Saturday, September 29, 2007

1 Run 3, Week 1 (BOHR): Winning the Uphill Battle (Quite Literally!)


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This morning, around 10 am or so, I ran the third & final 30 minute run of the week. Thankfully, it was much cooler outside. In fact, it was a bit nippy in the shade, so I mostly stuck to running in the sun. It's amazing how much warmer it felt in the sun!

Also, I'm happy to report that I found an alternate running route that was still quite challenging but thankfully wasn't as impossibly difficult/advanced as my previous run (for my current fitness level). My run this morning started off on a long downhill slope, and then slowly climbed towards a gradual incline. This hill was challenging but manageable. Then, before the hill got too steep, about half-way through my run, I was scheduled to turn around & head back, which was a great relief. 8-) I turned around at just the right moment, right before the hill went from a gradual, gentle slope to a huge, steep incline. Then the next part was, of course, a gradual downhill. This gave me enough recovery time, before I was to hit the next hill. Doing hills like this really feels like another version of interval training!

Of course, the most challenging part was yet to come, as the biggest hill of them all was facing me on the final stretch home. I approached the hill like I'd approached the rest of my run -- just focusing on the next immediate stretch -- in order to keep going forward with conviction & determination (& sufficient positive mental energy!). I dug in & took it a step at a time, slowing my pace to accommodate for the sharp incline. (In other words, I did what I could manage without being completely out of breath!)

The good thing is that, in general, when I run, I have a pretty good sense of my energy reserves & my pace. So while I like a good challenge, I know what I can handle at the time, considering all the factors. I'm not a wimp, but I don't overdo it either. I know myself, & what I can handle.

Anyhow, the run went much better today, & was much better suited to my fitness level. I found the second day of running in Pittsburgh to be much more agreeable, as I now found a running course that I can live with in my current state of physical fitness.

Like the CT5K program, I'm proceeding gradually, challenging myself with hill workouts & other varied workout approaches. This way, things stay fresh & I avoid burnout & hopefully other potential problems as well, while still increasing in my fitness level.

Speaking of Pittsburgh & running, tomorrow is The Great Race, a very popular, annual local event, which has both a 5K & 10K road race. Tomorrow's also the last day of my gallery exhibition & trunk show, & ironically enough, the Great Race runners will be passing the gallery, as the race course will take them along Forbes Avenue. So I'll get to see the runners go by as I'm selling my jewelry. Who knows, maybe next year, I'll come back to Pittsburgh to run this race!

-C

Thursday, September 27, 2007

5 Nutrition Tip #4: How to Eat Healthfully & Feel Satisfied


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I'd like to address the psychological aspects of eating in terms of satiety & enjoyment, and offer some mental tactics that I use to reinforce healthful eating behaviors.

For starters, I think that for most of us, the act of eating transcends mere survival purposes. In the best moments, those of us who love cooking & eating healthy food eat for both pleasure and for nourishment.

Of course, there are many other reasons why people eat -- some of them good & some of them not so good. I'd like to talk about those moments when we need the most help staying on track, & how to not let the "food demons" get the best of us & offer tactics for sticking to our goals & good intentions.

When things aren't going so well, when the stress builds, &/or when counterproductive emotions & thoughts enter the picture, this is, of course, when we usually need to pay the most attention to our eating behaviors. And ironically, it's also the (low) point at which we often find ourselves resorting to unhealthy eating behaviors as a way to temporarily satisfy types of hunger which aren't always physical in nature.

So, how should we approach these "weak" moments? What are some useful coping mechanisms?

One thing I've learned over the years is that if you are craving that piece of chocolate cake (or whatever tasty treat is calling your name!), it's much better to go ahead & eat that piece of chocolate cake. If you deprive yourself, and then spend half the afternoon contemplating that piece of chocolate cake, the resulting actions are usually much worse. A human being is not meant to live in a prolonged state of restriction & deprivation. When we are feeling restricted or repressed, the natural tendency is to "rebel" and spring out like a tightly wound coil! We will ultimately "lose it" & "go bonkers," and this is especially true of our relationship with food! (Of course, this is why diets never work!)

How many of us have gorged ourselves on whole box of crackers as a poor substitute for the chocolate cake, or worse, after feeling the effects of our self-imposed deprivation, eaten the entire chocolate cake!?! Of course, it's would've been much better to have just eaten the piece of chocolate cake than to play head games with ourselves & succumb to even more intense cravings as a direct result of such deprivation.

We humans like to think about winning & gaining good things/ideas, & not about losing, lacking, & going without. And the way to health is to get our heads in gear & to concentrate on the good things we gain through balanced, healthy eating & yes, also the occasional piece of chocolate cake. ;-)

This philosophy is not just about food & eating. It's about balance.

For many of us, this can be a particularly hard lesson to learn. For those who have never known balance before as a regular part of their lives, let alone in their eating behaviors, this lesson can be an exceptionally hard struggle. We are often not only struggling with ourselves, but with the perceptions, judgments, & expectations of others.

If you come from a family that sometimes doesn't (or didn't) always have the most balanced or healthy outlook on eating, these often deeply-ingrained influences can often take years of undoing to achieve a personal sense of balance. It's not easy to deal with family members who are vocal in their expressions of their disapproval, especially when these sentiments are unsolicited, & often tinged with fear & harsh judgment. In order to reset your mental outlook so that it doesn't mimic what you learned at home, you must essentially rewrite your own "script" of acceptable behaviors for yourself, based upon your own standards.

Some people might feel a tremendous sense of guilt or fear the repercussions of family &/or societal disapproval/judgment if they were to eat the chocolate cake (or other "guilty pleasure" food item) in front of their family members, friends, or other people with whom they interact.

These feelings may or may not be rooted in reality, as it's not uncommon for people to perceive "knowledge" of other people's thoughts without actually asking to verify whether or not these perceptions are, in fact, true.

Regardless, dwelling on these thoughts can frequently lead to unhealthy closeted eating behaviors, or other dysfunctional manifestations.

Either way, the thoughts & feelings have to have somewhere to go, so it's better to learn how to overcome the disapproval of others (without feeling the need to say a big "F-You!", which only builds up anger & resentment & comes back to hurt you in the end), & just eat that piece of chocolate cake.

Not that I have any personal experience in this area or anything. ;-)

Here's a singular personal example of such an experience, which shows what I did to overcome such disapproval:

I'll never forget the time that I wanted to order hash browns at Perkins while I was with my family. (Let me add that this was fairly recent history, perhaps about a year or two ago.) I had to endure a half-hour tirade on why I shouldn't eat the hash browns, courtesy of my mother, father, & sister.

Of course, for many individuals, this might make them even more determined to eat the hash browns as an "F-You" gesture. But of course by choosing "up" when someone says "down" is not really a choice either. It's a knee-jerk reaction. But this was not how I approached the situation.

I'm not denying that I wanted those hash browns. I did. Damn it, I wanted those hash browns & nothing was going to deter me from enjoying them in good conscience.

The thing that made all the difference is that I made a conscious choice for myself & my own enjoyment, & didn't let anyone's opinion of my actions sway me one way or the other.

Of course, I had to endure an entire barrage of comments before, during, & after I ate them, but the significant improvement was that, not only did I make the conscious choice to eat them, but I ate them right in front of my disapproving family.

Now I'm sure my family won't see this as an improvement, but frankly, I don't care.

It doesn't matter to me if my family jumps to conclusions & starts thinking that "surely I must eat this way all the time" as it was their only sole experience witnessing me eat like this at a breakfast establishment in a long, long while.

And I don't care if they tell me that my arteries will clog if I eat a single serving of hash browns, etc.

I don't care to hear any of their dissuading arguments, because frankly, these types of thoughts are primarily rooted in fear versus logic. Also, while they might be coming from a place in which they profess to have my best interests are heart, I'm not about to allow anyone (regardless of their relation to me) to assert that kind of control over my life. When it comes to my well-being & eating habits, I'm in the driver's seat.

