Guys, here’s a sobering fact: Americans are experiencing a shift…life expectancy has begun to decline. I’m talking men AND women. And, not because of genetic changes…but due to our lifestyles — what we eat (or what we don’t eat which can be just as important), what we are exposed to, the quality of our sleep, etc.
 
You might ask, “With so many lifestyle choices, where does one begin?” My humble vote is to start with the gut.  Why? Well, for starters, healthy gut bacteria:
 
  • Regulates digestion & metabolism
  • Impacts our body’s immune system
  • Blocks harmful microbes
  • Extracts & make vitamins &  other nutrients from ingested food
  • Produces anti-microbial chemicals to fight off pathogens
  • Builds & maintains our gut wall to protect us from outside invaders
  • Plays a  CRUCIAL role with brain health  
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So now that we know the “why gut” — where do we go from here? Let’s first consider food and nutritional intake. The reason is because the wrong dietary/foods will impact the integrity of our gut lining and that increases inflammation in the body. This is important because there is a correlation of inflammatory markers with most common diseases like coronary heart disease, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, autism, diabetes, and cancers. This, my friends, makes our gut bacteria is tres importante! 
 
Knowing which foods contribute to bodily inflammation can be done with a food sensitivity test. Or, you can keep a journal noting what you eat and how you feel afterwards. You can get a pretty darn good indication of offending foods from a food journal.
 
Going one step further with some type of inflammatory testing is a GREAT idea especially if you are on medications for a chronic condition or battling (or have battled) one of the diseases above. There are a couple basic lab tests for inflammation including determining C – reactive protein, TMAO (trimethylamine oxide), or TNF (tumor necrosis factor) levels. Please…find out if you have inflammation and FIX IT! If you think you shouldn’t look at these markers until you are middle age, think again.
 
Don’t wait to test because studies have shown those people with inflammatory levels in their 30’s/40’s have the worst memories 24 years later (and brain shrinkage). David Perlmutter, the author or Grain Brain (newly updated, btw), suggests we fix the roof when the sun is shining. My younger adult friends, this means you. Pregnant women, this means you. My middle aged peers….THIS MEANS YOU.
 
Not motivated yet? There was another study done correlating the size of one’s belly and the risk for dementia. This test spanned 36 years. You guessed it, there was a DIRECT correlation.  Another easy test to help here is to determine oxidation of LDL with a glycated hemoglobin test (or A1C). The higher the A1C, the greater the brain shrinkage (seriously).
 
Please don’t buy into the pharmaceutical companies making money off of Alzheimer’s drugs (which are mostly ineffective and cause people to decline faster) when the natural solution is right in front of us. Yes my friends, we have to be intentional. And yes, we will have to let go of artificial and way-over-sized portioned conveniences of eating out frequently, but isn’t the payoff worth it?  BTW, the SAME efforts to improve brain function and improve gut health will (drum roll) improve your overall health and help you lose unneeded fat.
 
My short list for improving your diet is this:
 
    • Eliminate gluten & processed flour foods
    • Reduce consumption of inflammatory red meat and other inflammatory proteins (btw there are more than a few studies relating to the consumption of red meat and colorectal cancer…) 
    • Eat LESS protein – and when you do, make sure it’s clean (antibiotic /hormone free) like wild fish or some hormone /free range eggs) 
    • Increase diversity of high fiber vegetables
Next, I recommend reading the new Grain Brain book by David Perlmutter or Dave Asprey’s Game Changers for specific recommendations relating to resting insulin, vitamin D levels, hemoglobin A1C levels, fasting blood sugar, the amount of exercise, the amount/quality of sleep, etc.
 
YOU are worth the education and investment of time to learn what’s best for you (and your loved ones). AT the very least, search for podcasts with key words and these authors’ names and learn while you drive. 
 
What have you got to GAIN? (Check my past posts if you’re still not sure!)
 
Until next time. Love yourself. Hug a person or a pet. Get outside. Laugh.
 

Lisa  

P.S. Want some more goodness on this subject?


