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Time Is On Your Side

This has to be a joke, right?!  None of us ever seem to have enough time!  In fact, the most common reason I hear from clients and friends for not eating right or working out is “I just don’t have the time.”  So, here’s the thing – you/I make the time for things that are important.  The things that are priorities for us or our families are the things that take precedence in our schedules as well.

Even though fitness and healthy eating take time and effort, and seem to be more selfish pursuits, the truth is that your health and wellness ARE essential!  When moms and dads are sick, managing our households becomes much harder.  We can’t prevent all illnesses, but placing an emphasis on your nutrition and fitness level will certainly minimize chronic illnesses and maximize your overall health.  Just imagine fewer doctors appointments!!  That will certainly free time in your already hectic schedules, right?  

I want to review a few basic principles from earlier blogs about the advantages of healthy eating and working out, as well as some disadvantages from unhealthy eating and not getting weekly exercise.

Advantages:

  1.  Healthy eating provides clean nutrition – think of that as fuel for your body.  Taking in the appropriate amounts of calories, protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats keeps your body and ALL of it’s systems (cardiovascular, digestive, respiratory, etc.) operating at optimal levels.
  1. Taking in clean nutrition boosts your immune system!  Naturally, this helps your body fight off any germs and illnesses you encounter.  
  1. A healthy diet minimizes complications from chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and even allergies.
  1. Getting in three (3) to four (4) days of exercise every week maintains a healthy weight and can aid in losing excess body fat.
  1. Some form of daily exercise will help manage stress, burn off frustration, and help with our mental health.  
  1. Exercise can aid in clearing “brain fog” and give a different perspective on stressful situations/decisions.
  1. Exercise keeps your joints and soft tissues operating at their best.  Think of the “use it or lose it” theory.  Sitting still for long periods of time freezes your joints and they become stiff.  Movement does just the opposite.
  1. Getting exercise allows us to maintain and improve our balance, flexibility, mobility, and strength

Disadvantages:

  1.  Eating a diet that consists of primarily fast foods and processed foods can lead to any number of digestive issues, and in complicating chronic health conditions.
  1. A diet that consists of either too little or too many calories, protein, carbs, and the wrong kinds of fats can actually cause many health issues, as well as causing the body to store unhealthy body fat around your organs (visceral) as well as under your skin.
  1. An unhealthy diet in addition to already carrying too much body fat is harmful to your organs, joints, and connective tissues.  This can also weaken your bones.
  1. Eating a diet that is full of processed foods and high in sugar actually suppresses your immune system, making you a target for every illness and virus.
  1. Avoiding exercise is harmful to your joints.  Remember that we are Divinely designed!!  Each bone, joint, ligament, tissue, and organ has a purpose, and these all work together.  I know from personal experience that if you neglect one muscle group, another takes over, causing imbalanced and improper work on your joints.  If your core is weak, your lower back will become overworked and begin to give out.  If your hamstrings are weak, your knees will have more “pull” from the front of the leg, causing improper work dynamics which in turn will cause pain and possible injury.

Ok – now you see just why a healthy lifestyle is so crucial to your overall wellness, longevity, and healthy aging.  However, you still have the issue of finding time.  This is where priorities and time management come in!  

We’ll tackle nutrition and meal replacement first.  Journaling might be a helpful option, or at least a notepad and a pen!  First, make note of how many you will feed each day.  Will you need to prepare all meals and snacks for your spouse and children?  Just you?  (I have made MANY meals that have been tweaked to allow for my competition prep, as well as meals my husband and sons will eat.)  The next step will be to prepare a weekly menu for each meal – breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks.  Is this accounting for everyone’s particular likes and dislikes, allergies, etc.?   Now you’re ready to put this into a grocery list; include ALL items needed to cook (seasonings, herbs, extra virgin olive oil) as well as all ingredients.  

Helpful Tips:

  • Look at Pinterest or Google for clean recipes for your favorite dishes
  • Purchase the containers in the produce section that have fresh vegetables already chopped – huge time saver!
  • Order your groceries online to pick up.  This saves you time going inside the store, waiting in a line to pay for your groceries, AND allows you to purchase ONLY the items needed for your menu!

Now just pick a couple of days to prepare a few meals in advance.  Don’t forget about what a time saver a crock pot is!  Pinterest is really helpful here, too.  Once the meals are prepared, divide by servings, and put into individual containers to keep in the refrigerator.  Then you just grab and go.  Even back at home at the end of a busy day, knowing you have dinner all ready to heat up is such a relief.  If you are out and about for sports practices and games – knowing you have a meal already prepared will save you time AND money going through a drive-through for fast food.  Just heat your meals and relax at home while you eat.

Up next – workouts!  I promise this isn’t as daunting as you might think.  Look at your calendar, and take your daily schedule into consideration.   If you have a gym membership – use it!  Pack your gym bag before you go to bed at night; even put it in your car if that helps!  Make sure you have workout clothes, socks, the right shoes, your head phones, etc. already in the bag in the evening.  Just like your meals – you grab and go on your way out in the morning (unless it’s already in your car).  Just carve out 30 to 45 minutes at least 3 days each week to stop by the gym on your way home.  Depending on your work schedule, maybe going to the gym first and then onto work is better for you.  You’ll only need to get up a little earlier; I promise it’s more than worth it!  If you’re like me, you spend nearly that much time piddling on household tasks in the morning anyway.  Make a plan, and stick with it!  Don’t let yourself get sidetracked.  

If you aren’t a gym member, do NOT let that stop you!!!  If you feel that you would be more consistent with the accountability of a gym environment – then research the gyms local to you.  Most will offer a week-long guest pass.  Just try it out.  If joining a gym just isn’t for you, then plug in at-home workouts for yourself.  Either first thing in the morning before you get ready for the day, or immediately after work.  Depending on your dinner menu, you will likely have 20 to 30 minutes while supper is cooking!  