Just because I decide to eat hash browns once in a restaurant & my family (or anyone else) happens to witness such a "crime" doesn't mean I eat them all the time. A person's life isn't the sum equivalent of what another sees in a single instance. A person's life does exist outside of this narrow window! ;-)

Also, you don't die of arterial sclerosis by eating one portion of hash browns less than once or twice a year! ;-)

Again, moderation & balance are the keys to maintaining a healthy nutritional plan, a healthy weight, & an overall healthy mental outlook. Eating treats once in a while is a normal, healthy thing to do, & the "what," where" & "when" of it certainly isn't going to be dictated or determined by someone other than myself, thank you very much!

The larger point I'm trying to make is that it's better to satisfy the occasional craving than to go batty from deprivation & eat the whole bin of fries as "payback" or to satisfy the craving that by this point has gone so completely out of whack that the only thing that can save you from going off the deep end are restraints & a little white mental patient outfit. ;-)

I'm not expecting my family to agree with me any time in the next millennium, but if you are struggling with any of these similar issues, I want you to know that yes, it is possible to endure disapproval & live through it! Call it strength of character, spine, backbone, courage, or whatever you like, but it's something that I'm very proud I can do.

It also helps to have a supportive life-mate. I feel very lucky to have a partner/fiancé who feels the same way I do about these sorts of issues, with regard to balance & moderation. He came from a more "normal" family than me in this regard, and it's often reassuring to see moderation at work in the way he chooses to lead his life. Although I've probably never told him this before to his face, the way in which he exemplifies these behaviors serves as excellent reinforcement, and makes me feel less like I'm battling an entire opposing army all by myself.

Of course I love & value my family, and I'm not suggesting that it's always like this with them. They have their moments -- good & bad -- like anyone else. In fact, strangely enough, as I get thinner & thus closer to approaching my goal weight, they seem to push more & more food my way & tell me not to get "too thin." Not quite sure what's exactly going on with this (perhaps these behaviors are sincere attempts to feed me as an expression of love, or a way of coping with the fear of having to face oneself & one's actions or lack thereof, or maybe a way of facing possible feelings of inadequacy via unrealistic/counterproductive comparisons, etc.?), but again, I'm not letting these behaviors influence me one way or the other. Frankly, I'll do as I please.

The important thing is that I know that I've found sound eating & exercise principles that work for me, as well as a realistic, obtainable goal weight, & have every confidence that I can achieve & maintain these standards & goals.

If my family & friends are inspired to go for a walk or work out, that's great, & I highly applaud their efforts! I would rather be an example via action than words alone.

It took me a long time to get to this point (i.e., to disregard/be OK with family disapproval), but I feel incredibly liberated. While I was never really was influenced by the actions of my peers -- whether these actions were positive or negative, I did find myself throughout the years (mostly during my late teens & early twenties) struggling to overcome some of the less healthy effects of certain familial influences.

Let me make it clear that I take full responsibility for my actions & am not blaming them for anything that I currently do; I only contest actions & comments of theirs which I see as counterproductive in my quest for health & fitness. For the most part, they are supportive of my efforts. Likewise, I try my best to be supportive of their positive strides towards better nutrition/fitness/health. I make a pointed, conscious attempt not to lecture them or tell them what to do with regard to their eating &/or health, as I know I certainly do not appreciate unsolicited advice or opinions!

Of course part of the process of becoming an adult is allowing yourself to establish your own domain & personality, while redefining your relationship with your family. Now, while I'm well past the stages of early adulthood, I still think a lot about the ever-evolving relationship I have with my family. And of course an aspect of this relationship includes the way in which my family & I interact on the often weighty subject of food.

For me it's mostly an issue of maintaining the proper boundary lines between myself & my own identity & their own identities, as well as our (food) likes & dislikes. There are some general areas in which we share lots of common ground & often similarities of opinion, but I am ultimately my own independent, thinking & feeling person. While I think it's important to consider the welfare/good of others, I will not be passive-aggressively manipulated or guilted into doing something (or not doing something!) that I don't agree with at all. ;-)

There are some people who might not have any issues at all (when it comes to family & food), & might not be able to relate to what I'm saying, but I venture that most people will understand what I'm talking about. For those of you who have no clue, I recommend you rent movies like What's Cooking?, Real Women Have Curves, Tortilla Soup, or Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. ;-)

The relationship between family/culture/personal identity and food are inextricably intertwined, & it's something to which most humans can relate.

If it's not already patently obvious, I'm not one of those overly sentimental or euphemistic sorts who simply brushes the not-so-nice bits -- about myself, my family, my friends, & the world at large -- under the carpet. I am a person who faces facts, whether they are cold & hard or warm & mushy. ;-) Now of course, it's my prerogative to face those facts in my own time and choosing. And I certainly don't wish to give or receive unsolicited "fact-facing," especially when it's not given from a place or concern or kindness. Nonetheless, I usually don't like to delude myself.

While escapism via entertainment (reading, movie-watching, etc.) can be a healthy diversion, I like to occasionally "check" myself to make sure it's not turning into a form of procrastination or outright avoidance! ;-)

This brings me to my second piece of advice about healthy & balanced eating, or rather the psychology behind healthy & balanced eating! Not surprisingly, this next tip is about the importance of self-awareness & honesty in assessing your current eating behaviors.

I recommend that anytime you are struggling with the issue of "to eat or not to eat" something, ask yourself the following simple-but-straightforward question: "Why do I want to eat this?"

If your answer is truly & honestly related to your hunger or the taste of the food item, then I would stop struggling & eat the thing you're craving in moderation. Get it out of your system so you can clear your head & focus on the bigger picture, namely the realization of your health & fitness goals. For more tips, see my post entitled Nutrition Tip #2: The Secrets to a Balanced Approach to Eating, Or How to Deal with The Munchies!

If you are eating for another reason, then I would take a moment to consider that reason. (Are you eating to fill a void or avoid pain, confrontation/self-confrontation, or another uncomfortable emotion or thought?) If you stop & think about your larger goals, consider if what you are about to do is consistent with those goals. Again, read the above post for more tips. If you are eating out of psychological reasons that have nothing to do with hunger or the taste of food, then I'd recommend addressing the underlying reasons. Reach out for support from positive, helpful people, or if it's a particularly difficult issue you're trying to overcome, you might want to seek professional counsel.

The key to staying on target with your nutritional goals is knowing yourself & your behavioral tendencies, & then preparing specific strategies in advance to deal with your "weak" moments. If you are realistic & face your foibles squarely & without judgment, & also give yourself room for error, you are more likely to succeed.

As reinforcement, write it all down -- your issues, strategies, goals, etc.

Writing = visualization = success.

Mental energy should only be focused on moving forward. So be kind to yourself when you have a setback or don't meet your own expectations. Just course-correct & keep going forward.

And lastly, let go of old behaviors that don't serve you or your goals: Leave behind the guilt & any other unproductive feelings, so you can evolve into a smarter & more successful human being. If you can set your mind on a path to success & continually reaffirm your path, you are half-way there already!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

2 Run 2, Week 1 (BOHR): Hills, Hills, & More Hills!


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Today I ran around 2:30 pm. It was a muggy 82 degrees. The run was my usual 30-minute run, albeit a very sluggish, difficult run through an exceptionally hilly neighborhood in Pittsburgh.

In a word, the hills kicked my ass. It was the first time in a long time that I was so out of breath that I had to momentarily stop to catch my breath on two occasions. Although I've done hill workouts in the past, there's nothing quite like the experience of running up the hills of Pittsburgh. They are incredibly steep, & often feel like never-ending ascending mountains! (Although I've not yet had the experience of running the hills of San Francisco, I'm sure it's probably very similar!)

My pace was considerably slower today; the combination of the heat & the hills didn't help much to that effect. I felt like at any moment that I was going to melt into the pavement.

Anyhow, the run is over, & I'm very glad of it!

Monday, September 24, 2007

4 Run 1, Week 1 (BOHR): A Sad Goodbye & The Start of A New Running Program


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At noon on Sunday, my grandfather (that I've mentioned in previous posts on both this site & my foodie blog) passed away. It's been a very sad & stressful week, as I had to finish packing tonight for both tomorrow's funeral & for my gallery show later in the week, since I couldn't return home in the interim. (Both events are in PA.) Since the gallery show had been planned months in advance, I couldn't cancel, even though it's going to be a challenge to be charismatic & upbeat for the event.

