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8 Truths About Achieving and Maintaining Your Healthy Body

A Healthy Body Starts With Consistent Healthy Habits

Over the years I’ve joked about being a founding member of the diet of the month club. If you add up all the pounds I’ve lost and re-found over my 6 decades in this human form, I’ve recreated myself at least four times over, and not in a good way. In retrospect, I’ve learned a thing or three about reaching a healthy weight and staying there even as my own journey to get there continues.

Truth 1: Your Healthy Weight is Nobody’s Business But Yours

Body beautiful is not, as the advertising, weight loss, and fitness industries would like us to believe, in the eyes of the beholder. It’s in how you feel about yourself. I’ve seen plenty of size 20’s who love who they are and the shape they’re in more than most size 2’s. We aren’t here to be someone’s artificial conception of beautiful, nor are all bodies created equal. We must work with what we have and learn to do that work with the same love and respect we give to people outside that body—maybe more.

Truth 2: Dieting is the Least Healthy Way to Honor the Body You’re in

I’ve tried so many diets over the years, from the grapefruit diet to protein power to weight watchers, and more. Every time I went off the “diet” I gained back everything I’d lost and then some. Why? Because they weren’t sustainable in the long term. The only thing that’s worked and allowed me to keep most of the weight off has been a combination of Neurogym’s Winning the Game of Weight Loss (WTGOWL) and MyFitnessPal.

I’ve learned having a community which encourages me, retraining my brain to, dare I say it, move more and eat less, and tracking every bite I put in my mouth are the only things I need to follow a healthy regimen. Add in my Fitbit and the exercise-tracking function on MyFitnessPal and my results are easily predictable. A healthy body needs three things; good nutrition, movement, and water. OK four. We also need sufficient sleep. Good nutrition isn’t just about eating 3 squares a day, but more on that later.

Truth 3: Grazing is a Losing Proposition

The first thing I had to learn was to stop keeping food at my desk. In the first place I need to get up and move around every hour or so, and in the second when food is too convenient I eat too much of the things I don’t need in my diet in the first place (raw veggies don’t keep very long in a jar on top of my desk). We also have to find our own baseline, meal-wise.

Some people do quite well on two meals a day. Others need three plus a snack in the afternoon. There are dozens of variations on this theme, but only one thing matters. You have to find what works best for you, not only when you’re releasing extra pounds, but when you’re maintaining your goal weight. The key word here is “sustainable”. What can you live with for the rest of your life without feeling cheated or deprived?

Truth 4: You Must Move it or Lose it

Our bodies are a miracle of engineering. All of the parts are self-sustainable but only if we move around and give everything the space needed to perform optimally. Our hearts need to be pushed to their limits regularly. Our legs need to lift us up and down, flexing the joints and keeping them lubricated. Our lungs need to push air through themselves at different rates so they can flush out the toxins we accumulate by breathing foul air.

Speaking of toxins, those suckers accumulate in our muscles too, and have to be released. There’s no better way to kick the toxins out of our muscles than to challenge them. Make them do something that requires a bit more effort than lifting a pencil or your car keys.

If you’re anything like me (assuming you’re not 25 and still getting away with murder, body-wise) you know when you’ve been sitting too long. Shoulders ache, hips complain, and you hear a bunch of pops and creaks when you get up to go to the bathroom or get something from the kitchen. That’s our bodies reminding us they need to move around regularly. So scrub a floor, or take a hike, or have a dance party in your living room. You can even join a gym and go lift some weights, giving you the added bonus of getting out of the house and away from the kitchen. Your body will love you for it, though the aches and pains it gives you for pushing yourself may feel otherwise at first. You’re making it stronger and more resilient with every pound you press, lift, or squat.

Truth 5: If You Want to Be Healthy, You Must Read Labels

The American food industry is in the business of making us fat. That’s right! They put crap in our food that inhibits our natural triggers telling us we’re full, just for starters. We have to break up with all the additives they put in our food. Sorry folks, this means either you have to start cooking or learn to enjoy all your food in its raw form. Though the latter isn’t without merit, there are some things I, myself prefer cooked. (Don’t try to sneak raw kale into my salad. I will find it, hopefully before I gag on it!)

