The Extremes

The Extremes

If you have been following my blog you know that I am on a journey to make my life the best it can be…faster, smarter and better…and hopefully give you ideas for your life as well.

Along this journey I have been examining life have have learned a great deal about myself, others and life in general.

Part of what I am digging into is human nutrition–me being the main human I am examining. I mean really, how can we live our best life if we are sick and tired all the time?

I for one was sick and tired of being sick and tired–so I was ready for the changes I am making and up to now am happy and better for it.

With that said I want to talk about changes–and when they go wrong–and that usually happens when we mere people take things to an extreme.

Most–but of course not all–people make nutritional changes to their diets because they want to lose weight. We realize we cannot continue on the upward trend the scale is making.

So we go on a diet–and we lose weight–and then we go back to our merry lives and we gain it all back and more…so we go on another diet.

I know…I’ve done it this myself and so we conclude that those diets don’t work.  Are the diets to blame? Or the dieters?

In my opinion it is neither. Here is what I mean:  We start a nutritional program and we are committed to it and we lose weight.  Both the program and the person are successful UNTIL we encounter something that doesn’t fit in the program.

Like donuts brought in by a generous coworker, an invitation to a baby shower or a birthday party.  Or Thanksgiving and Christmas come around again–and the diet is broken.

The real reason this happens is because most diet programs and the people following them–yes, including me–take them to an extreme.

If the program calls for no sugar, we try to cut out every drop of sugar in our entire lives. A no carb diet? We kill ourselves making sure we have not one gram of carbohydrates. Low fat? We cut out anything with any kind of fat–even the good fat that our bodies need!

Then there are the fad programs that call for eliminating everything but one component in order to lose weight: The grapefruit diet: only grapefruit; the coffee diet: black coffee 3 times a day! The banana diet–well you get the picture.

These ideas are not sustainable and they are not healthy!

Some can be very dangerous because it changes the functions of the body and can cause major problems–especially if you are seriously cutting back on carbs or not getting enough vitamins and minerals needed for healthy functions.

However, I do believe that all diets or nutritional programs have good ideas that can be used to make lasting change.

And change is the hardest part of all of this.  Instead of going to extremes each one of us needs to find the nutritional program that works for us–stop making excuses and then just make the life changes we need to be healthy and happy.

No extremes, no excuses.  Make your life better–faster and smarter.

Send me your comments on how your nutritional plan is going (or not going!)  or email me at emptynestsavvy@gmail.com with your thoughts and questions! We are all here to share and help each other!

 

Carbs to the Rescue

Carbs to the Rescue

Ah Carbs!  The pleasure trigger of the taste buds and the bain of all the empty calories we consume.

Carbohydrates get a bad reputation as being the worst thing to enter our dietary lives–EVER!

But as with most things the majority of people are getting this wrong. This is mostly because they are not doing the research themselves because they are relying on all the sound bytes they hear…

And while I am just another sound byte–I have at least done my homework.

Carbohydrates are a necessary part of our nutritional plan. It is where we get our energy so we can, you know, do stuff.

If we were not getting energy from our food we would feel deflated and tired–all the time–and you would quite literally be unable to function.

If you are trying to lose weight many diets encourage you to cut out carbohydrates–completely.  

Many people grab onto that advice and cut out all carbs!  This does lead to weight loss but very often that weight loss is too much, too fast, can be very dangerous and is not sustainable.

Those diets fail–or I should say the people on those diets fail to reach their goals because they cannot follow the program long term as a lifestyle…I’ll discuss that next time.

Back to carbohydrates–we cannot survive without carbohydrates in our system everyday and this is why:

Carbs come in 3 main categories:

  1. Sugars or simple sugars like glucose, fructose etc. that are basically already broken down for us. These go into our system, give us a little zip of energy and then fizzle out quickly. Because they are simple it takes a lot of them to make us feel “full” or “satisfied” so we eat a lot of them.
  2. Starches are more complex sugars that need to be broken down by our digestive system to create the glucose our bodies need for energy.  So these carbohydrates take longer to break down and give us a slow burn of energy.
  3. Fiber.  Fiber is a carbohydrate that cannot be broken down by the body but is needed to aid digestion and to give us a happy gut and happy bathroom experiences. This, as you know, is super important!

When we eat too many carbs, the body can store some of them for future energy and turns them into fat. Not good.

