.wordpress.com/