glow notes

Friday, October 28, 2005

Tee hee

I've got a big fat post in the works, just need to edit. In the meantime, enjoy this cartoon!

Friday, October 21, 2005

what's in a name?

Thinking about the word addiction.

I facilitated a workshop on building healthy food and fitness habits yesterday. It was the first time I'd taught this workshop. It was a great group, and I learned a lot from the experience.

We did an exercise that involved exploring 'rules' about eating. As a food and fitness coach, I don't recommend giving up foods or food groups, because it seems to me that the human psyche is designed to crave anything that it is denied. I am more interested in attaining overall balance than nutritional perfection.

While discussing the exercise, I was asked a question about food addiction in regards to this exercise - I wouldn't recommend that an alcoholic drink, why would I recommend that a person with food issues eat. I fumbled this question, and so have been thinking on it. Upon consideration, here's what I believe on the topic. I have an open mind on this, total respect for other opinions, and understand that it can be an emotional topic.

I'm not a registered dietician, psychologist, or medical doctor. I'm not trained to deal with addictions or eating disorders.

However, I've read a lot on the topic, including the opinions of many experts, many of whom are RDs and/or PhDs, and some of whom have successfully helped thousands of people with these problems. And I like this take on the subject of food addiction. In short, at Green Mountain they teach, among other things, that:

  • The concept of addiction to food is disempowering, as it teaches us that we don't know how to care for ourselves in the most basic sense (nurture ourselves, feed ourselves).
  • More often than not, the issue is not with biochemical addiction to a particular food, but with the process of overeating, with thought patterns and with emotional well-being.
  • If we deal with root issues, problems with food can be overcome.
  • That feelings of deprivation are often a trigger for binge eating.
    and, best of all
  • Once people begin to truly care for themselves at the most essential level, they can learn to enjoy 1/2 cup of chocolate ice cream or a banana nut muffin without going off the deep end.
There are a whole range of opinions and behaviors surrounding self-care vis a vis food, and I believe that we each need to do what works for us at the point of need.

shout out to girls at the gym

To the women I see doing biceps curls and shoulder press with 5-pound dumbells and never going any heavier: you're wasting your time, girlfriends.

Here's the deal: you're stronger than that. Resistance training requires progressive overload of the muscle fibers or it doesn't do much for you.

What that means is that you have to push harder than the stage you're already at.

That means you need to select a weight that is somewhat difficult for you to pick up, and pick it up several times, until the muscle is pretty irritated with you. Rest, repeat. Do that 3-4 times per exercise, 3-5 exercises per body part, preferably not all on the same day, 1-2 times per week.

You can already lift 5-pounds and carry it without a problem, probably for hours. Here are a few things that weigh more than 5-pounds:

  • a bag of groceries (usually)
  • most cute little dogs that you might want to put in a designer Pucci bag and carry around
  • the vacuum cleaner
  • a stack of 3 or 4 books
  • a gallon bottle of water
  • probably your gym bag
  • most possibly your purse
  • a baby

Get the picture? You've gotta step it up a notch or you might as well stay home and do wrist curls with the remote. I promise you won't get big. I'm no Mindi O'Brien, but I am pretty built for a chick. You may find my level of muscularity not to your aesthetic preference - that's just fine. I promise, you won't get delts, pecs or traps like mine unless you work out with heavy weights 4 or 5 days per week, really know what you're doing (or hire a trainer), and happen to be a mesomorph.

To all you women in the 'boy's room' of the gym who are pushing yourself to be stronger and healthier, whether that means you start your workout with 5-pound dumbells or 40s: I love your spirit!

From part-time bodybuilders to Olympic sprinters, from full-time mothers to CEOs, from chefs to spiritual leaders - STRONG WOMEN ROCK!

(in the gym and out)

(my man thinks so, too)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

and now a word from our sponsor

Like most days, I did some laundry one day a couple of weeks ago (when does the laundry breed? I'm going to sit and watch one day to find out). I schlepped it up the stairs and dumped the baskets of warm sheets and clothes in the bedroom. When I came up a couple of hours later to go to bed, I found the piglet curled up as tiny as she could, in one of the laundry baskets. She's looking at me like: you weren't planning to make me move, were you (asshole)?

Hmmm, can I tie this into food and fitness somehow . . . . . ? Nope, not this early in the morning. But I do gather a lot of inspiration from this puppy of mine. She is so close to her own nature, nothing gets in the way. Here are a few of the lessons she's given me:
  1. Food is good, but playtime is even better.
  2. My body is like a hot sportscar, and I can't wait to take it out for a whirl.
  3. Guilt? Is that like how I'm supposed to feel when I know I wasn't supposed to get on the counter and eat the cheese but do it anyhow because it's cheeeeesey-licious? Hmmmm . . . did you say cheese?
  4. Exercise? What's exercise? I want to RUN!
  5. There are some foods that are worth a tummy ache, and some that aren't.

