Tag: Healthy choices

Befriending Stress

How do you manage the stress of modern everyday life? Many of us muddle through, coping as best we can. Sometimes we fight against it, or work to fix it. Sometimes we just ignore it or repress it, hoping to avoid possible discomfort. We have all heard throughout our lives how stress negatively affects our immune system. It is at the heart of many diseases (pun intended) and is a leading cause of death. Chronic stress and long held tension in our body can become like armor. We hope to shield ourselves against the effects of stress. This chronic tension affects our immune system, energy level, emotional well-being, posture, and our ability to concentrate.

Endocrinologist Hans Selye discovered it is not necessarily the stress that affects our health. It is the way we perceive the stress. If we change our thinking, we change our body’s response to it. Is it a threat or is it a challenge? In both, the body gears up for action. We breathe faster to get oxygen to the brain, our blood pumps faster and, we sweat to regulate our temperature. The difference between anxiety and excitement is our perception. We either constrict or adapt and grow. It can strengthen us or weaken us. Can we bring our attention and presence to what is wanting to grow within us to meet the challenge?

There are many effective ways to relieve stress; such as exercise, yoga, meditation, spiritual readings, or being in nature can be immediate tools one can use. When we take space, we discover we are much bigger than the stress in our lives.

One of my first spiritual teachers, Stephen Levine, often said, “The body is solidified mind.” During retreats with Levine, we would dialogue with our body, and it’s places of tension and actually ask the tension where it comes from, what it wants, what it’s trying to tell us?

I have found that one of the best ways for me to reduce the effects of stress is to get a professional massage. Through relaxing our body we can relax the mind. A skilled massage therapist can dismantle the long held stress and its disruptive patterns in the body. The benefits of a skilled massage are more than just the physical benefits of released tension and improved musculo-skeletal function. The nurturing effects of human touch also release oxytocin, a hormone that affects our heart physically and emotionally. (A good excuse to hug someone right now.) We experience more caring, empathy, and ability to respond. We recover faster. We become better at stress. Oxytocin is what causes us to seek connection. It helps us to not only trust ourselves more, but we seek connection and strengthens so our relationships and our network of support.

Did you know that massage is offered morning through evening daily at the Seattle Athletic Club by our highly skilled, licensed massage therapists? Call today for an appointment. It can transform your health.

Best 5 Tips to Improve Your Fitness

There are many things that can get in the way of us reaching our health and fitness goals- lack of time, injury, illness and even traveling for work can all hold us back. Sometimes we can control these things; sometimes we can’t…that’s life. Try to make improvements in these five areas and you will see a change in your fitness.

1. Get Enough Sleep
If you want to work out hard and get the best results, your body needs rest, and lots of it. On a basic level, if you’re feeling tired you’re more likely to skip the gym. If you’ve had a good seven or eight hours of sleep, your body will run more smoothly, your mental state will improve and you’ll be able to workout harder and more frequently.

2. Clean up Your Diet
What you put in your body directly affects how you feel and how you operate. If you put cheap gas in a car it’s not going to run as well, as cleanly or for as long as it would if you chose a higher grade. It’s just the same with your body. Avoid the junk and chose high-quality, fresh, unprocessed foods. Of course enjoy your life and indulge in the things you enjoy from time to time, but make smart decisions and be honest with yourself about your choices.
3. Make Time for Exercise
Like anything in life, if you don’t make time for it then it’s very unlikely to happen. Develop a realistic plan and meet with a personal trainer to keep you accountable. Put workouts in your calendar the same way you’d schedule a haircut or a trip to the dentist. If it’s in your calendar, you’re less likely to skip and more likely to get into a consistent regimen.

4. Increase the Intensity
Doing something is definitely better than doing nothing, but if you’re looking for improved results then you’re going to have to up the intensity of your cardio. If you do the same old workout over and over, your body will very quickly become conditioned to it and your results will stall. You should be tired, you should be sweaty, you should be out of breath. Try to add in a few exercises that push you to your upper limits such as running hills, stairs, or incline treadmill.

