Eating Healthy: When carbs are good carbs

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Everyone loves carbs! Because really what is not to love? After all what would life be like without a bag of potato chips, girl scout thin mints, movie popcorn, cheese pizza, and sour patch kids? Recent years have brought carbohydrates a very bad name, blaming illnesses and conditions such as diabetes and different cancers on that particular food group. Furthermore, people completely blame their weight gain or attribute their weight loss to carbohydrates. But are all carbs truly bad for you?

What are carbs?

Carbohydrates, next to protein and fats, are a main type of nutrient. They are claimed to be the most important source of energy for your body and definitely the most easily accessible one. Your digestive system processes carbohydrates into glucose which your body uses for energy, all life processes and to sustain vital organs. It stores any extra sugar in your liver and muscles for when it is needed and the rest is stored as fat.

Depending on their chemical structure, carbs are divided into simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates include sugars found naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, and milk products. They also include sugars added during food processing and refining. Complex carbohydrates include whole grain breads and cereals, starchy vegetables and legumes. Many of the complex carbohydrates are fiber rich.

Which carbs are good for me and when?

It may be confusing to start with but choosing the healthiest carbs is not so difficult. While it is important to read the food labels and pick foods with the highest amounts of fiber and lowest amounts of sugar (this means your body will process the carbs for fuel in a slow and beneficial manner), here are some simple rules to stick to.

  1. Eat as few processed foods as possible. Shop organic and cook. Know what goes into your mouth. Processed foods such as most breads and fast foods contain added sugars and preservatives.
  2. Fruit is NOT bad for you! Incorporate fruits into your diet instead of refined sugars.
  3. Learn about foods with low GI (Glycemic Index). These are the foods that release sugar slowly without spiking your insulin levels and not only reducing risk of obesity but also limiting risk of the diseases mentioned earlier. Some examples include wholegrain products, oatmeal, quinoa, farro, brown rice, and spelt breads.
  4. Eliminate all added sugar such as in your tea, coffee, sodas etc. Use natural sweeteners such as Stevia.  Remamber that most cereals and yoghutrs as well as dairy in general are high in sugars and generally not very healthy for you.
  5. If you consume high carb meals or simple carbs, do it around a workout or physical activity time, it will increase your body´s ability to use it in a constructive manner (muscle building, energy), rather than storing it as fat.

Sometimes it may be good to try and introduce a low carb day to let your body regulate its insulin management but generally sticking to wise choices should help you remain healthy.

Ways To Add A Workout To Your Daily Routine

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Life gets busy and sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day! Some days are good while others are bad. Plans will always changes, things will always come up last minute and life will always get in the way, but we MUST find time to give back to our bodies for at least 20 minutes everyday. Our bodies are ours and we only get one so let’s take good care of them. After all they take a beating from us day in and day out!

The key to finding the time to work out is to make is part of your daily routine. If you incorporate exercise and fitness into your daily life then eventually it will not feel like a chore, but instead it will feel as though something is missing from your day if you skip your daily workout. But more and more studies show that even a small amount of physical activity each day can save and prolong your life! This fact alone should be reason enough for your to spend time on you! Consider exercise to be just as essential as water and oxygen.

Here are a few tips to help you incorporate exercise into your daily routine.

  1. Use time wisely: take the stairs instead of elevator, walk instead of driving. These are smart ways to get some exercise without going out of your way.
  2. Devote a small part of each day to exercise, even if it’s just 20 minutes. Whether it’s in the morning or before bed time, maybe during your lunch break – simply put: move. Try some yoga, walking, jogging, dancing or cycling. If you go to the gym, stick to a time efficient but consistent training plan. Tip for the more advanced gym goers: Use supersets to save time and get that extra pump. For example alternate a set of bicep exercise with a set of tricep, it will reduce the amount of breaks and save you time!
  3. After meals try to go for a walk around the block or even just down the stairs and back up again. Moving after meals aids in digestion.
  4. Take advantage of weekends or days off, plan for a relaxing activity. Kayaking, cycling, yoga, a dance class or whatever you like, but keep it regular.
  5. While watching TV work on your abs: crunches, planks, bicycles, etc.
  6. Parking – park as far away from the entry so that you have to walk further to and from the door
  7. While on work calls do bicep curls with a water bottle
  8. While at the computer sit on a stability ball to engage your core and work on your posture
  9. Clean the house!
  10. The dentist says brush your teeth for 120 seconds – try doing a wall squat while brushing.

