Friday, February 24, 2017

A Few Simple Lifestyle and Diet Changes Have Transformed my Health

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. In fact, I have a contest going right now. So if you have a story to share, no matter how big or how small, you’ll be in the running to win a big prize. Read more here.

realifestories in lineI’ve always had an interest in biology, evolution and how the body works.

As a child I loved the idea of being a medical doctor. However, in my teenage years my dreams of becoming a medical doctor started to waver when I discovered that I would often feel faint at the sight of blood.

All hope was not lost, however. After attending a career workshop at the age of 16, I discovered that there were plenty of other ways I could be involved in medicine. I soon became fascinated with the idea of becoming a medical researcher. I was quite taken with the idea of being involved in the discovery and development of cutting edge research that had the potential to change the world.

I was an idealist back then, and I still am now.

While undertaking my undergraduate degree in Biotechnology, I became interested in inflammation and the immune system. I pursued my interest in this field during my PhD and investigated how the immune system was involved in the rejection of corneal grafts.

After completing my PhD, I was lucky enough to land a post-doctoral position at the University of Cambridge, where I worked for four and a half years. Here, I investigated the role that endothelial cells (the cells that line the inside of our blood vessels) play in the inflammatory process in relation to lung disease.

I look back at my research career with fondness. I am proud of my findings and my contribution to medical research. However, the long hours and the competitive nature of the profession made it hard for me to see research as a long-term career option after the birth of my daughter; being a mom had changed my outlook on life.

I had always been so focused on my research career, I had never envisioned myself pursuing another profession. However, as a woman with a child, the odds of landing a coveted tenure-track position were stacked against me. The idea of living from grant to grant became less appealing now that I had a little person relying on me to provide a stable, secure life for her. Even less appealing were the long days in the lab, which every post-doc can relate to.

I wanted more from my life than working all day in the lab. More importantly, I wanted to be a positive role model for my daughter, and my husband and I wanted to create a home environment that would promote a healthy, happy lifestyle for our children.

The desire to pursue a career outside of medical research began to play on my mind, but more on that later.

My Primal Health Journey

My health story isn’t one of massive weight loss, and I don’t have an awesome before and after photo. Don’t get me wrong, my health story does include total body transformation, but my biggest changes were those that most people couldn’t see: my mindset and my digestive health.

I’ve always been an active person. I was a competitive swimmer in my teenage years, and I’ve played Ultimate Frisbee at the international level. However, it wasn’t until I discovered The Primal Blueprint at the age of 29, that I can honestly say that I was healthy.

At face value, my pre-Primal lifestyle may have seemed quite healthy. I went to the gym 2-3 times a week. My favourite classes were cardio blast and spin, and I would play Ultimate Frisbee around 2-3 times a week.

However, pre-Primal Sarah suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, largely due to my terrible diet. I ate low-fat everything, and I proudly boasted about eating a breakfast pizza on my wedding day. Back then I couldn’t tell the difference between bloating and the sensation of feeling full after a meal.

I was at the point where I was ready to do whatever I needed to feel healthy again.

In 2012, my husband and I moved from Adelaide, Australia, to Cambridge, England, and our Primal health journey began the moment our plane landed at Heathrow Airport.

I’m going to admit that I was a total skeptic in the early days. How was eating MORE fat going to help with my bowel problems? And I wasn’t entirely convinced that I wasn’t going to gain weight. Workout less? This didn’t seem right.

The first few weeks of Primal living were tough for me. I suffered from the low-carb flu, which made me irritable and tired, not to mention the added stress that my husband and I were under after moving to a new country and starting new jobs. There were times that I really wanted to pack it in and order a Twister Combo from KFC.

With the guidance and support from my husband, I managed to stay on track with my Primal lifestyle, long enough to notice that my “hanger” was gone, and that I could skip lunch if I was busy with an experiment in the lab—something that I didn’t think was at all possible previously. My bloating was a thing of the past, and I had started to become noticeably leaner. I had become a fat-burning beast without even realizing it!

