Tag Archives: health

Shatter the Plateau

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I want to achieve stability, but not total flatness.  Call me mesa, though, ‘cause I’ve hit a weight loss plateau.  That’s frustrating in itself, but I wonder if it means everything else is stalling, too.  Have I flatlined on toning up?  Is my cholesterol level staying the same instead of dropping?  How do I break the plateau?

I did a little research, and it seems like there are 3 major causes for plateaus:

1.  Not eating enough.  Yeah, I was surprised, too.  However, if you’re not taking in enough calories, then your body may go into starvation mode and try to store everything rather than burn it off.  So those carrots could go straight to your waist if you’re not eating anything else or not eating a balanced diet.

2.  Eating mindlessly.  If you’re dining in front of the television or computer, you may not realize what you’re putting in your mouth, or how much.  A handful of almonds may be a healthy snack, but you may be eating five handfuls if your hand’s in the bag and your eyes are on the TV.

3.  Workout ruts.  If we’re working out on a regular basis, we feel great about ourselves–and we should.  However, the same workout–every day, week to week–makes a more efficient body, meaning you burn fewer calories.  In other words, your body is used to the workout and needs a change.  Mix it up to burn more calories.

So it looks like mindfully eating a balanced diet and mixing up workouts will help break fitness plateaus.  Have you ever hit a plateau?  What did you do to break it?

Guideline #10: Drink Water

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The human body is primarily composed of water.  We lose water constantly through sweating, breathing, and urinating, and we lose lots of water when we exercise.  Water helps flush out toxins in our system, so it’s a good idea to follow Guideline #10:  Drink Lots of Water.

But how much?  The Institute of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic agree that men should drink approximately 13 cups (3 liters) of fluids per day, and women should drink about 9 cups (2.2 liters) per day.  You’ve likely heard the adage to drink 8 8-ounce cups of water per day.  The Mayo Clinic is inclined to agree, as you get some of that remaining water from other beverages and foods.  However, you’ve gotta bump that up if you’re engaging in intense exercise, you’re ill or pregnant, or you’re in a hot or humid environment.

Personally, I like to use a 32-ounce bottle with a built-in straw to get my daily water.  Remember how, in college, everybody said you could get drunk faster with a straw?  Yeah, well, it works with water, too.  I like to throw in a few slices of lime or lemon to lightly flavor the water.  I usually zip through 64 ounces in any given work day although I admit I’m not so good about drinking that much water on the weekends.  I still enjoy coffee and tea on a daily basis, but I haven’t had soda in months.

How do you get your daily water intake?  What keeps you thirsting for more instead of tossing it aside in favor of sodas, coffee, or other drinks?

Twelve Weeks Way-In

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I’m twelve weeks way into my new healthy lifestyle.  The past week feels like a big fail.  I took not one, not two, but three days off from exercising.  Three.  No yoga, no running, no nothing for three days.  On Tuesday, I took the day off because I didn’t feel well.  Okay, I can give myself a pass for that.  On Friday, I skipped morning yoga, then went out after work and didn’t get home until late at night, so I didn’t do anything.  Okay, I could maybe–maybe–give myself a pass for that.  But Saturday?  I slept late, puttered about for a few hours, then hubby and I went out for the rest of the day and got home late.  I could’ve done something in the morning.  I could’ve, at least, done some yoga.  But no, I was a total lazy slob.

The good news is that I didn’t gain any weight, despite my laziness.  Also, when I did get on the treadmill, my pace improved to an average of 11:54 per mile.  And, my mood has been relatively stable.

The bad news is I haven’t lost any weight in two weeks and I’ve hit a plateau.  Weight loss is not my primary goal but, I’ll admit, it’s a goal and a measure of my health.  And, of course, I was lazy.  Remember when I ran 2 miles on the treadmill?  Yep, hasn’t happened again.  Today I made it about 1.85 miles, but I walked it after 1.5.

So, what now?  Time to refocus!  I figure I’ve been at this for almost 3 months now.  I’m in a new season and a new quarter, so why not set some goals for the next quarter?  Here goes:

1.  Try a new activity or sport, and do it at least twice.

2.  Run 2 miles at a time, at least once per week.

3.  Lose 10 pounds.

What are your goals for the next 3 months?

