Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hydrogenated Oil / Saturated Fats -- Shopping for Healthier Eating

Sometimes I stop and think about all the shortening I've eaten in my lifetime and I shudder. I shouldn't look backwards, though. Knowledge has given me an insight to the dangers of hydrogenated oil and I'm excited to know what I know now. You can be too!

Saturated Fat and Hydrogenated Oils are in much of the food we buy -- maybe even in the food we prepare. It's good to learn what they are, the dangers they bring to the body, and how to avoid them completely. Yes, it's possible to avoid them completely!

Let's start with Saturated Fat. (I know in English class those words wouldn't really get to be capitalized, but for the sake of this post and standing out amidst other words, I'm letting it slide). There are healthy Saturated Fats and unhealthy Saturated Fats. Saturated fats from animals are not healthy for your body. These fats are hard (or solid) at room temperature or (or obviously in the cold) -- usually liquid when hot. It's the marbleized fat in meat that you can see (and often can't see) -- is also found in eggs and dairy products. The firmer the dairy product (cheese, butter, cream) the more saturated fat. Healthy saturated fats are found in plant foods like coconuts and raw cacao.

Hydrogenated Oil (or even Partially Hydrogenated Oil) is oil that has been tampered with to be able to have a longer shelf life than oil has in its liquid state. Hydrogenation is the process of heating an oil and passing hydrogen bubbles through it. Think of fluffy shortening or tubs of margarine. Fully hydrogenated oil becomes a solid (a fat), but if the hydrogenation process is stopped part way, the oil is Partially Hydrogenated and has a consistency like butter that's been out of the refrigerator for awhile. These are both trans-fats.

You can look at other websites to see the dangers of Hydrogenated Oil. Just know that they cause a host of serious problems for your body. You can grow up eating them, thinking "This is fine for my body" like someone can smoke for years without any problems. However, the problems will be transpiring within your body and you may not know until it's too late. Over the past decade, however, I think the problems have become more evident, with obesity and heart disease on the rise -- at lower and lower ages.

I'll be back to give you shopping tips on how to avoid these. My kids are needing me now. TTFN!

I'm back! Sorry it took so long. Before I get to the shopping tips, here's a good article on these harmful fats that fill in some of the gaps I may have left open. for the shopping tips.

First of all, read the labels until you get familiar with what's in your food. Look for the word "hydrogenated" (whether partially or fully) and if you see it, don't buy it. Many items that don't have labels (donuts, fast food, animal products) have harmful fats too. If you want to keep animal products in your diet, treat them like the condiment on the side of plate instead of the main dish (and only have them once a week or better yet, once a month -- you'll be surprised at how well you can live without them).

Here are some foods that commonly are made with hydrogenated fat:

biscuits / breads
peanut butter
frozen meals
fried foods
processed dairy products.

When I shop for items that normally have hydrogenated fats, I buy them from the health food store (or health food section of the grocery store) because they will tell you right on the box "No hydrogenated fats." Many kinds of breads have hydrogenated fat too. Check the label. So many people are concerned with this now that the food companies are proud to make their "No hydrogenated" claims. Some companies are actually changing how they make their food items. I've recently found this true for high fructose corn syrup in bread (yay!)

Other companies are doing just the opposite. They are hiding their hydrogenated information from you by stating things like "cooked with vegetable oil" when that vegetable oil can be hydrogenated. Some break up the ingredient list and describe the filling or some other component in such detail that by the time you get to the end of the list and see "hydrogenated" you may not think there is very much. Not true. Or they say "0% Trans Fat" which can just mean it has less than 0.5 g. per serving -- not completely void of it. Also, hydrogenated oils are not considered trans-fats, so 0% trans-fat is just pertaining to the partially hydrogenated oil, not the fully hydrogenated oil. So be careful with the companies that are trying to make you think their foods have healthier fats, but they really don't. I find that if I buy organic food, for the most part, they're using healthier sugars and fats. (Not always, but 90+% of the time they do).

Start buying peanut butter that requires refrigeration. You may not like stirring it at first, but the fact that it separates means that they didn't put any hydrogenated fat in it to keep it firm (as well as preservatives to make it okay to leave in the cupboard). Of the health food store brands, my favorite is Marantha, but Costco sells an organic peanut butter now that is creamier and doesn't require much stirring after the very first time. My kids seem to like this one best.

While it's always better just to eat whole foods than to buy processed food, if you are going to buy processed, make it a healthier version. For example, instead of buying Wheat Thins, buy Nature's Path Crispy Wheats. They really do taste the same (if not better). Classic Rounds are the same as Ritz Crackers. I don't buy these often, but my kids love it when I do. Shop the sales. I've found with health food that their specials usually last all month instead of just for a week.

