Monday, April 30, 2012

Learning to Counting Calories

I have to admit counting calories is something that I've never done in my life. I have been very fortunate that I never had to diet or lose any weight. I have plenty of experience on the working out side of the equation, but I always ignored the nutrition part of keeping fit. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not eating Doritos and Twinkies. I eat as healthy as I possibly can, but I never tracked a calorie, a carbohydrate, or a gram of fat before. I decided that it's time I do, and boy was I surprised to learn what I did.

First off, the reason I decided to do this is because I'm finally to the point where I feel that I can lose a couple pounds. When I say this out loud it's usually met with rolling eyes and nasty remarks from whomever is in earshot. The truth is that I can still easily hide the extra pounds. It's easy to do when you're wearing clothes! But standing naked in front of a mirror is a different story. I've been training since the beginning of the year and I'm actually in great shape. I've slowly built nearly all my strength back. My upper body is defined, my abs are rock hard, and even my butt is much firmer (thanks to the Brazilian Butt Lift and 30 Day Yoga Sculpt). However, there is a pesky layer of fat on my thighs and tummy. Tummy fat is something I never had before and yes, it would be easy to just accept that this happens with age . . . but screw that. I'm not going down that easy. If I have to count some calories to make it go away then I'm willing to give it a shot.
It's been 5 days now that I'm tracking my food intake with a nifty smart phone app called The Daily Burn.

Every time I put something into my mouth I have to grab my phone and track it. This alone is motivation to NOT eat whatever snack I'm eying. Is it really worth the effort to track it? I can't tell you how many times I reached for "just a couple" M&Ms and realized that I have no easy way of tracking just 4 M&Ms so I go without. But the meals are pretty easy to track, especially with the purchase of the handy bar code scanner. All I need to do is scan the bar code of the product and it instantly adds all the nutrition information for me. This has proved very handy for my cocoa, bread, mayo, tuna fish, etc. Other foods may need to be manually entered (which can be cumbersome), but there is also a vast database of foods and you can always come pretty close to finding what you need.

It's been 5 days so far of food tracking and I can NOT believe how hard it is to stay within the limits. I didn't set these limits, but the app knows (based on your vital statistics and your weight goals) what they should be. So I'm supposed to stay within these daily limits:

Calories: 1491-1741
Carbs: 129-195
Fat: 31-53
Protein: 99-169

The calorie and fat limit is no problem to achieve. I normally don't eat too much and I certainly never have too much fat in my diet. But who knew that it's not the fat making us fat? It's the CARBS, which happens to be the staple of my diet. I was very foolish to think that I just needed to cut down on bread, pasta, and potatoes and all would be well. Little did I know that carbs are basically sugars and sugars are EVERYWHERE. Now I have to think twice before I reach for a piece of fruit, which still is not sitting well with me, but I'm willing to try this for a couple of weeks.

In addition to the impossible task of keeping my carbs down, I also realized that it's nearly impossible to get enough protein. I do not even want to know what my daily charts looked like before I started tracking. I'm sure I've been eating 6 times the amount of carbs I should and zero protein on a daily basis. Yesterday I ate tuna for lunch and cod for dinner and still didn't get enough protein. Today I had two eggs for breakfast, but I still have 45 grams of protein to reach my lowest limit and I only have one more meal left today. This is very challenging to say the least.

But I should add that after only 5 days of keeping somewhat within the limits listed above, my belly is much flatter and I really do feel like I made some quick progress. It sure is enough to make me want to do it again next week.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Acroyoga to Inspire

I sure would love to try this some day. It's just such a shame that I don't trust my husband enough not to drop me. I wonder how ones goes about learning how to do this stuff. If you have any info, please share with me.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Yoga for High School Students

 The following article comes to us courtesy of Jasmine Kaloudis

Overloaded Teens?  Take a Down dog!
With all the stresses that teens face with homework,  team sports, college admissions tests, qualifying for students loans, the pressure of fitting in, awkward body changes and raging hormones,  having  a part-time job, doesn’t it make sense that yoga is a way for them to get calmer, chiller and more composed?

A recent study by Harvard University Division of Sleep Medicine, followed high school students that did a regular Kripalu program of yoga with physical postures, controlled breathing exercises as well as meditation and a relaxation period over 10 weeks with classes being 2 to 3 times a week. 
Questionnaires were given to the high school students 1 week before the program and one week after.  The main results of this were that the students well-being and ability to manage their emotions were greatly improved.

