Tag Archives: health

You don’t need a detox. But I know why you want one, so do this instead.

If I owned this sticker my life would be better.

If I owned this sticker my life would be better.

I didn’t set out to write about pooping today. But apparently the time has come to do just that. So I’ll talk a little about pooping – and other things that make our bodies feel good. 

Why am I talking about poop, aside from the word being fun to say? Because yesterday as I chatted with a friend about the growing popularity of detox drinks, diets, and pills, two thoughts popped into my mind.

Marketers are selling you a whole bunch of “detox” products that you don’t need. That’s a shady ploy, as my coach just recently pointed out in an excellent video. You’re being told on a daily basis that your body is full of toxins. And that if you just follow their plan, take their pill, or drink their shake, you’ll get rid of them. And then feel like a million bucks.

You don’t need this stuff. Your liver is fully capable of getting rid of toxic substances in your body.  And sometimes these products may make your health even worse.

What’s more important: there’s a reason that marketers are selling detoxes, cleanses, and other nonsense. They make you believe that you need something special. They know that the idea appeals to us. They’re just giving us what we want.But what do we want? And why?

When clients, friends, and family come to me asking about detoxes,  what they’re really sharing is something deeper. Here are the big issues. And along with that, my thoughts on how to tackle them. Without an overpriced product.

siplay

“I just came back from vacation, so I’m detoxing.”
My client Becky told me this last month. She is an excellent example of someone who exercises reasonably and regularly. And she normally eats well. After a long weekend of being whisked around to restaurant dinners, she came home feeling bloated and yuck. I asked her what her detox entailed.

“Oh, I’m eating some salads.”

That put a big smile on my face. She wasn’t doing anything bonkers.

When we get out of our routine and eat more calories, junkier food, and maybe throw back a lot more adult beverages than on average, you know what feels really, really good?

Eating a damn salad.

It feels good physically, because we get more nutrients and water. It also feels good psychologically: probably because in our heads, it’s a clear line in the sand that we’re getting back to normal. And this is a perfectly good thing.

So sometimes what we think of as a detox isn’t actually silly. It’s just a word that people use to say “stop behaving like I’m still on that beach vacation where the waiter brought me food and drink every time I gave him a sideways glance.”

bloats

“I feel bloated and gross.”
A party weekend may do this. Drinking dairy does this to me, because I’m lactose intolerant. There are a lot of reasons that we may feel bloated.

Overdo the food and drink? You most likely don’t need to do anything other than let your body get back to normal after a few days.

Certain foods may lead to extra gassiness, even if you don’t have a food intolerance. We all know about beans, but veggies like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and other foods that contain particular starches and sugars can make your stomach feel bloated.  If bloating is a regular issue, see a doctor. There are all sorts of conditions that cause chronic symptoms. 

Fizzy drinks may temporarily make you feel full and uncomfortable. That’s an easy one to replace with water or another drink like hot tea on a day when you feel blah.

And after a day of eating foods high in sodium, you may retain water that makes you look and feel puffier than normal. If you don’t normally eat a ton of processed food, most likely your daily sodium intake is just fine. But by eating mostly whole foods for a few days may help you feel less like an inflated balloon. 

Finally, some experts recommend chewing more slowly so that you don’t draw so much air into your body as you eat. Eating more slowly is a good practice for developing mindfulness around hunger. So hey, why not give that a go too? 

yay!

Yay!

“I just want to poop, okay?”
Sweet. We’re in the pooping portion of the program today.  So you know that most likely, you’ll never need a colonic cleanse to poop better. Thank God, because that sounds terrifying.

First of all, if you get plenty of water and fiber in your diet on a daily basis, things should be moving along well.

If you’re not currently eating plenty of fruits, veggies, and other sources of fiber like whole grains, but you want to begin, don’t do it by diving in hard with a detox diet you saw on Pinterest. Ease into eating more fiber. That’s because fiber just helps forms better stool. And if you suddenly go from eating no fiber to eating tons of fiber, you may feel worse. So gradually increase your intake.