Alternatives to animal milk (almond milk is my favorite) are healthier for you. I still wouldn't drink almond, soy or rice milk as often as I used to drink cow's milk. I use it mainly for cooking or for an occasional bowl of Kashi cereal. It's a processed food and I try to keep those to a minimum. But if you're trying to change one habit at a time, just take your usual versions of fat intake and change it up to save your body the health problems that result from the intake of the bad fats.

Another great idea is to make more of your food in your own kitchen instead of trusting the food companies to do it for you. You can control not only the kind of fat, but also the amount. I've substituted oil in many recipes for butter or shortening and often cut the amount by 1/2 or 1/3 by adding in another form of moisture (fruit).

Stop buying margarine or butter. Butter is the lesser of the evils imho, but butter has saturated fat (or should I say "IS" saturated fat) and margarine is hydrogenated -- both not good for your body. Smart Balance and a few others are made w/o hydrogenated fat, but I think the health food store brands are much better for you -- such as Earth Balance or Canoleo. They don't have all the preservatives that Smart Balance has. Better yet (there's always a better yet, huh? :)), stop using butter altogether or at least cut back on it. No matter how you buy it, it's not a whole food and has no macro-nutritional value. It's much better to get your fats from nuts, seeds, and grains.

That will be my final note. If you can cut out all these unnecessary fats and just have a handful of nuts or add seeds to a salad or something instead, you'll be even better off. There are so many healthy ways to meet your fat needs. Raw cashews are super yummy if you've never tried them. You'll never miss all that other stuff if you have a stash of those nearby.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Workout confusion

I'm not sure why, but for the past few years (I was going to write 2 or 3, but that's a few, right?) I've been sporatic about my workout plans. It's been driving me crazy. Except for a few focused rotations, I'll do some workouts for a few weeks, then will get bored or distracted and move onto another plan (or non-plan, just doing whatever I can talk myself into that morning). The best I did was my periodization plan I did with Cathe's workouts for 6 weeks, and my few Slim Series rotations getting me ready for my trips to Beachbody.

I used to plan out rotations for 4-6 weeks -- or even 12 and would stick with them religiously. Nothing got in my way. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor even a vacation or sickness would keep me from sticking with my workouts. (Okay, maybe a few illnesses did, but even as sick as I'd be, I'll still do a light yoga video or meditation CD so I could feel like I was doing something).

I remember lugging my full-size step and risers into my mother-in-law's house (along with weights) and doing my workouts before anyone else got up. One Christmas vacation day, I slept a little too late and had several nieces and nephews joining me for a Tae Bo workout -- it was pretty fun. I also remember calling a hotel before a family reunion to see if they had a TV and VCR I could use in their fitness room. They didn't, but they told me I could bring mine in (we had a TV/VCR combo we plugged into a car for trips -- long before those little DVD players were so hip -- which btw we've never purchased -- we just make our kids look out the window and enjoy the drive now). But anyway, each morning of this reunion, I'd lug the TV into the fitness room from my car so I could keep up with my rotation.

What ever happened to that dedication? I think I started questioning my sanity at one point - -like does it really matter if I miss a few days? Well, yes and no. No, probably not in the overall scheme of things -- I could pick up where I left off, but sometimes my cardio capacity would have faltered or my strength and flexibility gains. However, mentally, I do think it makes a big difference. Once you break that stride, it's hard to get back into it at the same pace as before, or even to get back into it at all.

I think I broke my stride when my allergies and asthma got really severe 3 1/2 years ago. It was before I learned about raw foods and my allergies were controlling my life. I was frustrated that I couldn't keep up with a rotation, so I learned to be happy with what I could do whether it was light yoga or just a little cardio. That's healthy to learn to go with the flow, but I miss my old pace. I've never really regained it. Even when I did my 16 week periodization Cathe plan, I was regretting it at times. I went through a few slumps of "Do I really have to keep doing this?"

Another contributing factor may be that I have so many workouts to choose from that I'm often wondering if I should switch gears to something else. I have yet to find the perfect plan for incorporating cardio (step, kickboxing, and rebounding), yoga, weights (traditional and functional fitness), and Pilates without spending 2 hours a day doing it (and feeling a bit scattered). I have to narrow it down and that gets frustrating. Yes, I want it all!

I've thought of getting rid of some of my workouts so I'm not longing to do something else once I've started another plan. But whenever I've done that in the past, I end up buying or trading for those workouts again. There's actually a Video Fitness term for that -- it's called trader's remorse or seller's remorse. So I'm better off keeping something I will likely want to do again.

Hmm . . . I really think the key is (think, think, think) to keep my eating on track. When I don't, I get sick or I want to sleep in more. That's the biggest interrupter to my workouts. I get pickier about my workouts and tend to bail on what I'm doing. So I think I'll go with that for now -- come up with a plan that I really think I will love for even just the next 2 weeks (until Thanksgiving), eat my best, get to bed at a 1/2 decent hour and see if that will keep me happy and going for awhile.

