Mind Over Movement

I am often asked what an individual’s workout should consist of.  My previous blogs tell you that strength training and cardiovascular training are both a MUST.  What movements or activity you comprise your workout of depends upon what you want to achieve and what you enjoy (or hate least as the case may be).  Your current fitness level and any limitations due to injury, chronic condition, etc. must be considered.  The bottom line is that I cannot tell you what’s right for you because what is right for you won’t be right for someone else and may not be right for you next month or next year.

I came across this website that I like the premise of.  It allows you to choose various types of exercise, and often gender, and then browse through different movements telling you what you’re working and showing you proper form.  I have not looked at everything on this site and will tell you right now that one video I watched was absolutely absurd because unless you were really, really well-versed in that particular movement, you are going to injure your back.  I happen to be well versed in that particular movement and I’m not sure I wouldn’t hurt myself trying to emulate that video.  So, as with anything, please use common sense and caution.  It is however, a nice starting point and I do like the fact that it tells you what you are actually working.  You would be surprised at how many people think they are doing a movement for a muscle group they are not isolating.  Here is the site:  http://www.exrx.net/Exercise.html

Another oft asked question is about what I call infomercial workouts.  I’m not naming any names here but as in life, if it sounds too good to be true…it is.  Who do you suppose infomercials are aimed at?  Do you think the target audience is the individual out for a run?  Probably not.  More likely, they are aimed at the individual not currently working out.  Now sit down, because this revelation is going to be a shocker….if you aren’t working out and you start working out and continue to work out regularly for an extended period of time, your body will change!  *GASP*  I know that’s a lot to get your head around, but stay with me here.  There is no get fit quick gimmick my friends.  There is no secret recipe to fitness.  It doesn’t come in a bottle (or a pill).

While we’re on the topic of infomercial workouts, let’s talk about muscle confusion.  This is the theory that if you keep doing the same workout over and over, your body will adapt and stop responding or plateau.  Well this is both true and not true.  Your body responds to the workload.  So if you do 2 sets of 25lb. bicep curls twice a week for the next 5 years you will reach a point where you no longer see strength increases.  However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do bicep curls or even 25lb. bicep curls and see results.  You could do 3 sets or do them three times per week, etc. (change the workload).

There is merit in sticking with the tried and true movements.  You know them, so your form is probably going to be good and reduce injury.  There are many who get bored easily, so the same routine over and over is going to increase the likelihood of skipping workouts or quitting.  They should change things up.  It is more about doing it properly, getting a good total body workout (including cardio), and sticking with it.  (Oh and look that didn’t even cost you 3 easy installments of $59.99 plus shipping and handling.)

One more hot topic is cardio before weight training or the other way around?  Weight training can deplete glycogen stores in your muscles.  Glycogen stores provide energy.  So if your weight training is intense, you may not want to follow that by cardio.  Cardio is an awesome warm-up for weight training.  Your blood is pumping, you feel energized…but you may be too tired for weight training afterward.  It depends on your goals, how intensely you are focusing on each portion of your workout on any given day.  You can also do cardio and weight training at different times or on different days!

What I want you to do is stop analyzing it and start doing it!  I promise you that I can find someone who will swear by every single option out there and probably a few I haven’t yet heard of.  What feels good to you?  What works for you?  What makes it worth getting up and doing?  Do that!

Once you are up and into a solid workout routine…once it is part of your lifestyle, then we can get a little more cerebral about the whole thing.  When you are training for something particular, be it a sport, a marathon, a power lifting competition, then you need to get into the real science of fitness.  Until then, all you really need to do is get up and do it—and keep doing it!  Don’t believe me?  Go to a gym…find the biggest, bulkiest group of guys there, approach the group with a straight face and debate the merits of European literature.  No don’t do that, I don’t want to be responsible for a “Hulk smash!” event.  Ok, ok, I’m kidding!  There are plenty of well-rounded individuals with great intelligence and great physical form.  And I promise you those individuals know when to think about it and when to do it. 🙂

Do you?

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The Wetter The Better

Water, water, everywhere,

And all the boards did shrink.

Water, water, everywhere,

Nor any drop to drink.

