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Mirror, mirror,  on the wall..?

wp-1485222487543.jpgInstagram, Pinterest, Facebook, etc. Wow, who can keep up with all the social media plans? I love having different media to explore, but the unrealness  of some of it all, boggles the mind! So what’s your story? I always wonder, as I look around at the various shapes, sizes, and body types,  “what’s going through her head, when she looks in the mirror?” ( I do this a lot when I’m people watching by the way, *snicker*). Just by the facial expressions alone; some look happy, sad, and the others? Well, I’m not so sure of their place in this colorful complex world-but hey, we all have to find “ourselves” and come into our own at some point.

I can’t say I get it as to why we women, seem to struggle so much with finding and embracing who we are; be it in terms of our physical shape and weight (facial features, physical attributes, etc) or some “thing” about ourselves that we perceive as our individual shortcomings or the less “pretty” parts of ourselves. What ever it is, we all need to stop and evolve beyond these destructive tendencies. Which leads me to my next rant-bullying! I remember, many moons ago (*air quotes*), when bullying amongst girls was not the norm (or maybe that’s just in my head). While it did in fact occur, it was far from pervasive. Fast forward to the 2017, and I’m slapped into the present by an act of bullying that has hit close to home. What happened? A family member (young girl) has recently been forced to deal with bullying from a group of girls at her school stemming from “someone” else’s (a former friend and classmate) insecurities and petty jealousy!

I won’t go into details but suffice it to say, it was “mean girls” on steroids; nothing funny about that at all. As an adult I get it: insecure, inadequate, immature women (and some adults in general) have a tendency to lash out  or project their problems on to the closest target, usually manifesting itself in bullying or some other destructive behavior ( at least that’s been my observation). If there is one thing we really need to outgrow as females (of any age), it’s turning on one another, comparing (and finding deficiencies or inadequacies, etc) ourselves to other women, and trying to fit ourselves into mainstream media’s warped image of the “perfect” female!

I truly believe that if  (or most) mothers and fathers out there, taught their daughters to value themselves based on what they carried within (as well as the beauty contained embodied in their uniqueness), rather than what’s on the outside,women and girls would find it much easier to be true friends and colleagues, rather than predator vs. prey, mean girl vs. the nerd, same vs. other. I guess I’m just disappointed to see that we still allow ourselves to be victimized and manipulated by both the media society as we struggle to find ourselves even as we stare blankly at the girl in the mirror…I’m still hopeful that in the end, we (women and girls) will finally get a clue and realize that we are own worst enemy.

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Food? Waist? Why The Obsession?

wp-1484039503567.jpgWhy are we so obsessed with food and our waistlines? This question and more, constantly leave me with a bevy of theories or reasons why there is such a large number of women in the U.S. and the west in general  (and to a smaller degree, other parts of the world), who seem fixated on both food and their waistlines. Why the constant battle with our food? As a fitness and health strategist with a background in biological anthropology, I can’t help but wonder if something more complex, and culturally relevant is at play in this insanity, and dare I say, misconceptions based on misinformation.

This problem stems in large part, from a grossly uneducated and misinformed public with  regard to what constitutes basic “good” nutrition and the plethora of misinformation peddled by a large segment of the media, as well as the fast and processed food industries. Additionally, our food policies and regulatory agencies (i.e. FDA, USDA, etc) have failed to show leadership in this area. Let us get real with ourselves, our food choices are also (and in some instances, largely) driven by factors other than basic hunger (i.e. “I hunger, therefore I eat”).

The point here is that, individual’ taste’s, culture, habits, and environment etc, play a pivotal role in our food choices, and by extension, the current food-related epidemic (obesity, heart disease, etc) we are facing at both the local and national level. First, let’s revisit the basics of why we need to eat at all. We need to eat and drink (water, at the most fundamental) to live; food equals fuel for the daily life-sustaining functions of the body at the chemical, cellular, and systemic levels.

