Monday, October 27, 2008

Anxiety, food and mood

Image courtesy

Coming from an eating disordered background, sometimes I get anxious about food. No, make that MOST of the time I'm anxious about food. Food, weight, my body image, the way others perceive me, how I measure up in my looks, personal life and work. I'm constantly feeling inadequate, weak-willed and inferior.

Interestingly, I recently did a diagram of the way I was feeling and contributing factors. I was feeling sad and unworthy and the reasons that came out of my head had a lot to do with how I feel other people rated my looks. For some reason I equate being 'thin and attractive' with being 'successful, popular, accepted and worthy of friendship'.

This is NOT a normal conclusion. In my childhood when Mum was in one of her 'happy and high' cycles (she suffered from bi-polar disorder) she would buy lots of clothes rapidly lose weight and entertain lots of friends in a whirlwind of social activity. She was mad and happy, popular and exciting. When she plummeted to incredible lows, she would gain weight, stay in bed for weeks or months, see no one and tell me she wanted to die. That was a big factor that helped shape my views about myself and how I feel about the way I look. Another factor could have been the social circles I was in as a teen and young adult. At least three of my friends openly discussed their eating disorders and dieting habits and tips. Then there was the 'popular' girls. Older than me, trendier and much, much skinnier. They were the 'cool' ideal that I was usually excluded from that I constantly wished to be. If only I could be thinner, they would like me more. If I was thinner they might want to talk to me or tell me about their new boyfriends.

For reasons unknown to me, I have carried these unreasonable ideals around like old suitcases my whole life. When my husband says "You really like Such-and-such, she's a big girl, do you think you wouldn't be friends with her if she got any fatter? Do you think if she lost weight you'd like her more?" I can see weight has nothing to do with it. I KNOW that my friends couldn't care less if I was 10kgs lighter or heavier!

That being said, my diet over the last six months has done wonders for my mood. When I don't eat I get anxious, moody, paranoid, I sink back into my comfortable quagmire of depression. Not-eating feeds my anxiety, my body needs food to regulate my hormones which in turn, regulate my moods. It's like a vicious cycle of self destruction. So I've been eating three meals a day plus some snacks and I feel so much better. More able to cope with day to day stresses and problems. I've cut out sugar and alcohol altogether (except for the occasional party or anniversary) and cut coffee down to one or less a day.

Here's a sample of my daily menu:
Breakfast - 2 free range eggs scrambled with parsley and a grilled tomato or eggplant
Snack – handful of almonds or a piece of cheese
Lunch – fish and salad
Snack – handful of almonds or a piece of cheese
Dinner - protein and steamed or stir-fried veggies or salad (protein will usually be eggs or tempeh)
Dessert - a baked apple with cream or natural Greek yoghurt (my one fruit and only sugar fix! mmm)

It is helping me so much to feel stable and NORMAL again. On advice from my Naturopath, I'm also supplementing with cod liver oil, B2, magnesium and Coenzyme Q10. Has anyone else discovered better moods through regular meals and lower carbohydrate intake? I'd love to hear what worked for you.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

10 Reasons weight training doesn't bulk women up

Photo courtesy Living Beautiful Radio

I thought I'd take some time to debunk some common misconceptions about women and weight training. Most women think: "Eeek! I'm going to look like The Hulk if I start training!!!"

Er... no ladies, you will not. That is unless you EAT like The Hulk. Here's why:
  1. Women do not have nearly as much testosterone as men. Women have about 15 to 20 times less testosterone than men. Testosterone is the reason men develop muscle mass. Because men have more testosterone, they are much more equipped to gain muscle.

  2. The perception that women will bulk up when they begin a strength training program comes from the chemically-altered women on the covers of bodybuilding magazines. They are most likely pumped full of some extra 'juice'. This is why they look like men.

  3. For women, when the muscle is developed through training, their bodies becomed more 'toned' in appearance. This is essentially bodybuilding without testosterone. Since the testosterone is not present in sufficient amounts, the muscle will develop, but it won’t gain a large amount of mass. The 'toned' appearance comes from removing the fat that is covering a well-developed muscle.

