Sabotaged By Gut Flora

I’ve been doing a ton of research on nutrition as I’ve worked toward healthy living. Gut flora is one of those things that is fascinating to me. It seems to be the key to eating healthy and even reinforce those habits. There is evidence that famished gut flora is linked to poor health. Not surprising to most of you. For example, we think of eating yogurt to re-bloom gut flora with probiotics after antibiotic treatments.

Also,  If you have limited your diet to primarily pasta and breads, then that is what your gut flora will ask for. If you divert from this, it is a factor in how hungry you feel as your gut flora is starving.

Now neuroscientists have found that specific types of gut flora help a host animal detect which nutrients are missing in food and then finely titrate how much of those nutrients the host really needs to eat. “What the bacteria do for appetite is kind of like optimizing how long a car can run without needing to add more petrol to the tank,” says senior author Carlos Ribeiro, who studies the eating behaviors of Drosophila melanogaster, a type of fruit fly, at Champalimaud Center for the Unknown in Lisbon.
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-gut-bacteria-tell-their-hosts-what-to-eat/

Why am I sharing this? As I moved into maintenance mode I started to reintroduce foods I ate before – burgers, pasta, stuffing. I still kept to moderation and within my daily goals (mostly) and then something funny happened. I started having stomach issues.  I felt yucky after meals. I was more constipated. I was hungrier even though I was eating more. I was in a bad mood. I felt similarly to the first couple weeks when I stepped into my diet.  What was going on?

This weekend, I went back to a more plant based diet. I essentially listened to my gut flora telling me it was starving. A funny thing happened. My meals tasted so much better. I realized that my hunger was cravings for beets, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli and zucchini. All those things that I poured into my body for the past 10 months. I ate more lean protein in smaller portions rather than bigger portions of fattier meat. Chicken, shrimp and eggs were tastier and didn’t feel like a rock in my stomach. And I’m eating nuts – yummy!

My body was overall happier. I’m less tired. I’m more regular. And, while I was still staying in the 110 range, I’d creeped up to 110.9 until I reverted to my healthy eating. I dropped back down to 110.1. I know that sounds ridiculous, but as I watched the scale move from 109.4 to 110.9 I knew I had a problem. So, even at the same caloric intake and activity level, my plant heavy diet keeps me trimmer.

I’m still a little hungry. Not after I eat, but within a couple hours. So, I think I have another week of getting my gut flora back to normal before I even out on this. It’s getting better each day and sometimes I find it isn’t hunger as much as thirst. More water fixes that.

There you have it, my personal science experiment and qualitative experience with gut flora. Maybe what I shared will help you either get through your initial weight loss period, keep you on track, or just stay in maintenance mode.

 

 

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3 Tips For Healthy Living – Getting Off the Fence

While in San Francisco last week I ran into a number of colleagues that hadn’t seen me in quite some time. So the fact that I lost almost 60 pounds was quite a shock. But, I also ran into a colleague that had started out on the healthy journey the same way I did, attending several weight watcher’s classes at the office. So, when he saw me, he asked, “How did you do it?”

There was something odd about the question because we both started from the same place, live the same hectic work life balance, and are food addicts. I made progress and he was still a work in progress (please don’t interpret that as mean spirited, more introspective). In many ways, as we talked, it boiled down to the fact that I had moved ahead and he was still on the fence.

To be honest, his question is what I keep asking myself even as I’ve read my own blogs and analyzed my tracking of food and exercise. I think that if I can come up with the secret sauce of why I was able to lose the weight and get healthy and others aren’t, I can keep on going. But, there really is no secret sauce. There are tricks and advice to be sure, but the answer I’ve come to is pretty simple and boils down to three things:

Choice is a Commitment

I’d been down this path before and the results were temporary or limited. The difference today was I knew I was at the age where I had to make a real choice – chubby and limited in life, or healthy and enjoying life. It really was that black and white. You can start a diet. You can take a walk. But, you need to choose to be healthy. Choice is a commitment, not an activity. When you decide to do something you need to back it up.

