The Struggle To Stay Fit
We received this email update from the authors of The Serotonin Power Diet blog and thought it worth passing on.
Often it is not the pain that comes after exercise that prevents us maintaining or regaining fitness; it is chronic pain we feel before we start to move. Seemingly every joint and bone and muscle is capable of causing sufficient discomfort and often actual pain presents an almost insurmountable obstacle to physical activity.
Denying that we are no longer as physically fit as we once were also prevents us from exercising. We simply don’t want to find out that we can no longer run as fast, bike as far or ski as fast we did in the past. We are like someone who is gaining weight but refuses to get on the scale. Do I want to bike up that steep hill to see if I can still do it? I am not sure. Better to go a mile out of the way to avoid it.
But just as we don’t need a scale to tell us we are gaining weight (trying to fit into a pair of pants that no longer fit is sufficient evidence), we also don’t need to bike up a hill or run a mile to know that our fitness is decreasing. When running up the stairs is just a distant memory, when your arms are too weak to put your suitcase in the overhead compartment of the plane or when getting up from the chair is a struggle, you know that you are certainly no longer fit.
Start now to do something about it. Focus on one or two physical activities that you can do within your fitness and time limitations. Stair climbing, walking quickly a short distance, carrying or lifting moderately heavy objects like a grocery bag, balancing on one foot, or getting up from a chair without using your hands (and grunting) all count. Track changes in your fitness just as you might track weight loss. Can you climb one flight of stairs with any change in your breathing? Can you stand on one foot for the length of a television ad? Are you able to get up from a low chair or stool easily? Do you need help in putting away heavy groceries on high shelves?
Already in relatively good physical shape? Then push yourself to get stronger. In the book Alice Through the Looking Glass, there is the following line: “Now… It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” Sometimes, indeed often, we are satisfied with doing a little less exercise or strength training or balancing regimens than we should. We say, “Oh, I did enough today. I don’t want to push myself.” But unless we to do slightly more today than we did last week, we may not, “stay in the same place,” as it were. Instead, we may start losing small but real amounts of endurance and strength.
Don’t give up. Don’t allow breaks in your routine to become permanent. Don’t be frustrated if progress in running faster or lifting heavier weights is slower than when you were 20 years younger. Give your body short breaks while you are exercising. For example, walk quickly for five minutes and slowly for one minute. Climb one or two flights of stairs and then wait until your breathing returns to normal before doing it again.
Will you achieve the effortless endurance, balance and cardiovascular output of a young teen? No. Neither will your hair be as thick as it was then. But you will be pushing back the inevitable decline with aging.
Turn what presents itself as a struggle it into a positive opportunity that allows for you the time to stop and smell the roses, all in the name of life-affirming self care.
Get your Culture Fix – London UK Summer 2012
As I type, two major forces are in the frame for affecting traditional summer cultural activities: the Olympics and the Para Olympics, and the good old British weather! Though, of course, the effect up to a million predicted tourists per day in the capital will have on the transport systems is yet to be witnessed and may well show the cries of chaos to be exaggerated. And as for the weather, well, it may be wetter and greyer so far this spring and summer than in living memory, but the resilience of the British character keeps shining through – the rain-sodden Thames Pageant to mark the Queen’s Jubilee showed that!
Can Eating Breakfast Make You Fat?
One of the authors of The Serotonin Diet, Dr Nina T Frusztajer MD, regularly writes a blog we always read for its insights into human behaviour. Her latest blog Can Eating Breakfast Make You Fat? is thought provoking. Directly relevant to the US way of being which is interesting in itself, the article included a couple of points worth remembering for all of us:
Your body needs to be rehydrated after a night of slumber
The brain needs protein to make the chemicals that make you quick thinking and sharply
The blog is freely available and easily subscribed to.
Can Eating Breakfast Make You Fat?
My early morning trek to the gym takes me past a Dunkin Donut shop and a long line of sleepy commuters waiting to buy breakfast. The shelves of this franchise coffee shop are stocked with varieties of doughnuts, muffins, bagels and breakfast sandwiches of an egg with cheese and fatty meat. As I continue down the block, people are standing in long lines at MacDonalds so they can eat a hot meal of scrambled egg and hashbrowned potatoes, or cream saturated oatmeal, pancakes and syrup, or egg, ham and cheese breakfast sandwiches, along with their coffee. Two blocks away, an up-scale neighborhood bakery-coffee shop sells fatty, chocolate filled croissants or butter laden, gigantic cranberry scones and gourmet coffee to people working at a nearby hospital. And at a convenience store across the street from my gym, high school students filter in to buy a bottle of soda and bag of Doritos to eat on the way to school.