  4. Muscle bulk comes from a high volume of work. The repetition range that most women would prefer to do (8–20 reps) promotes hypertrophy (muscle growth). BUT... a typical bodybuilding program will have three exercises per body part. For the chest, you'd have flat bench for three sets of 12, incline for three sets of 12, and decline bench for three sets of 12. This adds up to 108 total repetitions. A program geared towards strength will have one exercise for the chest—flat bench for six sets of three with progressively heavier weight. This equals 18 total repetitions. High volume (108 reps) causes considerable muscle damage, which in turn, results in hypertrophy. The considerably lower volume (18 reps) will build more strength and cause minimal bulking. So girls, you don't have to workout as hard or as long to get stronger!

  5. Heavy weights will promote strength not size. When lifting weights over 85%, the primary stress imposed upon the body is placed on the nervous system, not on the muscles. Therefore, strength will improve by a neurological effect while not increasing the size of the muscles.

  6. Bulking up is not an overnight process. Many women think they will start lifting weights, wake up one morning, and say “OMG! I’m huge!” This doesn’t happen. The men that you see who have more muscle than the average person have worked hard for a long time (years) to get that way.

  7. What the personal trainer is prescribing is not working. Many female athletes come into a new program and say they want to do body weight step-ups, body weight lunges, and leg extensions because it’s what their personal trainer back home had them do. However, many of these girls need to look in a mirror and have a reality check because their trainer’s so-called 'magical toning exercises' are not working. Trainers will hand out easy workouts and tell people they work because they know that if they make the program too hard the client will complain.

  8. Bulking up is calorie dependant. This means if you eat more than you are burning, you will gain weight. If you eat less than you are burning, you will lose weight. Unfortunately, most female athletes perceive ANY weight gain as 'bulking up' and do not give attention to the fact that they are simply getting fatter. Squats don’t bulk you up. It’s the ten beers a night that bulk you up. If you’re a female and training with heavy weights (or not), you need to watch what you eat.

  9. Most of the so-called experts are only experts on how to sound like they know what they are talking about. Most of the people who 'educate' women about training and nutrition have no idea what they’re talking about. Let’s face it—how many people do you know who claim to “know a thing or two about lifting and nutrition?” Now, how many people do you know who actually know what they’re talking about, have lived the life, dieted down to make a weight class requirement, or got on stage at single digit body fat? Invariably, so-called experts are also the people who blame their overweight on poor genetics.

  10. Lift Heavy. When you are lifting heavy and trying to lose fat you are doing two things: you are preserving muscle tissue so that you will burn as many calories as possible when you train, and you are igniting your fat burning mode by taxing your body in a way cardio will never do.

    Muscle is like a five year old; it never gets tired and consumes all your energy. It has high energy demands and unless you are really challenging it with sufficient amount of weights it's the first thing in your body to throw a fit! When muscle isn't challenged enough it is the first thing your body will waste away...way before those ugly fat cells you are sporting.

    Fat is like Jabba The Hut. It just sits there barely doing anything, looks like crap, and is hard to move. Your body is going to hold onto fat before and above all else. That's why when you eat in a calorie deficit you HAVE to strength train heavy or you lose more muscle and the ugly fat obstinately remains.

Speaking of... tonight I have an abs workout planned. I'm excited because we've been doing a lot of plyometrics lately, and tonight will be no exception, it's going to be hardcore!! We've got a new machine that has a station so I can do hanging leg raises.... Ooooh I can feel the burn already. : )

Monday, October 20, 2008

Emotional Freedom Technique

Photo courtesy Rita Thompson

Robyn (my naturopath) is always telling me to use the 'Emotional Freedom Technique' or EFT to help with my anxiety. The problem is I am a sceptical neurotic. She taught me how to practice it myself, at home, whenever I'm feeling anxious, worried or tempted. It's also called tapping. The site all about it is here. (You can download a free manual and watch a video to learn more about it.)