 

That’s a quote from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and a kickass 80’s metal tune by Iron Maiden that you can work out to as well.  It also has been stuck in my head for a few days as I contemplated what I wanted to tell you about the importance of water.  Now you too can have it stuck in your head! J

We hear so much about water and how we should be drinking it, yet so few of us actually drink as much as we should.

Water is what our bodies are comprised of in large part.  Men’s bodies are 60-65% water and women’s bodies are 50-60% water.  Women have a higher percentage of adipose tissue (that’s fat but I didn’t want to use the f-word in my blog 😉 ) that accounts for the difference.  To break that down even further:

  •  The brain is 85% water
  •  Bones are 10-15% water
  •  Blood is 80% water
  •  Muscle is 70% water

Water is paramount in bodily function.  There is a chemical process called hydrolysis that takes place in your body that utilizes ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and GTP (guanosine triphosphate) to let water do it’s magic.  Here is a list of some of water’s amazing feats:

  • Assists with digestion
  • Helps eliminate toxins
  • Cushions joints
  • In blood, carries oxygen and nutrients to cells
  • In lymph, fights disease
  • Regulates/maintains body temperature
  • Protects spinal cord
  • Maintains muscle tone
  • Reduces sodium build-up
  • Relieves fluid retention
  • Suppresses appetite
  • Assists in brain function (electrochemical transmissions)
  • Reduces fat deposits

So what happens when we don’t give our bodies enough water?  We begin to dehydrate.  Being 2% dehydrated can seriously degrade physical and mental functions.  Being 15% dehydrated can be lethal.  Water is important!  Some of the effects of a water deficiency are:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Clotting
  • Kidney malfunction
  • Kidney stones
  • Constipation    

I don’t know about you, but water is sounding pretty amazing to me right now!

Now we come to the BIG question.  How much?  I know you’ve always heard 6-8  8oz. glasses per day but I’m going to change that for you and you probably aren’t going to like it.  There’s a new rule in town—your weight divided by two!  That’s right; you need that much water each and every day.  If we do a little simple math, 6 X 8 = 48 oz. and 8 X 8 = 64 oz.  So if you weight 96 lbs., 6 glasses of water per day is fine.  If you weigh 128 lbs. then 8 glasses per day is also fine.  If you weigh anything else, you need to divide that by two and consume that many ounces of water each and every day!

Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics…they don’t count.  (No, I am not going to budge on this.)

A simple indicator of adequate water consumption is the color of your urine (Yeah, I know it’s gross, but it’s true and really who is going to know you noticed except you?)  It should be clear or pale (straw colored).  If it’s darker than that, drink more water.  You thought this was going to be complicated with all that hydrolysis talk didn’t you?

I need to give a shout out to my amazing friend Jill.  She is the first person that ever told me about the weight divided by two formula.  While researching for this piece, I saw it in several places.  Jill is a smart cookie!

I also want to share a comment my other amazing friend Tina (Yes, I really do have amazing friends.) shared with me just yesterday.  She and I were on the phone as she walked into the grocery and she told me that she found herself reaching for items and asking,What would Michelle think of this choice?”.  That was a high compliment for me!  I’m thinking of bracelets with WWMT on them!  😉  Seriously though, it was great to hear that my friends and my readers really are making better choices.

I will leave you with this….

“In the world there is nothing more submissive and weak than water.  Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it.”

~Lao Tzu

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LET’S GET PHYSICAL!

Let’s get physical

Physical

I wanna  get physical

Let me hear your body talk

Your body talk…

 

What is your body saying?  Is it saying, “I’ll just sit here and wait for death, thanks.  You go on ahead without me.”  If we are honest, a lot of our bodies are saying just that!  I don’t like this, so today I’m going to talk about how to get your body to sing a different tune.

Let’s talk about cardio.  Remember not too long ago, I asked you to just move?  Then we had a little chat about the importance of strength training.  We need both to achieve sustainable health and fitness.  But just for today, let’s focus on the cardio portion of our program.

So what constitutes cardiovascular exercise anyway? 

Neica Goldberg, MD and chief of Women’s Cardiac Care at Lenox Hill in New York City says that cardiovascular exercise is “an activity that involves the large muscles of the body, raises the heart rate and is continuous and rhythmic. “ I think that’s a fine definition, but I like to keep it simple, so I think I like what Tommy Boone, PhD and founding member of the American Society of Exercise Physiologists says even better.  He says it is “any type of exercise that increases the work of the heart and lungs.”