We saw our move as a fresh start. We had no bad habits to shake, and no temptations sitting in our pantry. It was the perfect opportunity to put our health first, and the best part of all was that we did it together. We cycled or walked everywhere. We replaced soft drinks and juice with cups of tea, and we enjoyed discovering tasty new Primal and paleo recipes.

Without experiencing my very own health transformation, I would have found it difficult to believe that making a few simple lifestyle and diet changes could have such an impact on my health. After years of suffering, my bowel health had healed, my work productivity had increased, and I had become more content with life.

The Beginning of My New Health Coaching Career

Before the birth of my daughter, I had no idea what a health coach was, let alone any idea that I would consider a career in this profession.

My husband and I had been living a Primal lifestyle for about 2 years before I fell pregnant. During this time, no one (at least to my knowledge) ever saw me as a health expert.

I started CrossFit 8 weeks after my daughter was born, and I immediately fell in love with it. My two hours of CrossFit every week were what got me through those first few months of being a parent. I loved the workouts, the heavy lifting and the sense of community that comes with most boxes (CrossFit gyms are referred to as boxes). Most importantly, I was working out because I loved my body, not because I loathed it.

Within 4 months of giving birth to my daughter I actually felt stronger and healthier than I did before my pregnancy, and this was all from living a Primal lifestyle and attending two CrossFit sessions/week.

Friends, colleagues and acquaintances watched me regain my pre-baby health and fitness with relative ease, and I soon found myself being asked health related questions on a daily basis.

What is your health secret? What do you eat? How often do you exercise?

I was amazed and embarrassed that people were asking me for health advice.

Who was I to give anyone health or fitness advice? I wasn’t a nutrition expert or a fitness instructor.

At first I had no idea how to answer these questions, but once I got over the embarrassment of being seen as a health advisor, I realized that I enjoyed sharing my tips on healthy living with anyone who was interested enough to ask. I also realized that my years of working in medical research helped me explain the science behind the Primal concepts, which made it easier for people to understand how the Primal lifestyle works on a physiological level.

And so the idea of becoming a health coach was planted in my mind.

I took my first big step towards my new career when I completed my CrossFit Level 1 Certificate Course. Because CrossFit had made such a difference to my life, I was eager to share this knowledge with other women, especially mommies who may feel intimidated in that kind of environment. After getting my CrossFit trainer qualification, the head coach at CrossFit RNA, Cambridge, UK, took me under his wing and allowed me to help out at the box 1-2 times a week. This is where I fell in love with coaching.

With my confidence growing, I decided to enroll in the Primal Health Coach program. As Primal living had made such a huge impact on my own life, I knew that I wanted to help others achieve their own health goals. Following this, I next enrolled in a personal training course.

I now had a clear vision for my new career. I wanted to start my very own health and fitness business. My business ethos would be to empower women to love their bodies and to become the happiest, healthiest versions of themselves.

Studying, while working as a researcher and looking after my little girl was challenging, but rewarding as I knew what my end goal was.

Taking these initial steps towards my new career as a health and fitness coach was terrifying and exciting. I was on my way to living my dream! Little did I know that it was all going to happen for me very quickly.

I left my medical research career in Cambridge, UK, and moved back to Australia with my husband and daughter. This was when I launched my own health and fitness business Nourish & Lift.

Nourish & Lift started out small. I began by coaching close friends and family, which led to friends of friends coming along, and now my client base is steadily growing. Coaching is my passion and I can honestly say that there is no better buzz than seeing my clients make progress towards their own health goals.

But my story doesn’t end here.

My Health Coach Blog Writing Career

To complement my own health and fitness business, I’m also a freelance blog writer for the Primal Health Coach Program. I feel honored to be given the opportunity to give back to the community that has turned my own life around. Working for the Primal team really is a dream come true.

Leaving my career as a medical researcher was absolutely terrifying, but I can honestly say that it has been the best decision for my family, my health and my career satisfaction. There are times when I felt like I was crazy to give up my academic career. However, I can honestly say that I’m living my dream.