Best Stress Relievers

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We live in an extremely stressful environment and whether it’s work, home, money, partner, children or other things stressing us out it turns out that many health problems are related to stress. Stress seems to worsen or increase the risk of conditions like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma. According to one study, even though there is no evidence that stress is a direct cause of cancer, there is evidence of a correlation between stress and developing certain kinds of cancer, as well as how the disease progresses.

Hundreds of studies have measured how stress impacts our immune systems. At Ohio State University, researchers concluded that students under pressure had slower-healing wounds and took longer to produce immune system cells (http://psychcentral.com/lib/stress-a-cause-of-cancer/). Other studies show that women who experienced traumatic life events or losses in recent years, had significantly higher rates of breast cancer risk.

Now you’ve had your dose of science, are you really stressed about…being stressed?

It shouldn’t be the case! A psychological study found that the group of people that cared the least about both potentially stressful situations, as well as stress itself, were the healthiest and most relaxed individuals.

What is the solution to this vicious circle of stress? This solution may not be easy to start with but it is 100 percent effective, tested, cheap and fool-proof.

Our bodies as well as minds have been designed to be active. That’s why exercise is an essential part of good body function. The problem is that we have become so brainwashed into sedentary lifestyles where we drive to the gym only to exercise, that we convince ourselves that we have no time or ability to be fit and healthy.

Physical activity keeps our cardiovascular system healthy and prevents obesity but also enables depletion of stress hormones (lowers cortisol) and even releases mood-enhancing chemicals (commonly known as endorphins), which help us cope with stress better. When it comes to combating anxiety, not only endorphins, but also finding a new focus in exercise as well as the sense of accomplishment can become your antidepressant. ‘Throw’ some mediation and healthy diet into the mix and you’re on the certain path to general wellness and happiness, not to mention looking your best.

Know what you eat, be aware of you macronutrients and how they affect your body and mind. Eat clean, organic and unprocessed foods and learn to meditate. Sit, stand or lie in a basic position, close your eyes and try to focus on ‘now’. Forget all the ‘what ifs’ and switch off. Feel your body, the air on your face, relax. As trivial as it may sound, try it – it really works!

It may take some effort to learn this holistic approach to health and wellbeing but your determination will pay off!

Superfoods

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‘Superfoods’ is a popular term often used by the media recently. But what exactly does it mean and how can it help you improve your health?

The Macmillan Dictionary defines ‘superfood’ as a food that is considered to be very good for your health and that may even help some medical conditions. The Oxford Dictionary definition states a superfood is “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. Some health organizations define the term itself as a marketing ploy, but they also promote a healthy diet as a main prevention tool for many diseases. So it’s reasonable to think that superfoods may be a great addition to your diet, with little to lose (even if they are half as effective as their marketers claim, you still benefit from them). Cancer Research UK warn that superfoods are often promoted as having an ability to prevent or cure diseases, including cancer; they caution, “you shouldn’t rely on so-called ‘superfoods’ to reduce the risk of cancer. They cannot substitute for a generally healthy and balanced diet.” We can therefore conclude that superfoods as part of a healthy diet are definitely the way to go! Drinking five gallons of cola and hoping a superfood will fix the damage later is a whole different approach!

Here are some superfoods worth adding to your diet:

Algae 

Chlorella and Wakame – they are full of protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. According to some studies, a diet supplemented with chlorella may reduce high blood pressure, lower serum cholesterol levels, accelerate wound healing, and enhance immune function. Other recent studies have found that fucoxanthin present in wakame can help burn fatty tissue.  It has high levels of sodium, calcium, iodine, thiamine and niacin.

Fruits 

Berries – Acai berry, Blueberries, Strawberries, Goji berry (wolfberry), Citrus, Coconuts. Berries are rich in antioxidants, anti-inflamatories and vitamins A, C, B1 and B3.

Vegetables 

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, kale, watercress, spinach, sauerkraut – they are high in vitamin C and soluble fiber and contain multiple nutrients and phytochemicals. Sauerkraut is a source of vitamins C, B, and K. The fermentation process increases the bioavailability of nutrients rendering sauerkraut high in calcium and magnesium. It’s a very good source of dietary fiber, folate, iron, potassium, copper and manganese. Not to mention low in calories!

Legumes 

Beans, lentils, peanuts, raw cocoa, and sweet potatoes (yams): Raw cocoa, for example, has anti – aging properties and promotes cardiovascular health. It can be consumed as a yummy bar of organic chocolate.

