Monthly Archives: May 2012

Fitness Article : The Ultimate Diet (Happiness and Longevity) Part III

To explore the impact of diet on our lives. We would normally try to look at longevity and quality of life. One of the oldest and healthiest populations on earth are the Okinawans, who on average live up to 78-86 years of age. And they get older in a much better state. The statistics reveal a significantly lower risk of heart attack and stroke, cancer, osteoporosis, Alzheimers. And improved quality of life, living with full functionality like a person 30 years younger, with lucid minds, physically strong bodies and active sex lives (without the use of Viagra). So what are the secrets of the Okinawans ? I would venture a guess its 50% based on the food they eat and exercise as well as 50% (maybe much more) on their outlook in life.

Diet

We have seen most faddish diets, that promote low carbohydrates, high protein and sometimes even ridiculous one like the grapefruit diet and many other fad diets that are difficult to stick to. The traditional Okinawan diet of consists of about large and frequent portions of vegetables,  fruits, cereals and soy products. Okinawans take fish weekly and meat and dairy products very sparingly. Their diet is low in calories and contains a lot of vegetables with carbohydrates, protein, and fat providing 85%, 9% and 6% of total calories. This is in huge contrast to the average consumption of meat in the United States, which averaged 224 pounds in 2010 compared to the average Okinawan who consumes around 40 pounds of meat.

I am not eschewing a vegan lifestyle, but maybe our consumption of meat and calories are in excess comparably. And it isnt that the Okinawans are genetically long lived. In the 20th century, 100,000 Okinawans migrated to Brazil, where they adopted the Brazilian diet which rich in meat. This actually reduced their average lifespan by 17 years.

Also, fast foods started appearing with the set up of American Air bases in the 20th century, the obesity levels, cardiovascular diseases and premature deaths of the young reached higher levels in Okinawa.

Exercise

Cardiovascular disease and hypertension, symptoms of a developed countries woes are highly prevalent. Whereas healthcare has moved in tandem, we seem to forget that the quality of life is what counts, not how long you live.

Exercise is of paramount importance, yet now in todays cubicled rat race, many people are hardly getting enough exercise with the rich diet, making it a recipe for disaster. Looking back at our intrepid Okinawans. They practice tai-chi, the art of respiration which is found to greatly reduce stress levels and promote well being and aids in stress reduction.They also walk several kilometers daily, travel on mountain bikes (Yes, even the 70 year olds), practice karate, kendo, dance, and work on their personal gardens.

All these provide a stark contast to the gym environment, where people achieve a merciless efficiency in training their bodies and constantly pushing way past their limits to get the perfect swimsuit look and what we think is beneficial to us might be done in such a stressful way that it might bring more harm than good.

Outlook in life

Finally and most importantly, I find that the main indicator of a healthy, long and fulfilled life like that the Okinawans achieve is through the simple things, their outlook. The people of Okinawa are linked in an intricate social network (not Facebook), that makes them feel connected to the environment and people they are with. They achieve a sense of importance and spirituality and awe of life that we often take for granted. When they take part in physical activity,it is not an isolated-something-you-have-to-prove-kind (like run a marathon under 4 hours thingy), but activity them makes them feel as part of active members of the community instead of old dull people.

They form supportive links and have a positive outlook towards life. Resulting in  low levels of stress and low depression levels. Their lives revolve around connectivity (not of the virtual sort) with real connections with people who love and encourage them in life. This I find is the crucial thing that might be missing in our aim to strive always to be the best looking body.

It might not be the best body or best brains that we want to possess. But at the end of the day,its the meaning we attach in our lives reflected by the importance we have in other peoples lives that matter, that really makes us feel and look good.

I feel the purpose we diet is not only to look good, but more importantly, to make us feel good. With our activity levels, what we eat and our day-to-day happiness all playing an integral part. Our outlook in life greatly determines on whether we succeed or fail and its far greater to be quietly happy than successful and wanting.

 

Fitness Article : The Ultimate Diet (Psychology) Part II

The data isnt pretty wikipedia states that
“The U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 1994 indicated that 59% of American men and 49% of women had BMIs over 25. Morbid obesity—a BMI of 40 or more—was found in 2% of the men and 4% of the women. The newest survey in 2007 indicates a continuation of the increase in BMI: 63% of Americans are overweight or obese, with 26% now in the obese category (a BMI of 30 or more). “

This is probably not the way you would like to evolve

With growing obesity, many people are resorting to diets and get thin quick wats to lose weight. Diet is fast becoming a mainstream dirty word, normally associated with losing weight, and waif like anorexic women or beefy men exhibiting 6-12% hyper low bodyfat achieved through a cocktail of chicken breasts, tuna, steroids and powerful fatburners.