But why should I do cardio?

This is a long list!  The human body was built to move.  It requires movement to sustain itself.  When we take that away, we take away the body’s ability to function efficiently.  This is where we get just a little technical, so try to stay with me.  I think it’s important that you understand how this amazing little machine works.

Burns calories-When we do cardio we burn calories and lose weight or maintain our weight.  That’s pretty simple right?  “Yeah, yeah, Michelle, I know that part.  What else?”  When we do cardio, our body transforms glycogen to glucose.  When glucose stores are depleted, fat is metabolized for energy.  (I told you it was an amazing little machine!)

Strengthens the heart- The heart is a muscle…a very important muscle.  When we strengthen the heart, it takes less work to pump blood to the rest of our body.  

Increases lung capacity- The more fit we become, the more oxygen we can utilize.    In fact aerobic is defined as “with oxygen”.

Increased endurance- Cardio requires a large supply of oxygen to create energy.  Our muscles process the oxygen to burn glucose and fat.  Burning glucose and fat produces adenosine triphosphate which all cells use for basic energy.

Improved circulation- And an increase in red blood cell count.

Reduced risk of heart attack and stroke-As fitness increases the incidence of heart disease decreases.

Improved cholesterol- An increase in HDL and a decrease in LDL (that’s the bad stuff).

A strengthened immune system- That’s right…you get sick less!  (We won’t tell the boss you’re working out 😉 )

Reduced risk of some kinds of cancer- There are very few of us who have not been touched by the devastating disease-myself included-and just moving can help prevent it.  If that’s not motivational, I don’t know what is.

Reduced risk of high blood pressure-see above for all the oxygen and circulation talk

Reduced risk of diabetes-I believe some glucose was mentioned up there as well…

Sleep-Yes, it’s true, exercise helps you sleep better.  Shocking revelation, I know! 😉

And one of my favorites….

Reduced stress-When we do cardio our body produces endorphins (Maybe you’ve heard of a runner’s high?).  Technically, this happens when a hypothalamic neurotransmitter is released from the anterior pituitary gland, but all you really need to know is that it makes you feel good!

All of this leads to…

Longevity- That’s right!  If you take care of your life-sustaining vessel and allow it to work more efficiently, it will keep working longer!

 

“Alright Michelle, you’ve made a pretty good argument here.  So how much of this cardio stuff do I have to do?”

The American Heart Association says 30-60 minutes per day at 50-80% of your maximum capacity (meaning an activity that raises your heart rate but you can still talk).  Others will tell you that 30 minutes a day of vigorous exercise is best, but even at low intensity it will reward you.  I say, as much as possible.  By that I mean that you should move daily of course, but you also must listen to your body.  If you have been doing nothing to speak of and you attempt to run for 30 minutes each and every day, you are going to become pretty unmotivated, pretty quickly.  Start slowly…but don’t stay there.  Also, keep in mind that “exercise” doesn’t have to regimented….swim, play ball, walk the dog, do some gardening or yard work, clean the house (yeah, I said it).  You just have to MOVE!

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I WANT TO PUMP (CLAP) YOU UP!

Strength training is often overlooked in our workouts due to the – battle with weight loss.  Strength training actually helps you lose or maintain weight. 

But Michelle, everyone knows muscle weights more than fat.  How can this be?

I’m glad you asked!

Dictionary.com defines strength this way:

strength

/ Spelled[strengkth, strength, strenth]

noun

1.

the quality or state of being strong; bodily or muscular power; vigor.

 

Wait a minute Michelle…so you’re telling me that I can be strong and not look like someone we stereotypically call to mind with the name Hans? 

 

Yes, yes I am!

 

Men typically lose weight faster than women.  That is because their body composition is more muscle and less fat.  They burn more calories, even at rest.

 

As we age, our metabolisms slow.  We all know that, right?  But why does this happen?  Because we lose muscle.  It becomes even more important to strength train and maintain the same body composition if we aspire to maintain the same weight and the same look.  This is particularly true for women who already have a higher body fat composition.

