Hodge Podge: Health & Fitness

This week’s literary trail mix of book reviews features health and fitness.

The Case Against Sugar – I probably shouldn’t lead with this one, because people get their hackles up when you suggest they give up their sugar. Take that as a clue, or not, as you please. I listened to this book on audio and found it compelling, although not as good as Why We Get Fat. I really enjoyed the deep dive on history and research–if you’re not into that, this is not the book for you. But if you’re trying to cut sugar, you’ll feel bolstered.

The Microbiome Solution – Microbiome is a big concept in health circles now, so I was interested to read this book by a top gastroenterologist who is in private practice but also is a researcher and professor. This goes way beyond taking a probiotic or eating some yogurt. The book was interesting, although it did highlight the contradictions in various health prescriptions. I’m finding that really the only things people agree on are: eat more dark leafy greens and cut out sugar. Beyond that it’s a lot of: eat more meat! eat less meat! eat bananas! never eat bananas! legumes are good! legumes are bad! Sheesh. Basically, you’re going to have to filter this stuff, and biohack until you find something that works for you.

Lose Weight Here – One great idea I got from this book was to monitor your HEC (hunger, energy, cravings) to figure out when your diet/exercise plan isn’t working for you. Beyond that, this book is a pretty complex system of alternating between eat-less-exercise-less and eat-more-exercise-more. Sounds simple. Isn’t simple. I’ll just say that “exercise LESS” includes TWO HOUR WALKS. I can see how that is ideal, but not how that is feasible. The book has some great tips and action items, but if you’re easily overwhelmed or don’t want to spend all of your brain space on your diet and fitness plan, this is not for you.

Micronutrient Miracle – To be honest, I didn’t get a ton from this book. I’m not sure if that’s because it was information I already knew from other sources, or just not my jam. I’m not going to do a plan that requires two protein shakes a day instead of real food meals, but I did like the clear explanation of sprint timing and the reminder to take your iron at a different time of day than your other vitamins.

The Thyroid Connection – I heard the author on a podcast and thought her story was interesting, but in truth I do not have a thyroid problem. I do feel tired and brain-fogged a lot, but that comes down to the fact that I am a bad sleeper, have five children, and essentially work two jobs. So in that sense, the book was reassuring because I feel secure in my thyroid situation. However, if you’re not sure about your thyroid or have problems with it, this would be a really helpful book to read. The author is a physician and has definite opinions about the treatment options, so it’s certainly worth skimming before you take drastic measures with your thyroid. Although I don’t personally need the information right now, I’m not sorry I read this book, if only to know what to turn to if this is ever an issue in my family.

Podcasts – A lot of my fitness information intake is happening via podcasts right now. I find it inspiring to listen to something fitness related while I’m exercising. In case you feel the same way, I thought I’d give a shout-out to a few of my favorites:

  • The SANE Show – A simple, doable, no nonsense approach to health. Jonathan Baylor wrote The Calorie Myth (reviewed here) and his co-host is a relatable working mom.
  • The Model Health Show – Shawn Smith, who wrote Sleep Smarter (reviewed here) and his co-host Jade are really funny and always interesting.
  • Better Everyday – Sarah Fragoso, author of Everyday Paleo (reviewed here), and Dr. Brooke give a great perspective on health as it relates to women and female hormones and systems. So much health information is written for men, and it’s incredibly helpful to hear how certain advice applies (or not) to women in various life stages.

 

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Brains, brawn, and bodyweight

books about brains, brawn, and bodyweightAlong with reading about sleep, I read a lot this summer about health. Although much of what I read tracks with what I already knew, I did wind up making some fairly significant changes in my routine. If you don’t have time to read about all six books reviewed in this post, the one I recommend most highly is last, so feel free to scroll. I added in headers so you can pause on books that make sense for you.

