National Sports and Physical Fitness Month

May is National Sports and Physical Fitness Month.

I’m a big fan of having a fit mind in a strong body. I value having mental muscle as well as toned arms.

It’s not ever too late to start a fitness routine. I started to train for life at the gym when I was 45 going into 46. It’s better to do this later than not ever.

I disagreed with a woman who told me if she didn’t get sick by now she saw no reason to change her habits. I didn’t tell her that I thought changing for the better later in life is healthier than not changing at all.

I existed on Velveeta shells-n-cheese and hot dogs and frozen TV dinners when I lived below the poverty line circa the late 1980s. It wasn’t until 20 years later that I got on track with 80 percent healthful eating.

The Mediterranean Diet is by far the best eating plan because it focuses on fruits and vegetables, seafood, and occasionally chicken or turkey, plus whole grains.

In my view it’s better to make positive changes at any time in your life and your recovery rather than continuing to live in ill health.

If you don’t like your body the solution is to exercise. You will feel good in your body when you train. It can be as simple aschecking fitness videos out of the library. An expensive gym membership is not for everyone. Hiking a nature trail might be more your speed. As famously documented in Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild.

I have an enduring fascination with fitness. I might be biased yet I don’t think a person should live in hell for a minute longer than they have to. Delaying treatment or not getting treatment or not making the changes you know you need to make is not healthy.

Why is it that a lot of people resist doing what’s in their best interests? I wonder about this.

Health can lead to happiness. I value mental and physical health and emotional health too.

Certainly trying to do things on your own because you think you should be able to cope on your own often sets you up to backfire. Sometimes you can’t make it on your own. That’s when you call in a team of reputable professionals to help you get better.

I will report back next week on National Sports and Physical Fitness Month techniques.

Stay tuned.

Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month as well as Women’s History Month.

I have an ongoing interest in clean living and will offer some information I’ve read in at least two places.

Divide your weight in half to arrive at the number of ounces of water you should drink each day.

Divide your weight in half to arrive at the grams of protein you should eat each day.

I’ll keep this blog entry short with a recommendation that Tera’s Whey Protein organic whey protein bourbon vanilla version tastes okay and has 20 grams or so of protein in a scoop.

Pour a cup of skim milk into a blender and add a scoop of the bourbon vanilla whey protein. “Blend” for about 30 seconds or so.

Voila: a cheaper post-workout shake you can make on your own in your apartment instead of paying $3.50/per pop for a shake at the gym.

Top 20 Food Choices

Dr. Phil has published another weight loss book. I checked it out of the library only to read the section on the Top 20 Food Choices to eat.

1. Coconut oil (virgin) is a fit fat.
2. Green Tea
3. Mustard (yellow or Dijon)
4. Walnuts
5. Olive oil (extra virgin) is a fit fat.
6. Almonds, unsalted raw or dry roasted
7. Apples
8. Chickpeas / garbanzo beans
9. Dried plums / prunes
10. Greens – any kind of leafy green -e.g. arugula, baby mixed greens, bok choy, collard greens, endive, field greens, kale, radicchio, red leaf lettuce, romaine, baby spinach, watercress, etc.
11. Lentils
12. Peanut butter (natural) – get the kind with no added sugar.
13. Pistachios (roasted, unsalted)
14. Raisins
15. Yogurt (nonfat, nothing added)
16. Eggs
17. Cod
18. Rye
19. Tofu
20. Whey protein, unsweetened.

This is going to be tooting my own horn however I can vouch for eating these Top 20 Food Choices. Along with my strength training routine for the last four years I have adhered to an eating plan that is comprised of a lot of these food choices.

It can’t be a coincidence that I’m in peak condition and fitness at the same time I’ve been eating these food choices.

If you think you can be helped by following Dr. Phil’s diet plan to the letter, by all means buy his book or check it out of the library.

In my estimation simply eating healthful food 80 percent of the time and incorporating these food choices will be sufficient to see long-term benefits.

Super Foods

Years ago at HealthCentral I wrote about promoting health and wellness by eating certain foods. Now Dr. Phil has come out with a list of 20 kinds of food to eat to promote weight loss.

Our daily needs according to the workshop I attended years ago are comprised of: whole grains, Omega 3 essential fatty acids, low fat dairy, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, beans and protein.

According to research at Penn State, dieters who ate lots of whole grains lost more belly fat and improved their levels of an inflammatory marker that is linked to diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

In my estimation getting 20 to 35 gm fiber per day is beneficial. Two servings of whole grains a day before the afternoon is what Pamela Peeke, MD recommends.

Benefits of Omega 3 are improved lipid profile reducing cardiovascular risk, improved diabetes outcome,improved neurotransmission stimulation improving depression, reducing suicide and hostility and improved memory function. The American Heart Association recommends that all adults eat fish at least two times per week.

