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Thursday, February 25, 2010

So Long Sugar!

I've been letting my diet (not an actual diet, just what I eat) slide lately.  I've been busy and thanks to teaching quite a few spin classes i'm always hungry.  Hunger and convenience are not a great pairing for me.

While I realize that there's a "problem", I can't just go ahead and modify instantly.  I like to set a date and a goal.  Which brings me here.

I'm holding myself accountable to you, my mostly anonymous readers.  As of March 8th I plan on cutting back my sugar intake significantly.  My main goal is cutting out desserts and baked goods (my two weaknesses).  I will however continue to eat high fiber cereals with sugar, as long as that number is relatively low.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, my body has issues with sugar so I expect the benefits from this to be significant.

I'm also going to "try" to eliminate artificial sweeteners.  This may take some work, but I'm going to try.  Perhaps I can learn to love unsweetened coffee.  Perhaps I can't.  Again, I'm going to try.

Many of you have homes, and you have home-improvement plans.  Making modifications to your home so that it's just how you want it.  In this case my body is going to be my improvement plan.

I will likely need some support that first week when visions of cookies are dancing in my head, so I'll be here, finding solace in venting through words.

Thank you in advance for your support and any words of wisdom you may want to share.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Best Things to do for Your Body - Part 6

And the list continues...
Here are some things you SHOULD do

Shots!! (haha)
  • Get a flu shot
  • Get the HPV Vaccine
  • Get all the other vaccine's that are out there and check with your doc to make sure you're current on your shots
  • A multivatimin (choose one that contains atleast 100% of Vitamins A, C, and E and folic acid)
  • Vitamin D - studies show that 1000IU daily may cut your risk of breast and ovarian cancers in half
  • Fish oil - keeps your skin and hair healthy and reduces the risk of heart disease (1gram/day)
How to add years to your life...
  • Stay on top of your health screenings
  • Take your meds
  • Do a home safety check - make sure you have working smoke and CO detectors and a fire extinguisher
  • Work out your brain - doing brain stimulating activities can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's
  • Adopt a furry friend - pets can lower blood pressure and heart rate, and increase overall happiness
Do this, not that
  • Eat wet snacks, not dry ones
  • Toss salads with romaine, not iceberg
  • Sip a skim latte, not black coffee - calcium!
  • Drink coffee, tea, and red wine between meals, not during them - these all contain tannings which prevent your body from absorbing iron from food
  • Use regular, not antibacterial soap - it kills just as many germs and some scientists say that using antibacterial soaps may mess with the affectiveness of some antibiotics
And last...but DEFINITELY not least
  • Stop smoking
  • Aim to exercise 30 minutes every day
  • Stay hydrated
  • Eat produce at every meal
  • Sleep!
  • Wash your hands

Source: Women's Health Magazine

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Calorie Conservation at Panera Bread

My last job was sort of in the middle of nowhere.  We didn't have a ton of options for lunch, but we did have a Panera Bread nearby.  It was the unofficial meeting place of the company.  On any given trip there you were bound to run in to at least one coworker (not always a good thing).

That said, I ate there alot.  I enjoy their food and think you get a good amount of food for your dollar.

One day I decided to take a look at their nutrition facts.  They have them easily accessible on their website.  Let's just say I was surprised.  Surprised to learn just how many calories I had been taking it at lunch.

But as I always say, knowledge is power and by knowing calorie contents of various items on the menu I was able to make some changes and/or substitutions and lower those calorie counts.

Here are my tips...
  • Skip the cheese - My favorite sandwich (the asiago roast beef) has cheddar cheese on it.  However the other components are flavorful enough that if you take the cheese out you won't even miss it.
  • Swap the bread to Rye or Whole Grain - These choices are lower in calories and have fiber
  • Watch your dressing - the Reduced Sugar Poppysead Dressing has the fewest calories, I used to sub it on any salad I ordered.  There are a few that aren't too calorie dense, so just educate yourself and know that you can customize everything
  • Soup it up - Calorically speaking, your best bets are the Chicken Noodle Soup and the Onion Soup (with no cheese or croutons).  If you're concerned about sodium, skip the soup
  • Sides - the whole grain baugette has 150 calories and more fiber than it's calorically even French sister.  The Baked chips are another option, they're usually Lays and have around 120 calories.  But of course the apple is your best choice.
These are just a few things I keep in mind when ordering at Panera.  Check out their menu, here's a link to the nutrition facts PDF.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Best Things to do for Your Body - Part 5

Here are some good for the environment suggestions...
  • Go organic - food grown without pesticides or herbicides contain more nutrients
  • Work out before work - prevents you from needing to shower twice a day
  • Unplug - unplug non-essential items as they use power even when turned off
  • Use a home water filter - reduce your use of plastic bottles
I don't necessarily agree with the work out before work reasoning.  When I work out in the AM I shower in the AM.  When I work out at night, I shower at night.  I'd only be showering twice if I worked out twice.  Does that make me dirty?