Bigger Leaner Stronger – if you want to know about lifting heavy weights

biggerFirst, I read Bigger Leaner Stronger after seeing a good review from Crystal at Money Saving Mom. It probably seemed funny to GoodReads followers that I was reading a book subtitled “…building the ultimate male body.” No, gentle readers, I was not going all Frankenstein 101 on my husband. It’s just that our library doesn’t carry the Michael Matthews book for women, and I figured I could get the gist from the guy book.

This was the first book I read extolling the fitness virtues of jettisoning endless cardio and “high weights low reps” workouts in favor of slow heavy lifts. I was skeptical, but gave it a shot. Instead of my usual Jillian workouts, I picked up some (for me anyway) really heavy weights. And it actually made a pretty solid difference. For one thing, I really enjoy the weights workouts. It takes about the same amount of time, and I’m still working hard, but I like it more and feel better afterward than I did doing fitness videos.

Does it matter if you get Bigger Leaner Stronger or Thinner Leaner Stronger? I’m not sure. From reviews it sounds like the difference is more about diet, but if you’re fairly well versed in nutrition and math, you could probably figure out your BMI and protein needs and so on using the same framework Matthews suggests whether you’re male or female.

One aside on tone: my husband thinks Matthews “sounds like a tool” (although he didn’t fault him on information) so if you are sensitive to that, be forewarned. 🙂

The Hormone Reset Diet – if you are a moderator and don’t like lots of explanation

hormone-reset-dietNext, I read The Hormone Reset Diet. If you’re a moderator and can’t stand cold turkey approaches, you might really like this book. The author’s premise is that hormones are involved in our ability (or inability) to lose weight, and so she suggests that you target seven of these critical hormones with what winds up as a cumulative elimination diet.

As an abstainer who is also a questioner, I had a hard time with this. If I need to eliminate dairy, why would I wait until Day 16 to eliminate it? If I need to eat more alkaline foods, shouldn’t I start adding lemon to my water and eating more greens on Day 1? Unable to answer these questions satisfactorily, I went ahead and cut everything she suggests in the whole book from Day 1.

Well, almost everything. What I did not do was cut caffeine. Gottfried’s approach to caffeine may strike you as completely nuts if, like me, you are a person who is highly affected by caffeine. In my experience, cutting caffeine means a 3 week headache and near inability to do anything. I do not have time for that at this point in my life. But Gottfried says you’ll eliminate all withdrawal if you cut caffeine in half on Day 1, cut to only 1 cup of coffee on Day 4, cut to 1 teacup of tea on Day 7, and cut caffeine entirely on Day 10. I did cut my coffee intake from 3 teacups of 3/4 strength coffee to 2 teacups of the same (roughly one mug’s worth) and suffered a headache for one week. After that I decided I was ok with that 2 teacup consumption level and elected not to undergo any further painful reductions.

I also freely admit that I did not follow the plan perfectly for 21 days. I took a couple of detours, such as our family Saturday movie nights when we have a fancy cheese plate supper. I also never stopped eating butter because I hate eggs cooked in coconut oil. Still,I did lose seven pounds, which may have been from this diet, or may have been the weight lifting, or may have been because of other tweaks I made based on other diet books I read the same month. Sorry I was hasty and thus can’t give a completely scientific review; I was essentially cobbling together my own diet plan for the summer.

Overall, I would say that The Hormone Reset Diet had good points (eat a ton of vegetables, get protein in every meal, cut sugar and carbs and eat more greens, etc), but was vague at times and probably would only work if you like the idea of a phased approach and don’t require a whole lot of explanation before making changes to your diet.

The Wild Diet – if you are really into bio-hacking

wild diet

If tone trips you up, you might also want to watch out for Abel James. The Wild Diet was a helpful book in many respects but I had a hard time with the writing. There was a lot of “Big Food is after you!” rhetoric, including reference to “the guys with the $400 haircuts.” Um, wait, is this an issue of food quality or class envy? Especially coming from an author who does not hesitate to tell us that after he graduated from Dartmouth he was a consultant and had a million dollar house and a Porsche and whatnot.

