Food for Fuel

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photo source: Internet

Why do you eat? Why do you eat what you eat? Do you have a thought process before eating certain foods? Do you feel like your relationship with food could improve?

Food is essential for life. Without food or some form of it, we would not be able to live. Yet in these modern times, food is the cause of so much illness, poor health, sometimes even death. Why is that? Why is it that something that is designed to keep us alive, kills so many?

I think the reason why is because too many have lost contact with food’s primary purpose: FUEL. Then, nutrition.

Food is fuel for our bodies. Just like we need to put gas in our cars regularly, we need to put food in our bodies regularly. The highest quality gas will allow your car to run optimally. The right amount of radiator fluid and good oil, have the same purpose: to help your car to function properly. Too much or too little of these things will make it that your car will either overflow and not know what to do with all the extra liquid, or won’t be able to get you to where you want to go because of insufficient energy. While our bodies are much more amazing and intricate and complicated than a car, the basics are very similar. We need the proper kind of fuel to move optimally. The wrong kind of gas will break your car just like the wrong foods can create illness and poor health. Treat your body as you would your car, fill the tank with the right kind of fuel when it is empty, stop filling when it is full, give it the right kind of oil and at the right time.

Isn’t that great news? I think it is, because it really is THAT simple.

Too many people have lost touch with the simplicity of feeding one’s body and that is where eating disorders, obesity, poor health, etc…. arises. I don’t believe many foods to be truly evil. As a matter of fact, other than being a strict vegetarian, there is nothing I absolutely won’t eat. (Don’t quote me on this I might change my mind later). What I do believe in though, is eating the right foods at the right time. How do you do that? Well just think about what you are trying to accomplish. If all you are interested in is the pleasure of awakening your senses with delicious foods, then by all means, go for it, because, let’s not be hypocrites here, eating food for pleasure can be quite delightful. (Have you seen some of the recipes on my blog??) Even then though, I would suggest to be mindful about this. Do you eat for pleasure every time you eat? If that’s the case, I would suggest you make sure that what you find pleasurable also has a double purpose of properly fueling your body with nutritious ingredients. If it doesn’t, then maybe it’s time to revisit your relationship with food. If you are interested in being healthy and having your body work properly, then I suggest you start thinking about your meals and what you are going to be eating according to what your activities following that meal are. Are you going to be exercising? Are you going to be sitting at your desk for several hours? Are you going out dancing? Are you going to the park to play with your kids? Are you sitting on the couch watching a movie? Depending on what you will be doing, your body will require different forms of fuel. The foods I choose before an afternoon at the park running around, often are different than the foods I choose once the kids are in bed and I am reading a book or watching a movie. With this mindset I rarely feel deprived. If I MUST have a cupcake or ice cream or pizza or croissant, or which ever other foods that are not optimal for my body’s wellbeing, then at least I can make sure to eat those things at a time where my body can use those foods as energy instead of storing them as fat.

Subsequently, choosing the proper nutrition for your fuel will have an even greater positive impact on your health. I mentioned pizza, cupcake and such, and while I believe it is fine to let myself eat those things at times, it is rarely what I will choose to FUEL or FEED my body with when I have health in mind. Using the proper fuel will ensure optimal body function. While eating pizza at lunch when I will be going for a run later is much better than pizza at dinner when I will just be sitting and watching a movie, no pizza is best. So do not let yourself get trapped in the “FUEL” mindset, meaning you are using the fact that you will be using what you just ate as fuel for exercise as a reason to feed your body junk regularly. Combining proper fuel with proper nutrition is where it’s at if you are looking for optimal health. While a cookie might be lower in calories than some dried fruit and nuts, the benefits you will get from the latter outweigh the benefits you would be getting from a cookie. Wether you are burning off the calories or not.

I believe that the quality of your calories are far more important than the quantity of those calories, I will also argue that at which time you choose to consume those calories are almost equally as important than the calories you are choosing to consume.

It might take some practice at first but eventually this will be second nature. Reaching for a cookie at bedtime, or going to the gym on an empty stomach won’t make any sense to you. Having a big carb loaded lunch will sound awful if you know you are returning to the office to sit at your desk for several hours. By thinking of food this way you are bringing back your intuition to what feels best. Because in the end, isn’t that what we all want? To feel good? And I can guarantee you that the momentary “good” feeling you get from eating a “treat” is nothing compared the long lasting bliss that comes with eating a clean, nutrient rich diet.

So next time you reach for something to eat, ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish for my body with this food?”

