Sunday, July 25, 2010

Let's Play Truth or Dare

When we have formed the habit of not considering our health above all else, it is very difficult to build our desire to do what is necessary to stay healthy, even after we have changed our mindset towards our bodies. Sometimes, we know what we do wrong, but we deny that we can change. But every day we go on without change makes it just a little bit harder to pick up our cross and get our bodies right. Conversely, every day we take one step towards better health and a better body image is one more step that makes the lifestyle changes a whole lot easier. You would be surprised to know the changes we can make in our day to day lives that could make a big difference in our health. Counter each realization you face about your limitations with something you could take on this month to push yourself. Let’s play truth or dare.

Truth: You are too busy to work out.
Dare: Incorporate fifteen minutes of exercise in the morning, and fifteen minutes at night. When you have so little free time, the best ways to exercise are to get an exercise DVD, subscribe to a fitness magazine, or just do short sprints. The exercise DVD allows you to feel like you are in a fitness class, but allows you the freedom to push play whenever you want. Fitness magazines usually have sections dedicated to new workout routines or new poses that you can do at home with little or no equipment required. However, sprinting does require that you have running shoes, and enough endurance to run at a fast pace.

Truth: You fall back into your regular routine because you get bored.
Dare: Switch it up! We are human, and so just like any relationship, our relationship with our health can also dwindle when the original excitement goes away. However, you can prevent the death of this relationship by keeping things interesting and exciting. Going to a new fitness class, running with a new running buddy, or riding a bicycle are just some ideas you can add to spice up your workout. But whatever you do, always try something new before you get bored with your old routine.

Truth: You cannot stand the pain that comes with working out.
Dare: Sometimes, pain is like a badge of honour. At the beginning of your workout program, you will feel pain. The intensity of the pain sometimes depends on the intensity of your workout. So if you do some low intensity workouts like walking or dancing for starters, gradually increase the vigour of your exercise, and always stretch after your warm-up and after you’re done working out, you may reduce the level of pain you feel. But I also say fight through the pain if you can, because the rewards later on are so worth it.

Truth: You looooove food too much.
Dare: Don’t we all? For lovers of food, make it a task to apply portion control. Change your relationship with food. Apply the “there is always tomorrow” principle to reduce bingeing on food today. If you like to eat at home, it would actually be easier for you to stay fit. Stock your fridge and cabinets with ingredients you know are healthier so that when you do reach for the pan, you only have the options in front of you.

Truth: You have no information about what food to eat.
Dare: For one month, Google every food you know. Yes, it will be difficult, but you can do it if you plan ahead. If you know the ingredients that go into any food, I guarantee you can find the nutritional content of that ingredient online. Are you thinking of garri? One cup of ground cassava contains about 330 calories. Are you thinking of chicken? One grilled chicken thigh with skin contains about 200 calories. Although these are just estimates, they go a long way to give you an awareness of everything you put into your body. If in doubt, you can always email me, and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.

Truth: You don’t enjoy exercise.
Dare: Find something you enjoy and stick to that. Take a dance class or just set aside time to dance at home. Gather your friends together and have competitive exercise sessions. The key is to keep your body active, and so I am certain that there is some physical activity that you will have fun doing.

Truth: You have already made bad decisions, and so you believe it is too late to make a positive change.
Dare: Never is it too late. Did you know a smoker can reduce his/her risk of lung cancer by simply giving up smoking and taking up exercise? So you can do the same as well. Eat a healthy breakfast and start your day right. Talk a brisk walk around your neighborhood. Do some sort of physical activity and stick to it. When you start to notice the difference in your body, you would be excited to do more.

Truth: You are on a budget, and so you cannot afford the gym, and fast food is all you can afford.
Dare: If you have access to the internet, try to view some exercise poses you can do at home. I even have some in my summer series blog posts from June (Abs Like Whoa, See My Muscles, Tone Your Behind). There are so many varieties of push-ups, crunches, and aerobic exercises you can do at home. But the cheapest option by far is running. The good thing about running is that the road is free, so as long as you can find a quiet place, you are good to go. As for fast food, if you are on a budget, cooking at home might be the best way to stay healthy. This helps you know exactly what is going into your food, and you can make healthy substitutions wherever possible.

I believe that every limitation we have set on our bodies can be countered with something we can do to take a step in the healthy direction. Take on a dare today.

Cheers ‘Eights’ and ‘Weights’!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Thanks Hollywood! Diet Trends you Should Never Try – Part One

In an attempt to lose weight or simply to get flat abs, we tend to try the craziest things. Although some diet programs work and are safe, there are tons of new and trendy diet programs out there that may work in the short term, but are either impractical or could have dangerous effects on our bodies in the long term. There are so many that we will talk about some today, and break out the rest for future posts. 

