Let’s get some core strength going on. Nothing makes your back feel stronger than a hard midsection. Stomach exercises boost confidence and improve posture. I like to remind people that taking care of your stomach does more than strengthen muscle tissue, too – a little abdominal work also stimulates the critical organs behind those muscles.
A good round of crunches is good for your skin, circulation, nerves, stress level, digestion and muscles. Three days this week, commit to 5, 10 or 15 minutes of abdominal work – crunches, sit-ups, side crunches, twists, supine lifts, leg raises, Captain’s Chairs – basically, whatever gets you working away at your middle. Adjust the time to your fitness level, and feel free to ask for pointers.
Evolution is all about adaptation – to the environment, to circumstances, to stress and even (or especially) to food. In this context of adaptation, it’s truly amazing how “inventive” the human body has become in finding novel (and perhaps heretofore uncontemplated) ways to repair damage we do to ourselves through our diets and other lifestyle indiscretions. And most of these changes are less than a few hundred years old, which makes the adaptations even more remarkable.
Let’s use cholesterol as an example. Cholesterol is actually very beneficial. Among other duties, it’s a necessary component of every cell membrane and it’s involved in hormone production. The body makes about 1400 mg a day just to keep up!
Now let’s take a stressful lifestyle (show of hands, please), add in a bad diet and lack of exercise and we get an inflammatory process in the arteries that causes lesions. This inflammation problem is completely unrelated to amounts or types of cholesterol.
Nevertheless, the ever-inventive human body adapts to this inflammation sequence by using cholesterol as a band-aid to cover up the lesions until healing can take place – which, of course, almost never happens since the silly human continues to live the same pro-inflammatory lifestyle. Eventually, the cholesterol band-aids harden (sclerosis), narrow the arteries and sometimes break off causing a heart attack.
Of course, we blame the cholesterol for all this and embark on a national campaign to rid the body of this important substance instead of focusing on the foods (and other stresses) that promote inflammation in the first place!
Now let’s consider fat. For years we believed fat was nothing more than nature’s way of storing extra calories for some future famine. That would be a handy little adaptation in and of itself if that’s all it were. But when you do the math, you see that it doesn’t require a lot of fat to survive or even migrate for long periods. A 165-pound person with only 13% body fat has 21.45 pounds of fat. Being generous and assuming that you need a minimum 3% just to carry on basic survival functions, that leaves 10% or 16.5 pounds of fat to live off. At 3500 calories per pound of fat and 100 calories per mile walking, you’d theoretically have enough fat to survive weeks and migrate several hundred miles.
So maybe fat has another purpose, and this is where my friend Art De Vany’s description of fat as a toxic waste site (my words) comes in. Modern humans have so thoroughly altered foods to focus on simple carbohydrates (sugars) that we now consume hundreds of excess grams of it every day.
As Art has explained, the body recognizes excess sugar (glucose) as a toxic load – and remember, it doesn’t take a whole lot of it to be excessive – and the body starts the adaptive process of secreting insulin to take sugar out of the bloodstream and deposit it into the muscles.
Two problems arise immediately:
First, there’s not a lot of room in those muscles. Ask any athlete who’s ever tried to carbo-load for an event. Secondly, most people aren’t athletes and have lost significant utility of their muscle through atrophy, further diminishing storage. Furthermore, they don’t burn off the already-stored glycogen because they don’t exercise.
But here’s where the body has become so elegantly adaptive once again. It creates little storage facilities in the form of additional fat cells. Not because it’s trying to store calories for some future famine, as modern medicine might have you believe, but because it’s trying to find novel and effective ways to rid the body of this very toxic glucose excess.
And it’s a pretty good solution. Insulin allows glucose access to these fat cells which grow larger and more numerous over time. Problem is, it’s always one step behind, so the fat cells fill up just as the muscle filled up, leaving excess glucose in the bloodstream after the next high carb or high calorie meal until more fat cells can be made.
And so the spiral continues as 40 million Americans are headed towards type 2 diabetes.
Sara here. Osteoporosis has been in the news again, and I want to share some important missing information with you. (If you want the nitty-gritty osseous-related research, please shoot me a line on the Forum.) In brief, though, here’s what every woman, and especially all the moms out there, must know:
Osteoporosis is not going to be prevented, treated or cured with three glasses of milk a day or yogurt every morning. Never was, never will be.
A few things the dairy people don’t want you to think about:
1) Dairy is not a common food in much of the world,
2) Osteoporosis is not a common disease – often, it’s not even heard of – in much of the world. However, osteoporosis is most common in Europe and in the United States, where dairy intake is exceptionally high. Strange? Sure, because there are other factors you need to know about. Osteoporosis is not simply a matter of calcium depletion.