That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Processed food is loaded with sodium, sugar, and things with names as long as your arm only a scientist can pronounce. I’m a firm believer in the saying “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t put it in your body”. If a word has that many letters in it, there’s a good chance it’s a chemical our liver won’t recognize as food anyway. That poor, overworked organ is there to filter out toxins which means anything it doesn’t recognize as real, natural food. When everything we eat comes out of a box, our liver is filtering out more than it’s allowing into our bloodstream, or at least it’s trying to.

Truth 6: Stop Eating When You’re Full

This one is a toughie for me, and especially if I’m out with friends. The plate sits in front of me with food left on it; quite delicious food at that. Though my stomach is giving me that “put one more bite in me and I’ll explode” message, I can’t help picking at the food on the plate as conversation ebbs and flows around me. I know I’m going to feel miserable if I go past the full line on my stomach, but I can’t help myself.

I’ve learned to ask the waitress to take my plate as soon as I feel full, or get a box for the leftovers. Years ago when I was doing Weight Watchers, they suggested we ask for a box as soon as our meal was delivered and immediately put half of whatever is on our plate into the box. Out of sight, out of mind, so to speak.

I actually find it harder to follow this at home where I have everything I need to get the excess out of my face. Often it’s because I waited too long between meals and fixed myself a larger portion than I actually needed to make up for the excessive gap. I’m still learning that a longer period of time between one meal and the next does not mean my stomach is emptier. It’s a finite space. That space is either full, empty, or somewhere in between. It doesn’t miraculously grow larger when we withhold food for 6 hours instead of 3 or 4. Like my cats, it wants us to believe it’s starving, but it’s all an illusion.

Truth 7: Eating Slowly Makes You Eat Less

It takes our brains about 20 minutes to realize we’ve put food in our stomach. I won’t go into the scientific reasons behind this, but if you’re interested, you can always Google it. That being said, the more slowly we eat, the longer it takes to consume less, and the more likely our brain is to at least try to stop us from overeating.

I don’t necessarily recommend the “chew everything x number of times” method you hear in the old wives’ tales, and from Sheldon Cooper of Big Bang Theory fame. Weight Watchers had good advice for this one too. Put your fork down on the plate between bites. Concentrate on chewing. Savor the food you’re eating rather than simply stuffing it down your throat to silence the whining of your stomach. If all you want to do is fill the space, you can do that with a smoothie or something healthy but tasteless. If you’re taking the trouble to make something you actually like to eat, slow down and enjoy it.

Truth 7: Never Beat Yourself Up Over Imperfect Health Habits

You’re human. You will choose immediate pleasure over good sense some of the time. So what? You’re allowed to be imperfect. In fact, being imperfect is what makes you unique. Embrace that uniqueness. Shrug off the momentary lapse and do better next time. You can’t change what’s already happened anyway, so why dwell on it and make yourself crazy. Life offers us enough crazy-making opportunities without giving them to ourselves.

Truth 8: Love Yourself No Matter What

We always treat ourselves better when we not only love and appreciate the entire package, but tell that beautiful, wonderful, unique face in the mirror so. Complement yourself—often and effusively. My personal favorite is “I’m beautiful, sexy, sassy, and delicious!”. Find something that makes you smile,  look yourself in the eye, and say it at least once a day. You’ll see evidence of the effectiveness of your affirmations in the choices you make.

When you’re happy with yourself, you don’t need comfort foods to make you happy. You’ll choose the salad over the burger, the broccoli over the fries. You’ll carry yourself with confidence and be grateful for the 2,000 crunches that made your gut ache for days. You’ll feel the strength those crunches gave you in the lack of back pain and the ability to get up off the floor without needing a crane. You’ll walk past a mirror and instead of cringing, you’ll smile because you see a strong, confident person standing straight and tall. You may not be perfect even in your own eyes, but knowing you’re doing the right things will be enough.