Fatty fish 

Mackerel, salmon and sardines – great sources of healthy fats essential for wellbeing and youthfulness.

Seeds and whole grains

Chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, amarantus, quinoa – they are excellent sources or good carbs and seeds in particular, are high in fiber and have anti cancerous properties.

Oils

Coconut oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil – similarly to fish they provide healthy fats and have anti-cancer properties. Be careful with this one and use sparingly!

How To Take Care Of Your Skin During The Summer Heat

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Many people, especially women like to believe that a youthful, healthy skin is a result of using the best anti wrinkle creams and potions.  Marketing and advertising specialists create images of creams nearly as powerful as surgery. But what is the real key to a youthful and glowing skin? Protection from the sun!

It is scientifically proven that the biggest and most significant contributor to skin aging is sun damage. The UV rays don’t only cause cancer but more commonly damage and age the skin.  Take these few points into consideration, all year round but especially in the summer.

Always use sunscreen of at least SPF 15 

It is vital to use creams of foundations with UV protection all year round. Just because it’s not hot outside doesn’t mean there are no UV rays. Of course this is even more crucial in the summer when the rays are stronger and we spend more time outdoors. As tempting as it may be, try to avoid spending much time in the sun and wear a hat.

Have a healthy diet

You are what you eat – this is absolutely true also in this case. Your skin is a reflection of your diet. For a beautiful, healthy complexion eat unprocessed food, lots of fruit and vegetables, HEALTHY FATS, avoid sugar and most of all, HYDRATE!

Stay clear of smoking and drinking alcohol

Smoking can speed up the aging process of your skin, contributing to wrinkles. The more and the longer you smoke, the more damaged and old your skin will appear. It is likely to cause wrinkles and dry skin not only of your face but for example upper arms (you wouldn’t like these wings, would you?).

Why does smoking damage your skin so significantly? Nicotine shrinks blood vessels in the outermost layers of the skin. The blood flow to the skin is decreased and so is the intake of the vital oxygen and nutrients.

Chemicals present in tobacco smoke also damage collagen and elastin – fibers responsible for your skin’s strength and elasticity.

Alcohol’s detrimental influence on health and looks is so obvious and often discussed that I don’t need to tell you about it. But have you ever wondered what it does to your skin specifically? When you drink alcohol, your body and skin can become dehydrated, leaving the skin looking older and tired.’ That’s nothing’ – you may think. But is that all? Along with increasing the risk of liver, pancreatic and breast cancer, alcohol increases the risk of skin cancers. Alcohol weakens the immune system and impairs adequate nutrition, reducing the body’s natural defense against skin cancer. Acetaldehyde, the main metabolite of alcohol is a carcinogen – it damages your DNA. Also, the negative effects of UV rays may be reinforced by alcohol in your system.

So does all that mean that you can’t enjoy a cocktail in the sun while on holiday or a glass of wine with your friends in the summer? Be reasonable. When you drink, stick to the recommended limits and drink plenty of water in between.

Cleansing Routine

In the summer, when your skin produces more sebum and oil, you sweat more and you spend more time outdoors, your skin will simply get dirty. Don’t go to town with antibacterial and alcohol based products. Choose mild soaps, tonics and cleansers and opt for light moisturizers. As much as we all hate too much shine, don’t obsessively try to keep you skin completely matte, it needs a little bit of oil for protection.

A light moisturizer with UV protection or a BB cream (moisturizer, UV screen and foundation all in one) will protect and nourish your skin.

In the evening, stick to a short cleansing routine, cleanse, tone and moisturize.

If you work in an air conditioned environment and you feel your skin needs this, give it a quick cleanse and moisturize mid-day.

Sleep and exercise

Don’t let a summer holiday trip or other activities ruin your sleep and exercise pattern. Sleep and rest in general are very important for our bodies to regenerate, including the skin. Exercise to keep the blood pumping and flush toxins and your skin will reflect that.

Enjoy your summer responsibly and don’t neglect your skin and it will pay off!

Veggie Sandwich

grilled-vegetables-and-goat-cheese-sandwichesWant an easy (and hearty!) way to get lots of nutrients in one meal? Try this sandwich. It’s digestible enough to give you energy for the rest of the day (rather than feeling weighed down by heavy meats and oils) but the large amount of vegetables, nuts and grains will definitely still leave you full and satisfied.

Pair it with a large glass of fresh squeezed citrus or watermelon juice for a more complete nutritional profile. The fruit will also help curb that after-lunch sugar craving!

