Tag Archive for healthy living

Jogging makes you healthy but at what cost?: Or why is exercise so easy to avoid?

celebratory lunges

 

Just before the start of the semester, one of my friends on Facebook posted a status asking about where she should start if she decided to go to the gym. The flood of answers was enthusiastic, but there were so many different suggestions about classes and programs, and she’d never been to any of these classes so she had no clue which ones were for her. The comments were a flurry of times, dates, and suggestions of “come with me to this!” From where I was sitting, it looked a little overwhelming.

To be fair, the idea of exercise to me is exhausting itself, never mind actually going through with it.

April gets it

April gets it

I’m no stranger to getting active, of course. Although we were under no illusions about my chances of actually succeeding in school sports, my parents still took me to a myriad of practices and games for soccer and basketball when I was in grade school, bless them. I ended up dreading practices that would lead to games where my main role was bench warmer, and I scrambled for any excuse to skip them. I decided to love myself by letting go of sports and thought that would be the end of exercise, but falling in love with theater in high school meant dance practices at least two nights a week in the spring.

And honestly? I didn’t try to get out of dance practice like I had soccer and basketball, but I thought about it more often than not.

That’s a little messed up, right? These activities were supposed to be fun, but I was avoiding them as much as possible. And if sports were supposed to be fun, how was I supposed to actually start going out of my way to exercise without the added promise of being entertained?

So it was really easy to write exercise off. I mean, I walk to class every day, trudging over WKU’s ridiculously steep campus hill; that’s got to count for something. Plus, it would take way less effort to not go to the gym than to actually try it out.

But that’s a bit of a defeatist attitude, so every few months, I’ll look up a bunch of simple things that I can do to be healthy—maybe I’ll take a walk or two outside before other concerns quickly become more of a priority and leave me with no further interest in exercise.

However, trying to keep up with yoga classes, little walks around campus, and having a set group of friends that are also trying to live healthier are a few things that are keeping me consistent and accountable for once, which leads me to the best part of this post: the concrete advice!

Terry Crews of Brooklyn 99, a very muscle-bound gentleman who’s in “ridiculous shape” according to Men’s Fitness, has some somewhat ridiculous advice that makes a lot of sense:

upbeat, positive, and potentially doable - thanks Terry!

This advice might be silly, but it’s also upbeat, positive, and potentially doable.

It always helps you form a habit when you’re doing something that you want to do, rather than something you feel compelled to do.

So running on a treadmill might not be for you, but if you’re like me and music gets you going, carve out some time to listen exclusively to One Direction or the Legally Blonde musical or that new Rihanna music and just move. If I’ve got the Take Me Home album playing, I’m going to end up bopping all the way to class without even thinking about it.

Be sure to look into all the classes that your gym offers because sometimes, let’s be real, they’re awful and most definitely not for you, but sometimes you can really surprise yourself. Yoga can be a pretty nonthreatening gym experience, and if you’re still nervous, there’s all kinds of information online that you can familiarize yourself with beforehand. I love the way that I feel after a yoga class, because even though there’s a lot of effort involved, there’s a focus on warming up and cooling down, and the instructor is often reminding us that we can go at our own pace while also giving suggestions for ways to challenge ourselves in whatever pose we’re on. I cannot emphasize just how much I love yoga, so y’all should try it out.

There are also a ton of cool superhero workouts that people have posted online, so you can choose your favorite and go for that too if you are intimidated by more traditional workouts.

It also helps to get someone else involved. Tell people that you’re going. Get them to come with you, especially if they’re good at making exercise a priority. Having a pal can make things feel a lot less serious, and it keeps you accountable to each other as well.

Healthy means more than just physical health though, something guest blogger Natalie Rickman wrote more about in her “This is my brain on exercise” post.

Exercise can be intimidating, but there’s a ton of things that you can do to make it easier. So focus on finding what works for you, even if it’s just a little bit at a time.

—Molly Couch

Resources for your body and mind

What most of us don’t figure out until later in our lives is that there are resources to educate ourselves about our bodies and their habits. Recently I’ve taken an interest in researching things about natural eating habits, managing a healthy weight, the woman’s menstrual cycle, etc. I want to share some of the books I’ve encountered with you, so that you may enlighten yourself and your body with some newfound information.