Many people view diets as ways to manipulate the body into burning high amounts of fat, but there is a good news and bad news, the good news is that its possible to lose weight rapidly if you employ hardcore techniques that involve starvation, drugs and improper eating and then theres the bad news, that it doesnt last, one year or even 5 years down the road, you are going to have a damaged body and face struggles as you body tries swing the pendulum back to your original state.

My point is that you cant diet without permanent changes to your lifestyle, and dieting is eating more of the right things instead of eating less. We all intuitively know what is the right things to eat, toufu or burger, brown rice or white rice. But we normally take this with an attitude of invincibility, thinking that we can shrug off the chocolate bar or the extra burgers. Or even relishing in the comfort that such food brings.

The Psychology of Over Eating

We have heard of binge drinking where people drink themselves silly. But theres also binge eating where people drown (or rather down) their sorrows in food. It doesnt help that ALOT of the odds are stacked against us by food producers who spend millions creating the perfect and most addictive foods that you would like to put into your mouth to maximise the gratification and sense of addiction to fat, salt and sugar. There is no doubt that much of what we eat in restaurants or what we can find in supermarkets is fat on fat on sugar on fat with salt. Even the salads are drenched with thousand island dressing and liberally sprinkled with bacon bits, because this is the thing that makes food SEXY.

Never let your Food be your Drug

If losing weight seems like a huge task to you, chances are that the greater your sense of shame you link with your appearance, the more you’ll be inclined to feel hopeless about losing weight. When you find you cant break the hold of food over your life or cant seem to take the effort to exercise, this breaks your confidence and spirals into other areas in your life.

That snickers bar just had the last laugh.

Psychology and Proper Eating

The best way to learn how to control our urges is to realise that eating creates positive emotions. There is no doubt about it, when you reach for that Hagen Daaz ice cream after your break up, you are reaching for an instant lift me, a sense of power and certainty that when you have the first bite you would immediately feel good. Its an instant Prozac, just that it kills your confidence and youself ultimately in the long run.

Emotional eating is not the way. One way to prevent that is to change your perspective about food. Do you eat to live or live to eat, make distinctions about food. Is food a fuel or is it a drug to you. Would you want high performance petrol in your vehicle or would you want sloppy oil coursing through your veins. Choose a positive way to view eating and youself, merge a positive self image with proper eating. Associate health and vitality with overeating instead of pleasure.

If you are guilty of emotional eating. Here are some ways you can prevent it.

  1. Learn to recognise when you are overeating and where you do it most. In the office, or on your couch.
  2. Determine the situations and feelings that you go through that precede the bouts of overeating 
  3. Ask yourself HARD questions and try to find out why you are doing this, the answer is usually deeper than because this tastes good so i would like to eat it. If proper thought be given, your reason should be more of “Finding solace or comfort in food” , or “venting frustrations by eating”. 
  4. Allow the feelings to sink in, and learn to recognise them. Appreciate that they are giving you the message and that you are doing what you think is best at that time to make yourself feel good.
  5. Also realise that you have to let go of the feeling and find methods to prevent yourself from getting into such situation. Choose alternate behaviours or avoid going to places that you think you would over-eat. 
  6. Reinforce and reward yourself for the positive action that you take, one less chocolate bar per day, cut down take small steps in reducing your overall intake. 
  7. Find support groups and exercise groups and learn from people who have taken massive action and succeeded, and learn from the ones that most resemble your situation. 

It isn’t easy but its definitely worth it


The only true way that you can lose weight and make it stay off is making adjustments to the way you think and the things you do. According to Einstein ” You cant solve a problem with the same mindset that created it”. Similarly, we need to create a new mindset, that would install the habit of binge eating and the cycle of obesity, hopelessness and low self-esteem.
Learn to eat things that are good for you and develop the discipline to eat them. You will reach a stage where your body would reject the junk food physically (in some cases people would feel nauseous when consuming foods that are high in oil, fat, sugar or salt) and start accepting the healthy foods you eat are tastier. That is when you have installed the proper eating habits and it would be easier to carry on eating healthy permanently from there.  It isnt easy but it worth doing.

