IronSister: Boston!

I’m off with IronSister today to Boston, where she will run her 21st marathon, the Boston Marathon! This is on her bucket list(and she’s 28 so I’m thinking she’s doing alright). We are there for 4 days of food, fun, shopping, sight seeing, oh and a little racing. I’m sure I’ll have lots of foodie stories when I return. Hope you all have a lovely weekend!

Vancouver Marathon last year! Where IronSister qualified for Boston.


IronSister Says: Being Practical

Weight loss is one of those issues that so many people are interested in; I am asked about this more often than anything else.  I also feel as though this topic is near and dear to my heart because this is a battle that I’ve walked through as well.  I enjoy learning about nutrition, I loved nutrition school, and I enjoy sharing with anyone interested.  I’m not sure if it’s learned from years of writing papers for school, or if it’s just my style, but I find it much easier to write about a topic that I’ve researched and fill it with lots of information.  It is far more challenging for me to sit and write from my heart: to be honest, not about facts, but about feelings.

I doubt my story is different than most, I struggled with my weight as a teenager.  By struggled, I literally mean I struggled with obesity and I fear for what my future could have been.  As a teenager, my concern was far from heart disease, type II diabetes and high cholesterol; however I am so glad that I felt motivated for whatever the reasons where to make some changes.   I will be eternally thankful for my forgiving youth that has allowed me to be successful with my lifestyle changes, the education I’ve been able to get as well as the endless list of supporters and cheerleaders along the way.  And although my previous obese life has been laid to rest, unfortunately there are emotional scars that come back to haunt me, sometimes I wonder if, for the rest of my life.

When I talk about nutrition, or more specifically weight loss, I can assure any friend, family member, blog reader or stranger that it truly makes up a huge portion of who I am.  I don’t take it lightly, and I think it may be the absolute most difficult and potentially lonely journey anyone can go on.  In the long run, it was worth it for me, the rewards were far greater than the sacrifices.  Perhaps my initial motivation was to fit in to the western world’s idea of beautiful, but my rewards included a journey to conquer a lot of inner demons, and a better understanding of what beautiful should actually mean.  I know what it’s like to be overweight and miserable,  I also know what it’s like to have an obsessive weight loss motivation to the point of physical illness, also miserable.  I know what it’s like to feel hopeless and loath my reflection in the mirror.  I know what it’s like to avoid social gatherings, to eat in private, to feel shame.  Until I found a practical, long term (permanent) lifestyle that was motivated by health and happiness, I was incapable of finding success.  Perhaps coming across the perfect motivation only comes by trial and error, in my case anyways, but it was worth every detour I took on my journey.  We all follow a different pathway in our lives, but I say all of this just to share that I do understand emotions – and this journey is likely the most emotional journey that I know of.

Instead of writing about some well planned out concept, instead of researching the chemistry and nutritional needs behind something, let me again write from my heart.  Although these may be things I did learn in nutrition school, I researched in a text book, they are largely based on experience.  Here is a list of changes you can make in your lifestyle to support your weight loss journey:

Water:  It’s so interesting how more than half the world is dehydrated because they have no access to clean water, or any water, yet the people who do have an endless supply are equally as dehydrated.  8 glasses of water a day is a good start, but more accurately, take your body weight (in pounds), cut it in half and this is the amount of ounces your body needs of water as a baseline (me: 125 lbs, 62.5 ounces – 8.4 glasses of water).  Add another 16 ounces of water for ever hour of exercise.  Add another 16 ounces of water for every 8 ounces of alcohol, coffee, black tea or soda you have.

Sodium:  We eat way too much of it!  Packaged food is full of sodium, and very few people even know what the recommended daily limits are.  Sodium intake has a huge list of consequences.  The average standard American diet consumes 4000-5000 mg of sodium daily (that’s average!), the average British diet consumes 3500 mg of sodium daily, Health Canada recommends no adult should exceed 2200 mg of sodium daily, however many health care practitioners recommend that dietary sodium should not exceed 1300 mg in adults and 1000 mg in kids.

Sugar:  Another killer.  It’s refined, it’s acidic, and it messes with our energy, blood sugar, appetite, mood, digestive system and defense system.  The average American diet consumes 46 teaspoons of sugar daily, and in theory, the amount really shouldn’t exceed zero (or very close to that).

Portion sizes:  Learn to read your labels.  There are some great laws that require food labels to list ingredients, calories and nutritional content per serving.  Serving sizes vary with manufacturers; a package and a serving size are very different.  Do your math; it’s worth it, and likely very enlightening.  Caloric intake is easy to get hung up on, healthy choices are far more important than low calorie food, however this is a simple way to calculate your calorie needs:  Your “ideal” body weight (be practical!) in pounds, multiplied by 10 (me: 125 lbs x10 = 1250 calories).  This is basal metabolic needs, as in, what you need to live and breathe each day.  Then take your activity level on a scale of 1 to 10, this is subjective, but a good start at estimating (me: 12 hour shifts, marathon runner, I say activity level of 9 or 10), multiply this number by 100 (me 900 – 1000 calories), this is your caloric needs for energy.  Calculate the total (me: about 2250).  This is one formula I like, there are others, but the important thing is deciding on your ideal body weight.  If you are 200 lbs and you choose and ideal body weight of 100 lbs, you will be very miserable, you can readjust your ideal body weight over time (start at 175 lbs, then 150 lbs, etc).

Sleep:  SO important for our bodies to recover and regenerate, and can only be done during REM sleep.  Life is what it is, but we need 8 – 9 hours of sleep per night, and kids need 9-10 hours a night.  Make it a priority, or else all that hard work might not reap its benefits if the body cannot recovery and start anew.  The Respiratory Therapist in me also wants to point out that many people have disrupted sleep and do not spend enough time in REM sleep due to a condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnea.  If you are tired due to disrupted sleep, you may want to talk to your doctor about this; it is easily treated with CPAP therapy.  OSA is common in overweight people due to obstruction (large necks) on their airways, their sleep is disrupted, they feel more tired and sluggish, energy levels are low and weight loss is further challenged.