Natural Living: The 21st Century Guide to a Self-Sufficient Lifestyle by Liz Wright

Natural Living

Today, being conscious of what’s happening to the Earth as well as our bodies is something of the norm. So wouldn’t it be nice to have a handbook to guide you on your path to a better lifestyle? Natural Living provides “an in-depth look at the way we live and comprehensive guidance on the crucial changes we can all make.” If you want to learn about all aspects of living in the 21st century, then Liz Wright’s Natural Living gives you the insight you need—whether it’s for gardening, food planning, raising animals, or composting—to get you started. Available at Barnes and Noble.

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Eat Pretty: Nutrition for Beauty, Inside and Out by Jolene Hart

Eat Pretty

It’s nothing new to hear that being nutritious is a trend that everyone wants to adopt. Eat Pretty provides readers with a program that “offers a full lifestyle makeover, exploring stress management, hormonal balance, and mindful living. Charts and lists, plus nearly 20 recipes, make for a delicious and infinitely useful package—in the kitchen, at the grocer, and on the go.” Available at Amazon.

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Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance by Rosie Molinary

Beautiful You

Do you struggle with self-acceptance? Rosie Molinary encourages readers—no matter their size, age, or ethnicity—to make it a goal to feel better about themselves and work towards that goal while ignoring the implicit negativity of the media. Using realistic techniques in a one-year plan to empower and push women to embrace a healthy self-image and break unwanted habits, “Beautiful You strikes a chord with every woman who has ever faltered in her self-confidence or lost her personal brilliance—and it makes sure she never lets it happen again.” Available at Amazon.

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Hopefully these books will enlighten you and give you a little bit more information on feeling positive and maintaing a healthy life.

Brittany Eldridge

Why can’t it ever be easy?


Classes started here at Western Kentucky University (shown above) just over a week ago.

The first week was cake—it’s always cake—but now the second week is real, and I find myself considering doing nutty things. Things like…

… cutting my workouts

…eating in front of the computer or TV

…staying up late and sleeping in

…sleeping less

…snacking all day long

…giving up on my routine

…drinking soda

…eating late at night

…and on and on an on.

This is clearly happening because stress is setting in. I already have scores of assignments to grade, dozens of lessons to plan, hundreds of email messages to answer, etc.

And my solution seems to be to want to eat as much food as I can put in my mouth and throw my healthy habits out the window.

According to the Mayo Clinic, when you’re stressed, “you may rapidly eat whatever’s convenient, without even enjoying it.”

NO kidding.

I’m at the point where I don’t even remember anything I’ve eaten for the past forty-eight hours, much less if I enjoyed it.

I know the one thing I can’t do to help me get through this is not give into self-flagellation. As the Mayo Clinic advises: “This can also lead to an unhealthy cycle—your emotions trigger you to overeat, you beat yourself up for getting off your weight-loss track, you feel bad, and you overeat again.”

Repeat after me: don’t beat yourself up.

What they do advise is managing your stress with relaxation exercises like yoga and meditation, letting the hunger pass, making a list of what you’ve eaten, asking family or friends for support, doing something else fun, avoiding grocery shopping, having occasional treats, snacking healthy, learning from mistakes, and focusing on what’s working.

Honestly, that doesn’t sound too different from my steps for healthy living, but maybe all I really need is a reminder to slow down and focus on how to do all the things I know are good for me.

Stop. Breathe. Repeat.

How to remember yourself after weight loss:
not hating who you used to be

…a guest post by Rachel Hoge

When I came to college everything changed.

But not in the way I expected.

I had to walk thirty minutes uphill to class, and—at 260 pounds—the shallow breaths and circles of sweat were embarrassing enough to make me skip class. Around this time, I fell into friendships with dancers and physical therapy majors, who traded television for treadmills and actually liked vegetables. And walking.

It seemed strange to me at first.

But eventually their habits became mine, and instead of gaining the freshman fifteen, I lost weight—around seventy pounds. I was still considered obese for my height, but I felt better than I ever had. After years of quietly being overweight, I finally knew how it felt to be confident. When anyone noticed my weight loss, I told them thank you and that really, I was happy to have changed.