After that, there is no physical reason (technically speaking) why we need to eat other than to sustain life. What I’m driving at here is that, outside of eating to keep the body operating at an optimum level ( regardless of age, for instance) there is no real reason to eat anything beyond what is necessary for maintaining a “healthy body”. So why do we do what we do? Why are we so unhealthy in terms of what we eat and how that translates into our current health issues? While I don’t claim to hold all the answers to what will arguably, require complex solutions (I’ll leave that in the capable hands of academic researchers), I do believe that an informed public is one that is healthy and empowered.

Case in point, big agribusiness and the packaged food industry argue that it is “expensive” and “unsustainable” to buy local and organic food items; that there is no “real” difference (in terms of nutritional content or quality) between organic produce and conventionally grown produce. Additionally, they often point to “research” that supports their claims. However, there is an increasing body of unbiased research that not only counters these claims but also exposes a number of the myths about the benefits of consuming organic produce vs. conventionally grown produce, food additives (i.e. dyes in processed foods, etc) and so forth.

As an avid food lover and someone who wants to know what’s in my food, the fact remains that it is in my best interest (as well as the interest of my family, community and environment) that I educate myself and others about the food production system. Why? Food is life and we live in an age where unsustainable and unhealthy industrial as well as food production systems have taken a toll on both our health and environment. Furthermore, if we expect to have a habitable planet in the future, we need to demand much more of ourselves and the industries we choose to engage in. So what does that all mean? In simple terms, it is impossible to make the necessary changes for better human and environmental health, if we are ignorant of both the processes and or mechanisms that negatively affect us.

With regards to the waistline fixation? I believe it is a distraction away from the real issues surrounding our health; a symptom of a problem that is more complex than we as individuals (especially women) or a nation, are willing to address. Our health system ranks at the bottom amongst industrialized nations, in addition to the fact that  segments of government that are responsible for ensuring public health, safety, and our food production systems, are grossly underfunded (and remain under attack from industry-backed legislators, etc). Unfortunately that’s not where the problem ends.  Misinformation and miseducation is wide-spread in mainstream media with “infotainment” rather than “information” being served to the public on a daily basis.

If for no other reason than protecting our very lives and the lives of our loved ones, community and environment, “we” must become educated and active when it comes to our health and wellness. A crash diet, shopping at Whole Foods, etc, is not going to get the job done, nor will fixating on someone else’s perceptions of beauty help women and girls develop a healthy self-image.

I’ve literally lost count of the number of fitness gadgets, weight-loss shakes, and other helpful whatcha-ma-call-its,  circulating on the market. Most of these gadgets  are far more successful at parting you from your money, than providing you with any real long-term success. While the public has a role to play (self-advocacy, personal research, etc)  regarding its health care, the current dynamics and recycling of misinformation does not favor the general public. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we must be willing and committed to engaging in our food production systems (i.e. getting educated about where our food comes from, what’s in it, or what’s been added to it, etc) as well as playing an active role in changing the policies that shape both our healthcare and food production systems.

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Nuts not fluff: Incorporating Nuts and Seeds As Part of a Healthy Diet

my-first-design-1People often ask me why I’m so obsessed about seeds and nuts and I could rattle off a whole slew of information (see sources below) about why they’re so great. After watching their eyes invariably glaze over from information overload, I’ve since discovered that less is more, and simplicity is a gem worth appreciating. The simple answer lays in the fact that we (meaning homo Sapiens) are at our optimal health and fitness when we adhere to a diet that is both diverse and nutritionally dense. This is in both the historic and evolutionary record ( I won’t bore you with the details) as well as the current health crisis many in the industrialized (as well as underdeveloped nations) are facing in terms of ever-increasing numbers of diabetes, cancer, as well as autoimmune diseases.

It is no small coincidence that our propensity for, and our over indulgence in so-called “quick” and “processed” foods have a strong connection or link to the incidence of the above mentioned diseases and associated syndromes. The bottom line, is that processed foods, our dependency on them, coupled with a lack of adequate exercise (daily), has brought us to the brink of a near pandemic. Add to that unsustainable environmental and agricultural practices, and a grime picture begins to unfold for the human race; but a solution for one problem at a time please.

