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Old news and hot trends for 2013

I’ve been contemplating a post on the highlights and lowlights of 2012 and what I think the hot trends in health, nutrition, and food will be for 2013, but I’ve had trouble putting it all together. It’s not easy to take internal chit-chat and make it into a concise list. Plus, I don’t like conflict and many of my lowlights are “in vogue” and my predicted trends aren’t all that trendy. I probably can’t call them “trends” if I’m alone on the bandwagon.

What to do?

We made it through another presidential election and we survived the Mayan Apocalypse, so I’m guessing you (my loyal readers) can endure my non-objective, totally biased, opinionated views of what’s going on in the world of food and health.

Here’s what I consider the highlights and lowlights of 2012 and my trends for 2013. This is the abridged version. If there’s anything you’d like me to expand on, please let me know in the comment section and if there’s enough interest, I’ll do a whole post on it.

Highlights of 2012 in no particular order
1. Gluten-free becomes mainstream
2. Increased awareness of non-celiac, gluten sensitivity
3. Pressure to label genetically modified foods
4. Research indicating the importance of a diverse and healthy microbiome (check here for details)
5. The Gluten-Free Edge: A Nutrition & Training Guide for Peak Athletic Performance & and Active Gluten Free Life is released (obviously a highlight for me)
6. An appreciation and focus on farmers, sustainability, and local food
7. Increased awareness of unhealthy food industry practices and factory farming
8. Perceptions are changing regarding cholesterol levels and the importance of healthy fats
9. Lots of choices when it comes to food and nutrition philosophies, one size doesn’t fit all
10. Hearty greens take center stage

Low-lights of 2012 in no particular order
1. Gluten-free becomes mainstream (the good, the bad, and the ugly)
2. Dr. Oz and his over-the-top, magic, fat-busting claims
3. Dr. Mercola and his scary, hyped-up marketing tactics
4. Dr. Davis (Wheat Belly) goes too far with his “wheat equals crack” campaign and becomes joke fodder for Stephen Colbert
5. American’s consumed 1 billion pounds of beef at McDonald’s in 2012
6. Hospital food — my mom was served white bread, this sherbet, and Ensure upon admission (she had diabetes)

7. Dunkin’ Donuts test markets gluten-free donuts
8. Lance Armstrong
9. Too many supplement choices, drug options, ridiculous diets, and “super foods”
10. Low-quality, fast food on every corner, marketing to kids

Food and nutrition trends for 2013
1. Increase in personal genetic testing: epigenetics, nutrigenomics, and a focus on how genetics influence individual health traits, disease risk, carrier status, reactions to medications, ancestry, food likes and dislikes, etc. (I had this done, very interesting)
2. Consumers seek organic, non-GMO, local food
3. Less meat, more plant-based eating
4. The “bacon in everything” trend is over
5. The US has plenty of its own super foods, no need to resort to exotic Himalayan or Rainforest plants
6. Old fashioned oats (certified gluten-free) and dried heirloom/heritage beans make a high-protein comeback
7. Made-from-scratch food is in, processed food is out
8. Chefs take charge of their own health, lead by example
9. Gardening, walking, nature, exercise, quality sleep, whole foods, and a good attitude are in, whining about what you can’t eat is out
10. Basic “recipes” for longevity are in, exaggerated health claims are out

Next up, a recipe and the winner of a big bag of gluten-free oat bran from my farmer friends in Montana. If you haven’t entered to win, check out my “oat bran power bar and giveaway” post and leave me a comment.

Wishing you peace, love, and good joo-joo in 2013!
Image of Evgenia Antipova still life painting from WikiMedia Commons

Mitochondria part 2

Tour de France

One more post on weight loss (or gain), mitochondria density, and metabolic health and then I’ll get back to posting some healthy, gluten-free recipes. I promise. But before I do that, I have to fill in the blanks from my prior post on this subject. To catch up, please see part one—the mitochondria: your own starship enterprise. This two-part series features highlights from last June’s Fitness & Health Bloggers Conference held at the newly opened Anschutz Health & Wellness Center.

Okay, are you ready for a different take on weight loss? Curious, even?

Dr. Iñigo San Millán is the director of the Human Performance Lab at the Anschutz Center. He’s an exercise physiologist and his conference presentation brought together two different areas of customized approaches to fitness. On one end, we have the average person trying to lose weight and get healthy. On the other end, we have world-class, elite, endurance athletes. You know—the kind of people who run ultra-marathons, break world records, win Olympic medals, ride in the Tour de France. Yes, I know, there’s a big gap between average and elite. But according to Dr. San Millán, we have a lot to learn from elite athletes and can apply the same general principles of metabolic health to our own pursuit of fitness.

