Body Image: Why YOURS is sexy as hell

bodyimageI’ve been spending a lot of time writing about ways to eat healthy, exercise, and stay away from cookies but it’s time I touched on the most important aspect of living a healthy lifestyle: your own self view of YOUR own body. First of all, let’s get a few things straight, I’m even going to bullet them so you won’t miss any:

  • No two people have the same exact body or body type
  • You can’t change your bone structure
  • There is more than ONE type of beautiful body, in fact there are endless types
  • Perfection lies within being proud of what your body is capable of, not how it looks compared to others
  • Perfection is imperfection
  • Most photos you see online, in the news, in magazines are all photoshopped now (but some sources are doing things to start changing that)

 

Ok good, glad we’re all on the same page now. And feel free to add to that list, in your head, with your friends, or in a comment below. I already know I missed a lot of important points.

Let’s use an analogy (my friends tell me I’m good at these). Do you like cookies? Sure you do. Some people like chocolate chip cookies warm and gooey, fresh out of the oven; some people like to throw them in the freezer and then gnaw on them slowly. While others prefer peanut butter ones, molasses, sugar cookies, or would really rather have a bag of potato chips. Point is, in reality, all of those things are tasty. They all bring us satisfaction. Can we all agree that food is good? Cool. Same goes for body types. There are men out there that love a big ass, just like there are women that love a man with a chest full of hair – that’s because these are attractive aspects of people, some people just consider one thing preferable to another. Did I really just take a paragraph to lay that all out to you? Yes. I know you’re thinking “DUH!” but sometimes we need to be reminded of this, in fact, we need to be reminded of it a lot.

In my weight loss journey I keep saying things to myself like “I’ll be happy with my body when I can see my full collar-bone when I wear a strapless dress” or “when my waist is 5 inches smaller” yada yada yada. Even though, realistically, there’s a very good possibility that even if I do keep losing weight my collar bones may never “pop” the way I want them to. That’s because everyone stores fat differently. And just because your friend has lost weight and has a flat stomach, doesn’t mean you’ll get to that point just as fast, just as slow, or in the same ways they did. The key to everyone’s journey into lifelong healthy nutrition and fitness habits is learning how their body works, loving the ways it’s unique, and continually adapting to what their lifestyle needs are.

Stop working towards other people’s ideals and goals and KEEP working towards YOURS!

There are many tools in place to measure someone’s health, I don’t have the time (or the energy) to debate or explain how accurate these tools really are. In reality, they are quick tools used to assess someone’s heath in a timely fashion. High body fat %? You’re probably not in great health. Even though, myself included, it’s easy to pick apart the system. Should you be striving for a lower body fat % for better health? Yeah, probably, but it shouldn’t consume your mind and worry you until you reach “althlete” status. Some people tend to be thinner than others, some people struggle with food more than others, we all have our own battles and it doesn’t make one of us better than anyone else.

Another measurement tool I recently took more interest in is the Waist-hip ratio or WHR . Women tend to store fat in their hips and thighs as they advance through puberty and age, while men tend to hold more of their weight in their midsections. By measuring your waist just above your belly button and then your hips around the larger part of your bottom you can calculate your WHR by dividing your waist measurement by your hip measurement. Basically the smaller your waste is compared to your hips, the lower your WHR will be.  I’ll jump in the pool first. Mine is a 0.7. So what does that look like?

Although I must admit, my bust isn’t even half that, the WHR holds true. I also want to share that when I first found this picture I immediately panicked in my mind and thought to myself “that’s a lot like what I look like” then I started picking it apart (I know, not even I, your all-mighty blogger am perfect). I kept going at this in my mind “her stomach is kinda fat, my stomach is kinda fat, are my hips really that wide?” Then I sat back, ashamed at myself as I read the comment below on the woman’s blog “This is the type of body I dream to have.”

Wow.

Think about that for a second. Think about how many people out there are thinking the same thing about the body you already have while you’re off day dreaming about trying to look like someone else. Ironic, isn’t it? We need more self-love. No, you need more self-love. Are you loving yourself yet? Think about what you love about your body. NO! Not what you “hate.” What do you love? Say it out loud, whisper it if there are people around, ok mouth it to me. Yeah, that is sexy. Are you loving your body yet? Parts of it? Good. Now love it harder. This is YOUR body.

