Why should I track my food and water intake and daily exercise?

The explosion of apps, web sites, wristbands and even utensils (well, it will at least tell you when you’re eating too fast) that will help you track your health and fitness each day can be overwhelming! Even the types of things you can track these days are out of control- it’s been labeled the ‘quantified self’. What a great phrase- it makes me think of Quantum LeapImage (that I used to love when I was in college!).

Anyway, the first thing you should really do before you dive in is ask yourself what problem you are trying to solve by tracking. For me, I am constantly thinking about the calories I have consumed (mainly because I have a serious sweet tooth and I seem to forget over the course of the day how much sugar I’ve already had) and my water intake (because water is life, and you should make it a habit to drink it all day long). And if you find a tool that also allows you to log your daily exercise and mood, you can start to identify patterns that may be associated with how you are treating your body.

Most people consume way more calories than their body actually needs. I’m not going to throw out a daily caloric target, because everyone is different and needs a different number of calories, but most of us eat way more than we need. Tracking your daily food intake can provide perspective on this and help you figure out if you are one of those people (I know I am!). Once you have a sense for this, it might you think twice about those cookies after dinner (because you had a tall Mocha from Bibgy for breakfast).

That said, my main challenge when it comes to health and fitness tracking is twofold:

  1. I’m lazy and seem to fall off the tracking wagon.
  2. When I fall off the food wagon, I feel it’s not worth tracking anymore because I’ve ‘failed’ for the day.

This can be a slow progression and a tool that helps you over time change the way you eat, helps you drink more water and exercise just a little bit more each day. It can only help you if you are honest about those activities (I think I’m lecturing myself here more than anyone elseJ).

So find the tool that is right for you (there are so many options out there I won’t try to compare them in this post) and start living the life that makes you feel good!

Happy tracking!

Stacey

Paleo? Vegan? Kangatarian?

I’ll start off by saying that it seems like most of my ideas (for blog posts) come from conversations I have with friends. This past weekend one of my good friends gave me a Paleo chocolate chip cookie she had made (sorry, I don’t have the recipe). It made me realize I don’t know much about this lifestyle (I will call it a lifestyle because the more I think about it, the more I don’t like the idea of calling something a diet due to its short-term implications).

Anyway, for this post, I thought I would provide a quick overview of some popular food lifestyle options.

I can’t say I know which one is the best, but I would consider myself to be a flexitarian with aspirations to be a vegetarian or vegan (I don’t have that kind of willpower just yet). The more I read about vegetarianism, the more I like it but I always seem to succumb to a limited vegetarian menu at a restaurant or just a darn good-looking plate of chicken wings.

Only you can say which one is right for you. The ultimate goal is to be as happy and healthy as one can be and eating in a way that makes sense for you is at the core of being able to do that. And I will continue to strive to be a vegetarian.

Bone appetite!

~Stacey Image

Is Naked Juice good for me?

Naked JuiceI had a friend ask the other day if I thought Naked Juice was a good way to get fruits, vitamins and minerals. My initial thought was yes. I had tried it before, briefly read the list of ingredients and decided it was a good option in a pinch. And with flavors like Green Machine, Berry Blast, Acai Machine and Protein Zone Double Berry, how could you go wrong?

After thinking about it a bit more, I decided to do some research. Like many packaged products out on the market that claim to be all natural with a myriad of health benefits, if it seems too good to be true it probably is.

I’m sure there are other reasons why Naked Juice isn’t as good as those creative marketers would have you believe (and similar products claiming health benefits) but these are the two key points that stood out to me.

First, while it all depends on the person, the American Heart Association recommends men consume no more than 37.5 grams (9 teaspoons) of sugar each day and women consume no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) of each day. Naked Juice has 50 grams of sugar (Green Machine) for each 15.2 oz. bottle which is the smallest size the company offers. If you drink one bottle, both men and women will be well over the daily recommended intake. While these sugars are coming from fruits, your body still treats it the same as if those sugars were coming from high fructose corn syrup. The result is that 30% of the calories from that sugar are stored as fat. All calories are not created equal!

The second big point is that anything packaged must be put through some kind of process to preserve it before it’s consumed. For Naked Juice, it must be pasteurized. While it’s hard to put an exact figure on it, this process will dramatically affect the nutritional value.

My opinion is that Naked Juice is a great alternative to other things you could drink or eat when options are limited, but I wouldn’t recommend you drink it every day.

While it’s not quite as convenient, try whipping up your own Mean Green Juice with this recipe from @JoetheJuicer.