Anyway, once you get past all that, I do think the book is solid. James follows similar lift-heavy-do-HIIT exercise prescriptions to what I was hearing from other sources, and also advocates eating a ton of vegetables and enough protein. His main distinction seems to be his advocacy for fat fasting, which was never super clearly explained but seems to involve eating fat in the morning and through the day until you mostly load up on vegetables and protein in the late afternoon and evening. I tried it because you know I LOVE TO TINKER and I was grouchy and exhausted. Could be because I’m nursing, but James notes that fasting doesn’t always work as well for women so who knows.

However, I did shift how I do mornings after reading this book, in that I’m having a teaspoon of coconut oil in my coffee with a green smoothie, then after my workout I have protein.

The Wild Diet contains a lot of recipes–some of which turned out great like the AMAZING cucumber basil green smoothie–and a lengthy discourse on how to feed your pets a wild diet, if you are into that sort of thing.

Don’t Just Sit There – if you need to integrate more movement into your whole day

Dont-Just-Sit-There

Katy Bowman’s short book Don’t Just Sit There provides an excellent resource not only for transitioning to a standing workstation, but really for integrating movement into your whole day. Bowman says that it’s not really sitting that’s the whole problem, it’s lack of movement generally. So you could get a fantastic expensive standing desk and still have issues if you stand in the same position  all the time.

Instead, Bowman advocates a dynamic work habit. Sometimes you sit, sometimes you stand, sometimes you walk around, sometimes you sit on the floor leaning forward propped up on your elbows…but you change it up.

Bowman provides lots of suggestions and exercises, but the simple motivation of the book was most helpful. After reading it, I brought a tray into my office that lets me type while standing, and I also started doing more of our school day from a standing/walking position rather than sitting. I also do a lot of work with my laptop on the kitchen island, so one way or another I’m standing and moving a lot more than before thanks to this helpful book.

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life – if you are considering contact sports or don’t have kids or need a reference for who to see for serious brain issues

change your brainDiet and exercise also play a huge role in brain health. With Alzheimer’s disease in my family, I am pretty interested in how to keep our brains going strong. So when I heard Daniel Amen on a podcast talking about the connection between physical health and brain health, I thought I would check out his book.

This was probably a mistake.

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life does have some really fascinating points. I love finding out how things work, and the visuals of brain scans were quite interesting. I learned some fascinating facts. For example, letting your kid play high school football is roughly as terrible for his brain as letting him do cocaine. Amen works with loads of ex-NFL players, and makes no bones about how wrong he thinks it is to let your children play contact sports. After looking at the brain scan pictures, I’m not going to disagree with him. Some people walk away from football just fine, but some people smoke and don’t get lung cancer and some people are functional cocaine users. Still not behaviors one would want to recommend.

The main reason I am hesitant about Change Your Brain is that, as a parent, I found it very distressing. I had a really hard time not feeling terrible about all of the times my kids have hit their heads. All of them have fallen down stairs, Jack once got a concussion when another kid slammed him into a concrete floor, etc. The book does have some hopeful points about how to rehabilitate your brain, but I found that it gave me a lot of anxiety about my children as I read it.

And, as it turned out, the diet and exercise aspect was really, really light. It basically boils down to: eat vegetables and high quality protein, eliminate sugar and most carbs, and do HIIT exercise. The suggestions for specific changes to make for problems in different areas of the brain were likewise simple–take Omega 3 supplements, drink green tea, some basic behavior modifications, and otherwise you need a specialist.

Overall, I felt like the book was mostly an advertisement for Amen’s clinics. And that’s fine–if you need brain help, definitely go to the experts who are actually studying brains rather than prescribing you medications without looking at your brain at all. But if you’re a (mostly) normal layperson, I’m not sure Change Your Brain is the best use of your reading time.

The Calorie Myth – if you only have time for one book on nutrition and fitness

the-calorie-mythI think the most helpful book I read in this entire array was The Calorie Myth. Again, this really goes back to temperament. In this book, author Jonathan Bailor cites tons of studies and research findings, quotes experts, and gives thorough reasons for what he claims. People like me need that. And despite the volume of information, Bailor also maintains a readable tone and doesn’t indulge in too much name calling, even as he clearly points out where government recommendations are based on bad science (or, more often, no science) and he’s up front about where food lobbies are financing policies.