In a nutshell–we need to eat carbohydrates that are complex and whole to provide us with that slow burn and with fiber. Processed foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in everything else are just empty calories that do not serve us!

The amount of carbohydrates that we need depends on the number of calories you need per day to reach your nutritional goals. I discuss that in a previous post called The Big Mac.

The best carbohydrates are found in vegetables, whole fruits, potatoes, legumes and whole grains. It is important though to remember to watch the serving sizes and the preparation of these foods so that we don’t change a good carbohydrate into a fattening dish.

We also don’t want to eat so much of a good thing that we turn it into a bad thing by overloading our bodies with too much sugar–even from whole foods–that is needed in a day.

For people who are currently battling obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease a low carb diet can be life changing. And I think–especially given our current society–that this is important to mention.

And while a low carb diet may come to your rescue–we need to include the proper water intake, exercise and a host of other changes to our habits as a permanent life change for our rescue to be sustainable.

Remember that carbohydrates did not cause our obesity and a host of other health problems.  Our ancestors ate all kinds of carbs and were healthy–and thin!

Our ancestors, though, ate whole foods–not processed foods!  And there is a way to include whole foods and the science of convenience in processed foods to help us achieve both nutritional values and health objectives!!

While I am still digging for the answers–remember to take everything you know and understand to be true with a grain of salt. Do some discovering of yourself and what works best for your body–because no two bodies are alike!

Reach out with a comment or email me at emptynestsavvy@gmail.com with your thoughts and questions!

Protein Packed

Protein Packed

I am quickly learning that my curiosity about nutrition is very hard work which was not what I expected, but I have always enjoyed a challenge–and a challenge this certainly is.

Learning more about macro nutrients and how they impact the body has been an exciting ride–which I can’t seem to get off of–and today I am full of protein!

Protein is one of the important macro nutrients that we need to have for a healthy diet. Getting the right proteins and in the right amount is the trick.

Where do we get our protein, what are the best types of protein and how much is needed?

First–where do we get our protein?  I thought the easy answer was meat! Beef, chicken and pork are very good sources of protein, but they are not the only sources of high protein.

There is protein in dairy products like eggs, natural cheeses, yogurt, 2% milk, organic milks, and whey and casein protein powders (for protein shakes.)

Proteins can also be found in seafood like Halibut, Yellowfin Tuna, Salmon, Tilapia, Anchovies and Sardines–and in all kinds of beans: black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans and so on.

I was very surprised at the amount of proteins found in nuts and grains like almonds, walnuts, cashews, oats and brown rice. Who knew? Well, I think many people knew–but I didn’t or I wasn’t really paying attention.

How much protein does each person need?  If we remember that protein is needed to build and repair muscles, organs and our skin then it makes sense that we need a fair amount of that.

For a normally active person of normal weight 25-30% of your daily calories from protein would be a good amount. Once again, math will have to be involved in your plans.

That does not mean that I am advocating going out and having a couple of greasy hamburgers a day! While that may have a lot of protein–it also has a lot of other stuff that is not good for you!

Protein also has some magical powers if you are looking to lose weight. When you increase your protein the body’s metabolism increases–burning more calories faster–at the same time that you are feeling fuller and will then eat less of everything.  Magic.

On top of that, proteins help you build muscle mass, which will keep your metabolism at an optimal level to keep burning calories–even when you sleep!

The most exciting thing I have learned in recent days about proteins is that it helps create enzymes that not only repair muscles–especially after a workout–but it helps repair organ tissues.

There is a great deal of research that is showing that increasing your protein intake–as we get older especially–helps us lower blood pressure, and combat diabetes and since it helps maintain muscle–it keeps us stronger longer.

Can we over do it?  Of course, as with anything else–too much of a good thing is not always a good thing.  There is some evidence–although no real scientific proof yet–that if you have kidney disease, too much protein can be harmful.

But for a healthy person getting the right amount of protein each day can help you stay healthy, maintain a good weight, prevent muscle loss as we get older, and keep our metabolism working at optimal levels.

Most healthy women should have between 45 and 75 grams of protein a day and healthy men should have between 55 and 90 grams of protein a day.  The more active you are–the more protein you should have!

Living our best life is important to living a long healthy life–and being healthy and active is the key!

Think about how you can protein pack your days to a healthier you!

Leave a comment below or contact me on emptynestsavvy@gmail.com!

