The Novice Foodie

Just eating real foods, lifting heavy things and learning about it along the way

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REBLOG: “Just give me some truth”

There are hundreds of niche health and fitness blogs, websites, and books out there spouting nutritional and exercise advice; some with the factual basis to back their claims but without the popularity to reach a wider audience, and many others with little to no credentials or with an ulterior motive of making money. At the same time, established mainstream publications post content from trusted sources like doctors but without solid backing of their claims.

So for someone looking for guidance on how or what or when to eat, it can be excessively frustrating to find both a reliable source and reliable information. There are a lot of myths that have been repeated so many times that they have fooled even the most careful consumer (i.e. the egg debate). So when I see a myth-busting article based off of findings from a scientific study like this come along in the New York Times, I as both a health-conscious person and a journalist get excited. Finally making its way into the mainstream is something with real research behind its dietary claims, even and most especially ones that have been generally regarded as good advice (such as the benefits of eating breakfast.)

But then you run into this problem: restricted information access. This could be in the form of paywalls, omissions or study abstracts available to but not written for the everyday reader and consumer. In this case, The New England Journal of Medicine and the specific content relevant to readers of this article is only available to subscribers. Plenty of publications don’t give their content away for free online, and understandably so, but the point is that the information remains available only to that target audience. So scientists, doctors and scholars may get that information, but the average person who needs it (arguably more so than those already invested in the material) does not.

It’s a personal interest of mine to actively seek out nutritional information from those small, under-the-radar publications, but not everyone has the time, energy or interest to do so. Many of those publications/organizations/websites have great information, but are either largely unknown (I am still discovering new ones daily) or exclude segments of the population because they don’t identify with weightlifters or vegans (to name a few). Convenience will win every time when it comes to food. That’s why I believe it’s so important to make that elusive, factual information convenient for the everyday consumer. In time, I think these tidbits of truth will make their way into the mainstream media.  But for now, I think the most important thing a person can do is be a critical reader and see where your information is coming from. Evaluate the source of the material and check who is paying for the study before you make any drastic conclusions.

And, take everything in stride. Only you will know what works for you. Everyone has different dietary needs based on medical conditions, daily activities, allergies, religion, moral beliefs and simple likes and dislikes. I’ve quoted him before and I’ll quote him again because so much of what The Institute for the Psychology of Eating is about aligns with what I believe in:

“There’s no “one size fits all” in the diet business…. every nutritional system or expert has at least one nugget of wisdom to offer us. In other words, what’s good for the Okinawans, the French, the Mediterraneans, the Hunzas, the Paleolithics, or the bikini-clad inhabitants of South Beach isn’t necessarily what’s good for us. Just take the nugget of truth that works for you, and that works for the people you love and serve.” – Marc David


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Adventures in Paleo

About a month ago, I completed the 9-week Lurong Living Paleo Challenge. What is Paleo, you ask? It is most simply this: eat real food. More specifically, I think it is most concisely explained in this pyramid.paleo food pyramid

For me, the most challenging thing about going Paleo was that it banned pretty much everything that is convenient. And I’m not just talking about takeout or frozen dinners– something as simple as bread for my egg and sausage breakfast sandwich I typically ate on the way to work every morning. And if I ate out, things got pretty complicated, deciphering menus and finding substitutions. But overall, I simply felt better. I did notice at first that I had a little less energy when I went to workout, likely due to my body adjusting to the new diet. By the end of the challenge, it was no longer an issue.

9 weeks later,  I went back to eating normally and fulfilled all my cravings. And I can honestly say it wasn’t worth it. I thought I could use what I’d learned and just be a little more liberal with my food choices– not worrying about the specifics, using ketchup or Italian dressing once in awhile, eating green beans and other things that one would consider healthy but don’t meet the Paleo criteria. But the truth was I overindulged, and I definitely felt the effects of that.

Through this challenge, I discovered I need rules and structure to be able to stick to a diet. But I also need to let myself cheat once in awhile, or I’ll binge later. For the new year, I’m resolving to get back to the primal life. As the saying goes, my goal is to be 100% paleo, 80% of the time.

Other things I learned from going Paleo:

1. To eat healthy, you MUST cook.

I spent tons of time online scouring for Paleo recipes. I highly recommend Pinterest as a source. In fact, all of the recipes I’ve tried can be found on my board “pinned there, done that” with ratings. It also doubles as my own virtual recipe book. #awesome. (See more Paleo recipes on my “Paleo things” board)

2. You also should plan your meals.

Get that convenience factor back by spending Sunday night preparing meals for the week. When you buy fruit at the grocery store, wash it and divide it into little Ziploc baggies as soon as you get home. It will make it that much easier to throw in the lunch bag.