 Atkins diet: The Atkins diet consists of few carbs, and a lot of protein, especially through meat. This diet program has been one of the most controversial in our time by research and health authorities. Today, the theory is supported, and tomorrow, it is not. Here is my take on the Atkins diet. If you intend to work out regularly, you need carbs to survive. And although I always talk about limiting your calories, your body does need those calories to function. A diet around minimizing calories and boosting protein does not seem practical to me. Yes, you need tons of protein to build and repair muscles, but continuously trying to exercise on low energy could hurt you because you won’t be using your body to its full potential.  If you always eat tons of meat and fish, but have to skip the rice, potatoes, bread, yams (should I keep going?), it just does not seem like a realistic diet to me. My advice is to stick to carbs from whole grain as much as you can.

The Baby Food Diet: When we were babies, we ate baby food because we had to. Our teeth weren’t yet fully developed, and the food contained nutrients to promote the development of a BABY. People going back to baby meals in their adult age is pretty silly to me. Because the food isn’t solid and heavy does not mean it is the best for you. That’s why it’s called baby food. You need a complex combination of nutrients to stay active, maintain your heart function, and prevent a host of diseases. Baby food is created for an entirely different purpose like building strong bones and teeth, and brain development, not the amount of physical activity an adult needs.

Ear stapling: When I first read about this, I thought nobody could actually possibly believe this, but it seems there are groups of people that strongly do. Ear stapling is based on a theory that there are arrears of your ear that affect your appetite. So you can control your appetite by stapling the portion of your ear, and applying pressure to it can make you eat less. Please don’t try this. It is simply a ploy on our desperation to lose weight. No health authorities or research backs up this theory.

Raw food diet: The raw food diet is based on the notion that cooking food destroys a lot of the nutrients. While that may be true in some cases, the heat from cooking also helps to destroy a lot of the bacteria that could be attached to raw food. Granted, you’ll definitely be eating fewer calories this way, but if you are eating only raw food, you may be limiting yourself to certain nutrients, and skip on the ones your body actually needs. For example, to get the amount of protein and carbs that your body needs, you probably have to eat the same food every day. No meat and no beans really limits your protein options, making this diet choice very impractical.

Master Cleanses:  Cleansing diets usually require a few days of very low calorie diets to “cleanse” the body of toxins. These low calorie diets usually consist of things like cayenne pepper and lemons. As I always say, if you starve yourself, your body goes into starvation mode. You potentially lose weight and muscle mass in the short term, but your body compensates by slowing down your metabolism, and when you go back to your regular diet, you’d probably put on more weight than you had before. So forget about the master cleanses. The key is to make a lifestyle change you can stick with long term.

Single-food-diets: An example is the cabbage soup diet. Your body needs several nutrients to survive and be active. So it should definitely be a no-no when a diet program asks you to each only one type of food for a period of time. If the meal you decide to go with has a lot of protein but little carbs, or vice-versa, you’re in trouble. In essence, one meal usually cannot contain all the body needs, so restricting yourself to one meal can cause several potential malnutrition disasters to your body. Some variations of the single-food-diets are like the master cleanses where you eat one type of food for a few days, and then revert back to your regular diet. In that case, the same comment I made in the master cleanse applies here.

Diet pills: Most drugs have potential side effects. When you are sick, you take drugs to make you better, and so it is worth the risk because they are meant to improve your health, and there is usually no other way. Diet pills expose our bodies to so many risks, and for what? To lose weight that could be lost another way? Diet pills have been linked to vitamin deficiencies, heart problems, and digestive problems. And most diet pills are not even approved by health authorities, leaving the consumer to carry the risk on their own. Rather than seek a quick fix with a pill, please stick to the traditional routine of a healthy diet and exercise to reduce the risk of harmful effects on your body.What's the purpose of losing weight if you are opening yourself up to a host of other health conditions? The same goes for those who use laxatives to lose weight.

If you have a different opinion about any one of these diet fads, please share. I would especially love to hear from someone who may have tried one of these.

Cheers ‘Eights’ and ‘Weights’!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Look Better Naked

Yes, you read right; that’s exactly what the title is. I was reading bits of this book ‘Look Better Naked’ by Michele Promaulayko, and I thought it would be fun to share some excerpts. To lay it all out there, I know a few men and women who after a few years of marriage, still feel self-conscious naked around their spouse. One lady actually confessed to me that she sucks her stomach in at all times while she’s naked with her husband. And this includes during sex. If I’ve learned anything about the human mind, it’s that loving your body truly is a process.