Gratitude is the Ultimate Motivator

You may have noticed I always end my posts with at least 5 gratitudes. There’s a good reason for it. When I stop and think about my blessings, I lose sight of my flaws, if only for a few minutes. Often, I realize it’s my flaws which led me to my blessings anyway. So here are today’s gratitudes:

  1. I am grateful for the experiences I’ve had with the weight loss merry-go-round. They’ve taught me to love and respect this temporary package I occupy.
  2. I am grateful for the people who have overcome obstacles far larger than my own. They show me it’s about attitude more than anything else. Be the ant who moved the rubber tree plant.
  3. I am grateful for the progress I’ve made and continue to make.
  4. I am grateful I finally learned to love and respect my body, no matter what shape it’s in. In loving and respecting it, I can do more with less pain than ever before, even if I do some of it more slowly.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; health, happiness, energy, community, friendship, support, encouragement, inspiration, motivation, love, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for ghostwriting to help your business grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your uniquely genuine self. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

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Could Inflammatory Foods Be Causing Your Joint Pain?

Pain: The Most Effective Universal Head Slap.

My post-Thanksgiving eating binges affected me in ways I should have foreseen, but didn’t. Sure, the leftover pie, cocoa and cranberry sauce put a few of the pounds I thought I’d left behind forever back on, but that was the least of my problems.

The knees which had been so cooperative in recent months; coincidentally since I cut out processed foods and sugar, started swelling painfully. When they also began to show signs of weakness, I knew it was time to get serious about my eating habits and cut out the inflammatory foods. The first to go was the sugar.

Since my memory isn’t what it used to be, I felt I needed some reminders about what other foods are inflammatory so I could limit or eliminate them as well. Sadly, the black forest ham I’ve been nibbling on or pairing with Swiss or pepper jack cheese had to go or be severely limited as well. As did the cheese.

Though my knees are still crying bitter tears by the time I climb into bed at night, they’re far happier than they were a few days ago.

How Do I Know What to Eat and What to Avoid?

Since I know I’m not alone in suffering the consequences of my less-than-perfect food choices, here’s a short list of foods to avoid if you suffer any symptoms of inflammation. These can be obvious like sore knees or tender sinuses, or a rash, or less obvious like some sort of unexplained internal discomfort or sluggishness.

These are some of the most common foods which are rated over -100 on the IF scale I’ve included below:

  • Processed sugar, as I mentioned before
  • Dairy including cheese, milk and yogurt
  • White Flour (so that means bread, pasta, cereals, and all of the other starchy delights made with white flour). Whole wheat flour is a little better, though still -89 for 1/3 of a cup.
  • Dried fruit
  • Meat (though to my surprise both ground beef and turkey rated fairly low on the inflammatory scale, -2 and -7 respectively)
  • Plantains

Researchers have even developed an inflammation factor rating chart for the foods we eat with a positive number representing anti-inflammatory foods and a negative one representing inflammatory foods. The higher the number in either direction, the stronger the food is for the applicable factor. The following chart from http://www.inflammationfactor.com shows how the numbers shake out.

200 or higher Strongly anti-inflammatory
101 to 200 Moderately anti-inflammatory
0 to 100 Mildly anti-inflammatory
-1 to -100 Mildly inflammatory
-101 to 200 Moderately inflammatory
-201 or lower Strongly inflammatory
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Sides of Food Choices

Checking foods on their rating chart will give you the inflammation factor, but be aware that the ratings, just like calories or anything else, are based on a particular portion size.

For example, 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli has an IF rating of +60 which is mildly anti-inflammatory while 1/4 cup of dried apricots has a rating of -56, or mildly inflammatory. But there are a few surprises.

A double cheeseburger from Burger King has an IF rating of -171, just a little higher than a cup of cooked, long-grain white rice (-153).

On the other end of the spectrum, many types of fish are strongly anti-inflammatory with Sable fish leading the pack with a whopping 703 for 3 ounces! Salmon and tuna are a bit lower but still in high enough to be highly beneficial. It’s no surprise to me to also find ginger and turmeric in the top 10.

