Thursday, December 23, 2010

12 Days Of Christmas Workout :)

Whether or not you celebrate the holidays, this was a fun little workout I gave some of my clients in the spirit of the season.  :)  Thanks to my comrade Dave Clancy for the idea.  Enjoy!

Do the following just like the song; i.e. (1 burpee; 2 one arm presses and one burpee; 3 jump squats, 2 one arm presses, 1 burpee...).

On the first day of Christmas, my trainer gave to me...

1 little burpee
2 one arm presses
3 jump squats
4 forward lunges
5 golden swings
6 suitcase deadlifts
7 pushups
8 goblet squats
9 lovely sprawls
10 crab walks
11 mountain climbers
12 sit up stand up

Monday, December 20, 2010

Do You Know What's In Your Water?

Hydration is really important, and the purity of what you're drinking is, too.  Unfortunately, the quality of the tap water in most cities in the USA is extremely poor.  I just found out the results of my city's water:

Pretty disturbing, huh?  You can check your city on the same site and see its score.

Bottled water is no guarantee you're getting anything purer.  Many times, all you're getting is tap water in a bottle-- same as you'd get at home, only more expensive and with a fancy label.  Check what the NRDC has to say about this:

I highly recommend getting a good filter for your home water.  Here is a good comparison of different kinds of filters:  If your tap water is full of contaminants, you owe it to yourself to drink (and wash your food in!) the purest water you can get.

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Quickie Fitness Plan Thru Christmas

No one wants to have a laugh like a bowl full of jelly.

An idea from now 'til Christmas:

-At least 100 GOOD reps per day of any combination you like of the following exercises: squats, pushups, kettlebell swings, deadlifts, lunges, pullups, dips (chair or bar), kettlebell snatches, cleans (dumbbell, barbell, or kettlebell), overhead presses (dumbbell, barbell, or kettlebell
), jump squats, burpees. 

By "per day,"  I mean you don't have to do it all at once if you don't want to.  You can do 5 sets of 20 throughout the day, or 20 sets of 5 for that matter.  You can do a ladder of 40-30-20-10, taking breaks as needed.  Or, really, any way you want to break it up.  You should not be training through pain or exhaustion.

By "any combination you like," I mean you can do one of the exercises, two of them, all of them... whatever floats your boat.  No equipment?  No problem!  Just do some of the bodyweight exercises (squats, pushups, burpees, pullups, lunges, dips, jump squats).   

-Christmas is gonna be sweeeeeet... see if you can cut out sugar till then!

Post your progress here!

Someone mentioned to me, "Why stop at Christmas?"  

My basic answer was:  "Who said anything about stopping?"  :) 

Question of the day

Eric asked:

We've all heard that green leafy veggies clean out the colon. However, recently I've been having fun pureeing everything with my Vitamix, Do you know if pureed green leafy veggies have the same effect in colon cleansing as chewed veggies?

I answered:  

It does if you're using the whole vegetable (as opposed to juicing it and throwing out the pulp). The fiber is generally in the pulp and skin of a fruit or vegetable, so extracting its parts isn't necessarily the best way to eat it. If you're just pureeing the vegetable and eating it whole that way, you should be getting all its fiber. Pureeing raw vegetables in a blender like a Vitamix or similar quality can actually help break down cell walls (as cooking or fermentation might) to make the nutrients more accessible to the body.

Hope this helps.  If you have any questions about fitness or nutrition, please send 'em my way, and I'll answer as best I can!  

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rant of the Day

I've been vegan for almost 11 years.

I have never pushed my beliefs on anyone else, nor have I railed against Paleo, Warrior, or any other style of eating.

But, seriously, I am getting really sick of people who claim to be "experts" making broad, sweeping statements such as, "There's no such thing as a healthy vegan,"  "Whoever says veganism is healthy is obviously an idiot," and, my most recent favorite, "Anyone promoting veganism is most likely a fatass."

In 11 years, I have never been unhealthy (polar opposite, in fact, according to my doctors and bloodwork), and I'm relatively certain I'm neither an idiot nor a fatass.  I'm pretty sure there are others like me, such as Mike Mahler, Brendan Brazier, etc.  I'd like to think that, although I don't know everything, I'm relatively well-versed in nutrition, seeing as the study of it has taken up a lot of my time over the last, oh, two decades or so. Do I have to supplement?  Yep.  But I'd be willing to bet that just about anyone eating the food available to us today could benefit from some supplementation, themselves.

I don't eat meat because I don't believe in killing or contributing to the harm of animals inasmuch as I can avoid it.  I have managed to live a life that aligns with my moral code and keeps me in vibrant health.

If your beliefs don't align with mine, that's fine.  The fact of the matter is, my way is not the only way to keep healthy.  So, whatever diet you align with, that's just fine by me.  But don't make claims that veganism isn't viable.  It's an ignorant statement.

OK, done ranting now.  Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Eating for your Mind

Over the years, I've watched several clients dealing with family members who suffered from dementia and Alzheimer's disease. In diseases such as these, the neural connections in the brain don't synapse well any more, and brain cells begin to deteriorate and die. Although Alzheimers accounts for the majority of dementia cases, it is not considered a normal part of aging, and there are steps you can take to prevent it.
Take care of this thing.  You kinda need it.

First of all, the bloodflow to your brain needs to be working at optimal levels. That means that if you smoke, you need to stop. If you have high blood pressure, you need to get it in check. If you're sedentary, you need to get active. If you are at risk for diabetes, you really need to get your diet in check.

Studies have shown that depression has a link to declining mental capacity, so a rich social network is important in maintaining brain health. Join some community groups, take some classes in something that interests you, or check websites such as "" that have activities for people of similar interests. The following Medscape article provides a good summary of lifestyle actions you can take to help prevent Alzheimer's: and the following document from the Alzheimer's Association is an excellent reference regarding Alzheimer's statistics:

Keeping your brain active is also important in keeping a healthy mind:

There are also dietary changes you can make to help stave off dementia and Alzheimer's. The active ingredient in turmeric, called curcumin, has shown great promise in protecting the brain ( Alzheimer's and dementia rates in those who eat curry more than once a month in India are far lower than among those who don't.

