Food

Why You Shouldn’t be Afraid of White Rice

White_Rice_vs._Brown_RiceDon’t you just hate it when just as you are about to take a bite of your food, someone decides to tell you about all the dangers lurking in that bite?

If only I had a dollar for every time someone did this to me, I would be able to buy a lifetime worth of white basmati rice! Mmm… fluffy basmati rice, I could eat that everyday, and you know what? My Persian ancestors did eat it every day, as do many people of countries where rice is a dietary staple.

I’m sad to say that before I made a commitment to learn more about the science of nutrition, I too was easily swayed by all of the food propaganda that is out there in the world. New food studies, talk shows, the news, advertisements, blog articles and new food products, they are all constantly contradicting themselves and each other by pushing new food trends and products. They cite a research study and all of a sudden a whole new “healthy” food product is created to replace what you and your ancestors were eating for eons before.

The problem with a lot of studies come down to their methodologies and they sometimes make generalization and associations between factors that aren’t always correlated. Take for example, a 2012 study that claimed white rice consumption is associated with a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes. Immediately people take this to mean that White Rice = Diabetes which is absolutely not true nor the case. In reality, the study was making an associates between the “risk” of diabetes and rice consumption, where a significant spike they observed was that 20% of diabetes prevalence in their study was in the United Arab Emirates, a country with high white rice consumption. Yes, they eat a lot of rice in the UAE, but because it is one of the richest countries in the world, people also tend to eat a lot of sugar, processed foods and a lot of everything else in excess. If anything, diabetes incidence goes down as rice consumption increases, which is evident in countries such as Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Bangladesh, where they have the highest white rice consumption and have very low rates of diabetes.

Here is a map released by the Wall Street Journal from the International Diabetes Federation that shows the 2013 prevalence of Type 2 diabetes around the world. You can see that a lot of countries who have historically eaten a lot of white rice like basmati or jasmine rice actually see much lower diabetes prevalence.

Diabetes_Map

The other problem is that people don’t realize that there are many different rice varieties (about 40,000 different varieties exist in the world) with different compounds to each one. Continue reading “Why You Shouldn’t be Afraid of White Rice”

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The Answer to Losing Weight

Losing_WeightOne of the most common phrases I hear is “I want to lose weight”. The answer I want to give back is usually quite long and drawn out, so I thought I would write a short response here and let everyone know that the phrase I’d really like to hear instead is “I want to lose Body Fat”. People new to fitness would presume that those two phrases are one and the same, but today I would like to make a big stink about how losing weight is nothing the same as losing body fat! I’d shout it from rooftops if I could (or in the case of today’s photo, from the high steps of Spain’s ancient forts) but alas shouting it into the blog world will have to suffice.

When someone says that they want to lose weight, it is in actuality a very vague goal. They get so focused on seeing that number on the scale drop that they start cutting calories and loading up on the cardio. They don’t think about the fact that they are probably losing muscle mass, water or stored glycogen and even metabolic waste first before they actually start losing a substantial amount of body fat.

Don’t focus on that Scale

Everyone says it, “Muscle weighs more than fat” but that’s actually not true.

5 lbs of muscle and 5 lbs of fat are both equal in weight, it’s just that fat takes up more room in your body. Fat is all fluffy and gooey and free form, while each muscle comes in a set shape that takes up less space and feels hard to the touch. That is why you can see dimpling below the surface of the skin when there is more fatty tissue present than muscle.

In reality, a 135lb person who has more muscle and a lower body fat percentage can look leaner and thinner than a 135lb person with a higher body fat percentage.

muscle_vs_fat

The Real Answer to Losing Weight Continue reading “The Answer to Losing Weight”

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The Secret To Looking Good

FeelingGoodSometimes it’s easy to let other people’s insecurities get to you. They start making comments like “I hate my thighs”, or “I can’t eat that, I need to lose like 5 pounds!” or even worse, “don’t you just hate how we can’t be as skinny as her?” and you start thinking that there must be something wrong with you and that maybe you too should be thinking twice about eating that last morsel.

I know that I don’t have the thin body you see in the media, but there is no reason for anyone to body shame me for not wanting to aspire to someone else’s ideals. I could turn the tables and start talking about how sick and skinny those models look (and probably feel), but what would that achieve? That is negativity that starts weighing down on your soul and I just want to fill my life with light and positivity, besides, ain’t nobody got time for that!

I am constantly reminding myself that my legs helped me squat 200lbs, or that my shoulders helped me hold my handstand in a strong, stable position. My body is strong, I love nourishing it with nutritious foods, and I love feeling happy and healthy from all the vitamins in what I eat and the endorphins that exercise gives me. Other people will always have their opinions, but how they feel about your body has nothing to do with how you actually feel.