The final step for getting workouts in is making a plan for each week.  Go ahead and schedule your workouts.  Yes – write them down!  If you want to lift weights, plan which days you will work which muscle groups.  Have a plan for each muscle group for when you walk into the gym or pull out any home equipment.  If you prefer a variety – make sure you schedule a day for an outdoor walk, a yoga class, dance fitness, running or walking with friends.   Look for gaps in your schedule; for example, if your child has a sports practice that lasts an hour, use that hour to jog or walk (through in some jumping jacks, plank, squats, walking lunges).  

Make your health and wellness a priority!  Self care is never selfish; your family is depending on you!  It can certainly seem overwhelming, but just take it one step at a time.  Start with nutrition.  Make a plan, and stick with it.  Be consistent, and you will have developed a healthy habit!   Then add in some form of exercise.  Mix it up, invite friends; have fun with it!  

A personal trainer can certainly be a huge benefit in creating a workable plan for you, aiding in time management, proper nutrition, and planning effective workouts.  A consultation isn’t a commitment.  If you’re weighing hiring a trainer, get references and consult with one or more to make the most informed decision.  I would love to help you!   Please click on my Contact Me link or email at: Fitteachermom@aol.com.  Mention this blog for a free consultation!!

Low Back Pain? Check Your Hip Flexors!

All of us have experienced low back pain at some point in our lives, and it is surely aggravating!  Even though you might be able to pinpoint what activity caused it, you could be missing a very important underlying factor!  Tight hip flexors can really throw a proverbial monkey wrench into things.  

Foam rolling and stretching your lower back is always helpful, but don’t neglect those hip flexors!  It’s always a great idea to stretch your hips and hip flexors – just to be proactive.  You already know that I’m going to recommend yoga. . . honestly, you cannot go wrong!  Whether you’re looking for recovery, stress relief, pain relief, improved balance, improved flexibility, improved mobility, improved strength, or ALL of the above, yoga is the answer!   But back to how hip flexors affect your lower back. . .

Quite often lately, I’ve noticed that stretching my hip flexors always makes my lower back feel better and improves my flexibility tremendously.  So I researched the connection between hip flexors and low back pain.  I’ve read over so many articles on web sites such as Livelovefruit.com, Netafit.com, Integrehab.com, ISSAonline.com, and Spineuniverse.com.  The overwhelming results are that tight hip flexors are most likely responsible for a large percentage of lower back pain!

First let’s pinpoint exactly what hip flexors are:

  • Iliopsoas muscle is actually two muscles working together to stabilize the lower back – the psoas (my personal nemesis) and the Iliacus.  The psoas is SO hard to stretch because it runs from the lumbar spine (mid back) into and through the pelvis to attach to the thigh bone (femur).  The iliacus muscle attaches the pelvis to the thigh bone; its purpose is to rotate the thigh.
  • Rectus femoris muscle attaches the pelvis to the knee and the quadriceps muscle, which is used in squatting and lunging.
  • Sartorius muscle goes from the pelvis to the knee and flexes the knee and leg.
  • Pectineus muscle, more commonly known as the groin muscle, is used in hip flexion, thigh rotation, and adduction.

All of these hip flexor muscles work together to stabilize the spine, and to allow us to have hip flexion.  Now let’s examine some signs that your hip flexors are tight.  

  • The most obvious sign is these muscles just feel tight, even when you try to stretch them. 
  • You experience a tightness or pain in your lower back, especially when you stand up.  (This one is me!)
  • You have poor posture and have a hard time standing up straight.
  • You have neck tightness and pain.  (Yes!  Hip flexors affect our entire back!
  • You experience pain in the glutes.

To sum all this up, tight hips can negatively affect our whole body, especially our lower back.  To alleviate low back pain, you can’t go wrong with foam rolling, icing, and/or stretching.  However, if you fail to address the underlying problem, the problem and the pain will persist.  

Tight hip flexor muscles will shorten, which pulls on the lumbar spine of your lower back causing the muscles of your lower back to tighten and cause pain.  That dreaded psoas (remember, my personal nemesis?) is attached straight to the vertebrae of the lower spine.  It’s really hard to stretch because of its location, and once it tightens and shortens, it can cause some serious pain.  For me personally, it’s always the right side and reminds me of experiencing a kidney stone!  It can become really painful.

Specifically quoted from spineuniverse.com:  “From the perspective of a doctor of physical therapy, Tony Matoska, PT, DPT, CMPT, Clinic Manager for Athletico Muskego, WI and Wisconsin Spine Specialty Program Regional Coordinator for Athletico, notes that “tight hips and hamstrings are more likely to affect your lower back than your middle or upper back (thoracic spine).”

In addition to muscle tightness in the hips, Matoska notes that stiff hip joints can lead to lower back pain. “A lack of rotational motion and ability to flex or extend your hip forwards or backwards can affect your walking, running, swinging, and twisting motions and increase mechanical strain on your lower back.”

So now that we see the connection between hip flexors and low back pain, what do we do about it?  Stretching is incredibly important!  Before you begin any workout – dancing, lifting, running, swimming – stretch!  Take the time to stretch; it’s more than worth it!  Strengthening the hip flexors is also incredibly important.   Include lunges, lying leg raises, kettlebell swings, hanging leg raises, glute bridges, and Bulgarian split squats to strengthen those muscles.

And, of course, YOGA!  There are SO many yoga stretches to stretch and strengthen your hip flexors and lower back – in the same session!  You can easily fit 10 to 15 minutes of yoga when you wake up in the morning and before you go to bed at night.  (Yes, you can.  Make the time; it’s that important!)  Include child’s pose, forward folds (standing and seated), butterfly pose, pigeon, sleeping pigeon, lizard, seated and supine twists, just to name a few.  Please check out the Yoga section on this web site if you’re local to me for class locations and times!  If you’re not local, please find a local yoga studio or gym that offers yoga classes.  You’ll be SO glad you did!

Start taking proactive care of your hip flexor muscles to improve your overall posture and relieve, if not prevent, low back pain! 

It’s Wellness Audit Time!

