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Category Archives: Physical Health

Obese & Healthy

Last Friday was my yearly physical and today I got the blood test results.

According to every BMI chart out there, my 5’9″ 231 pound solid self falls on the obese side of the algorithm.

According to my primary doctor’s observational evaluation and “superb” blood test results with “good, if not better, numbers than my previous results,”  I am metabolically healthy.

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I am more than a number.  I am an ongoing work in progress. I’m not saying weight doesn’t have anything to do with your health, it clearly does.  But, it is not everything.

I stand by the belief that not every thin person is healthy, and not every obese person is unhealthy.  There are many factors that play into health, but numbers on a scale and coordinating charts do not define your lifestyle.  You define your lifestyle and the blood tests confirm it.  What you put into your body and how often you move your body is ultimately what makes you “healthy” or “unhealthy” as far as diet.  It’s a pretty simple formula.

There is a little debate about the term “metabolically healthy obese” but more and more people are starting to understand that it’s not all about weight.  “It’s much easier to get a fat person fit than it is to get a fat person thin,” states Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D., an exercise and wellness professor at Arizona State University.   My experience focusing on weight alone has led to a lifetime of yo-yo dieting and depression, fueling my hatred for TV Shows like The Biggest Loser.  Since changing my mindset to focus on strength and fitness, I’ve never felt better in this “obese” body and I’ve tried to make it easier for others to accept their own natural healthy size.

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I dreaded these annual physicals in previous years due to my elevated weight, poor eating habits, and fear of needles.  2 years ago and 48 pounds heavier, I knew it was time to change & take control of my health no matter how difficult.  I wanted to feel better in my skin while improving my overall quality of life.  My primary doctor’s tactful bedside manner and compassion for my weight struggles had a large part of helping me get started in making the right food and exercise choices.    Being lambasted by primarily older doctors in the past about my weight would send me spiraling deeper into a depression and avoiding check ups on the regular in fear of “failing”.  With my current physician it’s a team effort and I never feel judged.  That’s the way it should be.

This is why I cannot express enough how finding a support system that you trust, and who builds you up instead of tearing you down, is very important in reaching your health goals.   I tried to do it on my own in the past, but I knew that I needed guidance from someone who I could be completely honest with this time around.  Not only did I find a wonderful Primary doctor, but I found an excellent therapist who I saw regularly over these past years.  I now only call her if I need her and I have not seen her in over 2 months.  It’s nice to know professional resources are there when I need a little extra support, ongoing or temporary, and that they will help guide me back into a positive and encouraging mindset.

I understand not everyone has access to these resources but sometimes we all just need to find that one person in your life (a partner, sibling, parent, child, co-worker, friend, blogger, etc.) who will be there to urge and support you as you transition your existence into something meaningful and long-lasting.  I want to let you all know that it’s OK to ask for help and you are not alone in your struggles to find that healthy balance in your life.

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Thoughts on Addiction.

I have a pretty serious addiction.  It may be arguable but it’s actually in the Top 10 Most Common Addictions in America.

I find myself constantly thinking about one of the things that gives me a high, which is food.  Whether I’m happy, sad, complacent, or bored, I’m always thinking about my next “fix”.   Moreover, it’s usually unhealthy sugar or carbo loaded food that I know is poison to my body and will make me feel physically and mentally horrible afterwards.  It may also be an urge to eat any food (healthy or not) and feel that extremely full where it’s almost painful food coma, also known as overeating.  Both of these acts to be followed by shame and disgust.  I also find in trying to control my addiction to food, I tend to fill my “need hole” with a behavioral addiction in the form of exercise or shopping.. The only downfall is that exercise is work, shopping can cost too much money, and eating food is cheap & easy.  I am the type of person that likes cheap & easy!

So why do I still feel this urge to eat such horrible foods when it’s been proven from experience and SCIENCE that eating healthier not only makes you feel better but live longer?  Is it the taboo?  Is it depression?  Or is it addiction?

It’s a constant cycle no matter what your drug of choice.