 

There has been a common misconception among women for as long as I can remember that if they work out with weights they will become “bulky”.  This simple is not true.  Women lack the hormonal make up to achieve this without serious dedication and training.  I promise you that you will not look like Arnold (nor will it compel you to impregnate the help 😉 ).  Body building work outs and strength training work outs are not one of the same.

 

One of my endearing OCDs is lists.  So please enjoy the following list o’ benefits of strength training:

  • Loss of body fat:  For each pound of muscle you burn 35-50 calories more each day.

 

  • Strength and muscle tone:  Without bulk for women as they have between 10-30 percent more of the hormone causing atrophy than men.

 

  • Decreased risk of osteoporosis:  strength training increases bone density

 

  • Increased performance

 

  • Decreased risk of injury

 

  • Reduced risk of heart disease:  the heart is a muscle!  Also reduced LDL, increased HDL and lower blood pressure.

 

  • Reduced risk of diabetes:  increased utilization of glucose

 

  • Reduced incidence of depression

 

  • Looking good naked:  Yeah, like we all don’t want that! 😉

 

 

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Why You Shouldn’t Exercise

Exercise.  What a horrible word.  It conjures up images of drudgery, sweating, straining and feeling sore doesn’t it?  It’s that nasty thing you HAVE to do to lose weight, because summer is coming and you don’t want any mistaken rescues on the beach, or because the doctor said you HAVE to or you’ll die of some unpronounceable genetic propensity.  What a horrible word indeed!

How else do we look at exercise?  Well we can exercise a horse…now that’s a pretty picture to compare to fitness isn’t it?  In school we did exercises—remember those grueling worksheets?  I’ve been known to experience an exercise in futility from time to time.  And I’ve certainly asked, “What is the point of this little exercise?” on more than one occasion.  Exercise has become a downright dirty word!

So maybe we can call it activity.  An activity is an event!  Something fun that we look forward to!  Being active sounds so much nicer than exercising, doesn’t it?   Active is alive!  Active is energetic!  Active is lively!  Why, active is practically a party!

Then again, perhaps you aren’t really the activity type.  Maybe you’re more of a loner.  Perchance you suffer from social anxiety and activities aren’t just really recommended for you at this time.  Activities require all that planning and preparation.  Activities hold expectations and responsibilities, organization and follow-up, coordinating …oh the stress!  And even if you wanted to participate in an activity, however would you find the time amidst your already bulging at the seams schedule?  Life is demanding!

Ok then….do you think you could just move?  That’s a pretty innocuous little word isn’t it?  You can certainly just move, can’t you?  How about if you get to decide how?  You can move up.  You can move on down the road.  You can move in, or out, or all about.  You can move mountains.  You can move me to tears.  You can move it, move it! You can move on over.  You can bust a move.  You can even be on the move!  I’m a little worn out just saying all of that, how about you?

The point, my dear reader, is that it doesn’t have to be any of this.  You don’t have to label it.  You don’t have to plan it.  You don’t have to schedule it.  You just have to do it.  If all of that is what puts you in your safe place, then by all means, pencil it in, chart it out, create a PowerPoint if you want to…but you don’t have to do any of that.  You just have to do it.

The single biggest failure in fitness is over-thinking it. We make it this daunting task looming in front of us with barriers and obstacles and rules.  We set ourselves up to fail at fitness.  We must have a gym membership, a personal trainer, or at least a work out buddy.  We need the right shoes, the right clothes, an IPod loaded with motivational tunes.  We’ll start after the holidays, when school is out, when things settle down at work or at home.  We ate that chocolate cake or missed that week when we were sick so now we have to start over….tomorrow…or the day after that…or maybe next week…or month…or….

You just have to do it.

My work out schedule and my work outs themselves have been in perpetual motion from the beginning.  Even when I didn’t “work out”, I was so active that I really did.  It literally took me years to even understand what people were talking about when they would ask me how I stayed in shape.  I didn’t know what they meant because I didn’t box it in for myself the way they were boxing it in.  I just did it.  It was a part of my life.  I part of who I was.  I didn’t have to schedule it, or track it, or study it.  I just did it.  I still do.