The yoga students found that their mood was greatly improved with yoga and they were less prone to anger, irritability and they had increased self-confidence and composure after regularly attending yoga classes during their PE period.

I know when I was an awkward teenager, I was pressured by my parents to get a 3.5 GPA or I wouldn’t be able to go out with my friends and use the car.  Most of my friends were dating and had boyfriends so I felt like I had to have a boyfriend also….. Enter the hot and sophisticated German Exchange student.

I was also on the tennis team and when I first started it I was on the bottom of the team and felt like a loser.  Having more self-acceptance about my place on the ladder would have helped me to handle my position better.   I played about 2 to 3 hours of tennis about 5 times a week and was determined to not be on the bottom of the team ladder.  I wonder how much more composed and collected I would have felt with a regular asana and meditation practice.

Most of my friends always got As and I always seemed to get B's even though we all studied together all the time.  We all wanted to go to the top schools so my friends, parents and even friends of my parents all seemed to collectively put pressure on us to take the College Prep classes and only get A's.

I was also having lots of the normal teenage girl battles with my parents at the time over the cliche subjects, going out, curfew, homework, grades, boys, partying and had plenty of heated battles with them.  I wish I had a tool at the time for being level-headed and to see things more objectively which would have made relations much smoother with less stand-offs.  Yoga would have given me a tool to be less reactive and more even-keeled with all these difficult issues.

In addition to the demands of school, the pressure of getting good grades to get into a respectable college,  battling with my parents,  fitting in with my friends, the confusion of dating for the first time I worked part time as well.  I had to learn to be more responsible in a professional manner for my conduct at quite a few different jobs as a teenager such as a camp counselor, pizza delivery girl (one of my favorite jobs ever) and a clerk at Seaworld (gotta love their otter show!) 

I had to learn to use sound judgment and didn’t have my peers or parents immediately available to me.  If I had had yoga at the time, I think I would have had a more developed intuition and trusted my inner guidance to help me navigate the world of work at such a young age.

Benefits of Yoga for High School Students

Are you a High School student that does yoga?  Do you have kids that do yoga at school?  What changes have you or have they noticed in all of these areas as a result of a consistent yoga practice? 
Jasmine Kaloudis teaches beginner yoga, and romantic retreats in the Philadelphia Metro Area.  She is the author of the top 100 Mind Body Spirit Websites list. Throughout her 15 year practice and teachings, Jasmine has experienced how yoga is a tool which allows us to experience our selves more fully and more richly.  She specializes in working with yoga beginners, the stiff and inflexible as well as couples.

You can visit her on her yoga blog as well as:
Flicker Photos

Monday, April 23, 2012

Ahnu Karma Shoes - A Slice of Heaven for Your Feet

I recently got my first pair of Ahnu shoes and to say I'm thrilled with them would be an under statement. I have to admit I didn't have very high expectations for ballerina-type shoes. I have had many other pairs of similar shoes in my life and, for the most part, they were like walking barefoot. They never provided enough protection in the sole and there wasn't ever much in the way of support. But these Ahnu shoes blew me away. From the moment I slipped my bare feet into them I knew they were different from all the rest.

 I even loved the box they came in and the message about the company.

I got a pair of Karmas and these cute little shoes felt more like my running sneakers. They hugged my feet perfectly and the bottom insoles were actually supportive in the arch and provided some much needed cushion. They certainly passed the right-out-of-the-box test, but that was only the beginning. I have notoriously impossible-to-fit feet. They are very narrow and I have freakishly skinny heels. This means that I slide straight through most "slides" and my heel slips right out of just about every shoe that doesn't tie, buckle, or strap down over my foot. Any shoe that doesn't require me to strap it down usually turns into a flip flop, constantly flopping off my feet. This is something that drives me crazy and makes shopping for shoes a tear-envoking experience.

And that problem is what makes me love these Ahnu shoes the most. They are brilliantly designed with just enough elastic in the heel to keep them on my feet without digging into my heels. I've tried this style shoe before, but it resulted in a hole being bore into my heel due to the elastic being too aggressive. Ahnu somehow figured out the formula to make this design work.

So far I've worn them three places to put them to the test. First, I wore them to work (where I stand up at my desk all day long) and my feet were never happier for 8 straight hours. Next, I brought them on a business trip that required lots of walking through airports and strolling along the city streets of Chicago. I brought two pairs of shoes: these new Ahnus and another pair of shoes well-known for their comfort. The other brand (that we will leave unmentioned) have always been very comfortable, but when put to the test of walking for a couple of miles around the city, failed me. I ended up with blisters on the bottom of both big toes. The next day I slipped on my Ahnu's and even with pre-existing blisters, my feet were still in Heaven. I traveled back home in these and they will become my go-to travel shoe.