Here are some gym related things:
  • Mash up your workouts - mix up your workout and keep moving
  • Add intervals to cardio - adding interval training improves cardivascular fitness and torch fat
  • Stretch
  • Strengthen your hips to save your knees - tie a resistance band around your ankles, squat slightly and step side to side with as wide a stance as you can handle

Source: Women's Health Magazine

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Make over!

I got tired of all the empty space along the sides of my blog, so I decided to spice things up a bit and change it.

I'm sure this will not be the last time as change is my friend.  Hope you're enjoying your weekends.  I'm trying to figure out how to make time stop as I'm not at all ready for another work-week.  Boo!

Holy Cupcake!?!?!

Have you experienced Crumbs?  or Magnolia?  Since it made it's popculture reemergence on Sex and City a few years back, cupcakes have been the trendy dessert choice for many.

Now, we all know that I LOVE baked goods and can be a sucker for just about any mix of flour/sugar/butter, but my eyes have been opened.

I feel that knowledge is power and by learning more about what we're putting in to our bodies (or rather what effort we'd have to put in to negate it) we're atleast being held accountable for what we choose to eat or not eat.

I found this interesting article on NPR.  While very brief, it does throw out a few calorie contents for our beloved cupcakes.

How about this???  A crumbs vanilla cupcake with sprinkles has 780 calories and nearly 36 grams of fat and measures about 4 inches in diameter.  A magnolia cupcake clocks in at "only" 389 calories and 19 grams of fat, but it's only about 3 inches in diameter. Wow!

As usual, just an eye opener.  I may still choose to eat a big old cupcake down the line, but atleast i'm armed with information and hopefully plenty of time to spend at the gym post indulgence.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

How To Choose Your Fruit/Veggies at the Supermarket (or Farm Stand)

I've got the basics down.  I know apples should be firm, tomatoes should be bruise free, bananas should be yellow with a little green, but when it comes to fruits and veggies I don't purchase regularly, I'm somewhat clueless.

I have been known to whip out the blackberry at the supermarket and google "how to choose a ____". 

So here's some information I thought was helpful.   These are produce items I could use help with.

Cantaloupes - color and aroma are the best guides, delicate aroma, thick netting that stands out, yellow-tinged skin under the netting, no evidence of stem at blossom end

Honeydews - creamy yellow rinds, pleasant aroma

Watermelon - should sound hollow when tapped, medium to light green rind but not yellowing, blemish free

Pineapples - "piney" aroma, golden yellow, slightly soft, ripe when a leaf is easily removed

Broccoli - avoid yellowing green colored heads as they are over mature

Eggplant - firm, heavy, smooth, even dark purple, free of bruises or cuts

Winter squash - heavy for its size, hard, good colored, unblemished rind

Friday, February 19, 2010

Best Things to do for Your Body - Part 4

Today we'll learn about food.  Foods we should try to eat and foods we should try to avoid.

Foods to eat, guilt free
  • Lean protein
  • Fiber - not always easy to eat enough so look for high fiber breakfast cereal (at least 5g/serving)
  • Iron rich foods - many women of childbearing age are iron deficient.  If you're a veg and getting your iron from non-meat sources, you can absorb the mineral only if you eat it with vitamin C (just an FYI)
  • Wild Alaskan salmon - can you say Omega 3's?
  • Eggs (not just the whites) - both the whites and the yolks have health benefits (try for six a week)
And one food related tip
  • Learn how to eyeball portions - as Americans, our idea of what a portion is is completely out of whack
Foods to avoid
  • Processed and refined carbs
  • Hot dogs, bologna, sausage - fat and salt bombs plus nitrates!
  • Artificial sweeteners - studies are showing that use of artificial sweeteners makes you crave more food (as I just put a little Splenda in my tea)
  • "Fortified" junk food - don't be fooled by nutritional claims on the packaging
  • Booze - try to limit yourself to one drink a day
Once again, all good tips!  Sometimes people think i'm strange because I eat full eggs, not just the whites but i've read many articles touting the health benefits of whole eggs.  I do however need to work on my artificial sweetener issues.

