Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloweekend

If not for chocolate, there would be no need for control top pantyhose.  An entire garment industry would be devastated.  ~Author Unknown  

I have refused to buy Halloween candy yet.  Especially Whoppers, Reece's Peanut Cups, Crunch Bars,  Kit-Kats, Hershey Kisses, York Peppermint Patties, Snickers, 3 Musketeers, or basically anything with chocolate.  Next to Hubby and my kiddos, chocolate is near and dear to my heart.  I can walk past any candy, chips, fried foods, cakes, doughnuts, cupcakes without hesitation, but, to quote Mr. T., I really do pity the fool that gets in my way when I'm on the prowl for chocolate.

Luckily, my baby cravings are of the healthier sort this time around.  I find myself preferring spinach to ice cream and corn salsa to Doritos, but I'm still loving those calorie and sugar rich honey, peanut butter and raisin sandwiches.  (Don't knock it til you try it, folks.)

However, I am hoping that I can maintain my course throughout this weekend and then send the supply of my favorites to Hubby's work and let those women enjoy.  (Helpful to me, definitely.  Somewhat diabolical to them, perhaps.)  

Okay - here are some additional strategies from our friends at Mayo Clinic to help us avoid temptation!

Halloween unofficially marks the beginning of the holiday feasting season. And for anyone trying to watch his or her weight, the scariest part of Halloween is not ghosts and goblins but the ever-abundant Halloween candy. Sugar and mostly empty calories is what you get in candy, and the truth is that most of us don’t exercise enough to warrant those extra calories.

Those cute little fun-size candy bars seem harmless -- and they are, if you can limit your consumption. But that's easier said than done.

"All it takes is an additional 100 calories a day or the equivalent of one snack-sized chocolate bar and most adults will experience weight creep before they even know it," says Lona Sandon, MEd, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

When your cupboards are loaded with candy and the kids come home with bags full of even more treats, it's hard to resist. Many people try to lessen the temptation at home by bringing their extra candy into work, thus setting a high-calorie trap for their co-workers.  (oops...)

"Don’t get sucked into the 'see food diet' mentality that makes you want to eat the candy simply because you see it and not because you are hungry," says Brian Wansink, PhD, a Cornell researcher and author of Mindless Eating:  Why We Eat More Than We Think. "We eat more of visible foods because it causes us to think about it more, and every time you see the candy bowl you have to decide whether ... you want a piece of candy or not.

"Simply thinking of food can make you hungry, so when you see or smell something associated with food, like the shiny foil-wrapped Kisses, it can actually make you salivate."

But there are ways to keep your hands out of the candy jar so you can avoid packing on some extra pounds even before the holiday season starts. Here are 10 expert tips to help you avoid the temptation of Halloween goodies, at home and at the office.
  1. Buy candy you don’t love. If the candy in your pantry is stuff kids like but that you don’t enjoy, it will be easier to resist opening those bags and diving in. For most of us, that means anything but chocolate. "Sour candy, gummy-textured [candies], hard candies and the others that are not chocolate are lower in fat and calories and typically not the candy we overeat," says Sandon.
  2. Out of sight, out of mind. Ask your co-workers to keep their candy jars and bowls inside their desks or stashed in a cabinet in the break room so you won’t be tempted every time you see it. If they want to keep candy on their desks, ask them to use a colored container with a lid so you can’t see inside.
  3. Savor one piece of your favorite candy a day. Decide what time of day you most relish the sweet stuff, and save your special treat for that time. Then sit back and slowly savor the taste sensation. "It is so easy to pop a piece of candy into your mouth mindlessly and not get the full enjoyment you would get if you saved it and ate it when you know you will enjoy it the most," says Sandon. Indulge your sweet tooth on occasion, because denying yourself completely could lead to an all-out binge.
  4. Chew gum. Sugarless gum gives your mouth a burst of sweet sensation for very few calories. "Studies have shown that gum chewing can also help [you] relieve stress, mentally focus on tasks, satisfy a sweet tooth, overcome the urge to eat candy, and help manage hunger pangs to hold you over until your next meal," says Sandon.
  5. Replace the candy with better choices. Make the see-food diet work in your favor by putting out a bowl of colorful fruit or veggies in place of the candy.
  6. Move the candy jar. Wansink and colleagues have done studies on how frequently people eat candy when it is within reach, out of sight, or requires them to get up to reach the jar. "If you have to get up to get a piece of candy, it is not always worth the effort, whereas when the candy is convenient, consumption is higher," says Wansink.
  7. Count the empty wrappers. It's so easy to pop fun-size candy bars into your mouth that you can lose track of how quickly the calories are adding up. "If you keep the wrappers on your desk, it will remind you of how many you ate and hopefully inspire you to exercise moderation and stop after one or two," says Sandon.
  8. Take a walking break. Getting away from your desk for a breath of fresh air can invigorate you and help you get over the mid-morning or mid-afternoon slumps that are often mistaken for hunger. 
  9. Manage your hunger. Eat breakfast before coming to work and plan for a few healthy snacks along with a satisfying lunch. Your preplanned meals with keep you feeling satisfied and make you less likely to raid the candy bowl.
  10. Sip on a low-calorie beverage. Keep your hands and mouth busy by drinking a zero-calorie cup of hot tea (rich with disease-fighting antioxidants) or big glass of water. And light hot chocolate can satisfy your sweet tooth for few calories than most fun-size chocolate bars.
Happy Halloween, all!  
Stay safe and have fun!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Get a Passenger on my Journey

You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests that you think she's pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.  ~Dave Barry, "Things That It Took Me 50 Years to Learn"

Well, I've been trying to avoid bread but I just found out there's a bun in the oven!  Hubby and I are very excited and so are grandparents.  It's very early.  5 weeks early.  Even though I have no reason to think this pregnancy will be anything but ordinary, I am 35 and just a little nervous.  My doc told me that I was perfect  to make babies at my last visit so that is some comfort though.

Now it's time to shift my focus - but only slightly.  Now more than ever nutrition is essential!  I must maintain a good weight.  I can't and won't let myself gain 65 or 75 pounds like my last 2 pregnancies.  I can't afford that at all.  But I won't sacrifice Baby's health by restricting calories either.  So, here's the deal....

We'll continue to learn about nutrition together and make the right choices, knocked up or not.  I'm going to continue to exercise but a little bit lower impact and I'll stay with the 3 pound weights.  I'm going to put a tracker with my weight gain and how far until D-Day.  Right now I'm at 138 and it's 243 days till the baby makes a grand entrance.

I would definitely appreciate any words of wisdom from mommies who have actually kept their weight in check during pregnancy and from those mommies over 35.  Thanks for your prayers and support!!!! 

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Personal Trainer

A man's health can be judged by which he takes two at a time - pills or stairs.  ~Joan Welsh

Over the weekend, I'd had a particularly long Saturday starting with a mound of laundry I didn't get to on Friday, a soccer game for my 3 year old, lunch with some friends, then back home to do more chores and try to finish my spring 2010 cleaning before winter.  I was beat and my 3 year old asked me when I was going to do my video.  I told him later several times and finally he said, "Mom, but you need to do your video!!!"

