The Novice Foodie

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


Just because your food is from a health food store doesn’t mean your food is healthy

Stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are great resources for healthy eating. Many products are truly organic, free from artificial ingredients, minimally processed and better for you, unlike many foods found in traditional grocery stores. But simply shopping at a “healthy store” does not mean it’s a free for all. A processed food is a processed food, whether you buy it at Whole Foods or you buy it at Kroger.

This post from Food Babe highlights some specific products at Trader Joe’s that are examples of some unhealthy foods found at a health food store. Like the front of a product’s package, the promises of a store like Trader Joe’s and Whole foods are not necessarily followed through in every product. The best and only way to know for sure if what you’re buying is indeed as healthy as it claims to be is to read the ingredients list.

Don’t get me wrong- Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are some of my favorite places to shop. They have some hard-to-find products that certain recipes call for (often at cheaper prices than a regular supermarket,) and they carry good brands of meats and certified organic produce. But for certain foods (frozen vegetables, for instance) you may be able to purchase an equivalent product at a regular grocery store for less money.

Some good rules to follow when navigating any store:

  • Look for products with the official logos for non-GMO/organic/gluten free. Companies can pretty much claim anything they want out front to get you to pick it up in the store, but they can’t put a certified logo on their product unless it’s true.foodlogos
  • Look for products with the least amount of ingredients. You think those “mixed frozen veggies tossed in olive oil and seasonings” is just that? Think again. Lots of other chemicals and ingredients are included that the front label says nothing about.
  • Shop towards the perimeters of the store. Avoid the aisles with boxes and bags and opt for the fresh fruits, vegetables and meats–items that don’t have nutrition labels at all. A bag of chips at Trader Joe’s isn’t necessarily that much better than a bag of chips from Walmart, so focus on the foods that are worth the trip.

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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?


Why I Love Wellness

High school was extremely influential for me. It was the height of my independence and the beginning of the rest of my life in more ways than one.

First of all, it was in high school that I found journalism. I found the place where writing, layout, pictures and computers came together in one place. My brief yet very extensive introduction to the field prepared me for at least all of my introductory journalism classes in college thus far.

And second, high school was when I began varsity swimming. Although I had been swimming for my neighborhood team since age three and began competitively swimming for a USA sanctioned club team in eighth grade, high school swimming took my life to a new level. It taught me about time management, discipline, self-motivation and fitness. Varsity swimming made me a better person, and I loved every minute of it.

Most importantly, swimming taught me so much about exercise. To this day I remember and often complete high school work outs on my own in the pool or the gym. From sets to abdominal workouts, to cords to the weight room, I learned almost everything I know about exercise from my high school swim coach.

After five years of 24-hours-a-week of practice, my body naturally craved exercise. Today, although a member of the OU Club Swim Team, a majority of my workouts are on my own. Although I have rehearsed and replayed the techniques and work outs I learned in high school, I am ready for a change. I crave new, challenging workouts to target my problem areas and increase my fitness level. The feeling after a great workout is indescribable and something I cannot live without.

This is the challenge I embark on today. In my free time, I tend to research workouts and try them out, then evaluate their effectiveness. A new discovery is Self Magazine’s work-out trackers and tips about foods and other exercises. My plan is to compile the most effective workouts and interesting nutrition tips here, from Self and other various websites or other sources.

So, it begins.