 

The Big Mac

The Big Mac

The more I learn about nutrition, the more interested and confused I become.  No wonder so many people try so many diets and either fail miserably or succeed for a short while and then fall of the wagon and fail.

Now don’t misunderstand…diets do work for the most part but they only work as long as you continue the diet–which long term for most people is very hard–because diets all eliminate something major that the body needs.

What I am learning is better is creating your own nutritional plan that works for you. Yes–I did say create…but you can also adopt a way of life that provides you all the nutrients you need without the deprivation of most diets out there.

When you do this and keep it up and include at least 30 minutes of exercise everyday you will lose weight, feel better and naturally be healthier.

In order to create (or adopt) the right nutritional plan for you, you have to understand the Macros–or as I call them “the Big Mac”.

As with most popular buzzwords of the day, I usually get them wrong and invent my own.

So the Big Mac, or Macros are really Macro-nutrients.  Those are the major categories of nutrients the body needs in big quantities to work. And work well.

Thankfully–for me–there are only three to remember: Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats.

Here is a quick crash course on the Macros and how much your body needs in order to be healthy.

Proteins:  These are the building blocks of, well, everything. It is the main thing in all our tissues, organs, bones, enzymes, blood and hair. Everything is made of proteins and proteins also help repair them–like our muscles after a workout.

Proteins can be found in most meats and dairy products but also in legumes and grains. Getting enough proteins and the right type of proteins is essential.

Carbohydrates: Carbs give our bodies the needed energy we need to function. Carbs are also what makes us feel full so we don’t over eat the wrong kind of stuff.  Americans have a love-hate relationship with carbs.

Because all carbs are broken down into glucose by the body for energy–the wrong kind of carbs (simple sugars) will give you a great zing of energy followed by the slump.  The right kind of carbs can give our bodies the more leveled output of energy that lasts longer and doesn’t make us feel like we let the air out of the balloon.

Fats: Believe it or not fats are very necessary in our bodies.  They have a bad reputation for causing heart disease and obesity etc.  but are very necessary for the body to use with our hormones, nervous system, skin and hair health and even as insulation and cushion for the body and our organs.

As with Carbohydrates the wrong kind–or too much of a good thing–can be bad. We need insulation–but not too much insulation.

The big question is how much of each do we need to live healthy, lose unwanted weight, or build muscle.

The big answer of course is–it depends.

Each person’s needs and tolerance will be different–that is why most diets don’t work long term because each person needs to customize them to their own needs and body reactions.

Here is a general guideline to start with and adjust as your needs change.  Figure out how many calories you need to reach your goal. For example, if I want to lose weight–and I do–I want to stay at or under 1400 calories a day.

(The internet has many calculators you can use–as do most diet books–to figure out how many calories you need based on your gender, height, current weight and how much activity you have in your life.)

Once you know the calories you are aiming for–a simple method to allocate your calories is by getting 40% of your calories from Proteins, 40% from Carbohydrates and 20% from Fats.

Based on my number I would need 560 calories from Protein, 560 calories from Carbohydrates and 280 calories from Fat.  Add 64 oz of water a day and moderate exercise and viola! a new me!

Easy right? No…absolutely not easy. And that is my point today. Being healthy is hard work, but it can be done and it is so worth it! You have to take the time to do the numbers and then make the numbers work for you into a lifestyle choice that gets you to and keeps you where you want to be.

We want to live better, faster and smarter–and the Big Mac will get you there…but you have to put in the work!
Have a great day today! Reach out with a comment about your Big Mac or email me at emptynestsavvy@gmail.com with your thoughts and questions!

You Animals!

You Animals!

We are all animals! We may be the most social and intelligent animals on the planet—but animals nonetheless.

When thinking about our nutritional needs I reach back into my study of anthropology days.

So here is a quick lesson:

“modern” human beings have been on earth as far as we know for about 315 thousand years. Thank goodness those folks figured out how to survive so that all this time later we are here to write about them!

How did they survive? They kept it simple. Our theory is that the first peoples were nomadic which means they moved around all the time.

And by moved- I mean literally physically moved on foot with their possessions on their back. Kinda like backpacking through Europe without the cool travel guides.

Where did the move to? Well, wherever the food was. And by food I mean animals and wild plants that were in bloom. They ate whatever they could catch or harvest and they drank water from lakes, rivers, streams etc.

