If you look at any magazine in your local grocery checkout line, you're bombarded with messages of instant weight loss, celebrity weight loss, and images of thin models and celebrities. I don't have to tell you that our culture is very weight obsessed. Add in the health crisis related to the obesity epidemic and the results are a society where weight discrimination is the only acceptable form discrimination.
Recently, Time magazine ran a cover story about New Jersey governor Chris Christie with a picture of his profile and the headline, "The Elephant In the Room". I'm sure the headline refers to his political party. However, isn't it ironic that an obese politician is compared to an elephant? Time magazine would never run a cover story hinting insults at someone's race, gender, or sexuality. Weight is an area that isn't off limits to late night comedians or jabs by the media.
We all have heard the saying, "You can never be too rich or too thin". I completely disagree with that. This type of thinking is why the diet industry is a billion dollar industry and the number of women and men with eating disorders continues to rise. None of this is new in 2013. It's been ingrained in all of us for years that thin is better. That message is heard more than messages about lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, or controlling blood sugar. It's not about health. It's about appearance.
Here's some news....thin doesn't equal healthy and fit. Studies have shown that overweight individuals with high aerobic fitness levels are much healthier than thin individuals with low levels of aerobic fitness. In fact, thin individuals with low levels of fitness have twice the risk of death than their fit but overweight counterparts. Should a person who is considered by appearance to be overweight, but has healthy joints, normal blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels be encouraged by their doctor to lose weight? I have relatives who were thin, but were heavy smokers and died at a young age. They never exercised a day in their life. So thin doesn't mean a person is healthy!
What is healthy? Eating a well balanced diet, getting physical activity every day by moving more, reducing stress, being positive, not smoking, controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars. Will that result in weight loss? Possibly. Not all of us are supposed to be thin but we should and can be healthy. Don't compare yourself to the magazine cover or even the person next to you at the gym. Be proud of your strong thighs and broad shoulders. Be healthy!
Today is not only the first day of November. It is also the beginning of the season when we make every excuse to "start after the holidays".
Procrastination is part of most of our lives, but especially our health. We'll start exercising or eating right tomorrow. We always have a reason that we can't start now. This time of year the reason is Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or New Year's Eve. We give ourselves that "New Year" goal. However, isn't every day an opportunity to start again? Every day that we are allowed to wake up is a new beginning. Yesterday is in the past. We can't go back and change what we did or the mistakes we made. We can change what we will do today!
The holidays shouldn't be an excuse to procrastinate. After all, there will always be some special occasion coming up. After New Year's Eve, we'll blame the Super Bowl party, or Valentine's Day, or Easter, or Great Aunt Tildy's birthday! No one is perfect all of the time. We can do our best to enjoy special occasions and still maintain control when it comes to eating. We can move our bodies every day.
Stand out from the crowd. Be different. Don't wait until January. Start now!
As I look back at the previous two weeks of the Pilates challenge, there are two things I have discovered. One is how Pilates changes your body in so many ways, not just core strength. I've always been very aware of my posture. My grandmother had severe Kyphosis, also known as "hunchback" and I never wanted to end up like that. However, as my day goes on and I begin to feel fatigued, my posture can suffer. Pilates is very much about posture. During some of the workouts, I would be reminded of ballet classes when I was a child. Ballerinas are known for long, graceful bodies. Many of the exercises stress lengthening the spine, lengthening the body. I feel an inch taller when I leave class and it makes me more aware of my posture throughout the day. That's a great benefit!
I've also discovered that I get a much better Pilates workout in a class setting. It was difficult for me to get to classes due to my own schedule. Sunday afternoon Mat Classes allowed me to workout for an hour at Rivercity Pilates. Two other days of the week, I do my own Pilates workout at home by repeating some of the exercises, or working out with a DVD. After the Sunday classes with Heather, I really felt the workouts. When I did my own workouts at home, it was ok but not the same. At Rivercity, the hour flew by. At home, I would catch myself looking at the clock thinking of other things I needed to do. I've always been a "Lone Ranger" when it comes to working out. When I lift weights or run, I like to put my headphones on, tune everything else out, and focus. I've never really liked working out with someone else or taking classes myself. However, the Pilates classes at Rivercity have been a great experience, very motivating, and something that I will continue to do.
I'm very excited to be joining the Rivercity Pilates 21 Day Empower Your Body Challenge! For the next 21 days, I will be incorporating Pilates into my workouts to see how it changes my body.
