3 Steps to a Perfect Packed Lunch

3 Steps to a Perfect Packed Lunch

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Whether you’re packing lunch for a child on their way to school, an adult heading to work or the whole family out on the town – or running errands – for the day, the basic rules to a successful lunchbox experience remain the same. The meal must provide tasty nutrition, energy and sustenance to fuel the afternoon ahead.
The following are three basics to consider when putting together the perfect mid-day meal on-the-go.

Never underestimate the power of leftovers

The lunchbox is a great place to make use of delicious leftovers, including stew, stir fry or your favorite gluten-free pasta dish. Having these offerings readily available for packing lunches is one of the many reasons to cook in bulk and freeze portions for later use. Not only do leftovers make for a hearty meal, they also save you time in the morning.

Don’t forget the spoon or fork, and for messier dishes, a side of gluten-free bread can help to sop up the sauce. To compliment a stir fry, pack a dried seaweed wrap – highly nutritious, and fun.

Fruits and veggies to the rescue

No lunch is complete without fresh, raw fruits and/or veggies. If you (or your child) is tired of simple carrot sticks and celery, try packing some snap peas or radishes instead. Your favorite fruits can be cubed and stored in a container ready to enjoy – this is particularly convenient for fruits and veggies that don’t work as well in whole form, such as mangos, which can be too large, but in cube form are just right.

To make fruits and vegetables more exciting to eat, add a cup of dipping sauce on the side. Homemade hummus or salsa make a perfect veggie complement, and fruits dipped in raw honey or plain Greek yogurt are just divine.

Don’t forget the thermos

A thermos filled with brewed green tea, or a freshly-squeezed juice, can really round out a satisfying meal. Alternatively, you could pack a serving of delicious homemade soup to add a comfort factor while amping up nutritional content.

Contributor: TheAlternativeDaily.com

Elle Sez Series-Health and Wellness-5 Isometric Exercises You Should Be Doing and Why

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Elle Sez Series-Health and Wellness-5 Isometric Exercises You Should Be Doing and Why

Claremont Colonic Newsletter
These lower-intensity exercises are a great way to ease into physic al fitness.
Need a pain-free starting point for your fitness journey? Or maybe you’re hoping to maintain muscle mass while rehabbing? Look no further than isometric exercise.

Isometric movements are a great low-impact way to work your muscles, says sports medicine specialist Michael Dakkak, DO. “There’s certainly more efficient and effective ways to build strength, but anyone can benefit from them,” he notes.

Dr. Dakkak explains five isometric exercises you can try today, their benefits and how to get the most out of incorporating them into your fitness routine.

What is isometric exercise?

To understand isometric exercise, it helps to compare it to the most well-known form of strength training: isotonic exercise. These are exercises where you push, pull or lift, such as bicep curls, squats and pull-ups. Isotonic exercises have two parts (phases):

  • Concentric phase: Your muscles contract, becoming shorter and tighter. In a bicep curl, this would be the first part when you curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders.
  • Eccentric phase: Your muscles extend or lengthen. This is part two of a bicep curl, when you lower the dumbbells back down to your starting position.
But with isometric exercises, you hold a position that maintains the same muscle length, causing your muscles to fatigue (tire out). Because you’re holding one position (instead of performing continuous reps), your muscles don’t change their size or length the way they do in isotonic exercises.

“If you can tolerate eccentric or concentric movements, they are definitely more effective for building strength,” clarifies Dr. Dakkak. “But if you can’t or you’re rehabbing from an injury, isometrics are usually the first form of exercise we introduce.”

5 benefits of isometric exercise

Dr. Dakkak says you may experience several benefits when adding isometrics into your fitness routine:

1. Helps you get in shape

Because you can exercise at a lower intensity with little or no resistance, isometric exercises are a great starting point for your fitness journey. “Then, as you get more confident, comfortable and stronger, you can incorporate more isotonic movements and weighted exercises,” says Dr. Dakkak.

2. Maintains muscle strength

Research has shown that isometric exercises strengthen joints better than traditional strength training. They accomplish this without the discomfort that sometimes comes with eccentric and concentric movements.