CoQ10, in addition to promoting heart health, has shown great promise in protecting against brain-related diseases: CoQ10 is generally taken as a supplement; make sure the quality of your supplements is reliable. I've been using a CoQ10 supplement from a company called Dr's Best (I buy it off that I've found to be high quality, but do your own research and find what works for you.

Alzheimer's Disease and other diseases of the brain appear to go along with a significant increase of free radicals in the body. Therefore, diets rich in antioxidants, such as beta carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A, C, and E show promise in helping to prevent these diseases: A diet extremely rich in vegetables, particularly dark green leafy vegetables, orange vegetables, and tomato paste (very high in lycopene) will help to fill these gaps in your diet. 
The moral of the story is, you can keep your brain healthy (and your body, too!) with proper lifestyle and dietary choices. Aging does not necessarily mean a major decline in mental functions. 
Thoughts? Comments? Post 'em here!

Why not lift heavy?

I'm posting the following three videos for a reason: to show that, as a woman, lifting heavy does NOT mean getting huge muscles, and that you can be both vegan and strong. :) These are a few of my favorite exercises, and I do them at these weights very often.

Pullup with about 1/3 of my bodyweight hanging from my waist:

Press with almost 3/4 of my bodyweight:

Swing with almost 90% of my bodyweight:

So lift heavy. Don't be afraid. Your body and your bones will thank you.

Strong is sexy. :)

The Lotus

My client, Bhanu, told me the following story today, and I thought I would pass it on to you. My apologies if I mess it up in the telling, but the gist is the same:

Before Bhanu started training with me, she went in to her doctor and had a discussion with him about her lifestyle. When she told him about her activity level, he replied, "So, you're sedentary, then."

Repeating the story to friends later over dinner, Bhanu said, "Does sedentary mean I'm like the mud that settles at the bottom of the pond?"

Her friend laughed and responded, "Remember, though, that from that mud blooms the lotus flower. It takes a lot of work for it to make its way out of the mud and to the surface, but when it does, it blooms beautifully."

Well, Bhanu made a decision then to get active and eat healthfully, and yes, it was a hell of a lot of work. But she is blooming beautifully.

Bone Up!

Osteoporosis runs in my family, and so bone health is near and dear to my heart. And it should be to yours, too. Your bones are rather important structures. They protect your inner organs and hold your body upright. Without them, any of your movements would be limp as noodles. And, as many people know, if anything goes wrong with a bone, it can put a person in serious discomfort or pain (if not completely out of commission for a while). With everything that my father was ill with, the final straw before his death was a broken hip from simply trying to get into bed. 
(No, not THOSE bones.)
So with all this having been said, let's talk about your arsenal for building the strongest bones you can. Ideally, you'll be doing this before age 35, when your bone mineral density peaks. But even after that, there is much you can do to stave off osteoporosis.

1) Weight training/weight bearing activity. I cannot stress enough the importance of weight bearing activity (done right, of course) for bone health. Study after study shows the beneficial effects that weight training has on bone density (here are just a few):

Of course, it's also fantastic for reducing body fat, increasing mobility, building strength (and physical independence!), and making you look good at the beach, but that's another subject for another discussion.

2) Strontium. You might not have heard of this element, but it may just be the best thing that's happened to your bones since, well, weight bearing activity. Strontium has been proven to be beneficial in regenerating bone, reducing risk of fracture, and improving the lives of people with osteoporosis. Here are just a few studies on the benefits of strontium for bone health:

Strontium is available in supplement form. Make sure you research the makers of your supplements before purchasing them-- you want to make sure you're getting an effective, pure product, and not getting anything you don't want in your body.

3) Calcium. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in bone. However, after age 35, bone mineral density no longer increases, and calcium intake is pretty ineffective for building bones after that age. However, calcium is still an important mineral, and should not be ignored. When you don't get enough calcium in your diet, your body "borrows" it from your bones-- not a good thing for the bones in the long run. Milk, contrary to popular belief, is not the best form of calcium. Animal proteins make absorbing calcium difficult, and studies show that higher ratios of animal proteins in the diet are correlated to fractures ( , ). Dark green leafy veggies are a great source of calcium. However, chard and spinach also contain oxalic acid, which makes calcium less available to the body. Here is a neat little list of some calcium-rich foods you can try:

Vitamin D: Now that we're slathering ourselves with sun screen every time we walk outside, vitamin D deficiency is becoming more prevalent. Just 20 minutes in the sun without sunscreen is all you need to get your day's worth of vitamin D, but a little bit of supplementation, especially in the fall and winter months (and all year round if you live in a rainy region), is a good idea, too. Here's one on the importance of vitamin D for bone health and how much to supplement:

Vitamin K. A surprising number of people don't know about Vitamin K, but it has a strong role in bone health. Vitamin K is yet another reason to get munching on those green leafies. Here's a good list of excellent K sources:

On vitamin K and bone health:

Magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is rather common in today's society, and this is a huge problem. I plan to write another article about this shortly, but today it's all about the bones. 50% of the body's magnesium is in the bones, and it is a key nutrient in bone health. Take a bath in or soak your feet in Epsom Salts for 20 minutes a day, and you'll be supplementing your magnesium intake-- your body absorbs magnesium very well through the skin. Here is a list of dietary magnesium sources:

On magnesium and bone health:

Thoughts? Ideas? Questions? Post 'em here!

The Myth of Spot Training

One of the most common requests I get from clients is: "I want to lose fat here (points to abs, triceps, butt, hips, left earlobe, or some other problem area). So can we work that area a lot?"
Pinching it off doesn't work, either.

My answer is this: Yeah, sure. Sure we can work your abs/triceps/butt/hips/left earlobe. And if we do it right, what you'll get is strong abs/butt/hips/left earlobe. What you won't do is lose the fat that lies over them.