My health coaching story is about going after what you want, following your dreams and turning them into reality. Ultimately, I’m doing what I had always wanted to do as a child. I’m making a difference in the world and having a direct impact on peoples’ health and happiness; the very reason why I wanted to be a medical doctor all those years ago.

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Do You Trust Snopes? You Won’t After Reading This.

The big players in the GMO and agrochemical industry – Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, Syngenta, DuPont – are engaging in an extensive public relations, advertising, lobbying and political campaigning to make sure that genetically engineered crops (GMOs), and the chemical pesticides they … Continued

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8 Healthy Meal Hacks to Steal From Dietitians


I love a nutritious meal, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m all about the shortcuts that make healthy cooking easy and fast! I was curious about what hacks my dietitian colleagues use in the kitchen, so I asked them for their best:

 

Heat hacks

  • Turn your rice cooker into a workhorse. “Like steel-cut oatmeal, but don’t like waiting 40 minutes?” asks Maggie Moon, MS, RDN, author of The MIND Diet. “Add oats and water according to package directions, and use the porridge setting on your rice cooker. Do it at night, and you’ll have perfect steel-cut oats in the morning. Rice cookers can also steam vegetables, cook fish in 15 minutes, or even slow-cook chicken or pork—just add broth and aromatics.”
  • Cook extra portions. “Make extra servings of food that you can repurpose,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It. 
    “Tonight’s grilled salmon for dinner can become tomorrow’s salmon over salad for lunch. Or just mash the salmon along with chopped veggies, egg, spices, and breadcrumbs. Then shape into salmon patties, and you’ll have a great dish for Sunday brunch!”

 

Fridge hacks

  • Stash prewashed veggies. “I always keep a bag of prewashed spinach in the fridge to add to breakfast wraps or muffin-tin omelets,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, owner of com.  “For lunch, spinach makes a perfect bed for any protein like tuna or salmon salad—or it works as a nutrient-rich sandwich topper. And, it sautés in about a minute for a perfect add-in to any pasta dish or to bulk up a microwavable frozen entree.”
  • Refrigerate extra veggies. “Chop and sauté a large batch of onions, peppers, mushrooms, and fresh spinach,” says Hope Warshaw, RD, CDE, author of Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy. “Refrigerate it, and use it in a pasta sauce, on a pizza, in an omelet—or in couscous, quinoa, or other healthy grains. You’ll have a jumpstart on dinner.

 

Freezer hacks

  • Make smoothie packs. “Save time at breakfast by making smoothie packs,” says Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CSCS, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Fill multiple quart-size plastic bags each with a cup of leafy greens, a cup of cut-up fresh or frozen fruit, a Tablespoon of chia or flax seeds, and two Tablespoons of nuts. You can also freeze plain Greek yogurt in ice cube trays, and toss the frozen yogurt cubes in the bag. Stick the smoothie pack in the freezer, and pull one out when you want to make a quick smoothie.”
  • Stock your freezer with frozen veggies. “I love to keep a few bags of frozen veggies on hand to throw together dinner in a flash,” says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, owner of com. “Frozen peas and any sort of frozen greens are my veggies of choices, because you can heat them up in minutes and throw them into a tortilla with a little cheese and canned beans to make a quesadilla. They also go great in an omelet. Just be careful of trying to eat frozen veggies alone because they can be slightly mushy after reheating.”
  • Prep your greens. “We blend three cups of tightly packed spinach or kale with one-half cup water and then pour it into ice cube trays and freeze it,” say Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CFT, co- authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure. “We simply drop a few spinach cubes into smoothies, soups, omelets, stir-fries, and pasta sauces—and even use the cubes as broth.”
  • Freeze extra stock. “I often whip up a chicken stock to make my kids a warming chicken noodle soup,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen. “Instead of letting extra stock go to waste, I freeze it in ice cube trays. Once frozen, I place the frozen cubes into a resealable bag labeled with the date frozen, as well as a three- month use-by date. When I’m making quinoa or brown rice—or just want to punch up the flavor in dishes, I can easily defrost the chicken stock ice cube in the microwave or stovetop.”