I spent the better part of the last year immersed in reading, researching and trying to better understand what we call the “aging process” as it relates to health. What I learned is: the term “aging” is really more a misnomer…

The truth is, 80% of disease/illnesses “attributed” to aging are environmentally based. In other words, WE can choose and control most of what impacts our health and longevity. That’s pretty powerful, right?

Some folks may not want to hear this. Changing habits may mean letting go of fast food, cheap convenience and hours of blue screen entertainment. I have one thing to say about that: choosing that crap (and it IS crap…) is choosing weight gain, metabolic syndrome, creeping obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and a slew of other health challenges. If you find yourself a bit reluctant to change habits, then consider the people you love. What I mean is… illness is expensive. It causes financial drain. It causes physical and emotional stress on the caretaker. If you don’t care enough about yourself, consider the impact your choices have on the ones you love. 

Today, let’s talk about Alzheimer’s. So, what is Alzheimer’s exactly? The short answer is it’s a disease resulting from a protective response from different insults and is sometimes referred to as “type 3 diabetes”.

“Cognitive decline is a major concern of the aging population, and Alzheimer’s disease is the major cause of age-related cognitive decline, with approximately 5.4 million American patients and 30 million affected globally [1]. In the absence of effective prevention and treatment, the prospects for the future are of great concern, with 13 million Americans and 160 million globally projected for 2050, leading to potential bankruptcy of the Medicare system. Unlike several other chronic illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease prevalence is on the rise, which makes the need to develop effective prevention and treatment increasingly pressing. Recent estimates suggest that AD has become the third leading cause of death in the United States [2], behind cardiovascular disease and cancer. Furthermore, it has been pointed out recently that women are at the epicenter of the Alzheimer’s epidemic, with 65% of patients and 60% of caregivers being women [3]. Indeed, a woman’s chance of developing AD is now greater than her chance of developing breast cancer [4].  (Link to abstract if you want more!) 

Those are alarming stats. How lucky we are that we can take positive steps NOW to help reverse and prevent brain health and so called “aging”. If we are to combat Alzheimer’s, then we must identify the “insults” causing inflammatory responses within our bodies. While one size doesn’t fit all, there are common inflammatory causes to consider (or test for).  For example, you may be more affected by mercury. If so, remove the fillings, cease eating fish high in mercury and get assistance from a holistic/functional doctor to cleanse your body

The biggest factor impacting most of us is insulin resistance because our bodies were not made to take in the amount of simple carbs we’ve been ingesting.

Insulin resistance leads to metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, and other health challenges.  Another possibility is chronic inflammation from other organisms. Until those are addressed, that inflammation is negatively impacting your brain. For other folks, hormonal imbalance (vitamin D levels, testosterone, thyroid, etc.) is a contributing factor.

If you are starting to think about the costs of multiple tests…stop. Many of these can be done at home or through the mail. It isn’t likely you need an entire battery of tests. HOWEVER, when you consider the financial cost of long-term care, spending a few dollars on a test or two hardly compares. And that’s not considering the impact on loved ones. According to national averages, long term care costs about $250/day or $8,000/month. Spending well under 1% on tests hardly compares. Even without testing, you can take steps NOW to avoid/address the things that cause bodily harm and work on enhancing your immunes system.

  • Enhance your diet by reducing sugar (avoid processed carbs like rice/pasta/breads/crackers/gluten)
  • Enhance your sleep (if you have apnea, get it checked out now) and let’s not forget blue light impact
  • Lower stress (meditation, community)
  • Exercise
  • Ayurveda trio including Ashwagandha

To increase knowledge and offer solutions to improve brain health, these are my top three book recommendations:

Isn’t it great that we live in a time with so many resources available to help our quest for better health—and much of it for little or no cost? Find a website or like-minded community and commit to your health quest today.

Here is some candor: you have time for what’s important.  If you are full of excuses, let’s face it… health is NOT a priority for you. I’m not saying there won’t be challenges, but you can choose to seek alternatives & options – or use those challenges as an excuse.

The thing is…to be healthy long term, we must address chronic “insults”. This is a different approach from 20th century medicine because it gets to the underlying causes & addressing them now vs. waiting until there is illness/disease and then addressing those symptoms. Trust me, early reversal is the way to go. You and your health are worth it.