The fact of the matter is, if you want to lose fat, it's going to take a lot more than working the area the fat has settled in. Fat loss is a whole body event. You're going to have to fix your diet first and foremost (and if you have any questions on that, feel free to peruse some of the other discussions I've written-- if I haven't answered them here, just ask). How you fuel your body is 70% of the equation.

The other 30% comes from proper strength training. By "proper," what I mean is: train for your specific goals. If your goals are simply muscle hypertrophy without much regard to building strength or functionality, you will train much differently from, say, a powerlifter, who will train much differently from someone who wants the best of all worlds (strength, mobility, functionality, and the aesthetics to go with it). I personally am a mix of powerlifter and the latter.

No matter what your goals, if you want to lose body fat, the main principles are: lift heavy, lift explosively, lift PROPERLY, eat healthfully, and rest substantially/manage stress. If you're doing all this, you're well on your way to reaching your goals. Of course, there's more to it (program design is its own very lengthy subject), but if you're covering at minimum those five bases, you're leagues ahead of the pack, and you'll see results.

Questions? Comments? Post 'em here!
 (Incidentally, I have yet to find a good left earlobe exercise.)

My thoughts on diet and fitness dogma

Dogma 1: Grains are the devil.
I'm seeing this one everywhere-- people are railing against grains as if just thinking about them will tie your gut in knots and suck the life out of you on the spot. Nope, I don't follow this one. I wrote an article about it a while back, so rather than rehash it, I'll just post the link:
And if we're discussing grains, we should also discuss phytates:

Dogma 2: Soy is the spawn of the devil.
If I were to follow the current trend of dogma, if grains are bad, soy is the father of all evil. Nope, don't follow this one, either. This is another thing I've written about before, so read about that here:

Dogma 3: You need to detox.
I do believe you need to detox. I don't believe you need to do it using sugar-lemon-water and cayenne pepper. I believe you need to do it by adopting clean eating habits and letting your liver do the rest.
Beware of dogma.

Dogma 4: You need to fast.
While I'm not much of a proponent of long-term fasting, I do believe that intermittent fasting (IF) has many health benefits. The IF regimen that seems to work best for me is to hold off on eating between 8PM the night before and 1PM the next day a few days per week. While I don't normally list Wikipedia articles as proof of research, this one lists a large quantity of the scientific research that has been done on IF (so saves me room in posting the whole list here :) ): , and here is another good article on the subject:

Dogma 5: There's no such thing as a healthy vegan.
Oh, boy. Vegans have been vilified like crazy these days, especially in the Paelo community. And speaking as one of those vegans, I can say it more than irks me. I'm a moral vegan, meaning I am vegan because I don't want to contribute to the death or harm of any living creature (inasmuch as I can avoid it), and I also feel an animal products-free diet is much better for the environment. At the same time, I am a total health geek, and I'm not going to do something that is detrimental to my well-being. A vegan diet must be done with care. You need to eat a wide variety of whole, nutritious foods and not just go crazy with the carbs and processed soy products. Should a vegan supplement? Absolutely-- particularly vitamin B12, D, iron, and omega fatty acids. Do I think that the need to supplement externally means that you can't be healthy on your diet? Hell no. As a matter of fact, I'd go as far as to say that just about everyone probably needs to supplement somewhat, as the current farming practices, soil quality, and water quality don't produce as nutritious a product as nature intended. Vegetarians tend to have lower incidences of most cancers: , vegetarian mortality rates tend to be lower than average: , vegetarians tend to have lower than average rates of chronic disease (depending, of course, on the person and the quality of the diet):

Oh, and did I mention I'm a very healthy vegan?

Dogma 6: P90X is the devil's evil next-door neighbor.

Oh, boy, do trainers hate P90X. It's the subject of hundreds of angry blogs and discussions. Trainers all over the place will give me some serious stinkeye for saying this, but I don't think P90X is all that bad. If your goal is mainly to just lose weight and you're going to do a DVD, I think it's really one of the better ones out there. (Beats the heck out of doing the Jillian Michaels kettlebell CD... but that's another story. :) ) That having been said, if you're going to do a DVD, P90X or otherwise, you'd better know how to do the movements properly. Bad form is going to give you trouble, whether it's in the gym, in the mountains, or in front of your DVD player. Know your limits and get someone in the know to critique your form. Don't push yourself through pain, dizziness, or nausea, and don't do a movement you don't understand.

Well, those are some of my thoughts. What are some of yours? Post 'em here!

Exercise for Prevention of Eye Disease?

Yet another reason to get moving. :)
This eye condition looks a little fishy to me.

Original posted here:

Vigorous exercise may lower IOP, eye disease risk
Jim Owen, OD, FAAO

Power output during exercise affects cellular biology in many ways, some of which may lower the risk for eye disease, according to a practitioner.

“The factors we evaluate in glaucoma and macular degeneration — blood perfusion, health of the optic nerve and health of the macula — are improved after exercise at a basic science level,” Jim Owen, OD, FAAO, told Primary Care Optometry News. However, he cautioned that those factors have not been shown to be improved long-term, and other compounding variables could be an influence.

“There are also prospective epidemiological studies that say people who exercise have less macular degeneration and less glaucoma, which shows an associative relationship,” he added.
Exercise lowers IOP

In a prospective epidemiologic cohort study following 29,854 male runners (mean age 44.86 years) without glaucoma for a period of 7.7 years, the risk for incident reported glaucoma declined based on the distance and time runners completed a 10-km race, concluding that IOP decreases transiently with aerobic exercise in proportion to intensity and duration. The study authors reported that glaucoma decreased 37% per meter per second (m/s) increment in the race overall. The slowest, least fit men who ran between 3.6 m/s and 4.0 m/s had a 29% decreased risk for incident reported glaucoma, men who ran 4.1 m/s to 4.5 m/s had a 54% decrease and men who ran between 4.6 m/s and 5.0 m/s had a 51% decrease. Glaucoma was nonexistent among the fittest and fastest men (781) who exceeded 5.0 m/s.

