Healthy Living for People Who Are Too Busy for It.

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Healthy living can be time consuming. It requires time purchasing food, time preparing meals and time spent exercising. Many healthy meals can even be more time consuming to eat due to the higher fiber and water content (and resulting lower caloric density). For many of us, this can be a challenge when our time is already occupied with other commitments.

Personally, this is something I have struggled with over the past few months as I have been working well over 40 hours a week on a regular basis in addition to other commitments that I have. This has resulted in having to strike a balance between maintaining my overpacked schedule, my health and my sanity.

This has led me to develop a few guidelines that I follow to make healthy choices while working within the parameters of my current day-to-day life.

Diet:

  1. Always hit my essential checklist: Beans, Greens and Omega-3s.
  2. Have at least 1 “real meal” per day: The meal is often as simple as a veggie, grain and bean stir-fry or pasta based dish.
  3. Start the day off strong with a healthy and filling breakfast: For me I usually go with either oatmeal or Ezekiel cereal with fruit, flax seeds and either nuts or peanut butter powder.
  4. Eat enough calories of healthy food earlier in the day to avoid bingeing on junk food at night: I eat around 2300 calories/day. I aim for about 500 calories in both breakfast and lunch in addition to about 400 calories in snacks. This will leave me with another 900 calories when I get home (usually a meal and snack). When I don’t do this I end up bingeing on unhealthier calorie-dense foods like potato chips.
  5. Mentally categorize foods based on the amount of time or effort it takes to make it. I divide my meals into 5 min., 30 min. and 1 hour. I then choose a meal based on how much time I have. This helps when I tell myself I don’t have time to pack lunch and decide to resort to less than ideal choices when it is inevitably time to eat.

Exercise:

The exercise component is a bit harder to manage. I find the best option is to look at my schedule at the start of the week. I figure out which days I will realistically be able to workout and commit to exercising whenever I have the chance. I utilize my days off for longer workouts where I push myself to my limits.

Sometimes this may only end up being 2 workouts per week, sometimes I can get 5 in. But if I have the time I make sure I do something, even if it is just a quick 30 minute workout.

I also follow the rule that if I have time to watch TV, I have time to workout.

The Lesson Learned:

What this all comes down to is doing the best I can with the time and resources I have available. Sometimes this means accepting good enough rather than over stressing myself  to meet my ideals. It is about remembering that the purpose of healthy living isn’t about health in itself, but making healthier choices to improve my quality of life overall.

 

 

Review: Lulu Lemon Rack Pack Sports Bra

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Lulu Lemon Rack Pack Sports Bra

Sports bras are one of the few fitness items that I think are worth spending a little extra money on to get a quality item that lasts. I think this is especially the case for women with larger chests.

There are two aspects of this bra that I really like and that set it apart from your everyday sports bra.

  1. One sports bra is enough. Anyone with a larger chest likely knows the frustration of finding a sports bra that works. I typically have to wear two sports bras to keep everything together, especially during higher intensity workouts. With this bra; I can run, jump and lift all I want and everything stays in place.
  2. It has pockets to store items. This is something that I’ve been hoping to find in a sports bra for a while. I had thought of the idea of a sports bra with pockets when I couldn’t find an armband that I liked, but I hadn’t come across one until I found this bra. It has enough space to fit an iPhone and a few other essential items. And it was secure enough to stay in place while running and even doing box jumps.

The only downside is the sizing isn’t done in regular bra sizes. The size that fit my band size was a bit tight for my chest, although it fit well enough to do the job better than any sports bra I’ve used before.

You can find the item here.

How to Make New Year’s Resolutions That Last

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I think New Year’s can be a good tool for mentally have a fresh start at a goal. That said, it’s no secret that majority of people who make a New Year’s Resolution don’t stick with it. Anyone who belongs to a gym has probably witnessed the difference in how crowded the gym is in January vs February. 

Here are some of the methods I have used to change my own habits.

  1. Make small and manageable changes gradually. Rather than completely overhauling your diet, going on a juice cleanse or going to the gym every day, try something more manageable. For example, adding vegetables in to what you already eat or going to the gym 3 times a week.
  2. Focus on the process. Focus on the steps you have to take rather than the destination. If your goal is weight loss, rather than focusing on losing weight, focus on eating healthier and exercising regularly.
  3. Don’t quit the second things don’t go your way. Slip-ups are bound to happen. The key is to move on and keep working towards your goal.
  4. Focus on the progress you’ve made. It can be frustrating when you aren’t being as successful at your lifestyle change as you want. Maybe you aren’t losing weight as fast as you want or haven’t been going to the gym as frequently as you planned. Rather than focusing on your perceived shortcomings, focus on whatever progress you have made and work from there.

