4.2018

Zion Nat'l Park, Columbine

Articles

For your reading pleasure and learning–a variety of optimal health and well-being articles.

Healthful Behavior Change

Which statement appeals to you more: “I want to lose 30 pounds by July 31, 2010” or “I wish to feel energetic and to move comfortably in my body”?

There is a significant difference between the two statements, in addition to the obvious that one sounds tedious and the other sounds delightful. The weight loss statement is a commonly uttered “goal”, while the dreamy second statement reflects a “vision”; both statements warrant a bit of compassionate exploration.

Many of you have set a weight loss goal or another behavior change intention (“quit smoking”, “get fit”, “eat better”, “learn to relax”) that has been created with a long-term endpoint in mind. While I applaud the decision to pursue your optimal health, I also know that the challenge of an endpoint goal is that success is not achieved until the goal is met. Meaning, until the scale rewards you with the numbers you seek, your sense of accomplishment will be diminished. And how exactly would you measure “get fit” or “eat better”?

The opportunity lies is creating a health vision. As is done with the second statement, “I wish to feel energetic and to move comfortably in my body”. A health vision is a futuristic statement, captured with positive words, that will set the tone for the 3-month long-term goal(s), and the essential daily small-step goals you will write, monitor, and modify throughout the behavior change process—the very change process that will lead to the achievement of your health vision.

Working within the framework of this health vision used as an example, we will break it down into small components:

  • Feel energetic
  • Move comfortably in my body

The behavior change process begins by assessing your current choices, habits, and resources, and builds upon what is already occurring in your life. We will invite subtle, pleasant, and effective small-step daily changes that will support the attainment of your health vision.

Your vision may in fact peripherally include weight loss, but we are not going to measure weight loss! We are going to design a few new behaviors that you can add to the repertoire of choices you are familiar with. We are going to measure your success as you incorporate those new behaviors, one small choice at a time.

We know that in order to feel energetic and to enjoy moving comfortably, a routine physical activity program will be initiated and/or built upon.  For instance, what type of routine physical activity are you currently committed to? Two days a week in the gym? None? Walking the dog everyday? Moderate amounts of gardening? Golf? We will step off from your current routine, which for the sake of this example is walking the dog everyday. We’ll explore what type of physical activity interests you, what is your time allowance, whether this will be a solo activity or one that can be shared with a partner.

The 3-month long-term goals might be:

  1. Lose 10 pounds
  2. Eat 5 small meals per day, 3 days per week
  3. Walk 3 times per week for 30 minutes, without stopping

These long-terms goals are realistic and measurable—the two essential components of successful goal creation.

Now we will write daily small-step goals that will be lead to the achievement of the 3-month goals. These daily goals will be pleasant and subtle, as well as measurable and realistic. A tracking tool will be utilized to assess daily success; if a barrier presented itself and success was not achieved, we will explore that barrier, modify the goal if necessary, and continue to look to future successes.

The small step goals for the first week as a beginner—the dog walker—might look like this:

  1. Walk for ten (10) minutes, without stopping, twice this week.
  2. Engage in demonstrated upper and lower body stretching exercises, twice this week.
  3. Complete a food diary for three (3) full days, email it to my optimal life-management coach.

These three goals may not appear to be meaningful in terms of looking at a long-term goal of 10-pound weight loss. But for the person who is not engaged in routine physical activity, except for the slow dog walking, or for a person who is not eating with awareness, these subtle behavior changes are in fact the perfect small steps toward the future. These goals invite immediate success, and allow for confidence building, as opposed to “I am going to go to the gym 4 days this week”, or “I am going to cut out the junk food this week”—both of which are too big, too loosely defined, and too dramatic in terms of the shift in behaviors. Will this person eventually be at the gym 4 days per week? Sure, it is entirely possible. Will this person be eating far less junk food in the future? Very likely!

Our brain is a marvelous organ and it protects us – from perceived stressors. Big, undefined goals that limit pleasure or add unfamiliar behaviors—too much, too soon— are perceived by the brain as a stressor. This then evokes the fight or flight response and the brain literally will become resistant to that new behavior! When we write small-step daily goals that are pleasant and subtle, the brain welcomes the opportunity to engage in an activity that is perceived as pleasant, which will lead to ongoing engagement.

