Friday, November 21, 2014

Ten Nutrition Questions?

In my college years, I had a philosophy professor who gave a weekly assignment with the following instructions:
A.  Think of a topic (example:  Money)
B.  Type questions related to the topic.
C.  Typed questions must fill the entire 8-1/2" x 11" sheet of paper.

The philosophy instructor's purpose for the assignment was to make us use our brains and think.  I found his assignment very helpful.  By writing only questions and no answers to the topic in question, I was able to think of my own answers based solely on my opinions and beliefs.

Since this is a blog post and not a 8-1/2" x 11" sheet of paper, I am going to slightly adjust my philosophy professor's assignment by condensing to only ten questions:

Ten Nutrition Questions

  1. If large companies did not have the ability to advertise food/nutrition products, would we then have the ability to make healthy food/nutrition choices?
  2. Are we really products of our environment?
  3. Can we retrain our brains into believing fruits and vegetables are the perfect fuel for our bodies and begin to crave healthy foods rather than high-fat, high-sugar convenience foods?
  4. If we take accountability for our health, will we then have the ability to make healthier choices because we value our lives and health?
  5. Is it possible to change our perception to view eating fruits and vegetables as being pleasurable?
  6. Has going under the knife to cure heart disease, obesity, and diabetes become more acceptable than preventing these serious health conditions by simply changing our diet?
  7. Given the fact that diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure cost our country $120 billion every year, how would our country be effected if we all made small changes to improve our daily diet.
  8. How would the economy be effected if water was the primary beverage Americans consumed?
  9. What consequences would result if the American diet was plant-based rather than animal-based?
  10. If we view our own health as being valuable, do we then perceive ourselves as being more valuable in society?

The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next. -- Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How To Feel Good Naturally

Do you exercise or have the desire to exercise because you want to flatten that mid-section?  Or, do you want to have a tone or muscular physique?  Or, maybe you want to prevent heart disease and diabetes?  These reasons for exercise are fantastic and thumbs up to you for wanting to improve your body. 
While exercise is wonderful to improve our physical health, it can also improve our emotional health. 

Have you ever thought to exercise to enhance your mood? 

Exercise, or the planned, structured and repetitive physical activity not only improves physical health but also enhances emotional well-being.

And, the emotional benefits after you are done with your sweaty workout are instant, compared to the physical results that unfortunately take months to appreciate.

One mind-blowing benefit of exercise is reduced stress.  Exercise increases the feel-good, soothing brain chemicals dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine which helps decrease anxiety as well as depression. 

Exercise may be a way of toughening up the brain and therefore, stress has less of an impact.  Research also suggests that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants!

Another mind-blowing benefit of exercise is the euphoric feeling you get from performing at high-intensity intervals. 

Exercise can act like a drug and become addicting.  The term "runner's high" exists because of the "feel good" hormones (endorphins) that get released post workout.  In fact, according to one study "feel good" chemicals called cannabinoids are triggered after exercise and are similar to the substances that provide a high from marijuana. 

Exercise provides a sense of achievement.  According to an article published by the American Psychological Association, exercise may help someone who is depressed by providing a sense of accomplishment because he or she is taking part in meaningful activity. 

Studies have also found the natural energy boost you feel after exercise can result when engaging in as little as 20 minutes of low-to-moderate aerobic exercise, three days per week. 
Trust me, the last thing I want to do when I am feeling tired is to get up and go to the gym.  My initial thought is to grab a cup of java when I am tired.  However, I will remain tired if I remain sedentary. 
Many people skip the workout when they feel bad, but that is the exact time exercise will have the greatest payoff.  The best way to get your energy back is to literally get moving.  

We have known exercise to be positive for our physical and mental health for years yet only 26% of adults in the U.S. engage in vigorous physical activity at least three times per week, and 50% of individuals starting an exercise program drop out within the first six months.  Why?

There are many possible barriers and causes of individuals to drop out of exercise programs which may include the following:  lack of time, lack of motivation, lack of confidence, poor self image, unrealistic weight loss goals, not enough social support, poor self perception, unattainable time frames to achieve weight loss goals, self doubt, negative self-talk, too weak, poor health, worrying how others perceive their exercise, too tired, lack of energy, no exercise partner, fear of falling, self conscious about appearance, bad weather, lack of fitness facilities, etc.
As a result, it is time to...
Hack Your Brain's Hard-wiring
Our bodies and brains have evolved since the Caveman Era.  We have evolved from exercise (running from the big tiger to increase the odds of seeing the next meal) to conserving energy and resisting fat loss.  Today, our brains defend our bodies against moving too much. 
So, what is the solution?  We need to retrain the brain to perceive exercise as being essential to our survival again.  Exercise needs to be desirable and stimulating as if you are running for your life.
Overcoming barriers to exercise adherence can be challenging but possible and attainable nonetheless. 
The following tips may be helpful for individuals who want to start exercising as well as those who want to continue their exercise program:
  • Change your perception.  Prioritize what is important in your life and schedule exercise as part of your day.
  • If you start having negative feelings about exercise say the word "STOP!" in your mind and change your negative thoughts to positive ones such as "Focus!"  "I can do this!"  "It's time to go!"
  • Change up your exercise routines to avoid boredom.
  • Turn up the volume on your headphones while listening to that awesome beat.  Music tends to improve your mood during exercise.
  • Start slow and build up your endurance.  Doing too much too soon is not safe for you physically and effects you mentally as well.
  • Gradually build confidence by focusing on increasing the frequency, intensity, or duration of your exercises and track your progress. 
  • Focus on the progress of your exercise rather than the outcomes of exercise (beach body with 6-pack abs).
  • Grab an exercise partner.  People who workout together exercise longer and more intense than those that exercise solo.
  • Use imagery.  The human brain still has a hard time distinguishing between real and imagined threats.  Use this to your advantage!  Push yourself into more intense workouts as if you are running, swimming, rowing, or weight-lifting for your life.  By doing so, your brain will release reward chemicals.
These tips and tricks can be used for motivation to exercise.  It is also important to get the OK from a medical doctor prior to starting any exercise program.
In conclusion, moving + sweating = feeling good (naturally)
It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigor. – Marcus Tullius Cicero







Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Uppers and Downers With Health Benefits

When it comes to my morning cup of coffee and my evening glass of wine, I am a glass/mug "half-full" kinda girl.

Over the years, I have heard negative connotations associated with drinking coffee or wine because of the health problems that may arise if these beverages are consumed in excess.

However, there are many health benefits associated with drinking coffee and wine in moderation.  First, let's take a look at some of the amazing benefits of that morning pick-me-up called coffee.

                        Coffee Can Make You Happier
It is well known that caffeine indirectly increases the transmission of dopamine, the neurochemical that makes us happy.  Caffeine improves our mood, relieves depression, and makes us more relaxed, alert, and energetic.  According to a 2013 study supported by the National Institute of Health, individuals who consumed 4 cups of coffee per day were 10% less likely to develop depression compared to individuals who did not drink coffee.  Another study published by The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, states men and women who drank 2-4 cups of caffeinated coffee decreased their risk of suicide by 50% compared to those who did not touch the java.  The daily brew increases happiness, feelings of pleasure and makes you feel good.
Full study can be found  here.

          Coffee Is Loaded With Antioxidants

Your cup o' Joe, whether it be regular or decaf contains polyphenols, which are a source of potent antioxidant activity.  In fact, researchers are now finding that coffee out-ranks the amount of antioxidants that are found in fruits and vegetables!  Just remember, more is not necessarily better when it comes to the ingestion of caffeinated coffee.  Coffee is a fantastic source of antioxidants which help beat harmful effects of cell-damaging free radicals.  Excess consumption of caffeine can have harmful effects, however.  Therefore, experts suggest limiting caffeine to 300 mg per day.

                  Coffee Helps With Weight Control

According to a study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming 6 cups of coffee causes an increase in energy expenditure.  Coffee consumption may help individuals lose weight by increasing lipid metabolism, reducing body fat and increasing fat oxidation.  Caffeine may also assist with weight loss because it stimulates an increased rate of physical activity.  In fact, there is evidence that caffeine increases endurance and speed during exercise which in turn improves exercise performance for enhanced weight loss.  Full study can be found via the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

There are health benefits associated with the morning pick-me-up and there are health benefits associated with the de-stressing agent called wine .

The history of wine spans thousands of years and we can continue to enjoy the adult beverage today.

One serving of wine is 5 ounces.  If you are a healthy male or female, fill an average size wine glass with 5 ounces of wine, and stick to moderate consumption, (up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men) then you can enjoy a variety of health benefits from vino. 

Wine Protects The Heart

 Studies have shown that adults who drink light to moderate amounts of alcohol may be less likely to develop heart disease compared to non-drinkers or drinkers who abuse alcohol.  Moderate consumption of wine can reduce blood clotting, keep blood vessels flexible, and lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol.  It is not recommended to start drinking or to consume alcohol more regularly, however as there are much more effective ways to prevent heart disease such as diet and exercise.  But, if you are like me and enjoy kicking back with a glass of wine as a fabulous way to de-stress, then cheers to you!

                                          Wine Promotes Longevity

According to a study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, individuals who completely abstain from alcohol have a higher mortality rate than moderate drinkers who consume one to three drinks per day.  Over a 20-year period, 1,824 individuals were studied and 69% of abstainers died during the study period compared to 60% of heavy drinkers and 41% of moderate drinkers.  In addition, The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) also found that moderate drinkers (at the level of one to two drinks per day) have the greatest longevity.  Dr. Lorraine Gunzerath of NIAAA states there is a 1% increase in breast cancer associated with moderate drinking, but a 40% decrease in heart disease risk. 

                                         Wine Prevents Depression

According to a 2013 study published in BMC Medicine, moderate consumption of wine (two to seven glasses per week) may reduce the incidence of depression, while heavy consumption of wine leads to a higher risk for depression.  The study followed 5,505 men and women age 55-80 years old for up to seven years.  Participants did not have a history of depression or alcohol-related problems.  Results of the study concluded that individuals who consumed wine in moderation had a significantly lower risk for depression.  Click here to view the full research article.

                                          Final Word

It's important to remember that research has found health benefits to consuming alcohol in small amounts on a daily basis as opposed to binging a week's worth of alcohol over the weekend.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, "low-risk drinking is no more than 3 drinks on any single day and no more than 7 drinks per week for women.  For men, it is defined as no more than 4 drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week."

So, now that you have scientific evidence suggesting there are health benefits to consuming the cup of java and vino by the glass, I have one final word...ENJOY!

"Lord, give me coffee to change the things I can change and wine to accept the things I can't."  -Unknown