You may think this is strange for a Personal Trainer. I work with clients or teach classes 7 days a week, so I'm constantly working out right? Working out with a client isn't like focusing on your own workout. Just like everyone else, I struggle to get my own exercise time in. I also tend to get stuck in a rut with the same workouts. I've always loved Pilates for core strengthening and overall conditioning and use very basic Pilates exercises with some of my clients. I've never incorporated it into my own workouts consistently, so this should be an exciting challenge!
I will be blogging and posting updates on my Facebook and Twitter pages as to my progress, challenges (I know there will be some!), and how I feel about the workouts. Follow me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/ReNu-Your-Life-Personal-Training-Wellness/107403452645966, Twitter at https://twitter.com/ReNuYourLifePT, or here on my blog at http://blog.ideafit.com/blogs/renuyourlife
If you want to start your own Pilates workouts, check out Rivercity Pilates in North Liberty at http://rivercitypilates.com/
The headline says it all, "US Waistlines Expands Despite More Exercise". So if we're exercising, why are we still obese? Isn't exercise the "cure"? As a personal trainer and fitness professional, I'd like to say yes. However, Americans can't lose weight until we become honest about how we eat.
Here's an example. Google "Dunkin Donuts Donut Breakfast Sandwich", and you'll find the web abuzz with rave reviews and many touting "Only 360 calories!" You're thinking, 360 calories isn't bad for breakfast. I can eat that! Hold on a minute. Let's see what you're getting from the ingredient list:
Glazed Donut: Donut [Enriched Unbleached Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron as Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Enzyme, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Palm Oil, Water, Dextrose, Soybean Oil, Whey (a milk derivative), Skim Milk, Yeast, Contains less than 2% of the following: Salt, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda), Defatted Soy Flour, Wheat Starch, Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Cellulose Gum, Soy Lecithin, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Artificial Flavor, Sodium Caseinate (a milk derivative), Enzyme, Colored with (Turmeric and Annatto Extracts and Beta Carotene), Eggs], Glaze [Sugar, Water, Maltodextrin, Contains 2% or less of: Mono and Diglycerides, Agar, Cellulose Gum, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Artificial Flavor]; Fried Egg: Egg Whites, Water, Egg Yolks, Modified Corn Starch, Natural Sauteed Flavor (Soybean Oil, Medium Chain Triglycerides, Natural Flavor), Salt, Artificial Butter Flavor (Propylene Glycol, Artificial Flavor), Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Coarse Ground Black Pepper; Bacon: Pork, cured with: Water, Sugar, Salt, Sodium Phosphate, Smoke Flavoring, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite.
While you're Googling, look up any of the above bold type ingredients. Reads like a Materials Safety Data Sheet, doesn't it? Now let's check the nutrition. Of those 360 calories, 180 come from FAT. Math wasn't my strong subject in school, but that's HALF of the calories coming from fat. 20 grams of fat, 720 milligrams of sodium, 13 grams of sugar. Now, let's break that down into visuals:
l 20 grams of fat = picture or measure out 5 teaspoons of Crisco
l 720 mg sodium = appx a 1/3 teaspoon of salt
l 13 grams of sugar = measure out 3.25 teaspoons of sugar
I'm not trying to pick on Dunkin Donuts, or planning a march on Dunkin Donuts and demand they close their doors, or saying that you can never eat anything like that in your life. However, if your goal is to lose weight or be healthy, why would you?
We seem to think that a little exercise can undo the fat, sugar, and salt that we put into our bodies. Honestly, it can't! There are very few individuals out there who burn enough calories in their workouts to right the wrongs. 30 minutes of lugging away on an elliptical or treadmill will not burn off the triple cheese pizza, beer, and hot wings that you ate the night before!
There is a saying in the fitness world that "bodies are made in the kitchen, not in the gym", which means 70% of your weight loss efforts are from eating right and 30% are from exercise. Let's be honest. How much of your weight loss efforts are truly, consistently put into eating right? In a world that tempts us thousands of times a day with quick food that is loaded with sugar, salt, and fat, it isn't easy. The obesity rate and rates of chronic disease such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, not to mention skyrocketing healthcare costs, proves that we're in a battle for our health. We live in a high stress society that too often turns to food and drink for relief and comfort. While exercise IS a very important part of our health and well-being for many reasons, we can't expect to lose weight and improve our health if we don't take a good look at what we eat, why we eat it, and work to change the way we eat.
As I settle in to my 40's, I've developed a different perspective on aging. Perhaps this is due to working with older adults for almost all of my career in fitness, even back to the time when I worked in healthcare.