There may be some trial and error along the way, but isn’t that life?  A healthy lifestyle is a journey and a science that isn’t perfect. Like any journey, it starts with intention.

It’s time to be personally accountable. We are giving ourselves diseases…through our day to day exposures and choices. I think it is liberating to know that WE can positively impact our health. The bullet list above will impact more than our brains…optimizing those components will positively impact aging and a host of other diseases, as well. Why would we not embrace this opportunity?

We have time for what is important.

Every minute is an opportunity for self-improvement and finding time IS possible.

Each day, we get the opportunity to do better, to forgive our mistakes, to love more, laugh more, learn more, and to LIVE.

What a gift!

Are you a little concerned that your good work to date will get derailed this holiday season? Don’t despair, healthy living does not mean total deprivation. It does, however, require a few strategies to keep you on the right track.  Here are a few ways you can limit temptations over the holidays:
  1. Drink up. (Water…that is!) You’d be surprised at the difference dehydration can make. It’s often mistaken for hunger. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
  2. Out of sight, out of mind.  You know how there’s a reason for product placement at the grocery store? Do your own “marketing” at home by removing food or snacks not healthy for your family. Out of sight, out of mind.
  3. Keep a log so you can identify triggers and are realistic about input/output. Most folks overestimate calories burned and underestimate calories consumed. Keep it real.
  4. Know your limit. Can you indulge a little? Or does one bit turn into the entire bag/box? If the latter is the case, then that means no sugar should pass your lips. So be it. Is it difficult to eat out if you see or smell dessert or French fries? If so, skip it for now. Honor thyself. If you CAN indulge a little, go for it. Enjoy it, savor it, and then add some extra workout time. It’s all good.
  5. Good fats help resist the sugar urge. As does protein. Eat up.
  6. Create a bit of crazy. Visualization, that is. If sugar is still tempting you, imagine your sugar free life and the healthy/energetic/lean self you’ll be sporting! SEE it, claim it, then make the choice that aligns with that vision.
  7. Change your habits…or people around you. We talked about this one before. If you eat mindlessly while watching TV, don’t let yourself watch TV unless you are on the elliptical. Or, avoid that “friend” who eats junk food in front of you daily while you nurture your self goals.
  8. Lead the way. Influence your friends and be the change you want to be. Cook healthy, commit to exercise. Healthy habits beget other healthy habits.
  9. Commit publically. With your friends, family, online. Ask to be held accountable. It works!
  10. Take a nap! This is a goal every weekend (for me). It doesn’t always occur, but when it does, it’s soooo sweet! I find I want sugar when I’m tired. Not to mention I get a little bit grumpy when I’m in need of more zzzz’s.
Last, it’s not about being perfect, but choosing to make better decisions, more frequently, and more consistently over time. Becoming healthier is a journey.  And tomorrow always brings a new day.    That’s awesome.  So next time you are faced with that fork in the road, ask yourself, “What have I got to gain?”
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Until next time, choose fit, be strong. And, laugh often.
~Lisa
 