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For the past few weeks, before my grandfather passed away, I'd say prayers for him during my runs. Since running is often a meditative experience for me anyhow, prayer seems like a natural companion to this quiet time of reflection. I'd often think to myself, "if I could be strong, & run well, that I would send this energy, hope, & strength to him, and maybe he could get better." While a part of me knew that these thoughts were completely irrational, I would nonetheless focus on sending these thoughts to him. I prayed for him to get better, & for his lungs to clear & his body to grow stronger, but unfortunately he lost his struggle and succumbed to his illnesses.

He was a remarkable human being, for everything he was & everything he did. Even in the hardest & most difficult moments of his illness, while he struggling to recover from his stroke, he had tried so hard to be strong & give his all during his physical therapy sessions; it was truly inspiring to witness his will to live. He kept trying to get out of bed, wanting to get up & walk. To lift his spirits, we took him outside in a wheelchair several times, so he could experience the beauty of the outdoors & the fresh air. For a while he rallied & even made a few steps with a walker. This really exemplified the essence of his character. His spirit was indomitable, & it gave us hope that he would return to his former state. We hoped against hope that his determination would buoy his strength & help in his recovery.

For several months prior to his passing, I tried to keep his spirits up by sharing my latest running endeavors with him, and by talking about his involvement with running & sports. Since he was a track star when he was younger (i.e., in high school, college, & beyond), he loved to watch any sort of track meet (i.e., high school, college, olympic, etc.) on TV, and always perked up when someone started talking about running or sports. On one of my hospital visits to see him, I told him that I was planning to run a marathon (i.e., my first marathon). His eyes lit up with excitement & pride, & he told me, "You should definitely do that."

So, I'd like to think that when it comes time to step onto the road for my first marathon, that he will be there alongside me in spirit. I would like to run my first marathon in his honor.

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Squeezed in a 30 minute run tonight around 9:45 pm after hurriedly packing the car & my clothes. Around 9 pm it was still around 78 degrees, so it was probably between 70-75 degrees or so when I did my run.

The run went well; I feel like I'm getting stronger & faster, as I covered more distance in the same period of time. At moments, I did feel sad, but tried in earnest to focus on the good memories & remember my relative in better days. I kept thinking about being strong & running well for him, as that's what he surely would want me to do.

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Today was the first day of my new program, Becoming a One Hour Runner (BOHR) by Kathrine Switzer. Since I'm already at the point where I'm running 30 solid minutes, I skipped ahead to the part where you do 30-minute runs for 3 weeks straight.

Here's the outline of the plan:

Weeks 1 - 3: Run 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week. Weekly total: 90 minutes.
Week 4: Run 30 minutes, 29 minutes, 35 minutes. Weekly total: 94 minutes
Week 5: Run 30 minutes, 32 minutes, 38 minutes Weekly total: 100 minutes Week 6: Run 30 minutes, 33 minutes, 41 minutes Weekly total: 104 minutes
Week 7: Run 30 minutes, 34 minutes, 45 minutes Weekly total: 109 minutes Week 8: Run 30 minutes, 36 minutes , 49 minute Weekly total: 115 minutes
Week 9: Run 30 minutes, 38 minutes, 54 minutes Weekly total: 122 minutes
Week 10: Run 30 minutes, 40 minutes, 60 minutes Weekly total: 130 minutes

Well, even though it'll be a challenge with everything that's going on this week & the fact that I'll be on the road travelling a lot, I plan to squeeze in the remaining 2 runs for the week, while I'm in Pittsburgh. Right now, I'm planning to run on Wednesday & possibly on either Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, depending on how long it takes to setup/tear down for the gallery show. If I can run earlier in the morning, Saturday might be the best time to squeak in my final run of the week, as the show set up will already be done & all I'll hopefully have to do is get dressed & show up on this day. (The other days I'll be setting up & tearing down/packing up my display.)

OK, well keep running everyone & I'll probably check in later in the week. (Most likely, I'll have internet access while I'm in Pittsburgh, but there are no guarantees. ;-) )

Good night!

-C

Saturday, September 22, 2007

1 Run 3, Week 9 (CT5K): Not An End, But A Beginning!


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Ran my final run of the CT5K program (with Erik) at 2 pm today. It was a humid 86 degrees outside. It was a rather sluggish run as I'm not accustomed to running in the heat, but it was good nonetheless. I'd have preferred to have run my final run of the program with more gusto, but as Erik said after our run, "Any run is a good run." (By this, of course he meant that any time you finish a run, you are building greater fitness & well-being, & are actively working towards your goals.)

Looking ahead to next week: I'm in the process of choosing a new program for the upcoming week. Since I'll be simultaneously running with my friend on 2 out of 3 of my running days, I'm probably going to keep my independent workouts on Tuesday & Thursday to no more than 30 minutes, until my friend & I finish out the CT5K program. This way, I'll gradually work up to being an hour-long runner, even though there'll technically be breaks between the two runs.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

0 Run 1, Week 2 (CT5K) + Run 2, Week 9 (CT5K): A Nice Night For A Run


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The weather was excellent tonight for both runs: First I ran Day 1, Week 2 (CT5K) with my friend at 6:30 pm, & then at 9 pm, I ran Day 2, Week 9 (CT5K). It felt like 70ish degree weather even up until the end of my second run. (This time, I ran both runs in the same place, which took far less time & made it a lot easier! So looks like we're going to make a habit of doing this from now on.)

My friend did a great job today with the CT5K program; although she felt a bit tired today, she kept up the 90 second runs without stopping & was a real trouper. She makes a lot of jokes about her running progress, but I think that deep down, she feels good about the fact that she's running. We were both very harried today, so it was especially good that we ran!

For my second run, I definitely went faster than my previous Week 9 run (i.e., Day 1). I could tell because I covered more ground than I did when I finished Day 1 in the same 30-minute period. Also, since I wasn't quite where I wanted to end my run, I ended up running for about 2 additional minutes to get to my "end point." It felt good. I hadn't eaten a whole heck of a lot throughout the day (an apple & 2 cheesesticks - I know, a very bad thing to do but I assure you it wasn't intentional), but again, somehow I managed to have a lot of energy during my runs.

Speaking of appetites & eating, my appetite has been really weird/screwy lately. Yesterday, we went to see Thomas Dolby in concert & had a sit-down meal during the show. (I had a few small things to eat a few hours before the concert, & didn't get really, intensely hungry until about an hour before the show.) I had a fairly healthy dinner -- a delicious blackened salmon wrap (w/romaine lettuce, tomato, & jalepeño vinaigrette) & a pineapple juice for dinner. About 20 minutes after dinner, I was still famished & kept eyeing the alcoholic beverages (especially the cocktails & the brewpub's very own raspberry hefe weisen - that sounded particularly yummy) & thinking about desert (a slice of homemade peanut butter pie with chocolate sauce was beginning to sound particularly good), but thankfully the concert began, & the waiter didn't come around until the very end to clear up the table! My hunger thankfully subsided but I definitely was having one of those "weak" moments.

Also, most days I'm not very hungry several hours before & after my runs. I only get hungry in the wee hours of the night, which of course, is the absolute worst time to eat. Let me clarify this by saying that lately I've been going to be at 3 am & getting up at 11 am, which doesn't exactly help much. I'm still trying to turn around my schedule, back to something remotely normal. That better happen soon, because this weekend, with all of the activities we've got planned, I'll need to be conscious sometime before noon!

Have a good night!
-C

1 OMG, More Awards!!!!!


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YEA, YEA, YEA, YEA!!!!!! WHO-HOOOOOOOO!

Now I know Barby of Meh is just way too modest & doesn't want me to make a big deal of the award she recently gave me, but nonetheless, I'm going to jump up & down & get just as excited as I did when I got my very first award.

So there. ;-) My apologies to Barby for being such a spazz (& for taking so long to post this!)......

