Tie on Your Big Girl Shoes and Run

Motivation

Motivation

Though it often comes as a surprise to friends, family, and even total strangers, I enjoy running. If I were ever to take on a triathlon, the organizers would politely put me in the Athena or Clydesdale category. I, on the other hand, embrace the term fathlete. As you’ve seen from previous posts, I like to eat, but I like being active just as much. While these two things don’t seem to be at odds to me and others I’ve met with similar habits, some ‘healthier’ people can have a hard time not judging a book by its cover. An example: I recently had a yoga instructor at a retreat ask me if I did any physical activity at all when I told her I rarely practiced yoga. Her reaction when I told her I played ice hockey a couple times a week and was training for my third half marathon was worth the sting of her initial derision. Namaste.

This kind of ‘fitter than thou’ attitude is pretty prevalent in fitness literature. For folks like me, it’s hard to find resources that encourage a healthy lifestyle and at the same time don’t tell you how horrible it is to be in your body. So, to throw a bone to all my larger-than-life-fitties out there, I’ve compiled a list of non-judgmental helpful books to help you reach your goals.

Unapologetic Fat Girl's Guide to Exercise coverThe Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise by Hanne Blank is a body-positive manifesto. Though the early chapters are aimed at motivating individuals who aren’t currently active, there are some nuggets of wisdom that everyone could use. I especially like her points on intent. Many people are active out of a vague sense of guilt that they should be doing something to improve themselves. Blank urges readers to move because they genuinely enjoy the activity, not because they feel it’s expected of them. There’s loads of other info in here about choosing the right activities, partnering up for success, selecting the best gear for your needs, and more.

The Runner’s Field Manual: A Tactical (and Practical) Survival Guide by Mark Remy is a great place to start if you’re interested in getting into running. This guide gives you advice on everything from knowing proper path etiquette, to how to run up an incline, to the proper way to run past roadkill without gagging. I appreciate that the authors and editors took the time to mix useful advice with a heavy dose of humor. The only thing that was lacking was information about proper nutrition while training – thankfully there were two other books ready to swoop in and answer all my questions.

Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance coverSomewhere in the back of my head there is a vague awareness that what you eat and when you eat it has a major impact on performance and progress. My lack of clarity on this topic probably explains why I actually gained weight while training for my last half marathon  instead of slimming down (here’s a hint: it wasn’t muscle building – it was the large pizzas I’d crave after training runs). Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes is a moderately-technical book that gets into the different nutrients found in foods, which ones you need to aid your performance and recovery, and what foods would be the best ones to consume. Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance takes things a step further and helps you figure out how much of what foods you need to consume before, during, and after different activities. My apologies upfront to anyone who dreads math – to use this book you’re going to have to crunch some numbers to figure out what plans are best for your build. I also appreciate the helpful meal plan examples at the end of the book to make things even easier.

Here’s a bonus book for those of you who are gluten-free and head-scratching at all these carb-heavy meal plans. The Gluten-Free Edge provides alternatives to the usual pre-event pasta dinners to help you on your way. Readers are also treated to a whole chapter of gluten-free recipes at the end to help put in practice all that you learn.

Healthy Tipping Point coverLastly, if you’re just looking to make some lifestyle changes to add more activity and a better sense of well-being to your life, Healthy Tipping Point has some really useful tips. While the main purpose of the book is to get the reader to make healthier choices for his or her own good, the author urges them to accept that thin and lean may not be the healthiest body type for each individual. More emphasis is placed on finding each individual’s healthy weight and physique, rather than trying to shoehorn people into the current popular perception of health and beauty.