Hmmm . . . many more, I'm sure, but it's time for COFFEE!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

starting a fitness program - and enjoying it

Fitness doesn't have to totally suck. I promise.

You might not believe me, but that's OK. Just read on.

Here's what I've discovered in myself and observed in others. When most people start an exercise program, they exercise too hard too soon. This doesn't feel good.

Later, they don't progress their program, and plateau at the same moderate level of fitness. That's ok, but it doesn't feel as great as it could.

First of all, let's bash one misconception. I want you to know that being very fit doesn't mean you have to work out all the flipping time. But Ellie, you might ask why do I meet so many people who seem obsessed with working out and spend oodles of time at it? That's because once you get into it, it feels so dang good, you might want to do more. For some people, it becomes more than a physical need - it becomes a social outlet, spiritual food, legal/healthy alternative to mind-numbing drugs, and way of life.

But you don't have to worry about that right now. Right now, let's keep it light.

Today I'm going to write about how to do this if you're just starting out. Maybe you used to be fit and let it slip, maybe you've never picked up anything heavier than your remote control and aerobic exercise means there wasn't a parking space right in front of the grocery store. (nb: if you used to be in shape, but got out of shape because, like me, you had really important career stuff to attend to [yawn!], it's even more important to progress slowly, because you remember how much you used to be able to do and could hurt yourself - believe me, I know.)

Here's a suggested progression:

  1. Make a list of ways of moving that you would enjoy. Some possibilities:
    -walking the dog or walking with friends or just walking
    -roller skating/blading
    -dancing around the house in your skivvies, wowing the cat with your slick breakdance moves
    -hiking in a beautiful location
    -putting on boxing gloves, punching a bag, and pretending it's your first boy/girlfriend, the one who ditched you for the girl/guy with all the Izod shirts and the name-brand boat shoes
    -disco ping pong
    -tennis, but the goal is NOT to hit the ball
    -aerobic housekeeping (and reach and put that plate away, ladies and gentlemen! Now, three sets of vacuum pushing on each side and we're done for the day!)
    -boot camp for TV-holics: each commercial break do one exercise such as pushups (start with wall pushups), jumping jacks, ab crunches, triceps dips on the couch, curl cans of soup, speed squats, lunges around the perimeter of the room, or whatever else you dream up. The goal is to do 20 reps, then yell "woo hoo!" and switch seats on the couch with other people in the room (or yourself, you count) before the show starts again.
    -pretend to be Bruce Lee. Say things like "I've come to avenge my family honor!" and do air kicks, spins, and fast punches. Be careful not to throw a shoulder out. Uh- better shut the blinds, too, some people might not understand your Superman underoos.

    Whatever! The point is just move. It doesn't have to be serious. It just needs to make your blood move faster than sitting on your butt. You can do this stuff alone, with friends or family, in a class setting, at home, in a gym (except for the ones involving wearing only underwear, most gyms frown on that), outside (skivvy rule applies here also) or any combination thereof.
  2. Type up your list. OK, pshew, that's the only serious part. Now, save your list. Call it something like "Ellie's secret master plan to take over the world via superstrong deltoids and a much improved VO2 max" or "Project Hot Body."
  3. Print several copies of your list. Buy a cute little binder to store them. Get some stickers to put on it. Make a label with the project name on it. Put it in a place of honor, next to your prom photo and your Star Wars action figures that you pretend belong to the kids. Or just print it out and put it on the fridge.
  4. For the first week, do something on the list for 10 minutes, 3 times. Don't do more. I repeat: don't do more. Don't let yourself do more.

    What, you want to do more? Hah! Tricked ya!

    Check items off as you do them. Each worksheet is a week. Date the worksheet and save it. Make notes on the sheet about how you feel before/after, how you're sleeping, how your body is changing, health notes, emotions, etc. and save them to review later. You can switch around items on your list, it doesn't have to be the same thing each time.
  5. Week two: 15 minutes, 3 times/week.
  6. Week 3: 20 minutes (or split into 2 10-minute things), 3 times/week.
  7. Week 4: 20 minutes (or split into 2 10-minute things), 4 times.
  8. Weeks 5+: every time you do 10 minutes, put a check mark next to an item on the list. Make it a goal to put 10 checkmarks up there each week, spread out over at least 3 days. If you do 10, do a little victory dance or a cheerleading routine. If you do more than 10, give yourself some kind of a treat for each 10-minute increment. Treats can be free or can cost less than $5. Some ideas:

    -a gold star. Hey, it works for kids.
    -a half an hour of TV!
    -a 10-minute nap
    -a 'get out of jail free pass' on the housework - had anybody ever actually died because the dishes piled up?
    -a glitter pen in your favorite color
    -a magazine you love!
    -read a really terrible novel for 10-minutes
    -a hot bath
    -a bath item from the kids aisle at Target: a rubber ducky, bubbles (try the colored kind), soap pens to write on the walls, soap body paints
    -or save up your $5's and get something nice: a cute outfit, a massage, fancy new shampoo, or (this is my favorite) pay a housekeeper to clean your house once.