5. Hit the Weights
I firmly believe that strength training is an important part of any fitness regimen. If you want to lose fat or change your body, one of the most important things you can do is lift weights. Diet and cardio are equally important, but when it comes to changing how your body looks, weight training wins hands down. Here are a few benefits from lifting weights:
• Help raise your metabolism. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn all day long.
• Strengthen bones, especially important for women
• Make you stronger and increase muscular endurance
• Help you avoid injuries
• Increase your confidence and self-esteem
• Improve coordination and balance

These tips can help keep you from reaching an unwanted fitness plateau. Improvements in one or all of these areas will keep your fitness goals moving forward so that you get the most out of life. Talk with a Personal Trainer at the Seattle Athletic Club to get started with your personalized fitness plan.

Trick or Treating is for Our Kids Right?!

During the Halloween season we either have our own kids to take trick or treating or will have kids knocking at our doors dressed is scary costumes. This usually means our kids coming home with pillow cases full of candy and/or stocking up on candy to hand out to the cute little goblins. Inevitably this leads to us trying out our favorite candies because of their smaller size we do not worry too much about the calories (even if you eat 20) and their high saturated fats; there is so much around at this time of year that it is hard to avoid. Here are some Halloween candy tips to get you through our sweetest holiday without gaining any weight:

  • Don’t have the candy bowl in sight, if we can see it, our mouth usually wants to eat it.
  • Eat properly before you indulge, don’t come home from work and snack on candy because it’s there, do make a healthy snack first.
  • Purchase candies that you don’t like, that way if temptation sneaks up on us, there is no reason to indulge. These usually include gummy textured candies and sour candies.
  • Buy hard candies such as suckers, its takes more time to eat one and are usually lower in calories.
  • If you must indulge, look for old fashion candies which are usually made of cane sugar and not high fructose corn syrup.
  • If you must have your chocolate, take a look at the list below and choose ahead of time the one that you want to burn off the extra calories at the gym later (so choose the one with the lowest calories).

Here are the calories for some Halloween candies:

  • Butterfinger – Fun Size 1 bar= 100 calories
  • Hershey Chocolate Bar – Fun Size 1 bar=90 calories/ 5grams of fat
  • M&M’s – Fun Pack 1 bags=90 calories
  • Milky Way – 1 snack size bar = 90 calories
  • Almond Joy – 1 snack size bar = 90 calories
  • Snicker’s – Fun Size 1 bars=80 calories
  • Reese’s Cup – 1 cup=80 calories
  • Twix – Fun Size 1 bar= 80 calories
  • Milky Way – Fun Size 1 bars=75 calories
  • York Peppermint Pattie – 1 pattie=70 calories
  • Nestle’s Crunch – Fun Size 1 bars=70 calories
  • Tootsie Pop – 1 pop = 60 calories
  • SweetTarts – 1 treat size pkg. = 50 calories
  • Kit Kat – Fun Size 1 bars=50 calories
  • Twizzlers – 1 treat size pkg= 45 calories
  • Peanut M&M’s – Fun Pack 1 bags=40 calories
  • Milk Duds – 1 treat size box = 40 calories
  • Tootsie Roll – 1 small roll = 13 calories

Small bouts of exercise add up!

We all have busy schedules and finding time to fit everything is nearly impossible. The first thing we tend to throw out is our workout. Well, forget this all or nothing mentality, you do not have to workout 30-60 minutes all at once. Instead, squeeze your workouts in where you have 10 extra minutes. It is proven that doing 10 minutes of medium to high intensity workouts at least 3 times a day, 5 days a week, will help you live a healthier life and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Besides fitting in the 10 minute workouts when you have a little bit of free time, you can also make simple choices that will help you burn a few extra calories. For instance, park at the far end of the store parking lot and walk briskly to the store. Whenever possible walk wherever you need to go. By taking the stairs instead of the elevator you can burn 75-115 calories for every 10 minutes spent in the stairwell. While watching your favorite show doesn’t just sit on the couch, on those commercial breaks get up and get you’re heart rate up and your blood pumping. Just think if you did 5 minutes of jumping jacks, crunches, pushups, squats, and lunges, each time you had a commercial you would get in an extra 20-30 minutes of working out.