What is metabolic health, you ask? Overall, it means being healthy and fit in all aspects and on a whole body level (on a cardiovascular, hormonal, emotional, nutritional, and cellular level). Sounds rather yogic, doesn’t it? Mind, body, and spirit health.

Dr. San Millán tossed out some brutal facts about the rising rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease in the United States. Sixty-eight to seventy percent of the US population is overweight or obese. Two-thirds of Americans are on some sort of diet or weight-loss program at any given time, but 98% of weight loss is gained back. That roller-coaster ride of weight gain, weight loss, weight gain undermines metabolic health and makes it increasingly harder to lose the weight. What’s the answer?

It’s complicated and there’s no magic formula, but there’s a positive side to this. We can make health-enhancing changes at anytime of life. It’s never too late to eat better and move more. BUT, it has to become a way of life, not a temporary “diet” or periodic exercise program.

According to Dr. San Millán, elite endurance athletes are the most fit people on the planet and the only population totally free of acquired metabolic and cardiovascular disease. As Dr. San Millán said in his talk, “Simply, it doesn’t exist.”

So, what makes these elite athletes metabolic super-stars?

High mitochondrial density and metabolic flexibility.


In a nutshell: cellular energy requirements control how many mitochondria we have (in “healthy” individuals without a genetic mitochondrial disorder). The more we move (walk, run, hike, bike, ski, play tennis), the more mitochondria we have. Endurance athletes have twice the mitochondrial content as sedentary individuals (Davis et al., 1981, 1982). The more mitochondria we have, the more efficiently we process carbs and fat. The more efficiently we process carbs and fat, the less likely we are to be overweight. If we maintain a healthy weight, there is less risk of insulin resistance, diabetes, and heart disease.

See those legs in the above cycling photo? That’s turbo-charged mitochondrial density in action. It’s unlikely any of those cyclists are overweight or have type 2 diabetes or heart disease. Tour de France riders consume an average of 6000–9000 calories per day. Of those, 75–80% are carbs. Michael Phelps told ESPN that he consumes 8000–10000 calories per day during training and competition. Again, a high percentage are carbs.

Okay, sounds good, but where do we start? And comparing ourselves to elite athletes is a little intimidating, wouldn’t you agree? I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to be running marathons anytime soon. Plus, we’re all different. Each body is unique. We have different adaptations to exercise and different responses to what we eat. But, the good news is, it doesn’t matter how old we are or what shape we’re in, we can make positive changes. We can lose weight. We can eat better. We can become healthier. We can increase our mitochondria and enhance our ability to process carbs and fat. We can thrive.


Here’s the deal. According to Dr. San Millán, physical activity should be the foundation, boosted by a healthy diet. And that healthy diet can include carbs. Healthy carbs aren’t evil, we just need to move our bodies daily to be efficient at processing those carbs.

I agree. We need to make time for activity, at least an hour a day, more if possible. You don’t have to go to the gym or buy expensive equipment. Dance, do yoga, garden, walk your dog, sell your car, move to Paris, become Amish. It’s about permanent lifestyle changes; it’s not about dieting. We need to move more to lose weight, maintain metabolic health, and avoid type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

We don’t have to be an elite athlete, but we can learn from them.

Peace, love, and physical activity! Lots of it. Weight loss will be the side effect!

Hydration and recovery (recipe included)

I have a friend (as brilliant as he is) who recently spent a day or so recovering from a self-induced, internal drought. He was miserable.

If you’re an active person, you’ve probably experienced an imbalance between water intake and water loss at one time or another during an extended period of exercise. It’s not pleasant and greatly impacts your performance whether you’re out for long mountain bike ride or playing a hard-fought tennis match. Exercise capacity can be compromised when a person is dehydrated by as little as 2% of body weight. That’s not much.

We often focus on food sources of fuel, but fatigue during exercise may be the result of dehydration as much as from lack of nutrient intake. It takes much longer to recover from a hydration deficit than it does from a food (energy) deficit. You can eat a banana or a handful of jelly beans and feel better in minutes, but if fluid intake is compromised, it takes a lot longer to recover. If you’re feeling like a saguaro cactus—hot, parched, and moisture-deprived—it will take hours for fluids to trickle back into your blood plasma, muscles, and intracellular fluids. It’s best to make sure you’re well-hydrated to begin with and take measures to stay hydrated while active.