Source: Women's Health Magazine

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I Love My Sneakers

I've been dedicating about 95% of my cardio to Spinning lately, mainly in preparation for Spin Odyssey, but figured I'd talk about another form of cardio, running.

To me, running has always been the sign of a fit person.  Not necessarily true, it was something I wanted to do, but felt I couldn't.

In hindsight I see now that I had no clue of how to breathe and also pushed myself too hard too fast, thus burning out quickly.  Another legitimate issue that I had was shin and foot pain.

This pain brought me to numerous podiatrists and each suggested orthotics.  I believe to date I've had three pairs and boy, they are not cheap.  Doctors also told me I needed to find the right shoe, ideally a motion control style.  For years I believed that Saucony was the brand for me.  I wore numerous versions of the Saucony Hurricane.  And while no longer constant, the shin pain did still rear it's ugly head at times.

A little over a year ago I went to yet another podiatrist.  My feet were aching and my shins weren't getting any better.  Yet again, another pair of orthotics.  This pair clocking in at a reasonable $500!  Ha!  He also suggested I once again try new sneakers.

Having read a few sneaker reviews in various fitness publications I went in to my local athletic shop armed with my new orthotics and an open mind.  I honestly tried on every running shoe in the store.  Since my new orthotics were full length, I had to go up 1-1.5 sizes.

I had heard great reviews from people about Mizuno, so I was curious.  The final selection came down to Asics and the Mizuno.  I went with Mizuno.

I didn't think a shoe could change my life like this one did.  For the most part these shoes (plus my orthotics) have allowed me to say goodbye to shin pain.  I do still get the occasional pain, but it's remedied by some extra stretching and never hurts after the run or the next day.

Just yesterday I had a conversation with someone at the gym and she was complaining that she can no longer run due to intense shin pain.  I told her to see a podiatrist and be willing to reevaluate her sneaker choice.

Have you had a similar experience?  Do you believe in orthotics?  Are you a five finger fan?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


This past weekend I had a 3 hour training ride (Spinning) for my upcoming Spin Odyssey event (  I'll admit, I was NERVOUS.  While I have taught 3 classes in one day, I have never done three hours consecutively and between you and me, I wasn't even sure I could do it.
But, I did do it and it felt great!
The difference between a 3 hour ride and a 45 minute ride is also the subject of this post, ENDURANCE.  Like many spin instructors (and students), when we teach (or take) a 45 minute class, the goal is to work hard and sweat.  I feel like if I don't make the class work hard, they're going to leave feeling cheated and then maybe never come back to my class.
However when you're riding for 180 minutes, the goal has to be different.  The first hour of the ride was completely "endurance" training.  While we moved through different positions and resistance, the goal was to never get our heart rate over 75%, which for me is somewhere around 145 beats per minute.  Sometimes this meant going slower than my natural inclination or using less resistance than I'd normally strive for.
So while it was very different than what I'm used to, I enjoyed it.  It forced me to be in touch with my body and how it was feeling.  I was one of the few people wearing a heart rate monitor so I was able to compare how I felt with my actual effort.
The next two hours were a bit more varied, but still with more of an endurance theme than an all out effort.  Which when you think about it, is really how a 3 hour ride has to be.
I spoke with my sister after the ride.  She's currently training for a half marathon and then perhaps the full.  She's on a pretty structured schedule and told me that 90% of our training should in fact be endurance, especially when the goal is a significant distance or time.
It makes perfect sense.
However my dilemma still comes back to my 45 minute class.  Most of the students don't wear heart rate monitors so i'm not sure that they'll be true to themselves in how their body feels and then end up leaving the class thinking it was "easy".  The mentality of a casual spinner is to work hard, so I'm just not sure that the level of student I teach will be accepting of the fact that endurance is a key part of any training regiment.  But really, that's my issue.
I definitely plan on incorporating more endurance training in to my rides, it's just a question for me, of finding the right balance.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Best Things to do for Your Body - Part 3

It's ok to...
  • Ditch facebook - in other words, get out there and be social
  • Laugh - the amount of mood-stabilizing endorphins produced from 1 minute of laughing is the same as the amount released with 10 minutes of strenuous rowing
  • Take a "sick" day - use your days off
  • Have sex - a serious "romp in the hay" can burn as many calories as a 15 minute run, not to mention reducing PMS symptoms, and gettnig fewer colds
  • Snacking before a meal - snacking on health fats 20 minutes before a meal may help your body digest more slowly so you'll feel full longer
  • Trying on your skinny jeans - trying them on once a month or so will keep you in touch with how your body is changing, which is a better indicator than stepping on the scale
I like this group of things!  And I must say I agree 100% with them all.