I recently read a short article about how impulsive personalities are linked to food addiction, stating that while their “study shows that impulsive behavior was not necessarily associated with obesity, impulsive behaviors can lead to food addiction.”  It made me wonder if I have this type of personality or if I have an addictive personality, or if all of them are rolled up into one!  In doing some self analyzing I concluded that I just might have an impulsive personality but I struggle to contain it in accordance with social norms.  I do things that make me feel good, even if it may be defined as “unhealthy”, as long as it does seem to be hurting another person.  I’m not stealing from or attacking people because of my addiction.  This is how I justify my actions.  But in doing this I fail to take into account myself, and how my demise may effect those who love and care about me.  This is something I’ve been trying to figure out in therapy for the past year.  Addicts don’t realize how their decisions effect other people emotionally, because the need of getting that next high is too powerful.  So we see addiction as selfish and stupid.  This is why the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman struck a cord with me as people ridiculed him for overdosing on heroin while he had 3 children and a lucrative career.  I may not have an illegal drug addiction or an alcohol addiction, but food is my drug of choice.  And food is available almost anywhere and at any age so I don’t have to walk into a dark alleyway to buy a loaf of delicious crispy Italian bread for $50.

I strangely identified with this tragedy, which I thought was crazy since I’ve never been around any sort of illegal drug activity in my life.  Then I read that a study suggests “in some people’s brains high calorie foods can elicit cravings and trigger responses similar to those caused by addictive drugs,” and I felt compassion and sadness that his addiction got the best of him.  It must be great that some of those who spoke out angrily against Mr. Hoffman don’t have an addiction, good for you!  But for those of us who constantly have that feeling of needing something we know may kill us or make us unhealthy, whether now or over time, it’s not as simple as “he just didn’t care about anyone but himself.” It is more than that.  Addiction is a complex disease that changes brain chemistry in the user.

Addiction also comes in many forms aside from illegal substances & food, including the internet/technology, caffeine, pornography, sex, prescription drugs, gambling,  smoking, alcohol, video games, hoarding and yes even shopping!  The list does not stop there either.  There is that fine line between having a healthy relationship with these things and having a problem, and personally I feel no one should be judged for how their addiction controls them. Addiction may be difficult for those who don’t understand, I get that, I just hope people can find compassion in themselves for those who may not be as strong or as disciplined as they are.  I’m constantly wrestling with my addictions and though I feel I’m in a much better place than previous years, I will always struggle with unhealthy impulses.

All I can do is try to live better each day, work on being emotionally stronger, and ask for help.

Never be afraid to ask for help.  Please take time to read this compelling article by actor Russel Brand about his own struggle with addiction.  No words can describe the thoughtfulness and rawness of his words.

Strengthening and Shaping for the Lazy

I like easy strengthening exercises.  I’m lazy and a procrastinator who will build up what she needs to do to epic proportions in her mind, psyching herself out of doing any work at all.

I have not done yoga or pilates, or any sort of strengthening exercises for months.  (I can blame it on the Holidays, but, well, ok I’ll blame it on the holidays.)  Over the past 2 weeks I’ve been back working on the weight machines at the gym to strengthen without the pressure of not falling over during yoga or Pilates.  I just started to see and feel results this past week so I figured I’d try my hand at some floor moves.  Anyone who says yoga and Pilates are easier than pumping iron are DEAD WRONG.  Ok, maybe it’s relative to your own body weight vs. weights on the machine.  I’ve got some lbs. on me, so lifting 20 pound weights to work my shoulders on a machine is kids play opposed to holding my body weight up in some Pilates moves.  Personally, I prefer floor work over the weight machines since machines isolate specific muscles and yoga/Pilates work all the stabilizing muscles as well as main muscles.  I like a full body workout!

I also strongly procrastinate working on my core.  I know it’s necessary to work your middle to feel your strongest, and once my middle has gained strength I think “why did I ever stop doing this!?”  So, I attempted some new and seemingly easy core work to keep my waistline slim (I like to accentuate the hourglass) and strengthen at the same time.  I threw in some glute work and yoga as well.  These exercises took me about 30 minutes, but you can easily shorten it by picking and choosing your own routine.  Thank you Pinterest!

1. I started with about 15 minutes of Yoga to “warm up”.  I put that in quotes because Yoga is more than a warm up, it’s a great strengthening medium in addition to Pilates.

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2.  Laying your back seems easy right?  I tried these Alternating Single-Leg Glute Bridges to work both the glutes and Hamstrings before heavily working on my core.  Hot damn, they were my least favorite exercise of this series so I’m glad I got them out of the way first.  And let me tell you, I have strong glutes.  I’d probably save this for Intermediate workouts.