So pssst…the secret to looking good is to feel good. If you feel good about the decisions you are making (like making an effort to cook at home and making time for exercise), if you fill your belly with healthy nutritious foods that gives you the proper vitamins and nutrients to fuel your body, and if you surround yourself with positive people, you are bound to feel and look good.

I guess that’s not really a big secret is it? It just gets easier to do with practice, so let’s start with small steps and get to a point where other people’s opinions are just that… their opinions and not ours.

To Being Positively Strong,

 

Sunny

 

Food

Back from Vacation: Fun & Food

OrangeHappyI just spent the last ten days eating my way through Portugal and Southern Spain. I was blown away by the quality of the food, the abundance of fresh fish and fruit and the wide array of spices and flavors found in all things edible. So much so that I will probably make several different posts with all the different photos I took there (just thought I’d warn you ahead of time).

What I love about a vacation is that it’s a great opportunity for your system to recharge. My mind is fresh and full with new ideas, while my body had a chance to rest from all the protein powders, intense HIIT sessions and heavy weight lifting sessions that I usually subject it to. When I get back into the gym later today, I will probably make a bigger impact as I’ll wake my body back up and give it another much needed change.

I was in no way inactive while I was on vacation. I was walking for 10-12 hours a day, up many hills and uneven surfaces to see all kinds of forts and castles (whew, talk about cobble stones being great for balance training) and I also made it a point to do these exercises in my hotel room every few days. At the same time I didn’t stress about work,¬†blogging, missing a workout or having to cook healthy meals or making sure I met my macro requirements at any time. I just took in the sites, learned about history, ate a lot of freshly picked fruit and chose to eat at restaurants that served good, wholesome foods.

20140514_222858I also had a chance to sit in the sun, catch up on my favorite blogs, and reconnect with my sweet husband. Now that we’re back, I can’t wait to put all of my new ideas to paper, but to also plan our next vacation for next year (I know, I know, I just got back, but looking forward to a new trip let’s me get through long work days ūüôā ). Let me know if you have any upcoming vacations planned or if you have any suggestions for places I should visit that offer really good local food.

To Positively Strong Vacations,

Sunny

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A Healthy Body Image: Strong Mind, Strong Body

Strong not SkinnyAll through my university years, I was competing heavily in Karate. I was weight training 3 times a week, karate training 4 times a week, and running every other day to maintain my 117lbs to compete in the lightweight division. During the off season, I would go easy on maintaining my strict diet and I guess what you call “bulk” a little. I was quite lean, and probably a little under weight for my 5’5 frame, since I have never been able to get down to that weight again while trying to maintain a good amount of muscle.

I remember one Halloween party during the off season, a guy I had met at another party once before, came up to me and said “Wow, you’re looking so great! The last time I saw you, you were looking too skinny and too muscle-y!”

The problem with statements like that, is that this guy knew nothing about me and actually had the audacity to make judgement about my body. Some may think there is nothing wrong with statements like that, but for years it made me think twice about getting any stronger because I was worried about gaining more muscle, or being too big, or being too skinny, or trying to be everything to everybody.

Lucky for me, I had a strong support system of family, friends and coaches that always pushed me to be a better version of myself, and I¬†eventually came to understand that other people’s opinions don’t count when you are making decisions to enhance your own life. After all, no one has to live your life but you, and since then I have learned to trust in my own judgement and experiences to make decisions about who I want to be and what I want to look like.

Now, I simply want to be strong, I want to be healthy and I want to be able to do things that I couldn’t do the day before. Also, I love to eat real food, not diet, lift heavy and keep adding to my PR, so if I had to listen to the opinions of everyone else, I would probably have to stop doing most of the things that I love… sorry, but all of the things that make me happy are non-negotiable.

I look forward to the day when we stop judging each other for being too big, too skinny, too muscular or too much of anything and just want happiness for one another. Let’s just workout to be stronger, to be faster, to be healthy and live long happy lives, and acknowledge that healthy comes in many different shapes and sizes.

To Being Positively Strong,

Sunny

 

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Using The F Word Helps Build Muscle

GoodFatsI want to build muscle. Why? Because muscle holds its shape so much better than fat does, helping me look more toned while burning calories even at rest… meaning that I can look strong, be strong and eat strong! And boy, do I ever love to eat.

To build muscle, I know that I need a few things in my arsenal. One, I need to lift weights, preferably heavy weights at that. Two, I need to meet the correct Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat amounts for my body type and exercise level. Three, I need motivation and patience to get up and keep going. Unfortunately for most people, they don’t realize that this muscle building formula requires that you follow all three steps to a tee. They try to skip over some of the steps, and that just isn’t going to work.