Though there are surprisingly few foods which actually tip the scale at more than -100, I caution you to pay attention to the serving sizes. The food that may be only -50 or -60 for a small portion, say 1/2 cup of baked potato, will climb rapidly, the more you eat. And the more inflammatory foods you consume, the greater risk of harming your body.

What the Chart Won’t Show You But Labels Will

With all of the pre-made foods available these days, it can be more difficult to regulate the quality of what you’re eating. I thought I was doing well by limiting my packaged foods to those available at places like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, but even there, you have to read the labels. For me, I’ve found it’s just better to avoid them altogether. But I also enjoy cooking up huge batches of soup, stir-fry, chili and more and freezing them in single serving containers. Not everyone has the time or inclination to do the same.

When all else fails, I recommend reading the labels. One of the biggest surprises I got recently was comparing organic tomato sauce to good old Hunts. The ingredients on the organic sauce were sugar, tomatoes, and water. On the Hunt’s, tomatoes and water. You can guess which one I bought. A little label scanning also forced me to give up buying cases of Kirkland’s version for the same reason I passed on the organic variety in the market.

What doesn’t show up on the IF table is all of the preservatives and additives found in prepared and packaged foods today. I’ve learned that our bodies know exactly what to do with organic compounds like fruits, vegetables, and even meat, but give it something with a whole lot of letters and it says the same thing we do when we try to pronounce them. “Huh? What is this stuff and what am I supposed to do with it anyway?”

All I Have to Do to Be Healthy is Manage My Food Choices, Right?

So now that you have a handle on the foods you eat, the foods you limit, and the foods (if some of them can even be called that) to avoid at all costs, you should be feeling great, right?

Do you remember the arthritis ad which says “a body in motion stays in motion”? Well, take it from me. No matter how perfect your diet might be, if you sit on your butt all day, those joints and organs you’re working so hard to feed well are still going to suffer. We need to change positions frequently. Our muscles thrive on being subjected to varying degrees of stress from pushing, pulling, standing, sitting, lifting, stretching and anything else you can think to do with this miraculous thing we call a body.

Raising Your Own Bar

You know your own limits. Why not push them just a little? You’d be surprised how quickly those limits expand.

I remember when I first started regaining my dancing routine. I wore out quickly and had to rest pretty frequently. Now, I can dance an entire two-step set (depending on the partner. Some of them kick my sorry butt, but not as easily as they used to!) and follow it up with a killer line dance set. Unless the DJ tosses in Skiffle Time, I’m usually good to go for the next set of two-steps as well. If I get to the gym regularly, I find my stamina and strength climb more rapidly and I even sweat less (which is especially helpful with those back to back two-steps!)

In conclusion, I have learned, though I tend to need reminders, that I need to feed and move my body consciously. When I wing it, eat whatever sounds good, or worse, is easiest, and spend an inordinate amount of time in front of my computer or watching Christmas movies on Hallmark Channel or Lifetime, I pay the price in both lack of mobility and pain. As I don’t enjoy either one, it typically takes only a few twinges of pain to remind me to get my lazy self back in gear. For me, it’s dancing, walking or hiking. What works for you?

Above All, Tell
Yourself How Grateful You Are for the Positive Changes

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for my body’s little reminders to take better care of myself.
  2. I am grateful for the resources available to help me make better choices.
  3. I am grateful for the love of cooking which makes it easier to keep healthy, easy options in the house.
  4. I am grateful for my dancing and my new hiking buddy which both help keep my body healthy, agile and aging much more slowly than people who spend a lot of time sitting.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; health, happiness, joy, love, friendship, good food, opportunities, challenges, lessons, success, rejection, writing, peace, hope, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Photo courtesy of FoodFacts PM via Flickr

How We Underestimate Our Daily Movement

How Much do we Really Move in a Day?