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3. My planks, which engage the core muscles, are not very strong so a moving plank exercise seemed up my alley to build up stamina.  I rather enjoyed the Wide Leg Plank as it was challenging but not impossible. I was able to do 3 sets of 10, definitely feeling the burn by the end.  For more waist slimming exercises, click on the image.

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4. I love working my obliques…especially in slight and easy exercises. The Side Bridge and Oblique V-Up are now two of my new favorite exercises because at the time I felt like I was doing nothing but today my sides are SORE. I did 3 sets of 10 for each.  That’s my kind of exercise!

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Oblique V-Up

Lie on your side with your body in a straight line. Fold your arms across your chest. Keeping your legs together, lift them off the floor as you raise your top elbow toward your hip. The range of motion is short, but you should feel an intense contraction in your obliques.

10 repetitions each side

core45. I of course ended with the Corpse Pose because THAT is the lazy lady’s favorite Yoga move. I end all of my routines in this relaxing and meditative pose. Sometimes I fall asleep…

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Today is the day after this workout, and I feel just the right amount of soreness in my core muscles.  That is encouraging and makes me want to continue with new exercises on a regular basis to keep the core strong without obsessing.  Variety is key!  I’m a victim of routine and I need to force myself out of my comfort zone to keep myself interested in body maintenance as well as work some new muscles.

If you’d like to try yoga at home with some help from a professional, check out this great series of Kris Fondran’s ShapeShifter Yoga videos!  Kris Fondran has been teaching and practicing yoga for more than 12 years. Her yoga experience and her Master’s degree in Exercise Science make her one of the top experts on yoga and fitness today. Click through the image below to read more about it!

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Just Breathe.

Just a quick post to remind you all to breathe.

In my weekly Yoga classes, we do a little breath control which really showed me how shallow my breaths are on a regular basis.  I love taking a deep controlled breath and feeling that stretch in my ribs and core muscles.  Paying attention to proper breathing benefits not only your body and fitness journey but also your emotional health.  Taking steady and relaxed breaths soothes the soul and enlightens your state of mind.  It is a true form of meditation.  A chaotic breath can denote a chaotic mind.  You can do breath control at work, at home, outside, at the gym.   Just make sure if you feel light headed to take a break!

Take 5 minutes and just breathe.  Take a mini vacation from every day stressors.  Everyone has time for that.

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RESOURCES:

What Are the Benefits of Breath Control Yoga

Yoga Breathing Exercises – Pranayama

MP3 Meditation Club: Click Here!

 

This Trendy “Strong is the New Skinny” Thing (and what it could mean for the next generation of girls)

I want this woman to be my new BFF. Strong is the new Skinny! 🙂

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*UPDATE: Here’s a PG-Version of this blog post, for those of you who wish to Spread the Strength among those of innocent ears*

First of all, hi everyone. It feels like I haven’t blogged about anything sociologically substantial in a while, and I might be a bit rusty so please pardon the potentially poor prose.

Anyhoozle.

Now that I’ve graduated from McGill and no longer have to whittle away the hours of cushy student life by blogging nonsensically about sociological things, what have I been doing with myself?

WELL. That brings me to today’s topic.

My strange, wonderful, and illuminating journey working in the fitness industry.

View original post 2,342 more words

Skinny Fat?

One of my student workers was kind enough to tell me that she enjoys reading this blog because she is also trying to lead a healthier way of life.  She spoke about how she defines herself as “skinny fat”, a term I’ve heard a lot of lately.  I can understand the frustrations of not feeling healthy in your body, so we chatted briefly about the subject.

This skinny fat phenomenon is defined as an individual who has a slender build but is not toned and has a high amount of body fat for their smaller frame.  Or as my student worker describes it, “I look fine while fully clothed (with small arms, legs, and neck), but I have a muffin top and I won’t be showing my body off in a bathing suit anytime soon.”   I think of it as those “before” and “after” ads where they showcase a naturally slender or athletic male or female with some extra body fat, and then the perfect super fit results after using a certain product.

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I strongly dislike those infomercials with obviously staged before and after photos and find them quite misleading.  I believe these ads are similar to “skinny plus sized” models.  It must be quite easy to showcase a perfect “after” body when the out of shape “skinny fat” body has the socially acceptable attractive proportions and underlining potential for total fitness.  Though plus sized models may not be considered “skinny fat” because of their toned bodies, it is very similar in model land.   You never, or rarely, see a model above a size 12 or 14,  shorter than 5’10”, without a perfectly toned and blemish free body.  It’s similar to a six foot size zero model being featured in an ad instead of a popular size 8.  The way (most) advertisements display both men and women is one of the many ways media feeds our body image struggles.  I’m not saying make all models larger and more in line with average body type, but mix up the pot a bit!