How are you feeling?  Seriously, how are you really feeling? Have you ever taken a wellness audit?  Memorial Day weekend is officially ushering in Summer.  Are you ready?  Do you feel ready to truly enjoy this summer, to make the most of it?  Let’s make sure by auditing your overall wellness – take inventory of YOUR overall health and fitness level today.   We will also look at potential solutions for any areas that can be improved.  

Physical wellness basically includes a variety of health behaviors and habits such as adequate exercise, proper nutrition, self care, and avoiding harmful habits (consuming excessive alcohol, smoking or vaping, and/or drug abuse).  As you read through this blog, intentionally and mindfully assess your personal health.  Honestly determine where you are, and where you want to be regarding your overall health and fitness.  

According to many sources, (www.theartoffitnessandlife.com, www.grcc.edu, https://www.rwu.edu) there are seven (7) areas or “pillars” of wellness:

1. Mental

2. Physical

3. Social

4. Financial

5. Spiritual

6. Environmental

7. Vocational

This blog will focus more on the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual areas.  So let’s dive right into this audit!  Unless you want to share your answers with someone, no one will know your answers.  So, for your own best benefit, be brutally honest as you assess yourself in all of these areas!

PHYSICAL

How are you truly feeling?  

  • Have you had a complete physical checkup to know your numbers?  We’re talking blood pressure, cholesterol, thyroid, hormone levels, etc.
  • How is your ability to perform basic physical activities such as:
    • Walking up and down stairs
    • Getting up from seated or from sitting in the floor
  • How is your energy level to perform basic activities such as cooking meals and household chores?
  • Do you find that you frequently:
    • Get headaches
    • Notice that your clothes getting uncomfortably tight
    • Feel bloated
    • Suffer from digestive issues
    • experience excessive water retention 
    • Feel lethargic, with little to no energy
    • Feel more aches and pains throughout your body, specifically in your joints

MENTAL:

How are you processing daily circumstances?  Are  you having more bad days or good days?  Honestly evaluate the following:

  • Do you feel cranky and moody often?
  • Overall, do daily irritations like traffic and encountering difficult situations tend to ruin your day or roll off your back?
  • How do you handle stress and stressful situations?  Do you have stress management techniques or tools in place?
  • When facing a problem, do you tend to give up or find solutions?
  • Have you set any personal goals?

EMOTIONAL:

  • Do you find, overall, that you tend to look for the bad or the good in each day?  
  • Is your mindset overwhelmingly positive or negative?
  • What are the things you most look forward to?
  • When you look in the mirror, are you content with who and/or what you see?
  • Do you have family and/or friends who encourage and support you or drain you?
  • How is the quality of your sleep?

SOCIAL:

Believe it or not, this is honestly a crucial area!  Assess who is truly in your innermost circle, and who is in your “outer” circle.

  • Do those closest to you energize you and bring you peace, or do you find that they drain you mentally and emotionally?
  • Do you have family and/or friends who are honest with you as well as supportive, rather than critical?
  • Do you have a support circle who helps you find solutions? 
  • Do you feel safe being honest in return with those in your circle?  

SPIRITUAL:

While this area may not seem important enough to be in the top 5, I can assure you from my personal experience that it truly is!  If you know me, you already know that I absolutely and unashamedly love Jesus.  He is my Savior, my Heavenly Father,  Redeemer, best friend, healer, comforter, conscience, etc.  Without faith in someone bigger than myself, I would feel lost.  My strength literally comes from Him.  I know that He is in control, and that in order to get the very most and best out of my life, I need to be anchored in Him and in His Word.  Being part of an active, Bible-believing church family feeds my heart, mind, and soul.  It gives me an opportunity to be fed spiritually and an opportunity to serve others.  All of these things are so very important!  So, let’s assess a few spiritual health areas:

  • Are you plugged into a faith-based community?
  • Are you feeding your faith?  This can include worship and/or prayer services, small groups, Bible studies, and Bible study groups.
  • Are you serving in some capacity?  Are you giving of yourself – not just money, but your talent and your time?
  • Are you practicing counting your blessings as much, if not more, than your problems?

Take a few minutes to honestly assess yourself in all of these areas.  I would encourage you to make notes.  You know I love the idea of journaling.  If you aren’t already journaling, start one today.  Make any notes you have about this wellness audit.  Writing these things down can help you in SO many ways!  Maybe you’re finding that you’re a little better off than you originally thought!  That’s a very encouraging thing to have written – to see it in print, not just thinking it.  If you find that you have more areas to improve than you thought, writing them down gives you a “ground zero” to start with!  Write any ideas you have to improve, then make a plan to get started.

For the physical topic, list the things that you are most concerned about.  How can you improve these things?  First of all, if something is a challenge to you – you need to do more of it!  For example, if walking up any set of stairs is a struggle for you – then you decide today that you are going to take every set of stairs you see!  Yes, it will be hard at first – you’ll definitely be out of breath, and it might take you longer to get there than taking an elevator.  But after a couple of weeks, you’ll find that it’s easier!  If getting up and down is difficult for you – make a plan to put exercises into practice daily that will make that easier for you.  (Mix in squats, lunges, crunches, plank.) Here’s the thing – every single one of us is aging.  As our bodies age, fitness abilities, flexibility, and mobility will disappear if we don’t use them.  However, no matter how old you are, it’s never too late to improve!  We will all need to maintain balance, flexibility, and mobility as we age to remain active and independent.  You have nothing to lose (except your excuses) and everything to gain!

How do you feel about your mental and emotional audits?  These are choices, my friends.  The spiritual and social areas directly feed into these as well.  Time with Jesus and a strong faith make you more mentally and emotionally stable and strong.  A strong support group will do the same, and can certainly be found in a faith-based community like a church home or Bible study group.  And of course, when you are physically active and have an exercise program and healthy nutrition, your mood and stress level are positively affected!  Get out your calendar and write down times each day that you will move – get outside for a walk, take an exercise class, plug in an at-home exercise program.  Write down a day that you will grocery shop, and a day that you will prepare your meals in advance.  Plan your meals, then make your grocery list and DO NOT deviate from that list!