~Stacey

I am the proud, new owner of a juicer!

I recently watched the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and was totally inspired! Joe is a lovely man from down under (Australia) who has a problem. He is seriously overweight and sick. For 10+ years, Joe has been taking enough pills every day to kill a horse (sorry, I don’t like that phrase ejuicerither) and is still suffering from multiple ailments including a debilitating autoimmune disorder. Joe makes a decision to embark on a 60-day juice fast while driving across the United States. That’s right- for 2 months he consumes nothing but juice packed with vitamins and minerals to heal is body. The transformation that occurs in just 60 short days is nothing short of a miracle. I highly encourage you to watch it!

This transformation inspired me to buy my own juicer. I hate to disappoint you, but this blog post is not about sharing my own amazing story about how I lost a certain amount of weight or how I now sleep just 3 hours a night because of all my new-found energy. My husband and I are easing into the juicing lifestyle. We’ve experimented with different recipes and have figured out how to assemble and clean the darn thing (there are lots of pieces and parts to a juicer). But I did want to share my new-found knowledge regarding the benefits of juicing. Before watching this documentary, I had asked the question why people don’t just eat vegetables. Why juice?

According to Living Greens, 95% of the vitamins and enzymes our bodies need are found in the juice of raw fruits and vegetables. And by extracting the juice, a person can consume a highly concentrated glass of nutrients that would otherwise require them to consume massive amounts of food. When you drink juice, highly concentrated vitamins, minerals and enzymes rapidly enter the bloodstream absorbing all of the nutritional benefits of the fruits and vegetables and giving your digestive organs a much-needed rest.

Now, I want to make sure both sides of the discussion are represented. I read a good article from the Mayo Clinic that expressed concern over not consuming the pulp which is high in fiber, and questioned whether or not the nutrients are absorbed faster.  I’m not a nutritionist, but I think the results of the documentary are hard to argue with.

So, with that in mind, I look forward to experimenting with recipes and the benefits juicing offers.

I will leave you with the recipe for Mean Green Juice.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 1-2

Serving Size: 16oz. (500 mls)

Ingredients

  •  1 cucumber
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 2 apples
  • 6-8 leaves kale
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp ginger

Directions

  1. Wash all produce well
  2. Peel the lemon, optional
  3. Juice
  4. Pour over ice
  5. Enjoy!

 

Happy Juicing!

~Stacey

 

Dances with Dirt- Extreme Trail Relay

dances_with_DirtAfter two failed attempts at participating in Dances with Dirt in Hell, MI I finally had the pleasure this past weekend of running the extreme trail relay with a group of fabulous women. I was signed up the two previous years, but had to find a replacement each year for various reasons. Well it was finally my year!

This was unlike any event I have ever participated in including the ToughMudder and Merrell Down and Dirty. First of all, you can’t just sign a team up. Due to its popularity, we had to volunteer to help out with another event before we could enter. So my team and I worked the aid station at the Woodstock Festival of Races almost a year before we could participate in Dances with Dirt.

So on to the races! I crawled out of bed at 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning so my team and I could get to the start line by 7:30 a.m. It looked like a Jimmy Buffett tailgate for runners. Many teams had decorated their cars and had dressed up in costume for the event. There was a prize for the best ‘theme’ which was a highly-coveted free entry for Dances with Dirt 2014. The winning team was called the PornStars. They wore little more than gold speedos, gold running shoes and a star ‘hat’. And they started the day off with the breakfast of champions- ice cold beers!

Throughout the day, each team of 5 divided up the 15 legs of the 100k relay and ran through trails, swamp, corn fields and even a cow pond- not kidding. By the end of the day, each of us had run an average of 13 miles.

One of the things I love best about the running community is that no matter how good the runners are, and I can tell you there were some amazing runners out there, they are incredibly supportive. I lost count of the number of people that blew past me on the trail that told me what a good job I was doing without a hint of sarcasm in their voices. :)

By the time my team finished up the relay at 5:30, I was exhausted but had a great time. We greeted each runner as they finished up the day with a well-deserved beer and then headed over to the Bell’s after party.

I struggled to walk for the next two days, but can’t wait to do it again next year!

Have you participated in any fun events around the state?

~Stacey

Happy Trails- Livingston County

Happy Fall!

I have to say this is my absolute favorite time of the year. Summer is great and all, but I Michigan Hiking Trails can’t get enough of the apple orchards, football Sundays (so I can take a nap during the games), and jeans and sweatshirt weather. One of my other favorite things to do is go for a trail run through some of the great parks Michigan (and more specifically Livingston County) has to offer so I can see really experience the changing fall colors and get back to nature. There is something incredibly calming about being out in the woods, and I always keep my eyes peeled for wildlife.