No-fat dairy is better than low-fat dairy in my estimation. Research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital of 30,000 women in the Women’s Health Study found that an increased intake of low fat dairy products reduced women’s risk of developing hypertension. Some research points to a weight reduction benefit of dairy calcium showing it to trigger the body to burn more fat, particularly around the waistline.

Benefits of eating vegetables include reduced cance3r risk, reduced risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, diabetes prevention, and help with weight control. Benefits of fruits are similar to vegetables.

The recommend serving of nuts and seeds per day is 1/4 cup no more. Walnuts are the most nutrient packed of the nuts and seeds, and contain plant Omega 3-fatty acids, vitamins E and B6, magnesium, protein, fiber, potassium and polyphenols.

Beans contain low fat protein, fiber, B vitamins, iron, folate, potassium, magnesium, and phytonutrients.

Protein comes from meat,beans, seeds, nuts and fish. I’ve heard that you should divide your weight in half to get the number of milligrams of protein you should have per day. I would clock in at 61 gm.

In the next blog entry I will list Dr. Phil’s Top 20 Foods.

Optimal Wellness Challenge Finale

I realize it was challenging to start a wellness routine in December with two holiday nights.  Yet it’s instrumental to do this at some point rather than not do it at all.

It might surprise readers that I don’t eat a lot of food to begin with.  Or this could be clear from viewing my photos.

On Monday, January 5th I started again with my optimal wellness goal of eating healthful food 80 percent of the time.

One thing I recommend is to eat small healthful meals every 2 to 2 1/2 hours to keep from getting hungry, to regulate your blood sugar, to maintain your energy level throughout the day.

I recommend eating a Kind bar to tide a person over until their next full meal.

Also: I have a surprising suggestion: eat fruit when it’s in season so you can change up the kind of fruit you eat and not get bored eating the same fruit all the time. I recommend this because eating the same food all the time could give you palate fatigue where you don’t want to eat that food anymore.

I used to cook on my own and eat salmon twice a week.  I had salmon so often that I started to eat it only once a week. This is where Omega-3 fish oil gel caps come in handy when you can’t get all your Omega-3 RDA from food.

Thus I’m of a different mind than a lot of people who push fad diets on vulnerable individuals or who champion rigid, hard-to-follow dietary “laws” or restrictions or eating plans.

I say: eat healthfully 80 percent of the time as often as you can. Budget in a treat once a week.

This is my contention because I’m going to tell you something surprising too: I rarely eat whole grains except for whole grain cereal in the morning and sometimes brown rice and I have whole wheat pasta when I cook pasta.

I think that old rule of eating 6 to 11 servings of whole grains per day was ridiculous.  I would say stick to have two servings of whole grains per day and always before 3:00 p.m.  This is what Pamela Peeke, M.D. advises in her book Body for Life for Women.

It’s common sense to take the guidelines offered and research which habits make sense for you to adopt and which ones you can discard.

The last surprising thing I will end here with is that one week, or two weeks of not adhering to the 80 percent rule isn’t going to throw your health in the toilet. Committing to starting again to eat healthfully is what counts.

We all have fallow periods where we don’t always nurture our bodies or our minds in an optimal way.  This is to be expected and planned for. This might last a few days, for weeks, or even longer.  The goal is to not get discouraged. In my next blog entry here I will talk about my own 7-year fallow period (yes 7 years.)

My optimal wellness challenge failed yet I’m not defeated. I’ve started on January 5th again.

Food And Energy

A friend of mine figured out something I’ve always recommended: eat small, healthful “meals” every 2 to 3 hours throughout the day.

I’ll run through this typical plan:

Eat whole-grain high fiber cereal for breakfast or another kind of breakfast that is healthful and has protein and fiber to fuel you up for the day ahead.

Two hours later have a piece of string cheese and 15 almonds. Or one banana or other piece of fruit.

Have lunch two hours later. Include a protein source with your lunch food. Two hours after you eat lunch have apple slices slathered with peanut butter.

Go home and eat a healthful dinner.

Other healthful snacks to substitute in the morning and afternoon are a Kind bar, a fistful of chocolate-covered almonds, whatever fruit is in season. A regular-sized container of raspberries is nearly two cups so it’s two servings of a fruit.

Eating smaller healthful meals throughout the day also gives us a psychological boost because it’s easier to do this than to think we have to scarf down monster portions or serving sizes all the time every day.

Little by little or as the Sicilians would say “picca a picca” is the better way to achieve consistent results: bit by bit.

The friend has one piece of string cheese every 2 hours. No kidding. One piece of string cheese if memory serves has 200 mg. of calcium so you can’t beat it as a natural source of calcium.

In a pinch, you can snack on one serving of Triscuit crackers.