My biggest regret over the past few years is that my cardio capacity is nothing like what it used to be. I want to be able to do an hour long advanced step workout without wanting to quit at any point. I want to even go on for another 1/2 hour if I feel like it. And boy do I miss sweating. I just don't sweat as much as I used to because I don't work as hard. So that will be my goal for the next 2 weeks.

My plan will go something like this:

W -- Yoga
Th - Cardio
F -- Weights
S -- Cardio
S -- Rest

M -- Cardio
T -- Yoga
W -- Cardio
Th -- Weights
F -- Cardio
S -- Yoga
S -- Rest

M -- Cardio
T -- Weights
W -- Cardio
Th -- Yoga & a nice walk (Thanksgiving Day)
F -- Yoga & walk
S -- Yoga
S -- Rest

I'm just allowing for keeping it easy while traveling. Gone are the days of bringing my step and weights with me!

I'll be back to report my progress. TTFN!

P.S. (If you want to check out this workout planner program that I have pictured at the top, here's the free trial for Raquel's Workout Log
I downloaded it a few weeks ago, but haven't had a chance to fiddle with it yet. I need to though before my free trial is over! I'll get back and share my impressions later on. So much to talk about, so little time!)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cathe's Shock Training System video previews

Cathe Friedrich's long awaited weight training workouts -- Shock Training System -- are still not available to be shipped, but a few are on YouTube to preview. I don't know if you read my previous post about STS, but it is a periodization system with 3 mesocycles. My favorite method of weight training is muscle endurance (or mesocycle 1 in this system). Each of the available previews thus far are from the first mesocycle -- yay!

There will be 4 different workouts for each body focus in each mesocycle. These are all from week one.

Here they are for your viewing pleasure. The leg workout looks great!

Chest, Shoulders & Biceps -- part 1

Chest, Shoulders & Biceps -- part 2

Back & Triceps -- part 1

Back & Triceps -- part 2


What do you think of that green top? Pretty bright! It reminds me of the lime popsicles I used to pick out when the ice cream man drove by our house. :)

These dvds are supposed to ship before Christmas. I'm excited to finally do them!

Click here to visit Cathe dot Com.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Milestones with Eating

Maybe I talk about eating way too much. It's just a reflection on my thoughts. I think about it far too often too. But I love when my thoughts are a recognition on how I've progressed -- how I've improved from one year to another, from one season to the next.

A little over a year ago, I realized that I'd succeeded on taking my first vacation without gaining weight -- well, at least since I had my last baby. Before my late-30's, I was able to maintain my weight for a few weeks of vacationing or holiday eating as long as I exercised. Since I had my last baby at 38, that's no longer been the case. In fact, I can't even go a whole weekend at home without watching what I eat without gaining weight. My body is that sensitive.

Other milestones I watch for are certain times of year when I yearn for certain foods and finally break that cycle. I used to think I needed pumpkin cheesecake on my birthday. I love cheesecake and Costco sells the Cheesecake Factory's pumpkin cheesecake in the fall just before my birthday. For years, I would buy it and would love every single bite. My family didn't eat as much of it as I did, so I'd end up eating it for a week or so afterwards. (This photo brings back memories. The cheesecake is pre-sliced at intervals on each side of the whipped cream mounds. It breaks away perfectly, which is wonderful. But I never felt wonderful AFTER eating it, just before and during).

Last year, I had a sample of the cheesecake at Costco just before my birthday. Within about 10 minutes, I had a headache and felt tired. I knew it was a sugar headache. I used to get them in the late afternoons all the time when I ate a lot of sugar. That somehow propelled me into not buying the cheesecake for my birthday (yes, I know I haven't eaten dairy for years, but I still was making these exceptions for these certain occasions). It wasn't easy. I eyed those boxes of pumpkin cheesecake for as long as Costco sold them. I even 1/2 hoped they'd clearance them out at the end of the season so I could justify a sale purchase (I do weird things like that -- used to do it with Breyer's Ice Cream way too often).

This year, I actually forgot about the cheesecake until right now. Pretty exciting!

I used to have to make goals not to eat candy before and during Halloween (and most definitely afterwards too), but this year, it wasn't a struggle at all. I don't think it was hard last year either. Refined foods -- especially in wrappers -- rarely tempt me. If Andes mints were a Halloween candy, maybe I'd think twice, but that doesn't seem to be in abundance until Christmas time.

I'm really hoping this will be the first year I make it through the holidays without losing control of my eating or without gaining weight. Last year, I did really well up until a few days before Christmas, continued on until a few days after Christmas and somehow gained 8 pounds (the national holiday weight gain average by the way!) I've had all sorts of strategies to keep me from faltering in the past. I'm hoping I will do it effortlessly this year.

I'll keep you posted as Thanksgiving and Christmas grow nearer. TTFN!