But I think it's very cool that she thinks enough of me & my blogs to nominate me for an award. Her blog, "meh" is totally hilarious; you'll definitely want to check it out if you don't already know about it! My sister, Missladybug of Ladybug & Co, was the one who originally introduced me to Barby's blog, so I must thank her as well! ;-)

So, here's the award:



...and the link back to Barby's original post.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

0 Weigh-In: Overcoming Setbacks & Heading In A Good Direction Again!


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Today, I'm happy to report that, after yesterday evening's run, I was able to reverse some of the yesterday morning's recent weight gain (of 1.9 lbs.) by 0.6 lbs in the downward direction. Yea! I love running! :-)

Of course, I love running anyhow, for the mere sake of the activity, but today I love it even more for keeping my weight in check. ;-)

I think the weight gain may've been due to a rather late & rather lazy dinner/snack of air-popped popcorn with a small drizzle of butter, which occurred the previous two evenings ago. Or it could be a gain in muscle mass. Hahahaha, yeah right. Even though muscle weighs more than fat, I doubt muscle builds that quickly! ;-) More likely, it was a combination of water-weight & my prior late dinner of a few nights ago. Anyhow, I'm just glad the running had such an immediate positive effect!

That's another amazing thing I'm noticing, i.e., the quick fitness/weight-loss returns I'm getting from running. I can't believe how much difference a single run can make from one day to the next! Literally, right before my eyes, I can see my leg muscles & glutes hardening, my waist & arms shrinking, and the numbers on the scale dropping, even over a one or two day period.

It's such a rush that even the small setbacks (like yesterday's weight gain) can't get me down or hold me back from continuing on to the next moment & the next run, when I know I'll see even more improvements! Yea!

After all, an overall positive trend/progression of fitness & weight-loss is the most important achievement in the long run.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

0 Run 3, Week 1 (CT5K) + Run 1, Week 9 (CT5K): Only Two More Runs to Go!


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Today I ran Day 3 , Week 1 of the CT5K, with my friend (& new running buddy! :-) ) around 6:20 pm or so. (We repeated a day, since her Saturday run was incomplete/cut short). The temperature was in the low to mid 60's. We had a good run & I think my friend is doing a great job!



Then later, I ran Run 1, Week 9 (CT5K), which was a 30-minute run, at around 9:15 pm or so. By that point, the tempature had dropped to 58 degrees. (Thankfully there was no breeze!)

Although I hadn't really eaten much throughout the day, I was still somehow feeling fairly energetic. I did slow down a bit with about 5-10 minutes left to the run. I wasn't really tired from the first run, but I think I was just tired from waiting a bit too long before I ran & from the duration of the actual run itself. But it still was a good run!

Yipee, I've only got two more runs to go & then I'm done with this program! Stay tuned for a look at post-CT5K running programs!

0 Exercise Psychology Tip #3: How To Deal With Weight Gain


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I weighed myself yesterday morning to find that I'd gained 1.9 lbs.! (Yes, I know I didn't post about it. I was reluctant to do so, as it's harder to post the "setbacks"! ;-) )

Later that evening, when I reported my findings to my running buddy during our run, she said that it might be muscle gain. Thank you, my running buddy, for saying that, as that was really a nice, supportive thing to say & exactly what I needed to hear at the moment!

Even though I didn't overeat yesterday & there weren't any other known "issues" going on that would affect my weight, I found myself immediately jumping to conclusions that it was a water or fat gain. (In my experience, such a quick gain is usually either due to water retention or overeating!)

So, I decided to follow my own advice from an earlier post, & checked my head & retooled my thinking! Maybe my friend was right, but still, it was an awful lot of weight gain in a short time-period! (Does anyone know how fast muscle takes to build & how quickly that can translate into weight-gain?)

So I hopped on the scale this morning to see if those numbers had gone down any. They had, but not by much. I went down by 0.6 lbs, but it was still an overall gain of 1.3 lbs.!

OK, I know I probably need to stay off the scale for a while, as I feel myself starting to obsess about it a bit. Definitely am weighing myself a bit too frequently to probably be mentally healthy! Guess I'm just eager to see positive changes, especially after my runs.

Well, there are so many activities planned for the next few days that I'll probably be too busy to weigh myself anyhow.

Note to self: Don't you dare weigh yourself until atleast the beginning of next week! ;-)

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So, how is this post helpful to you, you might be wondering?! Well, first, it's good to see that there are other humans who are going through the same (or similar) challenges that you might be going through as well.

Also, you'll notice how posting (or just keeping a running journal) helps to alert you to any changes in your mental state or behaviors, so you can catch yourself, like I just did, from going into a potentially counterproductive tail-spin. Then you can quickly formulate a plan of action to get you back on the right track. It's so important to note your mental self-talk & turn it around when it starts becoming counterproductive, so it doesn't become an obstacle to your progress.

And lastly, it's good to see how having supportive friends, ones who cheer you on &/or run with you, can help keep your mind in a positive place! Being running partners with a friend keeps both of you on track, mentally and physically. It's especially good to have a running partner during the first few weeks of your program, particularly in those moments when you feel that you need external reinforcement to keep going!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

0 Here's What's Next......


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As soon as I found out that I would be leaving suddenly this past Thursday afternoon for an unexpected trip back to my hometown, I contacted my running partner (who just started the CT5K running program), who said she'd continue the program on her own until I return to town.

Speaking of which, I just emailed her this evening to ask how her runs went. Hope they went well for her & that she feels good about her initial accomplishments. I know I'm certainly proud of her for getting out there & working out!

Well, I'm back in town now, so it looks like my friend & I will be running again this upcoming week.

Since I'll be running the first few weeks of the CT5K program with my friend while concurrently, finishing up the last portion of the same running program (i.e., Week 9) & then starting a new running program on my own, I've decided to double up my workouts on Tuesdays & Thursdays, (& then just run my solo runs once on Saturday or Sunday), so as not to put too much stress on the knees & other joints. The legs definitely need a day off of rest right now, so I figured this is the best way to get in both program weeks without overdoing it.

Thankfully, the overall running time of the first few weeks of the CT5K program is minimal, as compared to the 28-30 minute solo runs I'm doing. So, until my friend & I reach Day 3 of Week 5 (i.e., the first solid, 20 minutes of running), I'll continue to double up my workouts on Tuesdays & Thursdays. Then for Day 3 of Week 5 & the remaining weeks (6-9), I'll just add however many minutes I need to run to reach my daily overall running time goals. Sure, it'll be a bit choppy stopping & starting two different sets of runs, but atleast that way, I hopefully won't overdo it.

So, this upcoming week I'll (hopefully) be running Week 2 of the CT5K program with my friend & Week 9 on my own. Can't believe I'm almost done with this program!

I still have to peruse the Cool Running forums to check out other programs & figure out what I'm going to do next. For those of you who are CT5K veterans, now's your chance to crow about post-CT5K programs that you've found to be especially useful in your quest for increased fitness beyond the realm of CT5K! So feel free to recommend your favorite post-CT5K running program! I'd love to hear from you & would greatly appreciate any advice you can offer!

1 Some Words of Encouragement For CT5K/Running Newbies


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Hello there CT5K Newbies (& New Runners),

I'd like to give you some supportive words of encouragement!

First of all, pat yourself on the back for having the motivation to begin this program. What's important is, not how fast you're going or even how far you're going, but rather just the fact that you're getting out there & doing it! Every small step counts, no matter how much of a struggle it might seem to be in the first few stages! Every day you do this program, you'll feel a little bit stronger, a little bit more motivated, and a little bit more confident in your capability to complete your workouts.

Also, take heart & encouragement in knowing that it'll definitely get easier along the way!

Look for positive reinforcements (supportive people, useful ideas & behaviors, sound advice & reading materials, etc.) that'll spur you on & give you the necessary encouragement to keep going!

The best part is that once you start seeing & feeling the changes in your fitness level & your body's overall appearance, it'll be a big boost to not only your self-esteem & outlook, but a reinforcement to keep working out. Believe me, once your pants start getting too big or you get that runner's high & feel that extra burst of energy kick in during your runs, you'll want to keep going!

Take it from me, a person who's almost done with the program (with only one week left!): It is possible to successfully complete this program, & successfully get into shape without overdoing it or injuring yourself!