Fitness Article : The Ultimate Diet (Energy and Happiness) Part I

Its very intuitive, that you are what you eat. And recently studies have proven that foods affect our mood as well. The study which was done by in 1983 which involved 184 adults that either consumed a protein-rich or carbohydrate-rich meal. After two hours, their mood and performance were tested.

The effects of the meal differed across gender and age. For example, females reported greater sleepiness after a carbohydrate meal whereas males reported greater calmness. In addition, older participants (40 years or older) showed a decline in tests of sustained selective attention after a carbohydrate-rich lunch.

Are you getting enough energy or are you going to crash and burn ?

Food affects our energy levels

Food mainly affects our mood and energy levels as well. Our sleep cycle (circadian rhythms) influence our energy levels and memory. Most mammals are diurnal, however we show clear preferences for energy levels during certain times of the day according to preference, this is affected by food choice. “Early birds” feel most productive the first part of the day and their food choices become particularly important during lunch and throughout the afternoon. “Night Owls” feel most energetic later in the day and should pay attention to their breakfast choices as they can increase or decrease energy levels and influence memory.

An important factor to consider is also the glycemic index as well, which is how quickly the food gets transferred to energy. This is on a scale of 1-100, at while the higher the scale the faster it gets absorbed by the body. Pure glucose has a glycemic index of 100 which means it immediately can be used as a source of energy for the body. Eat too much of foods with high glycemic index and experts at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance , or DBSA, note rapid changes in blood sugar often cause elevations in mood and energy levels. These elevations tend to be in short bursts of of time, and are followed by a crash which produces lower mood and loss of energy. And all mothers can attest to that after their kid goes crazy then cranky after a candy bar.

Food Affects our Moods

There are many foods that affect moods of such a few are interesting

Chocolate is like Cannabis

Chocolates contains a number of potentially psychoactive chemicals which stimulate the brain in the same way as certain drugs (like cannabis) does.  Nevertheless, these substances are present in chocolate in very low concentrations. However, chocolate can serve as a powerful mood enhancer amd as an ultimate comfort food, which might explain why it is the food of choice for people when they are unhappy. Bas thing is that it causes a insulin crash that leaves you feeling fatter and worse.

Caffeine the most socially acceptable “drug” or stimulant. Coffee is regarded as a  stimulant (in the same class of amphetamines). They enhance alertness, vigilance, and reaction time but also increases anxiety and nervousness. Caffeine helps in promoting alertness, memory and is a strong antioxidant but has a host of effects including anxiety, loss of done density and rapid heart rate increases. (Top 15 effects of Coffee)

Omega 3 Fatty Acids influences mood, behaviour and personality. According to a study by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, low levels of  omega-3 fatty acids are linked to depression, pessimism and impulsivity. They can also play a role in major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse and attention deficit disorder.

Iron and Folic Acid – Iron deficiency as a result of anaemia can result in depressed mood, lethargy and problems with attention and decreased ability to exercise. A low iron status is most common among menstruating women , children, vegetarians, and people who follow a diet.

Takbo Printipe... Takbo!

Improve your stamina, strength, flexibility and coordination

One of the main problems with maintaining any form of exercise is that if you don’t actually like what you’re doing, then you’re unlikely to continue with it in the long term. If your exercise activity isn’t enjoyable, your motivation will soon wane and it will be easy to find an excuse not to dig out your training shoes from the bottom of your bag. So, here are a few alternatives to get you started…

Alternative exercise activities: what to look for

Ideally you should get involved in as wide a range of enjoyable exercise pursuits as possible, so that you will benefit from improving your staminastrength, flexibility and coordination — which are the main components of fitness. When you’re thinking about leisure activities to do, run through the following checklist and try to choose activities that maintain and develop…

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Fitness Article : Running Makes you Smarter

There is a post on the New York Times about exercise making you smarter. I guess we always known people who exercise excessively as Richard-Simmons type happy and non-stop irritating or some bulgingly muscular meat-head that looks increasingly in a intellectual soliloquy with their biceps.

