And Now Week 6

Wow this Snatched journey has whizzed past. I am actually really sad for it to be ending. I’ve decided to stick with my plan and do 2 classes/week at Mark Fisher while keeping up 2 days a week at Blink. It’s slightly less than the 5 days I’m doing now but I am fairly certain it’s sustainable.

What I’m more concerned about is how nutrition factors in. We’ve been doing 2 week check-ins with Mark and he hasn’t adjusted any of my macro-nutrients even though I’m experiencing MINIMAL weight loss (I’m losing inches though!). So I’m not sure when it STOPS working what I do… Presumably if I’m still a member at Mark Fisher Fitness I can ask him for advice — he prides himself on being open/available to all his ninjas.

Last class was fun! We bought some ninja masks and all wore black and it was a silly good time. It kind of turned into a 50 Shades of Grey thing but … what doesn’t? This is our class picture and I LOVE them. I will really miss these silly people after next week. ALSO tragically — I am missing our last class due to a handbell festival. So I’m trying to figure out nice ways to say goodbye to these guys on Thursday.

Karen came over and we cooked a bunch this weekend as always. I am hoping to try and keep up some of this recipe planning for the time to come as it’s been infinitely helpful to me.

We made

IMG_4262

Everything was really tasty and I’m glad to have stuff for the week as always. This will be a busy week. I am thinking maybe I should’ve roasted a big bag of vegetable to go with lunch though as I don’t have any greens today. But so goes. Might be able to work that out tonight.

For the two weeks after snatched I was thinking about participating in Buzzfeed’s Clean Eating Challenge. I think I’d beef up the protein portions a little but it looks fun/easy enough to follow. I might see if Randall will do it with me. (Or any of you? Any takers??)

I am a little concerned I’m not going to get my 5th workout in this week because the bell festival is taking up my entire Saturday and Sunday. I may see if I can get an appointment Saturday evening because I think that’s my only shot so far.

Anyway — the end of snatched nears  my anxiety goes up. I think that’s normal. I don’t want to lose the momentum that I’ve worked really hard to maintain! There is a “Life after Snatched” workshop that I will attend so that’s good. And I’m sure Mark will have good tips on continuing to live your best life after snatched.

I’ve also really enjoyed having this blog space so thank you all for your encouragement and listening! I’ve been really moved by my friends who have popped up to say they’re reading and offer their own thoughts and feelings on my journey and theirs! Keep on doing everything in your control to live your best life! You can do it!

Work Snacks Friday! Microwave Popcorn Magic

I’m not gonna lie, snacks are a very important part of my work day. So, for the good of humanity I’m going to start doing some serious investigative research on new and exciting snacks that are easy to keep around at work. And thus, the blog’s Work Snacks Friday series was born.

My first discovery is that you can make microwave popcorn with nothing more than a bowl and popcorn kernels. You don’t even need any oil or spray or anything beyond: microwave, bowl with lid, popcorn.

All you need for microwave popcorn at work is: popcorn, microwave safe bowl with lid, and a microwave.

All you need for microwave popcorn at work is: popcorn, microwave safe bowl with lid.

A few weeks ago I saw this great post up on The Kitchn showing that you can microwave your own popcorn in just a brown paper bag. So cool! But…I was reading the comments and some people reported examples of the paper bags catching on fire in the microwave. Now, I’m not sure how often this actually occurs, but I really don’t want to be the person who burns down the microwave or sets off the fire alarm.

Further research turned up that you can actually just microwave plain popcorn kernels in any microwave safe bowl with a plate on top. Cool! But…I don’t have a microwave safe bowl of the proper size at work. I ended up buying a microwave popcorn bowl that had excellent reviews on Amazon and it is awesome! For $7 for the bowl and $3 for the popcorn kernels I am set for snacks for several weeks. Although you don’t need any oil or anything else, I recommend using a little olive oil for flavor and getting creative with some seasonings (garlic salt, dried rosemary, cumin or curry).

Microwave popcorn magic

And two minutes later: microwave popcorn magic!

A few microwave popcorn facts:

  • Workers in microwave popcorn factories have been diagnosed with a rare lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans that is linked to a chemical used in artificial butter flavor. There is currently no evidence that just eating the popcorn will hurt you. But, I would rather not eat something that has been shown to cause life-threatening illness in people who are handling it regularly. (Washington Post)
  • A chemical used in the bags for microwave popcorn called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) has been shown to cause liver, testicular and pancreatic cancer in animals and infertility in women. The chemical is so pervasive that it’s detectable in the blood of 95 percent of Americans. (AARP)
  • Popcorn is a pretty good source of fiber- it has even more fiber per serving than oranges or carrots.  (Mayo Clinic)
Look at all that fiber!

Look at all that fiber!

Do you have any suggestions for Work Snacks? Let us know in the comments!

 

Sugar on the Brain: What’s the Deal with Sugar Addiction?

“We don’t abuse lettuce, turnips and oranges…But when a highly processed food is eaten, the body may go haywire. Nobody abuses corn as far as I know, but when you process it into Cheetos, what happens?”