In simple terms, nuts can be defined as “small dry hard-shelled dry fruit or seed with a separable rind or shell an interior kernel” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition). A much more detailed definition is provided by the National Institutes of Health (see National Institutes of Health website) which states that nuts are “nutrient dense foods with complex matrices rich in unsaturated fatty and other bioactive compounds: high-quality vegetable protein, fiber, minerals, tocopherols, phytosterols, and phenolic compounds.” Translation? nuts constitute a dense powerhouse store of complete nutrients (i.e. fats, fibre, carbohydrates, etc).

All that being said, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. While nuts are nutrient dense, they do contain fat and that means you must balance their intake with other sources of vital nutrients that contain fewer calories as well as fats. The key take away here is “BALANCE”; in terms of nutritional intake (i.e. amount per serving, etc) as well as lin proportion to other nutrient sources. For instance, a balanced intake of nuts (and or seeds, i.e. sunflower walnuts) at one sitting relative to other nutrient sources, would be equivalent to 1/3/ cup or 1 and 1/2 oz of nuts 3-4 servings per week for a 1,600 calorie diet and 4-5 servings per week for a 2,000 calorie diet (American Heart Association: 2013 Healthy Diet recommendations;Eckel, Robert H. et al. “2013 AHA/ACC).

While similar to seeds in terms of nutrient content, seeds are, in simple terms, the embryonic stage of a plant housed in a protective outer shell or hull. The dietary guidelines for seeds are similar to those for nuts, but the caveat remains the same; balance, balance, balance, is the mantra we should all stick to when it comes to nutrition, health (mind-body) and fitness. Why am I pushing them? I’m a firm believer in balance and the pivotal role it plays in our health and fitness within the context of a healthy and free lifestyle. My own personal experience alone has driven home the inherent power of a well-balanced and nutrient dense diet; not only that, from a physical fitness perspective, a poor diet will doom you to failure and injury (i.e. failing to fuel your body the nutrients required for both recovery and muscle growth).

From a female perspective, I’ve come to learn the importance of incorporating dietary balance into my daily regime as a means of negating undesirable effects of changes in hormonal levels, stress, and illness recovery. While nutrition and fitness alone can not wholly stave off the negative impacts of illness, disease, time, and so forth, they are powerful resources in our arsenal that are available to help us achieve optimum fitness, health, and the freedom to pursue our goals and passions.

Remember, getting fit and healthy requires that you first make the decision, develop a plan, and take action. For more information as well as assistance regarding how to get started on your journey, join the FitTribe of fellow women who are getting stronger everyday!

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References

Eckel, Robert H. et al. “2013 AHA/ACC Guideline on Lifestyle Management to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk.” Circulation, vol. 129, no. 25 suppl 2, Dec. 2013, doi:10.1161/01.cir.0000437740.48606.d1.

Ros, Emilio. “Health Benefits of Nut Consumption.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc3257681/.

 

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All that Jazz!

Time to get your shimmy on (if you haven’t already, lol), hug your loved ones, toss out the chaos of 2016 and get in gear for a brand new run! Looking back, I’ve come to the realization that I often focused on past regrets (a.k.a woulda, coulda, shoulda) and seemingly “missed” opportunities, instead of embracing the moment,  growing in it and being thankful. 

As the final minutes of 2016 tick by, my resolution if any at all, is to be thankful and embrace every moment of my journey. It is not an easy thing, this notion of “personal development “, but no one ever said depth comes without effort!🤓 Time to check myself even as I encourage my “FitTribe” (i.e. clients, fellow sojourners, etc) to dig deep, get comfortable with being “UNcomfortable” and get out of the crossroads.

Get off the cray, cray, train and be authentically you, focus on the things that truly matter and give color and meaning to this life we all live. Don’t let your waistline,  self-image  (or self-esteem), or the perceptions of other “things” , or society, prevent you from being who you’re meant to be; LIVE AUTHENTIC!

May the New Year find you blooming where you’re planted and may good health, love, laughter and balance meet you on this journey.