I have had a series of recent light bulb experiences that have thrown me for a loop and served me a helping of reality…
Ack! My Parents Are Getting Old
I have 4 brothers and sisters and we have a half sister that is quite a bit younger. My Dad has been married to her mother since I was 6 – so a very long time. Since the early 90’s, my dad and step mother have lived in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Their health is failing and they have had serious financial setbacks for a myriad of reasons that I won’t go into. The bottom line is they can’t afford to stay in the Phoenix area and none of the family lives nearby. So, they decided to move to Ohio to be closer to their daughter, my half sister and they arrived there last week.
Seeing pictures of them during their drive out to Ohio shocked me. You know how you have this vision of your parents? Well, my vision didn’t match what I saw and it was a jolting reminder that time marches on and my parents are aging. Scott and I are very lucky to have both sets of parents still around – but health problems are starting to creep up and the unstoppable hands of time are spinning.
Seeing them look so frail, was a great reminder to me why taking care of my health and wellness while I am young is important. Exercise, eating healthy and maintaining a positive attitude towards any situation will go far as you age. Trust me on that one! Seeing the differences in how my parents are aging based on their life outlook and how they have taken care of themselves has been very educational for me. It’s night and day.
Oh No! I’m Feeling My Age
Britt’s wedding this past weekend was beyond lovely. Not sure if I have mentioned, but Britt is a bit younger than me – and hence, the wedding crowd was young. It was one of those experiences where I felt old. Not old enough to be a granny or anything, but old in the sense that I really didn’t want to ‘hang’ out. It’s not a bad thing — the wedding guests were nice but I don’t enjoy drinking and getting shit faced and it takes me forever to recover!
On top of feeling old at the wedding, yesterday, my tween daughter sent me pics her friend took of her (included below). Talk about feeling my age – she looks so grown up. How the heck did my little baby become a young woman? And to boot, she is about an inch or less away from being taller than me. She just seems so grown up.
It’s inevitable-we age, grow up, become adults, get old and eventually we will pass. The reminders this past week have left me feeling somewhat blah and melancholy about things around me. I will get out of my funk but it was an abrupt wake up call…
Life is short.
Act with good intentions.
Say what you need to say to those you care most about.
Cherish the moments.
Laugh a lot.
I was talking to my sister this morning about all of these nutrition programs like Shakeology/21Day Fix/Beachbody I see threaded throughout my Facebook stream and the question that both of us kept asking was Are these programs sustainable long term?
Here is some food for thought to consider…
It’s not the healthiest way to gain control of your health and wellness.
As Dani Stout, a holistic coach, writes in her post An Unbiased Review of Shakeology,
Shakeology is a company that touts its products as superfoods, as the best nutrition available, and as a safe, healthy and effective way to lose weight.
Is this true? Well, not exactly. Will it help you lose weight? Yes. Is it safe? No. Is it healthy? No.
Isn’t Whey A Great Protein Choice? Dani explains that Shakeology’s whey protein is not organic nor from grass-fed cows. This may not be an important point in your mind. But knowledge is power. So, if you are aware that their whey is derived from cows that have been fed genetically modified corn and soy, and have made the decision that it doesn’t bother you then this is a moot point and let’s move on…
Another interesting thing she shares is the way Shakeology processes the whey. They use ion exchange to extract it. Take some time to learn about what that entails via her post. According to the info she shares, this process makes chemical changes to the efficacy of the processed whey. Again, if you are ok with this process – it’s another moot point.
Then, she goes on to talk about their vegan shakes,
While there are benefits to this shake, there are also a ton of downfalls. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, mostly due to the fact that it would be so irritating to the GI tract.
She further explores some of the recipes shared by Shakeology. Many of the recipes suggest using products like Fiber One and Jello, and many contain processed wheat flour, soy, aspartame, and food coloring. They are clearly not whole, natural ingredients which means they aren’t the healthiest option from a nutritional standpoint.
Will it help you long term?
You may be saying that all the info about whey and vegan protein source does not change your mind. Fair enough. Your goal may be to lose weight and a nutritional shake can do that. True but if that’s the case, let’s talk about long term success…
Can you see yourself doing this type of program for the rest of your life? There is no quick 21 day fix to get healthy. It’s the sad truth. It’s hard work. It means you have to change habits long term. Do you remember when Atkins was the program of choice for people wanting to lose weight? They lost weight all right, but as soon as they veered off course – the weight came back on.