I wish I could tell you that I did, but it was already 8:30 by that point and I was running on fumes.  I could tell he was frustrated with me and the next morning when I did in fact do my video, he happily came downstairs to join me.  I feel bad that I let him down, but it cracks me up how important it is to him at 3 (well almost 4) years old that I work out.  I love it!

On another note, I took my measurements today.  I've lost 2 pounds and 3% body fat from a month ago.  I was hoping for better results but there were a few parties and celebration nights over the month.  But at least the numbers are moving in the right direction now!

My nutrition is definitely getting better.  I'm opting for more salads instead of sandwiches and more egg white omelettes instead of cereal.  It's going well.  And I'm a little surprised that since I took some of the urgency out and decided to enjoy the journey, I'm actually happier and doing better on my weight loss plan.  Yay me!

One day this week I do need to get my recipes uploaded.  I'd love to hear some of your favorites too.  And I do apologize for my repeated hiatus.  Sometimes life overtakes planning!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Skinny Is in the Eye of the Beholder

Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself. You can't put on make-up, or dress yourself, or do you hair with any sort of fun or joy if you're doing it from a position of correction. Kevyn Aucion  

Yesterday was a good day!  I managed to make it through on my calorie target and my workout target and I had NO BAD CARBS!  Yay me!  Hubby and I strapped the kids into the jogging stroller last night and even jogged a few minutes.  For those of you who have never jogged with a stroller, just fill a wheelbarrow with about 50 pounds of rocks, super glue your hands to handles and get running.  Oh - and no spilling the rocks, either.  It's not easy, is it?  I did teach my little guy to cheer for me though.  Especially on the hills.  It was great to hear a "GO MOM GO!" as I was about to give up.  It was not so great though when I noticed that he was putting his feet on the front tire, essentially acting a brake, as I was trying to keep up with my track star hubby.  Hopefully we'll be able to do it again tonight.

As I was running, I started feeling self conscience though.  I felt as if my whole neighborhood could see my fat cells and cellulite pulsing and jiggling and heaving up and down with my steps.  Some people make running look so easy.  If you take a look me running (especially behind a stroller) you would never even try to attempt it if you never had before for fear of suffering the fate as me as I strain and struggle to put one foot in front of the other in rapid succession.  My face alone tells a story of such agony and pain that perhaps I could have inspired even more tortuous works from Edgar Allen Poe or Steven King.

But then, I lightened up.  Since I came through my doctor's visit with flying colors, I have eased up on the sense of urgency to lose weight.  I'm healthy!  And yes, I'm excited about being able to put anything on in my closet and know it will look good, but I'm healthy.  I was becoming a little too obsessed with calorie counting - to the point that I was dreaming about food and waking up feeling guilty - that I had lost sight of my goal just to be healthy.  I forgot to stop and smell the roses.  I couldn't see the forest for the trees.  (See where I'm headed with this?)

I want to enjoy life - not calculate it. But there is a balance between the two.  I perceived myself to be unattractive because I'd gained a few pounds.  I perceived myself to be a failure because I didn't stay a perfect size 4.  I can't live like that.  I need to relax and enjoy the journey.  Weight loss shouldn't be a chore.  It should be something done with enthusiasm for the health it brings.  Energy begets energy.  Workouts should be some quality ME time that I take to ensure I'm taking care of myself well enough to take care of my family. 

And that's my new focus now as I continue to stay focused on keeping my health.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Playing Catch Up

The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight, because by then your body and your fat are really good friends.  ~Author Unknown 

First and foremost, I'm back!!!  After a brief hiatus, I have returned full strength and refocused! 

My physical went very well.  Doc said that cholesterol levels were perfect, blood pressure is wonderful, triglycerides are beautiful, and that she's happy with all my results.  She asked if there was anything else I was concerned about and I told her that I was bothered by the weight I'd gained.  She told me just to take my calories back down to around 1200 and get away from carbs again.  Doc also told me a little trick to see if a food was a good carb or bad one.  If the percentage of carbs is less than percentage of fiber, it's all good.  Otherwise, just back away.

So, I'll try to stick to 1200 calories and stay away from bread.  I think staying away from bread (and bad carbs) will be harder!!!!!  ARG!  I love love love bread.  But I also love love love love my jeans.  The good thing is, I was able to get them on again.  The bad thing is, I still protruded above the waist line. 

But I'm still working on it too.  I had a little bit of a stressful week last week and kind of lost my focus for a few days.  I missed a day of the video so have started counting all over again!  Today is day 1 - again!  My soon to be 4 year old joined me.  He wanted to workout too and snatched up my 3 pound weights.  I was stuck using the 5 pound weights and struggled through.  Really - over just 2 pounds!!!  It was definitely a good workout though and I realized that I probably should be using the 5 pounders anyway from now on.  Especially on level 1!!! 

I got a new video from the library that I'm going to try too.  I'm kind of nervous though.  Wouldn't ever want Jillian to think I was cheating on her. 

Goals for this week:
video every day plus 20 min additional cardio
keep calories around 1000-1300
get closet ready for winter (hey- goals don't need to be ALL about weight loss!)
get digital scale
lose 1-2 pounds

We'll see how I do!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Keep It Moving!

You grew it, you lift it! -Jane Fonda

 Yesterday was my first attempt at Level 3.  There was a brief moment in between the jumping jacks while holding free weights and doing traveling pushups that I wondered if Jillian Michaels had ever been involuntarily committed for being absolutely insane.  But that thought didn't linger too long.  It was replaced with, "How am ever going to get through this!?"

But I did.  And let me tell you, the feeling was wonderful.  I did miss a workout over the weekend.  My BFF was in town from North Carolina and I just couldn't get it done on Sunday.  But that was Sunday. 

Other than that, the workouts are going great.  I feel stronger.  I feel accomplished.  I look forward to doing it most days.  Today I'll admit I'm a little sleepy and will have to light a fire underneath my rear, but I know I'll do it.  So far I haven't seen huge results as far as movement on the scale, but I feel lighter and I have that spring back in my step.  I feel more solid, less jiggly, and overall just better.  I want to start getting up in the mornings to do some more cardio in addition to the video.  I'll try to start that tomorrow.  Last night for some asinine reason I chose to watch Monday Night Football even though I can't stand the Jets and Favre was just plain irritating me.

No more.  Now I love football just as much, probably more, than the average chick, but I've got to start sticking to my bedtime so I can get moving in the morning.  The outcome of anything on TV or reading just one more chapter in a book has NO impact on my life like just getting up and working out does.

Okay, enough talk.  Time to move!!!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Let's Get Physical

The best six doctors anywhere and no one can deny it
Are sunshine, water, rest, and air, exercise and diet.
These six will gladly you attend, if only you are willing.
Your mind they'll ease, your will they'll mend and charge you not a shilling.
~Nursery rhyme quoted by Wayne Fields, What the River Knows, 1990

Well, I got the initial bloodwork for my physical done this morning.  It was a fasting lab so you can bet I had my protein bar ready in my purse as soon as they pulled the needle out.  My follow up is Friday and I'm anxious to see the results.