After one to three weeks of success and comfort with the initial small-step goals, you will be ready to up the ante just a bit, to look like this:

  1. Walk for ten (10) minutes, without stopping, three days this week; OR Walk for fifteen (15) minutes, without stopping, twice this week.
  2. Engage in demonstrated upper and lower body stretching exercises, three times this week.
  3. Eat 5 small meals per day one (1) day this week.
  4. Eat a 6-color salads twice this week.

These goals will become comfortable and familiar within a couple of weeks and can be ramped up another notch, then another, and another. Within the first eight (8) to ten (10) weeks, substantial progress will have been made in regards to engaging and enjoying subtle and pleasant behavior change. You are well on your way!


Simple, Spectacular, and Savory Soup Recipe

Yes! Another soup recipe being offered to you, for a quick, yummy, and healthful dinner.

Minestrone Soup

Prep time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
28 ounce jar of diced tomatoes
15 ounce can of cannelloni beans
pasta (elbow or penne)
1 large purple onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
2 small zucchini, cut into bite sized pieces
3 carrots, sliced
3 celery stalks, sliced
pepper and salt
dried basil and oregano
olive oil
a full-bodied red wine, to sip as well as to add into the soup

Directions:

  1. Place all of the chopped veggies in a glass casserole dish; toss with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. At 10 minutes into the roast, stir up the veggies, then finish the roast. Set aside.
  2. While the veggies are roasting, cook the pasta just to an al dente texture, and consider enjoying a glass of wine. Drain the pasta, saving the water to thin the soup stock, and set the pasta aside for a moment.
  3. In your soup pot, mix the tomatoes, beans and the roasted veggies, pour in 1/2 cup of red wine, and add the spices to meet your palate desires. Add about a cup of the pasta water.
  4. I’ve learned over the years to cook just enough pasta to put 1/2 – 3/4 cup cooked into the bottom of each soup bowl, then ladle the soup on top. If the pasta is added to the soup pot, it tends to get mushy, especially when you reheat the leftovers later.
  5. Enjoy! This is a rich, high protein and fiber, delicious dinner. For an easy side dish, I saute greens with garlic in olive oil, or I’ll slice a good quality baguette, layer the slices with swiss cheese, and broil for 3 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and yummy. Or I make both side dishes!

Yum!

Exercise stimulates the senses, the mind, and the body

A run, after the rain

Late in the afternoon, I was fortunate to find thirty minutes to run with my dog. After the torrential rains, the bits of blue sky visible between the dark clouds lured me outside. The sunrays were beaming towards the ground, creating steam from the wet earth, warming.

Senses alive, I savored every moment of the waning afternoon. The smells are what I noticed first, they were so incredibly rich: an earthy aroma of wet dirt and leaves, a crisp freshness in the air, sweet wood smoke.  I so love that smell, it is somehow soothing in its’ association with the Fall season.

The visual beauty was astounding: raindrops clinging to tree limbs and leaves, catching the sunlight, creating prisms of color; subtle variations on green—the dull green of the oak leaves, the deep green of the cedar and pine boughs, and most amazing of all is the iridescent greens of the mosses. I have long been fascinated by the mosses, particularly after a rain. What hearty life form this is! Dry and dull after a hot summer, having turned stringy and brown, but after a good rain—it’s a miracle! The moss comes alive, turning a gorgeous vibrant color, plumping up with water, resilient and quietly powerful. Other stimulating sights were the reds and yellows of the changing liquid amber tree leaves, the downed branches from the high winds, and most exquisite was the deep red of the madrone trunk, glistening in the afternoon light. Simply beautiful.

I was serenaded by many birds, their melodic songs seeming to celebrate the end of the storm, were music to my ears: piliated and acorn woodpeckers (yes, they have a distinctly different sound), chickadees, kinglets, house finches, and goldfinches. And the sound of the wind in the tall trees, swaying.

My sense of touch was stimulated as the gentle, fresh breeze ruffled my hair and caressed my skin, by the water drops from the tree limbs, plentiful leaves softening the trail, and by the incredibly supple yet tough feel of the mosses and lichens.

