Wednesday, January 19, 2011

PSA (About Exercise and Other Things)

It has recently been brought to my attention that I might actually use this blog for more than just recipes, that I might also bring forward some thoughts as I'm going through this lifestyle modification. Normally I would be hesitant about things like that, as I'm a strong believer that people need to make their own decisions and shouldn't be nagged, bullied or preached at. At the same time, however, I know that a lot of information is just coming to light for me, so I don't see any reason I shouldn't pass it along. Maybe it will inspire you to make a change for the healthier. To be honest, it's becoming more difficult for me to sit by idly and see my friends and loved ones suffering when I feel that there's something they can be doing about it.

If you don't want read this series, you won't offend me. If you do read it and feel it doesn't pertain to you, that's fine. I just want to put the information out there so those that can benefit from it have the opportunity to make their own decisions.

I'll even put in a jump-cut so it doesn't take up too much space.

Still with me? Awesome.

I don't want to preach or anything. These are just my thoughts. I am not a medical practitioner, just someone that's sick and tired of being sick and tired. I don't think that my current diet is right for everyone. But I do think a lot of the people I know are unhealthy. Some of them are even trying to be better without getting the rewarding results that encourage further effort. Others put it off, thinking that they'll deal with it later. Some have just given up hope all together.

I've actually been in all of those categories at one time or another. I was never skinny growing up, neither was I particularly athletic. And I was happy enough that way. As I aged and started to put on significant weight, I decided it was finally time to do something about it. Having tried a couple of diets in my teens/early 20s, I knew that I couldn't stick to them and the weight would come right back after, even if I did. I set about trying to make a healthier lifestyle.

I would exercise. I would make better food choices. It sounded like everything I had heard for years about doing this successfully. Calories in vs. calories out. That was the bottom line. I even gave up Coke for Coke Zero, knowing that liquid sugars are terribly empty calories. We got a Wii (I've never been one for working out around others) and I started exercising religiously. I worked up to an hour or two a night, six days a week. I ate more vegetables. And the weight started to creep down. I was thrilled.

But there were still things in my life that I felt I needed. Cookies, cakes and baked goods, they were so lovely and irresistible. I knew that if I denied myself completely, I would cave and fall completely off the wagon of new health. So I tried to be responsible and do everything in moderation. It would surely be better to have 2 Oreos than half a row. Even I could manage the calorie math on that one. And if I worked out a little bit more, it would be like they never happened, right? I thought it was a 'quality of life' issue. I couldn't fathom living to be a 100 if I didn't get to eat at least some of what I wanted. But sometimes 'quality of life' means more than eating foods you enjoy. Sometimes it's about having focus, energy and health.

Unfortunately, my weight loss plateaued. And it was more than 10 lbs away from my 'ideal BMI'. Frustrating, but not completely unexpected, I simply vowed to take it to the next level and break that barrier. But then I got sick. It wasn't that uncommon for me, I've always had allergies and so I was pretty much the queen of over-the-counter meds, so I just took some time off to heal. However, I am also a creature of habit and once the routine is broken, it gets harder and harder to get back on that horse. And so began a new cycle.

Repetitive illness, vacations and other activities seemed to upset my new lifestyle more and more. I'd give up working out for months at a time. I'd eat worse when I was under stress, which seemed to be more often. The weight crept back up. My clothes wouldn't fit and I'd start it all over again. The first go at the beginning of 2009, I lost 16 lbs in 4 months. Five months later, almost all of it was back. Another 6 months and I was down 13 lbs, but sure enough, 5 months later most of it was back.

Since I started my new lifestyle after Thanksgiving, I'm down 12.5 lbs. I have less than 7 lbs left to my 'ideal BMI', though really at this point, it's about looking and feeling good. I have more muscle definition than I ever have before and while there are certainly still areas I want to see more change in, I'm hopeful I can do it. It's the first year in my post-pubescent life that I'm actually looking forward to swimsuit season. And for the first time in I can't remember how long, I didn't get sick over Christmas. I haven't taken OTC meds since Thanksgiving (not to say I never get the occasional head or muscle ache, I just don't medicate on instinct).

