Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mom, Is This Healthy?

My little guy is fascinated, okay a little obsessed, with the healthfulness of his food. In a way I am thankful for this because I want him to be cognizant of the quality of what he eats. But I am also worried that his focus is so razor-sharp that he'll end up being all nutso about it like me later in life.  So I've started a little therapy fund just in case.

But in the meantime, he's been asking me on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, whether this is healthy or that is healthy.  Restaurants we pass, foods we eat (or don't eat), stuff he sees other people eat...everything and everyone is fair game (you haven't lived until you've heard your preschooler scold someone at a park for eating Wendy's). But while the foods he asks about keep changing, I've found my answers are pretty much the same: some of it is, some of it isn't.

There is a Subway next to the frozen yogurt place we frequent, and so he asks, "is Subway healthy?" And my answer: "some of it is...."  Yes, you can have something healthy at Subway, and it is better than some other places where you can grab a quick meal, but you can also get a huge meatball sub smothered in cheese and buy a cookie, a soda, and a bag of chips on the way out.  Not healthy.

And the froyo: "is frozen yogurt healthy?"  I reply: "some of it is..."  The yogurt place we go to has truly healthy yogurt and lots of fresh fruit for toppings.  But they also have a whole line full of candy you can dump in. Not so healthy.

We drive down the road and he asks about this and that, which is healthy and which is not, and I keep telling him that some of it is, some of it isn't, and most of the time we do a great job of taking something that started out good for us and loaded it up with sugar and fat and presto! Made it unhealthy.  It's as if making perfectly good food unhealthy is our nation's collective super power.

My son seems to be like most Americans: he's aware of the health value of his food, but it doesn't really stop him from wanting to eat too many sweets and skip the veggies. But I'm glad he is at least asking the questions, and hopefully getting the message that in a lot of cases, the health value of our food lies in our hands.

This week is about the choices we make in our health. Today, look at what you eat and ask yourself, did I unhealthify this? 

Then get out there and be healthy!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Family Wellness: Your Active Family

The family that plays together stays together, and when playing also translates to getting and staying fit, everyone wins. To finish up Family Wellness Week, here are some quick tips for turning exercise and fitness into a lot of fun for your family:

1. Turn on the TV.  Say whaaaat?!?  No, I'm not suggesting you plop down on the couch for a movie marathon...if you have a Wii or a Kinect, skip past the sedentary games and go for the track and field setting, or volleyball, or skiiing...anything to get you all up, moving, and most of all having fun.  Dude, those track and field events are hard!  And the white water rafting...well, we'll just leave the memories.  Healthy Heather Tip: don't have a second glass of wine before hitting "play" on that one.  Trust me.

2. Choose a cause. There are more charity walks, races, and more every weekend than you can shake a protein smoothie at these days.  Collaborate with your brood and choose one that pulls at your heart strings, and then get your heart pumping for the cause!  Not only will you be helping your community and working together as a team, you'll be (shhhhhh) exercising together.

3. Take it outside. Finding a sliver of time for a walk in the rush-around evenings of the typical American family can seem like a mental workout of its down, and sometimes just feel impossible. But, carving out time for a family walk or even a "sports night" when you all go to the ball field or for a bike ride on a trail before you get home can be therapeutic, fun, and do a lot for your family's physical and emotional health.

4. Get silly!  Who says you have to play by the rules? Set up a crazy obstacle course in your backyard and time each other to see who can finish it the fastest. Or, assign your own silly names to tried-and-true exercises to turn push-ups into pirate's planks or jumping jacks into princess shimmies.  Your kids will get a kick out of seeing you break out of the grown-up mold, and you'll all burn extra calories laughing. Before you know it, you'll be staging your own family Olympics medal ceremony by Labor Day weekend.

Exercise doesn't have to be a chore, it can be just another way your family connects.  Here are some more great resources for family wellness ideas:

ShapeUp.org Tips for Family Fitness
Secrets of Active Families

And please remember, if you're exercising outside, bring plenty of water, fruit to snack on, and sunscreen!

Get the kids together and kick off a healthy summer of fitness fun.  Get out there and be healthy!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Family Wellness: Pay to Weigh

It's Family Wellness Week - all about getting and keeping your family fit together. Today, a focus on a family weight loss program that I love because it hits the participants where they can feel it - in the pocketbook!