 

Happy New Years!

 

Read More:

Making Lifestyle Changes that Last – American Psychological Association

Why it’s hard to change unhealthy behavior – and why you should keep trying. – Harvard Health Publication

Your VO2 Max and How to Improve It

 woman-running

 When you engage in aerobic exercise such as running, your body primarily uses type 1 muscle fibers. These muscles rely on aerobic metabolism (oxygen as fuel). The better your body can take in, deliver and metabolize the oxygen, the better your endurance will be.

The best indicator for aerobic fitness is VO2 Max.

What is VO2 Max:

VO2 Max is the maximum volume of oxygen your muscles (type 1/ aerobic) can consume in a minute.

How to Calculate VO2 Max:

VO2 = (milliliters of air inhaled per minute)(percentage of oxygen in the air inhaled) / (milliliters of air exhaled per minute)(percentage of oxygen in the air exhaled)

VO2 max = 15.3 x (MHR/RHR)

MHR = Maximum heart rate (beats/minute) calculated using age = 208 – (0.7 x age)

RHR = Resting heart rate (beats/minute) = number of heart beats in 20 seconds x 3 (calculate just after waking up, before getting out of bed)

Math not your thing? Click here.

What Your VO2 Max Means for Your Aerobic Fitness:

vo2maxchart

How to Improve Your VO2 Max:

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is considered the best method for improving your VO2 Max.

During HIIT you alternate between high exertion and low exertion. During the high intensity portion you get very close to your VO2 max and sustain that level of exertion. Distance running is considered moderate intensity.

Benefits of HIIT:

  • Increased aerobic fitness, measured through VO2 max.
  • Increased anaerobic fitness
  • Decreased fasting insulin and increased insulin sensitivity
  • Reduced abdominal and subcutaneous fat

For best results, do HIIT workouts 2-3 times per week. This can be a great way to improve your running performance without going on as many patience-testing long runs.

Sample HIIT Workout:

Sample HIIT Workout - Ace Fitness

 How to Determine Which Speeds to Use:

The speeds used will be dependent on your current fitness level.

  • Do the high intensity portion at the fastest you can sustain for 1 minute (Think long sprints).
  • Do the low intensity portions at whatever you need to recover in 2 minutes to repeat the high intensity portion (Probably slightly slower than your typical jogging pace).

Learn More:

How VO2 Max Works

How to Improve VO2 Max

Fit Facts: High-Intensity Interval Training

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Best Cardio to Burn Fat

Do you even squat, bro?: The Importance of Strength Training Your Whole Body

There is a bit of a trend among gym rats of people who neglect their lower body in strength training. While both men and women do this, it is more visible with men because they grow muscle more easily. While the memes are extreme examples, I think there are a lot of people who will do cardio along with upper body strength exercises.  Along with lower body, the back is also neglected often.

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Strength training is very important for injury prevention. The knees and back are common areas to wear down later in life, so strengthening them would be a good idea. The legs are the largest muscles and the ones we use the most often. In addition to injury prevention, training your whole body is also important for balance, agility and not having the build of a chicken.

Cardio is not enough for the lower body because it primarily uses a different type of muscle (Type I/ aerobic) than resistance training (Type II/ anaerobic).

Recommended Exercises

 Deadlifts

Deadlift Front

Deadlift Back

Squats

Squats

Reminder:

  • Go for a weight you can just barely do 1 or 2 sets of 10 reps.
  • Make sure you wait 2-3 days before working the same muscle groups (so they can rebuild).
  • Get enough protein (at least 0.6 g/ lb of body weight)

More:

Do you even lift, bro?: An Introduction to Strength Training

The 20 Photos Prove That Skipping Leg Day is Never Okay

GymRa (source of gifs)

 

How to Be an Annoying Health Junkie

Many health junkies (including myself) like to share our enthusiasm for being healthy with others.  The healthier and fitter you get, the more likely your healthy lifestyle will make others feel bad. Talking about healthy foods/ exercise doesn’t annoy people nearly as much when you are overweight.