In Passo’s study where maximum aerobic capacity and IOP were compared in 13 sedentary adults who were put on a controlled exercise program, he found a 30% increase in aerobic capacity along with a 20% reduction in IOP, Dr. Owen said. Both measures returned to baseline after the exercise programs where stopped.

Questions arise related to the amount, duration and intensity of physical activity to have a sustainable effect on IOP. “Since we can measure activity in power output or watts, that variable could be controlled in well designed study,” he added.
Mechanism of lowered IOP unknown

Though it is known that IOP declines during exercise, the specific factors that provoke that response are still unknown. In an experimental procedure from the Medical Sciences Program and School of Optometry at Indiana School of Medicine, researchers found that acute dynamic exercise and isosmotic fluid ingestion each seem to change IOP through changes in colloid osmotic pressure (COP). Standardized exercise in both hydrated and dehydrated subjects significantly reduced IOP and elevated COP, which suggests that factors linked to capillary infiltration explain acute IOP reductions in exercise, the study authors said.

Though more study is needed to determine the role exercise plays in eye health, Dr. Owen emphasized the importance of talking to at-risk patients about their diet and exercise habits.

“When the average patient asks what they can do for their eyes, I say, ‘What’s good for you is good for you,’ meaning the lutein in spinach and the omega-3s in salmon and exercise are all good for your heart, your respiratory system and your eyes. I think it’s so much more effective because patients don’t expect it from me. If you [advocate a healthy lifestyle] in your practice by taking a few minutes to discuss the importance of diet and exercise, your patients will benefit.”

Dr. Owen presented, “The Role of Nutrition and Exercise for Eye Care Patients” during Vision Expo West in Las Vegas, focusing on the physiology and role of exercise, published studies and ways clinicians can incorporate this holistic approach into their practices. — by Stephanie Vasta


* Martin B, Harris A, Hammel T, Malinovsky V. Mechanism of exercise-induced ocular hypotension. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1999;40(5):1011-1015.
* Passo M. Exercise training reduces intraocular pressure in subjects suspected of having glaucoma. Arch Ophthalmol. 1991;109:1096-1098.
* Williams PT. Relationship of incident glaucoma versus physical activity and fitness in male runners. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2009; doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31819e420f.

* Jim Owen, OD, FAAO, can be reached at Encinitas Optometry, 1279 Encinitas Blvd., Encinitas, CA. 92024; (760) 436-1877, fax: (760) 632-7319;
And here's another one linking exercise to a lower incidence of age related macular degeneration:

Vigorous running was associated with a reduced incidence of age-related macular degeneration in a large study. Male former cigarette smokers and people who ate more meat and less fruit had a higher incidence of AMD.

The prospective cohort study included 29,532 men and 12,176 women age 18 years and older participating in the National Runners' Health Study. Subjects completed a questionnaire on demographics and running, weight, smoking and medical histories. Investigators followed the cohort for 7.7 years.

The results showed AMD reported by 110 men and 42 women. Those reporting AMD were older (mean 54.81 years) than those not reporting AMD (mean 44.86 years).

Men who reported AMD were significantly more likely to have formerly smoked cigarettes (50.6%) than those who did not report AMD (41.2%). Men and women who ate more meat and less fruit were more likely to report AMD.

In addition, men and women reporting AMD ran significantly less than those who did not have AMD; relative risk for AMD diminished 10% for each kilometer run daily, the study author said.

Limitations of the study included incident AMD being self-reported, a lack of data on type of AMD reported (wet vs. dry) and the absence of a sedentary control group. 
And while we're at it, here's one linking obesity to increased risk of age-related macular degeneration:

Overall and abdominal obesity increase the risk for progression of age-related macular degeneration, while exercise tends to decrease the risk, researchers with the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary found.

Johanna Seddon, MD, ScM, and colleagues studied 261 participants who were at least 60 years of age and had some sign of nonadvanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and visual acuity of 20/200 or better in at least one eye. Average follow-up was 4.6 years.

The researchers found that patients with a higher body mass index (BMI) had increased risk for AMD progression. Patients whose BMI was between 25 and 29 (considered overweight) or greater than 30 (considered obese) were more than twice as likely to experience worsening of AMD as patients with a BMI of less than 25. People with the largest waists had a twofold increased risk for progression over those with the smallest.

“In our study population, 38% of the men and 57% of the women had abdominal obesity and 22% of men and 26% of women had overall obesity. A decade ago, we had little advice for patients with AMD, and now we have an extensive body of evidence regarding modifiable factors to disseminate,” the authors reported in the June issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.

Additionally, more physical activity tended to be associated with a reduced rate of AMD progression, with a 25% reduction in progression rate for patients who underwent vigorous activity three times a week.

The "Yes" List

Let's face it: for most people, eating healthy is a huge challenge. Lately, I've been writing a "Yes" list to simplify things for some of my clients who have been having trouble, and it's been very helpful to a lot of them, so I thought I'd share it with you all. Basically, this is a list of foods you should go ahead and eat every day:
Plastic is not on the list.

-VEGGIES!!! (I put this on top because you should eat a LOT of them. Especially the green ones. Lots and lots.)
-Nuts, preferably sprouted
-Coconut (all parts)
-Fruit, nut, and seed oils (including olive and avocado; excludes things like corn oil)
-Some fruit-- not unlimited amounts.
-Fermented, sprouted, or whole soy products IN MODERATION (3 servings or less per day) such as tempeh, sprouted tofu, miso, natto, edamame. (Avoid if you have thyroid issues)
-Unsweetened nut milks
-beans (preferably fermented or sprouted)
-Sprouted grains and grain products such as bread, pasta, etc. If you can't get them sprouted, whole grains are second best. Should not dominate your diet.
-If you eat meat, then grass-fed, organic, lean meats and poultry.
-If you eat fish, then wild-caught fatty fish.
-Organic eggs.
-Water, coffee, tea.
-Erythritol, stevia.