The last physical I had was about 6 years ago.  I was in top form.  The doc said it was actually a pleasure giving me the results and that he wished more people had interest in their health.  He said most people just come to see him when they're sick and not to just make sure they're well.

I'm hoping that my results will be almost as good.  But we'll see.  After 2 babies and the occasional chicken nugget and healthy pours of wine, well, we'll see. 

I've got to improve my cardio.  I know that much.  Lately hubby and I have been jogging a little bit but I always get winded so quickly.  He was a track star and I definitely was NOT.  Hubby can (and has) literally run circles around me, but encourages me the whole time.  We did a 5K three months after our son was born.  I thought I was going to die.  I had gained over 60 pounds during my pregnancy and was struggling to get fit again.  Hubby could have run the whole thing, picked up our post-race bagels, gone to get the car and have it nice and toasty warm (it was snowing during this race!), and take a quick nap in the time it took me to cross the finish line.  But he stayed with me.  I couldn't keep the pace of his long legs and he couldn't keep my walking pace so he just kind of jogged around me, offering me words of love and encouragement.  Seriously, that's love!!

Then, I had an excuse (kind of).  Now, not so much.  I want to run with him like I did a couple years ago.  We ran a 5K, 10K, and 10 miler all within 2 months and had a blast.  So, I found a great running plan that I'll be following.  We already walk quite a bit, but we're starting to kick it up a notch.

I'll keep you posted on the progress.... OH - and my physical!! 

This is a great inspirational story about running!

You don't have to be an athlete -- or even aspire to be one -- to start running.

Just look at Jim Scott. In January 2003, a month after he turned 60, Scott began running. That November, he finished the New York City Marathon (it took him six hours).

Scott, a radio-talk show host in Cincinnati, Ohio, didn't do much in the way of exercise before then. He played golf as often as he could but never found the time for regular workouts.

"When I turned 60, I thought it was a good time to reassess things," says Scott. "I started thinking, 'These 36-inch (waist) pants I've worn all my life are getting a bit tighter.'"

Scott decided he wanted to get in better shape, feel comfortable in his pants again, and improve his golf game. Oh, and there was one more impetus to try running: "I'm married to a marathon runner," he says.

Scott himself never intended to run a marathon. He simply wanted to go on Sunday morning runs with his wife, Donna Hartman, and keep up, he says. But sometimes running can surprise you.

Maybe you just want to run around your neighborhood, or explore a new one. Maybe you want to challenge your body in a different way, to tone up, or lose weight. Whatever your goals, says Scott's coach, Julie Isphording, running is an excellent exercise for a beginner to try.

"It's cheap, easy, and the perfect thing to do with a friend," says Isphording, a former marathoner and host of two health and fitness radio shows in Cincinnati.

Running's benefits include improved cardiovascular hearth, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, a revved-up metabolism, and a sense of self-esteem, says Isphording.

"You can go for a run in the morning and finish at your driveway with your hands in the air and you've had success before 7 a.m.," she says. "This is a gift from you to you."

Getting in Gear

Before you take your first step, get yourself a good pair of running shoes.

"It's the most important investment you'll make," says Isphording. She suggests going to a store specializing in running gear, where the staff tends to be knowledgeable about the products, and trying on as many pairs as necessary to find the right ones for you. A good fit is essential; blisters and shin splints are not going to inspire you to run.

And don't even think about running in your regular cross-trainers, tennis shoes, or regular sneakers.
"Running is very traumatic," says Forrest Dolgener, exercise physiologist and professor of exercise science at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. "The mechanics of running creates specific kinds of forces on the body. Running shoes are designed to absorb and minimize those kinds of forces."

But don't get too attached to your favorite pair. Running shoes have a limited lifespan, says Dolgener, co-author of The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer.

"Generally speaking, running shoes have 500 miles of life," he says. "Even though they make look good, shock absorption diminishes after 500 miles."

Start Gradually

Before you start any new fitness program, it's wise to consult with your physician -- especially if you're a man 45 or older or a woman 50 or older, the experts say.

"I always want anyone who's getting started to know their life digits -- blood pressure, BMI (body mass index), cholesterol, blood sugar," says Isphording.

Running is not the best exercise for everyone, Dolgener says. So listen to your doctor and your body.

"The worst thing you can do is start running, get injured, then stop exercising altogether," says Dolgener.

Once you get a green flag from the doctor, don those new running shoes and start out with a combination of walking and jogging. For example, you might alternate walking for five minutes and jogging for two minutes.

Over time, steadily increase the amount of time you spend running until you're able to jog for 20 minutes at a time, suggests Isphording. Once you achieve that, start increasing your distance.

For someone who has been sedentary, Dolgener recommends starting only with walking, then progressing to brisk walking before adding any jogging.

"Progression is the key element for someone who hasn't done this," says Dolgener.

Your cardiovascular system will adapt more easily than your musculoskeletal system, says Dolgener. People don't usually give up running because their hearts can't adapt but because of injury. Gradually conditioning yourself with a combination of walking and running gives your body time to adapt to the new stress on the joints and muscles.

"When I first started," recalls Scott, "Julie said, 'Do you think you can run for 15 minutes?' I said, 'Are you kidding me?'

"I ran about 45 seconds. I was amazed at how little I could do." But he plugged through it.

"The first two weeks are difficult," Isphording warns. "Getting out the door is the hardest thing ever. Once you get past that, then you get it, your body starts feeling good and wants to go out and play."

To keep your body feeling good during your runs, our experts offer these tips:
  • While you're running, be sure you can pass the "talk test": You should still be able to carry on a conversation. Keep your pace comfortable so you won't burn out too quickly. "It's much better to run too slow than too fast," Isphording says.
  • Instead of tracking the miles you run, count time. "Don't get caught up in measuring distance, and that you ran faster than yesterday. Go for time," Isphording says.
  • As you build up past 20 minutes, be sure to stay hydrated. This is especially important during the warm-weather months. "Know where the water is, where the park is, where the gas station is -- or you can stash water along your route ahead of time," Isphording says.
  • In addition to running, do strength training to build muscle and bone density and protect against injury. A 20-minute strength workout a couple of times a week is all you need. To get started, get a personal trainer to write out a program you can do at home -- or get a video.
  • Save stretching for after your run, when your muscles are warm. Stretching cold muscles increases the risk for injury.

Sticking With It

To stay consistent with your running program, keep a running journal or log, the experts suggest. At the beginning of the week, plot out when you plan to run and for how long, and commit it to paper. "Write down something on a piece of paper and put it in your sock drawer," says Isphording.

Setting specific goals -- whether it's time, distance, weight loss or cholesterol -- will also inspire you to stay on track.

Another thing that helps: finding a friend to run with. Having a partner to meet you at the mailbox will keep you honest, says Isphording.

"Ninety percent of running is just showing up, getting in the game, getting off the sidelines," she says.

Inside or Out?

Is it better to run on a treadmill or outside? You can get a great cardiovascular workout either way, and there are benefits to both, the experts say

With a treadmill, you're never too far from home, says Isphording. It's a good choice if you're injured or rehabbing an injury -- or just feeling a little intimidated about running outdoors.