Good morning friends, I have some good news…and some bad. Shall we hit the bad news first?  OK, here goes: There is no, definitive one-size-fits-all diet, workout, or magic supplement. That’s not too tragic, though, is it? Now for the good news: there are general principles, habits, foods, workouts, and supplements that when performed/eaten/done consistently will yield weight loss, improved health and energy.  In a nutshell, the list condensed below is where “it” is at. (“It” being the recipe for weight loss and improved health success.)
  • MOVE your body. As much as you can, as often as you can, in the manner that suits you most. We talked about sitting being the new “smoking” hazard, so get moving– as often and frequently as possible.
  • Don’t drink your calories. A fifth of what we consume (calorie wise) comes from beverages…and most are loaded with sugar and empty calories. (And yes, I am also talking about alcoholic beverages.)  Cut back! Unless of course, your “beverage” is whey protein shake—which is great post workout or as a meal replacement, in a pinch.
  • Get more sleep. Sounds easy, right? The reality is we trick ourselves into thinking we don’t need more sleep because we can survive on less. We don’t THRIVE on less, however, and performance and mental tests tells us otherwise. Sleep aids recovery, balances hormones, helps with weight loss, improves mood and more.
  • Watch “portion distortion”. Counting calories may not be your thing, but phone apps sure make it easy. What we have learned is that most people underestimate caloric intake and overestimate energy expenditure. Plus, most restaurants provide inflated serving sizes. Split a meal with a friend or take half home. Don’t be fooled by correlating empty, excessive calories as “value”.
  • Cheat foods are ok. Alright, even saying “cheat” or labeling foods as “good” or “bad” is not really a good thing to do. Consider colorful, real foods vs. processed, but instead of striving for perfection, strive for “good enough”. Or, try what I refer to as the “Catholic school girl diet”: eat like an angel 6 days a week and on the 7th day, make the devil blush! In other words, it’s ok to indulge a little. Just don’t let it derail you and keep it as an exception and not the rule. Remember, consistency is king.
  • Go heavy. Lifting weights, that is. Sorry ladies, you will NOT build huge muscles. And regardless of your age, everyone needs to lift heavy and combat muscle decline. Decreasing muscle mass equates to body fat increases AND a slower metabolism. Lift heavy and fire up your metabolically active tissue. NOW.
  • Variety is the spice of life. Mix up your workouts and you’ll get more out of them.
  • Find like-minded peeps. Community is important and like-minded people provide motivation, mentoring and help keep you accountable. I feel so fortunate for the fitness friends I’ve trained & learned from over the years.

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  • Adkins really did have it right. I’m not advocating a specific diet. Honestly, the best plan out there was laid out in the Old Testament. Real food, plain and simple. BUT, if you integrate a practice of carb swapping knocking out pastas and breads, it’s one of the easier ways to help you lose weight as many folks are sensitive to carbs. My fiancé and I are all over cauliflower options in lieu of pasta, potatoes, or bread. (Check out the recipe section of my blog for ideas.)
  • And about that Adkins….eat more fat. Yes, she said that. As much as 35% of your daily calories can be a mix of nuts, avocados, or healthy oils. It’s the TRANS fats you want to avoid like the plague.
  • You really can work out anywhere. Your body can provide great workouts. A jump rope is $10. Squat, climb stairs, step up, jump rope, do jumping jacks or push ups (from knees or feet), etc. A gym is not required.
  • Multi-function exercises work your body better and can aid fat loss. Consider a dumbbell squat to should press. Or, a deadlift to back row.
  • Regarding food, adding solid protein at each meal or snack will help keep you full and keep your metabolism going.
  • Hydrate. Dehydration can make you think you are hungry, impede performance, and affect your mood (plus a whole lot of other things). Water or tea help control your appetite and tea has so many wonderful benefits (see earlier blog). Drink water, drink tea, try some of the drinks I shared in my past blog, but HYDRATE, often.
Last of all, be kind to yourself. YOU are amazing and wonderful. And far from perfect. This is a journey we make together. Laugh at your mistakes and keep trying. YOU are worth it.
 Besides, “what have you got to GAIN”?
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(My earliest health & fitness mentor, Sharon Turrentine, used to ask this Q and it’s a great one. I met her when I was 19 and she was 39 and training for a body building contest. She looked amazing then AND still looks amazing today. A true testament to a healthy living lifestyle. Many thanks, my friend!  You have influenced my life in such a positive way.)
Until next time time, live fit, choose healthy, laugh often.
Lisa

 

Henry David Thoreau said that a loooong time ago and he was spot on. Today let’s talk about hydration and its importance to… well, to just about everything.

When do you drink water? Most of us drink when we are thirsty. Don’t! It takes a while for your body to fully hydrate. When you wait until thirsty, there is a high probability that you’re already dehydrated to some extent. That means whatever our body is doing or needs to do, it will not function effectively or optimally without proper hydration. A great way to get a jump start every day is to start your day with 2 cups of water. So, besides making everything work better, here are a few ways proper hydration helps you be more awesome:

Drinking water helps reduce high blood pressure. Your blood is approximately 92% water.

