Friday, August 14, 2009

Healthy on the Inside

I was going to write up a little report card for the mid-year resolutions I wrote so optimistically only three months ago:

  1. Work out twice a week. F
  2. Buy more fresh fruits and vegetables and eat them. B
  3. Make more simple, healthy meals B-
  4. Limit diet cokes to one a day A+
  5. Go to bed before 11:30 if I'm working and 11 if I'm not.C-

So I have a 2.4 health resolution GPA. Could be better, could be worse. The working out thing is really bringing me down. I'd like to say I just can't find the time, but that's not true- it's that I won't. If I really tried I'm sure I could find two free hours a week to be at the gym, but between work, Landon, JP, and my need to spend at least some time sitting unproductively on the couch, I can't seem to make it a priority. Right now I just try to be very active during the day doing all those mini exercise-light activities (taking the stairs, parking far away, sitting as little as possible) that I scoffed when I was a Hard Core Athlete. They help, I think, but I still have big dreams of long walks in the morning with the dogs when the weather dips down below 105. I miss all the walking I used to do in Chicago and didn't realize how much that subtle exercise helped keep me fit.

On Wednesday my office had a Health Fair and I received a confidential "biometric screening" complete with blood cholesterol work up, blood pressure reading, and height and weight check. And I got a 4.0! (my own interpretation of the little chart they filled out for me) My BMI is 20.5 (though I know that is totally inadequate measure of health and fitness since the handy online calculator just informed me that my very lean, muscular husband is overweight). My total cholesterol is quite low, probably due to our eating vegetarian about 3 nights a week and my family's lack of high cholesterol issues (I think, I could be making that up). I've given myself homework on raising my HDL ("healthy cholesterol") levels- they're 48 and the ideal range is greater than 60. And rather than talk with a doctor or any other informed, science-related person, I turned to for a cheat sheet.

According the article, the following things will help me raise my HDL levels:

1. Get moving. Regular exercise is an important component to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and aerobic exercise has been shown to increase your HDLs if done for periods of 30 minutes or longer several times a week." Yeah... no; see above. I want to try harder though- if there's any superwoman or superman out there who does fit in exercise with work, family, etc., leave a comment and shame me into doing the same.

2. Avoid high-fat foods, especially those containing trans fats or hydrogenated oils. You'll typically find these oils used in fried foods, as well as many cookies, crackers and chips. French fries and cookies are the two big culinary loves of my life, but I've been working on it. This week I haven't had either one even once and I've found I miss them less each day.

3. Incorporate more monounsaturated oils into your diet. These include foods like olive oil, avocados and whole nut butters. More guacamole, peanut butter on ritz crackers, and bread dipped in olive oil? This almost makes up for the decrease in cookies and french fries.

4. Get more fiber in your diet. Soluble fiber helps to reduce your LDL cholesterol and raises your HDL level as well. You can find soluble fiber in foods like oatmeal, many fruits and vegetables, as well as in whole grains. Already done.

5. Stay away from processed, high-carbohydrate food. Because these foods contain more simple sugars, they may increase your blood sugar and decrease your HDL cholesterol in the process. Check- other than cookies I already did this one too.

6. Prepare to shed a few tears when you add onions to your new HDL-friendly diet. Studies suggest that your HDL may be increased a substantial amount by eating up to a half an onion each day. Really? I don't like onions except when they're grilled on top of my hamburger and I doubt that's an HDL-approved way of adding them to your diet. Plus I'm not sure JP would appreciate it.

7. Raise a glass and toast to your new healthier lifestyle when you consume an occasional glass of red wine. These libations contain antioxidants that have been shown to slow the oxidation of HDL cholesterol, helping it to stay in your system longer. Woo hoo- I have a glass of wine 3-4 nights a week. Maybe this means I shouldn't skip days...

So I'm not sure how much that helped me. I already do a lot of these things, which makes me think exercise would be even more effective if I added it to my routine. Until then, I'm looking forward to ordering extra guacamole at all my favorite Mexican restaurants.

And in other health news, Landon was sent home from daycare on Wednesday with a 102 fever, only two weeks after I remarked that he hadn't been sick once in the past year. I think it's just viral- he has no other symptoms of anything and has been in good spirits. JP and I have been contorting our schedules to be home with him and this has resulted in some very late work-from-home nights for me, which combined with Landon's fevered 3 a.m. awakenings, has made me very tired, a little crabby, and suffering from painful flashbacks of life with an infant. Shudder.


  1. have you turned into a gorf?! lol jk you're doing all the little things and they add up!keep it up, im proud of you!