And the biggest test ever . . . I wore them out swing dancing last weekend. I've been swing dancing for years and I never ever walked out of a dance without sore feet. Wearing brand new shoes (with bare feet in them) was a huge gamble, but I had great confidence that these shoes wouldn't let me down – and they didn't.

In the two weeks that I've owned them I got at least a half dozen compliments on them. I think I found a new favorite brand and will soon be shopping for more styles and colors. Practice some Karma . . . be nice to your feet and your feet will be nice to you! Do yourself a favor and check out this brand. You can find them online here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Not Your Typical Running Playlist

I recently took off for a run without paying much attention to which playlist I selected on my phone. Normally I mindlessly pick the playlist called "Running." So very creative, I know! But this time I decided to pick a different playlist called "Random Favorites." This particular playlist gets changed up all the time depending on my mood. I had forgotten that I recently filled this list with smooth, jazzy, relaxing songs in preparation for a cross-country flight. I like to plug my headphones in and totally zone out in relaxation on the airplane and this playlist was filled with songs that you should be listening to while sipping wine or slow dancing.

When I began my run and John Legend started to play I didn't think anything of it because he finds his way to many of my different playlists. But when Sade came on next, followed by Michael Buble I knew something was wrong. I didn't want to stop running and fiddle with my phone. That's something I stopped doing after upgrading my broken Droid with my new iPhone and it's just so blissful to never have to stop my workouts to fight with my phone. So I decided to just suck it up and listen to my slow grooves during the run.

What I discovered amazed me. The whole run seemed easier. I guess I was just relaxed and mellowed out. The music really set the tone for an easy-"listening" run. I found that I don't really need the typical thumping hip hop to get my heart racing. The running does that all by itself. Why not just kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride?

Hitting that playlist was indeed an accident, but I have a feeling that I'll be selecting it again on purpose in the future. You should give it a try. You might be surprised at how it can effect your run.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Natural Health Magazine Subscription Deal

How would you like a one year subscription to Natural Health Magazine for just $4.39? What a bargain for this ultimate guide to a healthy lifestyle!  Packed with information on natural food and nutrition, organics, alternative health practices, exercises, self care and more. This deal is valid for brand new subscriptions, as well as renewals. All you need to do is click on the link below to be taken to the place where you can purchase the subscription. But here's the catch . . . this deal is only valid today, April 9th. Don't miss it. Just click on the link below.

Click here for the Yoga Journal Magazine Deal of the Day

Monday, April 02, 2012

First Race of the Season

Not that this was really a big accomplishment, but it got me started . . . and now I'm trying to determine how far I want to go. I've been having fleeting thoughts of training for the Hartford Half Marathon that will take place in October. I'm not really sure what is possessing me to want to run a half marathon. I've never been a runner and I'm not even sure I really like it. There's no doubt that if I had my choice between biking and running I would always choose biking. But I seem to have this persistent itch to set a goal for myself – a challenging goal.

I remember the first time I decided that I wanted to "ride a century." This is a right of passage of every biker - to pedal 100 miles in one day. The first time I did it, it seemed like such a big deal. I trained all season for this big accomplishment and completing that ride was one of the sweetest feelings of my life. Of course, since then I biked several Centuries and none of them ever gave me that same thrill. It's also funny how all Centuries that followed never felt like a big deal and after doing it once you have a new-found confidence that you could "just do it." I'm hoping for this same experience with running.

The biggest reason for wanting to run a half marathon is simply to give myself a goal to which I can work toward. Nothing thrills me more than increasing my weights or reps in the gym or my mileage on the road. Maybe I'm just a statistic junkie, but I live for this. And then, of course, there's that bittersweet feeling of crossing the finish line and accomplishing the goal that I set for myself.

I have yet to commit to registering for the half marathon, but I'm setting an intermediate goal of running a race every month. If I do decide to go for the big run I will log and post my training efforts.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

April Desktop Calendar

Here's some beautiful motivation for your desktop for the month of April. Set your life on fire with this gorgeous picture, taken by Sandy Foster of yoga bliss photo. If you want to make this image your desktop background either click on the small graphic above, or click on this link. A new window will appear with a much larger graphic. Once the bigger graphic appears, just right-click on it and "save as desktop."

Enjoy and please feel free to share with your yogi friends.