Stretching and Rolling

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Yesterday I danced my butt off!! It was the perfect way to spend the first day of the year. Great company, awesome dancing. Before leaving to go dancing I thought to myself I wanted to stretch as I knew this kind of dancing requires my whole body, but I didn’t make time for it. So I paid for it afterwards. When I got home, my whole body was feeling it. I was exhausted, the kind of exhausted from awesome physical activity, and I was achy. Especially my hips and low back. I knew this would happen as I have not been on top of my flexibility lately. After taking a shower, all I wanted to do was lay on the couch with my husband and watch a movie. And although we did watch a movie, I chose to spend the first 20 minutes of it foam rolling. As I finished, I think my words were “This tool is magic”.

I cannot stretch enough (pun not intended) the importance of flexibility. When I talk about flexibility I do not mean being able to do the splits or bend backwards until your hair touches your butt, or even touching your toes. Flexibility looks different for everybody. Obviously the more you stretch the closer to touching your toes you will be (If you are not there already). But the point of stretching should not be so you can do the splits or touch your toes, it should be so you can move your body efficiently and safely in whatever physical movements you choose to partake in. Although I can touch my toes on any given day, there are days that it takes more effort to get there, or where the tightness in my hamstrings (the back of my thighs) is more intense. That is because I need to stretch and release. Which I did not do before dancing. So although I look limber and can touch my toes, it does mean my body is at it’s most efficient.

Going in to any physical activity improperly stretched, can put you at greater risk for injury. Although I am definitely not injured from my intense dancing session, if I do not take the proper steps I could get there. Especially if I keep exercising without taking the time to release the tension build up in my body. And the #1 step, is self myofacial release. Which is where my friend the foam roller comes in. If you do not own one, I strongly recommend you getting one. It doesn’t take much space, and it can be used in numerous ways to help with all kinds of body movements.

For the purpose of today’s post and because this is what I am working on myself I will share a video of using the foam roller on your IT band (the side of the leg), your hips and glutes. All these muscles being tight play a big role lower back pain. Stretching your back when you have tightness there, might help some, but the true culprit is your lower body. (I am not referring to back pain due to injury, or spinal dysfunction or disk problems.) The roller I use here is this one. But if you are new to rolling, I recommend you get a softer one, and even a longer one. The longer one has more versatility and can be used for many other things.

For the sake of your body’s health, and for improved mobility and flexibility, make sure to properly stretch regularly. Oh, and did I mention that walking is a physical activity? So if you are someone who walks, you should stretch regularly.

Intenseness Does not Equal Healthness

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(Healthness should be in the dictionary)

I used to be that person, the one who wouldn’t do a workout if I couldn’t give it my all. If I didn’t have at least an hour to workout, then why bother? If I can’t get a good sweat going, what’s the point? For years that attitude more or less worked for me. I was living a single life and worked as a trainer at a gym. I had the time and convenience of taking classes and working out during breaks or after work. And I made sure I sweat every single time. It didn’t count as a workout if I didn’t have to change my shirt and sports bra afterwards. It was a great feeling really. To have to peel the soaking clothes off my body, proving that I had given my all, that I had an intense workout worthy of a fitness trainer and an all out workout beast.

That was me in my twenties. Pre-babies. I was on fire and unstoppable. What size clothes I fit into mattered more than the long lasting health benefits of my lifestyle.

Although it took some getting used to and some ego-checking, I am so grateful for the shift in my perspective and my approach to health.

Today, every little bit of physical activity counts towards my goal of lifelong health.

I didn’t really “choose” to change my outlook on fitness, I kinda had to make changes according to my mommy lifestyle. I didn’t have the time or energy to spend so many hours at the gym. I had to find other ways to stay fit and active. At first I was still striving to get that “perfect” body (whatever that is), still trying to look the way I did before I had children. My workouts were solely driven by a desire to improve my appearance. It worked some, but not fully. It was way too easy for me to skip a workout, or reach for an unhealthy snack, as I felt I looked “good enough”.

After my second baby arrived I started viewing physical health quite differently. And it wasn’t until my 3rd baby arrived, that I really got a good handle on what true health means for me.

Today being fit and healthy looks so different than it did in my early twenties. And funny enough, I feel like I look better than I did before I had my first child. Even if under my own scrutiny I notice the cellulite and stretch marks that weren’t there before, somehow, I find myself more beautiful than I did back then. My skin was tighter then, my belly wasn’t marked, my breasts were fuller, and yet I didn’t have the appreciation for how I looked the way I do today. Not only that, but I am much healthier today than I was at any point in my twenties.

