Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

It’s that time of year again – cold and flu season. As someone susceptible to sinus infections and other fun stuff, I’ve cobbled together some safeguards to help me get through the cold and flu season. I’m not a Dr., nurse or other health care professional. These tips are just things I’ve learned from Dr.’s and books that work for me to avoid or shorten common illnesses. Hopefully, they’ll work for you too and keep you healthy.

Every day tips to ward off colds and flu:

1. Work out (if you are able, not if you’re dizzy, etc.). This is especially useful for colds, allergies and asthma (both my Mom and I have asthma and both of our Dr.’s want us on the treadmill or doing some other form of cardio regularly).

2. Sleep. Minimum 7 hours, preferably 8 or 9 per night. When you’re well-rested you’re better able to ward off germs.

3. Nasal irrigation (especially for sinus sufferers): Not the most fun process, but used daily cut my sinus infections in 1/2.

4. Hot tea and hot water: to be blunt, hot liquids thin mucus. There’s nothing like hot water to cut through post-nasal drip. If you’re having one of those cough every time you lay-down nights, a glass of hot water will let you get some sleep. A big bottle of NyQuil also doesn’t hurt.

5. Wash your hands, often. Antibacterial gel doesn’t hurt either. Keep lotion on hand to prevent skin form drying out too much from these protective measures.

6. And my no. 1 tip, that is pretty much impossible to follow, stay away from sick people!

Plane Travel

For those of you who find yourself on planes, here’s my gold standard for avoiding plane spread disease (given to me by a nurse friend and reinforced by my Doctor): Chapstick or lip gloss to seal up all those cracks in your lips, Afrin to spray a protective coating in your nose and keep your sinuses in a non-inflamed state, hand lotion to seal up the cracks in your hands, and turning the recycled air blower positioned above your seat off. For long flights (3+ hours) add in normal facial moisturizer topped immediately with Dermalogica barrier repair to eliminate post-flight dryness and those cross-country airplane breakouts.

Meditation Makes Me Sleepy

Meditation is touted as a stress-reducer, path to emotional well-being and way to find inner-calm. I’ve tried meditation on and off over the years but I never was able to make it a regular practice.

For the past few months meditation has kept invading my mind as something I need to incorporate into my daily life. It seems the fates of the internet agree because they -and random internet surfing- caused me to stumble across the Chopra Center 21-day Meditation Challenge. On each of the 21-days of the meditation challenge (starting Monday January 24) the Chopra Center sends you an email containing a guided meditation.

Why 21 days? Because apparently 21-days is about how long it takes to make a new practice a habit. I was intrigued. The challenge was free. I had nothing to lose and it seemed that fate had pushed this opportunity in my keyboard-typing hands. So I signed up and promptly forgot about it.

I remembered the challenge on Monday morning when my first guided meditation arrived in my inbox. I opened it up that night even though I knew it would put me past the bedtime I’ve been trying to force upon myself and even though I still had homework for writing class to finish. So yes, the thought of taking the time to do my first guided meditation stressed me out. Hmmm . . . maybe the meditation itself could relieve the stress the thought of taking the time to do the meditation had induced?

Each guided meditation is approximately 8-15 minutes in total duration, which includes instructional and inspirational “talk.” Realizing this on Day 1, when you’re in a hurry is a bit frustrating. For example, Day 1 consisted of a total of 1 minute of actual meditation – so yes, I found myself multi-tasking.

For Day 2, I decided to do the meditation at the office after lunch so I wouldn’t be so stressed out. I opened the meditation, discovered that the technique of the day was breathing meditation and read the explanatory email that accompanies each guided meditation. I got comfortable and began.

For Day 2 we indulged in about 4 minutes of actual meditation. It was calming. It was relaxing. It made me nod off. During the 4 minutes of meditation I found myself fluctuating between focusing on my breathing and startling myself awake every time my head fell when I started to doze. One moment I was relaxed, the next I thought I was on an airplane, had inadvertently fallen asleep, and was checking to see if anyone noticed or if there was evidence of drool. I suspect this is not the intended result of meditation. But perhaps, I was just sleep deprived.