So what's on the "No" list?

Anything that's not on the "Yes" list. :)

And, obviously, if you're allergic to anything on the "Yes" list, don't eat it.

Easy enough, right?

Questions? Comments? Post 'em here!

Are You Deskbound?

Do you have a job or lifestyle that keeps you seated for long periods of time? Are you at that computer for hours in a day? If so, you've probably already started getting all kinds of pain and discomfort in your body, whether it be neck pain, lower back pain, headaches, jaw pain, hip pain, wrist/arm pain, and so on. 

If you find yourself seated for hours upon hours a day, the best thing you can do for yourself is the following:
-Set an alarm on your computer, or somewhere on your desk, to go off every 20-30 minutes.
-When the alarm goes off, stand up. Stretch your arms overhead. Do some head/neck circles. Shake your arms out. Sit back down and continue your work.

The human body is simply not designed to sit in one position for long periods of time (let alone sit in the types of chairs that we're given). No matter how ergonomic your setup, your body needs to move at some point. Just a tiny break every 20-30 minutes to reset your body will do wonders. And if you can't find a few seconds to do this much for yourself, think about whether or not you'll have the time for all the back and neck pain you'll continue to accumulate.

Take care of your body. You'll work and play better if you do.

Thoughts? Comments? Post 'em here!

The Great Fat Debate

The norm for decades in this country has been attempted weight loss and health gains by cutting dietary fat. The problem is, this technique hasn't exactly been successful. In well over 50 years, cutting dietary fat has not helped turn around the obesity, and research has proven this ( for instance: ; ). 
Puffball's gotten into the donuts again...

When you cut out fat, a few things happen. First, you don't absorb fat-soluable vitamins (A, D, E, K), which are vital to your health. Your hair will fall out, your nails will become brittle, you'll experience changes in your skin, mood, and thought processes, and healing ability. Needless to say, you won't be the picture of vibrant health.

Not only that, but when you cut out fat, the tendency is to replace it with lots and lots of carbohydrates, and often not the right kind of carbohydrates, either-- "low-fat" foods tend to be high in sugars and starchy carbs, which are pretty awful for your health, too.

Fat keeps you satiated so you don't eat as much, and the right fats will help keep your bad cholesterol (LDL) down and your good cholesterol (HDL) up.

No, this doesn't give you free license to dig into those fries. While it's not the fat that's the problem, per se, the type of fat that you're eating is the most important factor.

-corn oil
-soybean oil
-animal fats/lard
-deep-fried foods
-solid fats

Stick with:
-nuts/nut oils
-seeds/seed oils
-olives/olive oil
-coconut/coconut oil
-if you eat fish, then fish oil

Questions? Comments? Thoughts? Post 'em here!


One of the most common blockades on the road to health is lack of motivation. I wish I could give you an easy answer about how to get motivated, but the fact is, motivation needs to come from within. You can buy an expensive gym membership, invest in equipment, buy the healthiest food out there, but the fact of the matter is, if you don't use your tools, you won't reap their benefits. If you're coming up with excuses, you're not going to reach your goals. If you self-sabotage, you're going backwards.

So instead of thinking of reasons why you can't exercise/eat right/get healthy, let's think of some good reasons why you can.

1) Look in the mirror. Do you like what you see? If you don't, the process of changing that is twofold: first of all, learn to love yourself no matter what shape you're in. You are the only you you have, and you're beautiful in your very own way. So if what you'd love on the outside isn't matching what you love on the inside, then you need to learn how to exercise and eat right for your best health. Food is 70% of what you look like; the rest comes from building muscle and staying active.

2) Do you have kids? Grandkids? Significant others? Parents? Friends? Anyone you really care about? Set an example. I have a client who last week told me that her dessert-adoring mother was so impressed with the changes she was trying to make, that she wanted to make a no-dessert pact. Your actions affect others, and you can inspire them, too. And life is much easier when you're not the only one making positive changes. At the same time, this is a great time to weed out negative influences in your life. Everyone knows poisonous people. Don't let them poison you any more. You're better than that.

3) Get a checkup. If things aren't great, you need to make a change. You've only got one body; you need to keep it in top shape. One of the most heartbreaking things I see is people who don't take care of their bodies and grow immobile as a result, needing help to do the most basic of tasks (especially in their later years). I know I don't want that to be me. I suspect that you don't want that to be you, either. "Move it or lose it," and let your diet clean out your insides. You don't need any fancy detox programs-- you just need fresh, pesticide-free produce, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Your body will thank you for it. There's absolutely no reason you can't be in the best shape of your life at 40, 50, or even 60+.

4) Do you have a goal? Whether it's to fit into your old jeans, do a pullup, run a 5K, or just keep up with your kids, you can't do it without a fitness plan.

Okay, so you have your reason to get started. Now, how do you get started? I'm a big believer in goalsetting. The important thing here is not to set large, unattainable goals. Set a goal you can hit in a month or two. Write it down. Then write down the steps you'll need to take to hit that goal. For instance, if your goal is to lose 4% body fat in 2 months (I don't really recommend going by weight, by the way-- it's a deceitful and inaccurate measurement; go by body fat instead), your list of steps might look like:
-cut out sugars
-make sure I'm eating enough food
-eat lots of veggies, esp. green ones
-30 min. vigorous exercise per day, 3 days strength training

Post this list everywhere you can think of.

This is a pretty daunting list for someone who is just starting out, so now you can tackle these steps one or two at a time. Cutting out sugar is a biggie for most people, so I'd start with that. See if you can go 3 weeks without sugar. It will be HARD at first, but if you can make it through 3 weeks, you'll start to realize it's not as bad as you thought, and your body won't crave it the way it used to. While you're doing that, start with an exercise goal you know you'll be able to hit, whether it's a very brisk walk for 30 minutes a day, a 30 minute dance-a-thon, a session with a trainer, etc. (Note that your 30 minute sessions can be broken up throughout the day; as long as it totals 30 minutes at the end of the day, it still counts!).