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Just a couple of Debenham’s diverse models

If anyone is mixing up the pot these days, Debenhams is cooking up some socially inclusive soup!  I do feel that more and more companies are using diverse and realistic models for their ads and getting the recognition they deserve.  The Debenham Lookbook that includes beautiful models of all sizes, races, ages, and body types and the Sweden based H&M’s recent advertisement spread pleases me to no end.  Oddly enough, they are both International companies.  (Isn’t America the one who gets a bad wrap for being large and in charge??)  There is an ongoing fight for body acceptance at any shape or size, one I’ve been fighting for my whole life, and one day it would be nice to see the fight end and everybody just get along!

But I digress.  Back to the subject at hand.

The “skinny fat” phenomenon is important to be aware of for naturally slender individuals.  It’s crucial to keep an eye on body fat and your overall health at any body size.  There are plenty of unhealthy skinny people out there as well as healthy overweight individuals.   This is why am a firm believer in Body Fat % versus Body Mass Index.   I will always be defined as Overweight in the BMI category, even at my goal weight, but my current 32% Body Fat is actually in the high “average” range (on more detailed charts) but falls into “obese” on other charts (not taking height and age into account).  I just take this discrepancy as just another reminder that I am above average in every way.  : )

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Belly Flabulous!

I’ve been told I have a small waist. The truth is sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I have a soft flabby belly that I struggle between accepting and shedding, and I am going to show it to you.

I’m fortunate that my proportions are traditionally feminine, but since hitting 30 years old, losing belly weight is extremely difficult. I know this is especially tough for most mothers to lose after childbirth, though I personally not gone through the pregnancy weight struggles. The only way I can get my belly extremely flat (from past experience) is from cutting calories to the extreme, like after my tonsillectomy surgery and when I lost 100lbs. years ago. I’m not going down that route again.

Right now, I am happy focusing on my core, even though I’ve yet to hit my weight goal. I’ve turned a corner, and I’d rather be larger and muscular/healthy than svelte and bony and starving. My original plan was to tone and strengthen after I hit my weight goal, but I made the choice to do it at the halfway mark. I can feel my abdominal muscles beneath my cute fleshy belly, and that make me happier than when I could feel my ribs. I never thought that would happen. Friends and Co-Workers still think I’m losing weight, and seem surprised when I tell them I’ve gained weight until I explain I’ve been working on strength and toning exercises. I also find that my cardio seems easier with a strong core. I know I will soon see even more results in my midsection as I stick with Pilates, Yoga, and other core strengthening exercises. Will I have a belly as flat as when I wasn’t eating much? Maybe not. Will I be strong and healthy and still curvy? I hope so!

I am rather tall (5’9″) with a long torso that can carry weight well, which can be dangerous for health reasons. Extra weight around the midsection is linked to a handful of illnesses (heart disease, diabetes) and it’s somewhat scary as you get older. It’s also frustrating because as you increase in age your metabolism decreases, and it may become more difficult to lower your waist circumference or maintain it within a healthy range without paying closer attention to calorie intake or increasing exercise. Even though I do have that flabby flab on my belly, I am happy that I now fall within a healthy waist circumference after losing 40 pounds.

letting it all hang out

letting it all hang out

engaging the core

engaging the core

Here is how I give the illusion of having a smaller waist. Throughout the day, I try to make sure to “engage” my core and focus on a proper posture when standing, sitting, and walking. There is a difference that can be seen in these photos of myself, taken on the same day. It could be defined as “sucking it in” which is partly true, but what I’m doing is tightening my core muscles (abdominal and pelvic area, back, and glutes.) You can even see a slight difference in the curvature of my back/spine. Also, by simply tilting your pelvis back (to help straighten your spine) you not only take pressure off your lower spine’s curvature but you bring your stomach inward.

I feel like I could be in one of those “juice your belly fat away” commercials, but alas it’s really just the result of making the effort to keep my core active. Once you train yourself to pay attention to these little details, your body will make it part of your daily ergonomic routine. I’ve been complimented on my posture many times (chest out, shoulders back!) and I don’t even think about it anymore. It seems engaging my core is soon to follow!

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Is Your Kitchen Is Full Of “Fat Storing” Ingredients…read more about about it!

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