Ingredients:
Sprouted Grain Bread
Grilled veggies (you can buy pre-sliced vegetable mixes at whole foods)
Hummus
Pesto
Sprouts
Spinach
Black Pepper

Sauté the vegetables (we used zucchini, squash, onions, bell peppers and spinach) in a pan with a little olive oil until the spinach cooks down. Toast the bread, then spread with hummus and pesto (we did one side of each). Add the sprouts and sprinkle with black pepper. Enjoy!

How A Fit Girl Faces Surgery: My Fit Recovery and the Jade Infrared Sauna

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My previous two posts walked through the healthy steps I took to prepare my fit bod for surgery, highlighting preventative ways to shorten the healing process, reduce muscle loss and weight gain, keep my digestive system functioning and maintain high levels of energy and immunity. Fast forward to post-op. I was completely off of all pain killers – ibuprofen included – in less than a week’s time, thanks in part to one very effective therapeutic treatment: the Jade Infrared Sauna.

Unlike typical saunas, this sauna is a pod you lie in. It’s similar to a tanning bed in size, but your head is actually out of the sauna so you’re breathing fresh air the entire time. No claustrophobic lid 4” from your nose, no dizzying bazillion-degree air. The infrared rays (a combo of near and far, if you’re an infrared guru) penetrate a couple of inches past your skin’s surface to heat the body from within, activating the actual cells inside your bod. This translates to mind-boggling cardiovascular stimulation, detoxification, relaxation and healing. As someone who experienced a rare and life threatening blood clot at the age of 20, keeping my blood circulating during a time of lessened physical activity was a major priority. Just 30 minutes in the Jade sauna has the cardio-impact of a 6-mile run, which, I might add, also torches major calories … a must for someone cut off from her daily Bodybar routine. The increased blood flow and cell stimulation expedited my recovery, reduced pain and inflammation, and also helped to rid my system of the heavy meds used in surgery.

Even when I’m not in recovery mode, I use the Jade sauna regularly. It’s one of the most effective ways to stay de-stressed and detoxed. Aside from post-op healing, I’ve experienced clearer, tighter skin, digestive relief, lessened “puffiness” and increased flexibility. It also happens to be possibly the most relaxing way to spend 30-40 minutes of my day.

Just over a 5 minute drive from our Travis location, The Phit Studio, where I go for my sauna fix a few times a week, is located at the corner of Mockingbird and Greenville, inside the Total Nutrition store. Visit their website for more information, and mention that you are a Bodybar Studios client to receive a special promo when you book your first session.

Diary of an Almost FitMom #3

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Have you every wondered why the first trimester of pregnancy is so taboo? Not only is it bad form to announce that you’re pregnant, but your OBGYN typically won’t see you until you’re at least 8 or 9 weeks along.  I remember thinking….um hello?? I’m a first-time preggo chick here, how do you know that I’m not out clubbing all night or eating tuna out of a rusty can??  Neither of which I was doing, of course, but I couldn’t believe I only saw my doctor once during my entire first trimester. Looking back, I wish I had known the following tips to better prepare myself for the first 3 months of pregnancy.

 

  1. Take it one day at a time.*  What you feel today is not going to be what you feel tomorrow, whether that is good news or bad.  This is true for your taste buds as well.  That gallon container of potato salad you drove ten miles out of the way for is going in the trash tomorrow, barely touched, because tomorrow, it will be the most disgusting thing you could image eating.

*Note: This is true for pretty much the rest of your life as a mom so remember: One. Day. At. A Time!

 

  1. Do not Shop Til You Drop! Don’t buy maternity clothes, seriously.  You have no idea what you’re going to gain (50lbs, people!) by the end of this so don’t run out and buy the cutest preggo clothes and rip the tags off because chances are they will be either too big, too small, or too restrictive in the wrong places.  And if you’re rounding the last trimester during the dead of a Texas summer like I was, you can save your money and plan on being naked for most of the final 12 weeks.

 

  1. Business as usual. I know, you just found out you’re expecting and you immediately feel the need to cancel your nail appointment (the fumes may hurt the baby), your yoga membership (heat and deep stretching is bad for the baby), or you may decide it’s time to start that 6 week intensive Skull Crushers BootCamp you’ve been eyeing on Groupon (can’t gain baby weight just yet!).  Not trying to make light of being a responsible baby cooker, but I think it’s safe to say that life can remain relatively consistent until you’ve had your first appointment. I mean, what about those chicks on “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant!”??