What changed is I shifted my intense workout attitude for a more healthy one. My intense workouts were driven by a superficial desire to look a certain way. This kind of mentality is neither healthy nor is it sustainable. One day I was bound to burn out on spending hours at the gym. Today, I don’t have time to spend hours at the gym, but I do have time to spend hours at the playground! Working out at the playground while hanging out with my kids is a very healthy way to move my body. I don’t put many expectations on myself when I am at the playground, other than do a minimum of two exercises. Sometimes that turns into 10 exercises, sometimes it’s just two. But at least I moved my body. The next day, I might be on a walk and I decide to do a few jump squats on a bench and some pushups. That takes less than 2 minutes. Or I will run some of my favorite stairs with my boys after I drop off my daughter at school.

Moving my body a little bit every day guarantees I remain consistent. And if that is my only goal: moving my body a little bit every day, I rarely let myself down. Some days I get a full on workout and it feels amazing. Some days, I focus on my cardio and run stairs intentionally to get a good sweat going, and I love it. Sweating and working out feels great to me. But those things are not my priority anymore. Feeling good is. And sweating every single day, getting an intense workout every single day, doesn’t feel good to me anymore. Mainly because I don’t have the energy given the amount of sleep I get. But moving my body a little bit every single day, is a MUST for me to feel good and have a Good Life.

My point here is that to be healthy, I needed to make choices that are sustainable and convenient. Doing a quick 15 minute workout in my living room, is very convenient. Working out at the playground is definitely sustainable as I will be going to playgrounds for years.

I still love intense workouts. I love kickboxing. I love sweating. Yet I don’t believe those things to be essential on a daily basis to be healthy. I do believe in connecting with my inner beast every now and then to push boundaries and see what I am made of. But that’s not my every day approach to fitness anymore.

Once my kids are all in school, I wouldn’t be surprised if my priorities change again. Once I have more time to myself I will probably find a different way to act out on my desire to remain healthy. But for now, intenseness doesn’t equal healthness.

Loose weight the healthy way

What if I told you there was a better way to loose weight than by counting calories? Hang on for a minute. Let me explain my point of view here. I believe calorie counting to be very effective for weight loss. And if that is all you care about, weight management, than you might not think that there is a reason to do it differently. But here is where I get frustrated with calorie counting: it is solely based on numbers. Now, if you really care about your health, you might be one of the few who does calorie counting well and only eats very wholesome, nutritious foods. But again, why count calories if what you are eating is so nutritious? I mean, I would rather eat 200 calories of a delicious, nutritious piece of raw pie, than 100 calories coming from an energy bar or a candy bar. For many reasons, one of them being that the energy bar doesn’t necessarily feed your body quality ingredients, nor will it leave you feeling as full as long as nuts and seeds and dates, possibly vegetables, healthy fats and sugars would.

Here is the deal, instead of limiting yourself to say, a 1500 calorie a day diet, why not allow yourself to eat abundantly on a 0 chemical a day diet? If your food contains wholesome nutritionally dense ingredients, you will not need to eat as much of them, you will not feel hungry as often, your body will be able to break it down much more easily making it less likely that you are storing unwanted nutrients in unwanted places.

Start looking at the foods you buy, read the labels. Chemicals come in all kinds of sneaky ways. They are all over non organic produce, in conventional dairy, in store bought breads disguised as “dough conditioners”. Food additives and dyes. Most store bought sugar free sweets and low fat dairy. All those things have chemicals in them.

With that said, I am not saying go out and eat plates full of homemade pastas, or litters of apple juice because they are chemical free. My point here is being, if you are someone who spends a lot of time counting calories, I suggest you start looking at the quality of those calories, and if what you are eating doesn’t follow my 0 chemical a day rule, why not replace what you are about to eat with something equal in calories, and wholesome? Eventually, you will realize where the pitfalls are, and you will be able to make more conscientious decisions with your food, eating only things that feed you not fill you. Eventually, the foods you are consuming will make you feel so much better than the Jenny Craig frozen dinners, and all you will want to be eating will be real food.

I’ve struggled with weight in my life, and more than once (3 times actually) have I wanted to find a figure that I am happy with after having a child, and never have I counted calories. I’ve always relied on real food. Cutting the crap out of my diet and being honest with what goes into my body is the only way I have been able to loose weight and keep it off. Instead of looking at how many calories I am eating, I look at the quality of those calories. While I am still loosely aware of calories, they do not dictate what goes into my body.

I would rather live a life filled with delicious, nutritious calories, than one filled with empty chemically ridden foods.

