September Clean Eats Sweeps: Week 2

Week 2 was an interesting challenge for clean eating because I was planning on spending the weekend at the cabin. My habits are pretty healthy during the week when I’m on my regular schedule. The issue is that not being on my regular schedule requires a lot of pre planning.

I had a work meeting on Monday night where dinner was provided. As my gluten, lactose & onion free option I was given a sandwich with deli meat on a gluten free bun. Not very clean, but my only option given I hadn’t planned ahead. Sometimes food allergies are so much work, it’s annoying to have to think about pre planning meals beyond that. I knew a weekend at the cabin would be a challenge, not only in terms of food but also for alcohol consumption. A typical weekend at the cabin includes chips, hot dogs, cookies or chocolate and lots of wine. That certainly would not be acceptable this trip! I’m quite proud of myself for bringing ground chicken lettuce wraps, hummus & veggies, fruit and seaweed snacks for my meals. My big treat was cashew butter and banana’s. One of my favourite healthy snacks. Mostly though, I’m proud of not bringing any booze! I did have two of my husbands ciders and a mango margarita on Saturday, but that was it for the whole weekend. I allowed myself those drinks partly because I was getting a bit cranky from the lack of sugar I was consuming and partly because it was my last visit to the cabin this summer and the weather was beautiful. and I don’t need to completely punish myself. I spent some time hooping, playing badminton, throwing a football around and walking dogs so that must have done something to combat the extra calories too.

I think that the hardest part of clean eating is the planning. It’s so much easier to make pre-packaged food or grab fast food but I know I feel so much better when I eat clean. Even though I haven’t been 100% clean so far, I’m happy with where I am because September has been busy so far and I’m not in the position to devote all of my time preparing food. I’m doing what I can and still living my life too, and I’m OK with that. I’m  back at 135 pounds, so down a half pound since last week and that is also OK. These next two weeks, I am really going to challenge myself – no alcohol at all and if I do have a meeting where non-clean food will be served, I will make a better effort to bring my own food.

September Clean Eats Sweeps Challenge: Week 1

Clean Eating Dinner #1

Clean Eating Dinner #1 – Cilantro lime chicken, coconut basmati brown rice and bacon brussels sprouts

On August 31 a friend told me about a clean eating challenge she was starting on September 1. I’d been thinking about doing a cleanse anyways so I signed up because this challenge included the support of other women via a private Facebook group, plus there was a chance for the biggest loser to win the pot of $20 entry fees which I thought would help motivate me.  We are to eat as clean as possible which means cutting out anything processed, including alcohol. I actually signed up for this on a long weekend thinking the start date was two days away. When I actually realized that I was supposed to cut out booze in a middle of a long weekend I made a concession that I would start the no alcohol thing after the long weekend but still eat clean. All went well and my first meal was delicious!

Since I signed up so quickly, it didn’t occur to me that I had lots of dinner plans coming up in the next week. Again, more concessions were made and I allowed myself one drink at each dinner as long as I still ate as clean as I could at a restaurant. I felt pretty good about this in the past week because I still wanted to enjoy life even though I was doing this challenge. In the past when I’ve done cleanses they’ve been very strict so it was nice to have a little leeway this time. It was interesting though when halfway through the week the challenge organizer made a survey asking what our goal was – to lose weight, to get more energy, to get a better understanding of clean eating? I  couldn’t pick an answer because even though I was thinking of doing a cleanse, I really couldn’t define my end goal. I originally thought it might be nice to lose weight, if I lose 5 pounds I’ll be at my high school weight, which is pretty awesome for turning 30 in just over a month! But having a sole goal of weight loss has never worked for me.

Me at age 20, nearly 200 pounds

Even when I was close to 200 pounds, my goal was to be healthy. I educated myself about nutrition, how calories worked and tried to be more active. Even though I was very overweight, I didn’t have a goal about how much weight I wanted to lose, I just wanted to create a healthy lifestyle for myself. It worked because within a year of starting I dropped about 40 pounds and have kept it off ever since. Then last September I did a naturopath prescribed anti-inflammatory diet to heal my digestive system. I cut out all refined and processed foods including dairy, alcohol and only ate chicken breast, turkey and some fish. I ate a tonne of veggies and a little bit of fruit and some nuts and grains. In the beginning I couldn’t even have carrots or blueberries because they had too much sugar but slowly worked them back into my diet. My goal then was to become healthy and heal my digestive system, but in the course of eating like that for over 6 weeks, I lost another 20 pounds without even trying. Well, I should say, I lost 20 pounds even though that wasn’t my goal, eating like that was a challenge and took a lot of preparation.

Thinking about these past two weight loss experiences made me realize that just focusing on losing pounds isn’t going to work for me. As soon as I go on a diet, I feel like I’m restricting myself and in turn, want to eat all the things! I’m much better at making lifestyle changes by adding more of the good things into my diet and increasing my activity levels. That reflection has led me to determine that my goal is to cut out garbage food again because it has crept back into my diet over the summer and significantly reduce the amount of alcohol I drink. I hope to gain energy and an increased sense of well being which will help get me through my busy time at work and if I happen to lose some weight in the process, that is great. I want to wake up on my 30th birthday knowing that this is the best I have ever felt in my life!

