Monday, February 27, 2017

A Healthy Relationship with Exercise

If you Google ‘signs of over-exercising”, sites will say the symptoms are exercising for 2+ hours a day, exercising multiple times throughout the day, or skipping social events to stick to your rigid exercise schedule. In addition to these symptoms, I think there are other behaviors and mindsets that put someone at risk for over-exercising. Just because you don’t go to the gym three times a day, or run two and half hours every day of the week, or you aren’t skipping a party to exercise, doesn’t mean you are not overdoing it when you work out. Because what I’m talking about goes deeper into exercise behaviors, like why you do it.
Exercise and the human body are incredible! I love learning about exercise and the body so much I chose to study it for four years earning my bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology – the study of movement. Exercise and movement help keep our bodies healthy. It helps us manage our stress and feel good with the release of endorphins. Many people sleep better when they exercise. Movement keeps our bone strong and our muscles activated. We know there are many benefits to exercise. Our bodies are made to move. But when does exercise become too much for our bodies and unhealthy for our minds?
I am not a psychologist but feel that addressing over-exercising starts with identifying why someone is engaged in over-exercising behaviors. That means asking yourself some challenging questions that can help you dig out the real motive behind wanting to over-exercise. If you find thinking about these questions or the responses is too much, a psychologist can be very helpful.
·       Do you exercise in relation to how much you ate during the day or the day before? For example, does eating a piece of cake at a work function lead to you to work out harder and/or longer to burn off those calories?
·       Is your reason for exercising to burn off calories?
·       Do you exercise, even if you have an injury or are sick?
·       Do you find your mind consumed with negative thoughts if you miss an exercise session?
·       Do you feel exhausted for a few hours after your exercise session? 
·       Does your self-image or your self-worth depend on your exercise habits?
·       Have you lost your period, or has it become irregular?
·       Do you exercise to manage your weight?
If you find that you can relate to these thoughts or these behaviors describe you, it might be time to evaluate your exercise plan. Your mind and body will be happier if there is a healthy balance with exercise. This is a tricky subject because on one hand we are telling you that exercise can help you manage your weight and keep you healthy and then on the other hand we’re telling you that these could be signs of over-exercising. So, which is it?
Unfortunately, there’s not an exact answer for everyone. There’s no magic number that applies to everyone but there are recommendations and suggestions based on research on what a healthy balance looks like for many individuals. For example, for weight management, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends exercising at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. And combining this amount of exercise with healthy eating habits. You become at risk for over-exercise injuries when you start to increase this number too fast and your body is giving you signs to slow down but you don’t.
As I mentioned, it might be helpful to explore your over exercising behaviors with a psychologist but here are some suggestions that can help you start to find a healthier balance with exercise.
1.     If you find you are using exercise alone to manage your weight, start to incorporate healthy eating habits. Research shows that when you combine healthy eating and exercise together, it’s much more effective in managing weight. A meta-analysis published in 2014, found that in the long term, weight management programs that combine exercise with diet can lead to a more sustained weight loss over a year than just diet or exercise alone. It even reports that programs based on exercise alone are less effective than combined programs in both the short and long term. That doesn’t mean you won’t see some positive benefits from managing your weight when you exercise, especially if you are lifting weights but remember that you can’t exercise away all the calories you eat.
2.     If you struggle taking a day off from exercise, know that rest days will help you reach your goals faster. It’s the rest days that allows the muscle to heal, recover, and rebuild. The amount of rest and recovery time you need does varies from person to person but I believe that everyone needs at least one rest day per week. From there, determining rest days and time depends on your training schedule and intensity and listening to your body. Some weeks you may need a little more rest than other weeks. If you find that you are experiencing pain in a localized area, like behind the left knee cap or your right shoulder, you may be overtraining. Systemic overtraining affects the entire body and you may feel worn-down, or a lack of energy, or you can’t perform at your normal standards. These are signs that you need to take some rest days.
3.     Over-exercising can cause you to gain weight, or keep you from losing healthy weight. When the body is exhausted from systemic overtraining, it can cause the body to enter a catabolic state and produce an increased amount of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that is secreted by the adrenal cortex in response to stress. It can impede muscular repair, synthesis, and function, decrease other hormone productions, inhibit protein synthesis or accelerate protein breakdown, and reduces the body’s ability to use fat as an energy source. If you find that you aren’t losing weight and you are exercising and maintaining a healthy intake of food, you may be over doing it in the gym.
4.     If your mind struggles letting go a missed exercise session, take some time to analyze these thoughts. Instead of thinking about the negatives of missing an exercise session, take some time to think about the fun you had with your family instead. Or if your hectic schedule got in the way, take some time to analyze your schedule and what you are spending your time doing. Letting go and not over-thinking a missed exercise session is probably the hardest for many of us. So this one will take time.
Exercise is an important element to a healthy lifestyle and typically doesn’t happen unless you plan it into your day. The difference between good planning and developing an unhealthy relationship depends on if guilt and negative feelings are associated with exercise, or if you aren’t allowing your body time to rest, or if there is a blurred line between self-image and exercise.
Personally, I admit I had an unhealthy relationship with exercise and over used it for many years. My eating disorder played into how much I exercise and exercise was another way to feel a sense of control. When I was going through treatment, I had to let go of running and weight lifting completely for some time. It was mentally challenging to go from that much exercise to nothing but it allowed me to not only gain healthy weight but also to spend time exploring who I was without exercise. Resting allowed me to find ways of defining me in ways other than as a runner.
A healthy balance with exercise must be something that you explore and you must find your own balance. With a little practice, experimentation, mental exploration, and awareness of your own body, exercise will become something that you enjoy, something that challenges you, and something that brings health and happiness. 
Julie Harris has been working in the corporate fitness and wellness industry for eight years but decided it was time to fulfill her dream of becoming a Registered Dietitian. She is currently a distance dietetics student at the University of Northern Colorado. She owns an online coaching service and blog for women who are ready to make lasting changes, The Healthful Peach.  When she isn't studying or writing, she is spending time with her two year old son and husband, probably on a hike or a run somewhere. You can follow her on instagram,facebook, or sign up to get emails from her blog