Nutritionists tell us (and in the interests of full disclosure, I have written about this myself) that breakfast is the most important meal of the day or at the very least, just as important as lunch and dinner. ‘Start the day off right’ or ‘Fuel your body’ or ‘Don’t eat breakfast and you will overeat later on’ are just a few of the Eat Breakfast mantras sent in our direction for several decades. Yet is it possible that eating breakfast may not be beneficial? Is it possible that breakfast may be contributing unnecessary calories without contributing necessary nutrients? Could it be that eating breakfast might actually put us back to sleep rather than activating our cognitive centers and mental acuity? Can breakfast be bad for us?
Of course the answer is that it depends on what is eaten. As I pointed out in a book written many years ago (Managing Your Mind and Mood Through Food), your brain needs protein in the morning which can and should be supplied by breakfast, if only to set you up for success.
The two brain chemicals involved in thinking quickly and sharply (dopamine and norepinephrine) are made when the amino acid tyrosine is eaten. Tyrosine is found in protein, and when these two brain chemicals are in short supply, eating protein will activate their synthesis. Presumably anyone going off to a job or school requiring some thinking and mental responsiveness would benefit from a breakfast containing protein.
Carbohydrates tend to make people feel calm and mellow; and fat goes further in this behavioral direction and leaves the eater dull and tired. Although these feelings might be appropriate as a prelude to sleep, this is not the way we want to feel early in the morning as we set out to face the obligations of the day. Do we really want a surgeon, teacher or airline pilot to eat a breakfast of sugary doughnuts fried in fat, buttery croissants, or pancakes drenched in butter and syrup? Should we with lesser, but nevertheless important, jobs be eating these foods?
We know that a functioning digestive system needs fiber and water. Fast food breakfast menus rarely if ever feature high fiber cereals or breads. Do any people order a large cup of water along with their coffee? Might the digestive problems constantly talked about in television advertisements be caused, at least in part, by dehydrated morning folk who don’t drink enough fluids or eat enough fiber?
Those who eschew dairy products such as milk and cottage cheese often suffer from lactose deficiency. They will rarely find lactose-free milk for their coffee, and dieters who want fat free yogurt will have to settle for the full fat variety in the few coffee shops and fast food chains that carry that product. Want cottage cheese? Better bring it from home. But if you want your morning dairy food to be whipped cream, you need only go to your local Starbucks or fast food chain to find it on top of a sugary syrup and chocolate filled coffee drink, a nutritional wasteland.
Fruit cups, sold everywhere, may compensate somewhat for the nutritional limitations of take-out breakfasts. But do they? Regardless of season and state in which they are sold, most fruit cups contain the same variety of fruit: chunks of cantaloupe and honey dew, a few grapes, one sliced strawberry and three blueberries. High vitamin C fruits like oranges and grapefruits are rarely included, and the high fiber blueberries and strawberries are provided in miniscule amounts even when the supermarkets are filled with them. Are they mass-produced in a factory somewhere or is the selection of fruits based on their resilience to being turned into mush if the cup is stuffed into the bottom of a knapsack?
It strikes me that a lack of time is usually the reason breakfast is purchased rather than eaten at home before leaving for work. But how much time is actually saved by purchasing breakfast? The ten minutes standing in line to order and pay for coffee and bagel at Dunkin Doughnut could be spent at home eating a container of yogurt with fresh blueberies or bowl of high fiber cereal, milk and banana . The ten minutes it takes to order, pay and receive the egg or pancake platter at MacDonalds is more time that it takes to scramble an egg and toast an English muffin at home. Buying cut up fresh or frozen fruit and plastic cups in the supermarket and spending a minute making a fruit cup at home may take more time but at least you get to choose the fruit rather than someone in a factory.
Not hungry early in the morning? Bring breakfast foods with you to eat later on in the morning. Bring single size servings of yogurt and cottage cheese and fruit to work or school. Keep a bowl and spoon in your desk drawer along with a box of high fiber cereal. Store milk and fruit ( not bananas) in the office refrigerator, or put blueberries in a sandwich bag in the freezer to add to the cereal. Another option is to make your own breakfast sandwich on whole grain bread with soft low calorie cheese like Laughing Cow and lean breakfast meat. And make sure to drink water even if you are not hungry. Your body needs to be rehydrated after a night of slumber.
The right breakfast foods will not only nourish your body, they will have a positive effect on your ability to concentrate and think rapidly. So instead of standing in line for ten minutes to get your morning coffee, stand in your kitchen and eat breakfast there or take it with you to work. Your brain and body will thank you.