Run for your kids

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“Luca! LUCA!! COME HERE LUCA!!!” I hear her shouting from the sidewalk. I am down the hill at the playground and I look up. This overweight mom is shouting after her what appears to be 2 year old boy, to stop running as he is getting closer to the street. A passerby stops the runaway boy as the mother huffs and puffs her way to thank the man. She proceeds to grab the child and yell at him. Now, I won’t pretend to know what was going on in this situation. Maybe she wasn’t even the mother? Although her behavior and interaction with the boy made it seem like so. Maybe she has a health condition that makes it she can’t run or exercise? Very possible. But it got me thinking, so here I am sharing my thoughts.

If you have no health conditions preventing you from exercising, I say: Run parents. Or ride a bike. Or swim. Or play a sport that gets your heart pumping. Whatever you do, make sure it is something that keeps your heart and lungs healthy enough to run after your child. Not only will it be fun for them to have an active parent, but it will be SAFE.

What if there were no passerby’s to catch this child before he made it to the busy street? I was far enough down the hill to not have been able to make much of a difference.

I exercise regularly. I actually get paid to help other people exercise as I am good and knowledgeable about it. My reason’s for exercising are quite numerous, and here are some of my top ones:

  • I exercise so I feel good everyday. My youngest is 9 months old and sleeps in our bed. No matter the amount of sleep I get (or don’t get, really), if I am strong and fit, I manage to make it through my days without too much sluggishness. Getting my blood pumping and my muscles activated allows me to keep going even on little sleep.
  • I exercise so I can keep up with my kids. Being able to chase them around, to roll on the ground, to run up and down hills, to play at the beach and go on hikes, is how memories are created. Most kids are active by nature. Being active makes it that I can participate in their life, be a team player and not a “bleacher mom”.
  • I exercise so I can react quickly in any given situation (like my kid running into the street). Feeling strong and capable allows me to have more fun and be more relaxed. I can let my kids wander around as I know I am fast and I can get to them quickly if I need to. I can pick all three of them up at once and lug them out of the street if they aren’t listening to me as a bus is coming towards us. I can take them on more challenging hikes knowing that if they can’t keep up anymore, I can carry them.
  • I exercise so my kids see me doing it. I want fitness to be something normal and natural for them. I don’t want them to have to struggle as teenagers or adults because I didn’t lead by example.
  • I exercise because I like to look good. Yes it’s true. I am not going to pretend like part of my motivation has nothing to do with looks. Because looking good feels good to me. I am proud of my body. I have stretch marks and flabby skin. I have cellulite and muscles. I am strong. And I find strength beautiful. But in all honesty, looking good is not a good enough reason on it’s own for me to keep up with my workouts. I need all those other reasons first in order to be consistent.

I try not to let it get to me, but it can’t help it. It saddens me to see parents not take care of themselves like this overweight woman. It saddens me because there is no way this woman feels good in her body. Not when she is huffing and puffing like she was. And it saddens me because she is the person that this child has to look up to. She is his example in life, and she is not doing a very good job. Yes, by my standards, I am aware of that. But if my standards make it that I feel competent in keeping my kids safe, than why wouldn’t I want that for other kids?

Whatever your motivation for moving your body, if you are a parent, keep in mind that they will look at you for inspiration.

So what is your motivation? Why do you exercise? Why do you not? I would love to hear your thoughts!

When grumpy leads to self myofascial release

Today was a hard day. For several reasons. None of these reasons really matter, what matters is what comes out of a challenging day. And the first thing I am able to be aware of is to be gentle on myself. When the realization that today was going to be harder than usual, I chose to embrace that and make decisions coming from a place of acceptance and not of desire. Sure, the desire to make this a better day was present, but I have learned from experience that fighting too hard to change something like this just makes it last longer and can make me feel even worse. So I let go of desire and just melted in to acceptance and surrender. I allowed myself to be mediocre and to do the bare minimum. I allowed myself to loose patience and feed my family take out. Today was not a day to go run stairs with the boys or do a playground workout. Today was not a day to prep an awesome meal and dance in the kitchen. Today was a day for stretching and releasing. This is when my (not so?) gentle companions come in handy. 

 

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Meet my back buddy and my foam roller. These two are pros at releasing tension in the body. And wether the tension is created by stress, fatigue or exercise, it needs to be released. Holding on to stress is what creates a life that is less than Good. The back buddy helps in reaching points in the back specifically that is hard for us to get to. It will access your trap muscles (at the base of your neck) where tension most frequently builds, as well as many other points of your body. The foam roller is particularly great for getting to the lower body and digging deep in muscle fascia in the legs, glutes and hips that we don’t get to by doing regular stretches. With both of these guys, we can get a good all over body muscular release in the comfort of our own home, and more importantly, when ever we feel we need it. Using both of these tools do hurt a bit. Depending on how often you stretch and do this kind of work, it might even hurt a lot. That means you need it even more. 