Sip, sip, sip.

And guess what? Food counts as hydration. At least some food does. Processed food contains no water. Raw vegetables and fruit contain quite a bit and come with a supporting cast of nutrients, including sodium, potassium, and magnesium—critical electrolytes lost through sweating.

Power-packed, pre- or post-exercise smoothie (a great combo of ingredients for hydration, performance, and recovery)
Makes one mega serving, or two if you’re forced to share

1-1/2 cups coconut water
1 small banana
1/3 cup frozen cherries
1/3 cup chopped cucumber
1/3 cup chopped raw beets
1 stalk celery, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon flax seeds, ground

Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender and pulse until smooth. Makes about 22 ounces (1-3/4 cups).

PER SERVING: 350 calories; 7 g fat; 70 g carbohydrate; 8 g protein; 13 g fiber
Nutrition Bonus: vitamin C; magnesium; phosphorus; sodium; potassium; thiamin; selenium; zinc

For a detailed post on the differences in high-powered blenders, check this post from my friend Alexa at Lexie’s Kitchen. She’s the blender guru. I have a VitaMix and I love it, but there are several other blenders on the market that will also pulverize chopped beets and celery.

Peace, love, and plant power!

please stand up to read this

Are you standing up? No?

Okay, I’ll be honest. I’m not either.

Disclosure: I’m sitting in my big, soft, down-filled, vintage Hemingway chair (and ottoman) with my computer on my lap and a cup of organic coffee with coconut milk by my side. I’m also munching on sliced Fuji apples and almond butter while typing and watching the final stage of the Tour de France.

Having said that, I’m off to an all-day yoga workshop, so I’m not feeling too bad about my sitting, eating, sipping, blogging and watching TV.

Whoa, when I say it like that, it sounds pretty bad.

And, that’s my point. It all adds up, no matter what our excuses are. Watching TV is watching TV, even if it’s a monumentally epic, calorie-burning event like the Tour de France. We sit far more than we realize and it translates to a higher risk of everything from heart disease to diabetes to Alzheimer’s. I did lots of research for this post and one thing I found particularly disturbing was that the increased risk of disease was found to be independent of physical activity level. That’s always been my excuse. Hey, I exercise every day. I also sit on my exercise ball a lot of the time. That’s all good, but I flat-out sit too much. Blogging, writing, research, working, social media, messing around on my computer.

My goal is to cut down on my sitting down. I’m standing as I make this declaration! Well, sort of. But, you get the idea. I’ll get moving and let this wonderful graphic speak for me. If you want a systematic review of longitudinal studies published since 1996 on the relationship between sitting on your bum and increased risk of disease, check the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 41, Issue 2 (August 2011).

Peace, love and stand up!
P.S. Erin of Gluten Free Fitness, you were right. Cadel rocked!


Sitting is Killing You
Via: Medical Billing And Coding

fuzz food inflammation and movement

If I had more room in the title bar, I’d call this post, “inflammation, fuzz, food, inner space, enlightenment, movement, and twisty-bendy stuff.”

In case you’re wondering about the photo, cotton candy has nothing to do with this post, other than it looks exactly like fuzz. I wanted something that would visually compare to fuzz in case you wanted to opt out of the cadaver video.

I bet you’re curious, though.

I’m a nutritionist, but my college education began with a degree in exercise physiology. Because both disciplines are science-based, I’ve ended up taking anatomy, physiology, and bio-chem two different times, from different teachers, at different institutions. My first semester (20-some years ago) of anatomy included a cadaver lab. It was there that I found my religion (seriously) and began my intense fascination with how our bodies work from the inside out.

Before I was diagnosed with celiac disease, joint pain and inflammation where a daily thing for me. Nothing debilitating, but it was annoying and constant. I even slept with my arms in a pillow-version of traction because my shoulders hurt so much. I attributed the pain to a lifetime of physical activity and overuse. To make a long story short, a gluten-free, whole foods diet and lots of yoga solved my problems. No more inflammation and very little pain — as long as I eat well and move often. Bend, stretch, twist, twirl, and dance.

I’ll let somanaut Gil Hedley explain why. His approach to teaching anatomy and physiology is humorous, creative, and spiritually enlightening. He’s also brilliant and charmingly geeky, which I absolutely love.

Did that help (and isn’t Gil charming)? Doesn’t fuzz look like cotton candy? Well, there’s no need for either.

Movement is key, but so is food.