Apples are one of the best kinds of fruit. They’re high in fiber and you can find a variety of apple that you like. I favor organic Fuji apples that are in season in the fall and also now in December. Apples are portable too which makes them a win-win option for when you’re traveling or on the go.

Eating smaller healthful meals throughout the day regulates your blood sugar and helps you maintain consistent energy levels without a quick dip in energy from a traditional sugar coma that certain food induce.

I’ll end here and return with a quick, easy recipe that I made for my friend for lunch.

Optimal Wellness Challenge

In September for Recovery Month the blogger Ashley Smith threw down the challenge to set a wellness goal to achieve for her and her readers.

The point is not that we’ll always be able to do what we set out to. The point is simply to try our best.

I’m fond of the analogy of getting in the ring and trying to win even if you’re defeated. It’s better to know victory AND defeat than to not ever have gotten in the ring. Defeat is the cost of trying. It’s how you get one step closer to winning.

The idea of setting an optimal wellness challenge resonates with me as it nears winter. My goal is to eat healthful food 80 percent of the time.

Just reading ingredient labels turned me off to chocolate candy bars like Twix and Reese’s because-no surprise-they contain natural and artificial flavors. Godiva does seem to be made with real chocolate. And you can buy organic chocolate too.

The goal is not to strive to be perfect. The goal in my humble estimation is to strive for 80 percent healthful foods as part of a long-term consistent eating plan.

I will report back in here at the end of December how it goes with nixing the outright junky food from my life.

One thing I’ll end here with: ban white and processed foods if you do only one thing to start off with.

Replace baked potatoes with sweet potatoes; white rice with brown rice; and regular pasta with whole wheat or farro pasta.

Doing only this will go a long way in improving our health.

I will report back on Thursday with more food news that might just make sense too.

I’ll end here by telling everyone that if you know you go overboard at holiday time with desserts simply have less of the main meal and eat more dessert.

It’s totally true that at the holiday time it’s all about calories in and calories burned.

Try having less of the main meal if you’re going to indulge in the pastry.

Not All Natural

The term All Natural can be slapped on any product regardless of whether the product is made from natural ingredients.

Natural Flavors are actually fake chemicals used to flavor food and drink. Read the nutrition labels of most food and drink in supermarkets and you will see they’re made with “natural flavors.” Even Maryland crab soup from a big conglomerate food company is made with natural flavors.

Products labeled “organic” can also have natural flavors that are fake chemicals because companies passing their products off as organic can use any ingredients they want. Only the “certified non-GMO” label and the “USDA organic” label are truly organic products.

Agribusinesses have been lobbying U.S. elected officials to water down the qualifications for labeling a product organic. We should all be up in arms about this. The threshold now if memory serves is that a product has to be 95-percent organic to qualify.

Anything to make a buck is what motivates most companies that put profits above people.

I recommend you shop from local artisanal businesses if you have the opportunity and the money to do so. Put the money back in your community.

I’m going to sign off now. I’ll return next week with more nutrition ideas.

Food and Mood

The link between the food you eat and your mood is clear to me.

I have a foolproof recipe for an easy lunch if you’re home or near an oven: baked eggs in tomatoes.

It’s simple: hollow and core out the center of a beefsteak tomato, add a scoop of grated parmesan cheese, slip an egg into the pocket and add more parmesan cheese on top. Bake for 350 degrees for about 25 minutes depending on how hot your oven gets and how runny or firm you like your eggs.

Roasting tomatoes is always preferable to eating them raw all the time because roasting a tomato releases its lycopene, a substance thought to be a cancer-fighting agent.

I always like a caprese salad with fresh mozzarella and tomato slices drizzled with olive oil.

Yet cooking with tomatoes is also good.

Try it. See how you feel after you eat a healthful meal as opposed to processed food.

I’ll end here with two ideas that might work:

Use a larger clear glass to drink 8 oz. of almond milk or organic milk from or to drink water from. Fill it up halfway and you’ll be tricked into thinking you’re drinking a smaller amount.

This could be good when it’s sometimes an effort to squeeze in getting calcium. Almond milk has 30 calories in an 8 oz. serving and 450 mg. of calcium.

Even using a 10 oz. clear mug to drink water from seems to trick you into thinking it’s easier to do this.

I’d like to hear if this sounds like a solution.

So far it works for me.

Rather than take calcium supplements that can cause kidney stones Dr. Oz recommends having 1,000 to 1,200 mg. from food and drink sources.

Two pieces of string cheese plus a glass of almond milk plus the calcium from dark green leafy vegetables could be all a person needs to get a good daily allowance.

Run this by your primary care doctor to see if this makes sense. It makes sense to me.

Anything that can make it easier to be well by eating more healthfully to nourish a person’s body and mind:
I’m all for it.