About a week ago I realized that if I kept going the way I was, I would gain back everything I’d ever lost and then some, and increase my risk of health issues from diabetes to heart. I know what works but when I get frustrated, I let it slide, and my eating habits suffer. As I have too many reasons to stay healthy, I logged back into my MyFitnessPal account and began measuring and tracking.

The first thing I discovered was that since I switched from buying the single serving cartons of yogurt to buying the 32 ounce cartons of nonfat plain and just adding blueberries and honey, I was eating less than I thought. The first day, I measured out 3/4 of a cup and realized that it was a lot! The next day, I measured out 1/2 a cup and found that was about what I’d been spooning into the bowl anyway. I had been going a little light on the blueberries so now that I measure, I get 1/2 a cup of those too, plus about a teaspoon each of raw honey and l-glutamine powder. That and my Eeyore cup of coffee are more than enough to get my day going.

Today as I sat staring at the exercise log feeling like a bump on one, I thought about how lazy and sedentary I am, especially on days like today which was filled with meetings and appointments. I got up from my desk and starting doing my nightly chores without even thinking about it until I realized how much I really do move during the day, and that’s not including the 97 trips to the bathroom and to fill up my water bottle!

My day begins when I get out of bed, make it and lay on the floor to do some stretches while trying to ignore the pitiful sound of my cats using their “I’m starving half to death here” cries. Sometimes, they even try to get into the act by chewing on my hair, sitting on my feet or just smacking me in the face with their fluffy tails.

Stretching done, I head for the kitchen to prepare the slimy yumminess they all demand. First stop, the garage where their food is stored in a cabinet. Feed the two garage cats who actually work for their keep. Then it’s back to the kitchen to put food into 5 bowls (heaven forbid they share!), add cosequin to my 18-year-old’s food and vitamins to all plus a teaspoon. Dylan doesn’t like wet food but he loves his fish-flavored vitamins. Believe it or not, these bowls go into 4 different rooms and have to be distributed strategically so certain boys don’t try to eat everyone else’s food.

Finally it’s time to fix my own breakfast before sitting down to check email and actually do some work. Throughout the rest of the day, I get up to check mail, fix myself lunch and dinner and a multitude of other tasks, many of which involve walking into a room, wondering why I’m there, walking out and remembering once I’m back where I started. By the time I’ve done all that, scooped the sand boxes, cleaned up the kitchen and prepared coffee for the next morning, I’ve circumnavigated my small house at least 20 times. Add in laundry and errand day and I’m moving a whole lot more than I thought.

MyFitnessPal has an item under Exercise entitled “Cleaning, light, moderate effort”. After careful consideration, I feel quite safe putting 60 minutes a day in that category on my log. Most days it’s probably more especially when I consider having to sweep the bathrooms daily because certain somebodies are incapable of keeping the sand in the specified container.

The good news is, I’ve dropped about 4 pounds this week, I’m eating a lot less starchy foods and more salads and I feel better. Sure, it’s a pain to log everything, but I’ve found some shortcuts which, while perhaps not entirely accurate, get me close enough and allow me to see when I’m consuming too many calories, or rather, when I’m about to. I certainly don’t expect to keep losing 4 pounds a week, but seeing those numbers go down instead of up, even if it’s very slowly, is good enough for me.

How do you insure that you’re sticking with your healthy habits?

We all have things in our life we’d like to improve. Sometimes we make those improvements without thinking about it just because we have the desire to do better. But when you’ve had to put something in place to motivate yourself, what kinds of things work for you? I don’t know about you, but I’m always open to new ideas.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for all of the little things.
2. I am grateful for friendship, for both the give and the take.
3. I am grateful for finding things to motivate myself.
4. I am grateful for stepping outside my comfort zone again.
5. I am grateful for abundance: love, health, friendship, motivation, work, kindness, compassion, charity, philanthropy and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/SheriLevensteinConawayAuthor?ref=aymt_homepage_panel and https://www.facebook.com/HLWTAccounting . Please also drop by my website, http://www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

 

November 17, 2014 Changes made and more coming. #shericonaway

Making changes brings even more opportunity for change.