But way before all the hype and specialisation on fitness, the greatest thinkers were fit people as well. Socrates was a renowed and athletic warrior as well as one of the worlds greatest thinkers as was Marcus Aurelius . Arnold Schwartzenegger sure had street smarts as well as intelligence to be governor, despite his over bulked up body while the list of athletic and intelligent people go on. Do intelligent people become fit or does fitness lead to greater intelligence ? Here are parts of the article to answer your question

How Exercise Could Lead to a Better Brain

So, last year a team of researchers led by Justin S. Rhodes, a psychology professor at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, gathered four groups of mice and set them into four distinct living arrangements. One group lived in a world of sensual and gustatory plenty, dining on nuts, fruits and cheeses, their food occasionally dusted with cinnamon, all of it washed down with variously flavored waters. Their “beds” were colorful plastic igloos occupying one corner of the cage. Neon-hued balls, plastic tunnels, nibble-able blocks, mirrors and seesaws filled other parts of the cage. Group 2 had access to all of these pleasures, plus they had small disc-shaped running wheels in their cages. A third group’s cages held no embellishments, and they received standard, dull kibble. And the fourth group’s homes contained the running wheels but no other toys or treats.

All the animals completed a series of cognitive tests at the start of the study and were injected with a substance that allows scientists to track changes in their brain structures. Then they ran, played or, if their environment was unenriched, lolled about in their cages for several months.

Afterward, Rhodes’s team put the mice through the same cognitive tests and examined brain tissues. It turned out that the toys and tastes, no matter how stimulating, had not improved the animals’ brains.

“Only one thing had mattered,” Rhodes says, “and that’s whether they had a running wheel.” Animals that exercised, whether or not they had any other enrichments in their cages, had healthier brains and performed significantly better on cognitive tests than the other mice. Animals that didn’t run, no matter how enriched their world was otherwise, did not improve their brainpower in the complex, lasting ways that Rhodes’s team was studying. “They loved the toys,” Rhodes says, and the mice rarely ventured into the empty, quieter portions of their cages. But unless they also exercised, they did not become smarter.

Why would exercise build brainpower in ways that thinking might not? The brain, like all muscles and organs, is a tissue, and its function declines with underuse and age. Beginning in our late 20s, most of us will lose about 1 percent annually of the volume of the hippocampus, a key portion of the brain related to memory and certain types of learning.

Exercise though seems to slow or reverse the brain’s physical decay, much as it does with muscles. Although scientists thought until recently that humans were born with a certain number of brain cells and would never generate more, they now know better. In the 1990s, using a technique that marks newborn cells, researchers determined during autopsies that adult human brains contained quite a few new neurons. Fresh cells were especially prevalent in the hippocampus, indicating that neurogenesis — or the creation of new brain cells — was primarily occurring there. Even more heartening, scientists found that exercise jump-starts neurogenesis. Mice and rats that ran for a few weeks generally had about twice as many new neurons in their hippocampi as sedentary animals. Their brains, like other muscles, were bulking up.

But it was the ineffable effect that exercise had on the functioning of the newly formed neurons that was most startling. Brain cells can improve intellect only if they join the existing neural network, and many do not, instead rattling aimlessly around in the brain for a while before dying.

One way to pull neurons into the network, however, is to learn something. In a 2007 study, new brain cells in mice became looped into the animals’ neural networks if the mice learned to navigate a water maze, a task that is cognitively but not physically taxing. But these brain cells were very limited in what they could do. When the researchers studied brain activity afterward, they found that the newly wired cells fired only when the animals navigated the maze again, not when they practiced other cognitive tasks. The learning encoded in those cells did not transfer to other types of rodent thinking.

Exercise, on the other hand, seems to make neurons nimble. When researchers in a separate study had mice run, the animals’ brains readily wired many new neurons into the neural network. But those neurons didn’t fire later only during running. They also lighted up when the animals practiced cognitive skills, like exploring unfamiliar environments. In the mice, running, unlike learning, had created brain cells that could multitask.

Just how exercise remakes minds on a molecular level is not yet fully understood, but research suggests that exercise prompts increases in something called brain-derived neurotropic factor, or B.D.N.F., a substance that strengthens cells and axons, fortifies the connections among neurons and sparks neurogenesis. Scientists can’t directly study similar effects in human brains, but they have found that after workouts, most people display higher B.D.N.F. levels in their bloodstreams.

Few if any researchers think that more B.D.N.F. explains all of the brain changes associated with exercise. The full process almost certainly involves multiple complex biochemical and genetic cascades. A recent study of the brains of elderly mice, for instance, found 117 genes that were expressed differently in the brains of animals that began a program of running, compared with those that remained sedentary, and the scientists were looking at only a small portion of the many genes that might be expressed differently in the brain by exercise.