When a friend of mine told me that she was meeting her family at the grocery store to weigh in on the big scale near the door, I had to hear more.  The story that followed made me laugh, think, and smile, because it was exactly what families should be doing to get healthy together: find what motivates and is fun for them, and create an environment that breeds success!  Here's my interview with her:

How did you guys come up with this idea?!?
The idea came from one of my cousins... she’s always trying to motivate and make money at the same time; she’s funny that way. My family is probably no different from any other. We range from the size zero to the high 20’s but every once and a while a group of us will get together and decide it’s time to do something about the weight gain.

What are the rules?
No real rules except for paying and weighing every two weeks. You can do whatever you want to lose the weight. If you gain weight you have to pay an extra $1 per pound into the pot. There are prizes every two weeks for the two people who have lost the most weight and they don’t have to pay in that week. The prizes are usually some small thing like wrist weights or a healthy cookbook.

Why did you choose the grocery store as your weigh-in spot?
The grocery store is convenient and centrally located to our houses, and it’s not private so it motivates you to at least do something. If you choose not to weigh in, which some do, you can pay out for that week; $10 to skip (remember I told you my cousin likes to make money!)

How much weight have you all lost?
I’m not sure how much we’ve lost collectively, we haven’t tallied and probably won’t until it’s all said and done. We have a family reunion in June and we will give the results and the money out then. The overall winner gets 75% of the pot; second place gets 15% and third gets 10%, right now I believe the pots at about $400, with a month to go it could get bigger!

How long will you do this challenge?
We've learned it’s best to keep it short. We’ve been doing it for about 3 or 4 months and in the beginning we were all excited about it, but as we move to a longer period more and more people are buying out of weighing in. This could be a strategy for some and laziness for others... I guess we’ll find out at the reunion!

I love this.  Love it!  The key here is that this family is doing something age-appropriate for the participants, general enough to include everyone, and challenging enough to inspire some friendly competition.  I can't wait to hear how she does (she's already lost quite a bit and feels incredible) and how it all goes down at the reunion.

How can your family use this story to inspire wellness at home? Take time today to get creative about family fitness...it can really pay off! (hardy har har)

Go out there and be healthy!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Family Wellness: The Triathlon Club

My son and I started a new club yesterday: the Triathlon Club. Only  people who have done a triathlon can be in it, and since he completed his first pint-sized version this weekend, the club now has two members: him and me!  We have our first meeting coming up at the local pool to practice for his next race and I am going to try very hard to project my personal brand of insanity training on him. Promise. For real!

This week is all about family fitness - getting everyone together to make getting healthy a family goal, priority, and project. Not only does group fitness increase the fun factor of getting in shape, it can provide a strong sense of unity, accountability, and immense satisfaction when you reach your goal together.

When I was a kid, my dad was my exercise inspiration.  As one of the most disciplined people I know, he got up and ran every single morning, even on Christmas, which was just completely insane to me as a kid (it now sounds like a heavenly idea).  I watched him complete races, borrowed his race t-shirts so I could feel like a runner too, and started running alongside him as a high schooler with my inhaler in a death grip.  When I wasn't sure I would ever be a good runner, he confided that when he started, he couldn't even run a block. Some people are gifted athletes and some people get there by way of sheer grit and blind ambition. I'm a proud card-carrying member of the second group! 

I'm looking forward to sharing some stories of families getting fit together and also hearing yours. For now, some ideas for how to discover your family's fitness niche:

1. Try anything! It's easy to pigeonhole our kids into what we think they would excel at only to be surprised later with what they want to do. Try a variety of activities together and let go of your expectations that any of you will be a phenom, or that its even required to be good at a sport to participate in it.  If being skilled was a prerequesite, I would have been kicked out of the gym a long time ago!

2. Cheer for each other and applaud the effort. Just because you're getting healthy together doesn't mean you have to be doing the same thing. Cheer each other on no matter what you're trying, and create as many positive experiences as you can.  When kids feel supported and successful, they are way more likely to try "try again."  Same goes for us grown-up kids, too. :)

3. Set a family goal. Whether it is to lose weight, complete a race, or (my personal goal) learn how to do a flip turn in the pool, set it and tackle it together. Don't worry about being the example for once; instead, be the teammate.