Instead, begin by increasing your water intake. Fiber absorbs water, so drinking extra will help the process move along more smoothly. Avoid harsh laxatives and if you’re really backed up, try a gentler stool softener. My doctor recommends Miralax, but ask your own M.D. here.

If despite eating plenty of healthy fiber from fruits and veggies you find that you’re still having wonky issues with your digestion, see a doc. Soluble and insoluble fiber both play a role in helping food get broken down and pass through our bodies. Foods with soluble fiber attract water and firm up stool, while foods with insoluble fiber can make it easier to relieve constipation. People who have gastrointestional issues such as IBS may be particularly sensitive to what kinds of fiber they ingest. So get that checked out if you suspect you have an issue. 

Finally – try the squatty potty. Aside from having an adorable name, those stools help your stool. See what I just did there? Hahaha. Okay. Moving on.

These drinks will not detoxify you but they sure look tasty.

These drinks will not detoxify you but they sure look tasty.

“I need a detox to lose this belly fat.”
I don’t even know where to begin with this one. No. You don’t need that. But sometimes going out and buying the special foods and drinks sends a message that we’re doing something. That we’re kick starting a change. Unfortunately, after the excitement wears off, people are left with some crappy drink and a burning desire to inhale an entire pizza. Screw that diet.

It’s fine to gain momentum with a more aggressive fat loss plan, but it should be one that is safe, not absolute misery, and can transition into a more moderate nutrition approach.  

I’m not opposed to a “rapid fat loss” diet. When you give yourself more structure and see big results initially, it may help you believe that you are capable of change.

But when I use these with my online coaching clients, I carefully monitor them to take note of how their bodies are functioning as they lose fat. Don’t go in blind when it comes to nutrition – partner with someone who will help you create a safe, sane plan. And remember, the more radical the approach, the more likely it will fail you. Especially if there’s nothing about it that you can take with you for long term healthy eating. 
So the bottom line – you don’t need anything special. But it’s completely normal to want to reset, recharge, and make your insides feel better.  Make sleep a priority for a few days. Drink water, put veggies (but not all the veggies) into your body, and go get a workout. You’ll be glowier than the chicks hawking detoxes on the Internet and keep more money in your bank account.

The Olds: Adventures in Perimenopause

 

she ra goes to the vag doc

I’m 40. Turning 40 wasn’t nearly as monumental as people make it out to be. Nothing magically changed overnight. I’m fitter at 40 than I have ever been in my life, and all in all, I’m in a good place. I train smarter, and as a result I’m stronger and faster than when I was 20 and 30.  In my mind, I feel more like She-Ra than what society deems as middle-aged. Sensible, motherly, and sexless are words that paint us but don’t really fit. “Age ain’t nothing but a number,” I’ve mused. Until it was.

Flash forward to last month. If you’re one of those squeamish, delicate types, stop reading here. Hey, you’ve been warned.

My period was really weird. Instead of my typical flow, I had a really light period. Normally, I’d high five nature. But it lasted for AN ENTIRE FREAKING MONTH. I felt exhausted and crampy.  My lifting felt harder. I had little energy for “gainz”. My bowels were whackadoo. Despite following a modest fat loss protocol, the scale wasn’t budging. Something felt off.

So of course I did what I can never resist: I went to Dr. Intarwebz. After browsing awhile, I deduced that I was probably fine but that I MIGHT TOTALLY HAVE CANCER and made an appointment with the gynecologist. The conversation went something like this:

ME: So, what’s up with my crazy period and symptoms? I’m worried that I might (TOTALLY HAVE) cancer. Or fibroids. Or something terrible.

GYNE: I doubt you have cancer. But you’re likely beginning perimenopause. You’re probably making less progesterone, so instead of your uterine lining shedding all at once,  you rely on estrogen to very slowly help things along.