On days like today I have learned to not push beyond what I feel motivated to do and take advantage of my low energy state to focus on a more gentle form of physical activity. Although some believe that one should “train hard, push your limits every day, sweat like a beast, don’t listen to your body and push harder, etc…..”, I believe it is very important to recognize when some TLC is in order. I think it is important to move our bodies daily, sweat and challenge ourselves regularly, and push our limits at times, as much as it is important to stretch, breath, focus on tension points and do physical work that requires little movement. Taking the time to use my two companions today gave me so much more strength than I would have gotten from pushing myself and running stairs or doing an intense workout. Taking the time to do this form of physical work allowed me to be present with myself, breath and release any physical and emotional stress I was holding on to. 

Today might not have been ideal but it was definitely worth living. I can go to bed more relaxed both physically and emotionally because I gave myself the time I needed to work through it all. It was a good reminder to be gentle on myself and to keep on keeping on. Living  a Good Life is not about never experiencing sadness, pain or discomfort, living a Good Life is about recognizing our own power in those moments and making the choices that will allow us to pick ourselves up with ease once the storm has passed. I am dedicated to living a Good Life, with all its struggles, challenges, beauty and thrills. Making healthy decisions is what allows me to do just that. 

Living the Good Life, healthy and fit

As a stay at home mom and mother of three, I need to get creative with my workouts if I want to stay in shape, feeling strong and energized. I don’t have time for the gym. Heck, I don’t even have a gym membership! But I feel amazing! And every little thing helps. Sometimes (rarely) I can spend a whole hour in my garage doing a great workout, sometimes all I have is 10 minutes in my living room. Often I get to go to the playground with my kids and i use that as my gym. In any case, I truly believe that being fit and healthy comes with the kind of lifestyle that can last a lifetime. Would you rather spend hours at the gym for the rest of your life, or would you prefer to enjoy life outdoors, with your kids, grandkids? Not that you can’t do both, but the more time spent inside a weight room, the less time spent living.

I’m probably sounding anti weight room right now which is not the case. I’ve been a fitness trainer for over 12 years, spent a good 6 of those years working inside a gym. And I loved it. I loved the energy, I loved getting inspired and motivated by others. I loved the exercise classes. I loved all the weights! Truly! I could lift heavy for a woman and I felt proud. Gyms have a purpose and are great for specific goals. When it comes to living a wholesome well rounded life, I believe in finding ways to stay active and fit while living my everyday life. Now that I have 3 kids, my everyday life involves them, and they are not allowed in the weight room. 

It took me some time to get on board with that. I just couldn’t seem to get as fit and be as healthy as I wanted to because I always thought I needed more. More time, more classes, more weights, more energy! More more more…… I was coming from a place of lack. When really I had everything I needed to live the life I wanted. I just wasn’t aware nor was I utilizing what I had to my advantage. 

I changed that. My outlook was the first thing to change and then everything fell into place. I have become increasingly aware of the choices that I have on a daily basis. We are all, always faced with choices. It is our decisions that will create the quality of our lives. And I have decided to live a Good Life, actually, it’s a great life 🙂 Some days it’s really hard to stay on top of my decision making and I slip. But I don’t let it put me down. A bad day just is. It doesn’t have to dictate how I live my life. The beauty about being alive is that there is always tomorrow to get back up if today is too hard. I choose to get back up because life is more enjoyable to me that way. I choose health and fitness because I find it easier to be a mom when I feel great about myself. I choose responsibility because really, no one else can live my life for me. 

With all theses choices, I have decided to make the most of my time while being a stay at home mom. And that includes being as fit and healthy as I can be. I will be sharing with you short videos of things I do to keep active while being with the kids, either out and about, at playgrounds, or at home. I hope I can inspire some of you and show you that you do not need a gym membership to be fit, you do not need 2 hours out of your day to feel strong, you do not need to go on 5 mile runs to slim down. You definitely do not need to push yourself until you vomit and beat yourself up because you did not lift until your muscles gave out. I use my kids in my workouts, not only are they heavy enough, but they are way cuter than a dumbbell!! 

I hope you find my fitness shares useful and I am happy to hear your feedback! Here is to living a Good Life 🙂