Thursday, February 23, 2017

SCAN Symposium 2017: High Fat Diets for Athletes: Time to Abandon High Fat Diets for Athletes - Time to Change Sports Nutrition Guidelines?

During three distinct periods, contemporary sports nutrition guidelines for carbohydrate (CHO)-focused eating for training and competition performance have been challenged by interest in low carbohydrate, high fat (LCHF) diets. Recently, ketogenic (<50 g/d CHO), high fat (80% of energy) diets have been enthusiastically promoted with testimonials of improved sports performance.  Indeed, cross-sectional studies of LCHF ultra-endurance athletes show remarkably high fat oxidation rates during moderate intensity exercise.  Furthermore, AIS research on elite race walkers found 3 weeks of LCHF greatly enhanced fat utilisation even at high intensities. However, penalties included reduced exercise economy and failure to improve performance after intensified training.  Current recommendations for an individualised and periodised approach to CHO availability during training and event- specific optimisation of muscle substrates during competition requires better promotion.  Nevertheless, there may be some scenarios where LCHF diets are of benefit, or at least are not detrimental, for sports performance.
Learn more or register by clicking here

SCAN Symposium 2017: A Play by Play: Helping Youth Athletes Put a Sports Nutrition Plan into Practice

Youth athletes today face incredible demands to succeed, not only from coaches, trainers and peers but also from parents. For many developing athletes, putting the sports training plan together is the easy part; it is putting the plan into practice that is the challenge. Between school, work, homework, practice, training, competitions, social engagements and family obligations, figuring out how to eat right can be a challenge. This presentation will begin with a review the physical, physiological, and psychological development of the adolescent  athlete, including how the developing teenage brain and body impacts their thoughts, actions and motivations. It will also review the extraordinary nutritional needs and social challenges that must be considered when putting a sports nutrition plan into place. The presentation will then dive discuss some of the common obstacles that prevent youth athletes and their families from putting the sports nutrition plan into practice, then provide practical pointers and guidance for helping to overcome those barriers. 

Learn more or register for the symposium here.