Look at all of the wonderful benefits you'll reap & all the exciting experiences & changes you've got to look forward to in the next few weeks!

Some people start seeing significant changes in as little as one to two weeks into the program!

And by choosing to make fitness (& thus yourself & your health) a priority in your life, you know that you'll feel so great about yourself & your accomplishments.

Not only have I lost over 10 lbs in 8 weeks from doing this program, but I have a completely different outlook as well. Exercise has once again become a regular part of life, and my priorities & health habits have changed in tandem with the former priority.

Before I end this post, I'd like to give you specific tips to help you pace yourself on your runs & also maintain good running form:

For the former, I recommend that you run at a comfortable pace. A good test to see whether you can handle your current pace (over a prolonged period of time) is to speak out loud while you're running.

Now, if you are running alone, and worry that people might think you've gone cuckoo, you might want to wait to try this until there's no one around on the trails. ;-) Of course, if you run with a running buddy or running group, this test will be a piece of cake, & probably much less socially awkward for you as well. ;-)

If you can comfortably carry on a conversation with your running buddy (without panting or being completely out of breath!), then you know you can handle your current pace. If your breathing is labored & you can't speak, then you obviously need to slow down!

To address the later issue of your running form, your arms should flow loosely at your side, and your hands should be relaxed (i.e., & not tight fists!). Your body should generally be as relaxed as possible, so that your running motion is effortless & natural. If you forget what "natural running" looks like, just watch small children & that you should give you a pretty good reminder.

Also, it's best not to be overly self-conscious about your form. While you need to pay attention to it, it should be more of a gentle mental notation than an overly studied effort. Too much pondering & obsessing about your form will ultimately be counterproductive.

Another helpful tip to visualize your form is to develop what I like to call a "running mantra." And no, this will not be a lesson on meditation or Buddhism. ;-) Rather, pick some words that have meaning to you & conjure up positive images that help you remember your running form & motion.

If it helps, you are welcome to use/borrow my running mantra, which is "long, strong, stretch, stride." I say it to myself at various moments during my runs, & find it to be reassuring & useful. I frequently use it when I'm getting tired & losing steam, & thus, especially need to refocus on my form, or when I'm at the final stretch & need some extra speed, or in any other instance in which I want to visualize my form or re-energize my runs.

To my running buddy (if you just so happen to be reading this post) & others who are just starting the CT5K program, I just want to say that I applaud you for your efforts & hope this post has helped you in some way!

Goodnight!
-C

0 Run 3, Week 8 (CT5K): Onto the Final Home Stretch


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I returned home yesterday (from my travels) at around 7:30 pm; I'd considered running immediately after I'd gotten in, but by that point it was rather cold outside & I was slightly tired from my trip. So I decided to postpone the run until today.

I went for a run in the park around 1 pm today. According to the weather report, it was supposedly around 75 degrees & sunny, but due to the wind, it felt a lot cooler. Frankly, I was freezing my @#$*!% off in my singlet & "bike" tights during the 5-minute warm-up walk. If I would've known, I would worn a jacket & longer workout pants. At any rate, it's clear that Fall weather, if not yet the official start of Fall, is now here. ;-)

The run went well, although I did tire slightly towards the last 5 minutes or so. I know I definitely slowed the pace for the last half of the run.

Speaking of which, I certainly got an eye-opener today regarding my running times. This time, for the first time in months, I ran with my fiancé, Erik, who wore a GPS during the run. He reported that, for the first mile, we ran an 11 minute pace, and then even (unmentionably!) slower paces for the remaining miles. Yikes!

And here I thought I'd been running 10-minute miles or even faster! Well, to be fair, the terrain I ran today is much hillier and is not my usual running trail. So, that could account for some of the difference. Also, before, I was running at night to beat the heat, and it could've just felt like I was running faster than I actually was. Now I still could've still clocked 10-minute miles during those earlier night runs, but who knows since I wasn't wearing any devices to track my time, distance, or route. Maybe I should just give in & start wearing a stopwatch or GPS. ;-)

The lesson here is that you can't really judge your pace by how fast you "think" you're going!


"Meep, meep!"

-C

0 Weigh-In: Another Quarter Pound Gone!


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I stepped on the scale this morning, only to find that I'd lost another quarter pound since I last weighed myself two days ago. This is excellent news & will definitely put some extra positive energy into my run today! YEA!

Every small victory counts.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

2 Wow, More Awards! Thank You, Yet Again!


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Geez, I don't know if I can handle being showered with all of these great awards! :-) You sure do know how to make a gal feel special. Thank you everybody!



Yes, I can't believe it myself, but I just got ANOTHER "Rockin' Girl Blogger" award, this time from Missladybug of Ladybug & Co, which brings the count of awards to four - two "Rockin' Girl Blogger" awards, one "Bodacious Blog" Award, and one "Totally Fabulous Blogger" Award! Wow, this is so COOL!

Thank you, Missladybug!!!!!!! I appreciate the wonderful mention on your blog, as well as the exciting, blogalicious comments you left on my blog.



For those of you who don't already know, Missladybug writes a witty (no, make that HILARIOUSLY FUNNY!) blog filled with all sorts of useful tips & advice. You will probably fall off your chair from laughing so hard!

As she's a doctor, writer, musician, gourmet chef, & just all-around talented renaissance woman, she's got a lot of good solid advice to give on multiple subjects. So head on over to her blog for a fun time & some excellent advice!

Friday, September 14, 2007

0 Wow, Thank You, Christy & Ann!


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video
This is me doing the "Happy Penguin Dance"!!!!

Whoo-hooooo! This is just too cool for words. I've won a Fabulous Blogger award from my blogger pals, Ann Clemmons of A Nice Place in the Sun (& two other great blogs) & Christy Zutautas of Totally Fabulous.

I would just like to say a huge thank you to Ann & Christy for my Fabulous Blogger award. Ann & Christy are not only talented writers & bloggers extraordinaire, but also very kind & thoughtful souls.



I will proudly post my award on this blog's sidebar for all to see, with a link back to Ann & Christy! (Click here & here to visit Christy's blogs & to read more about her. Click here to see a listing of all Ann's blogs & to find out more information about her.) So please check out their excellent blogs!

2 Weigh-In: Some Good News!


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I have some good news on two counts: First, my grandfather seems to be doing a bit better today, which is somewhat of a relief.

The second piece of good news is related to my fitness/weight-loss goals: I hopped on the scale this morning & got some good news: I lost another 2.45 pounds since I last weighed myself (on 9/5/07). So that's 2.45 pounds lost in 9 days. Not bad. I think the extra few minutes I ran last night might've helped a tiny bit. Who knows. (I ran a total of about 35 minutes last night instead of the alloted 28 minutes I was supposed to run this week.)



Also, I went below my first zero marker on the scale. That means I've now lost of total of 10.25 pounds total since I first started the CT5K program. YEA!

I've now got 15 pounds left to go. At the rate I'm going (1.28 lbs per week), I could potentially lose the rest of the weight & then some (i.e., a potential, additional loss of 16.47 lbs.) in the next 3 months. Of course, as I'm writing this & saying it out loud, I can hear my mother saying that I might reach a plateau at some point, but I'm not going to let that change my determination.

My attitude is that I'll deal with that issue if & when I come across it. But for right now, I'm just very pleased to have accomplished not only a 10.25 lb. weight loss, but also major improvements in my overall fitness & sense of well-being. So there!

Of course, emotions are a day-to-day kind of thing. And lately, to be honest, it's been a lot of mixed "happy-sad" type of feelings for obvious reasons. (If you have no clue what I'm talking about, you can read my earlier post to see the reasons why.)

Even though I was feeling rather sad & noncommunicative yesterday (as evidenced in my last post), which is natural, given the current circumstances (i.e., the state of my grandfather), I'm generally trying to stay positive. I'm doing this not just for my own benefit, but also for the sake of my grandfather & my family.

Now I'm not talking about being some fake, chipper person like bounces up & down like some hyperactive cheerleader, but rather, being a quiet force of calm & good thoughts.

Got to go now. So have a nice evening!
-C

1 Run 2, Week 8 (CT5K): Back in My Hometown Again


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Well, I wish I could say that I back in my hometown for joyous reasons, but unfortunately that isn't the case.