Look at what you can improve rather than focus on what needs improvement!   Set new goals (small, easy to achieve and big) and make a plan for yourself to reach them.  As you implement steps, you’ll find that you are more encouraged and determined to succeed which pushes you to continue.  Once you reach a small goal, you’ll find that you feel much more confident and motivated to crush other goals!

A personal trainer or wellness coach can certainly help you break these things down and make a new plan that is 100% doable.  I can promise you that it is more than worth the investment.  I would love to help you be the very best you can be!  Please feel free to contact me to talk about your wellness audit and goals!

A Mother’s Legacy

Happy Mother’s Day to all of my mommy friends, and to all of our mothers!  Hopefully we all have precious childhood memories of our own mothers.  I know that not all of us have had ideal childhoods, but you’ve pushed through to make wonderful lives on your own.  Whether our strengths were instilled because of our childhood or in spite of it, we are now leading and teaching our own children.

Regardless of age, our children are always watching us.  Our daughters and sons learn as much from watching how we handle every situation as they do from things we intentionally teach them.   We all have our own priorities on the things we are intentional about – manners, alphabet, numbers, shapes, colors, doing chores, etc.  But what are we teaching them unintentionally?  What are our habits?  What do our children see as our priorities?  Are these things the legacies we want to instill in our children?

If you make your health a priority by eating clean, whole foods and getting workouts in, your children are far more likely to do the same.  It’s nearly impossible to expect your children to eat fruits and vegetables if you don’t.  If you’re eating fast food and junk food, it will be much harder to get them to eat healthy foods at home.  Even though fast foods may be easier when our children are little, it’s definitely a hard habit to break as they grow older!  

As they grow, our children are always watching and adapt their behaviors and choices to what they learn from us.  Being a mommy is such a huge responsibility – and an unspeakable joy!  Being mindful of what we do and what we say at all times is overwhelming. . . do my boys see me pray?  Do they see me reading my Bible?  Do they hear me speak respectfully to cashiers, servers, doctors, nurses, etc.?  Do my words and my actions match?  

Not one of us is perfect!  Give yourself some grace, sweet mama.  I’m certain your little, or not-so-little anymore treasures know that they are loved.  Teach them about Jesus!  I believe that taking responsibility for our mistakes and allowing them to see that we are actually human teaches them amazing lessons as well.

Just keep loving those babies, give yourself some grace, and make sure you take time for yourself!  None of us can pour from an empty cup, and letting your family see that you’re investing in your mental and physical health is so important.  That in itself is teaching something valuable to them!

Take care of yourself – drink lots of water, eat clean fruits and vegetables, get fresh air, sunshine, some exercise, and rest.  And Happy Mother’s Day to you!

May Day!

Welcome to May!  We finally made it to warmer, sunnier days – and soooo much closer to summer!  As a teacher and a mom, I can attest to how busy and straight up chaotic May can be.  We have spring sports, banquets, testing, teacher appreciation, Mother’s Day, and ALL of the end of the school year things.  The end of the school year is even more hectic than the Christmas season!  Hang in there Mom – we’ve got this!

As our lists of places to be and things to do grows, please don’t let that distract you from your goals!  We may have to be more creative at getting our workouts in, or much more intentional about how and when we meal prep.   Just do not put your own health on a back burner.

Let’s look at some options that might help us get through this busy season with our goals being crushed along the way!  

1. Nutrition is our top priority.  Even if you get in all of your workouts, but you aren’t fueling your body well, you’re really just wasting your time and energy.  

  • Make a grocery list.  Shop only from this list, and don’t let cravings get in the way.  Maybe even order online and pick up your groceries to maximize your time and minimize your time browsing the aisles in the store.
  • Pick your least busy day or days to prepare your meals ahead of time.  Separate portions out for meals, and pack them away in your refrigerator.  It will be super easy to grab a meal and go!
  • Utilize protein shakes and protein bars when you’re going to be out and about.  Make wraps (instead of sandwiches with bread) that can be eaten on the go without the need for reheating.  Even a snack of apples and peanut butter will stave off hunger and prevent that trip through a fast food drive through.

2. Busy schedule?  Then go ahead and review your calendar and schedule your workouts for the week.  I mean actually write it in or enter it on your phone’s calendar.

  • Do you need to get up earlier?  Maybe watch a little less television?  (Or maybe watch while you’re working out at home) Set yourself up for success by carving out time just for you – just 20 to 30 minutes each day will add up!
  • Pack your gym bag the night before and go ahead and put it in the car!  Leave yourself no excuses.  
  • This includes charging your headphones and putting them in your purse or gym bag the night before as well.  
  • Maybe it’s helpful to just leave a pair of socks, sports bra, and leggings or shorts in your bag – just in case.
  • Working out at home? Set your alarm for 45 minutes before you normally would to give yourself enough time to get a workout in before jumping in the shower.  Have to run the kids to school first?  Go ahead and be dressed to workout when you take them so you can get started as soon as you get home – before tackling that to-do list.
  • At the very least, get outside for a walk in the sunshine!  The fresh air and natural Vitamin D will be a wonderful boost, energizing activity, and stress reducer for you.  Have a dog who needs to go out?  Instead of just letting him or her out in the yard, put that leash on and go for a walk!  At least walk laps around your yard while your pup sniffs and explores.

3. Start a to-do list!  Keep pen and paper handy, or use a notes app on your phone.  Each time you remember something that has to be done or something new comes up, go ahead and add it.  It sounds like more work, but I promise it helps tremendously to see the tasks ahead of you.  Maybe multiple  things can be handled in one trip.  Maybe you can coordinate all of your computer and communications oriented tasks together.  I absolutely love being able to check things off as I go!  That relieves stress just to see tasks taken care of.

4. Keep your bedtime routine!  Even with more things needing to be done, add these last-minute thoughts to your to-do list, and leave yourself time to wind down.  You’ll be able to function much better, and your brain will be less foggy with a good night’s sleep.  