"There are no stoplights, no dogs, no cars, no pollution," she says. And, of course, bad weather isn't an issue. Treadmill running can be lower-impact too, as well. Dolgener equates it to running on grass.

But a treadmill doesn't quite simulate the outdoors.

"When you're outdoors, you're getting fresh air," Isphording says. "Running during the sunlight you get vitamin D, which women really need to absorb calcium. You have the scenery -- you can discover parts of your city or town, or if you're traveling, it's a great way to see a city. It's better with a group of people, and easier to do with a family."

When Not to Run

Running is not for everyone, say the experts. If you have an injury or disability, or if running is painful for you, try cycling, cross-country skiing, swimming. They all work.

"The advantage to running is it doesn't take any equipment except shoes, you can do it anywhere, and it's convenient," says Dolgener. "It's one of the best cardio-respiratory activities you can do. The bad news is, it is very traumatic, and the trauma is more prevalent the longer and harder you go."

But if you can run, why not go ahead and get out there?
"I can promise you this," says Isphording, "you will never regret a run. There's hardly anything in life you can say that about. You'll regret a chocolate sundae.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I Keep Good Company

You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing.  What!  Is it nothing to be happy?  Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long?  Never in his life will he be so busy again.  ~Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, 1762

I got a surprise while I was on Day 8 of the 30 Day Shred.  My little guys who I thought were happily playing upstairs, came to join me.  Riley has joined me on my workouts before and so has Boo.  In fact, the other night while I was doing my video, she climbed up on the elliptical machine and started pumping as fast as her little 2 1/2 year old legs would take her.  When I was ready to head back upstairs, she told me, "Mom, be quiet.  I have to concentrate."

I love it when my kids join me to exercise.  We were doing hip circles to warm up and Boo had her little hands on her hips and was carefully swaying around and around.  I had decided to do level 1 today but incorporated a lot of the more challenging level 2 stretches and cardio in.  When, instead of doing punches, I did "skaters", Riley told me, "Um, Mom?  You're doing it wrong."  He's paying attention.

I love to see their little legs flailing spastically as they try to do jumping jacks.  They just haven't mastered the concept of arms and legs out, arms and legs in.  It's more of a ARMS OUT LEGS IN ARMS TWIRL LEG JUMP RUN ARMS LEGS IN motion. 

I even love when I'm down on the floor grunting through the ab workouts and they take my weights and look like miniature Hulk Hogans the way their little muscles strain as they attempt to do bicep curls.  Seriously, they're pretty cute. 

But one of the things I love best is that Hubby and I are setting good examples that exercise is important.  I have always struggled with my weight.  All through my childhood I was always a little overweight.  When I was in my early 20's I was over 200 pounds.  I had quit smoking and started eating.  I was miserable. Finally when I couldn't even walk up the stairs to my 2nd floor apartment without having to stop, I had had enough.  I taught myself how to eat and made myself exercise.  Eventually I got to a healthy weight.  And at 140 I'm not completely unhealthy now, just trying to get back into my clothes. 

Anyway (have I mentioned I love tangents, too?), kids struggle enough.  I don't ever want weight to be an issue with my kids.  I'll admit their diet needs some improvement, but I'm working on that too.  I have started serving EVERYONE a salad before dinner now.  That way they are so hungry they'll eat vegetables no matter what. (hee hee! my diabolic little plan is working too!)

Hubby and I may not be perfect role models, but we are getting some things right!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Budgeting For Health

"Another good thing about being poor is that when you are seventy your children will not have you declared legally insane in order to gain control of your estate."
Woody Allen

Before hubby and kids, I had no problem staying on the health train.  (Quick reference to a t-shirt I saw the other day... "I didn't say it was their fault, I said I was going to blame them.")  I belonged to a gym where I could go at my leisure any time I needed or wanted.  I could afford to buy Atkins Bars, South Beach meals, every book about getting fit that I could get my Books-A-Million book club member hands on, and cute little workout clothes which I wanted to go to the gym to show off.  I was the captain of my vessel and the wind in my sails.

5 years later enter in: mortgage payment, utility bills for an old drafty house, car payments, insurance, food for 4 people, clothes for 2 kids growing faster than dandelions on Miracle Grow, the emergencies of everyday life and the occasional date night that (albeit few and far between) can rack up some bucks.  And all this on one income.  

Hubby and I talked when I was pregnant with Baby #1.  I was working at a University with fairly good benefits and a mediocre job title making a mediocre salary.  We decided to be done with the mediocrity and tighten our belts so I could raise our son.  (We didn't know at the time that we would also be raising a daughter 13 months after our son was born but that's another story.)

There have been a few occasions when I consider that finances might be a bit easier if I worked, but then I usually feel a little tug on my trousers by a little hand that's attached to a little person asking me for a hug or for juice or to tell me that he or she just flushed some mardi gras beads down the toilet.  In any case, I know I'm exactly where I belong.

It is harder to keep on the healthy train now.  At least for me.  I have to plan my workouts again and convince myself that I don't need to taste their chicken nuggets to make sure they're cool enough.  There are things that Hubby can eat (like Ding-Dongs, Doritos, Nestle Crunch Bars, and potatoes) that I would love to eat but just can't without paying the price - so I choose not to.  I never used to have these things in my pantry so they were never an issue.  Now, to be clear, I rarely ever buy these things but somehow (ah-hem, hubby) they make their way into the house, then the pantry, and (until lately) in my thighs!!!!

And one of the most dangerous things about these little diet sabotagers is that they are SO convenient.  Just walk by the pantry, OH - look, it's open, I just need to shut this door, right after I grab a handful of animal crackers FOR NO FRICKIN' REASON!!!!!!!!! AND (while I'm at it) WHY FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HEALTHY AND NUTRITIOUS, DOES A PACKAGE OF HOT DOGS (loaded with calories and fat and all things ugly) COST NINETY NINE CENTS AND FOR A POUND OF STRAWBERRIES I HAVE TO PAY THREE DOLLARS??????????

Okay, I'm done now.  Had to get that out.  

(Breathing in and out.....)

So, the million dollar question is - why does it always come down to money?  Actually that's NOT the million dollar question just something I was thinking while I was typing this.  The REAL million dollar question is, how to stay fit and on a budget?  

What are you looking at me for?  I have no idea.  I clip coupons - LOTS of coupons.  And I love them.  BUT I need to do more.  Hopefully this little article I found will be beneficial to both of us!

Healthy Eating on Any Budget

By JD Hoopes
Preparing healthy meals for your family or yourself on a daily basis can seem like a tough task. Many of us still tend to spend too much because we are pulled in by merchandising tricks at the grocery store. Advertisements suck us in by telling us that we need their product to be healthy, so we rationalize that it is worth the cost. Even if it is a product we would have never purchased if we had not seen the ad. 

In addition, just as many of us have a hard enough time thinking of more than a handful of healthy meals to prepare. We get into the habit of making the same dish over and over again. Just remember, you are in control of your budget, your kitchen, and your meals. With just a little creativity and a heap of self-control, you can enjoy great meals at little cost.