Once you've tackled that, you can start on another step, and so on. You'll reach your goal, or at the very least, make strides towards it. For every goal you reach, reward yourself with something non-food related, like a massage, a small trip, a gadget you covet, or something else that brings a smile to your face.

What motivates you? Questions? Comments? Post 'em here! :)

Legs Day

One of my clients said to me today, "I heard that you're supposed to work your legs on one day and your chest and arms on another day." I responded, "Have you ever picked up something off the floor and put it on a shelf?"
She's got legs.  She knows how to use 'em.

In short, you use your legs and your arms in conjunction with each other every day. Why wouldn't you train your body as a unit?

You can also think of it this way: training the body as a unit means you use a lot more muscles with every exercise. That translates into more calories burned with every workout in much less time, and more universal and translatable strength gained. And who doesn't want all of those things?

So, no, I don't have a "legs day" or a "chest day." I work it all, every time, in ways that make sense to everyday movement, with fantastic results. In the end, you need to do what works for you, but I don't know anyone who doesn't use their whole body all day long. So why not train that way?

Questions? Comments? Post 'em here!

At Long Last: The Abs Video!

The abs video is finally up! Let me know what you think:

Easy meals and substitutions

For those of you who are looking for easy, healthy meal ideas, here are a few tips and recipes

-Almost all greens are good chopped and sauteed. Kale and chard are best de-stemmed. Broccoli stems are delicious-- don't throw them out! Beet greens and turnip greens are delicious and highly nutritious-- de-stem them, too. Dandelion greens, purslane, and just about every dark green veggie there is boast a host of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
I've not tried them, but here's an interesting article on carrot greens:

As a general rule, the easiest thing you can do with any green is chop them into bite-sized pieces (and de-stem as necessary) and sautee them in a healthy cooking oil (like grapeseed oil) till they're a bit wilted with garlic and a little bit of salt and pepper. You can always experiment by adding other veggies to the mix and throwing in a lean protein like sprouted tofu or whatever protein works for you.

Tonight, I mixed up an easy peanut sauce-- about a cup of peanut butter, about a cup of unsweetened almond milk, a few dashes of tamari sauce, a few spoons of erythritol, and some Siracha sauce (Siracha sauce makes everything better, IMHO)-- mixed it all together in a pot over a flame using my immersion blender and it was done in less than 5 minutes. I mixed in a bag of kelp noodles and poured it all over some lightly sauteed spinach with scallions. It was delicious, highly nutritious, and really fast to make.

Which brings me to another point: here are some really healthy pasta substitutes:
-Zucchini (grated into long shreds)
-Spaghetti squash
-Kelp noodles
-Thinly sliced eggplant (works great as lasagne noodles-- so does thinly sliced zucchini)
-Cabbage (slice the large leaves into thin strips and sautee with some garlic until it's limp and a bit caramelized)
-A spiral slicer like this: can turn most veggies into noodly possibilities. Try experimenting!

A lot of people I know don't eat breakfast in the morning, and as a result resort to junk food at work to compensate. If you're a victim of this, try making a shake for breakfast! Here are some great, healthy, WHOLE-FOOD shake recipes that beat the @#$% out of Jamba Juice:

Use these ideas to come up with your own. Make sure there is:

-A protein source (such as raw nuts or nut butter, or you can add a healthy, whole-foods based protein powder [I like SunWarrior's chocolate rice protein, as an example]) Avocados make for a great, creamy texture and add healthy fats.
-WHOLE foods, not just the juice. Throw in some berries (frozen or not). Try adding some salad mix or other greens to your shakes!
-Sweeteners: I try not to add much in the way of sugars to shakes. You can try soaked dates, stevia, or erythritol and see if you like it.
-Add-ins: cocoa powder, vanilla, maca, cinnamon/other spices make great add-ins!

Thoughts? Other suggestions? Post it here!

On Agave

A lot of people have recently been excitedly telling me about switching from sugar to agave syrup as a healthy move. It kinda broke their hearts when I told them that agave isn't the superfood it's being made out to be. Agave syrup is being marketed as a low-glycemic food, suitable for diabetics. As you may or may not know, I don't feel that the glycemic index is an accurate measurement of a food's sugar effects on the body and should be taken with (get ready for it... here it is...) a grain of salt.

Now that you've wiped the tears of laughter from your eyes from that joke, I'd like to point you to a well-researched article I found about agave which echoes my sentiments very nicely.

Read it, think about it, and post your thoughts here.

The Evil Artificial Sweeteners

I want to hate artificial sweeteners. I really, really do. I want to rail against them. They worry me because they're man-made, which never seems to be a good thing where food is concerned.

The problem is, I can't. At least, not at the moment. I can't find a single piece of scientific evidence that shows any link between artificial sweeteners and disease.

Now, that's not to say that there isn't a population that has adverse reactions to artificial sweeteners. There are plenty of people with sensitivity to Splenda, aspartame, and such, but these people do not represent the general population. And the general population who consumes artificial sweeteners appears to be, at least as far as we currently know, not at risk of disease due to AS consumption.

That having been said, there is some research (for example: ) that shows a link to artificial sweetener consumption and obesity, as odd as it sounds. This could be because artificial sweeteners seem to still make people crave sweets. It could also be because eating non-sugar foods makes people rationalize eating more. Whatever the reason, there appears to be the possibility of a link between artificial sweeteners and obesity. More research needs to be done on this subject.

So, for the time being, it appears you're fairly safe with moderate consumption of artificial sweeteners. If you continue to eat sensibly (nuts, sprouted grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and lots and lots of veggies) and steer clear of diet sodas (which have been linked to metabolic disease and diabetes: , plus can strip minerals from your bones) , you should be fine. If, however, you have any adverse effects from your sweet additions, learn to live without them.

