Cholesterol Wake Up Call

Yesterday, I popped online to check the wellness screening results from when I last donated blood.

After reviewing my blood type and future eligibility information, I clicked over to the cholesterol tab…and my jaw nearly hit the floor.

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My cholesterol was 275?

How was that possible? How can a vegetarian have such high cholesterol? I don’t eat butter and rarely eat cheese or eggs, I get plenty of fiber and I exercise fairly regularly – so where’s the problem? How on earth is my cholesterol 75 full points higher than it should be?

While high cholesterol can be genetic, I am looking to naturally reduce my count through nutrition before turning to a prescription.

What I’m Going to do about my High Cholesterol

Because of my new piercing, I can’t donate blood again until six months to a year have passed. I do, however, plan to schedule a cholesterol screening within two months. Since cholesterol levels can be significantly lowered within six weeks, waiting eight weeks from my high cholesterol discovery should give my body adequate time to respond to the changes I plan to implement.

  • Reduce my consumption of animal products.  Shortly after becoming vegetarian, I decided to try a vegan diet. I saw a marked difference in how I felt, but although I knew I felt better with fewer animal foods in my system, I reintroduced cheese and eggs into my diet because I felt like I was missing out on things I desperately wanted to eat. For the next eight weeks, I’d like to reduce my dairy and egg consumption to a maximum of one serving a day.
  • Get more omega-3’s. These can help increase the LDL’s (good fats) and for vegetarians, omega-3’s can be found in flax seeds and walnuts. While I typically place flax seeds in my smoothies, I’ll be bumping up the quantity to at least 2 daily servings, or, if necessary, investing in an omega-3 supplement.
  • Increase my fiber. It seems like a no-brainer – especially considering my current whole foods-based diet, but I plan to strive for more soluble and insoluble fiber in the form of oatmeal, beans, millet, wheatberries, etc…rather than the more processed grains like toast, tortillas and pasta. That’s not to say I won’t enjoy them – they just won’t be primary components of my diet.

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  • Skip the afternoon snack. You know the drill – 2 pm rolls around, quarters magically appear in your hand, you wind up with butterfingers or Sunchips from the vending machine. That’s gotta stop. If necessary, I’ll bring unprocessed snacks from home to ward off the 2 p.m. munchies: apples, which are high in pectin, a cholesterol-reducing compound, or carrots, for example.
  • Hit the gym 5 times a week. This one may be the hardest for me. I love the gym and I love exercising – don’t get me wrong…but making it consistent has been a major struggle for the last several months. I’ve been averaging 2-3 times a week, which is absolutely better than nothing – but in the interest of dropping my cholesterol, I’ll have to increase the frequency of my workouts.

In light of the new changes, I made a breakfast that included plenty of fiber (at least two grams of insoluble fiber), omega-3s, fruit and a small serving of healthy fats.

oatmeal parfait

As I cooked 1/4 cup of steel cut oats, I dropped into the blender:

  • 1 banana
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 1/2 scoop chocolate soy protein powder

cholesterol lowering breakfast

It came out far more voluminous than I’d expected! I’d planned to drizzle the topping over the oats…but instead, I drowned the oats in the smoothie!

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Topped the whole shebang with some berries, cinnamon and flax seed for a tasty cholesterol-lowering breakfast!

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I’m hoping to see a drop of at least 15 to 20 points in my cholesterol by the time of my next test. Let’s see how this goes!

Have you ever been blindsided by the results of a medical test?

How’s your cholesterol? Ever had to lower it? When was the last time you got it checked?


How to Bounce Back From a Bad Workout

In the wise, wise words of my yoga instructor Erin, “Some days you feel like a rock star, other days you just feel like a rock.”

Source

Last night was one of those “rock” days. Mentally, I just wasn’t focused. Physically, I was shaky and unbalanced. Goddess pose killed my quads, pigeon pose downright hurt, and holding airplane pose beyond a single breath? Forget about it.

I hesitate to call any workout “bad”. Rock star or just plain rock, you’re up, you’re active, and you’re putting effort into taking care of your body. Regardless, when your efforts just don’t line up, it’s hard to move beyond that “bad workout” feeling of letting yourself down.

It’s far too easy to wallow in the aftermath of a sub-par workout. Driving home from the hot studio, I wouldn’t have believed Kathryn Budig herself if she’d told me my self-worth wasn’t measured by the depth of my downward dog.