How am I doing it? Following an Anti-Candida diet and getting regular exercise. By exercise, I don't mean hours of aerobics a night, either. I still use my Wii (about 30 minutes, 4 times a week) and I do walk quite a bit, to the store, the occasional hike or whatnot, but nothing crazy. Much less intensive than what I used to do.

How does this relate to me? Like I said earlier, I know my diet isn't for everyone. Yes, it is hard. But it's also easier than what I used to do. There are clearer lines about what I can and can't have. I'm finally healthy enough that I can tell when I eat something that doesn't agree with me.

But it takes too much time to cook all that. Yes, a lot of my cooking takes time. And I know a lot of you are on schedules that don't allow for that. I'm trying to research more recipes that take less time or ones that can make a lot to be frozen and used later. Because (I know this is a shocker) I don't particularly want to live my life in my kitchen either. But there is something wonderful about the way your body feels when you eat healthier.

So what can I do, since I'm way too busy/not disciplined enough/etc?
Here are just some ideas (hardly a comprehensive list):

1) Do more research. The internet is a great place to start looking for ideas. So is your library. Talk to a medical professional or a naturopath. Think outside the box, but...

2) Trust your gut. If a diet sounds unsafe or too weird, it may not be for you. Also, listen to your actual gut if it's upset. It's normally trying to get your attention for a reason.

3) Drink more water. I know this one sounds obvious, but so few of us do it. The current recommendation is one half your weight in ounces per day. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, you should drink 75 oz a day.

4) Eat more vegetables. And I don't mean potatoes. Leafy greens are something we all could use more of. Think rainbow on your plate. Look for nutrition in the food you eat. Which leads me to...

5) Eat less processed foods. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. The more processing foods go through, the less likely the nutrition stays in and the more likely bad stuff gets added.

6) Eat organic (when possible). Yes, it's more expensive. But even if you can't afford to go completely organic, try to do it where you can. Especially with foods you eat all the time and the Dirty Dozen. Not only do they taste better, fewer chemicals will be headed into your body.

7) Get more fiber in your diet. Naturally, if possibly. I know it's gross, but bowel movements are important. They rid your body of toxins and will leave you feeling better. More people are suggesting it should take 24 hours for food to pass through your system, but at least once a day is a good goal. Helps a lot with weight loss too.

8) Reduce your sugar and refined carb intake. I'm not saying you have to give them up straight up (though you might feel a lot better if you did). Sugar is a drug. It causes euphoria, crashing and addiction. If you can't give up the sweets, look into some natural sweeteners. There are several with lower glycemic index (that don't spike your blood sugar as much) and others offer a lot of nutrients with their sweetness. Don't forget that fruit has sugar too. Just about anything is better than high fructose corn syrup and white table sugar. Except for maybe...

9) Cut out the use of artificial sweeteners. I know some of you will hate this one. But there's no calories, you say. But there are chemicals that fight the way your body wants to work. Not only are artificial chemicals potentially hazardous to your health, they don't actually 'satisfy' the body's craving for sweet. Not to mention they can aggravate the digestive track. Don't believe me? It's right on the label. Speaking of which...

10) Read labels. Yes, this can take a lot of time. But isn't it worth it to know what you're putting in your body? It's amazing what goes into our food. Tons of chemicals and sugar (high fructose corn syrup) are in everything from box dinners to bread to spaghetti sauce. A general rule is if you can't pronounce it, you probably don't want it in your body.

11) Eat at home. Ok, so pretty much everyone knows that fast food is bad for you. But even 'healthier' restaurants have huge portions and love to use fats and sugars. If you do go out, bring half home for later.

12) Learn to control portions. It sounds hard. Impossible, maybe. But you can start it slowly. Instead of gorging yourself 2 or 3 times a day, eat smaller meals (the largest at lunch, if possible) and have a small, healthy snack in between. Eventually your body learns how much it needs at one time. Eat more slowly and allow your stomach to tell you when you're full.