Sometimes that means getting up a little early for some treadmill time or a walk.  Sometimes I go for a walk in the park at lunch.  Sometimes I walk in the evenings.  Sometimes, I lift some weights or do some abs while watching a movie with my sons.  Sometimes, I schedule time out just for me and my health and fitness.   Sometimes I do 4-5 hours of yard work.  Sometimes I take on a physically taxing task around the house or to help out a friend.  Sometimes I go hiking.  Sometimes I go canoeing.  Sometimes I lie on the beach getting a tan and also do some swimming.  Sometimes I have a serious schedule to do certain activities on certain days and at certain times—and that rarely works out for very long.  I don’t quit.  I change it up.  I just do it.  It sounds simple doesn’t it?  That’s because it is.  None of the other stuff is really in your way, so stop putting it in your way.

Friedrich Neitzsche said, “Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect.  It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.”  I say that holds true for sustainable health and fitness as well.  It will never be a perfect storm my friends.  Dive in any way!  Ride the waves as they come to you instead of chasing the perfect one.

I like quotes.  I use them often.  I use them as personal reminders and motivators.  I use them all the time in presentations at work.  I use them when I’m speaking to a group.  Do you know why I like them so much?  I like them because they are simple truths.  I also like them because if you begin to explore the quotes of other’s you will quickly find a pattern.  These simple truths have been learned throughout time by people of every walk of life.  You will find great philosophers and great athlete’s spilling the very same pearls of wisdom.  You will hear a comedian and a General on the same page.  These lessons are timeless.  They do not discriminate between gender, race, position, or education.  I find it very hard to rationalize that this doesn’t make them true lessons of life.  So with that, I will leave you with one more quote to ponder….

“The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.”
~Al Neuharth

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Oh! The Muscles You’ll Grow! (apologies to the great Dr. Seuss)

Congratulations!
Today is the day.
You’re off to build muscle!
You’re off and away!
You have fuel in your belly.
You have on your shoes.
You’re ready to work out.
Oh the weight you will lose!
You’re in your gear. And you know what to do.
You’ll become the most vibrant and healthy new you!

Soon you’ll turn heads, and you’ll get many stares.
And you’ll smile to yourself, knowing how you got there.

You’ll remember the gym, and the weights that you pumped.
You’ll remember how you pushed on the days that you slumped.

And you’ll find that you like it;
that it feels good
to see in the mirror,
what you thought you never would.

It must be sustainable.
Thank goodness you’re trainable!

Big things can happen
and frequently do
to people as motivated
and dedicated as you.

And then things start to happen,
and they will it’s true
Just keep pushing on
to be the very best you!

OH!
THE MUSCLES YOU’LL GROW!

You’ll be on your way there!
You’ll be seeing great thighs
you’ll join the gun show
and have great tri’s!

You’ll be so healthy
filled with vigor and vim
wherever you are
at home, work or the gym!

You’ll be stronger and faster
filled with energy too
you’ll look great and feel great
as the very best YOU!

You can get all hung up
on someone else’s success.
The weight they lose
or how much they bench press

If only….how come…
why can’t that be me
are thoughts that cause
health and fitness to flee.

And when you’re in a slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will hit roadblocks
on this crazy path
you’ll skip workouts sometimes
and feel the donut’s wrath

If there’s a moment
just get back on track
push the cardio
and hit the weight rack!
Everyone is just waiting…

Waiting for tomorrow
when time frees right up.
Waiting for the magic potion

in the magic cup
waiting for it to be easy
or come in a pill
waiting for the next fad
to get over that hill

NO!
That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll push on
all that waiting and praying
You’ll find the right work out
and start hooraying

No more arms flip-flapping,
or cottage cheese thighs
No more big butt
or beer belly gut!

Oh, the muscles you’ll grow! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with diet
you’ll look so hot you may cause a riot!

Get out and walk, run or jog
Read all about it, here in my blog!

Set goals for yourself
you don’t need another
This is for you
not your sister or brother

Only you make it happen
only you can commit
to getting yourself healthy and fit!

So get out there now
keep it fresh in your mind
measure your progress and not your behind!

Drink lots of water
you’ll need it I’ll bet

You’ll do lots of cardio
and work up a sweat!
Work on those arms
see them tighten and firm
and those legs are now shapely

And don’t jiggle or squirm!

On and on you will hike,
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(It’s all up to you– guaranteed.)