A few years ago, I would have said that Paleo was the way to go. I lost weight, felt better and generally embraced it. After a few years being Paleo, I found that I couldn’t live strict Paleo and live the life I wanted. I decided to make some modifications so that it fit my lifestyle but also still aligned with my healthy goals.
The changes I made allow for me to go and eat pizza once in a while, put cheese on my salad now and then but it also means that I consider and consciously make food choices. I know what healthier options are available and know what certain foods will do to me – short term and long term – and can make an informed choice. I ask a lot of questions and request modifications to food whenever possible to make them healthier. Generally, I eat a lot of salad – loaded with green leafy veggies. I don’t drink soda or any other sugary drinks. I eat more than the recommend amount of protein daily based on my activity level to help develop more muscle. While, I pass on fast food like McD’s, it doesn’t mean I don’t go to my favorite burger joint on occasion.
My point is you don’t have to live a hermit’s life and avoid food. If you want to add in a protein shake on the regular and it fits with your overall goals – then that’s OK. The goal is to develop the habit of making healthier choices more of the time and stop eating shit food regularly. Will you be super model thin if you do it this way? No, probably not. But you won’t feel like crap all the time, and you will get healthier. Your skin will improve, and more importantly you will feel mentally and physically better!
Combine that with some regular exercise –we are talking about just moving your body (go for a walk, a hike, climb some stairs, do some squats.) every day. You will be healthier and start to develop habits that last. I have experienced it personally, so I know it’s true.
What drives you to change?
There is no quick fix. You have to want to change. A protein shake and a social media cheerleader aren’t going to rock your world. You have to want it, badly. You have to be determined and become a pit bull in your pursuit of it.
Here’s the story of someone I know who lacks the desire and drive to change,
He was recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. To begin his treatment, he visited a nutritionist, and was given suggestions on how to make dietary changes to lose weight and control the newly acquired disease. So, what did he order for lunch the other day? Chicken Piccatta with a side of pasta. No vegetable side, no smaller portion – and this isn’t just lunch. He has made few if any nutritional changes overall.
When I asked him about it, he says he can’t give up pasta or bread because he’s Italian. Bullshit – he doesn’t want to give them up to improve his health.
A serious health issue like diabetes should be enough to spur change. It’s a perfect example of someone who doesn’t want to change or isn’t ready. Of course, there are deeper issues that go along with making changes, not to mention it’s downright hard. But, if a potentially deadly illness doesn’t wake you up, I don’t get it.
What’s the key takeaway?
I’m not telling you to avoid programs and nutritional supplements like Shakeology. If they meet your needs and work for you – awesome – but make sure you consider what’s going in your body and your long term goals before jumping in!
Do your own research and make up your own mind based on facts. Don’t feel pressured or dazzled by all of the weight loss stories, the motivational images and other gimmicks they share on their social media streams. Keep in mind that while those ‘coaches‘ may truly believe in the products they are selling, they are doing it to make money.
The Connection Between Eczema and Eating Dairy
A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend of mine about her recent case of eczema. I immediately said it’s probably dairy. She said that’s what her doctor said too Fast forward to this morning, before our 6A boxing session, she said she stopped the dairy and almost immediately – her eczema cleared up! Well what do you know!! It’s amazing how many people don’t realize that a sensitivity to dairy can cause skin issues and congestion.
Before understanding how dairy affected me, I had hard, crusty hands all the time. To help alleviate the burning and itching, my doctor gave me a steroid cream. He never once discussed its possible cause. Once I quit dairy – it was gone. Just like that! Recently, I was reminded once again that dairy and I don’t mix. I started drinking a whey protein shake in the AM. Whey protein is a by-product of the cheese making process and after a few days, my eczema started to flare up on my hands again. I switched to a veggie based shake and the eczema issues cleared up.
As a general practice, I don’t eat dairy but maybe once a week. When I do have some, within hours, I feel congested and the next morning, my hands start to itch. If i eat it more than once a week, eczema on my hands starts to appear. One of my favorite treats – ice cream – is almost not worth eating because my congestion gets so bad that getting a good night’s sleep becomes a challenge. Everything in life is a trade off and now, before eating anything with dairy or gluten for that matter, I ask myself if it’s worth it. Sometimes the answer is yes, but most often, it’s no.
Here’s a bit more info on dairy and food allergies:
How can you figure out if dairy is causing you issues?