The myth that you have to sacrifice quality food when your on a budget is just that, a myth. No more can you use the excuse that junk food costs less. Quality, healthy food can be eaten on a daily basis, even on a bare bones budget. Lets review some simple tips of healthy eating that will just about tighten you wallet for you.

First, drink more water. Cutting out the colas and the juices and the sports drinks will save you a bundle and your body won't even miss them. You'll feel better because your more hydrated and you'll most likely have more energy than even drinking sugary sports drinks.

Second, limit junk food and alcohol. Reaching for the bag of chips instead of some freshly chopped carrot sticks because it supposedly costs less is nonsense. You'll most likely go through that 2.50 bag of chips almost in one sitting. If you had reached for that fist full of carrot sticks that cost about a dollar at the grocery store. You'll not only reap the nutritional benefits, but you'll feel more satisfied on less food from all the fiber.

Third, spice up your week with a variety of foods. You will likely go back to old junk food habits if you are bored with your healthy eating. So make a point to use a variety of foods every week.

Healthy eating takes some commitment and sometimes even a change of lifestyle. Though, once good habits are formed, they are easier to keep. A simple and non-intimidating way to approach these three tips on healthy eating is to only conquer one at a time. One week, drink more water. The next week, cut back on junk food and alcohol. Week three, work on choosing a variety of foods to prepare your meals with. It doesn't take rocket science to eat healthy on a budget, just commitment and a plan.

Next, start setting aside time each week to plan your meals. You can have stir fry Tuesday or pasta Friday. Every single meal of every day of the week doesn't have to be different. A little predictability is great for a budget. Just make sure to throw in a little variety now and then.

This is also a good time to plan your shopping trips. One key tip for staying on budget and eating healthy is to purchase just the items on your grocery list. Don't let emotional advertisements or stress get the better of you at the grocery store. Be in charge of your budget and have your emotions in check. You should also eat a meal or snack before going grocery shopping. This way you are not tempted to grab a whole slew of items that taste great, but aren't on your list. Sticking to your list and knowing how much you are going to spend ahead of time is real budgeting power.

Now that you've learned to eat wisely and plan your meals ahead of time, you can have fun with it! Replace that bag of potato chips and hamburger with some savory grilled mushrooms atop an inexpensive lean cut of beef or chicken. Replace your Mac n' Cheese with bow-tie pasta, marinara sauce and low-fat mozzarella. Go back to your old, dusty, recipe books and go through them with a plan to cook something new once a week. Likely, you'll find yourself overwhelmed by all the new dishes you want to create. Most importantly, you'll discover that just by using simple shopping and healthy eating techniques, you can certainly enjoy fine living on a budget.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Accountability Time

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” - Larry Elder

Last week:  Weight:  140.  Body fat:  27.5%.  BMI:  22.6.  
This week;  Weight 140.  Body fat 29% (UM - WRONG DIRECTION)  BMI: 22.6

Goals were:
Video every day. Done.

Walking 3 miles with family at least 4 days.  Only got in 3 walks.

Log food.  Failed miserably.

No more than 3 alcoholic beverages this week.  None at all.
Get healthier recipes.  Got some.  Now need to put in Yummy Good Stuff Blog.
Lose 1.5 pounds.  Nope.  I need to get a new digital scale.  Mine stopped working so I will do that today so I can get a good reading.

Okay.  Things I am doing well:  I did get my video in every day.  That's a good thing.  Is it enough?  Apparently not.  I do feel stronger and lighter but I need to do more.  No beers or wine definitely helps with working out.

Things I'm sucking at.  Not logging my food.  I'm obviously eating way too much.  I can't keep a running total in my head anymore.  To say that I'm aggravated at myself would be a severe understatement.  To say taht I'm embarrassed and frustrated would also be and even more severe understatement. 

Logging food really does help and I haven't done it.  ARG!!!!  I have gotten back into that bad habit of just passing by the pantry and grabbing some pretzels or crackers just because.  Now I'll admit that this week was a little stressful and I was out of my routine.  But I shouldn't even try to use that as an excuse.  What I feel should have absolutely nothing to do with what I eat.

So, here are the goals for this week:

Video PLUS 20 minutes cardio
4 walks of 3 + miles
Logging food
Only 2 alcoholic beverages if any at all
Lose 2 pounds

I think the quote of the day needs to be repeated.  “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”  So, I think for logging food, I need to log all the food I plan to eat at the beginning of the day. Then no calories sneak up on me.  I plan to keep daily calories between 1100 and 1400.  

This reality check was really needed.  Now time to fix the stuff that I continue to screw up!!!   RING RING  Here's my wake up call!  This just goes to show I can't just continue to give my health and weight attention every once in a while.  I can't completely dedicate myself one day and be lazy and gluttonous the next.

To my readers, I apologize for letting us down. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Portion Control

My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four.  Unless there are three other people.  ~Orson Welles

The other night, hubby brought home some ice cream.  The full-leaded fat and sugar kind.  As I was reading the label, I thought it really didn't look that bad.  At around 130 calories and 7 grams of fat, I thought I could go ahead and indulge.  Then I saw the portion size.  One half of a cup.  Half a cup. That's all.  Just half.  Well, could half a cup really be that small?  So, I got my measuring cups out.  Half a cup is very tiny.  And, probably not even worth it.  (Even though I love ice cream.)  I remember the last time I had ice cream and didn't look at the label.  I probably had about 4 servings in one bowl!  No wonder my jeans and I are at odds.

I'm not much for measuring.  I'll admit it.  When I'm cooking, I rarely ever get out the measuring cups.  I eyeball it and then go from there.  I think that's why I like cooking more than baking.  With baking, you have to be exact.  And I, to say the least, am not an exact kind of person.

So, in order to keep my portions under control, I have had to start measuring.  The only thing I haven't had the guts to measure is peanut butter.  I love peanut butter and apples.  The portion size for peanut butter is 2 TBS.  That's all.  I pile up 2 tablespoons on my saucer ....  I just need to know how much more than that I pile on.

But, dear readers, I promise that the next time I get the peanut butter, I'll practice what I preach.

Here are some rules of thumb and helpful hints when it comes to portion sizes:


Reading food label – Making Sense of Portion Sizes Many of us tend to underestimate the amount of food we eat and tend to overestimate the recommended portion sizes for many foods.
For example, try pouring out your usual portion of pasta and measure it! Then, compare it to the label portion size. Chances are, you're eating two, three, four or more times the amount on the label.
If you are confused when reading a food label, try relating the portion size of a serving to everyday items. It is an easy way to visualize what a true portion size looks like.
  • Woman's fist or baseball—a serving of vegetables or fruit is about the size of your fist
  • A rounded handful—about one half cup cooked or raw veggies or cut fruit, a piece of fruit, or ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta – this is a good measure for a snack serving, such as chips or pretzels
  • Deck of cards—a serving of meat, fish or poultry or the palm of your hand (don't count your fingers!) – for example, one chicken breast, ¼ pound hamburger patty or a medium pork chop
  • Golf ball or large egg—one quarter cup of dried fruit or nuts
  • Tennis ball—about one half cup of ice cream
  • Computer mouse—about the size of a small baked potato
  • Compact disc—about the size of one serving of pancake or small waffle
  • Thumb tip—about one teaspoon of peanut butter
  • Six dice—a serving of cheese
  • Check book—a serving of fish (approximately 3 oz.)
  • Eyeball it! Take a look at the recommended serving sizes on the new USDA MyPyramid Food Guidance System. Get out a measuring cup or a food scale and practice measuring some of your favorite foods onto a plate, so that you can see how much (or how little!) a ½ cup or 3-ounce serving is. This will help you "eyeball" a reasonable serving!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Improving Our Literacy Rate

As I see it, every day you do one of two things: build health or produce disease in yourself. - Adelle Davis

Quick question.... Do you read food labels?  Even glance?  Or do you study them?  