Monday, February 20, 2017

How to Exercise When You Have Kids

During my pregnancy, I was motivated to exercise to keep Emmett healthy. It felt good to move, even if I had to do a lot of modifications. After Emmett was born, I was motivated to exercise to lose the baby weight and to be able to run again. Now, I feel fit and healthy again so my motivations have changed. I’m training to run three half marathons this year and my motivation to exercise is driven by my internal competitiveness to get faster. I’m also motivated by my toddler who doesn’t sit still and I have to keep up with him.
As a parent, our motivations and ability to exercise changes and evolves depending on what stage we are in with our children. A lot of what we do is driven by the fact that we are a parent and we have these tiny humans to care for.
You as the parent aren’t the only one who needs to exercise. Our kids spend an awful amount of time strapped in car seats or plopped in front of the TV, setting them up for a life-time of sedentary behaviors. It’s never too early to start building a good habit of exercise.
How, you may wonder, can I get my exercise in and help my child get the recommended one-plus hours of daily physical activity when there’s a long list of other things we need to do? The answer is to rethink your idea of exercise and to stop having negative thoughts about it.
You don’t have to lift weights or run laps to get your workout in. Think of exercise as leading an active lifestyle and building activity into your daily routines. Think of exercise as something you can do with your children and you will be able to fit in more exercise than you think.
Here are some ideas to help you turn every day into an opportunity to get fit and exercise together.
1.     Go for pre or post dinner walks

Build a walk into your daily schedule and make it a habit. We love to go for post dinner walks around the block that typically last 15 to 20 minutes, just enough time to get the blood flow going and heart pumping. Now that Emmett is getting a little older, we try to make the walk more interesting for him by playing “I spy” and pointing out different things along the way.

2.     Crank up the music and have a dance party in your living room

You might feel silly at first but quickly you will forget that you’re an adult and you’ll start to dance like it was 1983. Dancing is a great form of exercise but with all the fun you’re having with your kids and family you won’t remember that you’re working out.

3.     Turn TV commercials into workout breaks

Invent fun names for exercises like superman-squats, bob the builder push-ups, and princess sit-ups and do them until the show comes back on. You might even find that your kid doesn’t want to stop. Make it fun and r

4.     Plant a garden

Let the kids play in dirt and grow some summer vegetables – it’s a double-win. Also, research shows gardening can be as effective as weight training for preventing osteoporosis so you might even consider it a triple-win.

5.     Video record your exercise sessions

Encourage your kids to do exercises with you and record them working out. Kids love watching themselves on camera so if give them a reason to be on camera.

I guarantee that if you make exercise a priority for you and your family, you will feel more connected with your children, feel more confident, and have more energy.

Julie Harris has been working in the corporate fitness and wellness industry for eight years but decided it was time to fulfill her dream of becoming a Registered Dietitian. She is currently a distance dietetics student at the University of Northern Colorado. She owns an online coaching service and blog for women who are ready to make lasting changes, The Healthful Peach.  When she isn't studying or writing, she is spending time with her two year old son and husband, probably on a hike or a run somewhere. You can follow her on instagram,facebook, or sign up to get emails from her blog

Monday, February 13, 2017

Self-Image In Children

I have been interning with a Registered Dietitian (RD) who works with eating disorder clients. Last week one of the sessions that I shadowed was a ten-year-old girl who is recovering from anorexic behaviors. This child started restricting her food at the young age of eight because she was afraid of getting fat and afraid of getting a “belly”. She had safety foods and foods she wouldn’t eat because they would make her fat. She had to work-out every day and often would skip meals if her parents made her eat something she felt was too much. Her hair had stopped growing and she was way below where she should have been on the growth scale for her age. But over the past year, this little girl has made very positive changes and is on her way to a healthy body image and healthy eating habits. 
Sadly, this little girl’s thoughts are not abnormal. Four out of five 10-year-olds say they are afraid of being fat and 42% of girls in first through third grade wish they were thinner. The worst statistic is that half of girls aged 9 or 10 claim they feel better about themselves when they are dieting (1). In another survey, teen girls were asked what they would wish for if they had three magic wishes. Hypothetically, they could ask for anything in the world and the number one wish was “To lose weight, and keep it off.” (2)
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness (3), with anorexia nervosa being the single deadliest mental health condition. Five to twenty percent of people diagnosed with anorexia will ultimately die from its effects on the body and mind, including cardiac complications, organ failure, and suicide (1).
With such serious statistics, it is critical that we make address body image with our children. Parents and other adult role models need to play a pivotal role in promoting a positive body image. It starts with our children and our homes. We can blame the media, Barbie, and food corporations but that doesn’t solve the issue. Instead, here are five ways you can be a positive influence and role model for your children.
1.     Think About You Own Body Image Issues

As we know, children are good imitators of their parents, so parental body image has a powerful influence on how our children feel about their own bodies. If you talk about your latest diet, how you are always trying to lose ten pounds, or how clothes make you look fat, your children will naturally think similar thoughts about their own bodies. Phrases like, “I need to lose weight to fit into this dress,” or “I don’t like the way my thighs touch each other when I walk,” or even, “That actress is so pretty and thin,” can all create negative self-image thoughts in our children. It can be very challenging to modify how we talk about our bodies but with practice we can change our talk and change the negative influence we have on our children.