A workout, however, is just that. It’s not a life-or-death matter (unless a gunman is dictating your shoulder stands, in which case I suggest you find a new studio in a better part of town). It’s not a competition or a means to invoke jealousy. It’s you, working on your endurance, your strength, and your dedication. It’s a practice.

You’re not going to kill it at the gym every night. Heck, even Peyton Manning has off days. And look at it this way: your off days don’t end your season 😉 Just remember:

Don’t blame yourself… It’s natural to accuse yourself of poor effort, crappy balance, lack of skill, lack of speed, lack of coordination…you get the drift. None of that is true, and if it were, you wouldn’t be able to work out in the first place. An “off” night is no reflection of your overall competence, fitness, or ability as an athlete, whatever your chosen sport may be.

…But don’t make excuses. Sure, crappy playlists, unenthusiastic instructors, stressful days at work, inadequate hydration/nutrition, and lack of sleep can all throw off your workout…but blaming them for the workout doesn’t do you any good either!

Leave it in the past. It’s done. It’s over. Leave the stress on the mat/treadmill/elliptical/court. Tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to bust it out!

Remind yourself of previous successes. When you’re feeling bummed and incapable, draw back on a time when you set a PR, nailed negative splits or completed your first headstand. Reliving the endorphin rush that accompanied your accomplishment can set you back on the right track to replicate the feeling in your next workout!

Do something to put the fun back into working out. Fitness fiascos can put a huge damper on my enthusiasm to get moving. One 37 minute 5k training run resulted in a two week hiatus from running simply because I dreaded getting back into the swing of it. A few zumba classes later, I had gotten back my enthusiasm for a good heart-pounding workout and was ready to take it back to the pavement! Whether it’s setting a new goal for the same sport or looking into a unique new workout like rock-climbing or pole dancing, shaking up your routine can put some excitement back into getting moving!

Plan to BEAST your next gym sesh. Positive thinking, Little Miss (or Mister) athlete! Need I really say more?

What do you do to recover from a less-than-stellar workout?


Next Big Workout

I’m sore; gloriously, gloriously sore.

You know, that sore that hurts so good after an epic workout? That sore that makes you wince but makes you smile every time you lower yourself into a chair or lift anything heavier than the t.v. remote? Yup, I’m that sort of sore.

The maintenance man was the only soul in the building when I arrived…

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Naturally, I documented my dorkiness (and my mad balance ball skillz) before a few stretches to get in the zone.

Having the gym to myself was pretty much the best thing I could have asked for – I’m always afraid that I’ll use a machine wrong and look like an absolute moron, so being the only person there was the perfect opportunity to jump in, learn the moves, and test the various settings to best suit my (newbie) ability level! Not having to wait for/readjust machines between sets rocked too 😀

Machine/Move Weight # of Reps (x3 sets of each)
Horizontal Leg Curl 50 15
Leg Extension 50 15
Seated Leg Press 90 15
Lat Pull Down 40 15
Shoulder Press 10 15
Seated Row 20 15
Chest Press 20 15
Chest Fly 30 15
Captain’s Chair N/A 15

I followed that up with a 5 minute warmup and then a 5k run:

Distance Incline Speed
.25 mile 5% 3.5 mph
1 mile 2% 5 mph
1 mile 1% 5.4 mph
1 mile 0% 6.0 mph
.10 mile 0% 7.5 mph

Negative splits – hells yes!

Faith’s Best of Next Big Thing 2010 Playlist

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With a perfect alternative rock playlist to sing along with, it’s no wonder I was able to bust out such an inclusive workout! After last weekend’s trip to Next Big Thing, I downloaded a ridiculous amount of new music and have been rocking out nonstop to my faves from the NBT artists!

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Prepare to have your world rocked.

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Let the downloading and the sweating commence!


Smorgasbord

Good afternoon!

Want to know something funny? Bosses don’t like calling their employees an hour after they’re supposed to arrive and finding out that they are still in bed because their alarms never told them to wake up. Lo ciento!

In my defense, I was up late working on my new header. If you’re in reader, click through and let me know what you think!

After a rough start to the day, I was more than ready for a good lunch. The only problem was that I had no idea what I wanted!

When in doubt, have a little of everything!