Eleven Weeks Way-In

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I’m eleven weeks way into my new healthy lifestyle.  Last week, I challenged myself to tackle the elliptical machine and recumbent bike at the gym, and to do a couple of days of restorative yoga.  I only met half of my challenges.  I tried the elliptical for three minutes.  I just don’t get it.  I didn’t feel comfortable on it, and I’m not even sure I was doing it right.  The ellipticals are really popular at my gym–there’s usually more people on the ellipticals than the treadmills.  Why?  I enjoy the treadmill a lot more.  As for my other goals, I totally skipped the bike.  My left knee is not 100% and I’m afraid the bike would wreck it.  (That’s my excuse and I’m stickin’ to it.)  As for yoga, I only had one yoga session that I felt was restorative and focused.  Maybe I should start doing more yoga at night, as opposed to before work, so that I can totally relax in it without watching the clock.

As for my other activities for the week, I averaged about 12:20 per mile on the treadmill.  On Sunday, I decided I needed a break from the treadmill and ran around the hilly neighborhood instead.  (Everything in moderation, right?)  I followed it up with yard work.  (Now that’s definitely something I do in moderation!)

I’ve lost about 17-18 pounds overall, and I think it’s starting to show.  There are certain parts of my body that look a bit more toned, although there are other parts that still look just as soft and flabby as ever.  It’s a process, though, so it takes time.  However, I had to go shopping–had to, I swear!–because my black suit was literally falling off me!  I tried on a bunch of size 12 suits and dresses, and was amazed at how well they fit.  Shopping is definitely a more pleasant experience these days.

It seems, however, that my weekends are not as pleasant in the sense that I’m not as good with exercise and diet on the weekends as I am during the week.  On week days, I have a very structured schedule with meals and snacks at certain times of day, lots and lots of water (at least 64 ounces per day), occasionally yoga in the mornings, and the gym in the evenings on at least 4 week days.  But on the weekends?  Forget it.  My “meals” turn into sloppy foraging in the fridge at random times of day, and I don’t drink nearly as much water as I do during the week.  It leads to unhealthy choices.  For example, on Saturday I sorta forgot to eat lunch, so I was ravenous by the time Hubby and I were at a street fair on Saturday afternoon.  We decided to get lunch right away.  Rather than choose a restaurant offering fresh, healthy food, we dashed into a bar and ate nasty pub food.  I actually apologized to Hubby because the “food” was obviously thawed-out, microwaved crap.  I didn’t eat much of it, but I followed it up with a sugary drink from Starbucks.  On Sunday, I ate beyond feeling satisfied at lunch, then went to dinner with a friend and had a bit too much sangria.  My poor weekend food choices showed on the scale this morning.

So, my goal for this week is, again, to do more restorative yoga.  Also, I want to be more consistent with diet and exercise on the weekends, especially with my water intake.

What are your goals for the week?

What’s Your Inspiration?

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A lot of times it takes hitting rock bottom or experiencing a major shake-up before we make substantial changes in our lives.  A lot of us need inspiration to make those changes stick.

I never thought I’d say it, but my parents are my inspiration for a healthy lifestyle.  I’ve told you about how my childhood was sedentary, and we didn’t eat the healthiest foods.  We only drank Coca-Cola, the pantry was stocked with pre-packaged junk food, and our weekends were full of big, greasy bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches.  My parents‘ lifestyle didn’t change much after they became empty nesters.

Until a couple of years ago.  My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and, just a few months later, my dad was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery because his arteries were almost completely blocked and he was a millimeter away from a massive heart attack.  As you can imagine, we were all shaken up.  We knew my mom’s cancer was probably based on a host of causes–heredity, hormones, and lifestyle–but there was no getting around the fact that my dad’s heart problems were clearly a result of his lifestyle.

My parents immediately made big changes.  They tossed out the junk food and nearly eliminated sodium from their diet.  They joined a gym, and they go there every day.  They swim, jog, and occasionally use weight machines.  They were both enormously proud of themselves when they were each able to run a mile on the treadmill, and rightfully so.  When they’re away from home, they go for long walks.  In fact, my dad bought an iPod so he’s entertained on walks when my mom’s not around.  Within just a few months, they each dropped over 20 pounds.  Although my mom’s weight loss has since stalled, my dad continued to drop pounds until he reached a healthy weight for his height and age.