Take some time to evaluate your own body image thoughts by writing down your negative thoughts that you may have. After you write them down, take some time to evaluate your thoughts by coming up with a positive counter thought. Study the positive thoughts and the next time you start to say the negative thought, stop yourself and instead repeat your positive thought. Rephrase the negative and repeat the positive thoughts.

2.     Focus on Health

Losing weight may be necessary in order to increase your health but it is important to shift your focus from a specific weight number and start focusing on being healthy. Focus on delicious nutrition, fun physical activity, and how being healthy can contribute to a better quality of life. Talk about playing together as a family and enjoying regular meals, and making smart, tasty food choice. Eating healthy and maintaining a healthy weight are great goals because they give us energy and the abilities to do the things we enjoy doing. Don’t pressure your child (or yourself) to be a certain size or weight for clothes, to be like someone else, or because we think that’s what we are supposed to be but focus on health.

3.     Set Eating Routines 

Adults and children who eat regular meals tend to make healthier food choices and tend to maintain a healthier weight than those that graze throughout the day with no specific mealtimes. Eating as a family and setting eating routines can help establish a healthy relationship with food. It helps us understand that food is fuel for our bodies but also gives us an opportunity to enjoy food together as a family. It also gives you an opportunity to identify any food triggers or issues that your child may be going through.

Meal times should be about enjoyment, about family time, and about nutrition. You can encourage each other to eat healthy, but don’t talk about how “bad” you have been if you ate a cupcake at work, or say phrases like, “This second helping is going straight to my hips”.  Make dinner table talk positive and include your children in meal planning.

4.     Understand What the Warning Signs Are for Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are patterns of disordered eating that often a result of a negative body image or other psychological issues. Warning signs for an eating disorder include:
--      Weight loss
--      Skipping meals
--      Eating in secret
--      Upset stomach or bloating following meals
--      Frequent visits to the bathroom after meals
--      Constipation or diarrhea
--      Depression
--      Anxiety about food
--      Weakness or dizziness
--      An intolerance to cold
--      Wearing layers of clothing in warm temperatures

These are just a few of the warning signs and individuals who have eating disorder behaviors will often try to hide feelings, emotions, and behaviors. If you do think your child is suffering from an eating disorder, please enlist help. Registered Dietitians can be a starting place and will often enlist the help of physicians and psychologists to create a team for your child. 

5.     Talk about Body Images

Help your child become a savvy media critic by talking about what the body images they see on television, in magazines, and on the internet. Help them understand that often times media images have been retouched or manipulated to appear different. Talk about how we want our bodies to be healthy and not look like everyone else. These can be difficult conversations to have and often it takes multiple conversations but these words can make a difference.

There are certain celebrities that recognize body image issues that the media has created and are being advocates for healthy body sizes. When you hear these stories, share and talk about them so they know that it’s not about being a certain weight or look a certain way. Encourage them to be advocates for healthy

I was one of those ten-year-old girls who wanted to be skinnier and struggled for over 17 years with eating disorder behaviors. There are still days when I have to use my positive phrases and mindfulness techniques that I have learned to make sure I don’t slip back into those negative behaviors, as I think we all have those days. But the difference now is I know how to manage those thoughts. And that’s what I want us to teach our children.

3. Smink, F. E., van Hoeken, D., Hoek, H. W. (2012) Epidemiology of eating disorders: Incidence, prevalence, and mortality rates. Current Psychiatry Reports, 14(4), 406-414.

Julie Harris has been working in the corporate fitness and wellness industry for eight years but decided it was time to fulfill her dream of becoming a Registered Dietitian. She is currently a distance dietetics student at the University of Northern Colorado. She owns an online coaching service and blog for women who are ready to make lasting changes, The Healthful Peach.  When she isn't studying or writing, she is spending time with her two year old son and husband, probably on a hike or a run somewhere. You can follow her on instagram,facebook, or sign up to get emails from her blog