But that’s not entirely true.

It’s been over three years since then, but something strange has happened: I can barely remember who I was seventy pounds ago. I’ve created an identity without my past—without those hard moments that molded me into who I am. It’s like the shame that comes with seeing old pictures of yourself—a thank God I don’t look like that anymore moment.

What I don’t understand is why.

I’m the same person I was then—an aspiring writer, a young adult full of hope—so why is a bigger jean size powerful enough to make me want to forget?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad to know more about nutrition. I’m glad I exercise—it genuinely makes me feel better. I’m glad that my lifestyle is healthier. But I’m not glad that this embarrassment, this shame, has made me want to erase some great years of my life—all because of my weight.

I think it has something to do with this: when my girlfriends and I talk about our bodies, someone always says, “I just want to be skinny.” Not healthy—rarely healthy. Just skinny.

I would rather walk up ten hills as “old” Rachel—my XL shirt dripping sweat—than feel embarrassed about who I was…or, for that matter, who I am. Because I’m not skinny. My thighs are heavy and my face is round and my stomach has stretch marks. But I’m beautiful. Because I’m so much more than my body.

And after years of weight loss, I’m only starting to understand how important it is to know that.

 

RACHEL HOGE graduates next May with a degree in creative writing. She will continue writing and plans to pursue graduate school.

Another reason we all need to spend more time outside…

My husband canoeing with me on the Chesapeake Bay.

 

I’ve talked many times here about the fact that Americans don’t spend as much time outside as we used to. This is a problem today both for adults—most of us spent HOURS outside when we were young and rarely step food outside now—and for kids who it seems spend all of their time inside, chained to the television, the computer, the iPod, the phone.

This is a problem because:

1) It means we exercise less and sit more, making us fatter.

2) It keeps kids from learning to be independent and how to problem solve. (Remember being young and finding yourself in a sticky situation you had to get out of? Yeah, that doesn’t happen anymore.)

3) It means our brains don’t work as well. In fact, according to Salon, “New research suggests that stepping away from the shiny Apple product and into the woods can have a big impact on creativity and problem-solving.”

David Strayer, a professor of cognition and neural science at the University of Utah, claims that our brains are more “limber” when we spend time away from the office and screens. But he also notes that “the average American child spends just 15 to 25 minutes playing outside each day and some seven and a half hours in front of a screen. Eighty percent of 5-year-olds are computer users. It’s impossible to know just what this digital noise does to the adolescent brain,” but it’s definitely a reason for concern.

Strayer advocates combatting this problem with outdoor immersion in the form of annual backwoods camping trips, which he’s doing with this students to determine the benefits of such activity.

Strayer’s return-to-nature trips are a great idea, but I’m not convinced that total immersion is mandatory to achieve the kind of replenishment he’s talking about, nor am I convinced that one annual trip is enough to recharge our brains.* Sure, a big backwoods getaway is great if you can swing it, but it seems just as important to spend time communing with nature every single day of the year. (Or if that isn’t possible, at least a few days a week.) Not only will doing so improve how our brains work, it will also help us fight obesity, remain healthy, stay connected to the natural world, and reduce our level of stress.

Plus, it’s just plain fun.

 

*Strayer also advocates leaving tech gadgetry at home when hitting the great outdoors. Though I agree in theory that we shouldn’t use our gadgetry when communing with nature, it’s better to be safe than sorry and bring it with you when going to a remote location. I say this because a friend of mine just spent twelve hours with two other adults and a small child lost in the wilderness because they wanted to get away from technology. Needless to say, they regretted that decision. 

Kicking my bootie: how boot camp is reminding me
of the importance of variety

This week I did something certain people—people who will go unnamed—think is absolutely nuts: I joined a boot camp.

I’ve heard about boot camps from friends and family members who’ve gone down this extreme road before. In fact, boot camps have become so ubiquitous they’ve even been spoofed on television and in movies, most recently in the hugely popular Bridesmaids. But I had never participated in them before because of one simple reason—they usually happen before the sun comes up, and I am as much a morning person as Mark Zuckerburg is a fashionista. In other words, not at all.