Dr. Kelly D. Brownell, director of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity

 There are a lot of books and diets out there that talk about food and addiction, but what does research on this actually show? A Princeton study from 2009 made the argument that sugar can act on the brain in similar ways as addictive drugs. The study argued that rats who were fed sugar showed signs of addiction such as bingeing, withdrawal, craving- even neurochemical changes to the brain-  in a similar fashion as they would to addictive substances such as cocaine.

Sugar_2xmacro

In the study, rats were shown to “binge” on sugar when they were hungry, which provokes a surge of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Even after only a month, the brain structures of these rats had changed due to the increased dopamine levels. Dopamine is a key mechanism for the brain’s reward and motivation systems, and similar changes to the are also seen in the brains of rats given addictive drugs like cocaine or heroin.

When the researchers took away the sugar supply, the rats showed signs of withdrawal. The brain levels of dopamine dropped, which caused symptoms of withdrawal such as anxiety, teeth chattering, paw shaking, and disengagement. When sugar was reintroduced, the rats worked who had binged on sugar worked harder to get it and they consumed 23% more sugar than they had before.

One thing that has been shown to ease cravings for food is…exercise! Several studies have shown that exercise can also modulate the brain’s motivation and reward structures. A study reported in the New York Times showed that after beginning a regimen of regular exercise, in this case running, participants started feeling satiated faster without even realizing it:

“A related study published in December looked at the effects of moderate exercise, the equivalent of brisk jogging. It found that after 12 weeks, formerly sedentary, overweight men and women began recognizing, without consciously knowing it, that they should not overeat.

But after three months of exercise, the volunteers consumed fewer calories throughout the day when they had the high-calorie shake than the lower-calorie one. Exercise “improves the body’s ability to judge the amount of calories consumed and to adjust for that afterward,” says Catia Martins, a professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, who led the study.”

 

Probiotics 101

“To say a product contains Lactobacillus is like saying you’re bringing George Clooney to a party. It may be the actor, or it may be an 85-year-old guy from Atlanta who just happens to be named George Clooney. With probiotics, there are strain-to-strain differences.”

Gregor Reid, director of the Canadian Research and Development Center for Probiotics

George Clooney wants to make sure you get live and active probiotic cultures

George Clooney wants to make sure you get live and active probiotic cultures

I’ve definitely noticed that there is a lot of new research is looking at probiotics and how they may be involved in helping with everything from stomach issues like IBS to improvements in stress management and strengthening the immune system. But is there any research to back these claims? Is there a difference between regular old yogurt and yogurt that is advertised as having special probiotic benefits?

Probiotics are living microorganisms (often bacteria but they can also be other types of microorganisms like yeasts) that are shown to have some sort of health benefits. I most often think of probiotics as being in yogurt, but they are also in all kinds of fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, miso, pickles, and kimchi (future posts on specific probiotic foods to come!). Probiotics can also be taken in a pill or powdered form as a supplement.

Look for "live and active cultures" on the label

Look for “live and active cultures” on the label

The American Gastroenterology Association provides a great comparison of different probiotic products specifically tested for gastrointestinal disorders. This is important because different strains of probiotics have been shown to be helpful for different conditions. It is also important to note that the FDA has not yet approved any health claims for probiotics.

 

SOME RULES OF THUMB FOR PICKING A PROBIOTIC

  • In yogurt, look for the phrase “contains active cultures” on the label to confirm that the product includes the living organisms that make probiotics work. Lots of products, like pickles and sauerkraut, are pasteurized before being sold which kills the live bacteria. If the bacteria aren’t active, they can’t do their thing.  (USA Today)
  • Some of the common strains to look for include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species such as: bifidobacterium lactis HN109; lactobacillus reuteri ATCC55730; lactobacillus rhamnosus GG9LGG; and lactobacillus casei DN-114 001. (USA Today )
  • In general, not all probiotics are the same, and they don’t all work the same way. Each group of bacteria has different species and each species has different strains. This is important to remember because different strains have different benefits for different parts of your body. For example, Lactobacillus casei  has been shown to support the immune system and to help food move through the gut, but Lactobacillus bulgaricus may help relieve symptoms of lactose intolerance. (American Gastroenterological Association)
  • Beware of products that promise a specific health improvement. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved any specific health claims for probiotics. Many probiotic products are sold as dietary supplements, which do not require FDA approval prior to marketing (which also means the product hasn’t been tested by the FDA for safety or effectiveness). (NIH)
  • Remember to store your probiotic according to the package instructions and make sure the product has a sell-by or expiration date. Probiotics are living organisms. Even if they are dried and dormant, like in a powder or capsule, they must be stored properly or they can die. Some require refrigeration whereas others do not. They also have a shelf-life, so make sure you use them before the expiration date on the package. (American Gastroenterological Association)

 

For more information on probiotics here are some great articles:

American Gastroenterological Association – Probiotics: What They Are and What They Can Do for You http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/diet-medications/probiotics#Choosing a Probiotic

American Gastroenterological Association – A Gastroenterologist’s Guide to Probioticshttp://www.cghjournal.org/article/S1542-3565(12)00369-2/fulltext#tbl2

NIH National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine – Oral Probiotics: An Introductionhttp://nccam.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm