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Saturday, April 29, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - You are what you eat

Welcome back to A - Z Blogging Challenge, today it's Y's turn! Y is for "You are what you eat".
This shouldn't be news, but it's always a good thing to think about it for a minute or ten.

In our busy lives we tend to eat what we feel like and be done with it. Here's an interesting chart that shows how different food choices affect our bodies:

Photo Source

Vicky, my lovely fitness instructor told me about a TV show in Great Britain that is actually called You are what you eat. Nutritionist Gilian McKeith is giving some tough love to overweight people who have been making bad food choices. 

The pattern is as follows:

  • Inspection of fridge and cupboards at individual's home. Lots of scolding.
  • Throwing away of bad foods and take out / order in leaflets.
  • Tongue exam. Gilian is able to detect vitamin deficiencies and other warning signs that will later be confirmed by a medical person.
  • Request of weekly food tracking list as well as urine and stool samples that go to the lab.
  • Surprise buffet, part 1: a week's worth of individual's bad food choices on a huge table to reflect the actual weekly intake. Huge shock to see it all in one place!
  • Surprise buffet, part 2: after determination of the individual's weakness (sweets, cheese, junk food, sauces and condiments that are high in sugar and / or sodium, carbonated sodas, etc.) the individual gets a giant version of their favourite unhealthy food visualising their excess weight. One bride to be got a cheesy wedding cake that she was supposed to lift but of course couldn't. A guy got a pile of donuts that represented all the sugar he put in his teas. 
  • Preaching and asking for commitment to stick to the plan for eight long weeks.
  • Visit at the lab, scientific explanation about damage that bad food choices do on your body.
  • Public shaming of the individual: "Your poop smells so awful I'm surprised your neighbours haven't complained yet."
  • Sending individuals to have a colonic.
  • Working out of weekly meal plans and fitness regimens.
  • Surprise buffet, part 3: a week's worth of good food choices. "This is what you are going to eat from now on." Close-up of the shocked faces "I don't do celery!!!"
  • Filming of people not enjoying their kale smoothies.
  • Occasional drop-ins to catch people slipping: "Hold it! What's that? Were you gonna eat that?"
  • Filming of people reluctantly going to the gym.
  • Sorting out of excuses organizational hiccups: childcare, grocery shopping, sports bra
  • After eight weeks: filming of the new and improved individual's self, in new clothes, a couple of sizes smaller, hair and make-up done nicely, huge smiles all around.

Photo Source

I watched a couple of episodes, and minus the insulting I quite like it. I don't think it's not necessary to tell those people 

"this makes you fat."
"what mother serves this crap to their children?" 
"you are responsible for your teenager's obesity!" 

I think they feel bad as it is. God, they have to take pictures in their bathing suits that go on TV! 

Anyway, what I like best is the visualizing of the food intake. 

One girl was drinking lots of Diet Coke, and even though it looked like a lot, I had to admit that I was worse!! 
"Do you sleep at night?" Gilian asked her. How could she? She said "no, I worry. I worry that there won't be enough Coke to get me through the morning."

I found a similar show called Secret Eaters where they install surveillance cameras and hire private investigators to find out what those people really eat all day long. They are being observed 24/7, there are no more secrets, not the chocolate bars they purchase at the gas station, not the amount of alcohol they consume after a hard day's work and not the mayo they put on their seemingly healthy salads.

Watching shows like this make me feel grateful it hasn't come to that with me. I can do my food and exercise choices in the privacy of my home. I have to answer to nobody but myself. Well, and Vicky ;-)

What I wonder is (and I'll have to figure this one out for myself as well) will they stick to their new lifestyle choices or will they fall back into their old, unhealthy routines once they're off screen?

What would be on your "bad food buffet table"? Can you imagine going on TV to fix your weight? 

Let me know in the comments down below and head over to the other Y posts. Please do me the honor and visit my blog tomorrow for Z is for Zumba. If you'd like to stay in touch why don't you like my blog's Facebook page, and / or add me on Google+; that's where I always announce new blog posts. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Borg's X-ertion Scale

Welcome back to our A - Z Blogging Challenge, we're almost there!

Today is one of those tough letter days, and I promised my x-traordinray blogger friend Mandy over at Your Everyday Traveler that we'll celebrate our A - Z friendversary in style, meaning big, I mean, x-tra large! How about this?

Photo Credit

For those who feel we need to deserve our celebration, let's have a look at the Borg  X-ertion Scale:

It is a way of measuring (perceived) physical activity intensity levels, which is a bit difficult to do because as you work out of course you feel like you're working hard!

It takes your heart rate, respiration and sweating into account - again, I find this tough to determine. Experts however are confident that you're usually not far off.

I came across this in my Aerobics video (which I'm still doing on a weekly basis)

According to my 120 heartbeats per minute (divided by 6 to match this scale) I am in the range of a 20 - 50 year old. Well then, that's certainly true!

I always like something practicable, so this is a chart that speaks to me:

Even though there has been a lot of talk about a healthy lifestyle, clean food and exercise throughout this month, please note that my comfort level is in the purple and blue zone! 

When Vicky pushes me in my training session I may end up at yellow but will perceive my exertion as orange if not red!

Yeah well. Back to celebrating. Have I told you I reached my 10kg / 20 pounds goal this past weekend? I think it's fitting that it happened during this blogging (and fitness) challenge. 

Celebrated with a "Dirt Cupcake" on Earth Day. 

You can find the other X posts here. Only two more to go, be back for Y tomorrow, it's all about you are what you eat!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Watch out for my Wine glass!

Welcome back to A - Z Blogging Challenge, letter W!

As you can see, back in February when I was mapping out the alphabet and brainstorming about possible content for each letter, I was certain I was going to have a glass of wine with you!

You know what? We totally should! Cheers! Thank you for bearing with me, it's been a pleasure!

Photo Credit

I want to tell you something I learned on our wine tour in Cape Town, South Africa. One of the vineyard owners told us about resveratrol, an antioxidant-like compound found in red wine, berries and peanuts.

While Wikipedia is acting pretty reserved about the benefits of Resveratrolthis article is pretty excited about potential health benefits like lowering systolic blood pressure and cholesterol levels, lengthening your lifespan, protecting the brain, increasing insulin sensitivity, easing joint pain and suppressing cancer cells.

However, studies suggest more research is necessary. 

I agree, and I volunteer! 

While we're swirling our wine glasses and enjoying sip after sip and letting resveratrol do its magic, let me tell you about my new watch. I have been mentioning throughout this alphabet that I was looking for a fitness tracker of some sort because I needed my hands to be free, and carrying around my iPhone while exercising wasn't going to work long-term.

I wanted one that worked on my wrist, I wasn't going to get all wired up with chest harnesses and whatnot. It needed to tell me about my heart rate, steps taken and calories burnt.

The more research and reviews I read, the less I knew which one would be perfect for me, so in the end I went with the obvious choice: I write on a MacBook Pro, I use an iPhone, I play on my iPad, so why not go for the Apple Watch? I knew I was going to have to put up with poor battery life, but hey - I am used to it!

As per publishing date I have been using it for four weeks, and I'm quite happy with the features for moving, exercising, standing and breathing - yes, you are prompted to take a minute and focus on your breathing twice a day!

The Apple guy who sold it to me said he used to wear the same one. Used to? 
Yeah, he smirked, unfortunately I put it in the washing machine, and while the watch is waterproof, 90° C (that's 194° F) killed it!

Otherwise he was happy with it. He told me about two features I didn't know about: the sleep app. At bedtime you tell your watch "start sleeping" (as if that would work!) and when you get up, you hit "stop sleeping", and you'll get an analysis about the duration and quality of your sleep. I'm not too impressed about it, though. 

This was a particularly dreadful night, and I got up three times, two of which between 2 and 4am. Usually when I have to pee I manage to go back to sleep. If I don't, I get back up on my computer (I know, not the smartest thing to do), but even more so, how can the app tell me I got over 8 hours of restful sleep when I clearly didn't?

One interesting, yet not surprising, fact I did learn from those analysis, though: my best quality sleep happens either around midnight or in the morning, just before the alarm goes off. Booo!

The other new feature (new to me, techies among you know, of course) is that you can use your watch to pay with your credit card. So if you're out there, running, and you run out of water, you may stop at a convenience store and purchase a new one, even though you didn't bring your wallet or your phone. Or, even better, you get stopped by the police for running too fast. Imagine their face as you ask for their contactless payment terminal to settle that speeding ticket right then and there!

Also you don't have to worry about misuse. Once you take off our watch it is locked, and without passcode nobody can use it.

How about you, do you believe in the power of wine? Are you using a gadget to track your fitness and sleep activities? How do you like it?

Head over to the other letter W posts and check back here for the letter we've all been anxiously waiting for: X!

PS: Today is Thursday. As of next Thursday we'll be back at our Top Ten Thursday routine. Don't know what I'm talking about? Head over to my board that contains all the previous posts.
I'd like you to join if you're interested! On May 4 we'll be talking about the top ten life skills we wished today's young people would learn. Sign up here. The week after we'll be doing a Mother's Day theme.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Vitamins and Vicky

Welcome back to A - Z Blogging Challenge!

We're at V, and we're talking about vitamins, OK?

My sweet grandfather who passed away ten years ago kept reminding me to take my vitamins. They're important, he said, especially for people who have so much on their plate like you do, here, have some ascorbic acid powder!

Even though I thought he was exaggerating, I always accepted his gifts and slurped or swallowed them. Couldn't hurt, right? Like everybody else I certainly didn't get my five a day.

Other than that I occasionally drank a multi-vitamin juice and never cared too much about A, B or C - in vitamins, that is.

Here's a chart I found on General Knowledge and Inspiration

Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble; B and C water soluble - what does that mean? 

Water soluble vitamins dissolve in water and are excreted through the kidneys should you have excess amounts in your body.

Fat soluble vitamins are absorbed in the lymph, transported in the blood and stored in the liver and fatty tissue. It is difficult for your body to get rid of excess fat soluble vitamins, so toxic levels may accumulate. (Not sure how much it takes to be at risk.)

Read more about vitamin absorption here. A takeaway worth knowing is to chase your multivitamin juice with some raw almonds to make sure all those precious vitamins can actually do their job.

It's also important to know that not every vitamin comes from food alone. 

If you're a Mom and had your baby in fall or winter, your paediatrician may have given you vitamin D drops for your newborn. Vitamin D is usually synthesised in the skin with the help of natural ultraviolet wavelength of sunlight. Now around here, we usually don't get tons of sunshine in November, do we?

Today's veggies don't contain the same amount of nutrients than decades ago. Soils of commercial farmers are being depleted by pesticides and fertilizers. 

I imagine you may compare it to Easter eggs dying. Your first batch turns out vibrant and intense. The more times you soak your eggs in the dye, the more faded they come out. The ones on the left are the ones that were dyed after the ones on the right. The difference is faint but noticeable. Now imagine how my hundredth batch would have turned out!

So if this is the case for our vegetables, I feel good about adding some Juice Plus to my diet. 

To cut the long story short: take your vitamins and enjoy life!

Before you leave I'd like you to meet Vicky, my wonderful fitness instructor I kept mentioning during this month. She looks after me well, inspires me and pushes me, and I know I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for her!

What's with that sneaker she's holding, you ask? 

She had it customized and labeled on Nike ID! How cool is that?

So how about you? Do you think your vitamin intake is OK? Are you taking something on top of your usual diet? How would you configure your own sneaker?

Check out what my fellow alphabet bloggers came up with today and check back tomorrow for W which may or may not be for Wine! 

PS: I am behind on visiting, commenting and answering comments. Just got some upsetting news. A 21 year old man from our village died in a tragic accident in the mountains. He was one of Colin's leaders from the boys scouts-like group he recently joined. A bright, caring and nature loving guy. Please keep that boy's family in your prayers. No parents should have to bury their child. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Understanding Units

Welcome back to A - Z  Blogging Challenge. Today it's all about U!

As you can see, when I first brainstormed about this letter, u-turn, universe and uplifting came to my mind. During the course of writing ahead / everyday life, however, I kept struggling with my food tracking. Living in Europe and using apps that are mainly configured for the U.S. has its challenges when it comes to measurements. 

How much is a serving? An ounce, a cup?

It's not that this is completely new to me, I mean I have to convert the ingredients for pretty much every recipe I find online. 

I usually just google 

"How much is 0.5 cup ground almonds in grams?"
"Convert 6 ounces of chocolate into grams" 

Or I go directly to websites like Traditional Oven or Convert Units.

What if I have no clue, though?

Example: I wanted to log this steak. I didn't know how many grams it weighted, and I didn't know if it was about 6 or 8 oz because I just had no idea. Got my dilemna?

And even if some restaurants mention in their menu that a particular piece of meat weighs so and so many grams, is that before or after cooking? And if it is the raw weight, how much will it lose during preparation? Is it just water that evaporates, or does meat lose fat during the cooking process, which would actually be great?

The American Heart Association came up with some wonderfully illustrative examples:

One of these days you may see me at a restaurant tossing the contents of my purse onto the dining table: hockey puck, computer mouse, some dice, the works...!

You'll know exactly why!!!

By the way, I might be doing a separate post about this particular panorama / steak restaurant, but here's a preview for you. We were lucky to catch a day with abnormally great visibility:

Oh, and yes, I busted my calories budget that night, even though I only had side veggies and no dessert! Totally worth it, though.

Are you affected by confusing measurements? What tools are you using?

What may the other bloggers have prepared for U? Find out here and be sure to come back tomorrow, we'll talk about Vitamins, also I want you to meet Vicky, my lovely fitness instructor!

Monday, April 24, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Time, Trends & Traps

Welcome back to A - Z! Today is the last "easy letter day" before a tough series begins...

We have covered quite some exercise, so today we won't be training but talking. Fitting, right?

We're talking about tomatoes. Is it tomato or tomaaaahto? 

What movie is that song being played in? Hint: I did a Top Ten Thursday about it.

But we're not really talking about movies or tomatoes, even though I like them both.

We're talking about trends, traps & time.

I feel this whole fitness world is a giant bubble, it has become so trendy and fancy to go to the gym, to wear flashy gear and to have gadgets to track progress. Of course there is nothing wrong about that, I'm just observing and wondering.

Are people just bored and don't know what to do with themselves? Do they all want to get and keep in shape? Do they hope to get more attention / become more successful once they're skinny? Is working out a way to release stress? Is it a way to belong somewhere?

Even the mafiosi in "Analyze This" worry about their weight. 

What kind of sandwich ain't too fattening?

Back in January I braced myself that it would take some time until it'd see results. To be honest I fully expected to go like this for a year.

So I just did my thing and tried not to think about it too much. Veggies, Zumba, Shower, Check.

I accounted the first couple of pounds to lost water retention,  and kept doing my thing. Veggies, Zumba, Shower, Check.

Here I am today, that close to minus 20 pounds lost in a bit more than 3 months, and I am pretty amazed and proud. 

I did, however, invest a big chunk of my time (not to mention money, blood, sweat and tears) into my quest. Time to go to the gym, time to wash and pack my active gear, time to prep food not only for myself but for the carbs consuming part of the family. 

During that time I wasn't able to go to the mall, sit at Starbucks, have coffee and cinnamon rolls and write. 

Instead I'm squeezing in some small bits of time to write about my journey, and my message is if you're willing to invest that time, if you're determined and consistent, you can expect results in less time than you thought.

When I started out, I didn't have a plan, other than quitting chocolate and wine for a month (hahaha!), and I pretty much just did what my fitness instructor told me to (quitting white carbs and working out), which was brilliant advice. 

In the meantime I googled and learned a ton, here's an article that would have been helpful for me if I had embarked on that journey alone.

If you plan on eating healthy food and working out, take it one day at a time. Track your calories spent and burnt, look the other way when the candy aisle calls your name at the supermarket, get some carrots instead and go for a walk. 

You know: Veggies, Zumba, Shower, Check.

If you slip one day, move on and do better the next day. And if plan A doesn't work...

Nobody knows better about the alphabet
than us A - Z Bloggers, right?

Speaking of slipping. Here are some traps that I want you to warn about:

  1. Unbalanced diet: too much (hidden) sugars, too little veggies
  2. Being clueless or Forgetting about calories and sugar in beverages: fruit juices and wine (sorry)
  3. Underestimating portions (who knew how little a teaspoon of olive oil is? Still it's 40 calories! That's 120 per tablespoon, booo! How much oil do you use for browning your meat? For dressing your salad?)
  4. Eating items labeled as "diet food" (low-fat is loaded with sugar; low-sugar is loaded with fat, both of which we don't want, especially if they don't leave us satisfied and we end up eating more!)
  5. Using your workout as an excuse to overindulge in treats
  6. Depriving yourself from any treats and ending up stuffing your face on a bad day
  7. Not planning ahead and getting lost in everyday life: slacking on both, food and exercise
  8. Always doing the same exercise means losing its effect
  9. Having unrealistic expectations
  10. Being a slave of your scale, getting discouraged and giving up

During the course of this month I have addressed pretty much all of them, and I think 

You can do it!

I realised I haven't used any photos. Here is one that represents "trendy". Saw this denim  jacket and was in love. Until I saw the price tag, that is.

So tell me, did you find out about the movie? Have you ever turned your lifestyle around? How much time did it take for you to see results, and did you stick to your new routine? What is your personal worst pitfall?

Let me know down below and drop back in tomorrow for the letter U. No clue yet what I'm gonna do about U, but I will come up with something, I promise.

In the meantime why don't you check out some of the other posts?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Superfoods vs Sugar

Welcome back to A - Z, we're already at S!

S is for sleep (get plenty), stress (try to reduce), smoking (it's a no-no), sweets (I'm not saying anything. I know that you know...), and much more!

I'd like to start with superfoods.

It is a controversial term because it implies that the particular food is not only nutrient-rich but is even supposed to prevent or combat certain medical conditions.

Photo Source

Sceptics critizise that there is no real proof that those foods are really that superior and powerful, and they claim the term "superfood" is misleading consumers. In Europe it's even forbidden to use it for marketing purposes.

Now I think that's a bit hypocritical. 

Just look at many, many processed food items out there that imply how good they are for you, and while they're not - because they contain lots of sugar and fat - companies are allowed to market them on and on.

Think granola bars, cereal, hazelnut spread, fruit punch, milkshakes, heck, even Coca-Cola makes you think it's actually a sports beverage!

So whether you just want to do something good for your body or you are sick and hope "even if it won't help, at least it won't do any harm", go for the strawberries rather than the french fries. Makes sense, no?

And don't get me started on misleading advertising in general. Winkle cream? Slimming drinks and deodorants that attract pretty girls? Do they have to prove that their products actually work wonders?

The only thing that bugs me - not specifically about "superfoods" but fruit and veggies in general - is that we can't really know if they're as healthy as we think. As long as you don't grow them yourself you don't know all that much about the sowing, fertilizing, harvesting, transporting and storing practices that were being applied. 

Here's an example:

Did you know that the apples you buy at your supermarket may be anything but fresh? It is common (and legal) practice to keep them in cold storage warehouses for a year or longer. 

They are picked slightly unripe and treated with a chemical synthetic plant growth regulator called methylcyclopropene
Obviously it is supposed to be harmless. However the nutrients that the apples originally contained are fading over time. 

You keep hearing about antioxidants that help prevent free radical cell damage which usually occurs in cancer. 

So what if blueberries - that are considered some of the most fabulous antioxidant sources - spend a long time in cold storage and have almost no antioxidants left? There goes your superfood. Booo!

So what can you do?

  • Buy from your trusted local farmer
  • Consume what is in season - which is increasingly tough to know because these days everything is available to us pretty much all year round. Here's a link.
  • Consider taking Juice Plus, I talked about it here
I wanted to talk about organic produce, but to be honest I'm not sure what to believe. 

The labels and the leaflets do sound awfully nice and sustainable, and I do purchase a lot of organic products like milk and meat from (formerly) happy cows, eggs from cheerful, outdoorsy hens, veggies and fruit - as long as they look nice. 

I know, it's irrational!

Once upon a time, when Colin just started to eat solids, I shopped at a die-hard organic store. I wanted him to get the best mashed carrots and potatoes. The ones I bought were super dirty and looked ugly. I spent an hour washing and peeling them. Too much trouble for this exhausted Mama! The next time she went back to the organic veggies aisle at the 

In the tree huggers' defence: obviously the dirt is a natural preservative!

On to the sugars

Photo Credit

Are you aware of your daily sugar intake? 

There are the obvious, refined sugars like granulated or powdered ones, fructose (contained in honey, fruit (especially figs, cherries, grapes and mangoes), berries and veggies, as healthy as they are otherwise), lactose (in your dairy products) and then there are the hidden ones!

They are everywhere, even in products you wouldn't expect them: Chinese takeout, pasta sauce, BBQ sauce, ketchup, salad dressing, granola bars, even most plain greek yogurts! 

The label doesn't necessarily mention "sugar", it may say:

Source: Women's Health Magazine

How much is the recommended daily sugar intake anyway? (6 teaspoons? That feels like nothing! If you're into baking you know that every cake recipe calls for 1 or 1.5 cups of sugar.) 

Source: American Heart Association

Added sugars = any sugars or sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation.

How about those low sugar, less sugar or sugar-free products? They must be safe, right? Not necessarily. Here's what I found out:
  • No added sugar = no sugar or sugar-containing ingredient such as juice or dry fruit is added during processing
  • Sugar-free = there is less than 0.5g of sugar per serving
  • Low Sugar = not defined or allowed as a claim on food labels
  • Less sugar = at least 25% less sugars per serving compared to a standard serving size of the traditional variety
Enough said. We need to try and limit our sugar intake, at least cut the added sugar!

I have come to realise that just like any other addiction, you have to go through sugar withdrawal symptoms. The first few days I was irritable and grumpy. 

Now? During hockey playoff season we used to eat a chocolate candy every time our team scored. This season they made it to the finals (that's a lot of goals!), and I had zero sweets. In fact I brushed my teeth right after dinner, and it didn't even bother me that hubby & son were munching on their chocolate Easter eggs. I was secretly applauding myself for saving those calories!!

Here's an article taking you through the necessary steps in order to limit / quit your sugar consumption. 

Before I'm done I also wanted to say a word or two about salads.

What's there to talk about? Salads are good, full stop!?

They are. There's just a pitfall: the dressing, the croutons and the cheese. While they're yummy, they're definitely thwarting your calorie budget plans. Especially if you're like me and love your Chipotle Southwest!!


Yogurt Dressing it is!!!

That was a lot to take in. Thank you for hanging in there - you deserve a snack! If you're looking for inspiration, here's an article with lots of suggestions on snacks with 100 calories. As for me I think I'll go back to A is for Avocado Brownie!

Now I'm curious: Are you a sugar addict? What's your favourite salad, and do you believe in superfoods? Let me know in comments down below and please come back tomorrow for T is for Time.

Until then there are tons of cool letter S posts for you to check out!