13) Eat breakfast. I've heard it's one of the main reasons diets fail. You need the jump-start of energy to get your brain and body up and running for the day. Making smart breakfast choices (making sure to include protein and healthy fats) will give you energy to get you to lunch.

14) Consider gluten-free. Not everyone is a celiac, allergic or even intolerant to the stretch wonder that is gluten. But this protein can be hard to digest. So even if you don't cut it out completely, you might consider substituting some non-glutenous grains into your diet. Or give yourself a few weeks without gluten and see how you feel. It's a nice way to let your body focus on other things than working extra hard on digestion.

15) Get some exercise. It doesn't have to be anything big. Walking is a great way to start. When you start feeling better, you can branch out into other activities. Don't overwork yourself or you'll be less likely to keep it up long-term.

16) Enjoy some sun. I grew up thinking that the sun was bad and should be avoided as much as possible. But it turns out that now experts seem to think that Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise. And it's the easiest to get (for most of us). Just a half hour a day is supposed to get you all that you need. And you can do a big chunk of that just walking from your car through the parking lot.

17) Relax. I know it sounds obvious, but so many of us don't. However you want to do it, (a stroll in nature, a yoga class, meditation techniques, etc) helping your body slow down and relax can really make a difference. Your body makes all sorts of chemicals when you're under stress and those can pollute your body over time, making it hard to lose weight and over-stressing your heart and other organs.

18) Give yourself a break. We all fall off the wagon at some point. It's pretty much impossible to be good all the time. It's just important to do what you can. If you can only make one healthy meal a week (say on that weekend or day off), that's one more than you were eating previously. You have a hectic week at work, take the weekend for some serious relaxation. Do what you can as often as you can and it will really help you on the way to health.

Wow. That's a lot of points. I certainly didn't mean to go on quite so much. But I do think it's important to get thinking about getting healthy (or staying that way). It doesn't have to be an all or nothing deal. It doesn't have to be overnight. Give yourself time to adjust to being healthier. Baby steps make it less stressful and easier to upkeep, since habit is a great way to motivate yourself. Loving yourself comes in many shapes and sizes. Knowing that you're being better to yourself is a great way to start.

If you made it all the way through, thank you for hearing me out. Best wishes to everyone that's looking to make a change, even if that change is just starting to do more looking into a healthier lifestyle. I hope you all find your own way to feeling better. :)

If you have questions, comments or your own healthy ideas you'd like to share, please do so!



  1. As per request of my friends, I wrote this up and posted it on Facebook, thought I copy it here for your foodie readers.
    Losing Weight: Eating Healthy and Working out

    For my friends wanting to know how I lost 70 pounds of weight. The first 30lbs were from cardio (20-40 minutes) and strength (work big muscle groups) on my own 3 times a week. The last 40 pounds is from those slightly awkward (I'm usually the only guy in the room) and highly effective cardio classes at the rec center.

    The first three rules I followed, with respective reasoning:

    1. Drink plenty of water
    -This keeps you full and less hungry for calorie rich food.
    -Flushes out all the bad stuff you ate earlier.
    -When you're thirsty drink water, then when your thirst is quenched drink stuff with flavor
    -OASN, it took me 3 months to go from regular coke to coke zero, it no longer tastes bad. :D

    2. Eat plenty of small meals a day, even if you are not hungry.
    -Ideally 3 medium meals and 3 healthy snacks (half a sandwich or a medium fruit)
    -This keeps your metabolism up so you keep burning calories, even when you're not working out.
    -This keeps you from binging on food and gives you energy throughout your day.

    3. Keep your heart-rate up for at least 20 minutes a day.
    -Do what you can, two days a week at minimum, 3 times would be good, 4 would be great.
    -This means anything that shortens your breath and makes you feel your body is getting some form of a workout

  2. *The best way to lose weight is work on your big muscles after keeping your heart rate up for at least 20 minutes. The cardio keeps your heart rate up to increase your metabolism, then keeps going while doing strength work. The more muscles you put on, the more calories you burn by just sitting there (50 calories more burnt for every pound of additional muscle you have on you).