 

Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, NJ. She’s a regular contributor to many publications, including ReadersDigest.com, Shape.com, FitnessMagazine.com, Dr. Oz the Good Life, Runner’s World, and more—as well as WeightWatchers.com, where she was a longtime editor. She also pens a recipe-focused blog, Amy’s Eat List.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.



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Proper Breathing Mechanics for Bracing

Written by: Kevin Cann

The majority of people reading this have probably been told by a coach, or read an article that said that you need to take a big breath and hold it while lifting. This seems like an easy task. However, it is not as easy as it seems. It is one of the pieces of lifting effectively that people get wrong the most.

You may be asking “Isn’t breathing subconscious? How can we possibly be messing it up?” The thing is, respiration is subconscious, but breathing is a conscious action. To properly breathe to lift maximal weights is not as easy as you think.

We need to take an effective ”belly breath” into our diaphragm. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make here is that they breathe into their chests. There are a few problems with this. For one, we want to brace and protect our lower back. Placing air in our chest will not help this.

Also, this makes our lifting less effective. In the squat, when we raise the chest we are pushing the bar further away from our hips. If we squat with the bar in a low bar position, this would turn it into more of a high bar squat. Thoracic extension demands are increased, and they are increased while we are not bracing effectively.

If we let the chest rise when we breathe during the deadlift, we are making the lift a longer lift. When the shoulders and chest rise, the arms come with them. This would mean we would lock out the weight higher, increasing its ROM. Long arms are an advantage in the deadlift, we do not want to shorten them.

On the bench press, if we raise our shoulders we actually increase our risk for a shoulder injury. The shrug of the shoulders mixed with the internal rotation of the press is a recipe for labral issues, impingements, and irritation to the bicep tendon.

Taking a diaphragmatic breath will expand our abdomen. However, this is not effective bracing on its own. Breathing is not bracing, it allows us to brace more effectively. Another mistake that I see people make is that they take their breath into their belly, but do not brace effectively after the breath.

Once we take in that breath, we want to expand our belly in a 360 degree radius. If you are wearing a belt to lift think about pushing against the belt all around your torso. This should be an extremely uncomfortable feeling. This will activate all of the musculature surrounding our lumbar spine, keeping it safe.

The other mistakes people make while breathing is they take too big of a breath and they hold it for multiple repetitions. There are not too many studies performed here in America looking at how much air we need to take in and how duration of holding your breath effects the movement.

However, in Russia there are. I have not seen this study myself, and even if I did I can’t translate it. I trust Boris Sheiko’s understanding of it. In Russia it is an honor to be a strength athlete, and they take great pride in their success in the strength sports. It is not as big of a deal here in America, so we just do not see many studies performed.

This study was done by I.M. Seropegin in 1965. It showed that breathing was most effective in strength athletes when the lungs were ¾ full and the breath was held for a short amount of time. This means that we do not need a massive breath to effectively brace our abdomen.

All we need is a small huff of air into the belly (filling our lungs ¾ of their capacity). Anything more than this is just a waste of energy. We also do not want to hold our breath for multiple reps. The longer we hold our breath the less effective the breathing. We should rebreathe after each repetition to effectively brace.

When you take this breath, just open your mouth and breathe in. Don’t push your head forward or pucker your lips. Pushing the head forward pulls the body forward and can lead to a less than optimal starting position. Puckering the lips and sucking in the air hard is just a waste of energy. Remember that breathing is not bracing, it just allows us to brace harder.

Some reading this may be worried that holding your breath while lifting is dangerous. The thought process is that we get a spike in blood pressure and this can lead to a stroke. The research just does not back this finding up.

Holding your breath while lifting is known as the Valsalva maneuver. This is a normal human movement when lifting heavy objects. Your body will naturally do this, probably due to the increased abdominal pressure. Studies looking at Valsalva and blood pressure hold the subjects breath for 20 to 30 seconds. A lifter holds it for far less time. There is no risk to lifting under Valsalva. However, lower back injuries are most prevalent under a barbell. Not holding your breath increases your risk of hurting your lower back.