Those of you who have been regularly following my foodie blog might remember that I mentioned I'd been home on several prior occasions to help care for my grandfather & will probably already get a sense of where I'm going with this....

Anyhow, as I was saying, I came into town again because my grandfather is not doing well at all, & we're not sure how much time he has left. As I'm a very private person, I'm not going to go into the details, but suffice to say that I drove in tonight with a lot of my mind.

I left my place around 4:30 pm today (i.e., Thursday), arriving in my hometown at around 7:15 pm. Of course I went straight to the hospital. A while later, my family & I went around the corner to catch a quick bite to eat, & then I headed out for a run around 10 pm. (I didn't get the chance to go earlier, as I'd hastily thrown some things into a suitcase & raced out the door.)

Frankly, I don't really feel like talking about tonight's run (except to say that I really needed it & it went well). It seems somewhat trivial in comparison to the other things going on in our family right now.

After the run, I went straight back to the hospital & stayed there a while. It was fairly late when we got back, so I'm going to wrap up this post & go to sleep.

I just want to say thank you to everyone who's recently posted comments on my blogs. Under the current circumstances, I don't know when I'll get around to responding to these comments, but I just wanted to let you all know how much I appreciate your comments, as well as the time & effort you took in posting them.

Please know that I'm planning on properly thanking the two awesome blogger pals who recently honored with blog/blogger awards. When I get the chance, I promise that I will definitely write a big thank-you post & leave comments on your blogs. I'm very grateful & honored by your awards. Thank you so very much!

Have a good night!
-C

Thursday, September 13, 2007

2 Nutrition Tip #3: Eat Anti-inflammatory Foods For Good Health


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As the third installation in the series of nutrition topics, this post will again give you many practical tips on how to achieve better health through nutrition.

As promised, I will now discuss the specifics behind maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet.

As I mentioned earlier (in previous posts), regular exercise & the incorporation of anti-inflammatory foods into your daily diet are just some of the many important ways you can significantly reverse/reduce the amount of existing inflammation already in your body, &/or prevent major inflammation in your body altogether.

So, let's right down to it: The two biggest questions on most people's minds with regard to anti-inflammatory foods are probably these: What types of foods are anti-inflammatory? And, how do I incorporate them into my nutritional plan?!

First I will talk about the Omega complex (3-6-9) foods:

First, let me start with Omega-3's. Omega-3 foods are anti-inflammatory. You'll want to get about a gram a day of Omega-3's. (To read about the specific benefits of Omega-3's, please read this article.)

The absolute best source of Omega-3's is ground flaxseeds or flaxseed oil. One teaspoon of flaxseed oil or one tablespoon of ground flaxseed will give you sufficient Omega-3's.

In order to get the full benefit of flaxseed nutrients, I recommend using a spicegrinder to grind the flaxseeds (which is MUCH easier than using a mortar & pestle!), since they must be ground in order for the body to absorb their Omega-3's. Once ground, flaxseed must be stored in the refrigerator or freezer, since their shells have been removed & are no longer protected from oxidation.

Please note that since Omega-3's are damaged by both heat & oxidation, Omega-3 oils & ground seeds should NOT be used for cooking & should be stored in dark containers in the refrigerator or freezer. (When I do incorporate ground flaxseeds or flaxseed oil into my cooking, I will usually only add the oil/ground seeds at the final stages, sprinkling it/them over a dish after it's been removed from the stove or oven & has cooled considerably. Flaxseeds have a subtle nutty taste & in my opinion, taste pretty good. They are especially tasty on breakfast cereal, sandwiches, & anything that could use a nut-like flavor enhancement.)

Other Good sources of 3's: Ground or whole linseed, linseed oils, walnut oil, wheatgerm oil, leafy green vegetables (like lettuce, broccoli, spinach, kale, purslane, etc.), legumes (like citrus fruits, melons, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, kidney, navy, pinto, & lima beans, peas & split peas, etc.), & of course, SALMON (as everyone already knows by now, unless you've been living under a rock!).

In particular, Alaskan wild salmon is an excellent source of Omega-3's & is also recommended as one of the safer types of salmon to eat. (Mercury & other toxins found in fish can really put a dent in anyone's day, to say the least.) See this link for a list of fish that are both safe to eat, contain omega-3 fatty acids, & are healthy for the oceans as well.

There are also some other fish oils (besides those contained in salmon), which are particularly rich in Omega-3's, but since I personally don't want to drink something as vile as krill or codliver oil to get my Omega-3's (unless I can take it in pill format!), I think I'll be just fine with sticking with the formerly mentioned options. And don't those options just seem heavenly in comparison?! ;-)

(NOTE: Now some of you might be thinking that I forgot to mention other oils like Canola/rapeseed oil & soybean oil, which also contain Omega-3's. However, I'd highly advise you to avoid them for reasons I'll explain below, in just a minute. So please be patient & keep reading.)

And now for the Omega-6's: Good sources of Omega-6's are green leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, & vegetables. Also, walnuts, brazil nuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, pine nuts, & sunflower seeds are excellent sources.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Although it's important to have Omega-6's in your diet, be careful, because having too many can be pro-inflammatory. Generally, you should have more Omega-3's than 6's, since 3's are anti-inflammatory. It's all about balance & ratios.

And lastly, here are some good sources of Omega 9's: olives, olive oil (i.e., unrefined, expeller/machine cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil is best), nuts & nut butters, seeds, & avocados. Your body also naturally produces Omega 9's.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Also, again be careful not to overdo Omega-9's in your diet either, as the majority of fatty acids in your diet should come from Omega-3's.

And now, for the explanation of oils to avoid: While many oils DO contain Omega essential fatty acids, there are many that I'd strongly advise that you reduce their intake or avoid them altogether. In particular, this list includes: corn, safflower, soybean, cottonseed, sesame, sunflower, canola/rapeseed, & vegetable oils.

Simply put, not all oils have been created equally. Many of them are refined oils, & as a result, are not good for good (i.e., translation = they will increase inflammation!).

Additionally, any of the Omega complex oils which have been produced with the intent of preserving their shelf-life usually have inflammatory additives that reduce their overall nutritional value. Many of the oils commercially available in supermarkets are de-gummed, refined, bleached, & deodorized; they are often colorless, odorless, tasteless, but also "nutrition-less"!!!! They are commonly treated with chemical compounds like NaOH
(a corrosive base used to burn clogged sink & drain pipes!), H3O4 (a corrosive acid used commercially for degreasing windows), &/or bleaching clays to remove color molecules (which produce rancidity, that in turn imparts bad odors). They are also deodorized at frying temperatures (220-245 degrees Celsius). Also, many useful ingredients that have major health benefits-- like phytosterols, chlorophyll, & antioxidants -- are removed during the refinement process.

But enough lecturing about what's bad for you. Let's move beyond fear factors & talk about positive steps you can take to improve your anti-inflammatory status.

In addition to Omega complex foods, here are even more anti-inflammatory foods you can eat &/or incorporate into your cooking regimen: garlic, onions, turmeric, rosemary, ginger, & citrus.

It's equally important to reduce dietary sources of inflammation.

(1) So of course, that means you should reduce or eliminate pro-inflammatory foods. The list of pro-inflammatory foods includes animal/dairy fats found in butter, cheese, & meat, foods with hydrogenated oils like most coconut & palm oils, margarine varieties, chips, & fried foods, etc. On a related note, it's best to moderate animal protein intake (0-1 serving each day), & when you do eat red meat, make sure it's grass-fed beef (which is lower in pro-inflammatory substances than regular beef).

(2) Reduce your carcinogen/toxin exposure (& thus your inflammation) by limiting mercury intake (i.e., predatory fish like swordfish, shark, tilefish, king mackerel have higher mercury content), purchasing organic whenever possible, & eliminating any likely food allergens (dairy, wheat, eggs, nuts, etc.).

So what else can I do to increase my intake of anti-inflammatory foods?
(1) Eat more vegetable protein (beans, nuts, seeds, soy -- tofu/tempeh, whole grains, etc.).
(2) Eat fish (preferably 1-3 times a week).
(3) Eat N-3 enriched eggs & egg whites.