My Stomach: the Strong, Sensitive Type

Cover image from The Intolerant GourmetI love to eat. I can demolish healthy foods, spicy foods, exotic foods, comfort foods, or the type of horribly unhealthy grub you’d find at state fairs. I take on all comers; the problem is, my digestive tract won’t. Last year I was diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity. Luckily I dodged the Celiac, allergy, and intolerance bullets (there’s a difference - link opens a PDF), but I still pay a price when I decide to snack on some doughnuts. Thankfully, the food industry in the States is rapidly becoming more gluten-free aware. Gluten-free products are springing up on store shelves and restaurants are adding new items to their menus. For all the cooks and bakers out there, there’s a wealth of new cookbooks being published every year.

Whether you’re avoiding gluten because your body hates it or you’ve decided to cut back for other health reasons, I have a list of books from our collection that I’d recommend checking out. I picked these titles because they all do a good job of explaining some things about being gluten free that can be confusing. Some cover the different reasons why people go gluten free, while others navigate the tricky waters of creating a dynamite gluten free flour mix for baking. Some of them have really handy lists of things you should and shouldn’t eat on a gluten free diet, while others have charts for properly cooking the different grains and beans being recommended in the recipes. I also like these books because they don’t rely too heavily on store-bought, pre-made items (gluten free breads, pastas, dressings, etc.) opting to teach you how to make those items in your own home instead. So, here is my list with some notes:

Cover image from The Gluten-Free VeganThe Gluten-Free Vegan by Susan O’Brien. This book has great explanations about being vegan, gluten free, and choosing organic goods. Those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to eggs may also find The Gluten-Free Vegan useful because it goes into alternatives products for cooking and baking. For those looking to cut back on refined sugars, there’s a section on organic sweeteners.

The Intolerant Gourmet by Barbara Kafka. Kafka stocked the back of this book with great charts for cooking times, water to grain/bean ratios, and more. This title is also a good pick for those who are lactose intolerant.

Cover image from Gluten Free 101Gluten-Free 101 by Carol Fenster. I think this title does the best job out of any of the cookbooks of introducing the reader to the reasons why someone might need to live a gluten-free lifestyle. You can tell that the author is speaking from years of experience and she is there to ease the reader through making the changes they need to make. Aside from the encouraging intro, the recipes themselves look delicious and easy to follow. While Fenster often uses canned ingredients in her recipes, cooks can easily substitute dried or fresh items at home if they want to avoid the extra sodium. Her emphasis in this book is on quick and easy recipes, so the shortcut makes sense.

Cover image for Gluten Free BreakfastGluten-Free Breakfast, Brunch, & Beyond by Linda J. Amendt. If you have suffered under any delusions that being gluten-free is an inherently-healthy lifestyle, this book will destroy them. Each chapter is sprinkled with glorious full-color photos of waffles, crepes, pies, and so much more to make you pack on the pounds. Use this resource wisely if you’re choosing to be gluten-free for weight-loss reasons.

Gluten-Free Whole Grains by Judith Finlayson. After learning I couldn’t eat wheat or rye without causing trouble, my eyes were opened to a world of grains I never knew existed. Reading through the lists of things that I COULD eat, all I could do was wonder how I was supposed to prepare them. This book is really helpful in explaining how to use both familiar and exotic grains in ways that show off their unique flavors and textures.

Happy cooking!

If I Could Turn Back Time

counterclockwiseExcuse me for inviting you to buy into our youth-obsessed cultural stereotypes, but have you ever wanted to look, feel, or actually be younger? Turns out all of these are possible, although the last may only happen if you lie about your age. Also, they take a lot of work, maybe more than you’re willing to do. Counter Clockwise: My Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate, and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-Aging by Lauren Kessler will take you along on one woman’s journey to reacquire youthfulness.

The author investigates and personally tries many ways to remain young, some of them expected and some quite surprising or relatively unknown. Of course many of the things she does are behaviors you’ve always been told will keep you healthy: eating unprocessed food, consuming more fruits and vegetables and, of course, exercise. Turns out these will also keep your body young. The goal is to keep your body healthy into old age and then suddenly die quickly, ideally in your sleep (and in bed with your much younger lover). Warning: don’t do it because Madison Avenue tells you to, do it because you want to be healthy.