The FDA made it mandatory to include nutritional info on all foods a few years back.  I have been surprised by some of my findings.  For example, did you know that Ramen Noodles have 7 grams of fat per serving and that 1 packet is 2 servings?  Did you know that a Premium Southwest Salad with Crispy Chicken has 20 grams of fat and 440 calories?  And if you use the Southwest Dressing, go ahead and add 100 calories and 6 grams of fat.  Oh, and those smoothies may be low fat, but the large has 70 grams of sugar! 

Nutritional information is available everywhere, so why don't we look at it?  Or, if you're like me, we can look at it, but think if we only have 1/2 serving 10 times a day, that doesn't count.  Well, I'm going to start getting religious about reading those labels again.  I had no idea that some of those "healthy" microwave meals have almost half your daily allowance for sodium and that American Heart Association says that even the Daily Recommended Allowance is really too much.  (We'll talk more about sodium tomorrow.)

My challenge is this:  just go in your pantry, take out your favorite goodies and see where your calories are coming from.  Some things can sneak up on you.  

The FDA a great resource for reading food labels.  Just click here and soak up the knowledge!

Goal Update

Okay, had I not missed a day last week, I would have been going on 12 days on Jillian's 30 Day Shred.  BUT, since I did miss a day last week, I have started over and now am on Day 5.  As I mentioned, my dad had to have triple bypass surgery last Wednesday.  He's doing great and I appreciate all the prayers and kind words toward his progress. 

I have since scheduled a physical for me and that will be Oct. 15.  Needless to say, I'll be sticking to the straight and narrow for the next 2 weeks, and hopefully beyond!  My dad's surgery was a huge surprise and whenever the health of a loved one seems compromised, I think it's human nature to ponder your own mortality as well. 

So, I have made some goals.  So far, I've been doing well.  I haven't logged my food like I should but I'm working on that.  I have been doing the video.  I have even tried level 2 a couple times and find myself relying on Jillian telling me to push through.  It feels so satisfying to finish!  I love that feeling of accomplishment.  And I think I have a new best friend in Anita.  I'm not, however, so fond of Natalie.  Maybe one day I'll warm up to her.

I have also begun a mission to learn more about nutrition to find out more answers to the "but WHY can't I have cheesecake for breakfast?" questions that I sometimes find myself thinking.  So far I've learned about trans fat and added sugar.  Next will come a little research on reading labels and trying to get to a more realistic view on health. 

So, thanks to all those journeying jeanward with me.  I'll be posting new measurements this Thursday.  We'll see what they say!!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sugar, Sugar

"We never repent of having eaten too little." - Thomas Jefferson

Okay, time for lesson 2.  Let's talk sugar and spice and all things nice.  I love sweetness.  In fact, I love sweetness so much that I hate ordering coffee at McDonald's because you have to stand there and tell them that, yes, I realize I'm ordering small coffee but I still would like 10 sugars and 4 creamers.  Please.

Okay.  So what's the big deal with sugar?  Just about everything has sugar, right?  If strawberries have sugar and so do fat free cookies, the choice is obvious, right?  Ten boxes of the fat free cookies to go.  But hold on there!  Not so fast!!!!!  Let's see what our friends at the Mayo Clinic have to say about added sugar.  We'll sum it up at the end.

Added sugar: Don't get sabotaged by sweeteners

Do you know how much sugar is in your diet? See why added sugar is a concern and how you can cut back.

By Mayo Clinic staff If you're like many people, you may be eating and drinking more sugar than ever because it's added to so many foods and beverages. But this added sugar may be one of the factors in the rise in obesity and other health problems.
Does that mean you can or should avoid all sugar? Not necessarily. Sugar occurs naturally in some healthy foods. But other foods and beverages, especially sweetened soft drinks, may be high in added sugar — and low in nutritional value. Added sugar does little more than add extra calories to your diet and set the stage for potential health problems.
Learn more about added sugar, including the types of added sugar, where it's most commonly found and how you can cut back on added sugar in your diet. When you know more about added sugar, you can be a savvy consumer — and maybe a healthier one, too.

Why added sugar is in so many foods

All sugar, whether natural or processed, is a type of simple carbohydrate that your body uses for energy. Sugar occurs naturally in some unprocessed foods that are staples of a healthy diet — fruits, vegetables, milk and some grains. Various forms of processed sugars and syrups also are added to foods and beverages, especially nondiet soft drinks — these are known as added sugar.
While added sugar has no nutritional value, it serves many functions in food manufacturing. Added sugar:
  • Boosts flavor
  • Gives baked goods texture and color
  • Helps preserve foods such as jams and jellies
  • Fuels fermentation, which produces alcohol and enables bread to rise
  • Serves as a bulking agent in baked goods and ice cream
  • Balances the acidity of foods containing vinegar and tomatoes
In some cases, adding a small amount of sugar may be helpful. For instance, adding a small amount of sugar to healthy breakfast cereals and reduced-fat milk products can make these healthy options more appealing to children who might otherwise avoid them.

Why added sugar can be a problem

Added sugar probably isn't harmful in small amounts. But there's no health advantage to consuming any amount of added sugar. And too much added sugar, and in some cases naturally occurring sugar, can lead to such health problems as:
  • Tooth decay. All forms of sugar promote tooth decay by allowing bacteria to grow. The more often and longer you snack on foods and beverages with either natural sugar or added sugar, the more likely you are to develop cavities, especially if you don't practice good oral hygiene.
  • Poor nutrition. If you fill up on foods laden with added sugar, you may skimp on nutritious foods, which means you could miss out on important nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Regular soda plays an especially big role. It's easy to fill up on sweetened soft drinks and skip low-fat milk and even water — giving you lots of extra sugar and calories and no nutritional value.
  • Weight gain. There's usually no single cause for being overweight or obese. But added sugar likely contributes to the problem. One reason is that added sugar helps makes food taste better, and that may encourage you to keep eating even when you don't need to or aren't actually hungry. Sugar is also very energy dense, which means a small amount of food or drink with added sugar has a large amount of calories.
  • Increased triglycerides. Some evidence suggests that eating an excessive amount of added sugar can increase triglyceride levels, boosting your risk of heart disease.