I loved the simplicity of the guidelines Bailor draws out from his research.

  • Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables (at least 10 servings per day)
  • Eat 100-200 grams of high quality protein per day depending on your size
  • Eat 3-6 servings of good quality fats per day (but don’t go crazy)
  • Eat 0-3 servings of low sugar fruits per day, depending on whether you’re trying to lose weight and how you feel.
  • Eat good quality seafood daily for Omega 3s.
  • Drink a ton of water and green tea, plain coffee if you need it, and don’t get calories from liquids otherwise.

I also really got good results from Bailor’s discussion of weight lifting. He takes the whole lift-heavy thing farther by talking about different types of muscle fibers and how to get at the ones that really make a difference (Type 2B). Basically, you want to focus on very, very slow lowering of the weight, rather than letting it just drop. There’s more to it than that, but I got wildly improved workouts when I implemented his suggestions. To be fair, this may have also been in the Matthews book and maybe I was just too new to it to absorb that, but could synthesize it in Bailor’s book after reading so much about it.

And so, to boil down a 2000 word post into one recommendation–I’d say The Calorie Myth is the best, most helpful book in this bunch. If you’re still interested in the topic after that, I’d suggest Why We Get Fat, which is an excellent nutrition book along these lines, although it doesn’t get into fitness.

Have you made any changes in your life based on what you’ve read recently?
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Diastasis Recti: A Whole Body Solution

DRI find the post-partum season a little bewildering this time around.  For one thing, thanks to a major emergency surgery after I delivered Margaret, I have a really ugly scar that bothers me a lot. I suspect that people who have c-sections might not mind their scars, because they are probably smaller and also associated with the birth of the baby. Since Margaret was born before my surgery, I don’t have that mental association. Then an added surprise was when about half of my hair fell out. Apparently that’s common after a traumatic surgery with extensive blood loss, and it might grow back at some point, but meanwhile I can blow dry my hair in LESS than two minutes flat when it used to take at least ten minutes, so that’s the bright side!

But the whole thing about having a couple of surgeries immediately following a birth is that it has made me very tentative about my abs. In earlier pregnancies I at least somewhat got the ab separation back together, but this time, after so much craziness, it has been tougher to know where to start.

All that to say, I was interested to read Katy Bowman’s book on Diastasis Recti, which is the official name for how your abs can separate–often during pregnancy but also for other reasons. Basically, this book is about your core and how it works and how to protect and use it well. I generally find books full of exercises difficult to implement, but this one helped me in that it gave me a better understanding of core function as a whole, and made suggestions for how to alter regular activities to make them more supportive. I won’t say that my stomach is back to normal, and honestly I suspect it never will be, but at least I can move toward more health in that area thanks to Bowman’s book.

Overall health is pretty much my goal for now–I am exercising (30 Day Shred for life!) and trying to eat well, and the scale does not budge, so weight loss can’t be my motivator! It’s amazing to me that six months after going through so much I am even able to exercise, nurse my baby, and handle managing life with five kids. It’s all grace and a constant reminder to thankfulness!

If you’re interested in core health or have had babies, I’d recommend Diastasis Recti. I’ve also found Lose Your Mummy Tummy and Maternal Fitness helpful in the past, and for some reason Jillian’s Six Week Six Pack helped a lot after one of my kids, although I wouldn’t recommend it until you get your core back into pretty good shape post-partum.

And as one final note for those who don’t have DR but are interested in biomechanics generally (and it’s really interesting!), I noticed that Bowman has several other books and might check them out. If you’ve read any, let me know your thoughts!

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

To Be a Runner

runnerIn To Be a Runner: How Racing Up Mountains, Running with the Bulls, or Just Taking On a 5-K Makes You a Better Person (and the World a Better Place), author Michael Dugard develops running as a metaphor for the impetus to be your best in life.  The book really is about running–I made notes about how to train and what to look for in a running shoe–but at a deeper level it’s about finding that sweet spot of pushing yourself to be your best without crashing and burning out.

