Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sligo Creek Trail

I find that I am not blogging as often now that I am back at school. Usually when I get on my computer during the school week, it is to do my course work. If I happen to stop procrastinating and get my school work done today, I may just post something more substantial. I have a few topics I would like to learn more about.

School work or not, it is a beautiful Sunday today, and I knew that I wanted to get out and enjoy it. My husband and I headed over to Sligo Creek Trail which is about 10 minutes away from our house. It's funny because we usually walk on it until we get to the spot that was the end of our walk in our old neighborhood. We walked for about an hour and 10 minutes, so probably 3.5-4 miles. A lot of bikers out today, and deer too!

Monday, September 7, 2009


When I began this blog, I had a number of diet and exercise goals, some I have had before (exercising regularly) and some that were new (eating raw foods everyday). I was doing pretty well over the summer but now that I am back in school, it seems that I am not doing so well with the exception of two changes: drinking green tea regularly and not eating candy.

One of the major reasons it has all become more difficult is lack of sleep. It has been very difficult to adjust to getting up before 6 am, not getting 8-9 hours of sleep every night, and having to fall asleep when it is time, not when I just feel like going to bed.

But lack of sleep isn't like not eating raw foods or not achieving some other health goal, lack of sleep affects the ability and motivation to do everything else. I don't want to go for a walk or fix the treadmill (just when I got going on the treadmill, it broke!), or prepare the raw food to go with dinner because, after teaching all day, I am sleepy. It's not that I can't do all of these things, it just isn't a priority because I also have to pack more into my evenings, like preparing for the next day and doing other assignments for the courses I am taking. I know I have time for all of this, I don't have children to look after, lunches to prepare, etc., but when I am sleepy, I am not as efficient and I don't care enough to make the best health choices.

But after week 1 of school, I realize I HAVE to make sleep a priority. I have to make sure I am getting in bed by 10 pm every night, even earlier would better. If I want to reach any of my goals and resist the typical germs that come with being a school teacher then there are no excuses.

I know that ideally I need 8-9 hours, but 7 hours of sleep is pretty good. Anything less and I will get more and more tired as the week progresses. Some people, I know, seem to only need a few hours and I am not sure how that works, but that is definitely not me. And it's interesting how all the research might say that people need 7-9 hours, but we still admire those who sleep less I think (or is that just me?). I remember hearing on the radio that many CEO's of companies reported only needing 3-5 hours of sleep suggesting those really successful people in life are those who are awake long enough to get it all done. Again, that is just not me.

Lack of sleep is considered to cause or be related to many health problems, like obesity, cardiovascular conditions, depression, accidents, and inflammatory conditions (interesting!). I am sure we don't need research to also tell us that lack of sleep decreases our ability to be attentive. It is interesting that while we might burn more calories if we are awake for more hours, lack of sleep and weight gain are related. I also heard on a report about sleep that new mothers tend to lose more of their 'baby weight' when they are able to sleep regularly.

Of that list of risks, I also find the link between inflammation and lack of sleep interesting. Apparently being chronically sleepy or lacking in an appropriate amount of sleep can cause a low-grade inflammation which is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. (Washington Post) I have my own reasons to avoid inflammation as I mentioned in my first post, and I think this fact has made me more determined to get more sleep.

I also know from personal experience, that lack of sleep affects my immunity. If there are a lot of viruses going around my school, I am more diligent about getting to bed on time.

Another bit of interesting information about sleep research is that there are two factors to consider when determining how much sleep we need. Basal sleep need refers to the sleep we need regularly and sleep debt refers to the amount of sleep we have lost due to poor sleep habits (National Sleep Foundation). That makes sense to me, because I know that one night of good sleep doesn't reverse the effects of a few nights of little sleep.

So, the bottom line here is that sleep is seriously important and if I want to do my job well and remain healthy, sleep is the first step to achieving that.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Best Health Magazine

I have been a fan of Women's Health for a while. I was recently in Canada and picked up a Canadian health magazine called Best Health and I loved it. I am blogging about it because of the content, but also because it is a Canadian magazine and probably isn't available south of the border. I am attempting to give it some exposure. Considering my occasional readers are a few family members and friends, it is hardly going to make a difference for the future of this magazine...but it's the thought that counts, right?