ME: DIAGNOSIS OLDZ?

GYNE: Probably. But we can check with an ultrasound.

ME: Ok good. (I’ll show them that something is definitely amiss. Not that I want cancer. But I’m only 40! WHAT?)

GYNE: Do you have to urinate frequently?

ME: Yes. And sometimes when I jump rope, I pee a little. (Don’t judge. It happens right?)

GYNE: Ok well if it gets really bad there are options. (I feel like I’m in a bad commercial now for menopause. Or Coldwater Creek, the matronly ambassador of clothing for ladies who have given up on being cool. Sorry mom. I know you love the CC.)

ME: Oh before I forget  – *eye rolling* – my husband told me to ask about stuff for my sex drive. To, uh, obtain one.

GYNE: Oh sure. (Blah blah blah, libido cream, mentions something about a small amount of testosterone added. Jokes that maybe it’ll even help me with my strength).

ME: (Suddenly perking up) Whoa! But will I grow hair and stuff?

GYNE: No.

ME: Will I be able to Hulk smash?

GYNE:  No.

ME: That’s bullshit.

GYNE: *Emotionless stare*

menopause

So the point of all this is buckle up, ladies, shit’s about to change. It may begin as early as your mid 30s but late 30s to mid 40s is most common for adventures in perimenopause.  Not everyone has the same issues, but they’re part of the changes that come with being a woman. That sounds so mature. Bleh. But knowing that you’re normal and probably not dying is helpful, right?

I ended up following up with a friend, also a gynecolygist, who we lovingly refer to as “Vag Doc”. Vag Doc put me on some progesterone to stop the eternal period and ordered an ultrasound. It turns out I’m fine. I’m just getting older.

Always get weird stuff checked out, because ovarian cancer is often missed at early stages. It’s been named “the silent killer” and it’s no joke. Read  about common symptoms here

Thankfully, usually the symptoms we worry about are not actually cancer. Unless you look on WebMD. Then everything leads to cancer.

Here is a list of symptoms associated with perimenopause, which means “around menopause”, and is a fun-filled transition toward losing your fertility.

  • Changes in your period: it may become more irregular in flow, how frequently it visits, and how long it lasts.  This is due to the level of estrogen rising and falling unevenly.
  • Menopause-like symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep problems, and dry vagina. Good times. There are treatments to help if it gets out of hand.
  • Moodiness. I just thought I was getting crankier with time. Maybe not. I’ve been having big mood swings. They’re not fun. Sometimes women experience depression during perimenopause.  At other times, moodiness can be attributed to lack of sleep and/or hormonal shifts.mood swings
  • Vaginal and bladder issues. Hormonal shifts also can leave you with a dry cooch and needing to pee all the time. This is injustice, but it is what it is. Loss of tone can also lead to incontinence. Maybe I wear black workout pants just in case. Who’s with me?
  • No interest in sexy time. This isn’t inevitable, but it can happen.
  • You might be constipated. I’ll pay $50 to poop like a normal person. Holy hell.
  • Your babymaker packs it up: decreased fertility is the one that I already expected due to ovulation becoming less regular. I have a house full of boys, so no problem there.
  • Bone loss. Here’s where weight-bearing activity continues to be important as osteoporosis begins to set in. Because your estrogen levels decrease in the perimenopausal years, you begin to lose bone more quickly than it can be replenished.
  • LDL can go up. Again, losing estrogen unfavorably affects your cholesterol. Keep it in check by eating well, moving regularly, and getting it tested at your physical.
  • Weight gain. Your hormones are doing flip flops and your body is trying to adapt to all the changes. You may need to be patient, but weight gain isn’t insurmountable. Building muscle mass, getting more overall activity, and eating a well-balanced diet will still be effective over the long haul. However, your efforts may require more tenacity than in years past. It blows but it’s not an insurmountable hurdle.

So no, perimenopause isn’t life shattering. You can still be a bad bitch. Just be prepared for changes to come, and we can rock 40 and 50 so hard the young kids won’t even know what to do with us.