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Part-skim mozzerella, Nature’s Pride whole wheat toast, sugar free all natural apple sauce, baby carrots, and almonds.

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Down the hatch!

Cheese, please!

I know that in the past, I’ve talked about keeping a vegan kitchen. I chose to cook without animal products but allowed myself to enjoy the occasional ice cream or slice of pizza at a restaurant. My claim has been that I feel better without loading down my system with animal products, which I still stand by.

The other day, however, all I wanted was some smooth, gooey fresh mozzarella to melt onto my flatbread. A quick stop at Publix and voila – one of the most delicious things I’d eaten.

I then began to ask myself why I was depriving myself of dairy. I can honestly that I don’t enjoy meat, yet ice cream and cheese were foods I genuinely liked. While I fully support ethical eating, my decision to eat primarily vegan was not one driven by an animal rights standpoint. Instead, I realized that it was coming from a restrictionist mindset. After finally letting go of my deprivational habits from my eating disorder, denying myself of a group of foods became a condoned way to keep some control over my food intake. I was not eating vegan foods in the name of health, just in the name of taking on another label more acceptable than “anorexic”.

I’m not trying to say that those who eat a vegan diet are doing so in a disordered eating fashion. There are many who have a genuine conviction for animal rights and choose to eat as such. In my own personal case, though, that was not where I was coming from. I have a great deal of respect for those who have committed to a vegan diet and lifestyle, but my reasons for doing so are not ones that I can fully stand behind.

I’m still planning to create a number of vegan recipes. My diet isn’t going to change drastically, nor will the content of the blog. I feel my best fueling myself with clean and plant-based meals, but I don’t see the need to deprive myself of ethically sourced foods that I genuinely enjoy. And with that, I have a cheese cube to finish 🙂

How do you feel about food labels? Where do you personally fall on the spectrum? Have you ever made the choice to break out from a specific dietary label, and what prompted you to do so?


Kid at Heart

Hello blogettes! Staying busy? I know I sure am!

My students went skating and every time one asked if I would join them, I told them “Sweetie, I can’t. Miss Faith is on injured reserve today”. About the fourth child to ask me this looked me blank in the face and deadpanned: “I thought you didn’t believe in I can’t?”

The first time my group went to the rink, this particular child adamantly refused to even put on skates. “I can’t, I can’t” is all she would say. Now, this student is considerably overweight and clumsy, and I knew that she was afraid of being embarrassed. However, I looked her in the eye and said: “Tia, I don’t believe in I can’t. You say ‘I can’t’, and what you really mean is ‘I won’t’. If you won’t even try, just tell me that, but own up to it and don’t give me any of this ‘I can’t’ business.”

She reluctantly laced up a pair of skates and made two laps by clutching at the handrails and pulling herself by, but I was so incredibly proud that she made the choice to give it an effort.

When she put my words back in my face this afternoon, I wondered if I was copping out. Was it just easier to rely on a barely-there injury to relax for a few hours on the bench?

I ended up putting on a pair of skates and gingerly stepping onto the rink…painlessly! I hardly felt a thing for the next two hours, except for when I was stepping on and off the raised platform for the benches and bathrooms. I also decided to give my usual 3 mile run a go as well since nothing seemed to be exacerbated, and it went fairly smoothly. I feel like there may be a bit of fluid on the joint, but it’s very minor, and as long as it’s not causing any major discomfort, I’ll just let it be.

Sometimes the wisest words really do come from children.

I’m so thankful for my students, who daily remind me to never be satisfied with face value when thousands of questions are forming in your mind, that playing really is good for the heart and soul, and above all, not to take myself too seriously.

I actually just took a friend up on a spur-of-the-moment invitation to hit the town tonight, so dinner needed to be quick and easy. In keeping with my little-kiddish-ness, I pulled out a box of organic and vegan macaroni and cheeze from my pantry.

I know not all premade foods marketed as “healthy” are really healthy (I’m talkin’ to you, organic PopTarts), but this truly isn’t all that bad.

Mac & Cheese used to be my favorite food as a kid! I honestly haven’t had it in ages.

I rehydrated some TVP to bump up the protein power…

I also threw a dash of paprika and ground mustard on top for some zip. I love macaroni with a kick!

And since dinner doesn’t seem like dinner without veggies…a few steamed carrots with a drizzle of balsamic vinagrette.