(Please note: Simultaneously eating anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory foods, even if you are exercising, is counterproductive.)


And lastly, here are some behavioral modifications that'll have an enormous anti-inflammatory effect on your body:
(1) Get 8 hours of sleep.
(2) Maintain a healthy weight.
(3) Get out there & move your bod!

Well, that about wraps it up for now. I'm probably going to take a break from writing about nutrition for a while, since I really overdid it these last few days. My mind is wandering back to running, so I'm off to follow where that leads. ;-)

Have a good night!
-C

1 Nutrition Tip #2: The Secrets to a Balanced Approach to Eating, Or How to Deal with The Munchies!


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In my last post, I promised that I'd delve into coping strategies for staying on track in your eating plan. So now I'm going to expand on that topic. (See, I try my best to keep my promises!)

So, as I mentioned in my earlier post, it's important to develop realistic, measurable guidelines & coping strategies that allow you to successfully work through your weak moments. This way, you can have a plan of action that builds on your successes, while still satisfying the occasional food or beverage craving. (See my next post for more specifics on this.)

So what are some of the ways to do this?

(1) Preplan your meals. By this, I don't mean that you need to suddenly become a five-star chef at Canyon Ranch or Miraval, & cook all of your meals yourself, or pre-plan your meal plans ten-weeks in advance. Rather, I'm talking about planning what you intend to eat that day, the next couple of days, or that week. This is a more realistic approach.

While we're on the subject of cooking, I know there are going to be days when you don't feel like cooking, or don't even feel like slapping a meal together (low-fat cheesesticks & apples for dinner, anyone? ;-) ), but you can still eat healthy foods that don't take a lot of preparation or cooking time. In fact, whole foods (like veggies, etc.) are often healthier for you raw, & also even easier to prepare when they are simply sliced in two. If you are unexcited by the prospect of eating a plate of raw veggies as part of your dinner, or plain fruit for dessert, let me remind you that if you're planning on eating your meals at home, that you'll either have to step into the kitchen, shop in the supermarket, or get take-out or delivery, to find a more interesting & yet-still-healthy alternative preparation. It's usually going to be a tradeoff between your time & your tastebuds. (But hopefully not your health!)

Anyhow, back to what I was saying about preplanning meals: It's a good idea to preplan , & not wait until you get satiety signals before you stop eating. (Of course, it can often take up to 20 minutes or so for satiety signals to reach the brain.)

Also, it's a good idea to preplan what specific appetizers, desserts, etc., you're going to eat. If you are at a restaurant, you'll particularly need this strategy. This is particularly true of buffet-style eating, but you can still make it work, if you scope out the buffet area & make reasonable provisions.

(2) If you are planning to eat a sugary, fatty, or highly-caloric "treat," make provisions in your nutritional plan to accomodate. By this, I mean it's a good idea to specifically preplan what you don't eat after eating a "treat" like this.

For example, if I'm at a Mexican restaurant & decide that I'm going to eat the chips & salsa they bring out before the meal, then I'll make the decision to scale back my intake of other like carbs in my meal. Perhaps I'll choose the chicken fajitas & not eat the fajita bread, etc.

All & all, it's a matter of making minor adjustments & food exchanges. That way, you'll feel satisfied but also stay on track.

(3) Set reasonable, specific, measurable food guidelines for yourself to stay on track with your nutritional plan & weight management. (Sounds a lot like strategies used for general goal setting, eh?!)

The reason I recommend setting guidelines is to help you self-monitor your known nutrition "problem areas." Most people I know have a tendency to repeat "food abuse" patterns, particularly when it comes to certain less-than-healthy "comfort foods" & beverages. So, if you are aware of your weaknesses, it only makes sense to set up guidelines to help you manage them in a healthy & moderate way. That way, you don't entirely go without, and avoid the BOING-BOING-like explosion that results from denying & repressing yourself into a tightly-coiled metal spring of a human being for far too long. And we surely wouldn't want THAT to happen!

The general thinking is this: If you establish guidelines for various "problem" food types, you are less likely to abuse them.

Translation: Set a "food guideline" which allows you to negotiate a "deal" with yourself.

For example, I will allow myself a specific, measurable amount of sweets on a weekend day, but then I return to eating healthy during the week, so I break the craving. (I've seen some people follow the same guideline for their alcohol intake as well.)

Another tactic I use is more specific, & pertains to ice cream: I allow myself no more than one scoop every 3-4 weeks; and if I'm having ice cream at home, I make sure that my 1 scoop of Breyer's low-fat ice cream doesn't not exceed the height of the rim of the bowl. (I use a medium-sized Corelle cereal bowl.) This ensures that I allot a reasonable portion size, but still satisfy my craving, as not to go batty & wreck my entire nutritional plan! ;-)

Also, here's yet another good, specific "coping mechanism" that might work for you: if you can't remember the last time you had Food Treat "A" or Beverage Treat "B", then you might want to allow yourselves these items on a periodic basis. For example: I can have chocolate in "X" quantity, and "X" number of times. This way, if you put boundaries around your temptations, it puts them in a more reasonable light. After all, who in their right mind likes to think of things is terms of what we can't have! If we CAN have treats, then that temptation doesn't seem so bad after all......

(4) Be gentle with yourself & stay focused on your health & nutritional priorities. It's so very important to keep reminding yourself of why you are exercising & eating healthfully. And all the while you are reinforcing this principle, it's important to maintain perspective & be gentle with yourself.

I don't beat myself up if I'm not perfectly following my nutrition or exercise plan. I just hop right back into the saddle & keep heading for the horizon. The point is to stay focused on your most essential goals, & regardless of setbacks you might face, to stay on the path towards those goals.

(5) Determine in your mind what you want for yourself & visualize a picture of it for yourself. This of course speaks to you to the idea of visualizing your overall health goals to strength your resolve, thus your overall likelihood of success.

This isn't new, but studies show that it still works wonders. So ladies, if you like, please go ahead & visualize yourself fitting into that cute pair of jeans you've been eyeing on the shelves of your favorite store, or that itty, bitty, yellow-polka dot bikini. 8-) Fellows, picture yourselves all buff & defined, while wearing your favorite running jersey or whatever inspires you to fitness & health.

On a personal note, I do find that lately, since I'm so focused on what I want -- reduced body fat, lean muscle mass, & health -- that's it's become rather easy to say "no" to temptation. What's really happening here is that I'm saying "yes" to myself & my goals, & "no" to what I don't want (i.e., fat & low-energy!).

It's like a little light bulb has gone off in my head, and for the first time in a very, very long time, I'm able to move forward in this particular arena. I think it's because I just want to achieve my goals so damn bad! Also, after all the hard work I am currently putting into my running/workouts, I don't exactly feel like slapping the fat I've just lost right back onto my body! ;-) I swear that hell will freeze over before I do that!!!!!



(6) Decide what you can live with & also live without during your training period.

Although I try not to make too many absolute, hard & fast rules, (which, in my experience, usually only leads to rule-breaking or sometimes even a complete fitness/nutrition meltdown!), I will, in some cases, make exceptions.

For example: As another helpful strategy to further enhance my training & weight loss, I've been abstaining completely from eating high-glycemic index foods like pasta & potatoes, and from drinking alcohol during my training period. Now I'm not a complete teetotaler, but I do try to limit alcohol intake during my training.

Now, I'm certainly not recommending you live like a monk or follow the same exact guidelines that I've made for myself. Rather, I encourage you to make up your own reasonable guidelines, and focus on what works for you.

(7) Take up a hobby that keeps your fingers busy. This is an especially good tip to follow if you find you are an unconscious or nervous eater. There are plenty of helpful hobbies from which to choose, so take your pick -- knitting, crossword puzzles, card & board games, cat-petting (which, if your cats are anything like mine, can sometimes be a full-time job!), etc. Having a hobby to do (even if you're doing that hobby in front of the TV!), can often help to curb overeating resulting from mindlessness or boredom. 8-)

(8) Eat mindly & chew your food slowly. Again, this is related to the previous tip. Be present while you eat, so you can fully taste & enjoy your food.