I enjoyed the book on both levels.  As I’ve recently returned to running after a 15 year hiatus, I appreciated the practical insights and examples.  Dugard is a life-long competitive runner and also a cross-country coach, so his thoughts on running are well-formed and tested.

His applications are also personal.  In describing various extreme races and running feats, Dugard is thoughtful and funny about what it means to be driven, how he’s grappled with balance, and how goals change in adulthood.

With good humor and tight writing, To Be a Runner is an engaging and interesting read, with wide applications.  It will appeal most to people who run, obviously, but if you’re the sort of person who likes to push your limits in other ways you’d probably also enjoy it.

 

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The Bookmarked Life, #7

2The Bookmarked Life is my take on catch-all posts–a record to help me remember this season of life.

Right now I’m:

…Considering

No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.–Edmund Burke

…Furnishing my mind

photo (1)Eliza turned 18 months old and is an endless source of entertainment for us all.  She dearly loves reading books (that’s how you can tell she’s one of us!), latching and unlatching things, putting on and taking off her shoes, and dancing.

Recently, she began saying “Yam” for yes ma’am, and when asked to say “I love you” she solemnly blows a kiss and says, “It is.”

…Learning about

After readingThe Locust Effect, I was bothered by the fact that I wasn’t doing anything to help the problems of human trafficking and violence against those in poverty.  Then, just a couple of days after I finished the book, a friend invited me to hear a presentation by a lady who, finding herself an empty nester and very convicted about the problem of human trafficking, decided to start a company that partners with organizations who rescue people from human trafficking and give them meaningful work at a fair wage.  She imports the things they make and sells them here in the US, giving all of her profits back to the organizations she partners with.  I learned a lot from her talk–like the fact that chocolate and coffee are two products that are often implicated in human trafficking, and how by simply spending a dollar more at Costco and buying the fair trade chocolate chips instead of Nestle, I can do something.  It’s tempting to say “well, what difference does it make if I buy fair trade coffee or Folgers?” but even little things do make a difference (see Edmund Burke quote from earlier in the post!).  At any rate, you can learn more about the company–Accessories for Hope–online, and Sherry does travel to speak at churches and community groups if you’re interested.

…Living the Good Life

photoWe took the children to LegoFest over the weekend, and although I don’t think any of us felt it was worth the price we paid for the tickets, once viewed as a sunk cost it was a fairly fun afternoon.  We were expecting more tips and instruction on how to build better, but instead it was more of an exposition of different types of Legos, plus lots of piles of Legos for building random things.  The session we went to was sold out and very crowded, so the kids didn’t get to play any of the games and relays.  Still, it was fun to get downtown and do something random and unusual with our Saturday!

…Teaching

Even as I was reading about modern slavery in The Locust Effect and modern prejudice and genocide in The Sunflower, the kids have been learning about slavery in history.  They were very taken with William Wilberforce, as they all are quite sensitive to injustice.  Then we turned to the topic of slavery in America and have been having deep discussions about the Missouri Compromise, the nature of prejudice and injustice, the ways that black people were mistreated in both the North and the South, the way the Irish were mistreated in the North…the kids are drawing connections I would not have expected from their ages and our discussions have been very rewarding.

…Excercising

So, I’m running over 3 miles most mornings now…in the basement.  I think I need to move this party outside, but now the 5am temperatures are well below freezing and I still often have kids waking up early while I’m exercising.  I did buy a pair of running pants though (on wild clearance, but still) so I feel quite official.  I need to find a way to get my strength training back in, and have considered alternating running with a Jillian workout, but at oh-dark-thirty in the morning I’m much more motivated to run than to have Jillian admonish me to “push the up button!!!!”

…Seeking balance

By Thanksgiving I will have wrapped up the extra work project that has been taking up a lot of my time since August.  I am simultaneously looking forward to more breathing room in the schedule while also hoping that not too much time goes by before the next big project appears.