But happily the boot camp I’m participating in—Bowling Green Backyard Boot Camp—offers a morning and evening option: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:45 a.m. or 5:30 p.m. I think you can guess which time I signed up for, and if not, here’s a hint: the sun doesn’t appear in Bowling Green until nearly 7:00 a.m. each morning.

(For this reason, I’m trying not to think about the fact that the combined Saturday session convenes at 7 a.m., a time I usually reserve for dreams about Feminist Ryan Gosling.)

But the afternoon time isn’t the only reason I signed up for boot camp.

Some of you know that I’m a firm believer in daily exercise, and when possible, I try to exercise more than once a day—something I discuss at length in the healthy living section of this blog—but one aspect of exercise I’ve been really lousy about lately is varying my exercise routine.

Like most people, I’ve fallen into the bad habit of doing the same thing day after day after day. For me, that’s walking. I walk 50-60 minutes every day with my husband, almost without fail. But for the past six months, I’ve been really bad about doing only that and nothing else.

I’m supposed to be doing all of the other things I love—biking, swimming laps, canoeing and kayaking, playing tennis or basketball, strength training, attending aerobics classes, etc.—and for most of my life, I have. But somehow that’s all stopped over the past six months, which is why I signed up for boot camp.

Still, at the same time, some part of me thought, Oh, what’s the big deal? I work out every day. How much good will this really do?

It was a thought that didn’t last long.

Because my first boot camp session started at 5:30 this past Tuesday, and at exactly 5:35—with my pulse racing and my muscles screaming—I suddenly got it: my workouts have become too routine and not nearly rigorous enough.

In short, I’ve become complacent.

And as soon as 6:15 rolled around and us boot campers high-fived each other for making it through our first workout, I realized I already felt more healthy and alive than I’ve felt in months.

So as long as I don’t get injured (fingers and pinky toes crossed), the era complacency is over.

Please Lord, help me gain those five pounds back

Losing weight always sounds great . . . until you lose it for the wrong reasons.

I’ve been feeling pretty lousy for a while—my stomach has been killing me for days, maybe weeks. Every day I wake up and think I’ll feel better, and every day I don’t.

As I’ve mentioned here before—in my “Everybody poops” post—I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and I’ve had it since I was seventeen years old (back when they used to call it a spastic colon, the absolute worst thing you could tell a high schooler she had since all of her friends would ridicule her about it when they found out). Since I’ve had it so long, I mostly know how to deal with it, how to avoid the trigger foods, and how to keep myself healthy—though I’ve learned over the past few days, not as well as I thought because, for some reason unknown to me, I’ve been struggling with severe abdominal pain again lately.

If you want to know what I feel like, ask the person closest to you to pummel you in the stomach for five minutes straight. How do you feel? Pretty lousy? Okay, you’ve just gotten started.

Now go all day only eating bland food like white bread or chicken breasts or peeled apples. When your husband eats a piece of cheese, stare at it lovingly a long time, take in its scent, but don’t eat it because it’s one of your trigger foods.

After that, be sure to take at least twelve trips to the bathroom for a total of at least three hours a day sitting on the toilet (might as well bring your computer since you’re going to be in there so long—luckily there’s an electrical outlet only a few feet away). While you’re there each of the twelve times, pass a lot of gas and poop at least four times a day.

Finally, don’t forget to swallow some gassy goldfish before you go to bed—you’ll want to feel them playing Marco Polo in your stomach all night.

There.

Now you know how I feel.

Of course, the upshot of having an incredibly upset stomach is that I can’t really eat very much food. And one of the side effects of that is that I’ve lost four or five pounds pretty quickly. This isn’t really a big surprise given that I gained four or five pounds right at the end of the past semester—which I wrote about in my “Falling down the rabbit hole” post—but since we live in a weight-obsessed society, a society where everyone notices when you gain or lose a few pounds and how much food you put on your plate or how many times you go back for seconds, it feels like a bigger deal than it is.

If I were a different person, I would write “Woohoo! I lost five pounds!” on my Facebook wall and wait for everyone to like my status and congratulate me. (Please don’t do that since it will only piss me off.)

But I am not that person, and to be honest, I would happily take back those five pounds if I could go back to feeling normal and not have to clutch my midsection all day long. I would obviously rather be happy and healthy (and fatter) than sad and sickly (and thinner) any day.