I could also go into a DEEP political shpeil about how much the media plays a role in what we internalize in terms of self-worth, attractiveness, and body image. But I’ll spare you the Sociology minor in me, at least for the time being. What I will say is take a look at how “ideal” body images are constantly changing, evolving, and in flux. Take Playboy for example, with the WHR of their centerfolds increasing from 0.62 in the 1960s to 0.7 in 2000 and beyond. It’s just interesting and the more aware of all of this you are, the better.

Live for life, strive for health, and obsess over how amazing you already are. Goals will be met in time. Remember that you’re a human being, not a manikin.

Group hug 🙂

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Carbs: Why they aren’t your enemy

If there’s one thing that will never change about our society and human behavior it’s that people love to follow an idea that claims anything drastic, especially when it seems like it might be an easy way out. Just look at the diet industry as a whole, with a $40 billion + annual revenue. No, I’m not trying to write about conspiracies, I’m just pointing out that it’s always important to do your own research – or just read my blog 😉

Ever since the infamous Atkins diet back in 2003, more and more Americans will shake their finger at pastas, breads, and anything with carbs. Even after numerous studies were released saying that a long-term low carb diet can be hazardous to your heart health, I still hear many of my friends telling me to back off the carbs to lose that extra weight. Do they hold some value in those words? Actually, yes. If you limit your carbohydrate intake, you WILL lose weight, a significant amount even. But at what risk do you put your health? Ever notice how moody and flat-out MEAN a friend of yours has been when they started a low-carb diet? I remember saying on numerous occasions “I need carbs to think!” Turns out I’m a lot smarter than I give myself credit for. How does reducing your carb intake effect your cognitive function? Studies have shown that negative side effects associated with memory, mood, and confusion are typical among low-carb dieters.

But before I start a debate about why not eating enough carbs makes you “stupid” let’s look at how carbohydrates metabolize glucose for brain fuel. When the body doesn’t have enough carbs in its system to gather glucose it goes into a backup mode in a process called ketosis. In this state, the bodies liver doesn’t have enough glucose; ketone bodies that are elevated within the blood at this state are then used as an energy source. When fat stores are broken down, small carbon pieces (ketones) are the result. So essentially, instead of using carbs to run your system, your body starts tapping into fat stores, which is why weight loss is sudden and drastic if this is continued. If you go out and eat an entire loaf of french bread, your body will have an excess of glucose, insulin levels will rise, and your body will have to store the excess energy. So where does ketosis get dangerous? Ketones consist of acidic principles (I know, this blog post is a little more scientific than usual) and if ketone levels get too high they can make your blood more acidic, wreaking havoc with high toxicity levels and damaging your kidney and liver. This is also what happens to alcoholics as alcohol furthers ketosis as well as starvation.

Keeping your body in a state of ketosis will make you lose weight, obviously, as fat stores are used for energy instead of carbohydrates being replenished. However, keeping the body in a state of ketosis for prolonged periods of time can increase your risk for osteoporosis. Also, once carbs are introduced back into the diet, fat stores will quickly be replenished, getting you back to your original weight and often making you gain back more.

I think a lot of people can agree that the Atkins diet isn’t the safest route to go, completely eliminating carbs is probably a bad idea. But what about all these other fad diets  such as Paleo and Primal. Those sound cool, they start with a P (Popeye’s name started with a P) AND who wouldn’t want to be Primal!?! That’s how our ancestors lived (even though they died before the age of 30). I will honestly say that I haven’t done ENOUGH research on either of these diets to give an educated opinion (I’m also not a nutrtionalist so much of what I say could be taken with a grain of salt, too). But if you’re reading this you know that I’m writing this based off my own research and my own opinions anyway. Point is, I will never agree with ANY diet that says you CAN’T do one thing or have to eliminate something else totally and completely. That’s not human. I don’t care if Lance Armstrong, Mark Sisson, and your personal trainer get together and have some crazy 3 some that warrants a baby, even that thing is going to want a milk shake now and again, and that’s OK! Food, diet, health, and fitness are about balance.

But back to my main point: carbs. There are good carbs and bad carbs and that ultimately, is what I want you to walk away with. If you can help it you shouldn’t be eating white breads or pastas. Good carbs consist of whole grains, beans (yeah you can’t eat beans on Primal), fruits and vegetables, all of which are excellent sources of fiber! The argument with Paleo and Primal is that they keep your insulin levels down (which when high, can spike your hunger) and keep you feeling satisfied. I’m not saying don’t do these diets by the way, I just know that you might have a hard time succeeding (I know I would because I still want to have fun with food). Eating brown rice instead of white, choosing whole grain bread instead of white wonder bread, these type of choices will help you get more fiber into your diet which takes longer to break down in your system. This results (drum roll please) in maintained low blood sugar levels, letting you control your cravings and make better decisions.

So before you try to figure out what’s for dinner that doesn’t have carbs or any of the million other restrictions fad diets associate themselves with, think about all of this information. Will fad diets work? Yes. You could only eat McDonald’s cheese burgers and still lose weight – don’t believe me? The truth is, consistency is what makes people lose weight and keep it off. If you’ve got the will power of a greek god of will power (lacking examples here guys) then go Paleo! I’m just looking for a diet that isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle, that’s how I’ve lost weight and that’s how I’ll continue to lose weight. It has to be realistic, affordable, and something you won’t kill people over. Put a donut in front of your Atkins-fooled friend and watch them squirm.

Good carbs:

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Whole oats
  • Quinoa
  • Beans

Bad carbs:

  • White rice
  • White bread
  • Refined flour
  • Pastas and breads with added sugar

A good tip is to always check the ingredients when buying pastas and breads. The first ingredient listed is always what the food is most comprised of. So if a bread starts off with Whole Wheat Flour you’re better off than Enriched Unbleached Wheat Flour.

Happy Carbing! 😉

Bzzzzz: The benefits of bee pollen!

I wasn’t always big on the idea of herbal remedies and all that jazz…mostly because I don’t understand dreads and enjoy shaving my legs. Ok that was a bit stereotypical, but you know what I mean, hopefully. While back, a couple of my friends were raving about bee pollen though and I got curious enough to try it. I’d never even heard of taking bee pollen supplements before. I must admit that  part of the appeal stemmed from the fact that it felt like some sort of underground drug deal, even though the UPS guy didn’t really see it that way when he asked me to sign for the package.

I’ve been taking Bee Pollen capsules for over 3 weeks now and I gotta tell ya, it’s UH-mazing! After about 3 days of taking one 550mg pill twice a day, I’ve noticed a HUGE difference in my energy levels, alertness, endurance when I  run, and overall mood. Go Bees! Obviously you shouldn’t take this stuff if you’re allergic. But if not, then get ready for awesome times! Plus, it’s an all natural supplement, it’s not going to make you sweat out your soul and give you a heart attack. I’ve never been big on pushing pills, but this is one of the best things I’ve ever taken.

One of the biggest benefits I’ve noticed after taking bee pollen on a regular basis is an extreme loss of appetite. Every now and then I actually have to remind myself to eat. I seem to be fuller longer, way more alert, and don’t get my usual 2pm slump at the end of the day. Now, whether or not this is having a placebo effect, could be up for debate, but honestly I think this stuff holds some serious nutritional power. In feeling better every day, all of this has also resulted in me being more health conscious in general. I also started taking my womens-one-day with Lutein for skin health, fish oil, and primrose oil (great for reducing PMS and cramps). When you’re more aware of how one good habit can lead to more, you enter into a domino effect of health and fitness benefits. There’s soo many great things bee pollen can do, it’s truly worth trying:

  • Increased energy and endurance
  • Appetite suppressant
  • Increased sex drive (ohhh yeeeaaah) and improvements in  male sexual functions and fertility for women
  • Decreases rate of cell deterioration (live ALL THE YEARS!)
  • Increases red and white blood cell count (which can help with anemia)
  • Fights Allergies (oddly enough, I know!)
  • Aids in mood regulation due to amino and fatty acids
  • Improves immune system (with vitamins B, C, D, and E)

Makes you love the little guys just a little bit more, doesn’t it 😉

Observing Impulses: Why do you really want to eat that cookie?

I’ve been really trying to focus more on my nutrition lately and supplement it with enough exercise to eat what I want in a given day. Loseit.com has been a great resource for me. I can’t say that I will be using it forever or even every day for that matter but it has made me a lot more aware of what it takes to sustain my body.

I’ll be honest, a few weeks ago our Wellness Team that I’m a part of at work had a local medical center come in and do biometric screenings that included height, weight, blood sugar levels, and a crazy device that measured body composition. I was excited on my way down to the first floor but shocked into a reality that sent me on a journey back up the stairs instead of using the elevator. It also was a little upsetting realizing that even though I’ve lost nearly 50lbs so far, I’m still at a decently high body fat %. Standing on a scale and holding onto a metal rod, this machine sends shock waves through your body to measure the percentages of your fat, muscle, and visceral fat (which is the fat that clings on to your internal organs). I tend to think I’m the shit, so when my reading came back and I was technically in the “overweight” category I was floored. What!?! I’ve been running damn near every day and eating healthy….and drinking beer….and…well crap, so maybe I eat a lot of nachos. The point was, I was upset. I spent the ENTIRE day texting people and posting Facebook status updates about how fat I was just to get attention, I know, VERY 14 of me. But I think we can all relate to this feeling at one point or another. Sometimes we just want to feel excellent about our bodies and we want confirmation from other people.

After a few days of self-pity and eating chocolate I decided to really step up my game. I really don’t have THAT far to go and if I want to truly meet my goal then I got this. Back on track and now a few weeks later, I’m feeling great and more motivated than ever.

Then today, after a vigorous run in preparation for the Zombie 5k this Summer, I was feeling super hungry. I always pack a healthy lunch and was on my way back up to the 3rd floor to consume the shit out of it when it hit me. The giant wave of hot, cheesy pizza from the 2nd floor. Who REALLY loves pizza parties anyway? What are we, in 2nd grade?! But oh how I relished in the thought of going down there and wreaking havoc on all the pizza boxes. Tearing through the dough with my teeth like a just-turned vampire. People looking at me in horror as globs of marinara stained my face. Oh right, back to not doing that. But I continued on up to the 3rd floor and stopped by the break room to grab my lunch out of the fridge. That’s when I saw them, freshly presented Safeway double chocolate chip cookies, from the BAKERY kind. *drool* I felt a wave of panic course through my hands as if they might force them all into my mouth without first checking with my stomach. My mouth began to salivate and my pulse was seriously racing. Then I said to myself “seriously, Sarah? it’s JUST cookies, get a hold of yourself.”

But be honest here for a second, it’s not JUST cookies, or pizza, or ice cream, or an entire can of Pringles that gets your body acting like a lion about to pounce on his prey. So I took a step back and looked at the cookies, all 8 of them in that neat little plastic container and I began to envision it. I thought about the “bad” Sarah reaching forward without thought and pushing a soft cookie over her lips, tasting the smooth chocolate and the chewy texture of the baked dough. Then I began to realize that I really didn’t want the cookie, I wanted the feeling it would give me. Mind blowing, I know. But think about it. The next time you do eat something heavenly, think about the way it makes you feel, and why. When I thought about how the chocolate would taste and what that does to my brain I realized that it calms me down, it reaches the pleasure center of my brain, it makes me want to smile, it’s comforting, enjoyable, loving almost. Then I began to make a list in my head of other things that make me feel the same way: curling up into my warm bed with a good book as I stretch out my legs from a long day, streaming Netflix with a warm cup of Chamomile tea, getting a massage, that relaxed and proud feeling after a long run. Suddenly, it began to dawn on me that by not eating bad things I wasn’t really giving up much. I was just giving up an avenue to pleasure, but not pleasure itself.

If a road is closed on your way home, I doubt you pull over, put your car in park and say “guess I’m not getting home tonight.” NO! You figure out another way to get there, you explore your options, you get creative. That’s exactly the same thing with healthy eating, fitness, and nutrition. I’m not saying don’t ever eat anything unhealthy because it’s important to enjoy good food. But realize that the beauty of being a conscious human being is that we are able to observe our impulses before we act on them. That cookie would have been very enjoyable, pleasurable, and freakin’ delicious, let’s not lie, but so will a bunch of other things that I do today.

The next time you feel yourself caught up in a pleasure-panic (ooo can I coin that term?) when you see food you want, think about other ways in which you can reach the same amount of happiness.