Sunday, July 28, 2013

Races Deliver Fun and Motivation

Team Wellness at the Finish Line!
"Why spend all that money on a 5K race when you can simply go out and walk the same distance yourself?" It was a fair question. Even though most races are raising funds for legitimate charities, it's still around $25 a pop. Real money. So, why don't I just encourage folks to simply get together to walk?  I do encourage an exercise buddy or group. Exercise dates with others can improve commitment and provide support and motivation to exercise. 

Patty's fired up to start the race!
Races add even more; they take it up a notch. There's something special about the excitement and the spirit of the race. Picking up race packets, pinning on your number, people milling and warming up, booths to look at, and the sound system blasting energizing music. The entire experience lights up motivation and fun. It makes you anxious to get started and be part of the group--the active and athletic group. And it doesn't matter how fast you go or whether you walk or run. From the starting gun to the finish line, spectator's clap, cheer and encourage everyone. You want to keep going, get your best time, and to have your name called out as you cross the finish line. 

As they finish, racers crowd around the posted time sheets to see how well they did. They talk about beating their last time and what race is next. And then you start wondering if you should do another race. It's all about fantastic fun and motivation. And, it's a good kind of contagious.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Success is Sweeter than Sugar

Patty's on the left, with Elaina
She didn't want to start taking cholesterol medication! As a nurse, she knew that making dietary changes could help. She pleaded with her cardiologist for time to improve her blood lipid profile on her own. Hesitantly, he agreed to a short trial period...

Patty's story shows one of determination and persistence. In February, her blood work showed a total cholesterol of 265 mg/dL, LDL at 156, and triglycerides of 145. Not good, but it spurred her into immediate action. Her mantra was simple: No Meds.

Walking was already part of Patty's life and had been for a number of years. She had that exercise part down. She sets different monthly goals for herself and others through Endomondo, her favorite smart phone app that records distance, time, pace, and calories burned for different activities, and allows for interaction among Endo users. In fact, she's been faithfully walking 100 miles each month for over 2 years! Aerobic exercise---check.

Now was the time to get serious about her diet. Patty stopped eating all those villainous fats, the trans- and saturated in red meat, egg yolks, dairy, and sweet treats. Her daily foods included healthy unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids: ground flax seed, lemon flavored cod liver oil, almonds, and walnuts. She focused on eating whole grains, vegetables, fruit, chicken and fish. She became a fastidious label reader. Processed foods? GMO's? Not for her.

After 3 months, she lost 16 pounds and is happily holding firm on a healthy weight. But, she was really nervous about her upcoming blood work. What if all her hard work was for naught?

I met Patty last week, just as the doctor's office called to give her the results of her new blood work, 5 months later. SUCCESS!! She dropped her cholesterol down to 172, LDL dropped to 100, and triglycerides to 111! What an amazing success!! 

A big, loud CONGRATULATIONS to a healthier, svelte, and ever so strong Patty!! You're an inspiration to us all! 
Moral of the story: What you eat does make a difference!

Patty's Labs (mg/dL)
  • Total Cholesterol 256 - 172
  • LDL 156 - 100
  • Triglycerides 145 - 111


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Heat and Hydration

The weather forecast is 90 degrees for the next 4-5 days in Michigan. In many areas of the country this heat is felt often. For my sister living in California's middle desert, it's a dry heat. For my sister in Richmond, it's both heat and humidity. Wherever you live, when heat waves hit, it's important to be cautious and drink more fluids.

Understanding the effects of heat and adequate body water is essential to minimize the change of heat injury. Young children and older adults are more at risk for dehydration and need to be monitored carefully.

Many people think that as long as they don't feel thirsty, they are getting plenty of fluids. Unfortunately, thirst is not the best indicator of dehydration. Doctors suggest a better way to evaluate hydration is to monitor urine color. Darker gold or amber urine signals dehydration (though some vitamin supplements may also temporarily darken urine). Clear or pale straw color indicates adequate fluids. Go for clear.