So why are we so self conscious? Well, according to the book, it’s because we feel we are not the best version of ourselves. We look around and see people who we believe are a version of what we can be, and we beat ourselves up because we think we’re not society’s definition of 'hot'. I do like how the book emphasized nakedness because when you’re confident at that level, when all your flaws are evident, you’ll definitely be more confident with clothes on.

Here are a few thoughts from the book that I thought were spot on:

To get more comfortable with your nakedness, do more stuff naked (apart from showering and sex). e.g.
•    Take a full on bath
•    Eat dinner naked
•    Sleep naked
•    Get a massage completely naked
•    Ladies, get fitted for lingerie
•    Take a nude photo – well, this one is kind of scandalous so be sure to keep the picture locked tight

Aside from exercise, you can make small changes to improve how you look. e.g.
•    Improve your posture
•    Reduce your salt and soda intake to minimize bloating

There’s a lot more in the book that I think everyone should take time out to read. But the essence of it is that how we look is really about how we feel. Below are a few of my own tips on how to look and feel better naked.

Groom: Whether it is your face or down there, a little grooming can go a long way to make you look and feel better au naturel.
Exercise: I don’t really have to stress this point too much. Generally, people who exercise regularly look and feel better about their bodies.
Timing: Don’t just eat a boat load of food and then look at your body in the mirror. Note when you feel the sexiest, and then you can check yourself out. Gentlemen, it may help if you do some push-ups before you look at yourself in the mirror. Pumped up arms and shoulders, and a pumped up back are sure to give you the boost you need ;)
Treat your skin right: Exfoliate. Put some cocoa butter on. Wash your face regularly. Get tuned into the beauty secrets that keep your skin looking great. It’s no secret that great skin makes you look and feel hotter.
Dance around your house in your underwear: Need I say more? Just make sure the curtains are shut.
Relax: Your body needs physical activity, but it also needs alone time. Regularly set aside time to relax and notice the difference in your skin and even your health.
Role models: Are you envying the wrong people? Celebrities spend hundreds of thousands on their bodies, and yet they still need make-up and airbrushing to look the way you see them in the media. Change your ‘body’ role model, and you’d probably realize that your body actually kicks ass.

Do you have a different technique that makes you look and feel better naked? Please share.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

What I Want to Know is… 'What Size is a Healthy Size?'

Welcome to the new Eights & Weights segment called ‘What I Want to Know is…’ where readers send in their questions, and based on the area of focus of reader’s questions, answers are provided. This time, a major area of focus is on what is determined to be a healthy size.

Now, because we are human, and humans are very visual creatures, we create impressions based on what we see. We all have markers in our heads for what size we think is healthy or not, and if a person goes below or above that, then we believe they are unhealthy. But is our dress size really a good marker for health?

As long as you are comfortable with your body, size is really not that important. Size helps us approximate weight, but it is not an absolute. The factors that are actually medically important are a person’s BMI (an approximation for the body fat ratio) and waist circumference.

BMI: The BMI (or Body Mass Index) is a number generated using the following formula:

So what really is the BMI? It is really just the weight to height ratio of an individual; that is how a person’s weight is distributed around their body. Right now, BMI is one of the reliable indicators of the body fat ratio of an individual. There are other methods that require machines (such as underwater weighing), but a person’s BMI can be calculated using the information at hand: Height and Weight. An unhealthy BMI can put a person at a higher risk for either obesity-related or underweight-related diseases.

Now, what’s a healthy BMI? This is dependent on factors such as gender, age, and race (yep, as I recently learned, even race). But in general, the following standards apply:

To calculate your BMI, use the widget at the bottom of this post.

Waist Size:  I can almost hear you go “What does waist size have to do with anything?” But studies have shown that men who have a waist size of more than 40 inches, and women who have a waist size of more than 35 inches, have a higher risk for diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and other heart diseases that may be tied to obesity.

These are some of the medically relevant factors in determining a healthy size. What do you consider a healthy size?

Two final points:
  • I couldn’t end this without bringing up the world cup. Ghana, you tried hard, and took us far. But I guess we’re still out. Africa weeps, man.
  • Again, thanks to those who nominated Eights and Weights for 11 categories in the Nigerian Blog Awards group B. My readers are the absolute bestest! Before I get all sentimental, I’ll just say that voting starts tomorrow July 5th. Be sure to click here to vote! Let’s bring those awards home :) 

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