Know Why You Chose

A smaller pant size, getting into a bikini, and parading in a wedding pageantry is a vanity result. For me, and for others that have made a choice and committed to healthy living have a deeper drive. Some want to live and losing weight and getting fit improves their heart, cholesterol and diabetes. Some want to be active and involved with their kids and the weight is getting in the way of that. I wanted to enjoy all my outdoor loves and reconnect with my husband by doing things together as we are close to entering our empty nest stage. Yes, I love my skinny jeans, bikinis and athletic body. But it is the bigger reason for a healthy life that got me through the first phase of getting healthy and losing weight and is keeping me focused on holding back the weight and staying on point.

Just Live It

Part of commitment is that you commit. Sounds recursive, I know. But, that is the point. There is no wishy-washiness. There is no bargaining. There are no excuses. There is no gaming the system. If you are doing these things you will fail. It is that simple.  You don’t think about picking up your kids from daycare, you just do it. You don’t think about if you need to go to work. You just do it. It is the same with this. Sometimes you just need to not think about things. You just need to live it. Learn how to live healthy and then just do it. No gimmicks to this – its a lifestyle.

25 Years Later We Conquer Mt Lafayette Again

In 1994, only 9 months into our relationship, Tom and I booked a romantic weekend at a quaint B&B in Franconia, NH. The goal, hike up Falling Waters trail, cross three peaks with the Franconia Ridge Trail (Haystack, Lincoln, Lafayette) and come down Bridle Path. This 9ish hike brings you up to 5200 ft with amazing view through Franconia Notch, back across the Presidentials and west toward Vermont. On a clear day…which isn’t a guarantee.

That was when we were 25 and were pretty outdoorsy. Skiing, hiking, rollerblading and mountain biking were our typical dates. I was barely 95 pounds and thought I was in pretty  good shape. Still, that hike kicked our butts. We had to take breaks on the way up and I cheered/grumbled when we hit “natural stairs” – those blocks of granite some amazing soul helped to stack together and create the stairway to the top. On the way down, Tom’s Achilles was killing him as we stepped down the rocky path. At the bottom our legs ached, my hips were sore, and we were spent. All told, I think we took about 8 hours.

1994 Hike

Fast forward to this 23 years 2 months to this weekend. At 48, Tom and I are no spring chickens. We’d been pouring over pictures from our Franconia hike for years wistfully thinking we would like to do it again. There is a picture of us sitting in front of the sign at the Greenleaf Hut that is framed and always sits out on our bookcase as a constant reminder and medal for our accomplishment. Well, we had made reservations for the Columbus Day weekend in Franconia and low and behold, Saturday was the day to do the hike again.

1994 Greenleaf Hut

I was worried. We were old – okay older. I’d only just become my skinny self, but certainly wasn’t as little as I was back then. I run, but I didn’t’ think I was anything near in shape compared to back then. Yet, Tom and I knew that we wanted to do it, and do it we would. Even Matthew, our 14 year old son, was excited to join in.

Falling Waters was as I remembered it. Beautiful waterfalls, gorgeous forest, and a brutal number of “natural stairs” before you got to the tree line. I was the turtle. I slowly and methodically put on foot in front of me and didn’t look back. Crossing a couple of water points left me almost falling in and even loosing my water bottle, which I was able to retrieve. After the first hour, Tom was starting to give me the, “we need to get moving faster” talk. He was worried we wouldn’t get to the top and down fast enough before the sun came down. I shot him the icy stair and kept to my pace. Matt was gleefully bounding up the trail like a true trail runner – show off!

Getting past the tree line and Haystack was in view. The easy crawl hike up to the summit was where I got my mojo back. I knew that after this, the hiking part was going to be easy. The only issue is that at the top, we now hit cold temperatures, fog, and same insane wind. I put on my shell, hat and gloves on and quickly adjusted. We went over to the trail sign and took our picture for history.