Kessler learns about many different philosophies of eating with the goal of keeping you young for as long as possible. These include the idea of eating fewer calories than necessary-that is, semi-starving yourself for life. In studies, this practice has been shown to maintain the health and increase the longevity of rodents, but no studies have been done on humans. Guess they can’t find volunteers to be hungry the rest of their lives. No one would want to be around them, they’d always be so crabby.

She speaks with experts about the various food-specific diets that have you eat or avoid certain things. We also visit the big world of supplements. A lot of it seems natural, altruistic (they only want to make you feel better) and kind of hippie-granola-crunchy, but it is a big business with very little oversight.

And we can’t forget detoxification. Apparently we all need to do it, according to the popular press. The scientific community thinks it’s a load of bunk, and questions what it means and whether it is an effective or healthy activity.

Spoiler alert (but not really): Kessler finds that the things that work best to keep you young also keep you healthy and are the things your mother nagged you to do (or she should have). Don’t eat junk food! Get off the couch and get some exercise! Don’t let the TV turn you into a zombie (for real-brain activity and positive thinking can help keep you young and healthy)! Now go call your mom and thank her.

Did You Know? (Rabies Edition)

You almost certainly can’t get rabies from a squirrel?

squirrelsanswerguideSquirrels can get rabies but there has never been a documented case of squirrel to human transmission.

I found this information on page 130 in the book Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide. I also never realized that prairie dogs are squirrels or that there are so many varieties of squirrels. You can see many of the varieties pictured in this book, or take a look at Squirrels of the West by Tamara Hartson. For younger kids, Squirrels: Welcome to the World of Animals by Diane Swanson will give them an inside the nest view of the daily lives of these cute little critters!

Rodents such as squirrels, rats, mice and prairie dogs have a genetic abnormality that  generally keeps them from getting rabies. In addition, squirrels usually aren’t around the other types of animals that carry rabies so their risk of exposure is very low.

genesanddnaAs scientists learn more and more about genetics and disease, they are understanding more about the role certain specific genes play in our health and familial hereditary. There are now many diseases that they can detect in your DNA. Genes & DNA by Richard Walker is a children’s book that is very well written and explains the basics of DNA, RNA, the double helix, and genes. It also gives examples that easily explain twins, disease, cloning and more.

rabidIt seems odd to think of a disease as deadly as rabies as being fascinating, but Rabid by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy (which gives the history of rabies and the attempts by different societies to treat and prevent this catastrophic illness through the ages) was very enlightening. The factual accounts make it that much more interesting.

There are several famous fictional stories of rabies as well. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neile Hurston and Old Yeller by Fred Gipson will touch your heartstrings, while Cujo by Stephen King is suspenseful and will keep you on the edge of your seat!

vaccineFortunately rabies is very preventable now because of the vaccines that our pets can be given, and the advanced treatments that someone can be given if suspected of being infected. Vaccine: the Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver by Arthur Allen is informative; it talks about the creation and uses of different vaccines throughout history, while telling us about the controversies and politics of immunizations at the same time .

 

Fitness for a New Year

Fear not it’s not too late! If you didn’t get a jumpstart on that diet or workout plan you intended to start January 1st, Everett Public Library is a good place to start. The library has a myriad of great resources to help you move into phase two- ACTION!

I will be honest here, I don’t like the words diet or workout. I am, however, tempted by terms such as ‘fit in 4 weeks’ and ‘shed pounds in 15 days.’ Truth be told I want to incorporate a sustainable and challenging workout as well as tweak my diet. Here are just a few motivators I found.

flat-belly-yoga-coverI don’t know exactly when it happened but sometime between now and then I developed a muffin top. Flat Belly Yoga describes a muffin top as subcutaneous fat, the fat you can pinch. The dangerous belly fat is visceral fat that can form around internal organs. For a simple straight forward approach to strengthening your core, Flat Belly Yoga offers good illustrations and instructions with minimal equipment needed.