The dust is gone, perhaps for the year now, and that is a welcomed transition. I splashed through puddles on the trail. My heart, on a physical level, was working hard for me, responding well to being engaged in exercise. My spiritual heart was filled with joy for the abundant beauty of the woods after a rain storm, and gratitude for my desire to be out in that natural beauty, moving my body, appreciating that movement, and seeing my dog smile.

Target Heart Rate and Range: optimize your workout

Exercising within your target heart rate range will not only ensure an effective workout in terms of a fat and glucose burn, but also will provide an important aspect of exercise safety.

Key Phrases:

Resting heart rate: the heart rate at which you are at resting metabolic function. As in your heart rate upon waking luxuriously on a Saturday morning, and before moving much.

Pre-exercise heart rate: the heart rate immediately prior to initiating an exercise session. This heart rate will be faster than the resting heart rate.

Target heart rate range: the heart rate range between which you will gain a safe and effective exercise workout.

To calculate your individualized target heart rate range, you will need to find your pulse to determine your pre-exercise heart rate. Start with your index and middle fingers and place them gently on either your radial or carotid artery; either the artery that lies 3 inches below your thumb (radial), or on the neck, 1 ½ inches from your Adam’s apple (carotid). Find and feel your heartbeat, look at a second hand watch, then count how many heartbeats you feel in 15 seconds; multiply that number times 4, to know your one-minute heart rate. Example: 17 heartbeats felt in 15 seconds equates to a heart rate of 68.

My preference to calculate target heart rate range is to use the Karvonen Formula. As opposed to the standard 220 – your age formula, the Karvonen takes into account your pre-exercise heart rate, affording you the opportunity to dial in a specific and individualized target heart rate range for your exercise session.  The formula is as follows:

220 – age – pre-exercise heart rate x 65%, x 85% + pre-exercise heart rate

For a 50-year-old woman with a pre-exercise heart rate of 68, it looks like this:

220 – 50 = 170 (max heart rate)

– 68 = 102

x 65% = 66;              x 85% = 87

+ 68 = 134;               + 68 = 155

target heart rate range = 134 – 155

Several external factors may affect heart rate: hydration status, level of fitness, adrenaline (stress) response, certain medications, and caffeine to name a few. Someone who is new to exercise and therefore may be “deconditioned” (less than optimal fitness level), will likely note that their resting, pre-exercise, and exercise heart rate is higher than what is age predicted.

When writing an exercise prescription for this 50-year-old woman beginning an exercise program, we would start at the 65% level of exercise intensity, so that her exercise heart rate stays around 134 beats per minute. As she works up to 5 – 6 exercise sessions per week over the course of 6 – 8 weeks, her exercise prescription will be modified, allowing her to increase her exercise intensity to work at higher heart rate response, at 155 beats per minute.

As the heart muscle becomes more conditioned, each contraction becomes more efficient, so that ultimately fewer heartbeats per minute are required to pump the same volume of blood. In the real world this translates as a lowered resting and pre-exercise heart rate, as well as a lowered exercise heart rate response, ultimately allowing the exercising person to increase their workout to achieve a higher heart rate response.  Conditioning takes several months to achieve.

Another valuable aspect of determining the effectiveness and safety of your exercise program is to assess your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE).  This is a subjective response, and it basically allows you to assign a numerical value to your exercise intensity. I use a modified scale of 1 – 10, with 1 being the amount of energy required to sit up in a chair, and 10 being a marathon effort. An RPE of 3 is moderate, 4 is somewhat hard, and 5 is hard. 3 – 5 is the range of perceived exertion that I include in an exercise prescription.  (6 is very hard, 7 is very, very hard, and so on). An RPE of 6 and above is correlated with an anaerobic level of exercise; anaerobic means “without oxygen”—oxygen feeds the muscles and aids in fat burning, thus the presence of oxygen is favorable while exercising (and most other times as well!).

As a side note, athletes who are conditioned to train for competition are often at their anaerobic threshold; for most of us who exercise to stay in shape and optimize our health, maintaining an aerobic exercise program is suggested.

Future articles will address additional exercise considerations: frequency, type, duration, and how to mix it all up.

Have at it!


Sunday Morning Ride

It would have been oh-so-easy to stay home this morning, cozy in my robe and slippers … but a date is a date, and it’s Sunday morning, which means bike ride. Dressed in double layers on top, full leggings, long-fingered gloves, thick socks, and a wind shell, we set out into the chilly fall morning. WooHoo, was it brisk! My core warmed up quickly, but my fingers and ears stayed frosty throughout the ride.