3. Reduces high blood pressure

A 2023 study has shown that isometric exercises — especially the wall squat — may be an effective way to lower blood pressure. A wall squat (or wall sit) is an isometric leg exercise where you hold a squat while your back and shoulders lean against a wall behind you. Researchers aren’t sure how this affects blood pressure, but think it may have to do with the movement of blood in and out of your muscles when you contract and release them.

“When we think about high blood pressure, it’s from chronic narrowing of the arteries, which causes higher pressure in them,” explains Dr. Dakkak. “We already know that exercise impacts blood pressure. But in this review of 270 previous studies, researchers found that isometric movements were the most effective.”

4. Helps rehab after an injury or surgery

While anyone can benefit from this form of exercise, Dr. Dakkak says isometrics are very beneficial for people who have recently had an injury or surgery. These exercises are a great lower-impact way for people to maintain muscle strength. “It’s the first type of exercise these patients would do on their own or with their physical therapist or medical team because it protects the healing area.”

5. Builds strength and range of motion if you have osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis can be painful, especially when exercising or moving a joint through its full range of motion. “It can be helpful for people with osteoarthritis to use isometrics to activate muscles and maintain strength before loading them with more resistance,” adds Dr. Dakkak. “Research shows that doing it this way can reduce pain, range of motion and improve function.”

5 isometric exercise examples

There’s an isometric exercise to target every muscle in your body. But Dr. Dakkak recommends starting with these five to get the most bang for your buck:

  • Planks.
  • Dead hangs.
  • Isometric bicep curls.
  • Glute bridges.
  • Wall squats.
“How long you hold these movements depends on your fitness level. If you’re just starting out, aim to hold an exercise between three and 10 seconds. But if you can do up to 30 seconds, that’s reasonable, too,” he says. “Just listen to your body and increase your time gradually.”

He also recommends following the typical strength training model of performing three sets of whatever hold you’re working on. “As you get stronger, you can make it harder by using resistance or weight to keep the area you are working in a static position. The key in an isometric exercise is the lack of joint and muscle movement.”

Planks for core muscles
Planks are a type of isometric exercise that helps strengthen your core (abdomen) muscles. To do a plank:
1. Get down on the floor on your hands and knees.
2. Extend both legs straight out behind you so your body forms a straight line from your head to your feet. You can also perform this movement with your forearms flat on the ground. To make it more difficult, you can elevate your feet on a bench.
3. Work up to holding this position for 30 seconds or more.

Dead hangs and isometric bicep curls for arms
Dr. Dakkak recommends these two isometric exercises to maintain arm strength:

Dead hangs: Hang from a pull-up bar without pulling yourself up or lowering yourself down.

Isometric bicep curls: Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Curl the weights up toward your shoulders, but stop halfway with your elbows bent at 90 degrees and hold there.

Glute bridges and squats for leg and butt strength

To target your gluteal muscles (glutes for short), Dr. Dakkak recommends glute bridges. To do them:

1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent upward and your feet on the floor.
2. Lift your pelvis in the air.
3. Hold your position. “As you get more advanced, you can try single-leg glute bridges. One foot stays on the floor while you extend your other leg straight up to the ceiling. Then, lift and hold your bridge,” instructs Dr. Dakkak.

Target your leg muscles with isometric squats, known as wall squats. To do them:

1. Stand with your back against a wall.
2. Walk your feet out and lower down into a sitting (or squatting) position. If you can, your knees should be bent to 90 degrees, with your thighs parallel to the floor.
3. Hold your position.

How to get the most out of your isometric workout

If you imagine a fitness routine like a music concert, then isometric exercises are the warm-up act, not the headliner. Dr. Dakkak says doing them without also doing isotonic exercises means missing out on the benefits (and gains) of a well-rounded regimen.

“I would much rather people perform concentric and eccentric movements if they can tolerate them than just focusing on isometrics,” he says. “There’s no research that says isometrics can improve speed or athletic performance. But there is research supporting the use of concentric and eccentric exercises to effectively build muscle mass.”