Today is Day 3 and I’m committed to stick to the challenge and progress through my sleeping stage.

Do you meditate? Any advice for the chronically sleepy?

If anyone would like to join me on this meditation journey, it’s free and not to late to sign up. Just click here.

Yoga Discoveries

In May I was a yoga fanatic and then . . . life interrupted. Most of my summer was spent traveling back and forth from Orange County to Seattle and back to Orange County for work. I flew nearly 18,000 miles in three months repeating a sub-2000 mile roundtrip.

I missed yoga. That said, I found myself spending my limited exercise time on less-fun and less-body-friendly activities – hello dreadmill – thinking I was maximizing my calorie burn. You see, even though I felt I was getting more toned and I was losing weight practicing yoga (and in fairness, playing tennis 2+ times per week), Sparkpeople.com and similar websites told me I was burning a lowly 200 calories per hour. Less than 1/2 a Starbucks scone. So I kept skipping yoga in favor of known, but less enjoyable, calorie burners.

Finally, Monday I got it together and headed to a 10 am yoga class. I thought it would be a good toning supplement to tennis and the dreadmill. I also decided to attempt to discover the real burn of hot hatha. With my big ol Polar watch strapped to my wrist and chest strap tucked under my sports bra I headed off. I recorded the calorie burn from both my walk to/from the yoga studio (about 1 mile) and the 1-hour class. The result? . . . .wait for it . . .

A Hell yeah! inspiring 739 calories. 587 calories from the class and 152 from the one-mile speed walk to/from my office and class. This beats tennis class by more than 200 calories for the exact same amount of time.

So guess where I’m headed today?

A Week Without Sugar: What I Learned

My week without sugar challenge has finally come to an end.  I made it all the way through with only 1 tiny slip-up in the form of a total 1/2 teaspoon of honey I ate with some amazing cheese at Matt’s at the Market Friday night, before remembering that I wasn’t supposed to be eating sugar.  Woops! So I have to give myself an A- on the challenge 😉 

For anyone thinking of engaging in something similar, here’s what I learned:

  • I thought about sugar, and chocolate specifically, 40 times more than I do when sugar is not forbidden.
  • I experienced low energy the afternoon of the second day of the challenge, which was not cool.
  • I did not lose a single pound, probably because instead of satisfying my craving for a little piece of dark chocolate or a cookie, I compensated with allowed items like fruit (including dried apricots – DANGER, DANGER) and low-fat cheese.

My take-away.  I seriously doubt I’m a sugar addict since I didn’t get the DTs or any other horrifying withdrawal symptoms.  That said, forbidding any food – sugar, carbs, fat, whatever – just makes you want it more.  You’re better off satisfying your craving in moderation because if you don’t you’ll eat twice as much trying to get rid of it with something else.  The French way really is the best way: Eat good, wholesome food in moderation.

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Gettin Hot – Hatha and Vinyasa Style

Here’s the thing, I know that strength training is HUGELY beneficial and that you’re supposed to get at least 2 sessions in per week, but weight-lifting is very, very, very boring to me and I’m remedial at it at bestSo I’ve been checking off my weekly strength sessions via pilates, which I love.  But since I’ve been doing it for over a year, I need to shake things up.  So when I jumped on-board Amanda’s 3 Changes Challenge one of my challenges was to do one non-pilates strength session per week.

Enter Power Vinyasa – caliente.  My first tangle with hot yoga was in Vancouver during Jim’s and my Olympic adventure.   I engaged in 3 one-hour hot hatha sessions during my week in Vancouver and became addicted to how it stretched me out and took all the aches and pains away.  I had been meaning to check out Urban Yoga Spa in downtown Seattle for a while, so when a tennis buddy said she was interested and with the 3 Changes Challenge in mind, I figured no time like the present. 