OH!  THE MUSCLES YOU’LL GROW!

So…
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

~ My deepest apologies to Dr. Seuss

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THE SKINNY ON FIBER

Image

This article on fiber is one of the best I’ve seen, so I have decided to share it with you.  I have made some editorial notes because hey, this is MY blog!  (My comments are in BOLD/ITALIC text)

 

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fiber/NU00033  (You can find the original article here)

 

 

Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet (Not the kind the CSI detectives find at the crime scene)

Image

Dietary fiber offers many health benefits. Here’s how to include more in your diet.

By Mayo Clinic staff

Eat more fiber. You’ve probably heard it before. But do you know why fiber is so good for your health? (No?  You haven’t been following me on Twitter @MichelleHerron5)

Dietary fiber — found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes — is probably best known for its ability toImage prevent or relieve constipation. (I pull out a Fiber 1 bar like an Old West gunslinger every time someone tells me I’m full of crap.) But fiber can provide other health benefits as well, such as lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease. (Beans, beans, good for your heart…)Image

 

Selecting tasty foods that provide fiber isn’t difficult. Find out how much dietary fiber you need, the foods that contain it and how to add them to meals and snacks.

What is dietary fiber?

Dietary fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, includes all parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. Unlike other food components such as fats, proteins or carbohydrates — which your body breaks down and absorbs — fiber isn’t digested by your body. Therefore, it passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine, colon and out of your body. (And you thought beer was the only thing that went right through you!) It might seem like fiber doesn’t do much, but it has several important roles in maintaining health.

Fiber is commonly classified into two categories: those that don’t dissolve in water (insoluble fiber) and those that do (soluble fiber).

·Insoluble fiber. This type of fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, so it can be of benefit to those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts and many vegetables are good sources of insoluble fiber.

·Soluble fiber. This type of fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium. (Psyllium is the stuff the powders you mix in water and try to drink before they swell up in the glass too much to choke down.  Oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots and barley just started sounding REALLY good, didn’t they?)

The amount of each type of fiber varies in different plant foods. To receive the greatest health benefit, eat a wide variety of high-fiber foods.

Benefits of a high-fiber diet

A high-fiber diet has many benefits, which include:

-Normalizes bowel movements. Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing your chance of constipation. If you have loose, watery stools, fiber may also help to solidify the stool because it absorbs water and adds bulk to stool. For some, fiber may provide relief from irritable bowel syndrome. (I had IBS problems for 20 years until I began to consume enough fiber.)

-Helps maintain bowel integrity and health. A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids, and small pouches in your colon (diverticular disease). Some fiber is fermented in the colon. Researchers are looking at how this may play a role in preventing diseases of the colon. (Since we can’t talk fiber and avoid the bathroomImage portion of our program, yeah, the hard stools and hemorrhoids went away too.  Now where did I leave my femininity again?)

-Lowers blood cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein,(LDL) or “bad,” cholesterol levels. Epidemiologic studies have shown that increased fiber in the diet can reduce blood pressure and inflammation, which is also protective to heart health. (I take a great fish/flax oil supplement—two, two, two supplements in one!  If you didn’t get that reference, you are just a lot younger than me and I really don’t want to be reminded of that ok?)

-Helps control blood sugar levels. Fiber, particularly soluble fiber, can slow the absorption of sugar, which for people with diabetes can help improve blood sugar levels. A diet that includes insoluble fiber has been associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. (BONUS:  Fiber has done amazing things with my borderline hypoglycemia too!  I almost never have a blood sugar episode anymore!)

Image-Aids in weight loss. High-fiber foods generally require more chewing time, which gives your body time to register when you’re no longer hungry, so you’re less likely to overeat. Also, a high-fiber diet tends to make a meal feel larger and linger longer, so you stay full for a greater amount of time. And high-fiber diets also tend to be less “energy dense,” which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food. (The SKINNY on fiber you might say 😉 )

-Uncertain effect on colorectal cancer. Evidence that dietary fiber reduces colorectal cancer is mixed — some studies show benefit, some show nothing and some suggest increased risk. If you’re concerned about preventing colorectal cancer, adopt or stick with a colon cancer screening regimen. Regular testing for and removal of colon polyps can prevent colon cancer.