  • Feeling too stressed to sleep?  Maybe use a sound machine or sound app on your phone. I use a sound machine to play ocean waves at night, and it is most definitely relaxing!
  • Save a few minutes before bed to practice a little restorative yoga!  Practice the deep breathing, and get in some relaxing stretches to help your body and mind relax.
  • Turn off the tv and set your phone down about 30 minutes before turning in.  Maybe read a book or drink some Calm tea.

5. Drink. Your. Water.  Even though you might feel the need to load up on coffee and/or sodas to keep your energy up, water is your best bet!  Coffee, teas, and sodas will leave you dehydrated.  By all means, enjoy a cup or two of coffee!!!  I mix my coffee in with my protein and collagen each morning.  It’s filling, and so easy to take with me as I start my day.   But, make sure you drink plenty of water every day.  As the temperatures go up, our bodies will need extra water.  


May is wonderful, and summer is close!  I realize first hand that this means we have a lot on our plates, my friends.  We can certainly handle it all like champions, AND maintain our own personal fitness/wellness journeys.  I know we can do it!  Please feel free to read over all of the options on this site for boot camps, yoga classes, and personal training with me.  And please email me at Fitteachermom@aol.com, or reach out to me through my Contact Me link on this site if you would like to chat about your goals or how I can help you reach them!  I would love to help you reveal all the wonderful things you are capable of!

Amazing Antioxidants

The prefix ‘anti’ means against, in opposition to, or corrective in nature. In this case, the ‘anti’ in antioxidant describes the effect these chemicals have against oxidants.  

Oxidants, usually referred to as ‘free radicals’ are produced as a natural by-product of the millions of biochemical processes undertaken by the body every minute. The same life-giving oxygen that supports all the functions of the body creates these harmful by-products which cause cell damage, usually to DNA, fats and proteins.  

Free radicals also enter the body through external influences such as exposure to the sun, pesticides and other kinds of environmental pollution. In addition, their levels are increased by mental and physical stress, the consumption of alcoholic beverages, unhealthy foods, and cigarette smoke. 

In much the same way as oxidation causes rust on cars, oxidation inside the body causes a breakdown of cells. If the amount of free radical oxidation in the body is allowed to rise to an unhealthy level, it can result in extensive damage to cellular components and can accelerate the aging process.  

More importantly, it may contribute to a wide range of degenerative illnesses and reduce the body’s ability to deal with other problems, including cardiovascular malfunction, eye disease, and cancer. 

Additionally, it may result in a compromised immune system, leading to immunological disorders and a lessening of the body’s ability to heal wounds and overcome infections. Some studies indicate possible links to arthritis and similar chronic conditions.  

Antioxidants counter these effects by binding with free radicals before they can cause damage. They then convert them into non-damaging biochemical substances, assisting enormously with the reparation of cellular damage.  

Certain antioxidant enzymes are produced within the body. The most well known of these are catalase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione: 

Catalase converts hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen.  

Superoxide dismutase breaks antioxidants down into hydrogen peroxide. 

Glutathione is a detoxifying agent, changing the form of toxins so that they are easily eliminated by the body.  

This is a lot of science and proof that we need these vitamins and minerals daily for optimum health and wellness. And yes – carbs are where the antioxidants are! Yet another reason to include the “smart” carbs into your daily nutrition.

Other antioxidants can be consumed through the diet. Some of the better known include the antioxidant vitamins beta-carotene, vitamin B6, vitamin C and vitamin E.  

Minerals such as selenium, zinc, glutathione and co-enzyme Q10 may also have antioxidant properties, and so may flavonoids such as cranberry, some amino acids, plus organic extracts from milk thistle and the tree known as ginkgo biloba.  

A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables provides a large supply of these antioxidants, to help eliminate damaging free radicals. The highest concentrations are found in fruits and leafy green vegetables, such as carrots, orange and red peppers, spinach and tomatoes.  

Cooking can destroy some antioxidants and interfere with the body’s ability to absorb them, so eating raw vegetables and fruit, and including sprouts in the diet can help. Steaming vegetables as opposed to frying, microwaving or boiling is also a good idea. 

Antioxidants are best taken in combination, since single antioxidants, such as vitamin E, need other vitamins in order to work as an effective antioxidant. Food and natural supplements may therefore provide the most bioavailable source of antioxidants. Natural products from the rainforests of the world are some of the best sources of natural antioxidants ever found. Fruits like the acai berry are amazing in the health world because of the wide range and high number of antioxidants they contain, making them a perfect source of antioxidants. It’s no wonder that the acai berry has been dubbed one of the top 10 “superfoods” in the world.

EAT ALL THE COLORS!

Antioxidants are all the rage today.  And, justifiably so.  Remember, antioxidants help neutralize free radicals which cause cell damage, which ultimately can lead to diseases of the heart and cancer.  It seems everywhere you go it’s blueberry this and blueberry that.  You have your choice of wild blueberry juice, blueberry-pomegranate juice, blueberry-cranberry juice and so on and so on.  

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love blueberries.  But, in our rush to embrace the latest antioxidant food craze (blueberries, cranberries, pomegranates) we’re ignoring some very high-antioxidant foods that are probably sitting ignored in our cupboards.

“What?”  You ask, “What could possibly be higher in antioxidants than my beloved wild blueberry?”  Well, how about the small red bean?  That’s right, I said “bean.”  The small red bean actually has more antioxidants per serving size than the wild blueberry.  And the red kidney bean and pinto bean have more antioxidants per serving size than a serving of cultivated blueberries.  

What other foods are high in antioxidants?  For starters, there are artichoke hearts, blackberries, prunes, pecans, spinach, kale, russet potatoes and plums.  And, no, that’s not a mistake.  Russet potatoes are on the list of foods high in antioxidants.  

The truth is, there are many common foods high in antioxidants and you should not just restrict yourself to one particular food source.  Why?  Well, have you ever heard the expression, “eat your colors?”  That refers to the fact that foods are in different color “families” containing different types of antioxidants which have different benefits.  For example, the yellow-orange color family of peaches and nectarines help our immune systems.  The purple-red color family of foods (pomegranates, plums, berries) helps reduce inflammation.  It’s important to eat foods from all color groups to reap the full benefits of antioxidants.

