Sunday, April 28, 2013

Kicking the "Yo-Yo Exercise" Habit

"Did I say I'd start working out today? I meant next Monday."

Since I graduated from high school (way back in 2005!), I've struggled with keeping a consistent exercise routine. I'd always gotten exercise through team sports, so working out always had a "purpose." I'd never really worked out for the sake of working out. You know how people talk about "yo-yo dieting?" I'm a pretty consistent healthy eater, but Lord knows I've been a terrible yo-yo exerciser!

That's right, I'm saying "I've been" instead of "I am" a yo-yo exerciser, because I am working really hard on NOT being one anymore! I've tried and failed to keep an exercise routine for years, but for about the past two months, I've been getting my butt off the couch five times a week, every week.

No, two months isn't a long time. Yes, I may be overly proud of that achievement. I've worked out for two consecutive months many times before (hence the "yo-yo" idea), but this time just feels different. I feel a dedication and sense of accomplishment/pride that was missing during my previous exercise "phases." So I'd like to share some of the ways I've stuck with it!

  • Start with a Short-Term Goal: When I first managed to pry myself from the couch, I had a seemingly easy goal in mind - work out 5 days this week. Not one day. Not two days. Five days, no excuses. Every time I wanted to quit, or felt "too tired" to work out that day, I reminded myself that it was ONE WEEK. What kind of P.O.S. human being can't stick with something for a week? Of course, after a week, you'll probably already feel stronger, more motivated, and more energetic, and chances are it will be SO much easier to keep it up "just one more week."
  • Take "Before and After" Pictures:  If you're just starting a routine, take pictures of yourself on your first day. In just two months, I've seen so many changes in my body, and I'm kicking myself for not having any "before" pictures to compare it to. But - don't take pictures too often, and don't get discouraged if you don't see all the change you were hoping for. It's a slow process, so focus more on how different you feel
  • Keep a Journal (or a Blog!): How good do you feel after a workout? Write it down! Once that feeling fades and the alarm clock goes off the next morning, reading a reminder of how good you'll feel if you can drag your ass out of bed might be just what you need. Don't just write down the good; keep track of the bad, too. Every time I eat late at night, even if it's a semi-healthy snack, I feel bad the next morning. Every single time. The act of identifying bad habits (eating an unhealthy meal, skipping a workout) in writing, and relating them to feeling physically or mentally bad, could keep you from repeating those actions.
  • Find your "Fitspiration!": Pinterest, Pinterest, Pinterest. Whenever I'm feeling unmotivated, nothing gets me up and moving like the "Health and Fitness" boards on Pinterest. The inspirational quotations and pictures of badass women with six packs usually do it for me, but find your own websites, pins, or ideas that keep you inspired. "Before & After" pictures can also be really motivating.
    Yes, you still have an awesome six pack. You don't have to keep checking.
  • Live for Today: In the past, when I ate junk food or didn't work out one day, I would just give up. You know, this mentality: "Well, my day is ruined. Might as well ruin it completely!" That sounds crazy, right? OK, so yesterday you skipped your workout. Lucky for you, today isn't yesterday, and this morning isn't this evening. Everyone slips up sometimes, but view that mistake as an isolated incident. It doesn't have to affect the rest of your day/week! Every day is a new day to achieve your goals. Don't worry about long-term goals for next month, next summer, next year... focus on today's goals and the rest of them will be achieved in time!
  • Visualize Success: If you've planned to work out in the morning, take a few minutes when you lay down in bed to imagine having a great, energetic morning workout. Imagine how accomplished you'll feel in the shower, and how much better your whole day will be. This might sound hard, but even try to look forward to your workout. I find that I definitely wake up more easily and with more determination.
  • Do It for Yourself: Maybe you want to look great to impress someone else, but don't let that person be the reason you work out. If that person isn't around, or if you have an argument, you can easily fall off the wagon. I've made this mistake before! Sure, your significant other will be happy that you're working out and getting fit, but by far the most important thing is that YOU are happy that you're working out.
Hopefully some of these tips helped! I'm definitely a work in progress, and this has been a great reminder to start and follow good habits. Thanks for reading!

- Kelly

Thursday, April 11, 2013

How to Increase Iron Absorption

Since I don't eat meat and rarely eat fish, sometimes I wonder if I'm getting enough iron. I like to think I'm a healthy eater, but there certainly are days that I stray, and those days add up. Anemia develops very slowly, and it's hard to know if you're even mildly anemic. Even if you think you eat enough iron-rich food, the amount that your body absorbs might be another story.

Recently, I decided to track everything I ate on Sparkpeople for a few days to see if I was getting enough of all my nutrients. I kept track for three days, and made a special effort to eat really healthy. I was pretty surprised to see I was deficient in a few key things, including iron. So I jumped online to see what other iron-rich foods I could eat, and I accidentally found out a lot more about iron absorption.

Luckily, there are a few things we can do to really boost the body's absorption of iron.