When she first showed me how to do it I had come to her in tears, angry at myself for gaining/not losing weight, feeling suicidal and hopeless. We did a tapping session and she had me measure my anxiety about gaining weight and my fear of eating on a scale of 1 to 10. I said my anxiety was a 20!! When we finished she asked me again, I rated it at and 8 out of 10. Again and it was down to 4. We kept tapping until all my fears had gone and I felt calm and in control.

I couldn't believe how much it helped. EFT makes you feel VERY silly, at first I couldn't stop giggling as I was imitating her tapping... but then I started listening to the things I was saying and realised I could let my fears go. It went something like this: "Even though... the thought of eating makes me feel out of control and guilty, and I'm afraid I'm going to get fat, and I feel like I need to hang on to my eating habits to have some kind of sanity, and I feel like I let myself down by eating, and if I stop these rituals I won't know what to do.... I accept and love myself." Then I'd exhale a really deep breath and relax. It was SO HARD to say those last words when everything inside me was screaming "NO YOU DON'T! YOU'RE A WASTE OF SPACE! A FAILURE! YOU HATE YOURSELF!" After about 5 or 6 repeats, I started saying the last phrase with some conviction. The fears I had been worrying about were what was making me fail and hate myself.

I've been thinking about it a lot and I'm going to start doing it daily. Every time Robyn calls and asks me if I've been doing it at home, I say "No, I just feel stupid" or "Oh, I forgot" or "It seems like a waste of time". (She puts up with a lot from me.) But looking back, it really did help me let go of my anxiety about eating. Actually, on that day I went home and ate lunch and dinner and started to nourish myself with real foods again. The day before all I had eaten was a diet coke. The week before I had eaten an average of 500 calories a day (I know because I kept journal upon journal of food intake, calories and exercise). After that breakthrough, I stopped my obsessive calorie counting, threw all of my diaries away and put the scales in the garage. I ate again.

Despite my initial misgivings, I'm going to ignore the sceptic inside with the loud voice jeering and caterwauling and start doing EFT myself. I'm going to focus on my exercise with EFT. We've been managing to do weights 3 times a week and I've been doing a walk/run about 2 or 3 times a week for 45mins. What's holding me back from doing more cardio? Laziness. I can't get out of bed (it's lovely and warm, the covers are so snuggly... just a few more minutes...)! Also my fear of getting sweaty and dirty. So I'm tapping on those things this week and I'll see if I can manage to step up the exercise a bit more. All I want is a little more intensity and a little more frequency, I don't want to overtrain, but I do want to get fitter, stronger and gain some serous Beyoncé Butt!

Has anyone heard of this technique? What are your experiences? Has it helped you to overcome an emotional hurdle?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Kefir for digestion

Photo courtesy Tot Snob

Oh how I love my kefir!

Since I've been drinking kefir (see here for more), taking coconut oil and applying it topically, my dermatitis has disappeared. I'm amazed. Nothing has worked for me like this! Also I've found my bowel movements have improved, I'm not as hungry, I don't get a bloated feeling and.... I'VE FINALLY KICKED MY FLU!! Oh and I've maintained my weight, despite the lack of training these last few weeks. It just goes to show that good nutrition is 75% of the battle when it comes to losing weight. "If exercise is the father of health, nutrition is his wife."

This has been the morning ritual:

Kefired Banana Smoothie

1 1/2 cups freshly made kefir
1 ripe banana
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon unpasturised honey
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch cinnamon
Handful of ice

If I know lunch is going to be late I'll also throw a raw egg in there too.

I wanted to give the body for life challenge a red hot go and I've lost the momentum from a few weeks ago. So, today (since I'm feeling so much better) I've decided to start my challenge over. I've got my first weights session in three weeks (...gasp!) - arms tonight. I wonder how I'll do? If I've lost strength or maintained?

Another little detail... because I've been so sick for so long, I'm going to kick start my training with a 21 day detox. I've just finished reading Dr Joshi's Holistic Detox. Hopefully it will give me the energy and build up my immune system against another unwanted relapse. (Yes, don't chastise me because I've read another nutrition book! I'm working my way through the whole library...)