It’s simple really. Try eliminating it for a week or so to see if any skin issues clear up, including acne. Then, add it back in. If you notice a reaction, then you know that dairy is causing you some inflammation issues. Keep in mind that a week may not be enough time to really eliminate it. As with most things, It depends on the person. The thing is, if you find you are sensitive to dairy, you are armed with the knowledge and can be more aware of how your body feels and reacts to your food choices.
Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world… Helen Keller
I’ve been doing some more soul searching the past week –
The past few days have been pretty stressful. Scott’s mom is in the hospital. My dad and step mother got into a car accident this past weekend. Their car is totaled, they are banged up but going to be OK. The thing is, experiencing your parents’ getting older is tough especially when they didn’t take particularly great care of their health in general. It’s another reminder that lifestyle definitely catches up with you as you age. And when you are experiencing it from a distance – it’s hard to really see how bad a situation is. You have to rely on your parents to tell you what’s going on. Reality is different depending on the filters we put on.
In other stressful news, Scott and I are both not feeling well with different maladies. Nothing too serious but enough that we both went to the doctors last week and are on meds. And to top it all off – Scott’s car broke down on Friday evening and a bunch of money $$$ later, the car should be fixed by tomorrow.
All of this has me thinking about what I really want out of life and why am I not feeling as happy as I think I should be?
Career wise: Do I want to continue heading into an office and working for someone else? The culture and company I am looking for based on my experience with my last position is a lot more clear than it has ever been. The issue is, I’m not sure my current situation is meeting the requirements as I had hoped it would. In the past 90 days of me starting, there have been a ton of changes and restructuring. Things I didn’t know about when I accepted the position. The changes aren’t really in line with my background, interests or what I was looking for. It’s disappointing to say the least. I was hoping to be able to grow, learn, be challenged and thrive in this environment. At this point, it’s not really looking like many of those opportunities exist. Never say never, of course, but having learned my lesson at my previous job, I realize that if it doesn’t feel right, I need to explore options.
I am stressed out and feeling a bit lost. Life sure doesn’t stop for you to catch your breath…
- 7 Weird Reasons Your Back Hurts
- TED: Depression: The Secret We Share
- Are Super Athletes the Secret to Health?
- A 2-Minute Walk May Counter the Harms of Sitting
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Did you know that about 42.5 million American adults (or 18.2 percent of the total adult population in the United States) suffer from some mental illness, enduring conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia?
I’m sharing the stories in the links below because they got me thinking about how easy it is to look at someone’s life and assume everything is perfect. With social media, people’s lives look idyllic . All smiles and photo filters. If you took it all at face value, you would think that everyone has it good and living the life. But you know what? The reality is that we all have struggles and our stories. You never do know what is going on behind the filtered pictures on Instagram or the stories shared on Facebook.
Life today is busy. People are more stressed out and pushed and pulled in a bunch of different directions. Our bodies aren’t designed to handle this type of constant stress. Add in that some people have the type of personality that can’t handle things being undone. They can’t live with things being less than perfect. Many people who suffer from depression or anxiety are these type A personalities.
- Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide
Tim Ferris talks about suicide, and why I’m still on this planet.
- Penn Runner’s Depression Masked on Social Media
On Instagram, Madison Holleran’s life looked ideal: athlete at the University of Pennsylvania, bright student, beloved friend. But the photos hid the reality of someone struggling to go on:
Trust your instinct
The point of this post is to remind people out there that not everything is what it seems. No one’s life is perfect. If you feel like something is not right with a family member, friend or acquaintance – ASK. And if they say Nothing – ASK Again and again and again.
Who doesn’t love Tina Fey – not only being super funny, but also subtlety showing the lengths women go to conform…
As a fitness enthusiast, I crave challenges and variety to stay inspired. But as committed as I am to living fit and healthy, there are times when I feel my momentum and enthusiasm start to wane. It happens to the best of us from time to time. These “exercise humps” are usually a sign that it’s time examine what’s going on in your life, reconnect with what motivates you to live this way, and make changes to your current fitness routine to push you through.
Here are a few ways I get re-inspired to get over an exercising hump:
Remind myself why it’s important.
It’s not easy to live fit and healthy. It’s a choice you have to make each and every day. When I find myself looking for excuses to skip a workout, I go over my personal reasons for living this way. My reasons are varied but include looking and feeling great and preventing immobility as I age.
Add spice to my current workout routine.
Most of my workouts are created by my trainers or instructors, but there are ways I can add in my own touch. It’s what I call making them ‘spicy’. For example, during a boxing session, I may add in an extra move to one of the runs, or focus on speed vs intensity during a round.
Try something new.