When we are lifting heavy we want to take a small huff of air into our belly and push it out as hard as we can in a 360 degree radius around our lower back (think into the belt). We want to take a breath in for each rep and not hold it for multiple repetitions as it loses its effectiveness. This will take a lot of conscious effort at first, but over tie it will lead to more weight on the bar and new PRs.

For more information on breathing:

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Stereotypes of Divorce

Getting divorced is a life event I never thought I would go through. Therefore, I really hadn’t given the process much thought other than to know it is never easy. I haven’t been close with any friends who have gotten divorced, although I know quite a few people who are on their second marriage (mostly men, actually).

Divorces happen for a million different reasons, so of course everyone’s experience is different. When I made the announcement, I had so many of you readers reach out to me that you had been through a divorce (especially with children involved) and that you’re doing great. Those messages were so comforting for me. I have also had readers email me that they are currently unhappy in their marriages and ask for my advice. All I can tell them is that I am happy on the other side and encourage them that their intuition will tell them what to do.

While it would be wrong to say this experience has been “good,” I feel (and I think Matt would agree) that it hasn’t been as bad as books, movies, and rumors make it out to be. Here are some of the stereotypes of divorce I have heard/expected/felt and how my experiences have been different.

You will hate your former husband. You will try to emotionally and financially hurt one another. 

This couldn’t be further from the truth! One of my friends jokes about how Matt and I should write a handbook on mature divorce because we have never turned mean spirited towards one another. We never blamed the break-up on one another or felt it was one sided. We maintained the same respect for one another we had when we were married, and that has carried us a long way in doing things mutually and agreeably. That’s not to say there weren’t tough, sad or awkward times – we just chose to take the high road.

Friends will become distant. 

I was surprised by how many people came up to me to offer their support. A friend’s husband approached me at a party to let me know he’d been divorced and was on his second marriage (which I didn’t know). He offered to talk if I needed to. Several others offered to talk to me about the legal process if I needed advice. I did have a few friends take a step back (which I am sorry about and hope will change in time. But I had other friends reach out when when they knew I needed them.

You need several years to process the divorce before you should start seriously dating again.

I don’t really understand the waiting period mindset. I was ready to start dating right away. Life is short. Why waste time twiddling your thumbs just because people might give you the side eye for dating “too soon”? It’s your life and your happiness and only you know all of the details. You can’t waste a minute worrying about what other people think. Follow your gut on this one too – only you know if and when you are ready to date.

Dating will be awful. There won’t be much selection, especially if you’re not in a big city. 

I had fun with dating right from the start. I kept an open mind and wanted to meet people of different backgrounds and social circles than my own. I recommend the dating apps like Match, Tinder and Bumble. I was skeptical at first, but my single friends told me about the good experiences they’d had, and they pushed me to try it out. First of all, dating apps are not just about hookups. I only had one person send me a crude message, and I blocked him. Most people are honestly looking for love, and the apps are so great because

1) they cast your net really wide into social circles you would never dip into otherwise and

2) you can get the basic introduction and feel for your chemistry with someone chatting digitally before you meet in person for a date.

Breaking the ice behind the screen makes those first few conversations in person so much easier. Modern Romance has a whole chapter on the pros of dating apps! Thomas and I technically met on the soccer field, but we connected on a dating app and might not have started a conversation otherwise. So what can I say, it worked for me!

No one will want to date you if you have a child.

This was perhaps the most surprising stereotype debunked for me. I was always very up front with guys I met that I was separated and had a son. I didn’t have one guy blink an eye at this. (Or if they did, we didn’t move past that blink.) Not everyone is cool with dating someone with a child, but most were. This might be because I am in my mid-30s, but what surprised me most was that guys feel a woman with a child is actually a plus.

A few weeks after meeting Thomas, I told him I was surprised he was so cool with me being a mother. He said he’d started looking for a single mom because she’d be more mature and have her life together. I waited a while before introducing Thomas to Mazen, but T was super excited when the time did come and they have been great playmates ever since.

You missed out on happily ever after. 

It is never too late to find love <3

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