 

How much fiber do you need?

How much fiber do you need each day? The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, which provides science-based advice on matters of medicine and health, gives the following daily recommendations for adults:

 

                                               Men                              Women

Age 50 and younger               38 grams                       25 grams

Age 51 and older                    30 grams                       21 grams

 

Your best fiber choices

If you aren’t getting enough fiber each day, you may need to boost your intake. Good choices include:

·         Grains and whole-grain products (******this is the easiest way to up your daily fiber intake—read the labels)

·         Fruits

·         Vegetables

·         Beans, peas and other legumes

·         Nuts and seeds

Refined or processed foods — such as canned fruits and vegetables and pulp-free juice, white bread and pasta, and non-whole-grain cereals — are lower in fiber content. The grain-refining process removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain, which lowers its fiber content. Similarly, removing the skin from fruits and vegetables decreases their fiber content. (When I first began my fiber research I thought surely with all those raw fruits and vegetables I ate I must be getting enough fiber—WRONG!  In fact, I wasn’t even coming close.  Whole grain breads and pastas changed my life.)

Whole foods rather than fiber supplements are generally better. Fiber supplements — such as Metamucil, Citrucel and FiberCon  (yuck)— don’t provide the vitamins, minerals and other beneficial nutrients that high-fiber foods do. However, some people may still need a fiber supplement if dietary changes aren’t sufficient, or if they have certain medical conditions such as constipation, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome. Always check with your doctor if you feel you need to take fiber supplements. (This is only my personal experience, but I tried every fiber supplement they’ve ever made and none of it did anything but bloat me and taste nasty.)

Tips for fitting in fiber

Need ideas for high-fiber meals and snacks? Try these suggestions:

·Jump-start your day. For breakfast choose a high-fiber breakfast cereal — 5 or more grams of fiber a serving. Opt for cereals with “bran” or “fiber” in the name. Or add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal. (Buy the thin, whole grain bagels for 5 grams and about 100 calories)

·Switch to whole grains. Look for breads that list whole wheat, whole-wheat flour or another whole grain as the first ingredient on the label. Look for a brand with at least 2 grams of dietary fiber a serving. Experiment with brown rice, wild rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta and bulgur. (The Mayo Clinic and I disagree here…I try to buy the ones with at least 4 or 5 grams of fiber)

·Bulk up your baked goods. Substitute whole-grain flour for half or all of the white flour when baking. Whole-grain flour is heavier than white flour. In yeast breads, use a bit more yeast or let the dough rise longer. When using baking powder, increase it by 1 teaspoon for every 3 cups of whole-grain flour. Try adding crushed bran cereal or unprocessed wheat bran to muffins, cakes and cookies. (I don’t do a lot of baking, but if you do this would work.)

·Mix it up. Add pre-cut fresh or frozen vegetables to soups and sauces. For example, mix chopped frozen broccoli into prepared spaghetti sauce or toss fresh baby carrots into stews. (Also more filling and a tricky way to get a vegetable into your kids!)

·Get a leg up with legumes. Eat more beans, peas and lentils. Add kidney beans to canned soup or a green salad. OrImage make nachos with refried black beans, lots of fresh veggies, whole-wheat tortilla chips and salsa. (Did you see that?  Healthy Mexican food!  Viva fiber!)

 

·Eat fruit at every meal. Apples, bananas, oranges, pears and berries are good sources of fiber. (We will be talking about all of the other benefits of these fruits at a later date.)

·Make snacks count. Fresh and dried fruit, raw vegetables, and low-fat popcorn (whole grain) and whole-grain crackers are all good choices. An occasional handful of nuts is also a healthy, high-fiber snack.

High-fiber foods are good for your health. But adding too much fiber too quickly can promote intestinal gas, abdominalImage bloating and cramping. Increase fiber in your diet gradually over a period of a few weeks. This allows the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the change. Also, drink plenty of water. (I cannot say this enough….drink plenty of water!!!!) Fiber works best when it absorbs water, making your stool soft and bulky.

 

So that’s THE SKINNY ON FIBER, my dear readers.  I hope you will join me in increasing your fiber intake and increasing your health, fitness and vitality!  Now, enough of this sitting and reading, let’s MOVE!  You heard me….go, go, GO!

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