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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fun Fitness Spoof -- Body Fusion


I don't know if you've seen this video before. It's a Saturday Night Live skit with Drew Barrymore called Body Fusion. For anyone who was around or aware of the early fitness videos, it's pretty funny. Even if you weren't, I guess you'd still enjoy it (my kids do :)).

Yesterday morning, I was rebounding to a Cardio Coach cd while watching an old FIRM video (thought that would be more fun to watch than the normal stuff on TV -- I used to do this video a lot and it brings back fun memories to see it. You might have to be what people on the Video Fitness website call a "vidiot" to understand that :)). Anyway, just watching the way they used to do FIRM workouts reminded me of this Drew Barrymore skit -- the mansion setting, the pastel colors, trying to be lovely while being fit. Thought I'd share it. Enjoy!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Rethinking the whole baking thing


I love to bake. I always have. I love how food smells when it comes out of oven. I love how it looks when it rises above the pan. I love cooking with Pampered Chef stones and just acquired another one last week (the bundt pan, well, they call it the fluted pan). I love how it heats up the house in the winter time. I love how it fills me up when I'm really hungry (or not -- often it just makes me want to eat more and more despite how much I've decided I'll eat before hand).

When I was younger, I learned to bake cookies and breads partially because it was a fun thing to do and partially because my mom never bought snack foods or desserts - - if we wanted something besides apples, oranges or saltine crackers, we had to make it from scratch. I didn't mind. I loved it and my dad would often call me "Cookie" because I baked cookies so often. It was fun to bake and see everyone excited about what I made. I loved to give baked gifts to friends. One Christmas I made several Teddy Bear Bread loaves to friends and relatives -- the dough shaped like a teddy bear with a plaid bow tied around its neck. Very fun.

I also liked to eat what I baked. Sometimes I'd hide the cookies or muffins in a big paper bag to keep my 4 brothers from eating them all up. One of the most clever hiding places was the dryer. They never thought to look there. Once I hid some cookies in a low cupboard way in the back. I guess I forgot about them. A few months later, my mom was cleaning out the cupboards and found the bag of stale cookies along with a stiff mouse. Glad I wasn't doing the cleaning that day!

Anyway, the habit was born and I really didn't put on any weight from it until college. I baked way too much in college and my metabolism had slowed down a bit. I gained 20+ pounds and never felt all that energetic. When I got married, I saw a pattern emerge. When I baked, I put on weight. When I didn't bake, I either lost weight or remained the same. But now that I'm in my 40's, I can't eat any baked goods without gaining weight. I just stepped on the scale this morning for the first time since New Year's and I've put on 5 pounds. I was stunned! I shouldn't have been if I'd stopped to think about how much baking I've done in the past several weeks. I could just do the math and it would be evident what the result would be.

I'm not sure why -- okay, maybe I am. I was going to say I'm not sure why flour has such an effect on me. I've eliminated white flour and have seen big improvements from that in my digestion and pelvic floor strength. But even whole wheat flour seems to make me feel more stuffed (well, yeah, I eat so much of it) and triggers the urge to eat more. Back to the "maybe I am" from the top of the paragraph -- I should know why -- I eat too much bread, muffins, or whatever I bake. The calories just add up.

There's also talk about the leavening in breads, muffins, cookies, etc. - - that they add gas to your body whether it's yeast, baking powder or whatever. I've noticed this the most when I've been eating raw foods for weeks then eat even a bit of bread. My body gets really gassy (like you wanted to hear that, huh? :))

I remember when I first tried the Eat to Live program. For the first week, I lost 8 pounds. I was eating the cup of grains/starchy vegetables during those days mostly in the form of cracked wheat (boiled into hot cereal with raisins, cinnamon, and ground flax seed - - so hearty and yummy). Then I decided to bake bread one day. From that day on, my weight loss stopped. At first I was keeping to the portions recommended, but still the weight loss stopped. And then I ate too much. It was a slippery slope that I couldn't handle.