…Building the habit

The last of my fall habits (order, focus, grace, duty) is also a habit that one of the kids is struggling with right now.  That has been helpful in reminding me to give grace to this particular kid, since I have a hard time doing things I have to do as well.  Duty implies things we ought to do–that is, we have to do them, but we don’t necessarily want to.  Lots of life is this way, and it’s worth it to cultivate a habit of duty.  This is not to say that you should blindly accept everyone else’s ideas of what you should do, but in the things you know you must do, duty means cutting the whining and getting it done.  As an adult, I tend to whine internally and make excuses to avoid things I don’t want to do.  I’m tired, I’m stretched too thin, I don’t feel like it…you know.  I’m working on catching myself in those thoughts and taking time to think them through–is this a case of needing to give myself grace because I really did only get three hours of sleep, or is this a case of needing to be kind and patient even when I’m on my last nerve?  I suppose if there were easy answers I wouldn’t have to work on this habit!

…Listening to

The kids have been listening to The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie on audio during quiet times lately.  There are a couple of words I wish had been omitted (the hazards of audio books!) but I think due to the narrator’s spectacular accent they haven’t noticed.  I need more good audio book recommendations!  Send suggestions!

What are you bookmarking this week?

 

Note: Most of the links in this post are to my longer reviews, but one is to Amazon, and it’s an affiliate link, just so you know! 

The Bookmarked Life

2Something new!  The Bookmarked Life is my take on catch-all posts–a record to help me remember this season of life.

Right now I’m:

…Considering

Did you see this Slate article about the girl who sent all of her texts in calligraphy for a week?  Something about that really appeals to me–maybe it’s the juxtaposition of fast and slow communication, or the fact that it would force me to think before I mindlessly use my phone.  I probably won’t text in calligraphy (although I could!  I love calligraphy!) but I’m thinking about mindful technology use.

…Furnishing my mind

As we’ve been reading more poetry and going over grammar in a different way this month, I’ve been reminded of how beautiful language can be–it has a structure, but there’s a wildness to it too.  Reading about the Oxford English Dictionary reinforced that feeling!

…Learning about

…Spanish curriculum options.  I decided to go with PowerGlide based on the Rainbow Resource review, and then after a 20 minute perusal of Homeschool Classifieds I found a like-new used set for $25, postage paid.  Since my kids love mysteries and stories, I think this option is going to be a win for us.

…Living the Good Life

The kids wanted to put on a colonial feast at the end of the semester, but we were getting ready for our big trip then so we put the idea off until this month.  Sarah made blancmange, Hannah made Scotch Collops, and Jack made Martha Washington’s Great Cake with meringue on top.  They did a great job, and it turns out that blancmange is really good.

…Teaching

We had a short Summer Term this month–nothing taxing, just reading from Sonlight, Ambleside, and other book lists.  We checked out all of the preschool and kindergarten type books to read aloud and Hannah and Jack read a lot of the older grade selections.  We also found some fun new favorites.  I’m happy that we got a chance to really focus on reading great children’s literature, read more poetry, and brought in math concepts in different ways this summer.  We also started a fantastic language arts enrichment curriculum that I’m super excited about.  More about that later.

…Creating

After living in our house for over a year, I’m finally doing something about the children’s rooms.  Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that the baby is now over a year as well?  First up, the nursery.  I painted the walls (Baby Bee Yellow, same as the old house) and also painted some furniture and rearranged knick-knacks and pictures.  I think the new color makes the changing table/dresser with the Peter Rabbit knobs look much smarter.

…Memorizing

We’re working on 1 Corinthians 13 together, and I’m beginning to memorize Colossians on my own.  I recently read a fabulous book on the topic of using Scripture memory to deeply meditate and study the Bible–look for the review next week.