A recent survey on fitness trends conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) confirms that High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) continues to be the number one choice for getting and staying in shape, second to Body Weight Training. I briefly considered getting into a 30 minute Insanity class offered through Everett Parks and Recreation but I quickly talked myself out it! If you would like to get a taste for this type of work out, checkout the library’s P90-X Extreme Home Fitness DVD.

fireyourgymJust reading the introduction to Andy Petranek’s Fire your Gym!: Simplified High-Intensity Workouts You Can Do at Home confirmed my decision to start slow pacing myself. Andy is up front: you will be sore, no pain, no gain. Known for his Crossfit LA gym, in this 9 week at home program the author incorporates a high intensity workout, forefoot or barefoot style running, and recovery endurance conditioning. If you are looking to mix things up this book gives you the tools and template to stay fit.

bodyresetdietJuicing and the benefits thereof have been around for a long time. The Body Reset Diet offers a new twist – blending. Author Harley Pasternak breaks things down step by step asserting that blending is the key to resetting your body’s metabolism and maximizing the bioavailability of foods. As a person who has never met the daily requirement for getting my fruits and vegetables this book gives me hope. You will find recipes and an exercise programs to get you started.

extrememakeoverOne of my favorite exercise DVD’s is Extreme Makeover. Weight Loss Edition: the Workout. Fitness Instructor Chris Powell, touted as a transformation specialist, truly gives viewers a doable workout for various levels of fitness. In his latest book Chris Powell’s Choose More, Lose More for Life , Chris shares his own inspirational story along with a specific diet and exercise regimen.

ellensdancejamsWhen searching in the libraries catalog, type in a keyword search ‘physical fitness’, search by ‘any field’, limit by ‘DVD’, and I guarantee you will find a fitness DVD to match your interest from stretching to strenuous and everything in between. If DVDs don’t do it for you place a hold on Ellen’s I’m Gonna Make You Dance Jams featuring artist Macklemore, Usher, Aretha Franklin and more.

I’ve listed just a few titles in hopes that you will discover something new that motivates you towards a healthy and fit new year.

It’s the Most Grumbleful Time of the Year

Meditation for BeginnersFor the most part my transition into my thirties was pretty smooth; no real shocking changes other than people all of a sudden assuming I had an issue with my age. The only thing I’ve found a little bit surprising was the emergence of holiday and seasonal stress. Up until a couple of years ago, Thanksgiving through New Years Eve was my favorite time of year. I guess the difference is the addition of new stressors to the November/December milieu: 2,000+ miles to travel to see family, 1 hour less daylight than I was used to getting in the Chicago winter (man that makes a difference!), taking over for grandma and mom to become the holiday cook, going home to an aging parent, and so on. This year I’ve been exploring different ways to decompress and have found a few things that work for me.

Meditation
For years I’ve had friends and family tell me that they benefited greatly from meditation. I remained skeptical that this could work for me because I rarely seem to be able to carve time out for other healthy pursuits such as the gym, or sleep. Thankfully for people like me, there are books that break down meditation misconceptions to show us that it can be added to a hectic schedule, and practices can even be included in your day-to-day activities. If you’re looking for a good guide that isn’t tied to any one spiritual practice and doesn’t require much of a time commitment, I recommend Meditation for Beginners, by Jack Kornfield.

Relax your NeckStretching
It’s no secret that tension can be hard on the body. Whether you’re gritting your teeth through outlet mall traffic or trying in vain to ignore bad holiday muzak in the QFC, getting all uptight about it begins to take its toll. Taking some time to stretch out helps to improve your mood immensely. Relax your Neck, Liberate your Shoulders by Eric Franklin provides some really useful stretches, exercises, and tips for body/posture awareness that are targeted to alleviate the soreness caused by tension. This book is also great for folks working desk jobs that involve a lot of typing and phone usage.