Source: Women's Health Magazine

Monday, February 15, 2010

New Snack - Wasabi Wow

I LOVE Trader Joe's.  Love love love.
The store in my hometown opened when I was in high school and I've been a loyal customer ever since.  Thankfully wherever I've lived, a TJ's has never been more than a 20 minute drive.

During my last visit I picked up a bag of Wasabi Wow, not expecting much but liking the price and the idea of it.  I don't love peanuts in their natural state but figured it was worth a shot.  (Note that the bag pictured doesn't seem to include golden raisins, but mine did.)

Let's just say WOW!

I'm now seriously addicted to this stuff.  It's been about a week and the whole bag is almost gone.  The sweet, the salty, the spicey.  Yum!

I'm not sure how healthy it is given that I don't know how wasabi peas are prepared (fried?) and because dried cranberries are sweetened, but still.  Delish!

Go ahead and try it, you'll thank me.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Best Things to do for Your Body - Part 2

Part 2 focuses on foods to try and eat every day.
  • Broccoli sprouts - sprouts have more than 50 times the cancer fighting power of mature broccoli heads
  • Canola and olive oil - Omega 3's and unsaturated fat may help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk for heart disease
  • Low-fat milk and cheese - Calcium is better absorbed from food than supplements
  • Fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso and yogurt - studies show they may reduce breast cancer risk, protect against yeast infections, and boost immunity
  • Cinnamon - very high in antioxidants
  • OJ - a 6oz glass of 100% juice every day reduces your risk of stroke by up to 20%, pulp contains fiber
  • Nuts - popping a handful a day has been shown to lower heart disease risk by as much as 35%
  • Tea - green, black and white are all high in antioxidants.  Green tea is high in EGCG a very potent anticancer compound
  • Hot cocoa - similar benefits of a bottle of wine, go for 100% unsweetened and non-alkalized cocoa powder and use fatfree milk
  • Berries - study show they may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, improve good cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure
How does your diet stack up?  Mine is ok.  Always room for improvement though.  Although due to my sensitive stomach, you'll never get me to drink a glass of OJ.  Oh well!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Job Loyalty?

This isn't directly related to fitness/health but as overall well being and happiness are often tied to how one spends the majority of their time I suppose it's not that far off.

I'm not eluding to anything specific here, just having some thoughts (as I always do).

Should loyalty towards your employer rank higher than happiness for yourself?  Have you ever stayed in a job because you didn't want to mess things up for your employer?  When taking a job, do you continue to look and figure things can always change?

I do sometimes take an employer's feelings in to account, is this wrong?  When I think about it, it seems like it might be.  Hmmm.

Just curious about people's thoughts on this topic.  Happy Friday!!!  A much needed weekend!

Although it won't be too restful as I have my usual class tomorrow morning and then on Sunday I'm scheduled to participate in a 3 hour training ride for my upcoming Spin Odyssey event.  Yup, 3 hours!  I have taught 3 classes in one day, but not all in a row.  Should be interesting.  Think of me on Sunday when you're relaxing and enjoying your weekend.

Oh yeah, happy holiday I don't really believe it!  (that would be valentine's day)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Best Things to Do for Your Body - Part 1

Yay again to Women's Fitness magazine which always has interesting articles and features.  I've wanted to subscribe for months now but wanted a deal better than $0.99/issue.  Well this past weekend I bought an issue on the newsstand and when I saw that it was $4.99, the .99 didn't seem so bad.  Planning on subscribing within the week.  But anyway...

They published a list of called The 76 Best Things To Do For Your Body - Now
So i'm doing my part and sharing the info.  They challenge you to do five a week.

Know your body
  • Know your body composition (unfortunately the BMI index isn't the best calculator, they encourage a bioelectric impedance analysis and say it's available at many gyms)
  • Know your family's health history
  • Know your cancer risk
  • Know your cholesterol levels
  • Know your resting heart rate (the lower the number the better) - take your pulse in the morning when you're most relaxed, measure the beats in 10seconds then multiply it by 6.  An ideal number is between 60-80 (lower if you're athletic).
  • Know your waist to hip ratio - measure your waist at the smallest point, measure your hips at the widest.  Divide the first number by the second.  An ideal ratio is 0.8 or lower.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


My amazing friend Jamie sent me this link to an article about salad greens.

It caught my attention even more as I went to the supermarket today and purchased a bag of salad greens.