The good news is that you can eat healthy foods high in antioxidants (by eating them raw, cooking them, or juicing them yourself) without having to pay a high price for the “flavor of the month” antioxidant juices being peddled in the supermarkets.  

So, give your blueberries some company at the dinner table.  Invite some beans, spinach, potatoes and artichoke hearts and enjoy your antioxidants!

Faith & Fitness

Never forget that investing in your health and wellness is not selfish, and can actually be an investment in your loved ones.  Love is not only a feeling, it’s also very much a verb.  Making healthy choices nutritionally and physically are actions you can take to insure you will be healthy and able to take care of your loved ones.   On this holiest of weekends, remember that our bodies are His temple.  After the resurrection and ascension, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be with us, and He lives in our hearts.  What we do with our bodies and what we put into our bodies – we do to His Temple.  

By making healthy choices, we protect and strengthen our immune systems, our mobility, our stamina – our overall wellness.  Being our healthiest enables us to take care of our families and friends!  Are you fit to serve?  On His last day with the disciples, Jesus served them; He washed their feet, fed them, and prayed for them.  We can follow His example in the simplest of ways in our communities. 

  • Practice random acts of kindness to strangers!  Just hold the door for someone to enter or exit after you.  Let another driver turn out of a store into the gap in front of you.  Give your smile to someone who seems grumpy.  Offer to return someone’s buggy to the store as you walk in.  Compliment another person; if you think to yourself that someone has pretty hair or a beautiful smile – TELL THEM! 
  • Take a turn to serve in your church service!  Even if it means getting out of your comfort zone.  Greet visitors.  Hold babies.  You can make another person’s visit, and possibly their worship experience better!  Allow someone who always serves to sit and truly worship!  You just might realize that you’re blessed above and beyond what you expected.
  • In the gym!!  Encourage someone you see that is a new member or seems to be struggling.  If someone inspires or motivates you – tell them!  Re-rack weights that someone else leaves laying around (yes it’s annoying!  But maybe it helps someone coming after you who might not be as strong as you, AND it sets a great example!)
  • Make your families’ favorite meal randomly.  Have a movie night with your family without needing an occasion.  Leave encouraging or loving notes hidden around the house for your family to find.

For ourselves, we can set such a strong example for our families and friends!  Easter is very much a sweet season, and treats abound.  Moderation is key!  We all know that alcohol consumption is dangerous and should be at a minimum.  Did you ever consider that sugar is every bit as intoxicating and addictive as any alcoholic beverage or drug?   Just take cupcakes and/or donuts into any classroom for the children, then sit back and watch their behaviors change.  The same holds true for adults.  Remember the earlier blog about sugar?  It hides in SO many foods and drinks!  Even spaghetti sauces and other canned products.     Taking in too much sugar consistently is so toxic to our bodies and detrimental to our health and wellness.  It increases inflammation in our guts and in our joints, causes brain fog, increases blood sugars, increases body fat, suppresses our immune systems, and contributes to cardiovascular problems and diabetes.

The Old Testament gives us plenty of reminders of what God intended for us.  The Garden of Eden was all perfect, natural fruits and vegetables and animal proteins.   Even Daniel and his cousins ate vegetables rather than the richer foods offered and were rewarded for it!    Choose your nutrition wisely, and look for clean, natural foods over enriched, processed foods.  Shop around the outside of the grocery store, selecting fresh produce over canned.  Frozen from fresh without preservatives is a great option.  Always check the ingredients list – the fewer ingredients, the better!  If you’re buying frozen green beans, all you want is green beans, not a lot of ingredients that you can’t pronounce!  

Easter is only one weekend – celebrating THE MOST INCREDIBLE event in a believer’s life.  Celebrate what Jesus has done, every single day.  Enjoy your family and friends.  Enjoy an occasional treat, for sure.  Just don’t fall back into that sugar and processed foods hole, and don’t ever stay there.  I promise you that you will feel better if you’re getting clean, healthy, whole foods into your body.  Food is fuel, remember?  If you don’t believe me, then prove me wrong.  Cut out the fast foods, processed foods and junk foods.  Eat healthy for one week.  Most people honestly have no idea how good our bodies are designed to feel!  Remember – God designed our bodies.  He created us with a purpose!  We need to be healthy enough to fulfill that purpose!

Happy Easter!  

Navigating the World of Supplements, Part Two

There are SO many herbs and supplements to aid in boosting immunity, aid in digestive health, and boosting overall wellness.  

Digging into part two!  Let’s look at four more supplements. . . Flax seed, Glucosamine, Vitamin B12, and Collagen. Read below for more about each one!

  1.  Flaxseed and flax oil:  I’ve done a blog earlier all about flaxseed and the multiple benefits.  I researched several resources – WebMD, Cleveland Clinic, HealthLine, BetterMe, and Women’s Health to find that they all agree on the top benefits.  These are:
  • Omega 3 essential fatty acids:  These are the “good” fats that have been proven to improve heart health.
  • Prevent cancer:  Many recent studies show that flaxseed may have protective effects against certain cancer cells.  The plant omega 3 fatty acid found in flaxseed inhibited tumor growth in some studies.
  • Lignans:  These have both antioxidant and estrogen properties.
  • Helps prevent Cardiovascular disease:  The plant omega 3 fatty acids are at work again!  Flaxseed also has anti-inflammatory properties that aid in normalizing the heart beat.  Newer research shows that flaxseed also can aid in lowering blood pressure AND cholesterol.  There have also been studies showing that diets which include flaxseed omega 3’s aid in preventing the hardening of arteries!
  • Helps decrease inflammation:  Two components in flaxseed, ALA and lignans, may help reduce the inflammation that accompanies certain illnesses. 
  • Helps decrease hot flashes:  Many studies have proven that the addition of flaxseed decreases not only the occurrence of hot flashes, but also the severity.  I can attest to this personally.  I am post menopausal, but recently I felt “under siege” with hot flashes.  My personal research and discussions with dieticians and nutritional experts convinced me to add flaxseed into my daily diet.  It may take up to two weeks to feel the full result, but it definitely works!  Initially I added 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed into my protein coffee.  I’m now using flaxseed oil.  I have seen a definite decline in how often the hot flashes occur, as well as in how severe and how long they last.  I definitely recommend the use of flaxseed – if for no other reason than help with these!
  • Boosts immunity:  Flaxseeds are a great source of magnesium, which is a mineral essential for the proper function of our nervous system.  It also helps regulate our blood sugar levels, and can reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression and even migraine headaches.  If you’re experiencing any of the following, you may have a magnesium deficiency – diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, insomnia, and migraines.  Try adding in some flaxeed!
  • Promotes weight loss:  Due to the high fiber content of flaxseed, it can help improve your gut health and help you feel fuller when you eat.  This also helps prevent constipation and keep your digestive system working properly.