Summer is a great time to set family fitness goals.  This week, set aside some to talk with your family about what you want to learn how to do by Labor Day and ask about their fitness dreams. You might be surprised what you have in common.

Now go be healthy!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Don't Eat That...'til you read this

Okay, my last word for the week on food marketing and what you need to know about it - this piece from Men's Health and their notorius "Eat This, Not That," model for pointing out what we already know: the longer the list of ingredients, the worse it is for our bodies.

Before you pull your car up to the drive through, and please before you feed fast food to your children, read this article on what's really in your "food."  It's eye-opening and sobering.

But, there is a silver lining in all of this bad news.  I know, sometimes it seems like we're surrounded by things we can't eat, and it's overwhelming to try and change our ways.  But, it only seems that way because we've been convinced that our options are simply what's sold to us on television.  There is a whole world of cleaner, healthier eating out there and guess what? It's waaaaay easier than reading lists of ingredients and trying to figure out what to eat.

Here's how: eat real food. Apples and oranges and pears and berries.  Carrots, broccoli, spinach, squash. Eggs. Chicken. Fish.  Sweet potatoes and brown rice and whole grains and nuts. You don't need a degree in nutrition to eat healthy, just ignore the marketing, skip the aisles, and head to the produce section.  I absolutely promise you will find everything you need there, and if you get tripped up, call me and I'll walk you through it.

Education isn't always power.  It's a good start, but only action is power. Take this new knowledge and put it into action this weekend!  Start eating cleaner and stop worrying about what's in your food.

Be healthy, and be happy!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Shopping Cart Ambush

As I was doing my usual speed shopping last week, trying to set the land speed record for time in and out of the grocery store, I screetched my buggy to a halt in front of a display of Crystal Light Pure.  I've been meaning to take a peek at the ingredient list because it is advertised as having no artificial sweeteners.  As I suspected, it is sweetened with Truvia and Stevia, which are natural sweetners although I still don't care for them because I am opposed to sweeteners in general and prefer to eat food the way it actually tastes.  But that's beside the point.

I flipped the box over and looked at the list of ingredients.  Numero uno was our unfriend sugar. Not a surprise, although look at the picture on the front.  Does this girl look like she drinks a lot of sugar?  Don't be fooled - Crystal Light Pure may not have artificial sweetners, but it is still sugar so if you drink it, just be aware!

As I put it back on the shelf, I noticed that it was stocked right next to a supply of Kool Aid. How ironic!  I flipped that package around as well and looked at the ingredients.

Pop Quiz: Do you see anything similar about the first ingredient in each of these items? (hint: they're the same)

Crystal Light Pure Ingredients
Cherry Kool Aid Ingredients
Now, as an adult, would you make yourself a pitcher of Kool Aid and carry it around with you all day thinking you're doing the healthy thing?  Of course not!  Please, if you buy and drink sugar, do so in measured moderation.  I like tasty things too...I just don't want you to sacrifice your health to have them.  Put a wedge of lemon in your water if you want some extra flavor!  I do it every day and live to tell the story.

But if you buy this...we need to talk because that is just wrong!

Be healthy! :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Not Buyin' It

On Friday I was listening to NPR, as usual, and heard this report on the new "regulations" that will be imposed on food marketers in five years or so, related to how they can market junk food to kids.  It was all about how the "regulations," (in quotes because they're pretty much optional) are not likely to make much of a difference in how food is marketed to kids, and what a shame it is.

And it is a shame.

But here's the thing - the whole time I was listening, nodding, and pumping my fist while grimacing at my radio, one thought was going through my mind:

Just don't buy it.  Don't buy the crap!

Food marketers spend a lot of money selling food to kids.  But the last time I was at the grocery store, all of the people pushing the buggies and swiping the debit cards were adults.  I don't know any kids who are making the grocery list, going to the store, and buying the family's food for the week ahead.  Guess what: it doesn't make one lick of difference what the food marketers say. YOU CHOOSE. 