2017 Hike

Moving across the Franconia Ridge Trail was an easier hike but the wind was whipping. Tom stopped a few times for some spectacular views. The foliage was amazing and sweeping vistas took my breath away – along with the wind. I was trying my best to keep my footing as gusts up to 40 mph tried to push me off the ridge. When we got to Lafayette, the weather was so challenging that Tom suggested we keeping moving rather than take a historical picture. I was all for that and Matt was too. While there wasn’t any rain, the fog was wet enough and the wind just pushed the dampness right into us. My hair was wet, my gloves were wet, my hat and jacket were dripping.

If we thought it was bad on Lafayette, going down and across to the Greenleaf Hut was worse. I could barely keep my footing and balance due to the wind. The trail had been moved to conserve the ridge but this created challenges to know where the trail was. We weren’t the only ones having difficulty. Normally cheerful when passing, all us hikers were heads down and focused on moving through. There was little more than a head nod for a greeting and often we all were just focused on pushing forward.

Getting back into the tree line was so much better. While the wind was still whipping, the trees kept us sheltered and our hike became much more enjoyable again. The trail itself was also easier and we made our way quickly to the Greenleaf Hut for lunch. At the hut we squeezed into a table and pulled out our lunches. We’d started at 7:45a and it was now 12:00p. We were starving. Out came the cheese, sausage, tuna fish sandwiches, turkey sandwiches, apple sauce, and nuts. Never did a meal taste so good!

Half an hour later we packed up and headed to the Greenleaf Hut sign for our historical picture. It was still cold and damp, not too unlike what it was like 23 years earlier, but being able to document that we did it again was amazing.

2017 greenleaf hut

The hike down Bridle Path was easy. We stepped down the rocks quickly. On the sections that were less rocky we all jogged our way down the trail – Matt in the lead, then me, and then Tom taking up the rear. The way down was exhilarating. With only 2.9 miles left, we realized how far we came and how good we felt. Stopping a few times as the weather was clearing, we took in some views from the bluffs over looking the notch and even chatted with a few hikers coming up to the hut.

About 1.5 miles left in the hike the rain came. Under the trees we didn’t feel it much, but it was definitely coming down. At this point the trail was much more even and a slight slope. We picked up the pace and mostly jogged our way out. Reaching the parking lot, our hiker’s high was turned up, smiles on our faces, and congratulatory high fives were in order.

Time – 6 1/2 hours. Not too shabby for a couple of old people!

No real aches and pains compared to the last hike. Although we did take an ibuprofen at lunch as insurance and popped another in the evening and the next morning. But, Tom and I did go out for a hike and even climbed up Artists Bluff for the views the next day. Back today, the most I can complain about is tightness in my calves and the usual hip aches when I do a long run. All in all, not a big deal.

As for the really good part? For two days I didn’t not really think much about my diet. Wine, cheese and crackers were pulled out when we got to the RV. Dinner after the hike was hot Italian chicken sausage with Arrbiatta (sp?) sauce and pasta, a bottle of wind, and a hunk of dark chocolate. The next day was chilly cheese fries, buffalo chicken tenders and a bacon swish burger. Oh yeah, and the really big beer at Oktoberfest at Loon Mountain. Gluttony? Oh yeah. Did it matter, NO!

Got on the scale today, I’d lost a pound. 🙂

Can Exercise be Fun?

I stalk the MyFitnessPal site to get ideas about food, nutrition and work-outs. They had a blog recently about recess inspired workouts.  I also saw a blog from a MFP member that is just struggling to get 10 minutes on the treadmill and hates to workout. It reminded me of another blog (for the life of me I can now not find) where a woman talked about taking dance classes for exercise because she loved to dance.

I’m learning something on this journey that should have been completely obvious but wasn’t. Exercise is a euphemism for being active. We exercise and work out today because we no longer hunt, gather or farm our fields to survive. Most of us sit at a desk for eight hours, sit in a car for two hours, and lounge on the sofa a couple hours. Then we sleep. Millions of years of evolution to be in constant active survival mode and self reliance can’t be turned off in 150 years by our industrial revolution. So now we exercise and work out.