On to inflammation, which isn’t always a bad thing. It’s a natural and protective response by the immune system to infectious agents, toxins, tissue injury, temperature extremes, cooties and other icky things. It’s a bad thing when the response is misdirected, never shuts off and targets healthy tissue. Because inflammation is a general and non-specific protective mechanism, the response is similar whether the damage is caused by gluten cooties, poor diet, disease, a fall down the stairs or a misdirected hammer.

So — what can we do to decrease inflammation and enhance our health?

Make anti-inflammatory foods your foundation and twist, bend, stretch, twirl, and shake your booty every day. You might also consider some beneficial body work.

Here are 10 tips to get you started.

1. Eliminate or minimize processed foods, fast food and junk food. Avoid products containing trans-fats, partially hydrogenated fats, high-fructose corn syrup, chemicals, additives and other “non-food” ingredients. Sugar is also pro-inflammatory.
2. Choose healthy fats such as extra-virgin olive oil, coconut, avocados, nuts and seeds.
3. Avoid soda pop and opt for old-fashioned water or green tea. If you choose to drink alcohol, an occasional glass of red wine has been shown to be beneficial.
4. Choose a wide variety of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables. Organic is best. Strive for 9 to 10 servings per day. Eat more veggies than fruit (5-6 servings of veggies, 3-4 servings of fruit). This is just a guideline.
5. Eat healthy non-gluten grains like teff, montina, quinoa, amaranth and brown rice. Legumes (beans, peas, lentils) are also a rich source of high-quality plant protein.
6. Choose nuts, seeds, raisins and dates for snacks or an occasional small serving of dark chocolate when you need a “sweet fix.”
7. Season foods with health-enhancing herbs and spices like garlic, capsicum, turmeric, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, parsley and cilantro. This list is endless.
8. The right balance of EFAs (essential fatty acids) is important. In general, omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and omega-6s are pro-inflammatory. I’ll do an entire post on this one of these days.
9. If you choose to eat animal products, 100% grass-fed, organic choices are best. Meat and dairy products from 100% grass-fed animals contain higher levels of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which studies show may fight inflammation and have anti-cancer properties.
10. Reduce stress, think positive thoughts, get adequate sleep and exercise.

Bottom line?

Your body truly is a temple. Treat it as such. Go inside, learn as much as you can about the inner workings that make up the divine space in which you live. As Gil so eloquently expresses in his book, Reconceiving My Body – Take Two, From The Heart, “I realized that I had been sitting for my whole life outside the doorsteps of the most finely wrought Cathedral ever built, without ever having gotten off my arse to walk through the doors and have a look about. My body in all its complexity represented the wonders and workings of God’s creation. Rather than being some insufferable obstacle to spiritual growth, my body as a temple could become my greatest resource for beholding the hidden face of the Divine within me.”

Go forth and explore inner space. The more we understand the magic of what’s going on inside our bodies, the more likely we are to appreciate and take care of this wonderful creation.

Peace, love and inner space!

the business of staying healthy

Exercise regularly . . .

. . . and eat right!

Laugh and be serious about the business of staying healthy (yes, you can do both at the same time).
P.S. Thanks for the inspiration, Kylie!

dream on


Pillow talk, overnight success, slumber party, rooster rants, or finding endarkenment — I couldn’t decide which title to use for this post. A couple of spicy ones also came to mind, but to spare myself a flood of weirdo spam comments, I decided to play it safe and go with dream on.

As in sleep.

Uninterrupted, consistent, rejuvenating, high-quality sleep — that’s my number one bedtime fantasy and it should be yours, too. Okay, so that’s not a very exciting fantasy, but it should at least be second on your list. Or in the top five.

In some ways, I wish I didn’t have to sleep at all as I find awake time much more fun. I don’t want to miss anything, but I know how important nighttime rejuvenation is to overall health, so I’m consistently working on ways to improve my sleep habits. I’m not the only one. According to the Centers for Disease Control, millions of Americans suffer from insomnia and various sleep disorders. A National Sleep Foundation survey reports that well over 50% of us complain of insomnia at least a few nights a week. More than 53 million prescriptions for sleep aids are filled annually. That’s a lot of sleeping pills! And a lot of people tossing and turning.

Here’s a run-down of why quality sleep is important and what you can do naturally to improve your odds of getting a good night’s worth.