    The point isn't that you have to earn these things in order to deserve them, the point is that it's a game, and it's FUN!
  9. If you find yourself getting too serious or not looking forward to your movement time, revisit your list and rate each movement item from 1-5, 1 being "I do this because it's good for me" and 5 being "that's not exercise, it's PLAYTIME!." Now, cross any items off that rate less than a 3.
  10. Revisit your list once a month and see if there's anything new you can add. Maybe you'd like to try a kickboxing class and get in touch your your inner Michelle Yeoh (or Jackie Chan, as the case may be). Or perhaps you'd like to meet a friend (or friends) at the gym and see who can pick up more total weight in 30 minutes, winner gets something cool - like their dog washed or a ride to the gym next time or gets to wear the fake diamond tiara from the $1 store or something.

That's it! Do this program for 3 months - just *3 short months* and if you don't like it, you can go back to watching "Saved by the Bell" reruns, I won't give you any flack - and see if you don't sleep better, feel like eating healthier foods, have more energy, sit better for meditation (if you do that sort of thing), and more.

Oh, and I'd love to hear how it goes!

Monday, October 10, 2005

why women should weigh as much as they possibly can

It's true. Whether you are male or female, it's best to weigh as much as you can while maintaining your desired level of body fat.

I hope that this isn't big news to anybody. I still hear women talk a lot about 'losing weight,' so I thought I'd drive the point home with some examples.

Four years ago, I weighed in at 165 and had 32% body fat (that level of fat, while not healthy, is not atypical - I did not look fat, just maybe a bit chubby). To maintain that weight, presuming that I was not moving around much, I got to eat about 1900 calories a day.

If I did a cardiovascular exercise program and watched my food intake until I weighed, say, 125 and could wear size 6 jeans, I would be quite happy. I would have reduced the amount of fat in my body. But I also would have reduced the amount of muscle in my body, because the body is more than willing to give up muscle if you aren't using it. Let's assume I didn't starve myself and therefore didn't lose -too- much muscle. Let's say that my body fat percentage is now 22%, a good healthy number.

Except that I now only get to eat 1700 calories per day to maintain my weight (plus whatever I burn exercising). And with each passing year, I will get to eat fewer calories because my body composition will naturally change as I age.

OK, then. Here's what I did instead. I did cardiovascular exercise, but I also did a resistance training program three days per week. I now weigh 136 and have about 18% body fat.

I now get to eat 1900 calories per day to maintain my weight, plus whatever I burn. That's the same number of calories as when I weighed almost 20 pounds more! And because I'm not dragging around 52.8 pounds of fat, I have a lot more energy to do fun things that burn calories!

Two-hundred extra calories per day may not sound like a lot, but it's: a slice of pepperoni pizza, 1/2 cup of chocolate ice cream (or a cup of lowfat frozen yogurt with an ounce of m and m's or 1/4 cup granola), three big apples, an ounce of walnuts, a chocolate chip cookie, 3+ ounces of salmon, 3 ounces top sirloin steak, 6 cups of chopped broccoli, a cup of cereal with milk . . . or imagine what I could do with those calories if I saved them up for a week?

The extra calories my body burns give me pleasure, keep my belly happy, and give me more options for satisfying my nutritional needs.

And, get this: I'm now a size 4. I am skinnier than I would be if I weighed 11 pounds less.

We've all heard that muscle weighs more than fat. It's true. A pound of muscle is about a third of the size of a pound of fat. And I'm sure you've heard that a pound of muscle burns 35+ calories per day, whereas fat tissue just sort of sits there and looks blobby (actually, it burns some calories, just not many - a few per hour). So if I have more lean body mass, I burn more calories just sitting on my butt. Plus, if I keep at it, I don't lose that typical 1/2 pound of muscle per year that decreases my caloric needs.

But wait, there's more. Resistance training is good for lots of reasons, some of which haven't been discovered yet. A few off the top of my head: higher bone density, fewer joint problems, decreased depression, and a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease. Plus you get to pick things up that other people can't, like your 50 pound squirming pit bull. And then there's some cool stuff that's technical and/or still undergoing research, like the effects of muscle mass on the hormones that control aging and how strength training effects the energy production within your cells.