Doesn’t that just feel like another job? While we might love to run, cycle, and do boot camp classes or crossfit (no I don’t do crossfit – but that is another blog), if we had the chance we might do something fun instead. We would play on a jungle gym, ski, back pack, play tennis, or join the kickball league.  Those activities are somehow different. They are all about fun.

My epiphany recently is that I need to think about how exercise can’t only be about a workout for losing and maintaining weight and health but also has to be about having fun. I found that by changing from running on the treadmill and road is more fun when I’m crashing through trails like a kid is awesome. I found that being on a SUP gave me hidden activity but a connection to the outdoors which I love. I used to play tennis and loved being with my friends and playing in leagues together, why not do that again?

So, go ahead and keep up the cardio and gym routines. We after all are still more sedentary than our ancestors. But, don’t forget to have fun!

 

 

 

Where and When To Fit In Exercise?

Last week I was back on the road for work after 6 weeks and had to relearn my travel tricks. The difference is that I’m in maintenance mode. You’d think this could be easier as I don’t have as much to worry about with counting those calories and keeping to my macros. And you would be right. I just go vegan or add some lean protein and keep portions in control. Its the exercise that’s the killer.

The trade off is always, do you stay where it is easy to go for a run outside but is far from where you need to be each day, or do you stay somewhere that is close and rely on the hotel gym? I had one of those weeks.

You would think that staying in the Bay Area would be perfect. If I am downtown, super simple. Head out to the Embarcadero. But, in San Mateo you are in an industrial zone. It may not be shady (Trader Joes was right around the corner), but it is industrial and shady enough that this little girl was not going to run through the streets alone. Call me crazy, or recognize that I probably have too much of an exurb mindset from living in New England hamlets.

In the end, the Marriot gym and I got to know each other pretty well. I checked into the hotel and immediately threw on my workout clothes, pulled back my hair, and grabbed my headphones and iPad then headed to the gym.  40 minutes later, my treadmill run was done. The next day, I got back from my client meeting and again, without so much as a thought, got my act together and met up with my treadmill from the day before for another 40 minutes run. The trick, just do it. Don’t think about it or you’ll only find an excuse.  Mine was all too easy, I hate treadmills.

That’s the travel side of things, but I am also realizing that as the summer turns to fall, and Jose is kissing our New England shores, the weather and length of day is no longer my friend. I can’t get out for a run anytime I want. And with the water getting colder, so my SUP will see more time in my garage than the lake and river. Outdoor stuff is still possible, just a bit more challenging or I can’t do yet because snow has not yet arrived (need to ski! need to snow shoe!).

What’s a girl to do? Use my work at home days to my advantage! I had a 50 minute call with my team today where nothing was to be presented and all we were doing was grocking on a strategy to cover an evolving technology space. I could either sit at my desk with my phone in my ear, or I could get off my lazy a$$. I chose the latter. With 7 minutes to spare before my call, I threw on my workout clothes, grabbed the phone, and headed to my elliptical.

The call was interactive, engaging and actually fun. I went back and forth muting and unmuting my phone as I would jump in to contribute so as not to distract the conversation with the sound of my machine. I also did what I thought was a decent job of speaking and sharing, although a bit breathy.  Alas, it didn’t go completely unnoticed. Back at my desk my colleague Cinny had shot me an email…”Are you running or biking during our call? love it! <end>”

exercising

I have to say though, it was a great workout, one of my better elliptical workouts. I upped my calorie burn by about 50 calories for the same amount of time and got my heart rate up to 134 when I’m typically in the low 120s. Maybe I should do this more often! Those meetings must get me riled up.

Machines aren’t my favorite workout mode, but when all else fails I need to not think about how I’m getting exercise time it and just work on making it happen. It really is a lifestyle change that thankfully isn’t as hard to do anymore. I feel good after my workouts just as I do when I run, SUP, hike, and bike. I also get the benefit of keeping my weight off. Over the past month I hold pretty steady at 111 – 112, and that is with the Five Guys burger a week ago and the over indulgence on pigs in a blanket and Guinness this past Saturday night at a hockey party.

Life is good.