 

She-Ra-Princess-Power

 

 

Sources:

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Perimenopause.” Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic, 20 Apr. 2013. Web. 7 July 2015.

From Drunk Shopping to a Healthy Habit: The Consistency Challenge

 

drunk

 

I am a lightweight. I rarely drink alcohol at all: it gets in the way of my performance goals and a night out with several drinks under my belt ends with a very harsh jerk back to reality in the morning when I awaken to three small kids tugging on my arm at 6 a.m.  If I have more than two drinks I’m done-zo. I suppose you could say I can’t hang.

But I’m all for moderation, and once in awhile I’ll let loose a bit. Last weekend while in Kansas City, my friends and I decided to head downtown to the Plaza for dinner and a few drinks. Unlike me, these girls can hang.

After savoring two cocktails over a leisurely dinner, they pulled me up to a rooftop patio. It was a beautiful night and we basked in the warm weather while sipping just one more drink. Unfortunately, that put me over the edge and I got a little tipsy. Oops.

So naturally we went shopping next. Considering we were in a fantastic district for picking up some new goodies, it seemed like the right thing to do. I’ve never shopped while being drunk before, but I don’t recommend it unless you feel like spending way too much money.

rich

Wheeeeee!

As soon as we wandered into Athleta I spied a bright yellow water bottle made by S’well. Like a small child attracted to sparkly things, I snatched it up and decided I definitely needed to buy it. After all, the sales woman boasted, it kept water cold or hot for 24 hours. “This is amaaaazing” I declared with a bit too much exuberance. I peeked at the price tag. “Holy crap. $45?” “It holds 24 ounces,” she chirped, and I was sold. YES. I need this in my life. Of course.

As the sunlight creeped into our hotel room the next day, the memory of buying this thing settled in. I’d already done a good bit of shopping that month and I inwardly cringed. Shit. Oh well. There are worse things to regret after a night with a few too many cocktails. Maybe I’d drink more water. Meh.

Tastes like regret.

Tastes like bad choices.

After I returned home I saw a link to “The Consistency Challenge” on Jen Sinkler’s site. I clicked and immediately thought of my new water bottle. Here’s why:

For the last few years I’ve told myself that I want to drink more water. It’s not that I don’t actually want to be better about this habit. It’s just that for some reason, I suck at actually incorporating it into my life. Just saying that I’m going to drink more water has done absolutely nothing to improve my intake.

When I say that I don’t drink enough water, I’m not talking about not getting 60 oz. I’m not even close. There are many days when I don’t even drink a single glass. I do, however, drink a ton of coffee. Why is drinking water so hard? I don’t hate water. I know it will most likely make me feel better inside. What is stopping me?

Typically when I read about challenges I don’t bite. Usually they involve a huge commitment or focus on a bikini body or something else that just doesn’t speak to me. The ones I’ve actually done in the past usually involve me white knuckling through. For example, I jumped on the Whole 30 bandwagon a few years ago. On day 31 I ate all the cookies. Challenges that require behaviors that aren’t sustainable for the rest of my life just don’t work for me.

But this one was different in a few ways from what I typically see.

  • The goal is to develop consistency with one single action.
  • The action has to be something that we actually want to work on, not that we feel like we should work on.
  • An outcome of success is less important than what we discover in the process.
  • A big point of this challenge is to see what other things shift in your life when you incorporate a new habit. The focus is more on discovering how our habits impact our lives than a tangible outcome like weight loss or miles run.

So I approached the challenge as a bit of an experiment with myself. If I bought this thing, could I put it to use and commit to becoming consistent about drinking just 24 ounces a day?

Even on day 1, I noticed a few things:

1. I committed to carrying my water bottle everywhere with me, except during walking or running outside, because though that would be a natural time to need water, this thing is freaking heavy. I noticed that having it with me made me more likely to sip. Duh.