Osteoporosis is caused by many factors, but here are the four key ones:
1) Vitamin and mineral deficiency. Although the western world has incredible abundance and access, centralized mass production of food leaves a lot to be desired in the nutritional department. And our calcium emphasis is skewed. Though calcium is important, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, vitamin D, and countless other vitamins and minerals are crucial to bone health. In fact, recent studies show that magnesium may actually be more important to bone health than calcium is. Not saying calcium isn’t important. It is. It’s vital. It’s just not the only thing you need. I hate to beat a dead llama, but take a multi-vitamin, ladies!
2) Soda consumption. (Even diet soda.) The worst, and I mean worst thing you can do to your bones is to drink death-by-can. There are lots of studies that prove this, but a recent long-term study published in the much-respected American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who consume just one soda daily have 5 to 7 percent less bone material than women who limit fizzy stuff to just once a month.
3) Lack of fruits and vegetables. Most Americans eat only 1-3 servings of produce daily. Blech! No wonder we’re all so chunkity chunk. A recent study from the British Journal of Nutrition found that postmenopausal women who ate adequate vegetable matter (at least 5 servings) in their daily diets were between 200 and 400% better in terms of bone mineral density loss. (Now, here’s a handy time to talk about studies and statistics. This doesn’t mean that these bone-hardy women have bones that weigh 2 to 4 times as much as other women. What it means is relative loss compared to veggie-avoiding women. So, that might mean a few ounces on up to a few pounds – scientists generally break things up into quartiles so they can examine a range of factors. Fascinating, I know!)
In other words, vegetables will not make you gain 300 pounds, and they will also not give you the bones of Hercules. But they’re still good for your bones.
Here was Mark’s take: the study was cross-sectional (good), population-based (fine in this case), long-term (good), used statistical regression analysis (sounds fancy but just standard) and was questionnaire-based (a little annoying, but still useful).
4) Lastly, but definitely not least, osteoporosis is caused by a lack of weight-bearing activity. This means resistance. This means weights. And there is no need to worry – weight-bearing activity will not make you look like a protein-shake spokeswoman. A lot of women are surprised to learn that “weight-bearing” activity can be going for a walk – ‘cuz you are bearing your own weight! Using ankle weights is great, as well. Purchase some dumbbells in the 2-10 pound range (depending on your fitness level) and learn to do 4 or 5 difference moves, 3 sets each, 8-10 repetitions per set. 2 or 3 times a week is plenty to keep your bones strong. Ask me for some moves. I’m happy to help out.
Technorati Tags: Sara Ost, osteoporosis, osseous, women’s health, deficiency, vitamins, minerals, calcium, weight training, Viactiv, calcium supplement, British Journal of Nutrition, bone density, dairy, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Something I read in the New York Times the other day got me steamed faster than fresh spinach. Apparently, fish oil prescriptions are not only standard practice in Europe – they’re handed out like candy corn on Halloween – but heart patients who don’t get a prescription can actually sue for malpractice.
Pure fish oil is so clearly supported by the international body of science that European doctors who don’t prescribe the stuff to anyone worried about their cardiovascular health are considered grossly incompetent.
Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies support fish oil for great health. Some of the healthiest peoples in the world – from Japan to the Mediterranean – rely heavily on fish fats for great health. Fish oil = better body is not some radical new idea, but try telling that to the American health business. Er…health establishment.
Now, this doesn’t really surprise me; after all, the safest, longest-lasting, most effective, non-drug form of birth control favored in Europe and tested safe for decades is also basically nonexistent here in the Fabulous 50. America may have the best life-saving surgery techniques in the world, but when it comes to basic illness recovery or health maintenance, one would think fish oil must be some risky, mind-altering substance right up there with caffeine and alcohol. The difference being those are both substances prescribed by doctors.
I’m not asking a lot of our federal government. I know they have lobbyists to cuddle. But would it kill anyone over at the FDA or the N.E. Journal of Medicineyness to admit that fish oil has excellent therapeutic properties for people in general and heart patients in particular, and – gasp – recommend prescribing the stuff? They accept the data. Why not recommend?
Here’s the part of the article that really burned my mocha:
“For example, on Solvay Pharmaceutical’s Web site for Omacor (a Euro fish oil supplement), the first question a user sees is ‘Are you a U.S. citizen?’
If the answer is yes, the user is sent to a page where heart attacks are not mentioned.”
I’m so thrilled with our government for censoring accurate scientific information about cardiovascular health on a European company’s website so we citizens can remain both ignorant and unhealthy. Fish fat in its pure form is vital to cardiovascular health, brain health, and the strengthening of the linings of cells. Considering the damage that free radicals and inflammation whack cells with every day, and the difficulty in getting low-mercury fish filets at the local market, wouldn’t recommending and even prescribing fish oil be a prudent thing for the medical “establishment” to do?
Thanks to Elisabeth Rosenthal at the Gray Lady (the Times) for this piece. To the rest of you, get thee to a fish oil supplement, stat!
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