These people—our old ancestors—were healthy and fit. They exercised–through walking and hunting–and like animals they used their food for fuel in the body. The body instinctively knew how to use it efficiently and store some for times of scarcity—as fat in the body.

In this way we are just like animals.

Over time, many thousands of years, man found fire, taught themselves to farm, developed different lifestyles, settled, created cities, established centers of trade and commerce, learned to travel by different means and discovered spices.

Through these cultural and social changes–food changed from being not just a source of fuel and survival but a source of comfort, well being and status.

But the animal within us remains. The animal inside is still breaking down the food we give it to use for fuel and storing some of it for when the scarcity comes.

Unfortunately, 310,000 years later we don’t have to look for our food. We live in a beautifully abundant world. A beautifully intelligent world! A world full of convenience–full of processed and artificially colored, flavored,  and shaped foods–and the drive through windows from which to obtain it. And we are killing the animal which was never made to break down all the chemicals and mixtures we have invented to simulate food.

That does not mean I recommend eating tree bark. But it does mean we need to be more mindful of what we eat and how we eat and how we use that fuel.

If we did not see every meal as a celebration to overload ourselves on the abundance available to us but to honor the function that food has in our lives–as the fuel that gives us energy–we would be as a species, in a much better place.

I can just imagine what my cousins of 200,000 years ago would have looked like and felt like if sugar had been discovered that much sooner.  They would have never made it across the continents to create the different nations we are today!

Those ancestors were smarter–or at least more practical–in the foods they ate.

So how do we marry the two time periods of now and then to benefit the animal we are today?

In my humble opinion, these are the steps I am taking–which I started late in life–but which I hope will please the animal and improve my health.

  1. I am eating less–we intelligent humans have already figured out serving sizes of every food we have and the calories included in those servings.  Instead of eating the whole bag of potato chips or carton of ice cream–have just a serving. I know at first the servings will seem small but I am fueling my body not trying to give it all the food it will need into the next millennia.
  2. I am eating better–science is a beautiful thing and because of science we have the ability to feed ourselves without the scarcity or lack of food in our societies.  Each of us has a choice in the foods we use to fuel the body. I am choosing the best and most natural foods–that I enjoy–that will provide my body with the energy I need to perform, heal and survive in our current world.
  3. I am drinking more water–maintaining the proper hydration for the animal within helps the body regulate everything–cell growth, organ function, muscle repair and hunger control.  When all that is happening it is easier to eat less and eat better because I am not craving the empty calories that do not serve me.
  4. I am exercising more–survival no longer means walking miles and miles in search of food. Survival is more about being able to survive in a society that values the exchange of goods and services for money that is used in the exchange of more goods and services. Foods of all varieties–and prepared for us by thousands of different restaurants–being a major good and service we entertain ourselves with.

So in the end, perhaps it is not my particular DNA in my animal body that will advance the species for another 300,000 years–but my example on caring for the animal that will be helpful.

Do what is right for your body instead of what is easy. Embrace the animal within you!  

And have fun with it!

Drink More Water

Drink More Water

Water is the basis of all life. Most experts will agree that our bodies are at least 60% water.  For those trying to live healthier and watch our weight–water consumption becomes a big deal.

Among other things water helps maintain balance in our body fluids and organs. It helps energize muscle and even the brain. Water serves to keep our body clean of toxins. And water can help us look pretty or handsome.

Yet many of us–myself included until I realized what I was doing to myself–don’t drink enough water!

In my search to discover what was the “right” amount of water to drink…I found many different opinions. Here are some of the most popular guidelines I found–

  1. Drink 64 oz of water a day. The old tried and true 8-8oz glasses of water per person.
  2. Each person should drink their body weight in ounces divided by 2.

Yeah, I thought the same thing–math!  Why does everything need math? Ok so I looked for an example so I could understand it. If a woman weighs 130 lbs, divided by two means she should drink 65 oz of water per day. If a man weighs 210 lbs, then he would need to drink 105 oz of water a day.  

Makes sense that a larger container (a bigger person) would need more water to maintain a healthy ratio in the body.

I then thought–is that even possible? I already drink a lot of water throughout the day–I am sure I am getting more than enough.  

I set off to experiment.  I counted the number of ounces of water I drink a day, and was surprised to find that I was only drinking 30 to 34 oz of water a day! By medical standards I was dehydrated!