I have a kiddo, I know how it is.  They have their sweet little faces and they use their magic words and you love them.  Uh huh.  Been there!

Here's how to limit the number of times your darling angel asks if he can please, pretty please, clog his arteries with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil:

1. Turn off the TV and radio.  Listen to your iPod.  DVR your shows and fast forward through commercials. Watch PBS. The only food I've seen advertised there is raisins.

2. Learn about nutrition so you can explain why you're saying no. 

3. Remember, they may hold the air time, but you hold the wallet.

Food marketing regulations may not go into effect for five years, but you can start creating a healthy family now! 

Good day!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Rule of the Belly: Workouts

Okay, I promised not to constantly bore you with the details of my pregnancy (although it is thrilling and I could talk about it for days) but so many have asked how I am coping with changing my training routine to suit my new maternal state.  So, get ready for some ME TIME!  And by "me" I meant specifically me.  Everyone listen to meeee!

To be honest, not much has changed although you wouldn't know it to hear me complaining every day about how lame I feel as a benchwarmer.  I am still running, but I've started doing mostly 3 minute run/1 minute walk intervals and have decreased my frequency from 4-5 days a week to just 2-3.  The frequency decrease was more related to achilles tendonitis than being preggo, but it suits me better now.  So, my mileage has gone down from 25-30 miles a week to more like 12-15.  Replacing those runs has been time on the elliptical, which gives me plenty of time to examine the state of my butt in the gym mirror.

When I got pregnant I announced to a friend that I would have the best-looking pregnant butt ever seen.  But for some reason I still have the same butt I had before I got pregnant. Strange. It's looking better these days, though, because I've been swimming.  Once the temperature gets over 80 degrees and the sun comes out, I cannot resist the lure of chlorine and lane ropes.  So, about three days a week I've been swimming laps for 30 minutes.  I'm planning to continue this until they close the pool in October (gotta love Florida) or I start shivering, whichever happens first.  Check out some pregnancy swimming guidelines here.

Finally, weights.  Yes, pregnant women can lift weights! I have a great trainer who has completely embraced my challenge to keep my arms and legs toned and muscular even though I am gaining fat, and he is definitely delivering.  Three days a week I am doing total body resistance training, mostly compound exercises, just like before I got pregnant, just being sure not to overdo it.  So far so good!  I miss my plyo and speed/agility workouts but I've found I am able to do those vicariously through my preschooler, who has experienced a sudden surge of physical activity now that his mom is an athlete in exile.

Not overdoing it is the hardest part.  I love training really hard and being completely fatigued at the end of a workout but those are on hold for a while. Right now my goal is 60 minutes of decent cardio five times a week, weights three times a week. Luckily, I have a great gym buddy who has generously offered to pick up my slack, and by the looks of it he is going to be totally ripped by the end of the summer.  David, you're a machine!  A very sweaty machine. LOL  Preggos, read about the signs that you're overdoing it in the gym when working out for two.

I hope that in a month I can report the same - still active, just modified!  At almost halfway though (cannot believe that) all signs point to yes.  It's a good thing too, I'm eating all of those burned calories!  More on that later.  For now,

Good day!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Does your wellness need a bodyguard? Protect it!

This week has been about the influences around us that can pull us in either direction on the wellness path: towards increased health and vitality or away from it.  We've talked about the negative influences of the media, and creating positive influences from the people and other outlets around us.  Today, it's time to put on our game faces and talk about the real-life people who just plain refuse to believe that we really honestly not only want to be healthy, but intend to against all odds.

I am talking about feeders.

Feeders can very easily seem like nice, well-meaning people... until they decide to stop and get doughnuts on the way to work and plop one on your desk. They'll use guilt, peer pressure, and sometimes intimidation to entice you to entertain them by going "off your diet," and eating whatever confection they've created. 

But the thing is, we're not on a diet, are we?  No, this is your health for life. And the truth is that while one doughnut will not catapult you into a life of depravity, if it's not in your wellness plan then it's just not in your wellness plan and that's all there is to it.  Feeders have a hard time accepting this, but they just cannot believe that you meant what you said about maintaining your weight loss and eating healthy. 