Questions? Comments? Thoughts? Let me know!

Having Trouble Staying Motivated?

Ask yourself this:

Why did you decide to start getting healthier in the first place? Were you unhappy with the way you look in the mirror? A bad doctor's visit? A close call with a health emergency? Did you want to get better at something? Were you hoping to run your first marathon? Was it to set a good example for your kids? Whatever the reason, use it to keep yourself motivated long after the initial momentum has worn off. Take a picture of your "before" self, that bad doctor's report, a paper with your reason written on it... whatever works for you, and post it in several places. Put it on the fridge. Put it on the bathroom mirror. Put it on the door that leads out of your place. Put it in your car where you can see it every time you get in. You'll keep reminding yourself of your reasons, and this will help keep you on track.

Let me know how it goes!

Comments? Questions? Wanna post your reasons here? Go for it!!

A Great Idea to Help Fix What's Broken In Your Diet!

I've always suggested to my clients to keep food logs so that they can be more aware of what they're eating. A study done at the University of Wisconsin/Madison (my alma mater, so it must be good ;) ), shows that people who take digital photos of their food (rather than write it down) have a more accurate record of what they eat, and therefore tend to improve their eating habits more appropriately. Here is an abstract of that study:

So give it a shot-- if you're trying to improve your diet, take pictures of everything you eat for a week or so. See if it keeps you a little more honest. You can use a free program like to analyze your meals and see how many calories you're getting and if you're missing nutrients.

Thoughts? Post 'em here!

Think Twice Before You Buy Protein Powder

A recent Consumer Reports study found toxic levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury in 3 servings of some of the more popular protein powders out there. The worst offenders are:

-EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shake (liquid)
-Muscle Milk chocolate and vanilla (both have almost three times the allowed amount of lead in 3 servings!)

Just another reminder to think before you buy.

Here's a synopsis of the report:

What's a Phytate?

Phytates are, essentially, how grasses and beans store phosphorous. Phosphorous is important for building strong bones and teeth, and it plays an important role in releasing energy from fat, protein, and carbohydrates during metabolism. It is also involved in the formation of genetic material, cell membranes, and many enzymes. So phosphorous is a good thing. Unfortunately, in the form of a phytate, phosphorous is not available to humans for digestion. We don't have the right digestive enzyme (phytase) to release the phosphorous from the phytate. So that's one problem.

The other problem is that the phytic acid binds to important minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. This can lead to some serious nutrient deficiencies in the bodies of people who eat a lot of wheat, barley, rice, rye, oats, and other grasses, and beans. (Those of you who train with me have likely gotten your magnesium lecture already, but I'll be posting more on getting enough magnesium at a later date).

So, then, what's the solution? If you've read my discussions, you've heard me talk about sprouted foods. I'm a big fan. The sprouting process increases protein and nutritional content, and even better, it reduces phytate content significantly. (example: ) Fermentation is also a great way to remove phytic acid content almost completely (example: ).

Ezekiel makes a plethora of sprouted wheat products, like tortillas, bread, buns, English muffins, pita bread, and pasta. I buy sprouted brown rice ( some examples: ) for my rice needs, and I used sprouted whole wheat flour for baking ( example: ). You can purchase all sorts of sprouted grains and beans like oats, barley, lentils, tofu, and such, and you can even sprout your own: , .

As far as fermentation goes, you can do some home fermentation (, , ), or purchase fermented foods yourself ( tempeh, natto, sauerkraut/veggie-kraut, olives, vinegar, soy sauce, kimchee, kombucha, etc).

Now here's the good news: phytic acid does seem to have health benefits as well. It is currently being studied as a suppressive agent for several types of cancers ( ) . So it's not all bad, and does have its place in the diet.

To conclude: the hierarchy of beans/grains is as follows: processed/white foods at the bottom of the barrel-- keep these to a bare bones minimum-- once or twice a month or less (i.e. white bread, white rice, processed soy "meats," etc). Whole, unprocessed/minimally-processed foods are next-- choose these over white, processed products (whole beans, tofu, whole grains, etc). Sprouted/fermented items at the top-- choose these first whenever they are available (tempeh, miso, natto, sprouted beans and grains, etc).

Any questions/comments? Post 'em here!

Sweating Out The Germies

At least once a month I get a client who comes in, all dressed to exercise, with a cold, stomach virus, or some other illness. Much to their surprise, I inevitably send them right back home. 

If you're sick, exercising is not going to make you better. It is going to use energy that should be going towards healing you, and will often make things worse. Case in point: I am a notoriously awful patient. I hate sitting still. I had to learn the hard way that I wasn't doing myself any favors. I remember one time, I had had a fever of about 103 for a couple of days, and hadn't been able to get out of bed. My fever finally broke, and I had some energy and an appetite. I took a shower, got dressed, and decided to take a leisurely stroll for a couple of miles. By the time I got home, my fever was back, and I was stuck in bed for another couple of days.

You can think of it another way, too: if your energy levels are down, you won't be able to work at your peak abilities, which isn't going to do you any good. You'd be better off resting till your strength is back.

If neither of these reasons are striking a chord with you, then at the very least, think of other people. You are coming into a sweaty breeding ground for bacteria with plenty of people who will be touching everything you touched, breathed on, sneezed near. No one wants to catch what you have, so for the sake of everyone else working out in your area, please keep your germs out of the gym.

Rest is the best possible thing you can do for an illness. Give yourself a break. Your body is trying to tell you something, and that something is not, "Work through it!!" Get some sleep, drink plenty of fluids, watch soap operas, and relax. In an ideal world, no one would ever get sick. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world, and sooner or later, you'll likely catch something like a cold or flu. You're not weak, lame, or pathetic for taking care of your body. Just like a marriage, you need to be there for yourself in sickness and in health. If you take care of yourself, your illnesses will not last as long, you'll be back to full strength before you know it, and hopefully, you'll be able to fend off further illnesses more easily.