I think all of us have feared getting older at some point in our lives. I admit to not being honest about my age. Society and especially popular culture treats aging like a disease. Some try to dress and act like we've never left our twenties, much less our thirties. There's that longing for being young again. Just look around at the increase in plastic surgery!
But why do we think aging equals deteriorating health? Of course there are ailments that come with aging. Our bodies do wear down after time. How many of us drive the same car that we drove 30 years ago? If you do, there's a lot of work to be done to keep it running. The same goes for our body, we have to care for it! In the last year or two, I've gone from perfect 20/20 vision to needing my glasses to read anything. If I forget my glasses when I go shopping, I might as well go back home. I can't read a price tag or ingredient list without straining my eyes. My joints are a little slow to move first thing in the morning and my shoulders creak and crack with most arm movements. My neck and shoulders are full of arthritis.
You may experience the same ailments or worse, but we don't let it stop us. If I don't exercise, I feel much worse...more stiff, sore, and achey. Back to the car analogy. If you park your car and don't drive it for months, it most likely won't run so well. The fuel lines may get clogged, the tires may go flat, and the body may rust. Why wouldn't our body do the same if we don't move it? Even if it doesn't run so well, we still drive it because it's what gets us around!
Here's my perspective. I teach classes and do personal training at the Iowa City Senior Center. Now this isn't a typical "Senior Center". The Center offers classes for everything from fitness to philosophy to computer skills to technology. On any day, you will hear one of the many bands playing or performance groups singing. These groups are all made up of individuals over the age of 50. They haul in their instruments and fill the building with music. The aerobics room pours out rhythms from a Zumba class. You may see some leaving a yoga class with their mat. The members of The Center talk and laugh and enjoy life to the fullest. Some are physically fit, some get around with walkers or wheelchairs. One woman smiles and says good morning to me as she enters the workout room full of equipment in her motorized wheelchair. She parks next to the recumbent bike and carefully slides herself out of the wheelchair, onto the bike, positions her feet on the pedals, and begins to ride. After she finishes her cardiovascular exercise, she motors into the room filled with strength training machines and carefully transfers herself onto several pieces of equipment to complete her workout. What excuses have I made lately?
I always leave The Center smiling. There's nothing to fear about aging. It's in our attitudes. We're all going to get older, why not embrace it and enjoy the journey? Perhaps I would have a different attitude about it if I worked in a gym full of young people in spandex. I may feel more self conscious about my body that seems to hold onto bodyfat, or the lines on my face, or the inability to workout like I did even 10 years ago. But I've decided to enjoy the journey. I don't care so much about what other people think of me. I take care of myself...exercise, eat right, try to get the right amount of sleep, and de-stress (I haven't perfected the de-stressing part).
I work with people who smile, laugh, and enjoy life. They aren't worried about the latest fashion or celebrity story. They have lived through wars and the depression. They've marched for equal rights and raised a family. They may have Parkinson's or survived cancer. They sing, dance, exercise, and learn. I look forward to being the age to join the Center. I'm signing up for a Humanities class!
I've always loved this photo. She's an inspiration just like so many I know. Growing old isn't for sissies....it's for the strong!
How much healthier is "healthy fast food"? My interest was sparked again this week with a new McDonald's commercial for the Egg White McMuffin. Egg whites have become the trend recently as a healthier food. The truth is, eggs are not unhealthy unless you eat a dozen a day, or you're trying to control cholesterol.
So how does the new "healthier" option stack up against the original? McDonald's Egg White McMuffin is made with grilled egg whites (grilled on the same grill as their burgers?), Canadian bacon, and pasturized processed white cheddar (makes me think Velveeta...yuck). It has 250 calories, 18g protein, 7g fat, 32g carbs, and 800mg sodium.
A regular Egg McMuffin is made with egg, Canadian bacon, and American cheddar. It contains 300 calories, 18g protein, 12g fat, 32g carbs, and 780mg sodium. Not much difference and A LOT of sodium!
Here's a healthier option. Wake up a few minutes earlier and have breakfast at home, or make your own breakfast sandwich the night before to take with you. Eating out will always result in more calories due to cooking methods. Preparing your own means YOU control what goes into your meal.
I'm not saying you should never eat out, but we've become a society of drive-thru's, quick fixes, and lack of time due lifestyles that ARE under our control. If you do choose fast food on occasion, check out http://www.wfubmc.edu/Drive-Thru-Diet.htm. This website from Wake Forest University lists a number of popular restaurants. Select the restaurant and the food to get a listing of calories, fat, etc. It will also recommend healthier options to choose.
Don't be fooled by advertisements. A smart consumer is a healthy consumer!