    *What really helped me was putting my workout into my schedule, so I was guaranteed to do it.

    Cooking my own meals also really helped.
    -Meats: Cut off or drain the fat
    -Dairy: Fat free (skim) or Low fat (1%/2%)
    -Veggies: Are practically calorie free, eat as much as you want (limit starch veggies, below), preferably not covered in butter, cheese, or ranch dressing). I eat plenty of these all the time, filling and nutritious.
    -Fruit: Constant moderation. Keeps you hydrated, gives you nutrients, and natural sugar for energy. While overdoing fruits isn't too bad, its still excess sugar you don't need.
    -Starches: Keep these low and small volume: Pasta (go for whole grain or whole wheat), whole grain bread, rice (go for brown rice), potatoes, or french fries. If you do, try to do them well before you go to bed. Carbs are insta-energy in your system, if you overdo the carbs and don't burn off that energy, your body stores it as fat for later use
    -Fats: I rarely use butter, but I use plenty of extra virgin olive oil, possibly too much. You have tasted my food and that's after I remove most of the saturated fats (really hard fat on chicken and beef, that is bad for your cholesterol and just as hard to burn off).

    My usual meals/snacks:
    Breakfast: 1-minute Instant oatmeal, skim milk, some sugar with (cinnamon/raisins or ripe fruit or nutmeg/walnuts or sugar free maple syrup).

    10am snack: 1 medium fruit or half a granola bar.

    Lunch: leftovers from dinner (below)

    3pm snack: half a sandwich (reduced fat peanut butter with low sugar on whole grain bread or roast beef/turkey with veggies)

    Dinner: Meat (see above), veggies (lots!), starch (low, rice says 2 servings when I turn it to 3).

    Most of my diet is based around Abs Diet Plan, which is endorsed by Men's Health (and therefore Women's Health) filled with nutritionists, health/fitness experts. It boils down to good nutrition and good exercise. If you binge on unhealthy food every once in a while (1-2 times a week), don't get hung up on it, just try to keep up the hard work and you will see results.

    There's more, but this is the basics and then some.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing, Ernie. It's nice to get other people's perspectives on living healthy. :)

  4. Hi Brandi,

    Really interesting post, you certainly have done your research.

    I came to the anti-candida diet through necessity, rather than choice, and I am certainly not doing it for weight loss, but I think the points you make can be useful to everyone. A lot of them are about adapting the small, everyday habits and your attitude towards your own health. I don't intend to be on the very strict version of the diet forever (god willing!), but I am already adapting to the idea of listening to my body and making better choices for myself in the future.

    And thanks for the 'Dirty Dozen' list - now stuck to my fridge door!

  5. I'm glad I could help! I know our respective diets are really strict and that most people (without the drive of necessity) just aren't interested. But I would like people to find the will to be healthier in their own ways and at least the candida diet has lots of good ideas for general health.

    And hopefully both of us will get healthy enough that we can enjoy some more diverse foods again. :)

  6. Wow Brandi, I had no idea you made this change...kudos! Now, just don't go vegan on me ;-) LOL. In my mind, it seems absurd that you would ever go that route. Seeing that you have given up coke and chocolate, however, convinces me you just *might* be crazy enough to do it.

    Good luck on your new journey into health, keep sending out these digital souvenirs...maybe it will inspire me enough to kick a few habits of my own ;-)

  7. Don't worry just yet. ;)

    While I do like to look through vegan recipes (since I haven't successfully added cheese back into my diet), I don't think I could manage that level of food restrictions. Especially since they count on foods (like soy and nutritional yeast) that I'm avoiding on my own diet. Not to mention, my body just seems to work better on animal protein.

    I hope that even if you don't do a big food makeover, you might get inspired by some of the recipes on here.