Also spring is just around the corner and it is time to do spring-cleaning. Get out there and do some gardening, 30 minutes of gardening will burn roughly 140 calories, mowing the lawn for 30 minutes will burn about 160 calories, raking the leaves will burn about 125 calories in 30 minutes. Clean those dirty windows! Wash all your windows inside and out for 30 minutes and burn 85 calories. 30 minutes spent cleaning out the garage can burn 100 calories. Rearrange your furniture, and vacuum and dust behind everything can burn an extra 135 calories.
As you can see it does not take much to burn those extra calories! Your goal is to squeeze in your workouts whenever you have a few extra minutes, and to move more!

Nutrition 101

What is a Calorie?
Calories are not something to be avoided! They are simply a measurement of the amount of energy stored in food. We mainly consume calories in the form of macronutrients, which are also known as carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Each macronutrient has a different caloric density.

What is a Macronutrient?
The 3 main macronuteints we consume are carbohydrates, protein, and fat. They provide your body with its structure and the biological fuel necessary to live!

• Carbohydrates are our primary source of fuel. They are stored in our muscles and liver for ready and available energy. (See Focus on Carbohydrates for more information)

• Proteins make up the bulk of our structure. They are used for building muscle, bone and enzymes. Proteins make up 17% of our body weight! (See Focus on Protein for more information)

• Fats provide energy during endurance exercise and between meals. They also insulate your body and protect your bones and organs. Unsaturated fats decrease the risk of heart disease and can assist in growth development and brain function (omega-3). (See Focus on Fats for more information)

Where does Fiber fit in?
Fiber, though not a macronutrient, causes you to stay full longer, lowers blood cholesterol, decreases heart disease and type-2 diabetes, and maintains a healthy digestive system. The recommended daily intake is 38g for males and 25g for females. (See Focus on Fiber for more information)

What is a Micronutrient?
Micronutrients are substances we only need in small amounts, but without them our bodies cannot function. Vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin D, iron, and calcium are among the many micronutrients that enable our bodies to produce enzymes and hormones necessary for growth and development.

What is Caloric Density?
Caloric Density refers to the amount of calories packed into 1 gram of a macronutrient. Here is the calorie breakdown of 1 gram of carbohydrate, protein, and fat:
• Carbohydrate – 4 calories / 1 gram
• Protein – 4 calories / 1 gram
• Fat – 9 calories / 1 gram

For example, a piece of whole wheat bread has 13g of carbohydrates, 3g of protein, and 1g of fat. This piece of bread amounts to 73 calories. Here’s how we got it: [(13g carbohydrates x 4kcal) + (3g protein x 4kcal) + (1g fat x 9kcal) = 73kcals]

How do I divvy up my calories?
It is always up for debate what percentage of calories should come from each major macronutrient. Percentages can vary according to level and intensity of physical activity. Here is a general guideline for how to break up your calories into carbohydrates, protein, and fat:

• 45-65% of calories should come from carbohydrates (No more than 25% coming from added sugars)
• 15-25% of calories should come from protein
• 30% of calories should come from fat (Saturated fats: 10% of total calories)

The Do’s and Don’ts of a Successful Fitness Program

Many people at new years try and change their lifestyle to become a healthier person. Of those people only about 20% can actually stick with their new year’s goals for more than 3 months. That’s not a very high number, so here are some tips to make your new fitness program one that stays with you for your lifetime.

The first thing to do is find a gym that fits all of your needs. Basically you want to get the best bang for your buck. This means find a gym that is convenient, clean, and organized well enough that you can do exercises without being in your fellow member’s personal bubble. The gym should also offer a wide range classes and amenities that fit your needs and preferences.

The next thing to do is contemplate what your personal goals for your fitness program will; they should be both long-term and short-term goals. These goals then need to be written down and visible every day. It is a proven fact that people who write down their goals achieve them at a higher percentage than those who do not.