For now, though, getting better and feeling like a normal human being is not happening. So I guess I’ll just have to let out a little rebel yell—Woohoo!—and focus on the non-accomplishment of losing five pounds I would really rather have back.

Eat . . . Pray . . . Eat . . . Love . . . Eat

I’ve had a problem this week . . . I’ve been insatiable.

It’s a feeling that hits me about once a month, and when it does, I am overwhelmed by my desire for food. Over the past few years, I’ve become one of those people who gets full pretty quickly (even though I was never like that when I was younger), but when a bout of what I call “The Insatiables” hits, I can never seem to feel satisfied, not to mention full.

The result is that it feels like I eat all day long and simply cannot stop eating.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not a binge eater. I don’t sit down and eat a whole pint of ice cream or a bag of chips. Or both. But during these monthly bouts of insatiability, I can slowly make my way through all of the food groups in one day. More than once.

This last round of insatiability started early on Monday and lasted through Tuesday night (thank God it’s finally over), and I spent the first half of the week trying to figure out why I could no longer control my eating.

Was I upset about something? Was I falling back on the old feeding-my-emotions trick?

Those questions didn’t lead me to an answer, but something else did . . . over the weekend (a time when I usually indulge), I had tried to make healthier choices. We ate light on Friday because we were going to the movies that night and didn’t want to miss any of the film for bathroom breaks, and when we went out to dinner on Saturday, I intentionally ordered the lowest calorie item on the menu.

I think that’s where things went off the rails because even after we finished dinner I still felt unsatisfied. Yes, I was full, but I wasn’t sated.

The next day we went out for drinks with friends, and the beer made me too bloated to eat a real meal that night. Translation: I still didn’t feel like I’d had much to eat that weekend.

Monday was when the sh*t hit the fan.

We were both struggling with our writing projects and, in order to cope, decided to indulge in some much needed comfort food: Skyline chili.

If you don’t know, Skyline chili is served over pasta. Yes, pasta. With cheese. A single entree doesn’t get much more decadent than that. Well, unless you add sour cream, which I have seen people do when they make it at home.

For some reason, every time I eat Skyline chili, I lose control of myself. It is so good that I feel I must go back for seconds and can’t wait until I go to sleep that night so I can eat the leftovers the next day.

So this is how Monday and Tuesday went—eat some Skyline, have some more Skyline, and have even more Skyline on top of that.

It was like I was in a chili-eating contest.

And I was winning.

As cliched as it sounds, it was an unmitigated disaster, facilitated by the fact that Dave and I usually make enough food for four people, so we can eat it for two days (and thus avoid cooking two days in a row).

Thank God we ran out of Skyline on Tuesday night because, I swear on my mother-in-law’s life, if there was Skyline in the house right now, I might not be able to stop myself from eating it.

So part of the problem was the Skyline.

But I believe the bigger problem was my meal on Saturday.

Dave and I try to eat out only once a week, and when we did that last weekend, I picked something that was healthy rather than indulgent, which is where I think I went wrong.

I always talk about how one of the reasons dieting doesn’t work is because whenever we are denied something we want, we end up wanting it even more. (Remember how appealing beer was before you were twenty-one?) But sometimes I forget that even small changes in your diet can leave you craving the things you’re trying to avoid.

That’s what I believe happened to me this week—instead of having a greasy pizza or a nice fat juicy cheeseburger during my one meal out on Saturday night, I had vegetables and shrimp in a curry sauce.

Sure, it was delicious, but it was also light.

I’ve known for years that we NEED to indulge ourselves sometimes, so it’s kind of embarrassing to admit that even I still make the mistake of denying myself that indulgence. I guess it makes me human if I have to remind myself not to take the healthy living thing too far sometimes.

The funny thing is that I know for sure that if I’d ordered the same meal last Saturday because I wanted it (rather than because it was healthy), I would have never had the problem I did after it was all over. I would have never had a raging case of The Insatiables.

As it turns out, my need to feel satisfied was simply psychological.

And now that I’ve figured that out, I just need to figure out what I can do the next time the psychological desire to eat chili for two days straight takes over every cell of my being.

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