11.16.2014

Why Americans are fat



Why have Americans become so fat? Is it because we eat too much, or is it because we don't exercise enough?

According to a study published in The American Journal of Medicine, the answer is the latter.

Over the last 20 years Americans have seen a significant drop in physical activity during our free time. Take a look at these shocking statistics:
  • In 1988 19% of women reported that they did no physical activity during their free time. In 2010 that number jumped to a whopping 52%
  • In 1988 11% of men said they did no physical activity during their free time. In 2010 the number jumped to 44%
  • Between 1988 and 2010 researchers found little difference in the average number of calories Americans typically consumed
What does this information mean to you? It's worth taking a look at your own activity level on the weekends and after work hours. Do you have a hobby that gets you moving? If not, perhaps it's time to find one.

Next weekend, find a trail to hike. Take a bike ride. Invite a friend to the ice rink. Rent a canoe so you can take a peek at the fall foliage. Get the family together to don some sporty shoes and play a couple frames at the bowling alley. Try your hands at indoor rock climbing. Put on your best dress and go ballroom dancing.

If you don't have fun, try something else. Search and explore until you find an activity that's fun, energizing and inspiring.  When you find it you'll be hooked, and that's good for your mind and body.


11.03.2014

Control your weight with hydrophilic foods

Brussels sprouts are hydrophilic foods. Try roasting them in the oven.


I have a diet tip for you: load up on hydrophilic foods.

Hydrophilic foods attract and absorb water, making them swell in size. They are nutritionally dense, full of fiber, and satisfying.

What does this mean to you? Simple. It means you can eat natural, healthy foods that fill your belly, making you feel full longer. Consuming these foods will add vital nutrients to your diet and aid you in your quest to take in fewer calories.

Are you in? Here's a list of the most common hydrophilic foods:

  • Chia seeds
  • Oatmeal
  • Barley
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Okra
  • Kidney beans
  • Oranges
  • Pears
  • Celery
  • Chickpeas
  • Lemons
  • Figs
  • Dates
  • Green beans
  • Snow peas
Now, get thee to a grocery store.

10.22.2014

What are myofascial meridians? Why should you care?

The Superficial Back Line,
a page from  Anatomy Trains by Tom Meyers


Myofascial meridians are lines of pull, linked strings of muscle and connective tissue. Loads of force are distributed throughout the human body via these lines. These lines facilitate movement and provide stability to the body.

The human body has 12 meridians. These lines run up and down the back of the body, the front of the body, the sides of the body, deep within the body, on the front and back of the arms. They also spiral like a helix from one side of the body to the other.

So what?

Understanding myofascial meridians expands our understanding of the human body, how it functions, and how it can be rehabilitated.

Let's go to the gym to get a sense of how this idea might influence how we exercise. If we go to the weight machines we can sit down at a machine designed to work the hamstrings, load it up with weights, and work out that muscle.

If we take meridians into account, though, we'd recognize that focusing purely on the hamstring will neglect the fascia and other muscles within the Superficial Back Line, where it resides. This line of muscles runs all the way from the toes up the back of the legs, and up the sacrum. It includes the back extensors and travels all the way up the back of the skull, finally ending at the eyebrows.

It is important that the muscles and fascia surrounding the hamstring is strengthened as well. We take a risk if we strengthen just one muscle in the line without properly strengthening the others, because the result over time will be imbalance, compensation, and injury.

So what should you do? Think of your body not in segments, but as a whole structure, whereby strengthening one part will effect the others. Seek activities that are functional, and try classes like yoga and Pilates that recognize these lines of pull and strengthen muscles groups rather than individual muscles.

Now go to it!

10.16.2014

Three bean chili

Healthy three bean chili


Fall is here: the leaves are falling, the air is brisk, and I've unleashed the wool sweaters from their storage bags.

The new season can be seen everywhere outside, and it's entered my kitchen as well. Citrusy salads, cold soups, and grilled meats and vegetables have given way to roasts, baked squashes, hot soups, and chilis.

These foods warm the house and the belly. I love their aromas and the messages they evoke: feelings of nesting, cozying up to well built fires, being home with family and friends.

This past weekend I made my first chili of the season. Not only is this dish easy, it's also healthy and delicious. Another bonus? It yields plenty of leftovers to throw in the freezer, making dinner prep a cinch at a later date.

Enjoy the change of seasons, dear friends.

Three bean chili
(I usually throw a chili together. This one is mild, a good one for children. Feel free to add or subtract from this recipe according to your tastes) 

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 red or orange pepper, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz can black beans
  • 1 15 oz can kidney beans
  • 1 15 oz can cannellini beans
  • 1 lb. ground, grass-fed beef
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
Directions:
  • Heat oil over medium high heat. Sauté onion, pepper, and garlic.
  • Add parsley, chili powder, cumin and salt. Coat vegetables.
  • Add beef and cook until brown.
  • Add tomatoes and beans.
  • Reduce heat and simmer.
  • Spoon chili into bowls and top each with two slices of creamy avocado. Serve with warm corn bread.