2. Glucosamine:  I’m sure everyone has at least heard a little about glucosamine, so lets’s look at why it’s one of my favorites (based on more research from WebMD, Mayo Clinic and Healthline.com)! It is produced naturally in your body and found mostly in cartilage and helps create the proteins and fats that repair our cartilage when it’s damaged.  Taking glucosamine supplements offers many benefits (particularly in our joints)!  

  • Glucosamine can reduce inflammation.  Studies have proven that regular use of glucosamine and chondroitin lowers levels of inflammation.  Regularly taking this supplement can also help lower your risk of a number of chronic conditions.
  • It may improve bone health.  Some studies have shown, specifically, that it may lower the risk of osteopororis in post menopausal women.

3. Vitamin B12:  This vitamin is essential for our bodies, but our bodies do not produce it naturally.  B12 has many roles in our bodies, such as supporting the normal functioning of nerve cells and is needed for the formation of red blood cells.  Researching Healthline.com I found that Vitamin B12 provides many benefits!

  • Boosts energy;
  • Improves memory;
  • Aids in preventing heart disease;
  • Prevents fatigue and weakness;
  • Aids in preventing birth defects;
  • Supports bone health and may help prevent osteoporosis;
  • Aids in reducing risk of macular degeneration;
  • Aids in improving mood and in preventing symptoms of depression;
  • May benefit your brain by preventing loss of neurons (early studies show that B12 may prevent brain atrophy, and that B12 with Omega 3’s slowed mental decline);
  • Supports healthy hair, skin, and nails;

4. Collagen:  For starters, collagen is a form of protein, and it is one of the most common protein in our bodies.  It has many functions that include providing our skin with structure and strengthening our bones.

The benefits of taking collagen supplements are:

  • Improve skin health – it strengthens skin, aids in elasticity and hydration;
  • May relieve joint pain;
  • May prevent bone loss;
  • Can boost muscle mass;
  • Can promote heart health;
  • Increase strength of hair and nails;

There are SO many supplements available to us with SO many benefits! It can definitely be overwhelming. Read over these benefits and see if any, or maybe all, of these supplements will be helpful to you.  I personally use Flax oil and collagen daily in my protein shakes or coffee first thing every morning.  I also take extra Vitamin B12 in my favorite drink, Spark.  Glucosamine is one that I’ll be adding daily to help protect my joints as I age and continue to train hard.  

If you feel that getting assistance with your nutrition or workouts will help you reach your goals, please reach out to me.  I would love to help you!!

Navigating Supplements (Part 1)

There is SO much buzz on every media outlet about supplements.  Honestly, the most important thing to know is that supplements should, well supplement your existing nutrition.  No supplement should take the place of real food; your body needs the nutrients from natural, real foods.  

Which supplements are the most important?  How do I know which ones I should take?  Believe me, it can definitely be overwhelming!  And there is no one set answer for every person.  Adding supplements to your plan will depend solely on YOU – your goals, current health condition, current fitness level, etc.  Let’s look at a few basic supplements that everyone should consider adding, according to the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Health, just to name a few!   

1. Multi Vitamins:  Obviously these are most important for everyone to insure that we are making the most of our nutrition and getting all the vitamins and minerals needed.  It can get complicated due to so many brands and variations of vitamins out there.  Be sure to look at reviews and to select the formula best suited for your personal needs (age, energy level, nutritional needs).

Remember that the main purpose of a vitamin is to fill in any nutritional gaps.  There are several reasons to take a multivitamin every day:  

* They promote healthy aging;

* They are good for your heart; 

* They reduce cancer risk;

* They boost your immune system;

* They support eye health;

* They support healthier hair, nails, and skin

2. Omega 3 Fish oils:  You’re likely asking what’s all the fuss about Omega 3 fish oils? What do they do for my body?

Well, here you go!  Omega 3 fish oils are a substance that can be found in the bodies of fish. However, eating fresh fish is no longer recommended. The mercury levels that are prevalent in almost all fresh fish these days can be very detrimental to your health. However, companies have manufactured fish oil that is mercury free by processing the oils that naturally occur in the fish. Omega 3 is a type of fat that is essential for human health. Omega 3 contains two fatty acids that benefit the human body greatly, which are known as DHA and EPA. 

These fatty acids have been linked to helping prevent heart disease, cancer, and many other diseases. DHA is also required by the human brain. Low levels of DHA in the brain have been linked to depression, schizophrenia, memory loss, and an increased chance of being stricken with Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, the regular and repeated consumption of Omega 3 fish oils can greatly help affect the quality of your life for the better. 

The American Heart Association recommends the use of fish oils to help your hearts performance as long as you keep your dosage under 3 grams per day, suggesting an amount roughly between 0.5 to 1.8 grams per day. Clinical trials conducted have shown that Omega 3 fish oils can reduce cardiovascular events including heart attacks, strokes, and even death.

 Also, research has shown that fish oils can help decrease the risk of arrhythmias, decrease triglyceride levels, decrease the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque, and even slightly lower blood pressure! With all these facts, there is no doubt that the regular and responsible use of Omega 3 fish oils from supplements can be of great benefit to your health.