I’ll check in next week to report on my progress to see if any weight loss actually happens. Today I’m sitting at 135.5 pounds which is up .5 pounds from last week. I do already feel better though and that is really what I’m after.

Fascinating Fascia

I don’t know when this happened, but fitness and biomechanics have become interesting enough to me that I willingly chose to spend an entire weekend learning more about how the body moves at Fit Rendezvous, an annual conference through the Alberta Fitness Leadership Certification Association (AFLCA).  I learned so much I want to share, but what I found most interesting was all the new research that is coming out about fascia!

What really stuck out to me from the conference is that the fitness industry is moving away from a focus on flexibility and towards a focus on mobility. This means rather than bending yourself into pretzel like positions, it is more important to keep your joints mobile and experience full range of motion through them. Mobile people are healthy people, long into life. What struck me even more, is that hoopers and other prop spinners are regularly doing movement that allows full range of motion in many joints. We’re on the cutting edge of fitness and most of us probably don’t even realize it!

I attended a fantastic session on fascia from Michol Dalcourt that was quite fascia-nating (hehehe).   While ever expanding, my scientific background is quite limited, so this is the coles-notes version of the session. Michol proposed that new research is showing that it’s not just muscles that move the body, it’s also fascia and skin. What is fascia you ask? Well, it’s the connective tissue that forms a structural support matrix around our organs, muscles, joints, bones and nerve fibres. Now, why is this new research important? Because, the way people have been training their bodies is based on the concept that only muscles move the body, so repetitive motions of specialized muscles are all we need to be strong. If fascia and skin also play a part, the body should be trained differently and that means adding more mobility, functional fitness and rhythmical movements in your daily activities and fitness regimen. This will build strong fascia and as Michol says, will turn off the muscles so they don’t have to do all the work and will actually provide more stability in our bodies.

The body does not act in isolation. This is important in understanding fascia. It is also important to understand that fascia is constantly growing.

Healthy fascia looks like a spiderweb

Healthy fascia looks like a spiderweb

When we are moving a lot, it grows in a healthy fashion and looks like a spiderweb. When we’re sedentary and even when we’re sleeping, it turns into a glue like substance which does not provide the proper support the body needs for movement. This causes muscles to always be on and can create imbalances in the body as well. The best way to combat this is to move and stretch. I’m such a strong proponent of movement already, this is just more proof about its power to be healthy and happy.

Hoopers and other prop spinners are adding mobility and functional fitness into their lives all the time. Every time a hooper does a lift off the body, we’re likely promoting full range of movement in our scapula (shoulder blade). If we’re hooping around our waist (in both currents) we’re getting a full range of movement in our hips and the list goes on and on. One caveat Michol talked about was that to build a strong web of fascia, there must be different loads (weight/resistance etc.) with different speeds and different angles. I would say that an average hooper would be able to meet most of these criteria in an average hoop session if a wide variety of on and off body tricks and were performed along with jumps and varying speeds of movement. With that being said, to gain the most benefit in terms of building fascia, it would be beneficial to try a heavier hoop to ensure that there is enough load (weight). I actually tried this during a hoop session after the workshop. Off body moves didn’t feel quite as fluid as they do with my 5/8″ polypro hoop, but it felt good to challenge myself with a heavy hoop, especially knowing the benefit I was getting from this practice. I value being fit, but do not enjoy traditional workouts so knowing that hooping can do even more for my body is so exciting! Check out this video of the ViPR in action. This is a piece of equipment Michol created to help bring functional fitness into people’s lives and this rhythmical movement demonstration looks a lot like a prop spinner in flow. The big movements also reminded of our warm ups in Baxter’s Hoop Path workshops. He encourages big movements in our joints to heat up the body, but I wonder if he knows that he’s helping create strong fascia too?

Movement is not the only way to train and optimize fascia. Hydration and nutrition also play a role. Hydration of fascia is important for this system because the vast majority of its structure is water. The more hydrated the fascia is, the stronger it becomes. Water absorption occurs through an osmotic process which occurs with movement, so drinking water and sitting on the couch all day will not allow for proper hydration. Nutrition is also important for strong fascia. Fascia is a protein made up mostly of collagen. Foods rich in glycosaminoglycans (like home made meat broth) will naturally support collagen production. Chronic inflammation and congestion, on the other hand, will produce collagenase and cause fascia to deteriorate. Two major causes of fascial deterioration are sugar and vegetable oil. To combat this, it is important to eat anti-inflammatory foods, something I talked about when I was following the anti-inflammatory diet.

There are lots of ways to build a healthy system of fascia and I think it’s so cool that with a few tweaks to our practice, hoopers and prop spinners can build a healthy fascial system. You probably didn’t need it, but now you have one more reason to spin all the things!