I am still reading this magazine. It is jam packed with articles and is divided into sections (I love all things organized!): Look Great, Get Healthy, Eat Well, Embrace Life, and New and Now. I actually worried while reading this magazine that they would run out of content for the next, or maybe the one after that. I think that says it all. Like Women's Health, I also like that it balances natural remedies with mainstream medical advice. And this magazine even had a little article about health for dogs! (Don't feed them bone scraps.) While not in the title, it is focused on women for the most part. And for those who are not traveling north or interested in subscriptions without trying it out first (I wouldn't be), they have a website of course.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Microwave Safe

I find the microwave to be a bit of a mysterious appliance. I step aside when I realize I am standing in front of the microwave 'breeze' thinking it might do some harm and I definitely have some unanswered questions about microwave safety.

What containers are safe to use?
Does it matter, nutritionally speaking, whether I cook vegetables in the microwave or on stove top?
What about those foods, like flavored rice, that cook right in the package?

Firstly, we really don't use the microwave very much at home. We reheat meals, very occasionally make popcorn, but we rarely cook anything in the microwave. I do reheat lunches almost every day at work, and I have wondered about what is safe to use for reheating food. I prefer to use glass containers when I can. I looked online to get some answers (Microwave Safe Containers and Microwaving Food in Plastic: Dangerous or not?) and it was pretty interesting. These are some tips I found out:

  • When microwaving with plastic containers, definitely only use ones that are labeled microwave safe
  • Microwave safe means that the plastic has been approved by the FDA based on a series of tests that consider surface area of plastic touching food and temperatures food can reach
  • Glass containers are considered safe, but they should still say microwave safe because of the possibility of shattering due to heat (you can check this by microwaving it empty for one minute and if it is hot then it is not microwave safe)
  • Plastics that are not labeled microwave safe may be okay to use, but haven't been tested for FDA approval
  • Unsafe plastic containers mean harmful chemicals could be leaking into the food when reaching a high temperature
  • There are also food grade containers that can become unsafe if used to store high fat foods (may cause original oils to leak into food) or if used to store non-food items
  • Food grade containers are not necessarily microwave safe
  • Plastic wrap should not touch food and any container should be vented.
  • Alternatives to plastic wrap are a paper towel, wax paper, parchment paper
  • Most take-out containers are not microwave safe
  • Do not brine food in non food containers such as plastic bags
This definitely confirms that I want to continue to microwave in glass containers which, I have found, can be quite expensive. But, obviously they should last a long time and are worth it.

I still want to research more about cooking foods in their packages, I am very suspicious of this but didn't find anything this time around on the internet.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary, or one of our anniversaries. We eloped in July of 2007 and had a wonderful wedding in August of 2008. It turns out that marriage, and therefore celebrating an anniversary, does have something to do with health. There are many articles out there about the health benefits of a happy marriage, such as longevity, better immunity, less anxiety and depression, and even fewer injuries. (Marriage is Good For You) I guess the important part is that the marriage is a happy one or all of those benefits reverse. I am not too worried about that.

I can definitely say that our anniversary dinner did not contribute to our good health, nor did the cake in that picture, but being married to my husband definitely contributes to my health. Happy Anniversary to Us!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I am the Queen of Procrastination. It should be my middle name, and I believe I come by it honestly. There may be a few procrastinators in my family. And as I was thinking of writing a new post, while procrastinating writing my current paper on assessment (sounds interesting, right?), I thought of writing about the very topic that was inspiring said post: procrastination. I actually googled procrastination and health, and there were quite a few results.

Mostly procrastination is said to cause stress and generally be a symptom of various unhealthy mental states. But I did find one interesting article on that seems to ring true and (I hope) better describes how I procrastinate. It is also pretty funny.

But I guess what separates my procrastination from the other health articles is the fact that I am never late with commitments (report cards, grades, assignments or any other important due dates), I don't pull all nighters (at worst, in bed by 11 pm), I don't think my procrastination has ever led to tears (should ask my husband about this), and I am always satisfied enough with whatever it is I have to accomplish. I say satisfied enough because if it is something for someone else, such as report card comments, I tend to have a stronger work ethic than if it is something that only affects me, such as a paper for my courses.

And the things I can accomplish in the name of procrastination are endless! Learning a new piano piece, a sewing project, blogging, making a new playlist, exercising, cleaning house, emails, cooking/baking, gardening, shopping, internet searches on whatever topic comes to mind, phone calls to family...and taking endless pictures of our cats (see above).

Some of these activities also provide needed distraction between paragraphs for my papers or research, and that is best done at my computer. A few sites that offer a few minutes of healthy distraction are Facebook for the scrabble game and catching up with friends, blogs (of course!), and for mental challenge, check out - I love to do the crossword, daily logic puzzle, and sudoku, but the games are endless.