…Seeking balance

As I look ahead to the fall, I’m trying to think through the best way to handle my work/life balance in terms of windows for our best work.  I do my best focused creative work in the morning, and the kids focus on schoolwork better in the morning too.  I don’t want to wake up at 4am, but sometimes the kids are up before 6:00.  So as I work through plans for fall I’m considering the best times to schedule our babysitting (we have an amazing adult, Christian, educated babysitter who is available part time and who is fabulous with the kids and willing to supervise them doing schoolwork assignments–it is nothing short of a miracle, I know) in order to maximize everyone’s best windows.

…Building the habit

Exercise.  It’s addictive when I can get into a rhythym, but due to my aforementioned desire to sleep past 4am, it’s tough to schedule.  I’m trying to give myself points for showing up, even if some days I only make it through 15 minutes of Jillian Michaels before the baby starts eating crayons or someone starts a small fire in the toaster.

…Listening to

The baby now refers to herself as “Ah-za-za!” and it’s so stinking cute.  I could listen to that all day.  In the car, the kids and I are listening to the audio book of The Swiss Family Robinson (it’s very, very, very long).  And, since the new carseat I bought last week was a Graco TurboBooster, naturally I have had I Got a Man on the brain (“When your man don’t treat ya like he used ta, I kick in like a turbo boostah”).  Late 90’s hip-hop is always relevant, isn’t it?

What are you bookmarking this week?

 

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Slim for Life

In Slim for Life fitness personality Jillian Michaels compiles a lot of diet, exercise and lifestyle tips without bogging the reader down in all of the science or reasoning behind them.  That could be good or bad depending on your perspective.  If you have read much of anything on diet or exercise nothing in this book will come as a surprise, but if you’re new to the topics this is a good overview.

Michaels organized the book as a series of ranked tips, and advises the reader to select which ones to implement, then analyzes your potential for success based on how many high, medium, or low priority tips you selected.  Again, if you don’t have a healthy lifestyle, this could be very helpful.

If you already know a lot about fitness and health, I’d recommend reading Michaels’ book Making the Cut instead.

As a fitness aside, I’m struggling to fit exercise in to my life these days.  On paper it should work–somewhere between the working and homeschooling and everything there should be an hour for exercise–but in reality my extra time doesn’t seem to coincide with times of day when I feel any energy.  It’s a problem, and I keep tweaking to try to figure out the best time to fit in a workout.  When I do manage it, I’m using Kickbox FastFix(very short, but super-targeted, alternating an arms, legs, and abs focus in three workouts), Hard Body (longer workouts, crazy hard), and 6 Week Six-Pack (baby weight is off but my abs missed the memo).

What workouts or other health resources are you loving (or maybe not loving, but using) now?

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Eat. Move. Sleep.

Research indicates that nine out of 10 people die from cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease. Perhaps more shocking, 90 percent of us could be living past age 90 if we made better lifestyle choices.  Given the statistics, it makes sense to attempt at least small steps toward better health.  In his bookEat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes, Tom Rath outlines how even small changes in how we eat, exercise, and sleep can make a great positive impact in our quality of life.

Rath’s perspective is unusual: he has a rare genetic condition that causes his body to produce cancerous tumors at a rapid rate.  At any given time he is monitored for several different tumors.  As you might expect, his motivation for improving his health in order to prevent whatever percentage of cancer is preventable is high.

In his book, Rath outlines lots of research pointing to diet, exercise, and sleep as critical factors in disease prevention, and he organizes it all into thirty chapters, each with a manageable idea for each category.  The premise is to take one chapter per day for 30 days, and slowly make incremental changes that lead to better lifestyle habits.  The steps are small, but could easily lead to profound results.

I liked how Rath noted that every diet plan you read has good points you can take away, even if you decline to participate in every passing fad (and he says you shouldn’t do fad diets anyway, but rather make small changes leading to a better diet overall).  That’s a good approach, and I think it’s always wise to use common sense.  Even in Eat Move Sleep I found some of Rath’s conclusions to be personal preference (for example, I do think that people metabolize food differently–some people get lethargic after eating red meat and fat and do better on lean meats, whereas other people get energized from protein/fat combinations but are jittery on low-fat meals) but I was happy to take away lots of great reminders nonetheless.