It’s also important to pay close attention to your form. Having bad form when exercising not only increases your risk for injury, but it also prevents you from maintaining and building muscle efficiently. “Form is key, so have an objective healthcare provider (think: a physical therapist, certified strength and conditioning coach or your physician) look at your form during exercise if you can,” advises Dr. Dakkak.

And remember: Consistency matters, too. Sticking with an exercise routine means your repetitions, sets and endurance will increase. You’ll get stronger — and reach your fitness goals.

Contributor: ClevelandClinic.org

Is Calorie Counting Enough?

Is Calorie Counting Enough?

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Calorie Counting Promises and Pitfalls
Most of us have looked at the calories in our foods, and many of us have “counted calories” over the years, but the jury is out on this weight loss method.
Most Americans have heard of calories before, and a large percentage of us have “counted calories” to lose weight. CICO is an acronym for “calories in, calories out,” and it is far from a new idea. Since roughly 1920, women, especially, have carefully tabulated the calories in the food that they consume. Yet, the rate of obesity continues to skyrocket across all genders, ages and races.

CICO isn’t a diet per se. You won’t be given a list of foods to eat and another to avoid. You won’t have to eat a certain number of servings from any single food group. Instead, you just count calories. A calorie is simply a unit of measure that calculates how much energy a food produces. To be precise, one calorie in food will raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius. Originally, scientists would literally set food on fire to make this determination.

The Potential Pitfalls of CICO

When it comes to nutritional value, calories are not created equal. So, when someone practices CICO, there’s the risk that they will eat 1,500 calories worth of Twinkies and soda instead of an equivalent amount from salads and lean protein. Even though one is more nutritionally replete, CICO advocates believe these individuals will lose the same amount of weight at the end of the day.

Experts are concerned that the focus of CICO is solely on calories, without any regard to nutrient content or other health concerns. Satisfaction is also not considered with CICO. You could, for example, eat a large grilled chicken salad or a king-size candy bar for the same number of calories. Obviously, the salad will keep you satisfied and feeling full for much longer, thanks to the fiber, protein and water it contains.

Another CICO drawback is that it doesn’t take into consideration the timing of when we eat throughout our day, according to Molly Kimball, the founder of Ochsner Eat Fit, a nonprofit nutrition initiative, and a nutrition writer, speaker, host of the FUELED Wellness + Nutrition podcast and consultant in the New Orleans area.

“So there may be certain things that strategically make sense for how to fuel after a workout or different things that just can really help optimize our mental and physical performance and recovery and how we’re feeling throughout the day,” she explains.

A preoccupation with calories or other individual nutrients can also lead to disordered eating habits.

“It saddens me when we live our lives by that ongoing calculator so it can have us feeling that we are living in a tallied up world throughout the day,” Kimball says. “So, I think freeing ourselves from counting calories can be very liberating. Becoming more mindful instead of the quality of the types of foods that we are choosing to put into our bodies.”

Monica Reinagel, a nutritionist, behavior change coach and host of the Nutrition Diva podcast, co-host of the Change Academy podcast and co-founder of the Weighless program, adds, “The macronutrient content of your foods will have a big impact on satiation (how full you feel at the end of your meals) and satiety (how long before you get hungry again). So, the same number of calories may ‘feel’ really different to you, depending on the macronutrient content.”

She continues, “Rather than have people running around with a spreadsheet and calculator, I’d rather have them focus on how different foods and meals affect their appetite, energy and weight loss, so that they can start developing a healthier relationship with food and eating instead of a dieter’s mindset.”

Understanding Basal Metabolic Rate

If you want to try the CICO diet, you’ll first need to determine your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. This is the number of calories you burn, essentially staying alive daily – breathing, maintaining a heartbeat and digesting food. It’s the number of calories you’d burn each day if you were immobilized and on bed rest.

Then, you’ll add the number of calories you burned through non-exercise movement and planned physical activity. For an average adult, the BMR in one study ranged from 1,027 to almost 2,500 calories in a day. For anyone who’s counted calories, you know this represents a considerable difference in the amount of food one can eat and lose weight or maintain their current weight.