Drinking water helps reduce symptoms of allergies and/or asthma. See, when you are dehydrated, your body creates more histamines and if you have too many histamines circulating, you will feel congested and have other allergic reactions.
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Drinking water aids digestive disorders by eliminating or at least reducing ulcers, bloating, gas, gastritis, reflex and IBS. You also have less constipation since water is needed to move matter more quickly through the intestinal track.

Drinking water helps flush toxins. Back to the bullet above, a well hydrated bod purges toxins and metabolic wastes better. ‘Nuf said.

Drinking water helps speed up joint and cartilage repair. The padding in cartilage is mostly water and joint repair after workouts or injuries is quicker with adequate hydration.

Drinking water also flushes bacteria out of the bladder. Proper hydration is especially important to folks prone to kidney stones or bladder infections.

Drinking water gets your “glow” on. Seriously, with good hydration the skin can rid itself of toxins which cause irritation, inflammation, acne, dermatitis, psoriasis, and aging.

Drinking water helps you stop gaining weight. The more you drink, the more satiated you feel and…yes, that helps you feel less hungry which results in eating less . Keeping hydrated prevents cells from sending hungry signals to the brain. Besides most “hunger” is actually shared studies where just 2 glasses of water each morning resulted in an 11 lb. weight loss in a year! That’s something to drink up to.

Last, proper hydration is a mood and energy booster.

Until next time, live fit, laugh often, and DRINK UP!

What have you got to gain?

I started drinking green tea 15 years ago shortly after my leukemia diagnosis. It was in my “combat phase” and I started researching anything and everything that was in my control so I could positively impact the outcome. Green tea came up repeatedly as something I should add to my arsenal, so I started drinking it, and I have been drinking 2-5 cups a day ever since. If you haven’t jumped on the green tea wagon, here are a few reasons why you should join me in this habit.

  1. It may prevent several types of cancers. Oral, prostate, breast…the list goes on. This is why I added it to my arsenal to begin with.
  2. It fights FAT. Green tea contains a powerful antioxidant called “EGCG” which inhibits metabolic syndrome. Here’s another thought: if you sub 1-2 cups of green tea for one soda each day, in a year you’d save > 50,000 calories. Lions and tigers and bears…OH MY! That’s 14 pounds…
  3. It prevents the build-up of cholesterol in the arteries and improves blood flow which means it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  4. What’s good for the heart is good for the brain. More recently, green tea has been shown to help block the formation of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
  5. What’s good for the heart and brain is also good for the eyes. Turns out the catechins in green tea can penetrate the tissues of the eyes boosting eyesight.
  6. It improves insulin use by the body and stabilizes energy. Drinking green tea helps prevent sugar crashes leading to fimageatigue and irritability.
  7. It provides anti-allergy and immune system support by reducing the allergy antibody immunoglobulin.
  8. Green tea is anti-aging. GIVE ME ANOTHER CUP! The ECGCs in it are 200X more powerful than Vitamin E in fighting free radicals causing skin damage and wrinkles.

Are you ready to join me?  If so, consider adding a little freshly squeezed lemon as that enhances the absorption. If not, read more about additional benefits and come on over to the GREEN side of life!

What have you got to gain?

Choose fit, live strong, laugh often.

You are dedicated, you have a plan, you are working it (most of the time), yet the numbers on the scale don’t seem to budge. What’s the deal? There are many reasons why this might be happening, but for today, we will review the most common reasons.