We all know the pitfalls of unconscious eating (or rather, overeating!), whether it be while TV-watching or sitting in a dark movie theatre shovelling in the popcorn. (Eek! Horror & suspense movies can be particularly dangerous in this regard. ;-) )

So, if you make a point of being aware & intentional in your eating, & decide to put yourself in a good food situations/environments, you can ensure a positive, healthy outcome.

(9) Re-evaluate your plan & re-assess your progress from time to time. Even the best laid plans can sometimes go off-track, so be sure to check in with yourself from time to time, to make sure you're still going in the right direction. If something you're doing isn't working for you, then re-assess its value & find a new strategy.

Occasionally, in my running blog, you'll see that I talk about finding new strategies or plans, or re-evaluating existing things I'm doing. This is a healthy thing to do & I also advise that you incorporate this awareness into your fitness training & nutrition plans, to maximize your successes.

Additionally, when it comes to the topic of weight management, I will check how my pants fit to make sure I'm staying on track & that the numbers are headed in the general downward direction. I also hop on the scale from time to time, but I find that the "pants check" technique is far healthier for my mental state! ;-)

In summation: Planning is the key to good nutrition & weight management, & is the common theme that ties all of these tips together.

I hope you've found these eating strategies to be useful. Many of these tips are what healthy eaters use to maintain nutritional balance as well as a healthy weight.

I wish you lots of success in your efforts to maintain or improve your overall health. As always, I welcome your comments & questions.

Have a happy, healthy afternoon!
-C

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

0 Nutrition Tip #1: And Now A Word (Finally!) On Nutrition


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Since this blog is supposed to be about nutrition as well as fitness, I guess I better get writing about healthy eating & all manner of related subjects. (Yes, I know, this post is long overdue.)

So, let me first start out by saying that I've posted many healthy, low-fat recipes on my food blog, Cook. Eat. Drink. Blog. Now, while I'm not trying to cop out of writing about nutrition, I do feel that there could be a lot of possible overlap between these two sites, which I'd like to try to avoid.

So, in my running blog, I'd like to mostly focus on food/nutrition topics which enhance runners' performance. I'll give you general nutrition tips, as well as specific guidelines which have worked for me.

While I know a hell of a lot about nutrition & healthy eating, I will state for the record that I'm not a certified nutritionist. So, as a legal disclaimer, I would advise that, before taking any of the advice I've offered here, that you first consult a physician &/or nutritionist, regardless of whether or not you have any known health problems. Also, please consult a health professional in the event you have questions as to whether this blog's recommendations or eating strategies will work specifically for you.

Now, that the legal stuff is out of the way, I'd like to talk about some excellent nutrition strategies for maintaining a healthy diet. I'm sure you may've heard some of these before, but they are nonetheless useful & important, so I will mention them here in this post:

(1) Eat 5-6 small meals a day at regular intervals. This is not just a good thing to do if you are diabetic or hypoglycemic. It's a generally recommended strategy for maintaining control of your appetite & blood sugar levels.

Helpful tips: I usually follow the pattern of "breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack." Also, if I know I'm going to be exercising in the evening, I try to ensure that my exercise is spaced no more than 45 minutes before or after dinner, to maximize the thermic effect of food & thus, my body's fat-burning potential. Also, it's best to have more space (i.e., a minimum of atleast 4 hours) between dinner & bedtime, because the body will cool down during sleep & will lose some of its calorie-burning power that would typically accompany the thermic effect of food intake.

(2) Drink 8 cups (i.e.,1 cup = 8 oz.) of water a day, minimum. Again, common sense dictates that drinking water is necessary for avoiding dehydration, but also is excellent for getting rid of impurities in the body as well as helping to maintain a clear complexion. It's also an excellent aid for managing hunger, but should not be relied upon as the sole tool for doing so.

(3) Eat high fiber foods. Fiber helps give you that full feeling (i.e., satiety), and thus, logically helps with appetite control. Specifically, there are plenty of veggies, fruits, & grains, which will fit this bill. Also, please see the post I wrote on my foodie blog, Tip #1: The Easy & Painless Way to Get Your Daily Dose of Fiber (Without Cringing!).

(4) Take your vitamins. Unless you are unlike most humans & are actually getting the FDA's total recommended daily allowance of vitamins & minerals via your diet, (which is highly unlikely even if you are following the most nutritionally sound food plan in the world!), you should probably be taking a multi-vitamin supplement.

In addition to a multivitamin, I generally recommend taking turmeric, lycopene, lutein, & grape seed extract. For people who are worried about their joints, MSM supplements can help as well. For the ladies, I'd like to particularly recommend taking the most gentle, gastrointestinally non-irritating form of over-the-counter iron supplements, Ferrous Bis-Glycinate, (i.e., unless you are menopausal) & B complex vitamins (B1, B2, B6, B12, etc.). B-complex vitamins are also recommended for men as well. Additionally, men can specifically benefit from taking lutein, lycopene, selenium, and saw palmetto, all of which contribute to good prostate health.

Warning: I would exercise caution in taking unusual supplements like ginkgo biloba or ginseng, as I've read some slightly disturbing things (i.e., FDA concerns, etc.) surrounding these supplements. I would generally check with FDA regulations to view warnings about any experimental "vitamins," "minerals," or "health supplements" before deciding whether or not to consume them. Also, take a look at this Medscape article about potentially hazardous supplements.

Also, please be aware that the ingestion of certain supplements can decrease the effectiveness of various medications. Again, please consult a medical doctor or other certified health professional for further information as it applies to your particular health situation.

(5) Limit, or better yet, entirely eliminate intake of synthetic food substances & compounds which trigger increased appetite or sudden/severe changes in blood sugar. This list includes caffeine, high fructose corn syrup, transfats, etc.

If you are a sweet tooth, & can't completely give up refined sugars, then atleast try to limit your refined sugar-eating to sucrose, & at that, try to eat it in moderation.

(6) Develop realistic, measurable guidelines & coping strategies that allow you to successfully work through your weak moments. This way, you can have a plan of action that builds on your successes, while still satisfying the occasional food or beverage craving. (See my next post for more specifics on this.)

(7) Keep your fat intake to about 28%. More fat than this, & you're probably going to be doing yourself a real disservice to both your health & your weight maintenance plan, especially over the long-term. So, keep a close watch on your fat intake. Enough said, because most of you already know the reasons why.

(8) Incorporate anti-inflammatory foods & activities into your diet, & reduce dietary sources of inflammation. Your immune system's health relies on this very principle!

Inflammation in the body is linked to chronic disease (coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, DM, HTN, osteoporosis, macular degeneration, sleep apnea, arthritis, Parkinson's, Alzeheimer's, etc.). There's also a connection between inflammation and several other problems (infection, injury/trama, allergies, high triglycerides, exposure to toxins, free radicals, insulin resistance, obesity, sedentary lifestyles, etc.).

Now, just think of the implications of what I just wrote; that's enough of a good reason to modify your diet right then & there!

I dislike using scare tactics to get people's attention, but the good news is this: If you reduce or eliminate pro-inflammatory foods (i.e., animal/dairy fats found in butter, cheese, & meat, foods with hydrogenated oils like most coconut & palm oils, margarine varieties, chips, & fried foods, etc.), and simultaneously incorporate regular exercise & the proper balance of Omega-3's, 6's, & 9's into your diet, you can significantly reverse/reduce the amount of existing inflammation already in your body, &/or prevent major inflammation in your body altogether.

So, the next obvious question is, where do I find those highly useful & all-important Omegas & how do I incorporate them into my nutritional plan?! Since this is a long & complicated topic, I promise to answer these questions in another, separate post. So please stay tuned.


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Of course, this is by no means an all-inclusive or exhaustive list of nutrition strategies. But following these tips will definitely get you headed in the right direction, especially if you want to maximize your overall health & energy reserves for peak running performance.
Please pardon the marathon blogging session (pun intended). (I feel like my brain has been dumped onto a platter.)

Nonetheless,
I hope you've enjoyed this extensive treatise on nutrition, and have gotten a lot of useful tips from the information contained in this post.

Signing off now & wishing all of you a good night/morning!
-C

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