3. Probiotics:  These are foods or supplements that actually contain living microorganisms that either improve or maintain the “good” bacteria in our bodies.   The benefits of probiotics are amazing!  Remember, gut health is essential to our overall health and wellness.

* Probiotics can help prevent or treat diarrhea caused by infections or antibiotics

* Probiotics can improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome;

* They can boost our immune systems;

* They can reduce allergies and inflammation

If you suffer from any of the following, try adding a probiotic into your daily regimen:  

* allergies and asthma

* you’ve had food poisoning

* one or more mood disorders

* you’ve recently been on antibiotics

* you get sick often

* chronic skin conditions such as eczema or acne

4. Vitamin D:  Of course, we would all love the opportunity to linger outdoors and soak up all the natural Vitamin D from the sun!  Depending on our jobs, where we live, seasons and weather, this isn’t always possible.  And certainly not possible to the extent that we can absorb the amount our bodies need.  This vitamin is needed for building and maintaining healthy bones, and our bodies can only absorb calcium when Vitamin D is present.  Vitamin D also regulates many cellular functions.  A deficiency of this vitamin can cause fatigue, nausea, muscle weakness, and depression.

Always check with your physician, get a full physical and have a full panel of bloodwork done to check for deficiencies. It is a very wise investment to hire a nutitionist or personal trainer to help you figure out exaclty how best to help you reach your goals and match your nutrition and supplements to an exercise plan. I would love to help you! Please reach out to me via the Contact Me link on this site!

Carbohydrates Are Our Friends!

We tackled protein last week, so today we are all about those carbs!  My friends – carbs are NOT evil, and they are NOT your enemy!  You do not have to avoid them.  As you find with any and every thing, there are good and bad sources/types.  Processed, sugary foods are never healthy choices for any of us.  I suppose some forms of simple carbohydrates could be considered evil in the sense that they are SO tempting!  This covers cookies, cakes, chips, donuts, muffins, etc.  But there are SO MANY other forms of carbohydrates that are just packed with crucial nutrients that our bodies truly need!

There are various trendy diets that have led to faster weight loss for some, and there are a few who truly benefit from a true Keto diet.  However, for most of us, what we are truly looking for is sustainable weight loss by losing body fat.  Trendy diets are never successful long term because they aren’t sustainable or healthy for long term use.  Changing your lifestyle to incorporate clean, healthy nutrition is your true key to success.  Think about doing your grocery shopping around the aisles:  fresh, whole fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, and eggs.   When it comes to carbohydrates, there really isn’t a valid reason to avoid them when you make healthy carb choices.  For example, eat the oranges and peaches!  Avoid the containers of packaged, processed chopped oranges and peaches.  Yes, they last longer in your refrigerator; however, that means what you’re really getting is extra sugars and chemicals that are not in fresh, whole fruits.  In addition to getting the extra garbage, you end up missing out on the benefits like vitamins and minerals!  What’s the point?

Always check honest, respected sources when doing your research.  (Always, ALWAYS, research any diet or nutritional advice you get from a friend or family member, especially where fad or trendy diets are concerned,)  For our purposes today for carbohydrates, I checked into what information reidhealth.org, theclevelandclinic.com, eatingwell.com, and webmd.com had on carbs.

Let’s look at the benefits first:  Why do you actually need carbohydrates in your diet daily.  First of all, carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy.  They help fuel your brain, kidneys, heart, muscles, and central nervous system.  Fiber is a carbohydrate that aids in digestion and helps you feel fuller.  Getting insufficient amounts of carbs in your diet can lead to headaches, fatigue, weakness, difficulty concentrating, nausea, constipation, bad breath, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.  Benefits of eating healthy carbohydrates include:

  • Fuels your brain for more clear thinking
  • Helps reduce bloating as it decreases instances of constipation
  • Lowers risk of heart disease
  • Aids in better sleep
  • Decreases cancer risk
  • Increases energy
  • Aids in digestion
  • Helps burn body fat
  • Improves your mood
  • Aids in preventing weight gain, and can potentially aid in weight loss
  • Aids in trimming your waistline (when replacing processed foods with whole grains)
  • Improve your memory

Sounds great, right?!  Of course, these benefits come with the right choices in carbs rather than white, processed breads, cakes, muffins, donuts and ice cream.  I know that doesn’t sound fun, but hold on!   Good carbs can be really delicious, too!  Don’t think about what you’re denying yourself – change that thinking to looking forward to healthy choices AND the results they’ll bring!   Carbohydrates are broken down into two (2) main categories:

1. Starches/Complex Carbs

  • Whole grains
  • Potatoes
  • Yams
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Oatmeal
  • Quinoa
  • Beans – kidney, navy, black, pinto
  • Legumes
  • Brown rice
  • Whole-grain pasta
  • Nuts and seeds – pumpkin and sunflower seeds; almonds, cashews, and peanuts

**Non-starchy vegetables with lower grams of carbohydrates include:  leafy greens, green beans, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and mushrooms.  

2. Sugars/Simple Carbs – be sure to include foods that contain NATURAL sugars rather than added sugars!

  • Fruits
  • Agave
  • Honey
  • Dairy products

Mix these examples of healthy carbohydrates into your diet daily, while minimizing your intake of sugars.  Where our overall health and wellness is concerned, it is best to avoid all refined sugars, processed foods and drinks.  I promise that taking in the recommended amount of healthy carbohydrates will insure you’re also getting fiber, and you will definitely feel and see the benefits!


In conclusion, our bodies need the proper amount of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats in order for all of our systems to function best.  When we have deficiencies in these nutrients, our bodies will let us know – sometimes in unpleasant ways.  Be proactive with your health!  Clean, healthy nutrition is the answer.  If you feel that you need help in breaking it all down for yourself, or in planning grocery lists and meal plans, please reach out to a personal trainer or nutritionist.  I am more than happy to help you!  You can contact me through the Contact Me link on this site, or email me at FitTeacherMom@aol.com.