Whether any type of exercise will produce these desirable effects is another unanswered and intriguing issue. “It’s not clear if the activity has to be endurance exercise,” says the psychologist and neuroscientist Arthur F. Kramer, director of the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois and a pre-eminent expert on exercise and the brain. A limited number of studies in the past several years have found cognitive benefits among older people who lifted weights for a year and did not otherwise exercise. But most studies to date, and all animal experiments, have involved running or other aerobic activities.

Whatever the activity, though, an emerging message from the most recent science is that exercise needn’t be exhausting to be effective for the brain. When a group of 120 older men and women were assigned to walking or stretching programs for a major 2011 study, the walkers wound up with larger hippocampi after a year. Meanwhile, the stretchers lost volume to normal atrophy. The walkers also displayed higher levels of B.D.N.F. in their bloodstreams than the stretching group and performed better on cognitive tests.

In effect, the researchers concluded, the walkers had regained two years or more of hippocampal youth. Sixty-five-year-olds had achieved the brains of 63-year-olds simply by walking, which is encouraging news for anyone worried that what we’re all facing as we move into our later years is a life of slow (or not so slow) mental decline.

 

Mind Article : Its OK to fail (But not OK to give up).

One Question if you are a parent or if you have been a kid before .

“How many times does a child need to fail at walking before you let him/her give up learning to walk ?”

How many times do your have to fail before you gave on learning to walk ?

Highly rhetorical. But ponder a while. When you were a child, at no point did your parents let you stop walking just because you failed once or a hundred times. They knew it was important that you learn to walk, and you knew it was important then. And back then, you never gave up, giving up was not an alternative.

So when it comes to something we know is innately important, we know never to give up. Because its ok if we fail, to fail is to be human, to fail is to learn to succeed. To fail is to plant seeds and stepping stones to success. Failure is feedback and learning to fail , learn and dust yourself off for a second round is being one step closer to succeeding, making success that bit sweeter.

Learning to walk is no different from learning to be fit. Its necessary in life if you want to lead a fulfilling one, and that it doesnt matter if you fail as long as you keep trying. We succeed because of the tremendous amount of satisfaction we get from sucking a little bit less each time and getting a little bit further in life.  It’s fun to fail in different ways, trying different paths and strategies until we finally discover the challenge and joy of having a fit body.

Getting in shape is no different from learning to walk – if you sucked at getting healthy last time, you dont give up on life and stop living and smoke a pack of cigarettes a day while snarfing down Big Macs. If you tried to count calories and starve yourself while running on a treadmill to get in shape and failed miserably, then try again and try something else.

The only true failure is not trying. And you would be ashamed that those who are born with lesser genetics or lesser privileges are succeeding not because they are better but because they are not afraid to fail . But like in learning how to walk, they never gave up because failure is not an alternative, and we have it in ourselves to do it.

We all have times we fail, but to truly fail is to give up. We can walk without legs but we cant walk without trying.

Mind Article : Believe in Belief

Its a tongue twister of an title , but its something quite dear to us and something we hold on to very very tightly and sometimes are willing to give up our lives for, its called belief. Have the right belief and life wont be able to knock the wind out of you. But have the wrong belief and your next half of your life might be more unbearable than it can be.

Whether you can or cant depends on you.

Why is belief important in fitness. Can you just believe yourself to fitness ? Obviously there has to be action. But belief drives motivation and motivation drives action. Riddle me this

“Which person would lose 10 kg in a year and keep it off for the next 10 years ? A person who believes he is a currently fat person trying to lose weight. Or a person who believes that he is actually out of shape and that he is not actually a fat person but someone who has gained that amount of weight from neglect and wants to do something about it. “

There are important distinctions in this, and this is not mere wordplay, if you believe you are a fat person trying to lose weight, its very likely you would put it back on because you believed that you are fat to begin with.

And all the rattle in your brain would be resisting the fitness plans that you make – wanting you to remain true to your nature, which is that of a fat person, so you would most likely give up when a twinky or Snickers Bar appears at the end of your runs or walks.

If you believe you are a person who gained an enormous amount of weight by neglect, than you are admitting to yourself that you have let neglect get the better of you. So whatever you do when you plan would be further reinforced by yourself gaining back your original identity.

You are what you believe in, and when you start planting the seeds that you can do more and believe that things are possible, then its when fitness would do its magic. Adopt the right and healthy beliefs about fitness, and realise that you are a sum of your beliefs, and beliefs come from choice, and you have much greater power in deciding what you want to be and how you turn out than you think.

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