How invigorating. Rewarding. Fun. I am oh-so-glad for the ride!

Sunday is off to a marvelous beginning.

Sunday bliss

This may be the richest Sunday on record! The morning ride was bittersweet–relief from the hot summer temperature, but a stark awareness that Fall is soon to arrive. The smell of damp flora and the chill in the air was all about the change of seasons. A hard but brief rain would convince me for sure. Later, a two (yes 2!) hour massage. Absolute heaven. Now, the quiche is in the oven, green beans and garlic are ready to be roasted, artichokes are simmering. The afternoon light illuminates the kitchen, it is so cozy in there, and the smells are so tantalizing. Soon, I will sit with my family to savor a home cooked, locally raised dinner (the chokes come from Monterey area), basking in the joy that is my life. I am truly blessed.

Relaxation 101…Inhale calm, exhale tension

  • Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
  • Close your eyes and soften your jaw.
  • Let your breathing become rhythmic and smooth. There is no need to force the breath. Notice your breath as it moves in and out.
  • As you breathe in, see if you are able to imagine that you are breathing in a sensation of relaxation. With your exhale, imagine that your are breathing out any feelings of tension you may be holding. Just continue to do this for the next ten breaths.  Each breath is smooth and rhythmic; each breath in brings a feeling of relaxation, each breath out releases tension or tightness.
  • Assume a passive attitude.  Don’t worry about how well you’re doing.  When mindless thoughts occur (and they will!), simply observe the shift in your focus, let that go, and gently return your awareness to your breath.
  • Continue for 2 to 3 minutes. Over time, work your way up to a 10-minute practice.
  • When you have completed your relaxation, do not stand immediately.  Continue sitting quietly, allowing other thoughts to return.  Then open your eyes and sit for a moment before rising slowly.
  • Take one more moment to express self-gratitude.  Thank yourself for the gift you have just received—from you!
  • Practice the technique once or twice daily. The regular practice of eliciting the relaxation response will allow for more ease and familiarity. You will also reap the recuperative benefits to your health.
"The Holiday Survival Cooking and Eating Class exceeded my expectations. It was so enjoyable to learn new ideas for healthy snacks and meals, taste the delicious treats we created and leave with an inspired hope that this will be my healthiest holiday season yet! I am impressed with the knowledge and care that Robin (and Wendy from In the Kitchen) both possess and I look forward to taking more classes in the future. Thanks again!"  --Rose M.   “What a wonderful, yummy class! Not only did we participate in creating several easy-to-make, delicious, nourishing dishes for the holidays and every day, we also learned strategies for surviving and enjoying the upcoming holiday season. Both Robin & Wendy were delightful and imparted their cooking and eating knowledge with love, humor, and enthusiasm. I highly recommend their classes to anyone who is interested in developing a better way to look at food, using thoughtfulness with mindfulness to learn some very valuable strategies for eating any time of the year!” --CAM   “I found the class delightful with great ideas for the holidays. In the Kitchen is a warm and welcoming place and you and Wendy were great teaching collaborators. Good new recipes. I appreciate your healthy eating information. I recommend this class to anyone wanting to enjoy the holidays without stressing over food. Actually, the information isn’t just for the holidays. I want to stay healthy all year and eat well.” --Pat B.   "I’ve participated in several classes at In the Kitchen, enjoyed them all immensely, but it is always a special treat when Wendy teaches a class. The recipes offered in The Holiday Survival class were easy to make and so delicious. And what a plus to have Robin co-teach the The Holiday Survival class with Wendy. Thank you, Robin, for all your great information on healthy eating, which was delivered so professionally, dovetailing beautifully into Wendy’s presentation. Hope you two team up again for more classes of scrumptious, healthy recipes. What a fun evening!!" --Carol B. _______________ I love this positive feedback! How gratifying it is to touch the lives of others in a meaningful way…and to be able to do so around a topic that is so dear to me, is just the icing on the cake (right—pun intended!). Wendy Van Wagner and I will continue to offer seasonal cooking classes in addition to the occasional specialty class…stay tuned!
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