Our first two sessions were both hot hatha style, focusing on flexibility and balance.  The first was a Sunday 1 1/2 hour test of endurance.  I felt a bit dizzy twice but made it through the entire session and felt revitalized afterwards.  I did however, pull a rookie maneuver and overstretched my hamstrings – ouch!  Our second session was last night – hot hatha hour – for the after-work crew.  Packed, a bit faster, a bit more challenging, but still a super flexibility workout and no downward-dog in site. 

This morning, it was time to add some power – Power Vinyasa that is.  One hour focusing on strength and balance in a hot, hot, hot room.  I woke up at the unearthly hour of 6am (this is a big deal for me people, my alarm usually goes off around 7:30 and I roll begrudgingly out of bed at 8 – luckily I set my own work hours or I would be in serious trouble).  In 30 minutes, I rushed to get dressed, brush my teeth, make my lunch, grab my 18 bags of stuff for the studio and the office, and drive downtown.  5 minutes before class time, my mat was rolled out, my lululemon mat towel was rolled out and I was stretching and hydrating.  Then the games began. 

Power Vinyasa is fast.  So if it’s your first time, be prepared to fall behind, and you know what?  That’s totally cool.  Everyone really is focused on their individual practice and there’s no judging going on (I don’t think).  We moved from forward folds, to backbends, to downward dogs, to planks, to side planks, to an amazing number of warrior twos, to chatterundas and back again (not necessarily in that order).  Our tree poses went straight into flying something or others and when we headed down to our mats for the calmer portion of the class 1/2 of a pilates stomach series was snuck in.  By the end of the class, I had reaffirmed that yes, yoga can be a serious strength workout.  I also felt energized and relaxed at the same time! 

Extra bonus, I was showered, dressed, make-up on, hair done and out of the locker room in 30 minutes, 1/2 my usual time at home.  I rolled into the office at 8:59 am, a record.  Hmmm . . . I think this could become my new Tues/Thurs ritual.

Lookin for some headbands perfect for hot yoga and other fitness goodies? Check out RunToTheFinish’s Giveaway.

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Sugar Withdrawal

 My nutritionist suspects that I may have a slight sugar addiction.  She came to this conclusion when she read my food journal and noticed that I tend to eat sugar in the form of cookie dough, cookies or chocolate 3 times a day.  Personally, as it’s usually small amounts, I don’t see why that’s a problem.

But, I’m a sucker for a challenge, so when she asked me to commit to a personal challenge and swear off all “obvious” sugar for a week, I said ok.  What exactly does this mean, you ask?  No sugar, no honey, no desserts, no foods in which sugar is higher than 5th in the ingredient list – goodbye Kashi Go Lean Crunch – no sucrose, no sugar alcohols – goodbye gum – no artificial sweeteners.  Fructose, in the form of whole or dried fruit is allowed.  THANK GOODNESS!

To be honest, I really didn’t think this was going to be very hard and yesterday went off without a hitch.  I did eat a bit too much dried fruit, i.e. 10 WHOLE DRIED APRICOTS (which is 2 serv. by the way), but, c’est la vie.

Today is a different story.  Around 3pm I hit low-energy.  I haven’t had that happen in years.  As I had a lunch of leftovers of Milanese chicken, a little mashed potatoes and green beans for lunch there was no excuse for it.  Hmmm, as visions of chocolate danced through my head . . . I blamed the lack of sugar! 

My old afternoon energy crash cure used to be a can of regular coke – yes, regular coke.  Not an option today.  So, in order to remedy this tragedy, I set off to Organic to Go and scored the last fruit cup of the day (at half-off no less).

Organic to Go Fruit Cup

Organic to Go to the Rescue!

Strawberries, pineapple, and grapes, oh my!  Did it help?  Yes, yes indeed.