With that in mind, I wanted to list out some of my favorite places to go. I encourage you to take some time out of your busy schedule and go enjoy what the outdoors has to offer! I can almost guarantee you will feel invigorated and refreshed when you are done ready to tackle the rest of your day after you’ve had a chance to clear your mind in the crisp, fall air.

And if you aren’t in Livingston County, I would encourage you to contact your local park service for a list of trails in your area. They should also be able to tell you what the trail is used for- hiking, mountain biking, pets allowed, etc.

Brighton Recreation Area- This has to be my favorite park in the surrounding area. It has hiking and biking trails that range in distance from two miles all the way up to nine miles. There are beautiful ponds along each trail and you’re likely to see some good wild life. I have even seen owls out there on more than one occasion.

Kensington Metro Park- So while the main attraction is the 8.5 mile paved trail around the lake, you can find beautiful nature trails (running is not allowed on the nature trails though) with amazing wildlife. And if you decide to make the entire trek around the lake, you will see cranes, swans, geese, squirrels and maybe even some deer.

Island Lake Recreation Area – This park has two different hiking/ mountain bike trails you can choose from- six and nine mile distances. On a busy day, you’ll want to move aside for mountain bikers coming up behind you, but it’s well worth the traffic you might encounter.

Howell Nature Center – I am really lucky in that this trail system is located a mile from my house. While the trail system is not very extensive, it makes for a great hike through the woods and you are almost guaranteed to see deer. As you meander through the trails, you’ll come across different obstacles in the woods (you will need to contact the nature center if you are interested in experiencing any of them) such as a climbing wall, zip line and ropes course.

Pinckney Recreation Area- If you are looking for a butt-kicking trail run, this is for you! For those of you who have ever run or mountain biked the Potawatomi Trail in Pinckney, you know exactly what I’m talking about! On any given weekend you can find different races being hosted there such as Dances with Dirt (which I will be running in next weekend-YIKES!), the Woodstock running festival and the half and full marathon weekend. With all of that going on, you know it has to be good!

So find a trail near you and get back to nature. It’s free (sometimes a park pass may be required), pet and child friendly and you’ll feel oh-so good when you are done.

I hope that gives you a few ideas and I would love to hear about any places where you find outdoor adventure regardless of location in the comments below.

Happy trails!

~Stacey

 

 

 

Diet vs. Exercise?

Diet vs. ExerciseHave you ever wondered whether diet or exercise would give you better ‘results’ if you were to only choose one? Well first of all, I am a firm believer that you must strike a balance of both to feel good and realize overall health, but it also depends on  what you are trying to achieve.

I can tell you that for a long time I exercised to eat, or I had this idea in my head that I could eat whatever I wanted as long as I got in a good, strong workout for that day. Food was my reward for my effort. The only problem with this approach was that I never really got the results I was looking for in terms of fitness. If you are trying to lose weight, and again I believe you must watch what you eat as well as incorporate exercise, it’s easier to restrict calories than it is to work out to burn off all those unwanted calories.  I have now changed my thinking about what will most help me achieve my fitness goals. But again, this only touches on one aspect of what people may be trying to achieve when it comes to diet and exercise. Let’s talk more specifically what you might be trying to accomplish and then determine if diet or exercise will have a bigger influence on that goal.

Lose Weight- DIET

“It’s much easier to cut 500 calories than to spend an hour in the gym burning 500 calories every day,” says Timothy Church, M.D., Ph.D., director of preventive medicine research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University. I think that sums it up pretty well!

Get Toned-EXERCISE

Cutting calories will certainly help you shed pounds, but it won’t help you tighten up those muscles. For that you should consider adding light weight exercises, yoga, Pilates, etc. But remember, extra layers of uhum…skin will conceal that sexy six pack if you still have weight to lose.

Boost Energy/ Improve Mood- EXERCISE

Exercise causes the brain to pour out invigorating neurotransmitters like dopamine (responsible for alertness and energy) and norepinephrine (responsible for attention, motivation, pleasure and reward). A deficiency of these chemicals can cause anxiety, irritability and a loss of motivation.

Prevent Cancer- DIET and EXERCISE

Eating a mostly plant-based diet and exercising regularly remain the gold standard for warding off cancer. Keep in mind: Studies have found the more consistently you work out, the greater the protection.

Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease- DIET

According to the Mayo Clinic, if you’re worried about heart disease, eating one to two servings of fish a week could reduce your risk of dying of a heart attack by a third or more. Fatty fish, such as salmon, herring and to a lesser extent tuna, contain the most omega-3 fatty acids and therefore the most benefit, but many types of seafood contain small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Sorry Mr. Salmon.

Prevent Diabetes- EXERCISE

Achieving a healthy weight through diet and exercise is the strongest defense against the disease, but physical activity has a slight edge. Active muscles gobble up glucose from the blood for fuel, which helps keep blood-sugar levels stable. The American Diabetes Association reported that 25.8 million children and adults in the United States—8.3% of the population—have diabetes (Data from the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet released January 26, 2011).

I struggle just as much as the next person to eat right and squeeze in a workout each day. The best any of us can do is to keep these things in mind and keep finding small ways to work them in.  Over time they will become a larger parts of our lives.

~Stacey

“An Apple a Day” (It’s Apple Orchard Season)…Get Ready for Fall!

It’s hard to believe summer is almost over as we head into the Labor Day weekend. I even saw the first signs of fall this morning driving to work in the changing leaves on a road near my house. I have to admit fall is my favorite season of them all. I love lazy football Sundays (GO Steelers!), college football tailgates (GO MSU-GO GREEN-GO WHITE), jeans and sweatshirts, the Michigan fall colors (#PureMichigan), and the cool, crisp air. One of the other fantastic experiences of fall is visiting the apple orchards around the state.

If you live in Livingston County, I would encourage you to visit the family-owned and operated Markillie Apple Orchard on North Latson Road in Howell one of these upcoming weekends.  They have a great variety of apples for eating and baking, a friendly and knowledgeable staff that can tell you all about the apples,  hot cider and doughnuts, fresh baked goods, other Michigan-made products, and even an outdoor playground for the kids.

Now that I’ve given a plug to my favorite orchard in Michigan, I’d like to talk about the heart of the orchard which is obviously the apples themselves. I have always loved apples and could eat several of them a day. This got me thinking about all the health benefits of apples and that cliché phrase, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” So here are 10 reasons (and there are many more) you should eat more apples this fall and all year round.Markillie Apple Orchard

  1. Apples are loaded with antioxidants, especially Granny Smith and Red Delicious varieties. Antioxidants are disease-fighting compounds. Scientists believe these compounds help prevent and repair oxidation damage that happens during normal cell activity.
  2. Apples are also full of a fiber called pectin—a medium-sized apple contains about 4 grams of fiber. Pectin is classed as a soluble and fermentable fiber, a combination that gives it a huge list of health benefits.
  3. Get whiter, healthier teeth. Biting and chewing an apple stimulates the production of saliva in your mouth, reducing tooth decay by lowering the levels of bacteria.
  4. The soluble fiber found in apples can help reduce cholesterol levels by binding with fats in the intestine.
  5. Consuming apples (which have a low caloric density) helps manage your weight because the high fiber content will fill you up saving you from eating other foods that may be high in salt, sugar and fat.
  6. Apples can even build your workout endurance. They deliver an antioxidant called quercetin, which makes oxygen more available to the lungs.
  7. An apple has only 50-80 calories and has no fat or sodium.
  8. They can help prevent all sorts of cancers. Researchers at Cornell University have identified several compounds—triterpenoids—in apple peels that have potent anti-growth activities against cancer cells in the liver, colon and breast.
  9. They are a sweet substitute for a sugary snack and their ‘crunchiness’ makes them fun to eat and/ or annoy the person sitting next to you :)
  10. And the best reason to eat an apple is…they help keep the doctor away!

Do you have a favorite apple orchard (in Michigan)? I’d love to hear suggestions!

Happy (almost) Fall!

~Stacey

Are you a business traveler who’s trying to stay healthy?

If you’re like many business travelers, morning is likely the only time of day you can squeeze in some exercise. I know, I know…its tough dragging yourself out of bed at 5:30 a.m. after the previous night’s dinner with the seemingly bottomless glass of Cabernet. However I guarantee you will be rewarded many times over throughout the day if you make the sacrifice and get moving before that first meeting.
Now the big dilemma: Should you hit the (overcrowded) hotel gym treadmill or get outside for some fresh air, and maybe even do some sightseeing along the way?
My advice is to ask the front desk if there are any established running routes near the hotel. I’ve stayed at hotels where they provide business card size running maps, so you just never know. You may find you’re just around the corner from Buckingham Palace, the Brandenburg Gate or Pike Place Fish Market where you can see the daily catch coming in from the fishing boats.
Now it may require a bit more planning when packing your suitcase to include clothes suitable for running outdoors (especially if it’s cold outside), but it’s well worth ditching that extra pair of dress shoes to make room.
My recent business travels took me to Tokyo, Japan. I discovered my hotel was just a half mile from The Imperial Palace where the Emperor of Japan lives. A three mile paved path goes all the way around the palace which is surrounded by a water-filled moat and tree-covered grounds. It made for a scenic morning jog that seems to be popular at all hours of the day. And if you do find yourself in Japan, remember to run on the left!