  2. I'd bet that onion would be easier to incorporate into what you already cook than you think. Probably half of what I cook starts with saute-ing onion and garlic. And when cooked onion itself doesn't have a very strong flavor but can add a lot to the overall taste of a dish. It's easy to add to any soup, pasta sauce, stir fry etc if you really wanted to incorporate more. As much as I love onion, it's probably not the first thing I'd look to to change my cholesterol... :P

  3. I get a ton of exercise now that my older daughter is learning to ride her bike. I just go on foot beside her, and sometimes I have to run to keep up. :)

    Seriously though, a big part of my ability to get in what little exercise I manage is because of incorporating the kids into it. Exercise, family time, and a good example all at once!

    The rest of it comes from EA Active for the Wii. :) I manage to do that maybe once or twice a week.

  4. I agree with Anon--exercise is easier when you get your family involved. I hate running, but my fiance is quite overweight (and *not* in the he's-too-muscular way, you lucky duck ;) and so I run with him to keep him active... and then I don't hate it so much because I have company. I also started doing the 30-Day Shred workout video with Jillian Michaels, which is literally only 20 minutes per workout, so it's hard to find excuses not to do it. Is it the best? No. But I certainly sweat enough while I'm doing it.

  5. It might be too much of a commitment with your schedule right now, but I found the only way to really get myself off the couch was to sign up for something. If I pay for a tennis class once a week, I'm going to go. And if I pay the registration fee for a race, I'm generally going to find the time to train for it. The former athlete in me just needs a goal to work toward other than the fact that exercise will keep me healthy.

    Maybe start with a 5K for a cause that's important to you. Austin also has some really great running groups. Check out the Rogue training program for the 3M Half Marathon. I know that it sounds like a huge commitment but it's a small group run one night a week and a long run on the weekend. You're supposed to run outside of that as well, but that's all I could fit in while I was in law school and I still finished the race.

  6. Exercise:
    Here's what happened to me and I don't expect that my approach would work for anyone else at all.
    1. Above all it absolutely required 100% support and encouragement from my husband. In fact had he not so relentlessly hounded me to figure out how to fit exercise in (for no other reason than my complaining that I couldn't fit it in, he loves me no matter what), I would have never fit it in.
    2. First I tried doing it in the morning before work. Getting over to the gym at 5AM twice a week. That made the whole family so miserable, that I stopped after a few months (if mama ain't happy, ain't no one happy). I tried again doing morning exercise at home about a year later. Again mixed results. Fitting it in after work seemed ridiculous, with wrangling two small children and making dinner etc. So summer 2006 I decided I was never exercising again. I didn't like the results I was getting from the videos I was doing and getting up in the mornings was ridiculous. Again my husband intervened. He said, try running. You get results pretty quick from that. I'd done it in the past with limited success so I was skeptical. He promised to make dinner twice a week and give me a free weekend morning. Slowly but surely it became a habit.
    3. I got more and more into running. Learning more about it, getting good shoes, the right gear etc. I started to see results. Even signed up for a 5K. That was fall of 2006. I also hurt my leg pretty bad. But by that time I was really starting to crave exercise in my life, healed up my leg and just went on.
    4. The spring/summer/fall temps here in Nor. Calif. are really hot, so it started making sense for me to go back to early morning exercise. Since I've gotten to love running more and more it doesn't seem so awful to get up and run. It gets it out of the way, doesn't interfere with my kids' or husband's schedule and kick starts my system. I have to be disciplined about never letting myself skip a morning, otherwise it would become a habit. I've run several races, 5K, 10K, even two half marathons. I go running three days a week. I'm by no means an elite athlete by any stretch of the imagination. But this 37 year old body looks better than my 27 year old body did and I feel good about my health. The rewards outweigh any sacrifices I have to make. I do have to go to bed much earlier than you do. I also have to be at work by 7:30 so I would have to get up early anyway.

    A little more background. I work full time outside the home hours 7:30-4:00. I keep it to 40 hours a week, don't bring work home, etc. That's just the nature of my job. I have two daughters 7 and 9. They both have homework, activities, etc. They don't require as much hands on work as a toddler. My husband also works full time, cycles, rock climbs and runs. So we juggle our time quite a bit. He is similar to JP, in that we share household responsibilties 50/50. It is a picture of equality around our house.

    Good luck. You just have to commit to it, find something you actually enjoy doing and make the time. It took me several years of searching to find it. My kids were older 4 and 6 when I actually made it work. So give yourself time to figure it out.

    Sorry to write so much. Clearly I have strong opinions on this topic.

  7. I manage to walk most days of the week, either by getting out with my two-year-old and walking around the neighborhood or by walking after she's gone to sleep (which is often after 10 -- we're on a late schedule). But I'm no superwoman. My husband would love it if time relaxing with him were higher on my priority list, and my work is a good bit less demanding than yours. (That's no judgement -- I would love to have your job.) Fortunately, my husband will often walk with me at night. That's really nice.