Some exercise humps happen because you are bored. However, if you’re open to trying new things and aren’t afraid to be a beginner at something new, there are an infinite number of fitness methods to cure boredom. Zumba, Pilates, Yoga, Hiking, CrossFit, Boxing, Cycling, Trampoline…the list goes on and on. Pick one or more to try on the regular to keep you engaged and energized.
Ask for help.
Getting frustrated with the lack of results? There are a lot of experienced and friendly experts out there, online and in person, that can help. Some offer free articles and advice online, while others may make themselves available in person. For me, the best advice and inspiration usually comes from my own network. However, no one else knows when slumps start to develop, so you have to be proactive and make seeking out advice, advice and inspiration a habit.
Everyone hits a wall during their fitness journey. Even the most dedicated athlete has to shake things up once in a while. So, the next time you find yourself hitting a fitness slump in your own routine, recognize it as a sign that something needs to change and change it.
There does not seem to be enough hours in the day lately to get it all done. My new job has me so busy and now that spring has sprung – there is so much to get done. I’m not alone in that feeling I am sure – we are all running at a thousand miles a minute now a days it’s hard to quiet your mind and slow down sometimes. I think that’s one of the reasons I workout – to have some time to really focus on how I feel physically. A few friends of mine recently made some comments about how I am always working out — well, first that’s not true. I work out regularly for about an hour five times a week. That leaves a whole lot of other hours during the week when I am not working out. However, after the years of doing this – it’s almost like an addiction. I crave a good workout for mental and physical reasons. I feel better when I move my body. Who doesn’t? Well according to a new study and the Wall Street Journal, a ton of people out there don’t exercise regularly – 1 in 4 Americans to be exact…
“We are deep in a national crisis. We’re not sweating enough. We’re running away from sports. We’re fleeing from fitness.
The other day, the Journal’s Sara Germano reported on a mind-numbing survey from the Physical Activity Council which found…well, it basically found that 1 in 4 Americans didn’t exercise at all in the past year.
One in four. For a year. Yikes.”
It is a crisis – just look around suburban America. How many people around you are living less than healthy lives? We are all busy. We are all tired. We are all pushed and pulled in so many directions – but your health should be non-negotiable and top of the list of importance. Not only for you, but for the example you are setting for your children. They learn from what you say and do. You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete, just MOVE YOUR BODY! Go for a walk, stretch, do sprints – whatever. Do it and continue – it’s a long term journey with peaks and valleys.
It’s not easy I know- but have you seen people living with chronic illness or immobility? That’s not easy either. Which hard would you rather have in your life?
What you believe has more power than what you dream or wish or hope for. You become what you believe.
The Skulpt Aim uses a technology called electrical impedance myography or EIM. ‘Myography’ literally means “The description of muscles.” EIM measures two separate features of the tissue: its resistive properties and its capacitive properties
Skulpt Aim measures body fat percentage and Muscle Quality (MQ). One of the first questions I have been asked is what is Muscle Quality (MQ)?
“MQ, or Muscle Quality, is a rating of your muscles’ fitness that was designed to be intuitive. Aim uses EIM technology to send a small current directly through your muscles. It uses 12 sensors and multiple frequencies to get very accurate readings. Since current flows differently in muscles based on their composition and muscle fiber size, Aim is able to evaluate the quality of each muscle.
Similar to the IQ scale, the average person has an MQ of 100. Higher MQ scores correlate with stronger, leaner, more defined and firm muscles.”
So in layman’s terms, the higher over 100 your score is, the stronger, leaner and more efficient your muscles are. Higher numbers mean better fitness.
When it arrived, I took it out of the box and found it pretty easy to set up. I put the device on the charger for a while before testing as recommended. To see how easy it was to use, I decided to have my boxing instructor Connor try it out. Without telling him much about it overall, I showed him the Skulpt website and let him figure it out. It took him only a few minutes — and he began using it.
To get started, he watched some of the videos to learn how to properly measure using the device. It’s different for males vs females.
How to get your Total Body MQ & Fat percentage
To measure your body’s MQ score and fat %, you’ll need to measure four areas: biceps, triceps, abs, and quads. There are videos available to help you learn where to properly place the device to get accurate readings.
It took only a few minutes to measure and what’s cool is there is a Skulpt app available to help you track your stats so you can see progress as you continue to work towards reaching your strength and fitness goals.
My instructor/tester, Connor, thought it was useful and cool. It gave him an idea of where he was at fitness wise – which for the most part, was right where he should be. There were a few areas that were not quite where he felt they needed to be and in his words “I have some work to do.”
