Tag: mindful

New Year’s Mindset: Mindful Eating vs. Dieting

I am not here to sell you on an approach to eating healthier this New Year. January is a busy month for Nutritionists and I agree it’s a great time to start anew. However, if you’ve tried more than enough dieting approaches before – lower calorie, lower carb, lower fat, higher protein, juicing, detoxes, “eat this but not that” – and you’ve burned out on them and returned to the same challenges around eating yet again – this may be your moment to focus on a different approach: mindful eating.

It can be scary to leave the structure of a diet mentality. We take comfort in numbers, what is good vs. bad and that which can be measured. Mindful eating, on the other hand, doesn’t start with an object to evaluate or deprive. Mindful eating is a process that starts with one simple tool: Curiosity.

Here are two examples that illustrate these two very different approaches:

Situation #1: Afternoon snack hits at work and the chips in the vending machine are calling my name.

Dieter:Chips are my downfall and they don’t have any fiber or protein so I won’t eat them. Fruit, string cheese or yogurt are healthy options.

Mindful Eater: I’m craving chips. If I get up out of my desk chair and take a walk or stairs for 5-10 minutes does that lower the craving? (Crunching helps release some stress hormones just as exercise does.) If not, are there healthier crunchy foods I can have that can satisfy the crunch as well? (Veggies in hummus, snap pea crisps, popcorn, akmak crackers with cheese.)

Bottom-Line Issue: Stress may be playing a part in your craving crunchy foods. Or it may just be a textural preference. Protein/fiber rich crunchy foods are better choices for you than yogurt.

 Situation #2: I have been craving carbs all day today.

Dieter:Fruit and light popcorn are healthy options. Keep focus so I won’t go over my calorie budget.

Mindful Eater: Did I get enough sleep last night? Am I getting some carbs with every meal to give me energy? Did I have protein with all my meals today? Did I eat enough fat today? Am I hydrated?

Bottom-Line Issue: Lack of sleep can cause refined carb cravings during the day. Also, lack of balance in combining carbs, protein and/or fat in meals can cause blood sugar imbalances which lead to cravings. Sometimes we’re hungry when we’re really thirsty.

 As you can see from these examples – starting with curiosity is not an easy approach. But it can lead to graceful experimentation and an end to judging ourselves. Sometimes all we’ll be able to do when we mindfully eat is to be aware as we’re eating that food in which we wish we weren’t. And without the judgment talking we’ll be able to listen in to how our bodies feel afterward. This is progress!

Curiosity creates the space for change. Here’s to more mindful eating and less judgment this New Year.

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.

LIQUID CALORIES…What’s Your Intake?

By Alison Wilson, Wellness Director/Nutritionist
Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Over the last 37 years the total daily intake of calories from beverages increased 94%, now amounting to an additional 222 calories per day. Note that in one year, just one daily 12-ounce soda can increase your weight by 16 pounds!

Tips for reducing intake of high calorie beverages
When keeping track of calories don’t forget that everything you eat and drink counts!

When watching your calories water is always the best option. It has zero calories and will keep you hydrated!

A plain cup of coffee contains only a few calories, so consider this when drinking youdaily cup of joe:

  • 1 tablespoon of cream adds more than 50 calories
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar adds nearly 50 calories
  • 1 tablespoon of fat-free milk, on the other hand, adds only 5 calories
  • 100% fruit juices and low-fat milk are good high calorie beverages since they supply other nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium.

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.

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!

Benefits of Using a Sauna

Many of us utilize the warmth of a sauna for relaxation, to sweat out an over indulgence the night before or for rehab after a strenuous exercise adventure; but what does the sauna really do for your body? Here are a couple of facts about that favorite spot in the locker rooms. (Many of the sauna therapeutic trials used a regular schedule of at least 5 days a week and often daily for one to three months, then several times a week for extended periods)

  • The sauna’s benefits can be used by the aged and even infants over 3 months (for short sessions <3 min) It increases your metabolism and pulse rates; thus increasing blood vessel flexibility and increases circulation to the extremities.
  • Some studies suggest that saunas reduce the incidence of the common cold and can temporarily relieve their symptoms
  • Saunas have been shown to help with depression and anxiety disorders
  • It can improve endurance sports performance through the increase in red blood cell production, decreases systolic blood pressure and increases exercise tolerance.
  • Saunas have been shown to help with chronic pain from rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome
    The sauna has been shown to reduce stress hormones and increase endorphins, but can increase levels of cortisol hormones.
  • Regular sauna combines with exercise has shown to efficiently clear organic chemicals, solvents, drugs, pharmaceuticals and heavy metals from the body.

If you do decide to use the sauna, start gradually. Stay in only as long as you are comfortable, increasing the time with each visit. Remember that a sauna can elevate your core temperature, and should be used after clearance of your physician if you are child or older person who has heart disease or seizure disorders and those who use alcohol or cocaine are especially vulnerable.

The Real Cost of Not Exercising

With the current financial epidemic our country is facing, it seems practical that we go through our bank statements and cut back on any extra spending. But, should your gym membership be one of them? Many publications have been suggesting that the gym is one luxury that you can do without. Although, canceling your membership may seem to save you money, it will cost more than you can afford in the long run and not only in terms of your bank account.