There are calculators online that can help you calculate your BMR. However, as Kimball explains, “unless someone is living in a metabolic chamber in a lab, it’s only a guess.”

“The biggest misconception is that this is a number that you can accurately determine with some sort of calculator, where you input your age, height, activity level and so on,” according to Reinagel. “These calculations are merely estimates and often, extremely inaccurate ones. This error is then compounded by calculators that tell you how many calories you burn doing various activities. Again, these may be extremely inaccurate. Basing your caloric intake on these estimates often leads to a lot of frustration and disappointment because it doesn’t produce the results that you’re told it will.”

Some fitness centers also offer testing, which generally requires you to breathe into a handheld machine early in the morning while you’re still sleepy and before eating, drinking or exercising.

Many are surprised to learn that physical activity generally accounts for only 15% to 30% of the total calories burnt daily. And there’s no consistency either – two people of the same age, sex and size can do the same workout and use up to 20% fewer or more calories than the other.

It’s More Than Calories

Although there are many critics of the CICO method, very few people argue that it can’t lead to weight loss. However, research has proven that many factors influence weight gain or loss other than calorie intake, including age, sleep quality, stress level, individual metabolism, fluid intake, physical activity, genetics and hormonal influences.

“Calories are not the only, and probably not the most important, part of the picture,” Kimball notes. “Even timing might differ. Intermittent fasting might work for others, while eating small, frequent meals throughout the day might work for others. And both of those can be really nice fits for the individual.”

Calorically Dense Ultra-Processed Foods

Experts know that ultra-processed foods increase the risk for many health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke and kidney disease. Ultra-processed foods have sugar, salt and fat added, as well as artificial colors and preservatives. They often contain artificial flavoring and stabilizers to increase their shelf stability, as well.

Examples of ultra-processed foods are corn chips, frozen lasagna, hot dogs and snack cakes. Some studies have shown that people who eat a diet rich in ultra-processed foods consume many more calories and experience more weight as a result. This is mainly a result of the much higher caloric density of ultra-processed foods compared to less processed foods.

Caloric density refers to how many calories are contained in a gram of food, for example. Three small slices of cheese (commonly referred to as cracker cuts) contain as many calories as 6 cups of cucumber. Because of the growth of processed foods, it’s been estimated that the average person now eats roughly 300 more calories a day than in 1970.

Kimball describes the “energy roller coaster” that results from eating a diet high in these ultra-processed foods, which causes people to believe that they are addicted to carbs and sugar and to experience frequent food cravings. This is a result of erratic blood glucose caused by a diet rich in highly refined foods.

Instead of focusing solely on calories and numbers, Kimball recommends being mindful of how we feel 20 or 30 minutes after eating. For example, if you choose to have a piece of cake in the break room at 10 in the morning, it’s not the grams of sugar or calories that you should think about. Instead, consider how tired you might feel in a couple of hours when your blood sugar comes back down. Energy level can be the barometer of how food affects us if we pay attention to it throughout the day.

“Are we getting enough protein and fats, preferably plant-based fats, at our meals? These things can greatly affect our energy and mood, she says.” “Tuning in to how we’re feeling can really lead us to choose more nourishing foods.”

Contributor: Elaine Hinzey, RDN, LD – US News and World Report

Anger Gets a Bad Rap, But It Can be an Asset, Experts Say. Here’s What to do With It.

Anger Gets a Bad Rap, But It Can be an Asset, Experts Say. Here’s What to do With It.

Claremont Colonic Newsletter
White hot, violent, cruel, wrathful — the words we associate with anger don’t sound so pretty.
“Anger is a particular type of an emotional state that can receive a lot of judgment from ourselves and from other people,” said Dr. Brett Ford, associate professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.

It might be an unpleasant emotion to experience, and it might be culturally discouraged, but we need anger, she added.

Sydney road’s evening traffic, Brunswick, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

“The actual experience of anger being deemed as bad is actually, I think, one of the biggest impediments to our emotional processing,” said Jaime Mahler, a therapist and trauma specialist based in New York. “You’re taking a very useful emotion, and you’re squashing it and you’re repressing it, and you’re saying it doesn’t matter.”