Healthy Business Travel
If you decide to venture out on foot, pay attention to street names, landmarks, etc so you can get yourself back! I’ll be the first to admit I have a terrible sense of direction, and have in fact gotten lost on a morning run…in a foreign country where I did not speak the language. It made asking for directions very challenging!
Have you found a good exercise route on any of your travels? It would be great to have you share by commenting on this blog!

Safe and healthy travels!

Stacey

The Benefits of a Morning Workout

Hi there and welcome to my first blog post! I have been thinking about starting a healthy living blog now for a long time for a few reasons. I enjoy writing, I love exploring new ways to live a richer, healthier life and I want to share those ideas with others.
It seems I always come up Morning Workoutwith topic ideas while I am running, so I finally decided this morning on my jog that today needed to be the day I stop procrastinating and create my first post. Carpe diem!

That said, let’s move on to the heart of this post.

Throughout my life, I have enjoyed and been motivated to be active in some way at least every other day. It improves my mood, affects the way I eat and I just feel better about myself in general when I am active.

The recent birth of my son (well, I guess it isn’t all that recent now- he’s almost 6 months old) has really limited the times of day when I am able to exercise. Now, as I said, I have been consistent my entire life about being active, however that has never before included working out first thing in the morning. Well I have now found that as a full-time working mom, before work is really one of the only times I know I can fit in a workout. Occasionally I can squeeze this in on my lunch hour, but last minute lunch meetings pop up all time or an hour just isn’t enough time to get in a really good workout AND avoid showing up to a 1 o’clock meeting looking like a drenched rat (was that too much information?).

Anyway, I have been forcing myself out of bed before work the past few weeks (at 5:15 a.m.-OUCH) and I can tell you that working out first thing in the morning has made such a difference in so many ways that working out later in the day can’t compete with.
Here are a few ways it has changed my life in more ways than just getting my workout out of the way:

1. I find myself making healthier food choices throughout the day. According to this article from Doctors Health Press, it seems to have to do with changes in the working structure of the brain influenced by exercise. This influence has the ability to suppress the desire to overeat or eat unhealthy foods. Excellent!

2. I’m in a better mood. Apparently it has to do with the endorphins your body generates as a result of anaerobic exercise. For some people, the natural high they get from exercise can last up to several hours post-workout. What a great way to start your day!

3. I drink less alcohol. I certainly like to enjoy a glass of wine or two to unwind after a long work day, but even one glass makes it nearly impossible for me to get out of bed the next morning for a jog. So, knowing I have to drag myself out of bed at 5:15 a.m. really discourages me from drinking any alcohol.

4. I get more sleep. Let’s face it, it’s tough turning that alarm off knowing you have to put your sneakers on and head outside to exercise. For me this is much more tolerable when I am well-rested. So, I find I now get more sleep than I used to and I really don’t feel like I’m sacrificing anything more than some reality show on television. Sorry if you like reality shows…I’ll admit I have some guilty (reality show) pleasures too.

5. It’s more relaxing and enjoyable. I seem to genuinely enjoy the process more first thing in the morning before I am stressed about something that happened either at work or in my personal life.

6. I don’t stress about when I’ll be able to fit it in the rest of the day. I used to obsess about when I would be able to squeeze in my workout. Will I have time on my lunch hour? Can I sneak out of work 15 minutes early? Can I go after dinner? I love the satisfaction of knowing that one of my highest priorities, exercising and taking care of myself, is already done for the day.

7. I get more done! After I come in from my morning run I always seem to get little things done around the house that I then also don’t have to worry about the rest of the day.

8. It’s peaceful. I love getting out there before all the hustle and bustle starts for the day. There’s almost no traffic, there are very few people out walking or running yet, and I get to see the morning mist rise from the lake near my house.
I hope you find some inspiration in this post to get your booty up tomorrow morning and lace up those tennies!

Thanks for reading!

Stacey