Recommendations for consuming added sugar

So how much added sugar should you eat? Unfortunately, it's not necessarily clear-cut. Health experts do agree that the calories you get from foods and drinks with added sugar are discretionary — you can have them, but it's not recommended. Discretionary calories are calories from sweets, fats and alcohol that should be included in your diet only if you have calories to spare after eating nutritious meals during the day, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean proteins.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provides recommendations on good dietary habits to promote health and reduce the risk of diseases, doesn't spell out how much added sugar you should get. But the guidelines do suggest the number of discretionary calories you can have based on your situation, such as age and physical activity level. For example, if you should consume 2,000 calories a day for a healthy diet, 267 of those calories would be discretionary calories that you could "spend" on food or drinks that contain added sugar, solid fats and alcohol. The more you have of one, the less you can have of another. For instance, you could consume all of your discretionary calories either by eating one sugary snack or by having a couple of alcoholic drinks.
The American Heart Association (AHA), however, is so concerned about health problems related to the excess consumption of added sugar that in August 2009 it issued specific recommendations. These recommendations go beyond the guidance from the USDA. The AHA recommends that no more than half of your discretionary allowance of calories come from added sugar.
In general, the AHA says that most American women should consume no more than 100 calories a day from added sugar, and that most American men should consume no more than 150 calories a day from added sugar — and that even less is better. That's about 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women and 9 for men. Your age and activity level help determine the specific amount of added sugar suitable for you. To put things into perspective, one 12-ounce can of a sweetened soft drink contains 8 teaspoons of added sugar, or about 130 calories.
Most Americans get more than 22 teaspoons a day of added sugar — or 355 calories — far exceeding both USDA guidelines and American Heart Association recommendations. 

How to reduce added sugar in your diet

If you want to reduce the added sugar in your diet, follow these tips:
  • Cut out sugary, nondiet sodas.
  • Limit candy, gum and other sweets that are high in added sugar.
  • Choose breakfast cereals carefully. Although healthy breakfast cereals can contain added sugar to make them more appealing to children, skip the non-nutritious, sugary and frosted cereals.
  • Have fresh fruit for dessert instead of cakes, cookies, pies and other sweets.
  • If you choose canned fruit, make sure it's packed in water or juice, not syrup.
  • Have your children drink more milk or water and less fruit juice and fruit drinks — and yourself, too. Even 100 percent fruit juice has a high concentration of sugar.
  • Eat fewer added-sugar processed foods, such as sweetened grains like honey-nut waffles and some microwaveable meals.
  • Go easy on the condiments — sugar is added to salad dressings and ketchup.
  • Opt for reduced-sugar varieties of syrups, jams, jellies and preserves.
  • Be aware that dairy-based desserts and processed milk products, such as ice cream and sweetened yogurt, can contain lots of added sugar.
  • Avoid blended coffee drinks with flavored syrup and sweet toppings.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation, since it contains sugar.
  • Snack on vegetables, fruit, low-fat cheese, whole-grain crackers, and low-fat, low-calorie yogurt instead of candy, pastries and cookies.

Recognizing added sugar

If you're not sure which foods and beverages contain added sugar, don't despair. First, know that among the biggest culprits behind excessive amounts of added sugar are soft drinks and sugary fruit drinks.
Ways to spot added sugar:
  • Read the front of the food package. Some, but not all packages, state whether an item is sugar-free or contains no added sugar. But be aware that some sugar-free products may contain sugar substitutes, and some of these can cause stomach or digestive upset.
  • Check the ingredient list. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. So if you see sugar listed among the first few ingredients, the product might be high in added sugar. Know that sugar goes by many different names, though — it may not be easy to spot added sugar even in the ingredient list. And natural sugars generally aren't included in the ingredient list.
  • Read the Nutrition Facts label. The label is required to list an item's total amount of sugar per serving. However, it doesn't distinguish between added sugar and naturally occurring sugar.
  • Check for grocery store nutrition rating systems. These nutrition rating systems, such as Guiding Stars and NuVal, use symbols, scores or colors to indicate how a product rates in terms of calories, fiber, fat, sodium, and sometimes sugar and other nutrients.

Different names for added sugar

Sugar goes by many different names, depending on its source and how it was made. This can make it confusing to identify added sugar, even when you read ingredient lists and food labels. One easy way: Check for ingredients ending in "ose" &mdsah; that's the chemical name for many types of sugar, such as fructose.
Here's a look at common types of sugar and added sugar:
  • Brown sugar. Granulated white sugar with added molasses for flavor and color, commonly used in baking.
  • Cane juice and cane syrup. Sugar from processed sugar cane. Further processing produces brown or white solid cane sugar.
  • Confectioners' sugar. Granulated white sugar that has been ground into a fine powder, sometimes with a small amount of cornstarch. Commonly used in icings and whipped toppings.
  • Corn sweeteners and corn syrup. Corn sugars and corn syrups made from corn and processed cornstarch.
  • Dextrose. Another name for glucose.
  • Fructose. Sugar that occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables and honey.
  • Fruit juice concentrate. A form of sugar made when water is removed from whole juice to make it more concentrated.
  • Glucose. A simple sugar that provides your body's main source of energy. Also called blood sugar because it circulates in your blood.
  • Granulated white sugar. This is table sugar, or pure crystallized sucrose, made by processing raw sugar from sugar cane or sugar beets. It's commonly used in baking or to sweeten tea or coffee.
  • High fructose corn syrup. The most common sweetener in processed foods and beverages, this is a combination of fructose and glucose made by processing corn syrup.
  • Honey. A mix of glucose, fructose and sucrose created from nectar made by bees.
  • Invert sugar. Used as a food additive to preserve freshness and prevent shrinkage, this is a mix of fructose and glucose made by processing sucrose.
  • Lactose. Sugar that occurs naturally in milk.
  • Maltose. Starch and malt broken down into simple sugars and used commonly in beer, bread and baby food.
  • Malt syrup. A grain syrup made from evaporated corn mash and sprouted barley.
  • Molasses. The thick, dark syrup that's left after sugar beets or sugar cane is processed for table sugar.
  • Sucrose. The chemical name for granulated white sugar (table sugar).
  • Syrup. Sugar comes in many forms of syrup, a thick, sweet liquid that can be made from the processing of sugar or from sugar cane, grains such as corn or rice, maple sap, and other sources.
  • White sugar. Same as granulated white sugar (table sugar)
Okay.  So there's the skinny on added sugar.  I'm seeing a pattern here.  Looks like this is the second time since we've started our schoolin' mission that we've been told to read the labels.  So, I have my assignment for tomorrow.  I'm going to research labels and how to read them and see what should send our red flags up.  But for now, let's start avoiding the added sugar.  We're all sweet enough as it is, right?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Time for Some Schoolin

It would be far easier to lose weight permanently if replacement parts weren't so handy in the refrigerator.  ~Hugh Allen

Okay, we all know we need to watch what we eat and exercise.  It's that simple. Right?  Well, how do we do that?  Why are things bad for us?  Why are things good for us??  We all know too much sodium is bad.  Why?  We all know fat is bad.  But lately we've been hearing some fat is good.  Or is it?  Who knows????