Do you know a feeder?  Are you one?  Don't worry - your wellness goals are your goals and not up for negotiation.  You meant it when you set (and achieved) your wellness goals, and no one has to believe you but you.

Go protect them.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Create your own media, create your own influences

Yesterday I vented a little about the negative role that media can play in how we shape our images of ourselves and create self-worth. Today, it's the flip side: how we can create our own positive influences using the media and other things around us.

More and more research is showing the power of positive thinking, and you can see a pattern of it in the stories of successful people across the globe.  It really is incredible how you can change your life just by changing your perspective, but that's a whole other blog entirely!

Here's what I've done to create my own positive media and change the way I let the world influence my decisions:

1. Mantras.  I love mantras, and I create them all the time.  One that I shared the other day with a friend who was struggling with something that used to plague me is, "turn jealousy into joy."  I left jealousy in 2010 because it was holding me back.  But, that doesn't mean it doesn't try to creep back into my life.  When I start sensing that I am wallowing in envy-induced self-pity, I remind myself to turn jealousy into joy and am instantly overwhelmed with happiness for whomever it is I have been admiring.  It's amazing how amazing I feel when I use mantras.

2. Surround yourself with positive. Following other athletes on Twitter inspires me to challenge myself and push the limits of my workouts.  Participating in the weekend races of my local track club reminds me of the great wellness community that I live in. My vision board includes images of positive experiences I want to have in my life and I see it every day. Seek out people, places, and events that support your wellness goals and the influence will be very positive.

3.   Ignore and shun the negative. Sometimes living in the positive means taking deliberate action against the negative.  This can be hard because at times it means ending relationships that are antithetical to your goals, which can be painful.  But, every time I have made the difficult decision to remove a negative influence from my life, it has been replaced with so much wonderful that I've been rewarded beyond my wildest dreams.  Sometimes it just takes the will to be positive no matter what.

Your fitness and wellness goals are yours, but it takes more than just you alone to accomplish them.  It also requires a positive environment and influences.  Luckily, you can create them quickly and put them to work right away!  This week, look around and put some mental sticky notes on what is positive and what is negative in your life, and take some steps towards the positive.

I'll see you there!

Good day!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Turn it out to tone it up

A few days ago I switched from NPR to a commercial music station in my car, and in the span of one red light had been subjected to three high-energy, intense commercials for fast food.

Within seconds I caught myself thinking, "hmmm, a snack sounds good..." and conjuring up ideas of what I might want to eat.  Whaaaat?  Luckily, it hit me right away that I not only had I just eaten lunch and was not even hungry, I hadn't given a single thought to food until I heard those commercials.  I switched back to NPR.  At least that way I just feel under-educated.

I read an article once that showed the significant drop in self-esteem among teenage girls after reading fashion magazines and started paying more attention to how I felt about my body image after reading them.  As a result, I stopped buying them (and the celebrity gossip mags, as curious as I was about who has cellulite and why the Bachelor got dumped) and have felt much more positive and healthy.  After that experiment, I've been more aware of the role that the media plays in not only how we feel about ourselves and our bodies, but how our children shape expectations for what their bodies should look or feel like. 

Seriously, I hear about first graders on diets.  First grade girls.  The only thing first graders should be worried about is...well I haven't got a clue.  I don't have a girl.  But they shouldn't be worried about their weight, I know that much. 

I listen to my own music on my iPod, DVR television shows to skip commercials, and avoid fashion magazines because they harsh my mellow.  I really love where I am with my body and my fitness, and I want to roll around in it as long as I can. I'm not in any hurry for someone to tell me it's not good enough or that I need to be thinner/faster/younger/tanner.  Let's not get carried away - I am still a vain woman and want to feel like I am cute and fit and fun to be around!  I've just taken the long route to learning that I can decide that for myself.  And when I am in doubt, I ask my husband and he is always quick to feed my delusions. :) Good man.

Look, it's not realistic to think that we can lock ourselves in a bubble and live in our own reality where no amount of media influences our perceptions or decisions.  All I ask is that you be aware of how these messages impact not only your perceptions but your actions.

Your actions.  When you take action related to your body image, is it in response to a recent media message?  Be aware of what motivates you, and tune it out to tone it up.

Good day!