What my Vegan, Grain-Inclusive, Soy-Inclusive Diet Is Doing For Me

My dad had his first heart attack at age 33 (and that was just his first one). My grandfather on my mom's side had heart disease, and my grandfather on my dad's side died of complications from diabetes. My mother has high blood pressure, and my grandmother did, too. There is a lot of hereditary disease in my family, and I even had high cholesterol markers in the past.

I just got my blood panels back, and here are the results:

CHOLESTEROL, TOTAL 160 mg/dL Normal (should be under 200)
HDL CHOLESTEROL 66 mg/dL Normal (should be greater than 46)
TRIGLYCERIDES 64 mg/dL Normal (should be under 150)
LDL-CHOLESTEROL 81 mg/dL (calc) Normal should be under 130)
CHOL/HDLC RATIO 2.4 (calc) Normal (should be under 5.0)
LDL/HDL RATIO 1.2 (low risk of heart disease is 2.34; mine is well below the low risk marker)
C-Reactive Protein (a marker of heart disease/inflammation): 2 (normal)

Just some "food" for thought... :)

The Great Grain Debate

Lately, I've heard a lot of railing against grain consumption. People have argued that they are inflammatory, that they make people gain weight, that they are a new food that people haven't eaten since paleolithic times and our bodies are therefore not equipped to digest them.

I've done a lot of research on this subject recently, and haven't found any scientific research supporting these claims as far as WHOLE grains are concerned. REFINED grains, on the other hand, are, indeed, inflammatory, and do contribute to weight gain. A refined grain is one that people have put their little hands on and took all the good stuff out of. Essentially, anything with more than one or two ingredients, or any grain products that are white or fluffy is most likely a refined grain. These grains are pretty much already digested for you in the factory, and your body doesn't have to do a whole lot of work on them. As a result, your body turns them into sugar (and we all know that sugars need to be nixed from the diet as much as possible). They have the same effect on the body as sugar does, which means inflammation, a drop in immune response, weight gain, insulin spikes, drastic energy fluctuations, and more.

Whole grains, however, seem to have a completely different effect. They are associated with lower body fat (one of many published, scientific resources on this: ). They have an inverse relationship to insulin resistance ( ), they appear to have great heart healthy benefits (a few of many resources on this: ; ), and they appear to reduce-- not increase-- inflammation ( ).

This having been said, gluten is one of the biggest allergens in the diet (whether or not this has anything to do with it not being a paleolithic food is up for debate). If you have an allergy to something, it's very likely you will have an inflammatory result. If you have celiac disease or any other grain allergy, common sense says not to eat them.

My conclusion regarding grains is that unless you're allergic to them, whole grains (not refined ones!!) are a beneficial addition to your diet. Everyone's body is different, of course, so if you feel better without them, then by all means, don't eat them. As for me, amaranth, sprouted grains, whole wheat, brown rice, barley, and other whole grains have a place in my diet, and I feel great about that.

If you have any questions, comments, or research that supports the anti-grain side of the argument, feel free to post it here!

My Thoughts on Supplementation

In an ideal world, we would get all our nutrients from our well-balanced, mostly plant-based, organic, highly-nutritious diets.

This, unfortunately, is not an ideal world.
I'm not sure this one works on humans, though.

We are a society based off of overly-processed "convenience" foods, and one which makes the worst kinds of foods the most affordable. We have crazy schedules that tend to keep us from eating the way we should, and stress hormones, carbonated beverages, and such leach nutrients from our bodies and keep us from absorbing everything we should be. But even those of us who eat healthfully have problems-- the soil is depleted, and labeling is confusing. So while I strongly feel that supplementation shouldn't be necessary, I also believe that in most cases, it unfortunately is.

So the question is, are all supplements created equal? ABSOLUTELY NOT. First of all, they are not all absorbed properly. A while back, ConsumerLabs did a pretty extensive report on which vitamins and minerals pass various tests (it even includes pet vitamins). Since the website requires membership, I will be posting the results of their tests in another discussion for your review.

Secondly, synthetic nutrients are simply not absorbed by the body the same way natural nutrients are. The problem here is that "natural" means absolutely nothing as far as the FDA is concerned. You can call pretty much anything "all natural" and the product will be like nothing found in nature. (the logic being, I guess, that it all started from nature at some point, right?). So you really can't go by the "all natural" label. And not all food-based vitamins are equal, either-- quality differs from brand to brand (as you will see in the Consumer Labs report).

Does this mean that synthetic vitamins are all bad? No, not necessarily. They definitely come in handy in emergency situations, and for many nutrients, they provide a cheap, easy source for supplementation.

My own personal verdict on the supplementation issue is that Ideally, you want to have supplements that are whole-food based, organic, and possibly raw (so that they have gone through minimal processing). I personally take a greens supplement (you can never have enough greens), a reservatrol supplement (heart disease runs in my family), a berry supplement (for inflammation reduction-- inflammation is one of the biggest precursors to disease in the body), an immune boost supplement made from "superfruits" (I work with people all day long), a reishi and cordyceps mushroom supplement (they're just really good for you) and a rice and pea protein drink that is extremely nutrient dense due to the quantity of whole vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, and other whole foods in it. All of these are in powder form, so I just put most of these in a big shake with unsweetened almond milk for breakfast. This works well for me. Every body is different. Do the research and find what works best for you.
I also take a vegetarian CoQ10 supplement, digestive enzymes to help make the most of my food, and a transdermal magnesium supplement. Oral magnesium doesn't tend to absorb well, and oral magnesium supplements tend to give people diarrhea (wheee). Transdermal magnesium absorbs well and doesn't have those side effects. A large percentage of people tend to be deficient in magnesium. I had eye and elbow twitches for several months and muscle cramping that made me suspect that I was one of those people. Within a few days of taking the transdermal magnesium, my twitches stopped, and after 2 months, my cramps had improved significantly. So I'm definitely a supporter.

Any thoughts on supplementation? Post them here!