3. There is a healthier substitute for just about everything you crave.

Mashed potatoes? Try mashed cauliflower. Pasta? try spaghetti squash. French Fries? Try cut up zucchini or turnips “breaded”  with almond meal. spaghetti squash

4. Less is more, always.

I’ve counted calories, I’ve detoxed, I’ve done Weight Watchers, I’ve lived with two vegetarian roommates and one gluten-intolerant roommate. I’d like to think I’ve been exposed to a few diets. And the one thing I’ve noticed that they ALL have in common– real food is always the best choice. If you’re gonna eat butter, eat butter, not margarine or some other imitation product made in a lab. The less ingredients, the better. And if there’s no ingredient list, that’s the best (i.e, fruits and vegetables.) And it’s the idea behind almost every diet plan out there. (Fruits and vegetables are zero points on WW, for example.) It just makes sense.

5. Lastly, and most importantly, bacon makes everything better. That is all.

Here’s some more of my creations and experiments. I began making up my own recipes and having a lot of fun making cooking a hobby!

And some favorite Paleo products for my sweet tooth

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Couldn’t be happier to get back on track in the new year!

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“Spynga,” an all-around exercise combination

In my daily exercise routines, I typically aim to combine cardio with strength training. My roommate and I will complete a strength-training type group fitness class like Pilates and head over to the ellipticals to finish out our workouts. Now, it seems as if this combination of fitness class + cardio has become a national trend.

In a unique combination, a Canadian-born fitness trend combines Spinning and yoga, or Spynga.

The workout begins with a Spinning class, and then transitions into a Yoga class to finish out the workout.

It seems to me that it would be quite a complicated transition.

One time before a yoga class, I used the elliptical just beforehand. My muscles were so tight and shook with every position we were told to hold. I can’t imagine coming straight off of a Spinning bike and onto a yoga mat.

Although, I would bet that it would be a great cool down for mind and body. Muscles get a great stretch and your mind can relax and de-stress. It seems like a smart combination of exercises!

In an article from the National Post, one Spynga instructor says:

“It really is a yin-yang approach to fitness. You’ve got the cardio of the cycling and then you get off the bike and find that same intention and mindfulness for yoga. You release toxins, de-stress and find that sense of balance.”

Read about a typical Spynga experience here

A fitness studio in Cleveland Heights, OH (Buddahful Spin) offers Spynga classes, while it originated in Canada. I wonder how far the trend will extend?

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What everyone should know about exercise

The extent of common knowledge and what people actually know often surprises me.

I guess techniques and types of exercises have been drilled into my head for so long that it might seem like common knowledge, and I assumed everyone knew what I consider to be the basics of exercise. But, as I recently learned, that is not quite the case. Not that I consider myself an expert by any means, but I want to share what I do know to as many people as I can.

Here are a few things I think everyone should know about exercise:

  • Using a stability ball in your abdominal workout helps to alleviate lower-back pain and target your core muscles. As I’ve mentioned before, any time you add balance to an exercise it is intensifies that exercise by engaging your core.
  • Any time you do ab work, you should complement it with a lower-back exercise. Just like when you work on your triceps, you should do the bicep machine as well to balance your workout and avoid straining your muscles. (These machines are usually located nearby in gyms for this reason.)
  • Cardio/Aerobic routines should last about 30 minutes to have an effect. Whether you run, walk, elliptical, dance, swim or climb, any activity that gets your heart-rate up will speed up metabolism and help you lose weight. It also improves your overall health by working your cardio-vascular system and strengthening your heart, lungs and increasing bone density. Most recommend at least 3 days of cardio (any activity where heart rate is elevated) for at least 30 minutes a week for a healthy lifestyle. (The American College of Sports Medicine recommends anywhere from 3-5 days of 30-60 minutes worth)
  • Alternate exercises from upper body to lower body during your workout. Switching from one area of the body to another is considered to be more effective than spending one day on all arms and one day on all legs. This is because going from an arm exercise to a leg exercise increases blood flow from one area of the body to the other.
  • Warm up with cardio before strength training to prepare your muscles for a work out. A New York Times Article offers some suggestions:
  • “Most experts advise starting your warm-up jog at about 40 percent of your maximum heart rate (a very easy pace) and progressing to about 60 percent. The aerobic warm-up should take only 5 to 10 minutes, with a 5-minute recovery. (Sprinters require longer warm-ups, because the loads exerted on their muscles are so extreme.)”
  • STRETCH. Do so after a workout to increase flexibility, improve range of motion in your joints to prevent injury, and improve circulation. (The above article also mentions something about dynamic stretching, something I have not heard phrased this way but will look into!)
  • Don’t focus solely on target areas. Full body workouts and exercises are more important than working only one area of the body. Many exercises have secondary benefits to other muscles of the body and are more effective for weight loss and health than singling out one muscle. You should aim to strengthen your whole body, not just your “problem area.”

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Reebok EasyTone

my well-worn favorite tennis shoes!

A shout out to my new favorite tennis shoe: The Reebok EasyTone.

I first heard the idea of such a shoe when Sketchers “Shape Ups” were advertised. I thought it sounded like a great idea, but I didn’t want the world to know I was wearing them… their design wasn’t exactly subtle.

So, I will admit, the commercial for Reebok convinced me. Props to their ad department, they target their audience very well. But most of all, they satisfied my needs while maintaining the look of a normal tennis shoe.

EasyTones have “balance pods” built in to the bottom of the shoe. Reebok’s site claims that the design activates muscles in the Gluteus Maximus 28 percent more than a regular tennis shoe, as well as the Hamstrings and Calves an additional 11 percent.

After wearing them for a few months now, I haven’t seen any incredible results, but I definitely feel my muscles engage more while walking, especially up staircases and hills, of which Ohio University has plenty.

The only drawback to the Easytones are an occasional foot numbness after prolonged wear. I am not sure about the cause of this, but I would guess it is a design flaw somewhere in the toe of the shoe.

I also use my Easytones to work out on the elliptical and jog, which is not exactly recommended by Reebok, but definitely intensifies my workout.

When my schedule doesn’t allow a work out or a work out that is long enough, my EasyTones help to alleviate my guilt just a smidgen.

I decided today that it is almost always a good idea to wear my EasyTones!

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Group Fitness

“You don’t know what you got ’till it’s gone”: a truly accurate idea summed up by Joni Mitchell in her frequently covered song “Big Yellow Taxi,” and precisely how I feel about the group fitness classes offered at Ohio University’s Ping Recreation Center. Not because they are no longer offered, but because my schedule no longer allows me to attend them!

For much of my sophomore year, I have gotten my exercise through sports as a member of the OU Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Team as well as the OU Swim Club. This quarter, however, I focused solely on swimming and exercising on my own. In absence of the direction provided from a team sport which practiced every day, I quickly missed being told what to do.

It is always easier to reach your potential when you have work-out partners or a “coach” of sorts, even for the most motivated of people.
So, what could be better than fellow work-out partners AND an instructor?

In my freshman year, I took full advantage of OU’s group fitness classes. I attended at least two weekly, on top of swimming practice and my own work-outs. When I started ultimate, I decided that two sports was plenty a work out for me, and only occasionally attended a group class.

Now that I have ceased participation in ultimate to focus on my studies, I have also forgone participating in group classes and worked out solely on my own as well as swimming in order to work around my schedule.

I now realize that this is simply not smart.

After attending a Pilates class and a yoga class, I have a whole new appreciation for the opportunity OU’s recreation center is providing me, and any OU student. It took a quarter and a half for me to realize what I had given up!

These classes are an excellent opportunity to try an array of new, exciting ways to strengthen, tone and sweat. The value of an instructor is not to be forgotten! It is both easier to motivate and safer to learn new exercises with an experienced guide.

I take a little something away from each class and incorporate it into my daily workouts. In Pilates, I reinforced my knowledge about core exercises. I learned different, challenging and effective ways to engage core muscles in moves such as leg circles, the hundred, and side kicks. Who knew rolling like a ball could be an exercise?

In yoga, stretches to open hip joints truly relieved joint-pain for me. In preparation for the crazy difficult pose pictured here, you take your bent leg up between your arms, so that your foot and your knee are between either arm, and push back and forth. This helped alleviate the tightness in my joint from an injury last quarter.

There are hundreds of benefits from relieving back pain to posture improvement that come from classes such as these, and a lot to be learned from a trained and experienced instructor to guide you through them.

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The Necessity of Warm Down

In all of my experience with exercise, I have always been advised to begin my workout with a warm up and end it with a warm down (a.k.a. cool down), whether that means an easy 200 yards in the pool or an easy 2 laps around the track. So coming across this article from the New York Times surprised me.

The idea of the cool-down seems to have originated with a popular theory — now known to be wrong — that muscles become sore after exercise because they accumulate lactic acid. In fact, lactic acid is a fuel. It’s good to generate lactic acid, it’s a normal part of exercise, and it has nothing to do with muscle soreness. But the lactic acid theory led to the notion that by slowly reducing the intensity of your workout you can give lactic acid a chance to dissipate.

Yet, Dr. Foster said, even though scientists know the lactic acid theory is wrong, it remains entrenched in the public’s mind.

“It’s an idea we can’t get rid of,” he said.

I’ll admit, I always wished this was true. After a long swim practice, I never wanted to warm down. I can recall skipping out on many a lap because I just wanted to get out and get going.

Today, I beg to differ. After a swim meet a few weekends ago, I did little to no warm down at the end of the day. The next few days were very sore ones.

One might also consider how warm down benefits a person after an aerobic workout versus an anaerobic one. Would a short and intense weight-lifting circuit require less warm down because the muscles were engaged for only a short period of time? Or would it require more stretching to loosen the muscles for the next workout?