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Dieting Revelations

 
 

The Dreaded Scale

The Dreaded Scale

 Confession:

  • My entry into dieting was at 13. 
  •  By age 14, I knew how to drop 5 pounds in 3 days by eating nothing but apples, oranges, and 3 eggs per day.
  • At age 15 I tried my first liquid diet – I lasted 5 days before the nuns at my boarding school found out and made all of us on the “diet” eat solid food.
  • I’m 5 ft. 7 1/2 inches tall and yet, even at 115-120 lbs I was rarely 100% happy with my figure.
  • The best I ever looked was my last year in college.  I weighed 127 lbs (my highest weight in college ), worked out 2+ hours a day and when I walked nothing jiggled.  Was I happy with my body?  HELL yeah!  I was totally stoked! 
The Good Ole Days

The Good Ole Days

Eating problem, you ask?  No.  I hate throwing up, so never fell in the bulimia trap, I never had the self-discipline to be anorexic and I’ve always been to lazy to be exercise bulimic.  The formative years of my life were in the body obsessed 80s, a time before people were told that you’re beautiful no matter what your size, etc.  It was the time of Cindy Crawford, Christie Brinkley, Claudia Schiffer, and Kelly LeBrock.  These women weren’t heroine thin – they were HOT!  And for a girl with a fast metabolism and an hourglass figure, their look was almost obtainable. So for the past X no. of years I’ve watched my weight, dieted when necessary and always known the calories of most foods I ate, even when not paying attention.  

In recent years, I’ve battled against metabolism slowdown, read nutrition and health info. nonstop, flirted with different exercise regimes and most recently, consulted with a nutritionist. 

But you know what?  I’m tired of always thinking about food.  I’m exhausted by not eating when I’m hungry.  In other words, I’m OVER IT.  

Here’s what I’ve learned.  I hope it will help fast-track your own learning process if you find yourself stuck in similar patterns: 

  • Staying thin is a life-long endeavor.  You cannot diet down to a weight and stay there if you revert to your old eating habits.  Sad but true.
  • Moderation really is key.
  • Tune in to your body.  If you’re hungry eat.  If you’re not hungry, stop eating.  It doesn’t matter that you still have 4 forkfuls of the best chocolate cake ever on your plate – just STOP.
  • Get rid of the junk food.  It isn’t helping your weight or your overall health.  There really is a difference between good and bad calories.  In other words, read labels and if there is anything on the ingredient list you can’t define – skip it.
  • Ditch the splenda, the equal, the sweet-n-low, the sugar free gum, the aspartame.  Artificial sweeteners can actually make you hungry because they are sweeter than sugar.  Be like the French, sugar in moderation defined by the easily measurable sugar cube.  Ditch the sugar “grains.”
  • Eating should be pleasurable, not stress-inducing.
  • EXERCISE.  Thin, fat or somewhere in between, if we want to live long we need to exercise and that means cardio and strength training.  Find several things you love and mix it up.  For me this means, tennis, pilates, hot yoga and maybe taking up ballet again someday soon.
  • Get out there and live life.  I don’t know about you, but food rarely enters my thoughts when I’m walking on the beach, biking on the boardwalk or checking out the latest festival or play in my neighborhood.  The opposite holds true when I’m hanging out at home. 

Any other suggestions?  Please share so we can all learn from each other. 

So, I have a new focus these days and new goals: 

  • Exercise for heart health, muscle tone and flexibility.  You know, things that will help me live a long and active life.
  • Eat for nourishment and health.  As natural and organic as possible and fine-tuned for the health issues I already have (slight anemia and low Vitamin D).  So yes, I’ll still be working on getting in those veggies.
  • Listen to my body.  Stop eating when I’m not hungry, eat when I am.  Yep, this is the KISS (keep it simple stupid) method.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes and any discoveries along the away.  And as a parting note, I just have to say THERE ARE THINGS THAT TASTE AS GOOD AS THIN FEELS! 

  

 

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