And now, since balance is key, it’s time to get ready to go be an adult for a few hours!  Maybe there are a few perks to this whole growing up thing after all…

What do you miss most about childhood? For me, it’s got to be the nonstop clowning around! I’m not very serious very often, and I’m always cracking jokes. I have to consciously tone down the silliness at times, even though I don’t want to!


Upping the Ante and Downing the C

Did you know that I have mischievous little urchins that live in my closet and run out in the middle of the night to perform alterations on my jeans? They’re especially fond of nipping them in at the waist.

Well…that, or I’ve been having a few too many condolence cookies this week.

Since it’s a safer bet that my jeans aren’t actually being tailored by denim-hungry closet-dwellers, I’m trying to cut back on all the little treats that I’ve been sneaking. All those little bites of student lunches, all the Land Sharks after work, all the slices of pie…I’m calling a temporary hiatus on the extra nibbles. I need to get this sweet tooth of mine back in check!

Am I trying to lose weight? Well, yes and no. While I do know my current weight, I don’t have a specific goal in mind. I’m not setting out to lose x amount of pounds, but I do feel like I’m currently hovering a bit above an ideal weight for me. I’d like to ditch the bloat and see where it goes from there.

Will I follow a specific diet? Not a chance in hell. I’ll never go back to a restriction-based plan. I’m just cutting out the unnecessary (and typically over-processed) things that I’ve been taking bites of here and there. While I’m all for small indulgences on an occasional basis, I’ve been doing it daily, and I can definitely tell the difference. I’m more or less cutting out the sweets, salty munchies, and drinks outside of water, tea, and coffee. Not a huge deal, and not a huge sacrifice.

So, what did that leave me with for breakfast? A nice, cleansing, energizing Green Monster! I “cleaned up” my favorite Java Chip Sludgeaccino recipe.

Dare I say that I like this version better?

Into the mix went 1 cup of spinach, 3/4 cup of brewed Starbucks Serena Blend coffee, 3/4 cup of original Almond Milk, 1 humongous banana, 1 tablespoon of flax seeds, a little over a tablespoon of dark chocolate cacao nibs, and a teaspoon of wheat bran.

Lahvely, just lahvely.

I have to run out for an oil change (dreadful, I know), but I have big plans to come home and curl back up in bed. I’m starting to feel a cold coming on, and I want to nip it in the bud! There’s no time to get sick!

Do you have any tried-and-true tricks for when you’re under the weather? I always pop lots of vitamin C tablets and up my fluid intake.

Have a stellar Saturday!


When life bitch-slaps you, smack it back.

Ayn Rand I am not.

I don’t like philosophy; I hardly have an introspective bone in my body; for every one part serious I’m nine parts sarcastic, and I’d much rather babble about food than feelings.

That said, humor me for the next five minutes.

Shit happens; we stand there, heads spinning, completely forgetting about the things we’ve bounced back from before. We forget our own strength and our own resiliency. We forget about who we are beyond the wounded and emotional creature that is currently sorting out more thoughts than a schizophrenic.

We try so hard to put on a brave face that we forget to be kind to ourselves. “Wallow” becomes a four letter word, and we get tunnel vision for a point in the (presumably near) future where things are “back to normal”.

What we forget, though, is that sometimes, moving forward requires looking back. When what we know is shattered, we can cling to who we are and immerse ourselves in who we want to be.

When all you want is “me time”, you have to identify what “me” needs.

For me, that was a night of crappy White Zin, marginally tasteless Mongolian food, and three hours of conversation with a best friend that made the entire tab worth it.

That was massive amounts of coffee.

That was F. Scott Fitzgerald and chocolate chip cookies.

That was a four mile run with Paramore.

That was changing out of the Asics and into a pair of four inch Charles David sandals.

That was an interstate drive with the windows down and the radio up.

That was a late night out followed by an early night in.

That was forgoing the salad because what you really wanted was a double serving of pasta.

That was soaking up hugs from ten year olds who love on you just because you love on them.

That was sneaking away from the same students and their nature hike leaders to spend a few minutes off the trail in downward dog, soaking up the sun and the fact that you feel incredibly peaceful and happy.

What is “that” for you?

And with that, I promise not to subject you to any more pseudo-philosophical ramblings for a long, long, LONG time!