So why am I writing all this? Well, the weight gain thing - - now I have to embed this into my brain even more so to stop baking so much, to eat more vegetables instead, and to get my grains in more whole forms (even though most people consider fresh ground flour whole - - my body doesn't receive it as well as with the fiber intact). Notice how I said "stop baking so much" ? Why couldn't I just say "Stop baking" ? I've done it before. I can do it again. I really can (even if I am coming up with a bunch of excuses in my head as I type).

I'll do some actual research by doctors and nutritionists on this subject and will add that knowledge to my own musings on the subject. Hopefully they'll mesh together well and benefit your life as well. For now, I need to get my kids in bed (way past their bed time!) and I'll be back soon.

Added the next morning -- Here's a Q&A I found from Dr. Andrew Weil's website on the subject of wheat being better for you in it's whole form (not ground into flour). I remember something similar from him when I subscribed to his Self-Healing newsletter a few years ago. Now it's making more sense to me now that I see how my body responds.

What's Wrong with Whole Wheat?

Q - In your book "Healthy Aging," you recommend eating whole grains but not whole-wheat flour products. Why?

A - Answer (Published 11/29/2006)
I recommend eating whole grains because they're a great source of important nutrients, including protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and, especially, carbohydrates that are low on the glycemic index (GI), a ranking of carbohydrate foods on the basis of how they affect blood sugar (glucose).

This is important for many people because eating a lot of foods that are high on the glycemic index will produce spikes in blood sugar that can lead over time to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is associated with obesity, high blood pressure, elevated blood fats, and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases.

Grains in their natural form have a low glycemic index, while processed carbohydrates, including those made with flour or puffed grains, have a high GI. The reason is that it takes longer for digestive enzymes to reach the starch inside whole grains or grains cracked into large pieces, slowing down the conversion of starch to sugar. True whole grains include wild rice, barley, quinoa, millet and wheat berries. You can be pretty sure you're eating a natural grain with a low GI ranking if you have to chew it or can see grains or pieces of grains in food products. The more your jaw has to work, the better.

But when grains are pulverized into flour, whether whole or not, their surface area expands dramatically, providing a huge, starchy surface area on which the enzymes can work. Consequently, the conversion to sugar happens very quickly. Whole wheat bread and products labeled "whole grain" are usually made with flour.

If you check a list of the glycemic index of various foods, such as the one at www.mendosa.com/gilists.htm, you'll see that finely textured whole wheat bread has the same GI as white bread ? about 70, making both high GI foods. I recommend cutting down on all products made with flour and increasing consumptions of grains in their more natural state.

Andrew Weil

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hilary Burnett -- Soothing Pilates

I've been doing so much Pilates lately that I'm realizing how many great Pilates instructors there are. I've only talked about a few so far. I think I've only posted about Ellen Barrett and Brooke Siler. So today I'll tell you a little about Hilary Burnett.

Hilary Burnett is a certified instructor at The Pilates Center in Boulder, Colorado, at least she did when she made her videos in 2001. (I just checked and she's not listed as an instructor there anymore, but she did teach a variety of classes, workshops and personal fitness training while there -- and may somewhere else now). At the end of her videos during the credits, it shows her teaching this huge class -- always fun to see.


She made 4 videos -- Pilates Basics, Pilates Intermediate, Pilates Advanced, and Zen Stretch. They all came out on video orginally, then were produced on dvd in 2005, which was very exciting for those of us who loved Hilary's Pilates. It doesn't look like Zen Stretch ever made it to dvd. Maybe it wasn't as big of a seller. After I explain it, you'll probably see why it didn't reach a wide audience.

The thing I love about Hilary is that her Pilates routines have a peaceful yogic feel without incorporating yoga. It's pure Pilates, but the production and her voice give it a feeling that many yoga asanas have -- relaxing and peaceful. The set has dozens of candles lit on the dark, marbly steps of the Bastyr University Chapel in Seattle. The set also has pillows and draped clothes tossed here and there with soft guitar music playing in the background. Hilary Burnett's calm teaching style amidst a room of pillows and candles provides a relaxing escape into Pilates.