So, we are all going to start learning together what affects our bodies, how and why.  I think it'd be a lot easier to put that glazed doughnut down if we knew that it was loaded with trans fat that's bad for us because it could increase our bad cholesterol.  But what does that even mean?  We're about to find out.

For the next few days, we're going to take a crash course in basic nutrition.  I'm the kind of person who usually needs to know WHY. (And my almost 4 year old has definitely taken after me in that aspect as "why" seems to be as popular to him as "like" is to a valley girl teenager from 1985.  But I regress....)

If someone tells you not open a door because "it wouldn't be good for you", well, you may or may not open it.  Consequences seem relative.  I, in all honesty, would probably open the door out of curiosity and just deal with the consequences in my own way.  However, if someone said, "Don't open the door because there is a pack of man-eating bears on the other side that haven't been fed in a week and by the way, we rubbed the shirt you're wearing with a t-bone steak before you put it on," I'd be more likely to not only leave the door the hell alone, but also walk away from it as fast as possible.

So, today we are going to learn about trans fat.  We hear a lot about it in the news about how bad it is and that it's being banned in some states.  We see labels practically shouting "NO TRANS FAT" but then they whisper (per serving).   Let's find out about all this, shall we?

Trans fat is double trouble for your heart health

Trans fat raises your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your "good" (HDL) cholesterol. Find out more about trans fat and how to avoid it.

By Mayo Clinic staff When it comes to fat, trans fat is considered by some doctors to be the worst of them all because of its double-barreled impact on your cholesterol levels. Unlike other fats, trans fat — also called trans-fatty acids — both raises your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your "good" (HDL) cholesterol.
A high LDL cholesterol level in combination with a low HDL cholesterol level increases your risk of heart disease, the leading killer of men and women. Here's some information about trans fat and how to avoid it.

What is trans fat?

Trans fat comes from adding hydrogen to vegetable oil through a process called hydrogenation. Trans fats are more solid than oil is, making them less likely to spoil. Using trans fats in the manufacturing of foods helps foods stay fresh longer, have a longer shelf life and have a less greasy feel.

Trans fat in your food

Commercial baked goods — such as crackers, cookies and cakes — and many fried foods, such as doughnuts and french fries — may contain trans fats. Shortenings and some margarines can be high in trans fat.
Trans fat used to be more common, but in recent years food manufacturers have used it less because of concerns over the health effects of trans fat. Food manufacturers in the United States and many other countries list the trans fat content on nutrition labels.
However, you should be aware of what nutritional labels really mean when it comes to trans fat. For example, in the United States if a food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, the food label can read 0 grams trans fat. Though that's a small amount of trans fat, if you eat multiple servings of foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, you could exceed recommended limits.

Reading food labels

How do you know whether food contains trans fat? Look for the words "partially hydrogenated" vegetable oil. That's another term for trans fat. The word "shortening" also is a clue: Shortening contains some trans fat.
It sounds counterintuitive, but "fully" or "completely" hydrogenated oil doesn't contain trans fat. Unlike partially hydrogenated oil, the process used to make fully or completely hydrogenated oil doesn't result in trans-fatty acids. However, if the label says just "hydrogenated" vegetable oil, it could mean the oil contains some trans fat.
Although small amounts of trans fat occur naturally in some meat and dairy products, it's the trans fats in processed foods that seem to be more harmful. 

Trans fat and cholesterol

Doctors worry about trans fat because of its unhealthy effect on your cholesterol levels — increasing your LDL and decreasing your HDL cholesterol. There are two main types of cholesterol:
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL, or "bad," cholesterol transports cholesterol throughout your body. LDL cholesterol, when elevated, builds up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL, or "good," cholesterol picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to your liver.
A high LDL cholesterol level is a major risk factor for heart disease. If your LDL is too high, over time, it can cause atherosclerosis, a dangerous accumulation of fatty deposits on the walls of your arteries. These deposits — called plaques — can reduce blood flow through your arteries. If the arteries that supply your heart with blood (coronary arteries) are affected, you may have chest pain and other symptoms of coronary artery disease.
If plaques tear or rupture, a blood clot may form — blocking the flow of blood or breaking free and plugging an artery downstream. If blood flow to part of your heart stops, you'll have a heart attack. If blood flow to part of your brain stops, a stroke occurs.

Other effects of trans fat

Doctors are most concerned about the effect of trans fat on cholesterol. However, trans fat has also been shown to have some other harmful effects:
  • Increases triglycerides. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. A high triglyceride level may contribute to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) or thickening of the artery walls — which increases the risk of stroke, diabetes, heart attack and heart disease.
  • Increases Lp(a) lipoprotein. Lp(a) is a type of LDL cholesterol found in varying levels in your blood, depending on your genetic makeup. It's unclear how high levels of Lp(a) — independent of other cholesterol levels — increase your risk of heart disease. More research is needed.
  • Causes more inflammation. Trans fat may increase inflammation, which is a process by which your body responds to injury. It's thought that inflammation plays a key role in the formation of fatty blockages in heart blood vessels. Trans fat appears to damage the cells lining blood vessels, leading to inflammation.

Avoiding trans fat

The good news is trans fat is showing up less in food, especially food on grocery store shelves. If you eat out a lot, however, be aware that some restaurants continue to use trans fat. Trans fat is sometimes a part of the oil restaurants use to fry food. A large serving of french fries at some restaurants can contain 5 grams or more of trans fat.
Some restaurants put nutritional information on their menus, but most aren't required to list trans fat content. Some cities, such as New York City, have banned restaurants from using trans fat.
How much trans fat you can safely consume is debatable. However, there's no question you should limit trans fat, according to the Food and Drug Administration and the American Heart Association (AHA).
In the United States, food nutrition labels don't list a Percent Daily Value for trans fat because it's unknown what an appropriate level of trans fat is, other than it should be low. The AHA recommends that no more than 1 percent of your total daily calories be trans fat. If you consume 2,000 calories a day, that works out to 2 grams of trans fat or less, or about 20 calories.

What should you eat?

Don't think a trans fat-free food is automatically good for you. Food manufacturers have begun substituting other ingredients for trans fat. However, some of these ingredients, such as tropical oils — coconut, palm kernel and palm oils — contain a lot of saturated fat. Saturated fat raises your LDL cholesterol. A healthy diet includes some fat, but there's a limit.
In a healthy diet, 25 to 35 percent of your total daily calories can come from fat — but saturated fat should account for less than 10 percent of your total daily calories. Aim for consuming less than 7 percent of your fat calories from saturated fat if you have high levels of LDL cholesterol.
Monounsaturated fat — found in olive, peanut and canola oils — is a healthier option than is saturated fat. Nuts, fish and other foods containing unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids are other good choices of foods with monounsaturated fats.

Know you know.  And knowing is half the battle.  (My apologies to GI Joe.  Had to do it.)  But seriously, the more we do know about why we're doing things the better we are.

I love doing research - especially on nutrition.  If you have any questions as we go through our nutrition series, I'd love to see what I can find out.  Now, I am not a professional anything, but I do research through credible and multiple sources so we can all learn together!