Chronic lack of sleep causes the following
• elevated blood sugar levels
• boosts levels of the stress hormone cortisol
• blood pressure can become elevated
• increased cardiac risk
• weight gain (long story on that, worthy of its own post)
• thyroid function is interrupted
• immune system degeneration occurs
• increased toxic burden
• strength, vitality, balance, coordination and endurance are diminished
• memory, judgement and mood are affected; depression is more common
• lack of purpose

Good things that occur during sleep
• human growth hormone (good, good stuff) is released
• important brain chemicals are released
• regeneration of tissues occurs
• the brain has a chance to organize and archive memories (funky dreams?)
• replacement of aging cells
• energy needs fall, giving the body a chance to repair and restore function

Why we don’t sleep well
• bad nutrition habits (caffeine, alcohol, sugar, processed foods, tobacco)
• energy drinks can impact sleep 12 hours after you drink them
• stress (financial worries, toxic relationships, poor health or lifestyle habits)
• lack of exercise
• medication side effects
• not putting the time and effort into sleeping well

What we can do to sleep well and awaken refreshed
• find your own natural circadian rhythm and stick with the schedule
• try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day (allowing 8 hours for sleep)
• caffeine interrupts our natural sleep signals, avoid all caffeine 6-8 hours before bed
• exercise daily, giving yourself 4 to 5 hours between your workout and sleep
• yoga and meditation are wonderful sleep promoters
• alcohol can help you fall asleep, but it stimulates a wake-up call soon after
• clear your mind, don’t watch the news before bed
• create a sleep sanctuary in your bedroom; clean, comfortable, dark and cool *
• take a hot bath before bed
• avoid having your LED light face you, turn it away so you don’t see it
• eat a light, healthy meal at night; let your body focus on regeneration, not digestion
• drink plenty of water throughout the day, but slow down in late afternoon and evening
• tryptophan-containing foods can help induce sleep (turkey, cheese, milk, nuts, eggs)
• pillows *

* I’ll clean my messy room as soon as I publish this post. I promise. Since I’m advocating a clean and organized sleep sanctuary, I better pick up all the books, magazines and fuzzy socks off the floor. It’s a mess, I admit it.

* Oh my gosh, get yourself a couple of high-quality pillows and cuddly, soft pillow cases. There’s a reason little kids have their blankies and teddy bears. My version of that is my pillow. I’m a total nutbar when it comes to my pillow, I even travel with it. Seriously, I have issues.

Go forth and get some ZZzzzs!

no excuses

I took these photos at the base of Winter Park Ski Area in the mountains of Colorado. No thought went into it, no positioning myself for optimal light, no effort to get the right angle. I had my little point and shoot camera in my jacket pocket and as I was taking my skis off to go inside and eat lunch, I saw this wonderful dog on duty. Although he was doing his dog job, he was also taking full measure of the fact that his owner was off tearing up the slopes and he could take a break and relax in the sunshine.

Whoever owns this dog skis at Winter Park and if his (or her) wheelchair is any indication, he (or she) is out and about regardless of what some might call a “limitation.” Winter Park is home to the National Sports Center for the Disabled and is known internationally for the caliber and dedication of its athletes and participants. That includes the hundreds of volunteers who are committed to helping people with disabilities learn to ski, snowboard, snowshoe, climb and enjoy the outdoors. The program also includes the Disabled Competition Center and the NSCD Alpine Ski Team. The Competition Program has placed dozens of racers on the U.S. Disabled Ski Team. At the 2006 Paralympics in Turin, Italy, NSCD worked and trained 16 of the athletes who were representing the USDST.

Miles from England and Xenny from South Africa inspired me to do this post (although they don’t know it). Long story, but Xenny is an amputee and plays on the beaches in South Africa. When I saw a photo of “Xenny’s Beach” on Miles’ blog and read how newly installed stairs gave Xenny access to the beach, it made me smile and think of my own stomping grounds. I’ve spent my life skiing at Winter Park (and Mary Jane) and the base area is home to wheelchairs, artificial limbs, and the occasional dog companion. The scene always inspires me.

Do you ever talk yourself out of doing something because you think it will be too much effort? Convince yourself you don’t quite feel good enough? No real reason, you just can’t seem to muster up what it takes to get off your bum and go move about? We all do that on occasion. I did it yesterday and skipped one of my favorite yoga classes because I was — lazy?

Okay, no excuses.

Imagine what it must take for this guy (or girl) to get up skiing. Or the access needed for Xenny to get to the beach and have fun. I’m grateful to have these folks around for inspiration and I thank them from the bottom of my whiny (occasionally) little heart.

If you need more inspiration in the coming year to celebrate life and movement, check out this video of one of my all-time yoga heros, Matthew Sanford.

Go forth and play. No excuses!

Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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