Her Pilates Basics dvd is a perfect way to be introduced to Pilates because she explains the breathing and movements well. She also provides a window with modifications, which are very helpful when you are first starting to learn Pilates exercises and especially while doing the roll up. This workout is just 24 minutes long and includes the following sequence (commonly known as the Series of 10) of Pilates exercises:

Breathing exercises
The Hundred
Leg Circles
Rolling Like a Ball
Single Leg Stretch
Double Leg Stretch
Spine Stretch Forward
Side Series - Forward and Back Kick
Kicks to the Ceiling
Seal
Pilates Intermediate is a little longer (just over 30 minutes) and the moves go at a slightly faster pace. This is the dvd I've done the most. I love some of Hilary's visualization cues like on the kicks to the ceiling, she says "Up through water, down through clay." That help me know to float my leg up and bring it down with resistance. She also says to imagine your waist in a tight corset or mermaid suit. It helps me bring everything inward. Hilary does a few sitting stretches at the end, which are nice (and not always the case for Pilates workouts). She shows that you can put weights over your ankles on the neck pull, which is extremely helpful. I've yet to master the neck pull!

Here is the sequence in Pilates Intermediate:

Breathing Techniques
Roll-up
Single Leg Circles
Rolling like a Ball
Stomach Series: Single Leg Stretch
Double Leg Stretch
Scissors
Double Leg Stretch
Twist (or Criss Cross)
Spine Stretch Forward
Open Leg Rocker
Corkscrew
Saw
Swan
Single Leg Kick
Double Leg Kick
Neck Pull
Shoulder Bridge
Spine Twist
Jack Knife
Side Kick Series: Forward and Back Kicks
Kicks to the Ceiling
Teasers
Hip Circles
Swimming
Seal
Light Stretches

In Pilates Advanced, it's actually shorter than the Basics and the Intermediate (22 minutes) and moves at a brisk pace. Brooke Siler says in her book that Pilates becomes aerobic when you flow quickly between moves. Hilary definitely does that in this dvd. And she does less repetitions of each exercise. That's my only regret for this workout, that she only does 3 or 4 reps on some moves that I'd rather do double that. But it's still nice to do when I want a challenge, but don't want to spend too much time either.

I did this one last week and realized that since Hilary does so many inversions (where your feet come up over your head or up in the air above your head) that for me, it's better to do at the end of the day instead of first thing in the morning when my body is less flexible. I don't know if you'd experimented before, but I can easily do a plough pose at night time, but am hit and miss (more often miss) when I attempt it in the morning.

Here are the exercises she does in Advanced Pilates:

Standing Balance Pose
Footwork
The Hundred
Roll-up
Roll Over
Single Leg Circles
Rolling like a Ball
Single Leg Stretch
Double Leg Stretch
Scissors
Double Leg Lower Lift
Twist (or Criss Cross)
Spine Stretch Forward
Open Leg Rocker
Corkscrew
Saw
Swan Dive
Single Leg Kick
Double Leg Kicks
Neck Pull
Scissors
Bicycle
Shoulder Bridge
Spine Twist
Jackknife
High Bridge (back bend)
Side Kick Series: Kicks Forward and Back
Kicks to the Ceiling
Heel Beats
Teasers Advanced
Hip Circles
Swimming
Leg Pull-down
Leg Pull-up
Kneeling Sidekicks
Sidebends
Twist I
Twist II
Boomerang
Seal
Crab
Rocking
Control Balance
Pilates Push-up
Standing Stretches
As you can see, she fits many moves into this short workout. It's different than any other I have because of the pace and all that I accomplish. Plus I get the loveliness of Hilary's demeanor and beautiful setting.
I haven't done Zen Stretch in ages. I traded it long ago, but remember it as being a workout I could do parts of and enjoyed watching more than attempting. In her Pilates dvds, she is the only one on the set. In Zen Stretch, there is another woman who does the moves along with Hilary. The moves are so advanced and quick that it's fun just to see what they can do. And it's short -- just 15 minutes long. It's not a stretch video at all -- more of a combination of Pilates strength, flexibility and modern dance. I can see why it didn't make it to dvd. Probably most people couldn't do it. But it was fun to see how much Hilary could do, how much Pilates could enable your body to do if you really made it a priority in your life.

Here's an interview that Hilary did with the Video Fitness website a few years ago. VF Interview If I ever find anything new about Hilary Burnett, I'll let you know.