 

Traveling by SUP; Paddling the Charles

Last weekend I tried out stand up paddle boarding (SUP) and fell in love. It was so much better than kayaking and canoeing. I didn’t have to sit in water. I could see out across the lake. And, I got an amazing full body workout for what felt like little effort.

So, today, I went to the Charles River with Tom and rented a SUP. We trekked down the river, peeking in on various coves where herons, swans, ducks and geese all were handing out. We took time to relax where I at lunch on my board and Tom in his kayak. I powered against the current and wind. And at the end, my legs were getting tired, I could feel my abs and sides, and my arms were becoming rubber. But, it was all so good!

I pulled into the dock where a college student helped me off the board and asked how it went.  When I told him we had made it down to a big bridge about two and a half miles down, he was surprised. Standing in line to pay for the session I realized most people only stayed out about an hour.  We were out there almost three.  How could you resist? We had a nice 5.2 mile trip today in sunny 80 degree weather.

Anyway, I am definitely thinking that in the spring I’m going to get a board. Besides cruising along rivers and lakes, there are these great SUP yoga classes and I can even take it with us to the ocean. I’m not going to surf through. I saw some videos and it is exactly like real surfing which I failed at miserably and it scared/scarred me for life. But, a little foam to cut through and then paddling parallel to the shore is just my speed.

Not really a true ‘travel’, but it was a quick journey that was every bit as Zen as my runs (which I also did this morning before we left). If I’m in a city with water and SUP rentals, I may just have to switch between running and paddling on my trips. I’ve go so many coming up this fall from San Francisco, Las Vegas, NYC, Chicago, Switzerland and Tokyo. Almost all have water ways.  Will I be lucky enough with weather to SUP? I sure hope so.

 

Everyone Should Have A Healthy Living Brag Board…Here’s Mine

So much has happened in the last three weeks and I’ve been quite the slacker sharing. (As such, first let me apologize for a very long blog.) Of course a blog is as much a brag board as it is a way to vent and get it all out there. So, let’s share.

It’s all too easy to get discouraged when your primary goal is losing weight. That burger you had when out with the girls that you shouldn’t have. The wing frenzy during Superbowl. Plateaus that feel like your body is just beating you back. If you only look at weight, then what will keep you motivated for the lifelong journey of healthy living that should keep your weight off.

It’s where I am now, pushing into maintenance mode and finding that by moving past worrying about weight, I’m more concerned with being able to stay active, do the things I want to do, enjoy my new body in the latest fashions, and most of all, try things I’d never done before.

Weekly Report MFP 8272017The big surprise is that I actually lost weight on my RV vacation. I honestly have no idea how or why it happened. The data isn’t helping me much to figure it out, but I’ll share my stats in the hope that someone smarter than me (got to be a lot of you out there) knows what I did right. This is last week’s chart from MyFitnessPal. The week before is about the same and I don’t have this weeks report yet. As a benchmark/context, I set my calories to 1050 per day regardless if I exercise or not.