This was serious! So I started measuring and counting my ounces each day and setting my goal at 64 oz,  and it took me 3 weeks to get used to drinking that much water!

Now it is coming as second nature.  And I got an added bonus! I love added bonuses!!!!

I lost 4 pounds! I wasn’t even trying–I was just concentrating on drinking water! Seems like just drinking the right amount of water was balancing out my system a little bit–most likely washing out the salt that makes us retain water that should be helping the body eliminate toxins!

I am so excited about this discovery!  And I want to share with you some tips on how to increase your water intake!

Tip#1  Drink one to two glasses of water when you get up in the morning! Your body has been resting for 6-8 hours and is thirsty.

Tip#2 Use a pitcher to measure and keep track of the water you are drinking for the day. When the pitcher is empty–you have reached your goal.

Tip#3 Drink water before each meal and sip water throughout the day, especially if you are doing anything physical like exercising, gardening, cleaning the house, etc.

Tip#4 Try a water tracker app on your phone! They are fun!

Tip#5 Add a slice of lemon or lime to the water for a citrusy flavor.

Now I know, like I know that you are going to have some reservations. So let me put your mind at ease.

Does coffee, juice, and soda pop count as water, after all they are liquid?  No they don’t–because they contain caffeine, sugar and other chemicals that dehydrate the body.

How about alcohol?  While a Margarita sounds absolutely delicious–it also dehydrates.

Can I drink too much water and hurt my body?  No. Most of us have a hard time drinking enough water throughout the day without having to worry about drowning by water bottle.

What if I am in the bathroom all day?  That does happen–for the first 2 or 3 days, after that the body seemed to just feel good in its new wet floaty environment.

So drink more water folks–it’s good for you, it makes you feel good, it makes you look good and you might find a few free bonuses along the way!

What have been your challenges in staying hydrated?  Comment below and have a great hydrated day!

 

Priorities, Priorities, Priorities

Priorities, Priorities, Priorities

In my last post, I shared with you how much I am enjoying using my calendar to schedule the events and tasks that are important to my life, my goals and my priorities.

I’ve received a few questions since then about how to set your priorities and how I know if they are the right ones!  Wow! Huge questions and tough ones, but I decided to tackle them.

Setting priorities can be a very difficult task–depending on what your priorities are and if they match your values and your goals.

So first you really need to decide what you really want in your life.  Do you want a job, career or calling that you are excited to get up for each morning? Or just a means to make some money to obtain the OTHER things you really want in your life?

Do you want the romantic relationship of your dreams? Do you want to travel more or have more interesting experiences? Or do you want just more TIME to do all of these things?

You see, as we get older–the things we want change and that will change our goals and the methods we use to reach them.  This happens–not because we are getting older–but because we continue to grow as long as we are still breathing!

As we grow, we have to keep examining what it is we want so we can shift–you got it–our PRIORITIES!

How do you set your priorities? The right priorities for each person will be different depending on what they value.  

If you value family, like I do, then your tasks and the events you choose to attend will revolve around family–because that is what makes you happy and so you have internalized this as a priority for you.

How do you know if your priorities are the right ones? Well…this is easier to answer and harder to answer.

I am not going to say: “if it feels good make this a priority in your life”  because sometimes we pursue or do things that feel good in the moment–but that are really bad for us.

What I will say is if something is important to you, like traveling and seeing new places, and you have to work all year to save and earn your two weeks off in order to be able to enjoy it–but you do it because you really get joy from the traveling then this is a priority for you!

So the right priorities are the ones that feel right to you and that match up with the things you values.

As I continue growing and enjoying this journey, I have done a lot of self inspection.  I have found that my life’s passions include my personal growth, my family, traveling and writing or being creative in some form of expression. I also realized that I am a fixer–or as I prefer to think of it–a helper.

I was happy to realize that most of my life I have been reaching and obtaining these experiences, even through the years that had brought hardship, confusion and disasters into my life.

Getting older and continuing to grow just means for me that I will be putting more focus on my passions–my priorities–because it is what makes me happy and what is leading me to my purpose.

So knowing your priorities is very important! Examining what your heart is telling you makes you happy is very important! And then prioritizing your life so that you are going towards those goals is what makes this life so worth living!

Never stop growing! And do not be afraid to treat yourself well by honoring the things that are important to you!  We only live one life, folks, have fun!

Comment below and share some of the things that you have made priorities in your life!

Join FB and check out my pinterest boards!