Stress:  Another killer.  Hormonal issues cause so many problems and so much fatigue on our body.  Stress causes all sorts of hormonal releases, fatigue on our adrenal glands, effects our sleep, which effects our body’s recovery that is already hindered from weak adrenal glands and an over abundance of destructive hormones.  I’m not sure what the answer is to this problem for everyone, but it’s worth exploring.

My list ends here, it would be easy to go on and on, but this is the starting the point.  The above list excludes no one, each of the suggestions above are completely practical and attainable by everyone.  You don’t have to be young, fit, or love to cook.  But above all else, before you tackle anything on this list, you need to confirm that you are being practical.  Unless your goals are realistic, and unless you can plan to make changes that will become permanent, sadly, you will fail.  Living life is so important, and that involves social events, busy lifestyle, desserts, “off days” and a million other factors.  However be conscious that living life and making excuses should be two different things.  It is never too late or too difficult to start, in fact, every day that you delay, you could be missing out on something great.  This is a long hard journey, but worth every painful step.


IronSister Says: Thoughts on Carbs

Much like fats, carbohydrates are another one of those macronutrients that have a bad reputation. These bad boys are, in fact: life giving, energy producing foods, our body’s primary and ideal choice of nutrient for fuel and energy.  Again, like fats, there are more desirable, and far less desirable versions of carbohydrates – which is probably why we often hear, and spend so much time trying to eliminate them from our diets.  With a little bit of education, we can adjust out diets, not to eliminate all carbs, but to eliminate the bad ones, increase the good ones, and give our body’s a break from trying to use secondary energy sources (proteins and fats).
Carbohydrates are macronutrients – macro meaning we need them in large quantities (eat your heart out Dr. Atkin), along with fats, proteins and water.  Carbs are single or mid/long chains of molecules made of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen, they are broken apart during cellular respiration to essentially sugar in our blood, and with the use of hormones our cells mobilize and utilize these molecules to give us energy and keep our body well fueled.
Simple Carbohydrates are single sugar molecules, also known as monosaccharides.  When we eat these carbs, our body uses them immediately and without the need to break them down.  The good thing is that there is immediate energy available (useful for athletes or diabetic situations), the bad thing is that they are grossly over consumed leading to a host of many other problems.  When we eat simple carbs, our pancreas senses the large and immediate increase in our blood sugar levels and reacts by secreting the hormone insulin.  Insulin mobilizes the sugars from our blood to enter our cells where they are utilized to produce energy.  The issue that arises here is that large amounts of simple carb ingestion means large blood sugar level spikes, large doses of insulin doing their job, and then one big fat sugar low…. generally leading to “sugar coma” or the ingestion of more simple carbs for more energy.  With years of abuse, insulin may become resistant or less effective, and things like Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease are the result of that.
Complex Carbohydrates, on the other hand, provide us with longer and sustained energy as these are long chains of sugar molecules bonded together, also known as polysaccharides.  When eaten, our body wil break the chains apart, piece by piece, over a period of time, regulating our blood sugar increases and decreases, and providing us with the energy that we need to survive from meal to meal.
This may or may not be new information for you, but the key to increasing our complex carb intake and decreasing, or eliminating, our simple carb intake comes from proper knowledge of our food choices.  Simple carbs are generally refined, looking at grains for example, the bran (outer hull) and the germ (new seed) are removed to produce a lighter product which preserves for longer.  The refining process results in a loss of fibre, most vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, iron, zinc, copper, chromium, folic acid, magnesium and manganese.  As you can see, not only do these simple carbs mess with our body’s sugar regulating system, they also leave us with a nutrient deficit… all for the convenience of longer shelf life and ‘lighter’ food.  Whole grains on the other hand, complex carbs, non-refined, are low in fat, have no cholesterol and are high in fiber.  These foods will lower blood cholesterol and control blood glucose (sugar) levels, as well as increase elimination and decrease the risk of colon cancer.  For a little less cooking convenience, this seems worth it to me.
I am often asked about two things.  One thing being “enriched” grains.  This means that a few vitamins and minerals are added back into refined products including: iron, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin.  They could be considered “partially restored”.  This doesn’t really do anything about the blood glucose levels issue, nor does it restore all of the vitamins and minerals that were lost, you will still end up with a deficit in some form.  The second thing many people are curious about is fruit.  Fructose, or fruit sugar, is a monosaccharide, and therefore absorbed and used for immediate energy.  Fruit, however, is full of fibre, which aids in blood sugar regulation, and helps to control our glucose levels from rising too quickly.  Fruit would be the ideal food to be used for immediate energy, if needed, without the negative effects of a refined, simple carbohydrate type food.  This would be ideal for that afternoon lull that we often feel, or for athletes needing an additional energy boost during their training (as in – training for the Boston Marathon as one small example…)
If this leaves you hanging with nothing left to eat, let me encourage you to explore the wonderful variety of foods that are out there.  If you just don’t think you can survive without your breakfast bagel and Uncle Ben’s instant rice, I can assure there are many many substitutes, well worth the few extra minutes of preparation.  Consider experimenting with these grains in their whole form: Amaranth, buckwheat, corn, couscous, kamut, millet, oats, quinoa, brown rice, rye, spelt, and whole wheat. The less refined food you eat, the healthier you will be!
fig&fennel – IronSister mentioned to me yesterday that she has been asked to do a health segment on Breakfast TV in November. I’ll keep you posted as to when, so you can tune in!