As you know, if you’ve read my last couple of posts, I found it necessary to change the time of day for writing my blog posts to accommodate the crazy mental place I go at night while working on the latest NaNoWriMo challenge. So far, it’s actually working out well, so well, in fact, that I am writing a more prolific blog and feeling less stressed while working on my book because the two no longer conflict. Whether this change will become permanent remains to be seen but for now, it’s working.

In the spirit of that change, I revisited my daily practice of doing a one Tarot card reading. That, too, has evolved over the last few months. I started doing a second reading from Doreen Virtue’s Angel Therapy Oracle cards and tying the two together. Then I began noting the card I cut when I replaced the Tarot card in the deck to see if it added anything to the message I received from the single card.3f968-spiritualshelf

But over the last couple of days, I was inspired to make yet another change. Right above my computer monitor is what I call my “Spiritual Shelf” upon which sits my collection of Tarot and Oracle cards, the Laws of Attraction series of books, The Secret book and video and several other books related to spiritual practices.

Looking up at this shelf on a daily basis, it occurred to me that it was time I actually used some of those Tarot decks I’ve been collecting instead of just allowing their boxes to collect dust upon my shelf. And so, my next adventure began.

About three weeks ago, I began using the Wizard’s Tarot instead of my tried and true Spiral Tarot. About a week ago, I added the Steam Punk tarot to my reading repertoire, and finally, I added Pagan Cats. Fast forward to yesterday when it hit me that I’m no longer “feeling” the easy, breezy, the Universe is always in your favor flavor of the Angel Oracle cards. (nothing against Doreen Virtue, but her cards just don’t look at the darker side of our souls which, to me, is a very necessary part of our being. Without it, there is no balance.) Instead, I replaced the second card reading with my original and oh-so-comfortable Spiral Tarot.

As it had been close to a month since I’d read from the Spiral deck, I was caught by surprise when I got them in my hands and they felt like an old, familiar friend. Familiar as they were, however, I found that I had trouble shuffling them. I don’t know if it’s because they are a different size, shape and texture from the other three decks I’ve been using or if the deck was just telling me I needed to make an adjustment within myself to using it alongside other decks, but the only way I can describe it is that it was familiar, yet it didn’t quite fit.

Today, it was much easier to work with, so I can only assume that, cat-like, it was giving me a little bit of crap for ignoring it.

Trading Pilates for housework. Oh, joy!

After receiving a message from my Pilates partner that she wouldn’t be able to make it to class today, I realized that with my shoulder still giving me trouble (though nothing that a nice massage with energy work wouldn’t fix!), and a list of chores I want to finish before my daughter arrives on Friday for Thanksgiving week, I would be better served to use my energy to dump and clean sandboxes and vacuum and scrub floors. Heaven knows, I’ll expend sufficient energy in those pursuits to replace at least three Pilates classes! But thanks to the frequent visits to the gym, including those Pilates classes, I actually have the energy now! Funny how that works.

As my readings today really highlighted flexibility as well as staying on task, I believe I’m heeding the advice of the cards admirably. I also feel very strongly that the wherewithal to indulge in that energy work/massage will manifest itself very soon! I just hope my massage therapist has not converted her practice completely to energy work just yet! I really need those magic hands!

My gratitudes today are:
1. I am grateful for my willingness and even excitement about making changes.
2. I am grateful for the way things are falling into place with each little change I make.
3. I am grateful for a week with my daughter and grand puppy.
4. I am grateful that my son-in-law is safe, if overworked right now. I know that by his efforts he will achieve his goals.
5. I am grateful for abundance: change, time, opportunity, imagination, motivation, energy, forgiveness, acceptance, joy, love, friendship, inspiration, harmony, peace, health and prosperity.

Namaste

And now for some shameless self-promotion:
I’d love it if you’d visit my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SheriLevensteinConawayAuthor?ref=aymt_homepage_panel. I’ve created this page as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” it or leave a comment! Thank you!

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