Oh, the places we'll go.

Oh, the places we’ll go.

2. Remembering to take my bottle with me has been way less problematic than in the past. It’s enormous and bright canary yellow. I can’t miss it! Even at home, I see it sitting on the counter and I sip.

I won't give up my precious. But maybe we can all get along.

I won’t give up my precious. But maybe we can all get along.

On days 1 and 2, I filled up my bottle twice and finished all my water, even though I’d committed to drinking only 1 bottle. Score! It wasn’t even hard. Ha!

So what has this taught me so far? First of all, committing to being consistent led me to be mindful of the habit I’m trying to instill. I downloaded a sheet from the challenge page as a visual reminder to stick on the fridge, though the yellow bottle has served the same purpose. But I’ve quickly discovered that the barrier to my water drinking was probably lack of a visual reminder. Only time will tell if I’ll need to develop other strategies to keep my habit going. I’ll report back in a month.

My conclusion so far is that drunk shopping might not always be so bad after all… (ok, it probably is a terrible idea). But sometimes what we consider an extravagance might become an unexpected tool for change. That surprised me!

Are you up for a challenge? Read more here for background information on how the consistency challenge was created. You’ll also find extra tips on how to make your new habit stick. Leave a comment and let me know what habit you’re working on incorporating into your life this month.

My constant companion.

My constant companion.

Keeping it Real

gymselfie

I’ve made a lot of progress lately in the gym. After a summer on the bike, I hunkered down into my own strength training plan and have been reveling in being inside the gym. My strength gains have been consistently improving, and most days I feel energized and strong. I’ve seen some really dramatic changes in my body, which I’ve come to love as little reminders that my muscles are working and growing. After a few years of being sidelined here and there by injury, I feel like I’ve found my groove. I even took a selfie – in the fitness world, that’s de rigeur, right? But for me, it was huge. For years I avoided taking pictures of myself.

Seeing my photos always provoked a huge amount of anxiety and self loathing. It didn’t matter if I was overweight, which I was several times throughout my life, or really lean. I yo-yo’d back and forth, all the while looking at my body as something to be fixed. Something that wasn’t good enough.

In fact, when I started creating this site last summer, I had my good friend Yana take my photographs and could barely bring myself to use them.  She captures some of the most gorgeous images I’ve ever seen, and I could always see the beauty in every person whose photo she snapped. Except my own. Despite the beautiful quality of the pictures, I could only see the flaws. I wasn’t fit enough. What the hell does that even mean?

In a moment of panic, I asked her to have them photo-shopped. I moped. I buried my head in the sand. And then when they arrived, I moped some more, because they felt strange. They weren’t me. I looked slimmer, but those weren’t my arms. My arms are bulky. Because they house my biceps. Biceps that are getting pretty damn strong. I’d enjoy a little less body fat. I don’t even know why. But at some point I realized how silly it was to hide. The disordered thinking subsided and I scrapped the edited photo. Here they are, side by side.

retouched

Yana’s beautiful work made everything way more gorgeous of course. I’d keep the lighting. It’s so pretty! Here’s the original, without any editing.

untouched

What I want for this site is for it to be a place where we work on our fitness in a way that is positive. Fitness is a tremendous vehicle for transforming not only our bodies but also our thoughts. Strength training gave me a confidence and determination that carry over to every other area of my life. At the same time, I want to communicate a message that also affirms that we are fundamentally enough. All bodies are good bodies. As I learned from people like Nia Shanks, when we focus more on what our bodies can do and less on what they look like, we can get out of our own way and really make progress on feeling good.

So the challenge with fitness for me, and I suspect for many others, has been to find that peace. It’s a balance, or rather a healthy spot that allows us to utilize fitness in a way that enhances our lives. It requires discovering the habits that will really make us feel good inside and developing a path for practicing them.  The goals are great but the path that leads to them is greater. Let’s recognize the amazing in ourselves and let that lead the way. Good things are ahead.