Now that you know where you are working out and what you want to achieve, you need to think about nutrition and water intake to fuel your workout. You should drink two cups (16 oz) of water about two hours before you exercise, drink one glass for every 15 min of exercise, and drink two cups of water for every pound of weight lost after exercise. As far as food goes, eating before exercise can help prevent a crash in energy during your workout. If you are trying to eat with an hour of your exercise, stick to light foods rich in carbohydrates; if you have a couple hours before exercise grab food rich in carbohydrates as well as protein, and if you have over three hours before your exercise get a small mean of complex carbohydrates, protein and good fat. Right after you exercise, replenish your energy with carbohydrates and protein.

As for the exercise, if you are a new exercise enthusiast keep the workout simple. Do not try and do all of these crazy exercises you see other gym goers doing. Stay simple and basic in your exercises first, and then progress into other advanced exercises. If you are experienced but have lost that drive to exercise, try finding an exercise partner or asking for advice from a fitness expert, like a personal trainer, to vamp up your routine.

To have a successful fitness plan DO: find the right gym, write down those long and short term goals, eat food before and after your workout as well as drink plenty of water throughout the day and your workout and keep your workouts simple, but ask for advice from a someone if you need to vamp up your workout.

Exercise does not erase unhealthy dietary choices.

Exercise is not a diet eraser! I often hear those who frequent the gym lamenting that they are working hard to undo some unhealthful choices from the weekend, or prepare for some upcoming unhealthful choices. These comments make funny jokes, but they are representative of a misunderstanding of the aggregate impact of our daily lifestyle choices and behaviors on our overall health.

It is important to remember that an increase in the amount of adipose tissue is not the only impact from making unhealthful dietary choices. Eating unhealthful things, sacrificing sleep, ignoring exercise, and participating in other dangerous activities may impact your overall health in many ways, and the choices that we make today carry weight throughout the rest of our days. Unfortunately, thirty extra minutes on the treadmill will not erase our choices from the night before. You cannot “balance out” unhealthful lifestyle choices by going to the gym. If you want to stay healthy you will need to take care of yourself on a regular basis, inside and outside of the gym.

You are What You Eat

Do you ever think to yourself, “I wonder if this bagel with cream cheese is a healthy way to start my day?” Well if you don’t you should, and if you don’t know the answer I’ll go ahead and give it to you, NO that is not a healthy way to start a day. So what should you eat instead? What justifies healthy food? So many questions but let’s just go over general guidelines.

  1. Real food. Real food is super important. Why should you eat a bag of chips with an ingredient list of 20+ items when you could make your own sweet potato chips at home? Check it out…

    Eat real, try to buy real food, the more processed the less healthy. But when you have to buy something in a package/can/bag/etc. pick the stuff with the least amount of ingredients and stuff that you know what it is!

  2. Less sugar! Have you looked at that bag of bagels you’ve been buying for the last year? How many grams of sugar are in there? Enough to constitute your little round treat as a slightly less offensive donut. Sugar raises your insulin levels and is readily stored as fat. Cut back on sugar, of all kinds. Agave nectar is still sugar, so is honey, so is fruit juice, so is cane sugar. They all get broken down in the body the same as fructose so don’t be fooled by the “healthy” stuff. Looking for a sweet snack, have an apple, try some dried apricots (NO sugar added), etc.
  3. Read your labels. It’s shocking to know what’s in your food. Processed this, sugar that, wheat, soy, etc, it’s a real eye opener. Read labels, find the ones that have the most natural ingredients. Make note of grams of sugar, grams of carbohydrates, and how many calories per serving. Know the serving size.
  4. Eat when you are hungry. Snacks are sold EVERYWHERE. You can’t even go to Home Depot without staring down Twix, Snickers, and Jolly Ranchers. Instead of eating junk, if you must have a snack be ready with natural food. 100 calorie packs of Almonds, some turkey jerky, a sting cheese. Don’t be tempted to eat just because it’s there. Make smart decisions when it comes to indulging.
  5. Cook at home! If you constantly eat out, lunch, dinner, weekend breakfast, make it a point to cook dinner at home once or more during the week. Find a fun recipe, go to the Market, buy local, involve your family. You may find that the extra effort makes it taste that much better!

