Question: IF there was a PILL that enhanced nearly every bodily function when taken and NOT taking it would negatively impact your body, would you be interested in that pill?

Most of the diet/health/wellness books offer a list of the most important things to do to put yourself on the path to better health and wellness. What do ALL these books have in common? They emphasize is sleep!

Okay, there may not be a magic pill (if there was, we would all be addicted) but improving your quality of sleep is guaranteed to not only improve your day and your body, but put you on a better path to overall health.

What you need to know:

• A quality good night’s sleep is more important than the quantity of sleep each night.

• Sleep quality declines with age (usually, but doesn’t have to).

• There are steps you can take to increase sleep quality, feel better, improve health, and increase daily energy.

The truth is there is no exact number of hours to recommend because sleep duration need is highly individual, with most people feeling their best with 7-8 hours a night.

Sleep efficiency, on the other hand, is a better measure.

To achieve sleep efficiency, the goal is 90% (or better) of actual sleeping each night. In other words, less than 10% of the time in bed should be tossing/turning or waking up. If that’s not occurring, try exercising more. (Which btw, is my FAVORITE recommendation for most health related issues!) Sleep apps and/or trackers are a great way to get an idea of sleep efficiency using your phone, activity trackers/watches or an oura ring.

If you are tracking sleep, the deep sleep phase is tres importante! While it doesn’t last long, this is when cell and cognitive repair take place. Memory is directly tied to this phase. If you’re in your 20’s, an hour and a half is good. As you age, this phase lessens to a half hour – but there ARE things you can do to lengthen it.

For example, for any fellow “monkey-brain” friends, try meditation or yoga, start a gratitude practice, journal to “dump the day”, try a weighted blanket, educate yourself about adaptogens (to help with stress hormones) or diet/lifestyle improvements you can try (like exercise!), consider magnesium/ melatonin/GABA (Btw, OTC or prescription meds can wreak havoc on your brain/mortality!) Other options might include making your room REALLY dark, eliminate blue screen (or at least wear glasses) but turn off devices several hours before nodding off. Last, work on getting into a sleep routine that occurs the same time each night.

How quickly you fall asleep could be another indicator or sleep inadequacy. A lot of folks think if you fall asleep within 5 minutes, that’s a good thing. It could mean you have an A-1 nightly routine so well-honed that you fall asleep right away.  But, it is likely to indicate you are sleep deprived.  On the other hand, if it’s taking more than half an hour to drift off, that may suggest a form of insomnia.

And then, there’s REM sleep which interestingly involves brain activity that is integral to learning and continual brain development. The recommended time for REM sleep is about 20% of your sleep time for optimal wellness.

If you have more than 5 awakenings, there’s a good chance your REM or deep sleep is getting interrupted. You may want to make sure you don’t have sleep apnea.

So yes, sleep is important. It is, quite simply, one of the easiest and most powerful ways we can improve our health and longevity by helping our brains function better, helping our muscles recover faster, and yes…increase fast loss (covered in an earlier blog post).  Opt for quality over quantity.

Who doesn’t want to live longer and BETTER?

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!

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By now, you’ve seen and heard plenty about the impact of your social environment and how you can catch obesity and other unhealthy habits from your friends and fam.  The half full cup view on this is true, too. You can “catch” good health and fitness, as well.  Turns out you can reap benefits whether your social network is in close physical proximity or virtual. Cool, huh? 
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Do you remember the professors several years back who spread the word about the quality of your social sphere on health?  If your network has bad habits (eating, drinking, little sleep, excessive TV/gaming, overweight or smoking)…chances are you have those same habits.
If you have a second, check the studies out. Compelling stuff.  
 
 
So… unhealthy behavior is quite communicable. According to the studies, your chance of becoming obese increases:

 

  • 57 % when one of your friends is obese
  • 40 % chance if it’s one of your siblings, and
  • 37 % if it’s your spouse.  

But hey, before you start looking around…remember the flip side. Because health and behavior are linked so closely, that means that any health state connected to habitual behaviors is communicable. (Big sigh, right?!)  Even more good news: social connections can also improve your health. Think about how effective support groups are, right?  People who hang around others who think positively also tend to think positively. You can lose weight, gain energy, and get fit together just as easily.

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Those closest to us have the most impact, but even a distant contact can have a nice impact. 
 
Now, before you go ditching those less than perfect around you, remember having friends (al Beit even the unhealthy ones) will still add happiness and longevity to your life.  In that case, why don’t YOU have a positive impact on them?  Your fitness and health decisions will have the ripple effect through your whole social circle, eventually coming right back to you in the form of increased social support.  I have to smile when my college son teases me and buys gluten free products because information I’ve shared over the years sunk in. (Yay) When he was taking nutrition, he said it was a breeze because he’d picked up so much information through osmosis. I <heart> that.
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Next time you’re digging deep for a reason to go to the gym, or  or pack a lunch instead of hitting the drive-thru, this may be a perspective to consider. Even if you’re not hugely motivated to make a healthy choice for yourself, you may be a little more willing to do it for the sake of the people you care about — or even for those you don’t know. According to the studies, your actions are influencing 1000 people. That’s huge. Take charge of your health and improve the world one healthy habit at a time.
 
To my fit friends who inspire or motivate me to eat clean, run, lift, train harder, or get to bed sooner: THANK you. You guys are the BOMB!
 
Choose fit. Laugh often, be contagious.
 
~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

 

“Pay attention to your intuition. Listen to your heart. Speak your mind. Love yourself so that you can love others. Smile.” ~Nishan Panwar

In parts I & II of the blog series, “Be Your Best You”, we talked about nourishment of the mind with a little down time and last week we talimageked about nourishment of the body through exercise, nutrition, hydration, and sleep. Today’s blog, Part III, is about strengthening the soul through self-love, love of others, spirituality and laughter.

The first ingredient of soul care is self-love. It’s natural to take care of other people/things we love…but to trul y love others we have to love ourselves first. The Golden Rule tells us to “love your neighbor as you love yourself”. Self-love isn’t being arrogant or getting our way, but it does require knowing our boundaries, being kind to ourselves (learning how to say no), and honoring our values. When we live from a place of self-love, the world mirrors compassion and love back to us.

Once we learn to love ourselves, we may offer a better self to those around us. Loving others is ingredient number two. It lowers risks of chronic diseases, stress, and brings emotional happiness. When we do acts of kindness through service, it connects us to those we serve and gives us a kind of satisfaction that self-interest cannot provide.
Ingredient number three is spirituality, or connecting to something bigger than ourselves. Mainstream science has proven that we are wired to believe. So, not only are we built to connect, the more we connect and develop our spiritual selves through meditation, prayer or other means, the healthier and happier we live.

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” ~Victor Borge

The last ingredient to nurturing the soul is laughter. Laughter releases tension and relaxes us. Physiologically, it benefits the body like a light workout by increasing blood flow, boosting energy, burning calories and aiding sleep. In other words, it’s time to get silly. When laughter is shared, it bonds people together increasing intimacy. Best of all, it’s fun and free.

Self-love, loving others, spirituality, and laughter are four key ingredients to strengthen your soul. What’s holding you back from loving yourself in a way that inspires and brings forth beauty? Be patient with the process and allow it to unfold. You will find you are ready to compete again, but stronger and better.

 

Carpe diem!

~Lisa