If you read a lot of health books, lots of the information in Eat Move Sleep will be familiar to you, but the organization of it might spark new connections or be a good reminder for you.  And if you’re one of those people who knows you need to get healthier but feel daunted by how big a task it is, this book would really help you.  I thought it was a great book and definitely recommend it.

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Born to Run?

In Born to Run, Christopher McDougall looks at the history and physiology of running and comes up with an interesting, if sometimes bizarre, narrative about ultramarathons, the surprising downside to expensive athletic shoes, and how to recapture the joy of running without becoming an injury statistic.

The tone of the book is somewhat hyperbolic at times, and it does tend to present speculation as fact at points, but overall it was funny and well paced and certainly informative.

After a skiing accident in college and subsequent extensive knee surgery to replace torn ligaments, I was told to stop running for fitness (at that point in my life I had been doing regular 90 minute runs).  Recently I found out that orthopedists now say it’s all right to run on a partial meniscus (that’s the cushion between your bones–I had half of mine removed due to the injury).  So when I read Laura Vanderkam’s review of this book I thought I’d read it for inspiration.

Sure enough, I found the book inspiring and am now thinking about the best shoes to get (or not get–McDougall is a fan of barefoot running but I’m not sure I’m up for that) to get back into running.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

If you enjoy running, hate running, or are in any way interested in how the human body works, I’d really recommend Born to Run.  You’ll learn a lot of helpful information that might change your mind about running, improve your form if you already run, or at the very least entertain and inform you.

Do you run for fitness?  If not, what holds you back?

 

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Choose to Lose

A friend of mine has lost nearly 40 pounds by eating a low carb diet, but she was feeling kind of stalled out.  So when she saw a segment on TV about Choose to Lose: The 7-Day Carb Cycle Solution she asked me what I thought.  I decided to read the book so I could talk to my friend about it, and because come May or so I will be interested in losing baby weight!

Up front I will say that the carb cycling idea is more complicated than simply eating low carb or just watching calories.  If you don’t have a lot of background in nutrition and weight loss methods you might find the program daunting.  However, if you’ve tried low carb or slow carb or South Beach, you would probably find it pretty easy to pick up.

The program alternates low carb and high(er) carb days, advocates eating every three hours, and focused muscle building and cardio.  The carb cycling would probably work best for someone who is a moderator–I’m not sure how abstainers would do having to put so much thought into what they can and can’t eat every day.  I think one reason abstainers tend to do well on low carb diets is that it removes the requirement to dither over every tiny choice.  Either you eat it or you don’t.  Moderators, on the other hand, get stressed by the idea that they can’t have something, so for them it would be better to carb cycle or do another diet that has a built in cheat day, because that removes the stress of feeling deprived.  Eating habits are one of those areas where it helps to know yourself.

Even if you are an abstainer, the book has some good reminders and helpful ideas that would work no matter what sort of eating plan you’re on.  For example:

  • Eating every three hours, including eating your first meal within 30 minutes of waking up, is smart because it keeps your blood sugar regulated and your metabolism fueled.
  • Eating protein first before carbs and vegetables is smart because it helps sustain your energy as you digest different types of foods.
  • If you’re going to eat carbs, it’s wise to eat them earlier in the day rather than at dinner, and make them high fiber, high quality real foods, not processed sugary foods.

The exercise ideas in the book are also helpful, such as breaking down “shapers” that build your muscles and “shredders” that burn fat and calories, and giving you permission to do them at different times of day to fit your schedule.  The portion size information also includes a helpful visual.

Overall I think Choose to Lose is a solid eating plan, not too radical or unhealthy.  I found plenty of the recommendations helpful to keep in mind even though I’m not sure I’ll have the mental space to try the program myself (and wouldn’t do it while pregnant or immediately postpartum either).

If you’re a moderator or if you’re feeling like you’re at a frustrating plateau in your nutrition/weight loss progress, you’d probably find Choose to Lose helpful and I would recommend it.

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.