These are just a few basic tips on ways to change to a healthier diet. If you would like more information on nutrition please contact our nutritionist Suzzanne Myer.

Keep a clear head, and a properly functioning body, by refraining from alcohol.

We are all familiar with the common effects that alcohol has on our body. Many people enjoy its sedating influence and it’s hard to deny that it does play a vital role in many of society’s traditions and practices. One effect alcohol has, which is not widely discussed, is its impact on body composition. In its purest form, supplies seven calories per gram, almost twice as many as proteins and carbohydrates, bumping up ones total energy balance whenever it is consumed. Although, unlike macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats, alcohol supplies what nutritionists often refer to as empty calories: calories without nutrition. To make matters worse, it is the first fuel to be used when combined with carbohydrates, fats and proteins, postponing the fat-burning process and contributing to greater fat storage.

In general, alcohol consumption affects rational thought, emotions, mood, judgment, speech and muscle coordination. Alcohol is specifically detrimental to athletes and can inhibit recovery, protein synthesis, hydration, motivation, and nutrient intake. It interferes with many of the processes so important to success: focus, performance, recovery and rebuilding. Although alcohol is absorbed rapidly, it is metabolized very slowly and its effects may still impact performance up to 48 hours after the last drink.

As little as 2-3 standard drinks can directly:

  • Decrease strength, limiting workout intensity and muscle growth and development
  • Impair reaction time
  • Impair balance and hand/eye coordination
  • Increase fatigue
  • Interfere with body temperature regulation
  • Cause dehydration
  • Deplete aerobic capacity and negatively impact endurance for up to 48 hrs after the last drink
  • Impact cellular repair, lowers testosterone and increases estrogen
  • Impact fat oxidation, meaning fat burning stops all together. The Kreb cycle which normally involves burning fat will instead be burning the alcohol off to detoxify your body. So not only will you not be burning fat but you’ll be consuming extra calories which lead you to put on more fat
  • Impact cardiovascular system, raising blood pressure.
  • Disrupt sleep
  • Cause vitamin and mineral depletion
  • Impair digestion
  • Cause cognitive impairment and lessened inhibitions

As you can see a simple drink has far reaching consequences especially if you are attempting to improve your physique. Your performance in the gym and your recovery and nourishment from food are severely impacted. Try not to negate all of the discipline and hard work you devote to improving your health and reaching your goal. Keep a clear head, and a properly functioning body, by refraining from alcohol when looking to improve your physical fitness, or in other cases, at least be aware of the trade off you are making!

Kale & Apple Salad with Pancetta & Maple Roasted Pecans

Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 12

  • 2 cups maple roasted pecans- recipe below
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons caper brine (from a jar of capers)
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 large head radicchio, shredded
  • One 8-ounce bunch kale—stems discarded, leaves finely shredded
  • 3 tablespoons snipped chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
  • 2 ounces shaved pecorino cheese

In a skillet, heat the oil with the pancetta and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the pancetta is browned, 6 minutes. Strain the pan drippings into a large bowl; whisk in the vinegar, caper brine and maple syrup and season the dressing with salt and black pepper. Add the apples, radicchio, kale, chives, tarragon and pecorino and toss. Mound the salad on plates, garnish with the pecans and pancetta and serve.


  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 pound pecans (3 ½ cups)
  • ¾ cup maple syrup
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper if desired

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil a 10” x 15” baking pan. Mix all ingredients and put onto pan in a single layer. Bake for 5 minutes and stir. Bake 5 more minutes and stir again. Bake for about 5 more minutes or until all of the syrup has crystallized, being careful not to overcook as they will burn quickly after they are done.
Put roasted nuts on a clean lightly oiled pan to cool.

Adapted from FoodandWine.com