  • Heat Exhaustion can produce mild to moderate dehydration. Symptoms include:
    • Dry, sticky mouth and increased thirst
    • Flushed skin & rise in body temperature
    • Increased pulse & breathing rate or labored breathing
    • Dry skin
    • Paleness
    • Muscle cramps
    • Reduced urination
    • Headache
    • Nausea
    • Constipation
    • Dizziness
    • Weakness
    • Results in loss of fluid from blood which makes the heart work harder.
  • Heat stroke causes severe dehydration and is a life threatening medical emergency. The body has lost it's ability to cool itself, and body temperatures can rise to dangerous levels. Classic heat stroke is due to high environmental temperatures. Very young children, older adults, and though with chronic illnesses are most at risk. Exertional heat stroke is caused by internal body heat from high levels of exercise.
    • Irritability
    • Extremely dry mouth
    • Cessation of sweating
    • Skin that appears shriveled, lacks elasticity, red 
    • Little to no urination
    • Muscle cramping
    • Nausea, vomiting
    • Sunken eyes
    • Low blood pressure
    • Rapid heart rate and breathing
    • Fever
    • Confusion, irrational behavior, delirium
    • Unconsciousness
To prevent heat related illnesses, it's critical to pay attention to hydration. Water remains the best fluid for normal hydration, though all other fluids also work, though some not as well. Alcoholic beverages during excessive heat should be avoided due to their dehydrating effect. Caffeinated beverages have long been labeled dehydrating, though to its actual effect is now questioned for regular caffeine consumers. Even the food you eat contributes to a lesser degree. Water remains the top choice. Sports drinks contain sodium and other electrolytes that can be good for excessive sweating and when exercise lasts more than an hour.
When exercising in higher temperatures, it's critical to drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercise. Stick to early morning hours or after four for all strenuous outdoor activity. Interestingly, it's the well-trained athletes who are more at risk, due to their well-trained ability to sweat and lose more fluids. 

The need for fluid replacement goes up with:
  • Higher temperatures
  • Larger body size
  • Higher trained athletes
  • Increase in exercise intensity
  • Longer time outdoors
  • Longer the workout
You can drink too much. Extremely large water consumption can lead to a dangerous, hyper-hydrated state called hyponatremia, which can dilute sodium and other electrolyte concentration to life-threatening levels.

Heat can affect anyone. Pay attention to heat advisories and adjust your plans accordingly. When temperatures rise, start increasing water or other fluids throughout the day. Strive to keep your urine clear or straw colored.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Eat Something New!

Red, White and Blue Strawberries
"I always eat the same things. It's easier." "Same old, same old." 

So many people who are trying to lose weight end up eating the same foods day in and day out. They say it's easier to count and keep track of just a few foods. That may be so, but it's certainly not the way to stick with your plan, be healthy, or to even to enjoy eating. It's just boring. If you eat only tuna, chicken breast and lettuce, you'll likely end up face first in lasagna, chips, or chocolate. It's just the way deprivation works. 

It's also important to eat a wide variety of foods in order to get all the different vitamins, minerals, antioxidants that are important for a healthy body.

Trying new recipes is a great way to make that happen. With all the online sources now, googling healthy recipes can be an easy way to start. We really enjoyed trying new recipes for our 4th of July picnic: Cooking Light's Red, White and Blue Potato Salad, EatingWell's broccoli bacon salad, and red, white, and blue strawberries. 

Another trick is to buy something new at the grocery store each week. Try a fruit or vegetable that you've never had or one that you haven't had in awhile. Star fruit, blackberries, frisse. Shrimp, scallops, filet, pork tenderloin. Quinoa, barley, Bulgar. Pick up a different variety of lettuce and a bunch of fresh herbs to toss in a salad. Variety is the key to sticking with your healthy eating plan. 

You'll be amazed to see how much more you'll enjoy eating when your taste buds get to experience all sorts of different flavors. Try something new. Enjoy eating a variety of new foods, different recipes, and a healthier you!