Cardiovascular training is important. It builds some muscle, it keeps your heart strong, and it does all sorts of other good things for your body. But strength training is key for health and weight loss/maintenance.

The cool thing is that you don't have to spend hours in the gym every week to get these benefits! I'll write about how much and getting started later this week.

Friday, October 07, 2005

the "D" word

The cover of Oriah Mountain Dreamer's book The Dance says:

What if the question is not why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?

And that, I believe, begins a conversation about the difference between will power and discipline.

Will power means gritting your teeth and getting something difficult done. That's necessary somteimes. It's a powerful force, the will, but it's draining to use it very often.

Discipline is making time, saving energy, creating space, to do the things that matter to you, that make you more you.

For instance, I am working to create time to meditate and read inspirational stuff daily, which has been difficult. But when I do it, my life flows better, I am full of inspiration and ideas, and I am a much more joyful person. Oh, and I sleep better, that's a plus.

Why is it difficult? I can think of two possible reasons, probably both true. One, it's always hard to build a new habit - it takes persistence and planning. Two, I think sometimes our little "s" selves resist moving in the direction of our highest good (towards revealing our big "S" Selves) because it entails a lot of responsibility. I'll think more on that and write about it in another post.

Some people are shocked at my discipline in regard to food and fitness. I lift weights and run 5 days a week. I get up gawdawefulearly to do it. I pack my food up the night before and stick to an eating plan. Right now, at least, I don't deviate from that plan. What I do is not outrageous, but it is disciplined.

But you see, it's easy for me. Because a) I've already built the habits and b) this is not about willpower. It's about discipline. Discipline to be more me.

A mentor I've never met, Dave Draper, writes in his latest newsletter:

I treated the gym as a refuge and my training as a gift. I relaxed, settled into my workouts without pressure, allowed them to happen -- I relied on them -- and they happened very well.

Yes, yes, and yes.

The take-home lesson?

If building a habit (or giving one up) is difficult or uncomfortable, that's normal. You can design support structures and strategies to make it easier. I am, for instance, reading and meditating each night before bed. The structure of that schedule is helping me to incorporate something new into my life. I may also find a friend to do discuss the reading with once a week, so that I'll have added incentive to have done it.

However, if building your new habit feels like pushing a boulder up a hill each day, it may be that you need to take a hard look at your goal and see if it's the right one.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

change your mind, change your booty

A study published in the March 2005 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association observed 48 obese men and women over 8 weeks while dieting. Apparently, those who believed that their weight was under their control lost more weight.

Imagine that.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

an inside job

I live in Southern California. I drive quite a bit - maybe an hour a day. I listen to talk radio on occasion.

The other day I was listening to some call-in doctor show. I don't even know the name of the doctor, but people called with their health problems and he made suggestions.

A woman in her 50's called complaining that her breasts were getting larger, uncomfortably so, though she had not changed weight. What could be causing this?

The doctor hemmed and hawed and said something about fat 'sucking' and redistributing in women as they age due to hormonal changes, and made a joke about how a lot of women would love to have her problem.


There's a principle in logic called Occam's Razor which says that given two equally predictive theories, choose the simpler. In other words, "when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras." In other words, keep it simple, doc.

Adults over age 25 gain a pound a year on average. Most adults who don't resistance train also lose about 1/2 pound of muscle per year (which means that if a person gains one pound per year s/he is gaining 1.5 pounds of fat. If a person stays the same weight, s/he gains 1/2 pound of fat; low-calorie diets increase muscle loss).

This woman said that she was not gaining weight, so either she exercises, diets, or she's a self-modulating eater (some people are, and the rest of us don't like them much).

But I'd put money down that if she exercises, it's cardio training, not resistance training; that her body composition is changing as she ages; and the added fat is going right to her chest. Breasts are a common place for women to store extra fat. I know this from experience - I went down a cup size and a half when I went from 32% to 18% body fat.

The doctor did not ask if the caller exercised and how. He didn't suggest that she have her body composition tested. He didn't let her know that higher than healthy body fat percentages might increase her odds of cancer, cardiovascular disease, joint problems, osteoporosis, and a host of other illnesses.

More importantly, he didn't empower her to take charge of her own body. To increase the probability of vibrant health now and as the years go by. To stand tall and walk strong.

Did he not know this, or was he just so enamored of the complex (and admittedly sometimes invaluable) information in his well-educated head that he forgot about the simple, intrinsic wisdom of the body?

Was the fact that this woman probably had the answer she needed right there in her own power unfathomable?

I get help with my health when I need it. I've needed it often. There's a lot to be said for book learnin'.

I also ditch health professionals that don't empower me to care for myself.

Because in the end, the solutions are always inside of me. I just have to find them.