Medicinal HerbsPamper Yourself
Ready or not, it’s December, so there’s no avoiding the holidays. You might as well treat yourself to the things that make you calm and happy. I like to go the warm tea, hot bath, good night’s sleep route. I found some really useful recipes for teas, soaks, and calming essential oils in Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: a Beginner’s Guide. My favorite recipe so far has been for the Calming Herbal Bath. Also of interest for this time of year are teas to help with cold, flu, and bronchial problems; if you check back with me in February I’m pretty sure I’ll be using those.

Aside from the recommended reading, I’ve really enjoyed and benefited from the odd sunny days we’ve been having. Making an effort to get outside for a lunch read has been worth it, even with the slightly chilly temperatures. Come grab a good book to escape with, and I’ll see you on the other side in 2014.

Physician Heal Thyself

DR.I’m not sure exactly when the shift happened, but doctors, in the real world at least, are no longer considered infallible gods. This is great when it comes to getting second opinions and not being railroaded into unnecessary treatments. There is, however, a downside:  the perils of self-diagnosis. You see, without an authority figure (I tend to imagine Spock or Tuvok) to say “the chances of you being inflicted with such a disorder are infinitesimal” my fevered brain tends to see a deadly and rare disorder in the slightest cough or rash. Luckily, perhaps, the library has many tomes to guide me on my journey of disease self-discovery.

It is always best to start with the classics. The two heavy hitters are Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment (CMDT) and The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Such scintillating titles no? Both are geared toward the medical professional and provide rational, current and highly technical information on almost every disease and its symptoms, that you could possibly think of. Just don’t expect much sugar coating. Also avoid looking at the diagnostic images at all cost.

If ice cold logic doesn’t put your mind at rest, perhaps it is time to admit that the problem lies in the fear of disease itself or as the professionals like to say, hypochondria. Luckily, you are not alone. There are many tomes dedicated to individuals who struggle with the fear of disease. Best of all, they tend to use liberal doses of humor to describe their plight. Here are a few examples:

wellenoughalone

Well Enough Alone: A Cultural History of My Hypochondria by Jennifer Traig
Convinced she was having a heart attack at 18 (the college nurse’s reply: It’s a gorgeous day and you’re not dying) the author realized that she just might have a problem. This book is a witty, and often hilarious, self-examination of all the foibles of a woman convinced she has every disease known to man. Each chapter not only highlights her own “issues” but also puts her hypochondria in a historical perspective with amusing anecdotes from the past.

Hyper-Chondriac: One Man’s Quest to Hurry Up and Calm Down by Brian Frazer
hyperchondriacFrazer definitely suffers from hypochondria, as a child he came down with a new disease every month, but this book is also a far ranging quest to find relaxation and, for lack of a better term, inner peace.  He tries reiki, yoga, Zoloft, Craniosacral therapy, Ayurveda, dog walking, and even, gasp, knitting. Sadly none of them seem to fully rid him of his demons, but the hilarious journey is well worth it. For the reader in any case.

The Hypochondriacs: Nice Tormented Lives by Brian Dillon
hypochondriacsnineAnother subtitle for this book could be: misery loves company. After reading about these nine famous suffers and their quirks, you probably won’t feel so bad about any fears of disease that you might have. While each sufferer’s oddities are definitely amusing, this work also highlights the interesting connection between each malady and the individual’s creativity. In several cases, such as Charlotte Bronte, the illnesses, both real and imagined, provided a means of escape as well as inspiration.

hypochondriacsguidetolife

The Hypochondriacs Guide to Life and Death by Gene Weingarten
While there is a smattering of actual medical information throughout this work, this is pure satire and all the better for it. The author introduces you to his own neuroses, and then tries to convince you that you should have them as well. The chapter titles (such as ‘How Your Doctor Can Kill You’ and ‘Pregnant? That’s Wonderful! Don’t Read This!’) tell you all you need to know about the contents of this book. There are even helpful quizzes to confirm your paranoia.

So you now have all the tools you need to calm your irrational fear of disease. I’m sure you will be fine. Well, maybe not.