  • Eat Vitamin C with Meals: Vitamin C is iron's best friend! Try to get Vitamin C with every meal, as it has been found to significantly increase iron absorption. Since so many Vitamin C-rich foods are delicious, this shouldn't be too hard. An easy way to do this is to cook with lemon juice, or simply squeeze it over your meal. Sounds awesome for a stir fry! I just posted about the benefits of lemon water, and it's also great to drink with meals to get a ton of Vitamin C. 
    • What to eat? For fruit lovers, eat a citrus fruit with your meal. There are also a lot of vegetables high in Vitamin C:
      • Bell peppers
      • Broccoli
      • Tomatoes
      • Potatoes
      • Cabbage
      • Cauliflower 
  •  Save the Tea for Later: As an avid tea-drinker, I was a little heartbroken to find out that it's terrible for iron absorption. The tannins in tea bond with iron molecules, making them undigestible. Studies have shown that drinking tea with a meal decreases iron absorption by 30-60%. That's a lot! Try to drink tea an hour before/after you eat, but if you absolutely must have tea (like me sometimes, I admit), squeeze some lemon in it for Vitamin C to counteract some of the tea's iron-inhibiting properties.
  •  Watch out for Calcium: Calcium and iron compete for absorption when taken together, and calcium can decrease iron absorption by up to 50%. If you take supplements, take the calcium and iron supplements at least two hours apart. If you're planning an iron-rich meal, avoid dairy products with it if possible. Damn it, I guess that I means I should leave the cheese off my bean burgers. The best tip (which I'm now repeating for the third time, sorry!) is to make sure to get Vitamin C with meals. 
  • Eat More Iron: This sounds obvious, but sometimes I need a reminder of which foods are iron-rich. Here's a quick run-down of vegetarian sources:
      • Dark, leafy greens - spinach, kale, bok choy, collards
      • Dried fruit - raisins, prunes, dates
      • Artichokes
      • Beans 
      • Blackstrap molasses (great as a replacement for honey in oatmeal)
      • Dark chocolate/cocoa powder
 Thanks for reading! Good luck and happy eating!


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Lemon Water Madness

Is it just me, or has lemon water become a lot more popular lately? Of course, I'm basing that idea on what I see on Pinterest, so it could just be me.

Either way, drinking lemon water first thing in the morning is one of my favorite healthy habits. It's best drunk first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. My mom told me about lemon water a few years ago; apparently she read about it in a Suzanne Somers book. I don't know about you, but I'm keen to trust Suzanne Somers. If I do, maybe I'll look half as good at her age.

OK, I probably won't. But I'm still going to drink lemon water in the morning, because it's been found to help and even cure just about anything. After a quick jaunt on the Internet, I've found out the specifics:

  •  Vitamin C: This is the obvious answer, right? Everybody knows that citrus fruits are packed with Vitamic C, but did you know that Vitamin C significantly increases the absorption of iron and calcium? It also boosts your immune system and fights colds.
  • Liver/Kidney Health: Lemons are the fruit of choice for so many cleanses, and that's because studies have shown that lemon juice can prevent or clear small calcium deposits. That mean no kidney stones!
  • Aid to Digestion:  Lemons are also popular in cleanses because their full of vitamins and minerals that help loosen toxins from the digestive tract. If you drink your lemon juice warm, the warm water also helps get those bowels movin'. 
  • Improves your Skin: I had no idea before I wrote this post, but the vitamin C in lemon juice actually decreases/prevents wrinkles! No wonder Suzanne Somers looks so great! Since it clears toxins, it also helps clear up acne. 
  • Balances your Ph: We all think of lemons as an acidic food, but it actually has an alkalizing effect in the body once it's metabolized. Almost all whole foods are alkaline foods, while junk food, processed food, and animal products fall on the acidic end of the scale. Check out this acidic/alkaline chart and see what I mean:

So, hot or cold? After reading quite a few articles, it seems like warm lemon water is the best way to go. That said, when I stumble out of bed in the morning and go to squeeze my lemon water, I grab the Brita pitcher from the fridge and do what's easiest.

Lemons - to refrigerate or not to refrigerate? After doing the Master Cleanse, I learned this lesson well: the lemon you squeeze should be at room temperature. When refrigerated, the lemon's enzymes become dormant and therefore don't do your body as much good. They "wake up" again when they warm up.

But what about those gigantic bags of lemons, you ask? You can refrigerate them, but always leave a couple lemons out on the counter for the next day.

Give lemon water a try and let me know what you think! Thanks for reading!



First Post!

Welcome to the world, Lean Green Veggie Machine!

As a first-time blogger, this is my first blog post ever. So, of course, it makes sense for my first post to be about writing my first post! If I said I wasn't nervous, I'd be lying. Blogging is a bit intimidating. So much (self-inflicted) pressure to be funny, quirky, clever... or, just un-terrible. We'll see how that goes.

This blog won't be a ranting, preachy series of articles on how terribly animals are treated, or on the evils of wearing fur (despite being two very valid arguments). I simply want to share information that I find fascinating/useful/interesting about how to be healthier, more fit, and more motivated. I'm talking about recipes, fitness motivation, health tips, and anything else that health-minded people want to know.

I struggle, just like most of us, in always making the best choices for my health and my body. For a while now, I've been journaling my experiences and the things I learn on the way. Finally, I decided to share them. I mean, if I find something to be important or useful to my well-being, I'm sure there are others who would as well, right?

So, here's to this blog providing useful and important information for many posts to come!