Most people assume that getting lean means eating a ton of protein and cutting all fats from their diet.¬† This is such a huge mistake to make and can actually set you back a bunch. Believe me, it took me years to understand this concept and I hurt my progress by not getting enough fats in my diet. If you don’t eat enough healthy fats, your body will use your protein intake as your main energy source. This is a huge problem for someone trying to add lean muscle mass as you want the protein you eat to go towards building and repairing the muscle tissue you worked so hard to workout. If your body is using protein as its main energy source, you may not reach your anabolic potential.

What is the proper amount of healthy fats to build muscle you ask? Continue reading “Using The F Word Helps Build Muscle”

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Motivation Monday: Fitness For Survival

HandstandsWhat would you do if you knew you were going to have to outrun a vicious dog on the way home from work tomorrow? Could you sprint away or climb a tree to get a way from it? Now what if you also had to carry your grandmother on your back as you ran away?

The other day, I was at the gym practicing handstands. It was the 87th time that I had attempted to do a free standing handstand after my workout, and I was excited to hold the stance in the air for the three seconds that I did. As I tumbled down, a gym regular asked me why I wanted to learn to handstand in the first place.

I just responded “why not?” but it really got me thinking, why do I want to do a handstand so bad? Sure it makes a great party trick, but I’m too old to join the circus and no one is going to offer me a fitness training job solely based on my handstanding ability. For me, I think it’s because I love knowing that I have conditioned my body to do things it couldn’t do before. I like knowing that my core muscles are strong, that my shoulders are getting stronger, and that I can build trust in my body not to let me down. The same goes for why I want to squat and deadlift 315lbs, and why I am pushing myself to do unassisted chin ups and pull ups… I am motivated by being a stronger version of myself. I like to know that I can take care of myself, that I can carry my grandmother as I run from a pissed off stray dog or that I can possibly save myself from ailments and disease if I work on being physically strong.

Of course, not everyone is motivated by the same things. Many can’t imagine a dog running after them, or ever being in a situation where their life is in danger and the only way to save themselves is to jump, kick or pull themselves up. Many also think that diseases won’t actually happen to them, assuming that tragedy only strikes others. Unfortunately, I bet you know at least one person hit by ailments like high blood pressure, knee and joint pain, diabetes, gout or hormonal imbalances and so on… all easily controllable or even preventable with diet and exercise.

For many, the physical aesthetic positives are simply not enough incentive and if being strong doesn’t motivate you, what about just being able to simply keep up with your kids? What about going up a flight of stairs without feeling out of breath? What about living a long life without aches and pains? Continue reading “Motivation Monday: Fitness For Survival”

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The Fit List: 10 Ways to Live Healthy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor the longest time, I thought that being fit meant that I had to be super skinny and look like a runway model to be healthy. I was constantly battling a war against myself and confusing my curves, my strong legs and any muscle gain as fat.¬† It’s taken a long time to get here, to a place where I feel positive about myself, where I feel strong and know that I am healthy even though I don’t look like the typical girls in magazines.

I have realized that I need to fuel my body, that body fat is necessary for me to be healthy, and that exercising should not be about 2+ hours of cardio at the gym everyday.

Here is a list of habits that I have had to develop to pave the way for living positively, healthy and strong:

1. Drink more water. Everyone says this, but it is hard to do. I had to make myself wear 10 elastic bands on my right wrist for every glass I drank, I would transfer a band over to my left wrist every time I drank a glass… until it became a habit to drink 10 glasses a day.

2. Get fat back into my diet (I always thought fats were evil, everywhere I turned, the media told me fat was bad!). I did this by cooking with olive oil and coconut oil and taking a fish oil capsule every day. Getting healthy fats in my diet was a necessity to helping clear my skin (it balances your hormones), it made me more regular and I could concentrate on my work better. It was also instrumental in helping me build muscle.

3. Eat carbs!¬† Cutting carb intake might be okay for two weeks max, let’s say if I want to cut some fluffiness before bikini season, but it is never okay to go on a low carb diet for long periods of time, especially not when you are working out and strength training.¬† Believe me, you will be a happier, more positive person with carbs in your diet.

4. Calculate the exact macro-nutrients needed for my body. I did this after learning how to calculate my daily macros using the “If it fits your macros website”.¬† Then I was able to plan healthy meals that included lasagne and cookies in my daily meal plans.

5. Lift weights, and lift heavy. Majority of women do not get all Schwarzenegger with weight lifting, instead they start looking lean and curvy. No manliness and more fat burn at rest, I promise.

Continue reading “The Fit List: 10 Ways to Live Healthy”