The awkward thing with health is that most of these have to do with how others may perceive you rather than actually being self-righteous and judgmental. While it would be really great if people only got annoyed or offended when you were actually being mean/judgmental…. that isn’t the case. Part of it is just a matter of knowing your audience and finding how to talk about your interests without making other people feel bad. That said, don’t be a self-righteous health snob.

Generally speaking, talking about healthy foods and exercise isn’t a problem. It is if you get to the more analytical side of things or anything that involves or could be perceived as involving judgement (even if directed at yourself) that some people get annoyed.

At the same time, you shouldn’t feel responsible when other people project their insecurities onto you. You shouldn’t feel guilty for sharing your passions and interests when you are doing so in a non-judgemental attitude. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to make healthy decisions in your life and wanting to improve yourself.

Or you can just not give a shit.

1. Analyze your food at the table: 

Is butter a carb?

For many health conscious individuals, analyzing our food is second nature. Keep your analysis to yourself and your food log. Unless someone specifically asks for your nutritional analysis, do not share it. Even if people are talking about flavor and other aspects of the food.

2. Provide justifications whenever you eat junk food.

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Chances are you are doing this because you feel insecure about making unhealthy choices and rationalizing it helps you deal with this. But others may interpret this as being judgmental towards them.

3. Only make weird healthy food when having others over for dinner.

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They may feel like they are being forced into nutritional boot camp. It’s okay to make some weird healthy stuff, but make sure there are some options within the comfort zone of your guests.

4. Be open about having fat days.

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Some people don’t like it when people who are fitter than them have fat days.

5. Be really picky and uptight while eating out.

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Unless you have an allergy or are on a diet that completely restricts certain foods (e.g. vegan), relax a little. You will regain complete control when you return to your own refrigerator.

6. Talk about how bad you’re being whenever you unleash your inner fat kid.

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Even though you are saying things in relation to what is normal to you, this may come across the wrong way when you are eating less than or equal to everyone else in the room.

7. Mention wanting to lose weight when relatively thin.

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This is okay around some people, but a lot of people will find it really annoying.

8. Try to convert the non-believers.

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There is an important difference between sharing your passion for health and pushing others to make healthy choices in a “my way is the right way” manner.

9. Make people feel guilty about what they are about to eat/ are currently eating.

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Just don’t.

Measure in Moderation

Confession: I’m a bit of a data junkie. I get excited when I get ahold of new gadgets to get more accurate measurements or be able to take more factors into account. I actually enjoy measuring all the different numbers and statistics related to my health and overanalyzing them to infinity and beyond.

One of the great things about numbers is they don’t lie. But they can be deceptive. The scale may lack accuracy or precision. You may weight yourself at different times of day with varying amounts of water weight.. The numbers may not take enough factors into account and be oversimplified (e.g. calories, BMI, weight). But numbers don’t make shit up like our magical thinking minds do. They don’t try to deceive you the way product labels and marketing does (be skeptical with their numbers). Numbers can help you snap out of a rut because they don’t lie and you can’t escape the truth (but never underestimate the power of creative explanations). Numbers are the red pill of healthy living when used with an understanding of their limitations, what they really represent and how they fit in to the big picture. It was stepping on the scale and seeing what I actually weighed that got me to flip the switch to really commit to becoming the best version of myself.

With all the gadgets, information, science and formulas it can be easy to trip yourself into an analytical pit of doom where you hyper analyze every meal, workout and everything in between. This can be a bit of a problem because it can eventually lead to obsessive tunnel-vision focus where you forget how to say “fuck it” and let go.

I think using scales, food logs, and health gadgets are great for getting started, getting yourself back on track or checking in with yourself. But I think it is important to not get too rigid or reliant. It is important to learn to eyeball a meal and just know it is the right amount for you.  I think one of the most important aspects of healthy living is to learn to listen to your body. I think focusing too much on numbers can distract you from your own body. I think sometimes people feel a sense of obligation to follow their schedule or hitting a number just for the sake of following it. But this becomes a problem when being attached to that number/ schedule/ goal results in ignoring the signals your body is giving you and defeating the purpose of why you are making those decisions in the first place.

What this comes down to is balance. Take advantage of math, science and technology. Objectifying yourself with measurements can be useful to help detach and give a better understanding of yourself and your habit. But they don’t tell the whole story. Measurements are just abstract representations of the real data. They don’t experience your body. Only you do and your body knows itself better than anything else. Success in healthy living more than just a number. 

Fun calculations to play with:

Calories

Body Fat Percentage (BF%)