Connor will retest in a few weeks to track his progress as he puts in the necessary work…
Here are some recent articles about this revolutionary device:
- PC Mag: Skulpt Aim
- Indiegogo: Skulpt Aim: Revolutionizing Fitness Tracking
- Men’s Fitness: SKULPT AIM LETS YOU KNOW YOUR MUSCLE QUALITY
- Cult of Mac: Skulpt Aim takes the pain out of measuring body fat
My initial thoughts: For people who thrive when they have actual data at their fingertips while working towards their fitness goals, this device helps you see if your workouts really are making your body stronger, even if the scale isn’t budging! And it’s easy to use and you can track it — this is the kind of info that we never really had at our fingertips. Now you just need this device and a few minutes –and you get accurate readings to help you adjust your fitness programming or goals as necessary.
This is really the future of fitness – being able to track and evaluate how your fitness program is working at the touch of an app whenever you want to evaluate your progress. I love it.
Thanks to Skulpt Aim for sending me their device. Even though I received it for Free, there was no expectation on their part to influence my review. My opinions here are my own.
I mentioned that last week I visited the GWU Weight Management and Human Performance Lab to check out the lab and get some tests done so I can really figure out what the key is that will help get me where I want to be.
Todd Miller who runs the lab and is an Associate Professor in the Department of Exercise Science and was kind enough to offer me some testing so I can share my experiences with anyone interested in experiencing the lab.
Todd ran me through a series of tests and then we sat down, reviewed the results and discussed ways to get me where I want to be.
First, he measured my height and weighed me and then had me stand on a the Body Composition – BIA machine that measured my weight, body fat etc using electromagnetic pressure contact, not unlike the scales and other machines readily available. Then we used the Dexa machine…
Body Composition – Dexa (or DXA) -The gold standard for body composition assessment. The DXA scan uses a low-dose x-ray (approximately 1/10th the radiation of a traditional chest x-ray) and provides information about bone mineral density, fat, and fat-free mass in to specific regions of the body with an accuracy of ±2%.
After that test was complete, which took maybe five or so minutes, it was time to test my Resting Metabolic Rate – The resting metabolic rate (RMR) is the amount of energy (calories) a body burns while at rest, which accounts for approximately 70% of the body’s daily energy expenditure. This is the amount of energy needed to perform vital body functions such as respiration and circulation.
After the testing was done, Todd and I talked through the results. I gained some weight in the last year and half. It was as much as I had thought – so while that’s not great news per se, it wasn’t shocking and it confirmed my own sense of where I am. The good news… all the fitness I do – does make a difference whether I am at an optimal weight or body fat %. I am fit — and the weight i gained, once I lose it – I should be in the ‘good’ categories all around.
- Bone density is good.
- My RMR is high. That means I burn a lot of calories just being.
- I have a good amount of lean muscle mass.
I’m not going to discuss my actual numbers here – they are irrelevant to anyone but me. What I will share is that we talked about how much protein I need based on my lean muscle mass and what would be my optimal amount of calories to get me back to where I will feel most comfortable. The thing is my goal isn’t about being super lean. I want to feel comfortable in my own skin without being crazy about every little thing I eat or drink. I did that years ago – and it consumed my life. My goal is to be healthy and fit – not an Olympian or champion competitor. I am living this way so I am able to move, have fun, try new things and age without the fear of being immobile. That is what I discussed with Todd – he made some suggestions on what would be a reasonable caloric and protein intake per day to get me there. As for exercise, I clearly don’t need help in that area. I am fit!
The one thing that caught me off guard is how much protein Todd suggested I eat per day: 146g He based it on how much lean body mass I have. I am not sure how one goes about eating that much protein in a day but i have been trying without upping my overall suggested caloric intake. It’s been quite a challenge – the closest I have gotten is 96g.
I have also begun to track my fitness and food intake using fatsecret.com. Todd sent me an invite and he can monitor what I am eating from time to time to give me advice. Check it out –so far I am liking it.
One of things that has always confused me is why is it so hard? Todd explained that most of it is simple math – which is not hard but it is hard to put into place. Knowing that there is science and data behind what we discussed helped me leave the lab with a sense of an actual plan to get me back to where I will feel comfortable. Before that, i have just guessed at where I am and how much I need to eat. With Dr Miller’s suggestions, I feel confident about being able to do it.
I will keep you posted on my overall progress – the good and bad of it as we head into Spring and Summer.