10.07.2014

How often should you exercise?

Findings about fascial tissue can inform intelligent exercise

There's been a lot of discussion on these blog pages about fascial tissue recently, and you may be wondering what this has to do with you and your exercise plan.

Here's the skinny:
  • Fascia is ubiquitous. Whenever you exercise, you are training not only muscle, but highly adaptable fascial tissue. Fascial tissue responds to exercise by creating a spiral, lattice type pattern throughout it. This pattern makes the tissue buoyant and elastic, allowing it to meet the physical demands you put upon your body. 
  • Fascial tissue is not as vascular as muscle. This means it takes longer for this tissue to recover from vigorous exercise than it does for your muscles to recover. According to Tom Myers, body worker, fascial tissue expert and author of Anatomy Trains, 24 hours after exercise the fascial tissue is weaker than it was before exercise. Rest is recommended. 48 hours after exercise the tissue builds collagen, making it stronger. After 72 hours the tissue has settled into its "new normal" state.
  • Most injuries include fascia, and most sports injuries occur when the fascial tissue is overloaded too quickly.
What should you take away? 
  • Exercise, but be just as mindful about resting your body as you are about stressing it. 
  • Make sure exercises are performed with thought and precision, rather than quick movements. (Rushing through your workout may save time, but it doesn't do your body any favors).
  • Ensure workouts are varied, loading differing muscle groups throughout the week.

9.30.2014

Fall traditions: retreats and applesauce



Every year I gather with the throngs of city dwellers that need a slice of the peaceful and beautiful pastoral scene to make autumn feel complete. I pack my husband and kids in the car and we take the scenic route beyond the suburbs to the country.

It doesn't matter if I'm living in Boston, just outside New York City, or in the inner ring of the Cleveland suburbs. The need to retreat is the same.

This year we went to Chesterland, an area just east of Cleveland where trees have escaped the need for high rises and shopping malls. They stretch high into the sky, their frail yellow and orange leaves dancing to the ground as the breeze blows. It's perfect.

And every year I drink in the fresh air, gaze at the scenery, and, high on life, pick too many apples.

And so, I make a lot of applesauce, because it is the one thing I can cook that actually eats into my endless supply of delicious, yet too plentiful, apples.

I realize you can make a good applesauce that is simple, with just apples and water. However, this year I decided I'd try to make it special, so I added a few ingredients. I thought it was delicious, and so did my kids, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Falling Leaves Applesauce (named by my daughter):

Ingredients: 

  • 8 large apples or 10 smaller ones (remember, we're trying to get rid of apples here)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
Directions:
  • Core and peel apples
  • Slice apple into eighths
  • Place all ingredients in a large pot and set over medium high heat
  • Stir occasionally to keep apples from burning on the bottom of the pan
  • When apples are softened, transfer to a food processor and blend until smooth
  • Serve warm or chilled



9.26.2014

Drinking water isn't enough

Hydrating fascial tissue can relieve pain


If you've been reading my posts and following me on Twitter and Facebook, you probably know I can't get enough information about the fascia and its impact on overall health. 

What's the big deal?

Hydrated fascial tissue is crucial for our well being. In its ideal state, connective tissue is buoyant, supportive, and adaptable. These three characteristics are crucial for optimal body function.

As we age, though, the fascial tissue dries out. It becomes brittle and can fray. Muscles, joints, organs, and nerves are all negatively affected. How do you know this is happening? You begin to feel discomfort. You feel the aches and pains of aging: stiff back, stiff neck, bulging finger joints, the list goes on.

Here's the good news: rehydrating this tissue can have a positive, whole body effect. 

I've been sharing this information with lots of people, and here's a response I hear a lot: "Well, I drink a lot of water, so my fascial tissue should be well hydrated."

Unfortunately, it's not that easy. Drinking water is good for your body, but when it comes to fascial tissue, it's not enough. In fact, if you are drinking water and it seems to go right through you, this is a sign that it is not getting to the tissues it needs to penetrate.


That's because the connective tissue needs to be stimulated in such a way that fluids can enter it. Gentle compression and slow movements are required. 

You can go to expensive body workers for help, or you can use a special, squishy foam roller and a variety of balls to rehydrate the tissue on your own. If you experience chronic pain, I urge you to look into the Melt Method, which may help you learn how to diminish or eliminate your discomfort on your own.  

Taking your health into your own hands: what a precious gift.
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