  1. Overestimating calories burned or underestimating calories eaten. There are many schools of thought on this one, but studies show those who keep a food and workout log have the most success. However, sometimes use a little common sense. The averages often used in estimated caloric burn don’t apply to everyone. I know I burn about 2/3 of whatever the exercise piece of equipment tells me (even if I’ve entered my weight). Also, if I’m not really legit with entering everything I eat (or measuring the salad dressing), it’s soooo easy to add calories in. Or maybe not log them at all! (If you are a parent or the dish cleaner, how often have you polished off the remaining bites? This same thing can be applied to the chef! It happens.)
  2. Fad diet yo-yo. Juicing has a place…I like to detox where I get back to clean eating pre/post a ONE day juice fast, but my fast is really a liver detox. Usually when one does a juice cleanse, the “weight” lost is not the desired FAT loss, but simply water. Or, (horror) muscle loss due to severe caloric restriction. Super low calorie juicing or detox teas really just clean you out, but they are not healthy sustainable life habits. Movie stars who juice before the big day will put it right back on after the event. Skip the too-good-to-be-true programs and opt for living FIT. Every day.
  3. The routine rut…otherwise known as “same ol’, same ol”. We are creatures of habit, aren’t we? We work our favorite body parts, we run our favorite paths, we take our preferred classes…we lift the same body parts. Unfortunately, the more we repeat a movement, the better we get at it. The more efficient we become (which lends itself well to racing and energy utilization) the fewer calories we burn. Mix it up. Try new things. Challenge yourself. Just don’t stay in the routine rut.
  4. Stress. Ah, that darn stress. A certain amount of it is ok, but if the scale isn’t moving, take a moment to inhale deeply and consider how you can de-stress your life. Honestly, it will do your body much good. Because with stress, comes cortisol. And cortisol. Well, that’s an entirely separate blog on its own! (see more about Cortisol’s effect on weight loss/gain here.)
  5. Not eating enough. I’ll call this the Marcia syndrome. My friend Marcia is a committed healthy eater. But, she is also a working mom with two kids and she’s a woman who works out. If she is on the run, she skips eating vs eating something junky. That’s good she skipped junk, but then uh-oh. When she takes in too few calories for what she needs, her body will hold back from dropping energy stores (aka fat).

Marcia

Just remember consistency is key. Keep on keeping on. That’s what Marcia does. She’s a lean, mean racing machine. Check her out:

 

‘Til next time, live fit. Laugh often. What have you got to gain?

Lisa

If you read last week’s blog, you probably did the same math I did….and  probably thinking like Scoobie Doo, “Ruh-roh!” But, all is not lost and you CAN eat out successfully. Like any successful goah achievement, however, you have to plan.

When you know you’re going to eat out, consider better food choices you can make that day. You might plan a lighter lunch if you’ll eat out at dinner. Try not to skip meals because low blood sugar might encourage overindulging later. Most importantly, don’t show up at the restaurant starving. If you really want to splurge on a higher calorie entrée, by all means, skip dessert. Commit to sticking to your plan once you’re in the restaurant. And try to avoid all-you-can-eat buffets. Those are very difficult to combat mentally when the “value” proposition teases us into thinking we need to eat more. Because buffets really test my control, I just avoid them.

Your Attack Plan

If eating out, you might try some of the strategies below:

  • Don’t forget “portion distortion”! We have been brainwashed into thinking portions should be larger–and food often comes in multi-serving sizes. So order regular portion sizes instead of the jumbo or super sizes that are so common. Ask for a smaller size.
  • Try an appetizer, half an entrée, or share a meal with a friend and order an extra side salad. This is also a money saver!
  • Ask if you can make healthy substitutions, for instance, a baked potato instead of fries, or a salad or fresh fruit instead of coleslaw. Ordering ala carte is a good idea also—and always ask what healthy substitutions are available. Most restaurants want you to come back.
  • Ask for half your entrée to be wrapped up to go before the food is brought to the table.
  • Learn to spot which dishes are made with lower calorie cooking methods.
  • Ask how dishes are prepared and if they can do it your way by either grilling the chicken or steaming the vegetables.
  • Always request that sauces and dressings be provided on the side.
  • Don’t tempt yourself! Have the waiter remove the bowl of chips or peanuts, or the basket of bread. (Personally, I can’t sit in front of a bowl of chips and not eat them.) Calories from mindless nibbling can add up before you know it.
  • Don’t sit near the dessert cart!
  • Limit or eliminate alcohol. Alcohol is high calorie. It contains few nutrients and weakens your will power.

You can do it! Be strong & plan ahead.

Till next time, LIVE fit. Be happy.