On the surface, an “at-home” routine may appear like a good idea. Before you make the leap, you need to consider the complete ramifications of your actions. After all, a gym environment has a lot to offer. The gym offers structure, and the motivation you get from working out in a group. Exercising with and around others can greatly improve your exercise adherence. Accountability comes from your trainers, friends, and peers, and they often push you during your workout as well. Your home workout will inevitably become less of a priority since you “can do it at any time”. We all know this leads to one place: procrastination. The gym also provides a great deal of equipment that will not be available to you at home. Attempting to replicate your routine outside the gym will leave you without the motivation, community, and the expertise provided by a professional exercise facility.

There is a cost associated with not exercising! Physical activity is necessary for life’s everyday functions, as well as stimulating the body’s own natural maintenance and repair system. By not exercising you increase your risk for many health issues. Research shows individuals who are physically active have substantially lower cancer rates, have fewer heart attacks, are less likely to develop diabetes, have healthier blood pressure levels, lessened risk of stroke, and overall are generally healthier. A variety of studies have shown that exercise combats low energy, stress, and depression and those who participate are more optimistic, sleep better, have stronger bones, and are less likely to be overweight or even catch a cold or the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), inactive adults have considerably higher direct medical costs than active adults, and the costs associated with physical inactivity increase with age. If you take into consideration the costs of maintaining your health without the help of exercise, you are factoring in increased health insurance costs, food costs, pharmaceuticals, and visits to the doctor. The costs of exercising are unmistakable: exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy body can save not only your life, but your money as well.

So, even though your gym membership may cost you every month, think about the savings your membership is actually providing you. If cutting back expenses is what you are attempting, try cutting back on your morning coffee or save by packing your lunch regularly rather than buying. Most importantly, cut back on the things that will not short-change you in the long run. You cannot put a price on your health and personal well-being.

Sports Massage for Runners

Sports massage combines techniques including deep tissue, Swedish and therapeutic massage. It reduces muscle and joint tension in the legs, hips feet as well as shoulders and neck- the entire body. Sports massage is a way to flush out the lactic acid that’s produced when we run or repeatedly use our muscles. This waste can build up and cause soreness as time goes by. Removing it speeds up recovery and increases flexibility, and that can improve our performance and just make us move relaxed and happy. Sports massage can be a very effective treatment, along with strength training, stretching and nutrition, for runners with aches and pains.

A runner’s world article on sports massage from August 2004 gives examples of athletes who benefit from this treatment. A 49 year old was training for her 49th marathon, which would put her on target to reach 50 marathons by the age 50. “If it weren’t for massage, I wouldn’t be able to do this.” Says Loretta Ulibarri, a runner form Denver. “I’ve had a lot of inflammation problems and ongoing soreness that interfered with my training. Ten years ago, I started getting a sports massage every 3 weeks, and since then, I’ve been injury-free and able to train year round.”

Dave Deigan is a runner from Sonoma, California who puts in 25 miles a week, and gets massage every other Thursday. “Since I Started getting massages 5 years ago, the chronic tightness in my calves has disappeared, and I’m not getting injured.” This has support in the medical community, as well. Lewis G. says “as far as injuries go, massage is the icing on the cake. Massage can supplement physical therapy as an effective injury treatment.”

When should on get massage? Therapists often recommend a weekly or bi weekly session, but every athlete is different. For some, once a month or six weeks is sufficient. When the legs feel tired or heavy or if there is inflammation, it is time to see a massage therapist. After a hard work out or a race, schedule an appointment 24-36 hours later. An ice bath soon after resting for a day or two, your body will be more then ready for a sports massage.

If you have any questions about massage for runners, ask any of the therapists at the Seattle Athletic Club, And weather you need a maintenance session, a post-race massage or injury treatment, we are available to help.

Pilates During Pregnancy Leads to a Successful Labor for One Member

Ashley started Pilates mat classes about 5 years ago at the Seattle Athletic Club. She was in physical therapy for hip problems and her therapist recommended starting Pilates for core stability. It helped her enough that she was able to stop doing PT.

During her first pregnancy three years ago her doctor was uncomfortable with stressing her abs while pregnant so she stopped at about 3 months and ended up with hip problems during her pregnancy. During delivery she pushed for 2 1/2 hours and her doctor was really close to moving towards a c-section as they were hitting 24 hours of labor. Luckily, she was able to convince them to let her go a little while longer and was able to delivery naturally.

When Ashley got pregnant again 2 years later, she did her research on Pilates and pregnancy. She found information both on-line and on a Pilates videotape. Plus, she talked with me about the modifications necessary for her pregnant self.

She went to her same doctor armed with information and was able to get her comfortable that she could continue Pilates with the modifications. Ashley stacked 5 Yoga blankets behind her back and used this as support during the stomach series, the roll-ups, & neck pulls. Since she was unable to do any exercises on her stomach, I suggested some alternate exercises she could do to keep moving. During rolling exercises she practiced balance instead of rolling. Once she reached her 3rd trimester I made sure that she was only lifting one foot off the ground at a time during any exercise.

By doing Pilates during her pregnancy (up until 3 weeks before delivery), she avoided the hip problems she encountered with her first pregnancy. While most of her labor was similar with her second child (totaling 22 hours!), the major difference was that she pushed for just 12 minutes – 3 pushes total. Her doctor was amazed.

Ashley says, “Since labor requires you to be in a curled up position (just like Pilates), I believe that all the Pilates exercises combined with a deep concentration on pushing were the key to my easy delivery. I owe a big thanks to Jocelyn for all her support and creativity during my pregnancy. She was incredibly helpful along with members of my Monday night class who were always checking up on me.”

Congratulations Ashley!