Okay, here we go…

  • All the activity is the complete opposite of how I was: On past year vacations I have spend more time lounging in a beach chair, floating in the ocean, or cooking and eating than anything else. This vacation was filled with hikes and runs. Outside of vacation, Tom and I have gone biking 17 miles on the Minuteman Trail, kayak (Tom) and paddleboard (me)  together, and run the hills of Hopkinton since we’ve been back. And, even through I was sic for almost 3 days (for real – fever, vomiting, congestion, aches and sore throat), I got right back in the swing of things when I was well.
  • Climb every mountain: My favorite, even if killer challenging, was the fact that I was able to run mountains and hills on trails. The best part was when Tom talk me how my oldest son who met up with us in the Smoky Mountains saw me take off and asked, “Is she really going to run this?” And, Tom said proudly, “Yes!” And, I did. Why do it, because when you get to the top, unlike road running, it is absolutely okay to take a pause and look out at the view, you deserved it. Here is my triumph pic from the Shenandoah on Endless Caverns.IMG_0370IMG_0371IMG_0372
  • I was Rocky Balboa: Getting my daughter off to college this week was heartbreaking. While I’m so very proud of her, the house is so quite without Emily’s KPop, Pop music, and singing/dancing routine while doing dishes. There is no Emily popping her head in our room to say hi when getting home from work, or climbing in bed to watch a comedy show with me. Still, what got me through dropping her off at Temple this week was a brisk run to the art museum in Philadelphia and running the Rocky stairs. Imagine my amazement when what I thought was going to kill me was one of the easiest things I have done on my runs. Guess those mountain trail runs on vacation did the trick! Here is my view from the top of the stairs…
    IMG_0383
  • run 937Breaking through a 10 minute mile: Okay, so I only made it by 3 seconds. But, I had convinced myself that working on  speed wasn’t all that important. After all, my real passion has been trail running. Imagine my surprise after Tom and I had our first morning run together after three weeks (he didn’t run our whole vacation) and I looked at my stats and saw 9:57 avg for my 5k. Now, that is the flats. My average when including Hopkinton hills is 10:30. Today, not only did I go over 4 miles (I typically stay at 3- 3.5), but my average pace was 10:15 per mile. I shaved off 15 seconds. Not too shabby for a 48 year OLD lady.
  • Paddle boarding is awesome: In the try something new category I decided to ditch the kayak in favor of a paddle board. I have seen so many women on them this summer – on the ocean shore and lakes – that I was fascinated. It also took me back to my California days handing with friends that surfed as I opted for beach volleyball, and thinking that paddling your way on a surf board was way better than drowning under a wave (which I almost did). Anyway, today I paddle boarded and loved it! And, I did it in my OP bikini. Yes, I did!
  • 17 miles on the Minuteman Bike Trail: In the spirit of having an active weekend, Tom and I got our bikes out and hit the trail. While it was just a paved commuter bike trail and not at all what ‘real’ cyclists do, our round trip between Bedford and Arlington was so much fun. A short break along the way to stop in the Great Harvest Bread Co. for lunch for a dreamy Garden Veggie Sandwich on Seeded Wheat only made the ride better.
  • Another pair of my daughter’s jeans are mine: As Emily went to school and sorted through her clothes she handed me a pile of things she didn’t want anymore. What a gold mine! While I passed on the obviously teenage items, two pair of skinny jeans that are too small for her called my name. I just love them, and so does Tom! They hug me. The only issue, I still need a belt. It seems my waist is now 24 inches…
  • The weight loss: On August 5th I got on the scale before we left for vacation and I was 118 and change. I had resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to do a weigh in for two weeks and was almost hysterical to lose my baby blanket. I honestly almost brought our low tech battery powered scale on the RV. But, Tom gave me enough looks and comments to shame me into realizing I was a nut job. Current weight as of this morning: 113.1 lbs. That’s 5.1 lbs in three weeks. Down 55.7 pounds in 8 months. Whaatt??
    scale 8 27 2017 30 days

The data chick in me attempts to break this down…

The reality is that except for two days of food avoidance this week because of my flu/cold, I have not really stayed within my calorie limit in the past three weeks. And yet, something about how I’ve been more active and increasing my eating has shocked my body to lose weight. Is dropping 5 pounds in three weeks healthy, NO! But, I did some thinking and whether this is right or wrong I think I must have upped my metabolism. So, I’m experimenting with raising my calorie threshold to 1200 and see how that goes. Will that slow down the weight loss and help me shed the last three pounds gradually by Thanksgiving? Will I remain the same? Or will I gain weight?

Anyway, now that I’m officially in maintenance mode, (toast) here is to understanding what maintenance mode looks like. Wish me luck. But, really, I’d rather you help me celebrate these bragging points. I am doing all the things that I had to give up because of my weight. I am loving my active summer. I am looking forward to this winter for skiing the bumps and snowshoeing the trails. In the near term, send me good vibes for 2 5k races coming up this fall. I really really really want to be under 30 minutes.

Ultimately, what this brag board should help with is less about bragging to all of you but be a reminder of what I accomplished not only with weight loss but with giving me back the life I love.

Cheers!