 

  1. Shut it Down! Put down the book, close the app, and shut off your computer. Now is not the time to read up on every horrific pregnancy complication, birthing disaster, rare genetic diseases etc.  Trust me when I say you’ll sleep with one eye on Google once the baby is here.  Don’t earn your Google PhD just yet. It will do nothing but add unnecessary worry and stress to your day.  Shut it down, kick up your feet while you still can lift them higher than 6 inches, and refer to #1.

How To Rock Your Greasy Hair

“Do I have to wash my hair today?” – A question I often ask myself.

To the women who wash their hair daily and never think twice about it this post is probably not for you. For the women who test the limits of how long they can rock their greasy hair, this post is definitely for you! Neither way is right nor wrong. In fact, through my research I have found conflicting views. Some say that washing your hair too often leaves your hair dry and brittle, and that grease is your body’s natural conditioner. Others say that if you don’t wash your hair everyday your scalp builds up bacteria. Who knows… I personally don’t wash my hair everyday because I color my hair and it is a fact that washing your hair often washes out your color faster (especially for a redhead). So for those who workout regularly and don’t want to wash their hair daily here is my guide for HOW TO ROCK YOUR GREASY HAIR:

1: TOP BUN

Top Bun

Top Bun

 

2: LOW BUN

Low Bun

Low Bun

3: SLICK-BACK PONYTAIL

Slick Back Pony

Slick Back Pony

 

4: BRAID

BRAID

BRAID

 

5: HAT

Hat Hair

Hat Hair

How A Fit Girl Faces Surgery: Week 2

breakfast smoothie made of nutrient-dense produce (spinach and blueberries), a healthy fat (avocado), protein, fiber and omega 3’s (ground hemp and flax seeds) and a natural immunity boost (a touch of local honey).

breakfast smoothie made of nutrient-dense produce (spinach and blueberries), a healthy fat (avocado), protein, fiber and omega 3’s (ground hemp and flax seeds) and a natural immunity boost (a touch of local honey).

 

Over a series of posts, I’ll be walking through the healthy steps I took to prepare my body for the trauma that is surgery, highlighting the steps I took to shorten the healing process, prevent muscle loss and weight gain, keep my digestive system functioning and maintain high levels of energy and immunity. Last week I focused on my exercise routine. This week takes a closer look at what I ate.

I curated a diet of simple, easily digestible foods, eating similar foods at the same times from day to day to keep my body in sync. I removed potential gut agitators, primarily gluten and dairy. Though I’m an O-blood type and need red meat, I cut it out of my diet this week. Red meat stays in the system for quite awhile before it’s fully digested.

Monday and Tuesday my food focus was easily digestible, high protein foods and fresh produce that would work together to build my immune system and sustain my energy levels.

Breakfast: sautéed oatmeal. This is my go-to when I’m looking for a hearty, protein and fiber-dense breakfast that can be prepared in under ten minutes. It’s gluten and dairy-free, naturally sweetened with banana, and keeps me full for hours. Watch for the recipe in an upcoming post!

Lunch: roasted root veggies (beets, carrots and sweet potatoes) on a bed of arugula tossed lightly in oil and lemon, served with roasted salmon

Salad spotlight: Specific reasons I chose these foods pre-surgery

  • Beets increase blood flow and carrots are highly anti-inflammatory, both touting cardiovascular benefits preventing the formation of clots during the immobility in recovery
  • Sweet potatoes are high in immunity-boosting Vitamins A, C and E, as well as digestion-friendly fiber and anti-inflammatory antioxidants
  • Although greens are typically more difficult to digest, arugula is high in magnesium and vitamin C, which work together to destress the digestive system
  • Salmon is not only among the most digestible protein sources, but new studies show it actually works as an anti-inflammatory in the intestinal tract. (A win-win for a fit girl fearing for her tummy once anesthesia and Vicodin make their way onto the scene) 

Dinner: pulled chicken breast, baked sweet potato topped with coconut oil (a major digestive aid), and a baby watermelon (it wasn’t intentional, but I ate the whole thing!)

I snacked on apples, mangos and dates throughout the week and consumed a ton of water.

On Wednesday I switched to a liquid diet to ease up on my GI tract even more. Before breaking out the juice, I started the day with a breakfast smoothie made of nutrient-dense produce (spinach and blueberries), a healthy fat (avocado), protein, fiber and omega 3’s (ground hemp and flax seeds) and a natural immunity boost (a touch of local honey). I then eased into juices the remainder of the day and began fasting at midnight in preparation for my operation in the morning.

What to watch for next week: How a Fit Girl Recovers