The article says to wash any greens, even if they say they've already been washed or even triple washed.  I've never done this but am now thinking I should start.

Which brings me to another item...the salad spinner?  Anyone have one and would you recommend it?  My hesitation is that it's big and I have limited storage space.  Thoughts?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Spin Ride

I had read on another spinning blog an idea about doing an "all request" class.  I mentioned it to a couple of my classes and one seemed more interested than the other.  I brought in little slips of paper for them to write on, announced when i'd do the class and asked for requests.  I got requests from about 5 people, not nearly enough for a class so I polled some friends on facebook and then added their songs (as well as a few that I liked).

I didn't expect much from this ride and was pleasantly surprised when it turned out as good as it did.  The music was good and it was a tough workout (always good).

I hope you find it helpful!

Running down a dream - Tom Petty - 4:23
Warm up, my usual mix of seated flat and running (standing 2).

Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol - 4:28
Slow heavy seated climb.

Single Ladies - Beyonce - 3:47

Walking on Sunshine - Katrina and the Waves - 3:57
Jumps for 2-3 minutes (I usually do 6 counts, switching to 4 for the last minute or so).

Please Don't Leave Me - Pink - 3:54
Seated Climb

Calle Ocho - Pitbull - 3:05
Climbing, 20s in standing 2, 20s in 3, 20s seated, adding after each completed set.  Sometimes I adjust this and spent more time in a standing climb.

No You Girls - Franz Ferdinand - 3:42
Jumps, again 2-3 minutes, starting with 6 counts, going to 4 counts half way through.

Independent Women - Neyo - 3:52
Seated climb.

Empire State of Mind - Jay Z - 4:37
Standing climb

Hot & Cold - Katie Perry - 3:40
Slight resistance, running on chorus, adding resistance as song progresses

SheWolf - Shakira - 3:08
Seated climb, standing climb on chorus

Beat It - Michael Jackson - 4:18
Standing climb, ending heavy

Cool down (don't remember my music here).

Happy spinning!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Hidden Sodium

I had a conversation with my  mother earlier today about how the Cosi multigrain bread really isn't any better than the rustic version.  She mentioned receiving something in the mail recently which talked about the sodium content in potato chips versus pancake mix and how you'd be surprised to learn which had more.

This got me thinking and made me want to look in to this further.  So here's what I found.

A generic 8oz bag of salted potato chips has 1348mg of sodium (56% of the daily value). 
One cup of pancake mix (poured from the box) contains 1579mg of sodium (66% of the daily value).

Would you have ever guessed that in terms of sodium pancakes are worse than potato chips?  I wouldn't!

Read those labels folks!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Artificial Sweetners

This is a topic I've wanted to address for some time now, however there's a TON of information out there and i'm skeptical of reliability.

My trusty Nutrition Action Healthletter just included a quick synopsis and I figured i'd paraphrase.  More to come when I have some extra spare time.

Acesulfame-potassium (honestly, I'm not even sure what this is) - Tests conducted in the 70's were mediocre although one suggested it may result in an increased cancer risk in female rats.

Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) - Two recent rat studies show it may slightly increase cancer risk.  New studies should be done.

Saccharin (Sweet N' Low) - In animal studies it has caused cancer of the urinary bladder, uterus, ovaries, skin, blood vessels and other organs.

Stevia - It appears to be safe although it needs more independent testing.

Sucralose (Splenda) - It appears to be safe although there hasn't been a ton of independent testing.  It also apparently isn't as natural as ads have implied.

What does this all mean?  Honestly, i'm not sure.  Moderation perhaps?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My (version of) Pizza

Just like most NYers, I love pizza!
However since moving to CT I haven't really found a pizza place i'm enamored with.  Not to mention that when I eat pizza I SERIOUSLY overeat, not a good thing.
A couple of weeks ago it was a freezing night and I wanted pizza but didn't want to venture out (or order enough to hit a delivery minimum).  I looked through the fridge and realized that I had tomato sauce, part-skim mozzarella cheese and Arnold's sandwich flats.  The light bulb went off!
I put sauce and cheese on to one of the flats and then baked it in my toaster until the cheese had melted and browned a bit.
I must say it was delicious!  With only 100 calories in the sandwich flats, 1/4 cup cheese (80 calories) and several tablespoons of sauce (max of 80 calories), this was a healthy way to eat pizza.  Between you and me, it tasted better than some of the pizza I've had in CT.
This week I bought 100% whole wheat english muffins instead and am really looking forward to trying my pizza on them.
Pair it with a salad or a veggie and it's a very satisfying meal.  Bon appetit!