More importantly, they are each doing very well now.  My mom’s margins are clear and she remains in remission.  My dad still has some blockage, but his cardiologist assures him it’s nothing to be overly concerned about, and my dad gets checked out every few months.

I am proud of them for taking control of their health and for supporting each other in their new healthy lifestyle.  I am inspired to take control of my own health, and not wait until my life is threatened to make big changes.

What inspires you?

Ten Weeks Way-In

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I can’t believe it, but I’m already 10 weeks way into my new healthy lifestyle.  I’m truly astonished and pleased that I’ve made it this far.  No matter how healthy (or unhealthy) I am right now, it’s quite an accomplishment to stick it out this long considering that my prior attempts lasted maybe 2 months.  Here’s hoping I’ve really developed long-lasting habits.

This past Tuesday, I joined a gym.  I went to the gym 4 times last week and used the treadmill and the weight machines.  (I also did yoga and other things at home.)  I definitely felt it as my muscles have been a bit tight or sore.  Nothing serious, but I wonder if it means I should work out more or less?  In any event, I really killed it on the treadmill and ran a mile in 11:47 on Friday!  Then I ran another mile!  It was a big day for me.  Not only did I run two miles, but I did it in 24:40.  Two months ago, I never, ever, ever thought I’d be able to run two miles, much less at a pace of about 12 minutes per mile.  I followed it up on Saturday by running a mile in 12:21, then I did a cool down for a quarter of a mile and called it a week on the treadmill.  (Yeah, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not the type to set big fitness goals for myself everyday.  I’m more the type to keep going slow and steady, and then be really surprised when it actually works one day.)

I’m surprised that I’ve been able to maintain the home cooking aspect of my healthy diet.  Last year when I tried a healthy lifestyle, I got frustrated at meal planning and preparation, and ultimately I gave up and went back to pre-packaged junk food.  I think that’s because, last year, I was focused on counting calories, so it was very easy to quickly throw up my hands at the thought of planning meals every day with a certain amount of calories.  It was overwhelming.  Now, I’m focused on eating real, whole foods, and it’s been more of a pleasure exploring new foods and new ways to cook them.  I’m also surprised by how easy it is to prepare a lot of meals with whole ingredients.  (I’m talkin’ to you, soup.)

For this upcoming week, I’d like to tweak my workout at the gym.  I’m kinda afraid of the elliptical machine, so I’d like to tackle that and see if I can handle it for a few minutes.  I’m also kinda afraid of the bikes, just because I’m worried it’ll really mess up my knees, but I’d like to try a bike for at least a couple of minutes.  Finally, I think I need to spend a couple of days doing some restorative yoga.  I feel like I’ve haven’t really devoted much time to truly practicing yoga lately, and the little bit of yoga I’ve done lately has felt rushed.  I need restorative yoga to balance everything out.

What are your health and fitness goals for this week?

The Wonderful Wizard of Dr. Oz

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The September 12, 2011, issue of Time magazine has a cover story devoted to nutrition.  The featured article is by Dr. Mehmet Oz (yeah, Oprah’s guy).  I recommend you read the article.  It’s a quick, interesting read, and Oz even throws in a few one-liners.  There’s a photo of Dr. Oz’s average daily menu, and I couldn’t help but be a little excited that I eat over half of the same things Oz eats.  Follow the yellow squash road, indeed.

Oz ultimately focuses on the magic word:  balance.  “No one pretends that achieving and maintaining an ideal weight is an easy thing to do, but the list of rules to get you there is nonetheless simple:  Eat in moderation; choose foods that look like they did when they came out of the ground (remember, there are no marshmallow trees); be an omnivore (there are multiple food groups for a reason); and get some exercise.  Human beings are the only species in the world that has figured out how to be in complete control of its own food supply.  The challenge now is to make sure the food doesn’t take control of us.”

Soak Up Some Fun

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It’s almost time for a 3-day weekend here in the States as we celebrate Labor Day on Monday and finish off the summer.  As an adult, a 3-day weekend almost feels like spring break did back in school!  I equally want to do everything I can cram into my extra time off (extra-long workout, anyone?), and yet also relax on a beach (or a mountain, or a lake, or, well, anywhere).  Decisions, decisions.  How are you going to make yourself happier and/or healthier this weekend?