Evidence has suggested that minority groups and women face particular cultural pressure to tamp down on their anger, Ford said.

Emotions tend to have social expectations, or scripts, she said. “And anger is one that tends to have quite powerful and a prohibitive scripts and norms,” Ford added.

While many people may feel the need to resist or hide their anger, these mental health experts are urging the opposite. Anger, they say, is an important tool we should better learn to wield in a kind, healthy and productive way.

And as unpleasant as it may be to feel, the consequences of denying it could be worse, said Deborah Ashway, a licensed clinical mental health counselor based in New Bern, North Carolina.

“If you grew up learning that you’re not allowed … to express anger, after a while, it turns in on itself,” Ashway said. “And that turns into guilt.”

Anger can inform and protect you

Anger isn’t all doom and gloom.

“Our emotions are our highest guidance that we have, you know, that is available to us,” Ashway said. “Anger comes up as a warning. Like, ‘something’s going on here.’”

That flush of anger can alert us to a violation of our values, a feeling of danger, or a sense of neglect, she added.

And add to that, “anger is a protective emotion,” said Mahler, author of “Toxic Relationship Recovery: Your Guide to Identifying Toxic Partners, Leaving Unhealthy Dynamics, and Healing Emotional Wounds after a Breakup.”

When expressed in a constructive way, anger can drive people to stand up for their needs and opinions to be sure they are taken care of, Ashway said.

“It helps us set boundaries. It helps self-preservation. It helps us be assertive and advocate for ourselves. It helps in conflict resolution, if it’s managed appropriately,” she added.

That drive can also push us to take action about the things we are angry about, whether that is having a difficult conversation with a friend or taking political action, Ford said.

“If something is kind of getting in our way and we need to overcome some sort of obstacle, anger can help provide us with motivation to do that,” she said.

When it’s no longer just anger

But what about the malice and violence? That is often tied to rage — not anger, Ashway said.

And yes, they are very different.

“Violence is bad. Punching walls is bad. Throwing garbage cans is bad,” added Mahler. But in those cases, “we’re talking about the outcome of unprocessed anger, not anger in and of itself.”

Rage, she said, is old, unprocessed anger.

“Rage is a lot different because it’s not serving a healthy purpose anymore. It’s more destructive,” Ashway said.

If you are angry, you can take a step back, get the information, and make a choice based on your emotions. But enraged people are no longer in control of their emotions anymore, Ashway said.

“You can’t really get to that level of emotional expression unless your anger has not been processed for a very long time,” Mahler said. “Anger processed can lead to healing but anger unprocessed can lead to violence.”

How to process your anger (without fixating)

There is evidence that chronic, intense anger can lead to poor physical and mental health, Ford said. That means that ruminating or letting anger fester can be counterproductive.

“(Emotions) actually aren’t meant to be very long lived. They’re meant to kind of help us manage a particular moment in our environment,” she said.

Which is why it is even more important to stay with the feeling and process it fully, Ford said.

But that’s not always possible in the moment of rage, Mahler said. She compared it to someone having a panic attack rather than anxiety.

“You can’t really rationalize someone out of panic, you just have to calm their body down,” she Mahler said. “Same with rage. You just have to calm their body down and get them to a better state of consciousness.”

From there, you can start to process the emotion.

Start by letting it in and sitting with it, Ashway said.

Instead of letting it pressurize until it bursts, recognize your feeling without judgment and observe, Mahler said. Even if that means setting a 5-minute timer for the period you will allow yourself to feel angry.

“Then the next stage is to try to understand why anger showed up in that particular situation,” Mahler said.

“What might be impeding on your energy or thoughts? What are you protecting yourself from? What do you need that isn’t being met?” are questions Ashway wants people to ask when observing their anger.

“And then once you’re aware of it, you’re in control of it. It’s no longer going to control you now,” she said, adding that is the place from which you can decide how to move forward.

Contributor: Madeline Holcombe, CNN Heath