To Enjoy

The emphasis is on lots of fresh akaline forming greens, proteins (I'm using vegetarian sources - fermented soy, cottage cheese, feta cheese, yoghurt, kefir and eggs), whole grains and legumes (avoiding wheat or yeast) and cold pressed oils.

To Avoid

Sugar, wheat, yeast, gluten, alcohol, coffee (caffeine), fruit (except bananas), red meat and all artificial or processed foods are not allowed. Dairy is limited.

I eat very healthy already, but this will step it up a notch to help me recover more quickly.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I ate a cookie.

Photo courtesy Dessert comes first.

I ate a cookie. (Ohhhhhh YEAH.... Cookie high)

No, it's not a reason to PANIC and jump on the treadmill for 4 hours! Why? Because "cookies are a sometimes food" (to quote the Cookie Monster).

I aim to eat clean 90% of the time and indulge in treats SOME of the time. I don't feel guilty, I enjoy it. That way, I never feel deprived and start eating mountains of rice crackers to fill the empty place that says "I want a cookie, I want a cookie, I want a cookie, I want a cookie, I want a cookie!!!!!" Rice cakes aren't cookies silly! So, I eat a cookie! But not rubbish low fat cardboard ones, I'll have the BEST ones I can find, made from real chocolate and butter just like Mum used to make.

Or maybe two. : ) I love free days.


Since I've had this cold the momentum of my challenge is seriously under threat! So when I'm better, instead of just adding more weeks on to the end, I'm going to start over, take new photos and get back into it. If something is worth doing, it's worth doing PROPERLY. Right?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Glandular Fever?

Photo courtesy Gringo Times

Wow I feel like I haven't been here for ages. Reason? I STILL haven't kicked my cold.

I've had a lingering sore throat for over two weeks now and I'm HOPING I haven't got Glandular Fever (also called Infectious Mononucleosis) back. I suffered with it in my teens but ever since I've had a real weakness in my throat. Forget expensive medicated gargles though, the only thing that ever worked was homemade warm salt water gargles. Dissolve 1 tsp of sea salt in a glass of warm water and gargle. Takes all the pain from an infected throat away instantly and lasts for at least half an hour.

I've been very careful to get plenty of sleep, eat lots of fresh vegetables and vitamin C rich fruits like papaya and blueberries and keep on top of my supplements - bio-available vitamin C, liquid zinc, chlorophyll, iodine, CoQ10 and cod liver oil.

Needless to say my training has gone out the window! I've got to give my body the best chance at recovery. The sooner I can get back into it the better, I've really noticed my moods have become worse since stopping... I'm feeling down and emotional much more than usual. My brain is missing my regular exercise! I'm not giving up on the challenge, I'm just going to tack a few extra weeks on to the end. I've had so many great benefits from this lifestyle, there's no way I want to stop now!

Which brings me to my latest idea. I've just finished reading "The healing miracles of coconut oil" by Bruce Fife which explains how beneficial the lauric acid in this MCFA (medium chain fatty acid) is for fighting bacteria and microbes. It is used for treating candida overgrowth, artheriosclerosis, bacterial skin conditions and low grade infections. Because the particles of MCFA are more easily absorbed than long chain fatty acids, they can get straight to work in the liver to produce energy and amino acids for repairing and rebuilding tissue. In effect this fat behaves more like a carbohydrate than a fat! Mary Enig has written extensively on coconut oil in her book "Eat fat, lose fat" along with the other invaluable book (the cornerstone of my nutritional beliefs) "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig. They also describe coconut oil's ability to restore health, cure degenerative disease and increase metabolism. I've been using the oil neat to treat a persistent case of dermatitis on my hands for the last few days and it has all but disappeared! Incredible when you consider I've been using expensive creams and cortisone medications on and off for the last year to try to clear it up!

So I thought, this throat infection... maybe I'll try supplementing with medicinal doses of coconut oil and see what happens? I'm going to take 3 tablespoons a day. Has anyone used coconut oil to treat disease or infection with good results? Did it work? I'd love to hear from you.