Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Weekend Workout Wrap-up

I love my weekend workouts!

Since I work long hours and have an extensive commute, the weekend is the best time for time-consuming workouts like long runs, extra classes at the gym, or a nice bike ride.  I usually try to fit in one of each of these things over the weekend.

The last few days, we have been blessed with beautiful sunny, 60 degree weather all along the coast.  On Saturday, I took advantage of the milder temperatures and did a 6-mile training run in the gorgeous redwood Forest of Nicene Marks.  I am so fortunate as to live next door to this beautiful California State Park.  From my front door, it is a mile to the entrance of the park, and two miles up to George's Picnic Area.  The whole loop is about a 10K.

Crossing the bridge just past George's Picnic Area, almost to the first gate

 On Sunday, I followed my usual routine.  Weather permitting, I ride my bike to Zumba class in the morning.  The ride is about 14 miles round trip, but I usually take my time riding home if the weather is as gorgeous as it was today!  Jason, my husband, is often fishing at this time, and I can rendezvous with him somewhere along the beach.
That's Jason casting out (in the white shirt), at Rockview in Pleasure Point

Checking the waves on my ride home

I also walked around the Aptos Farmers Market and did some chores around the house.  Fitting in that run made me feel great, however, and I feel ready for my 10K on Superbowl Sunday!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Farmers Market Feature: Cole Canyon Farm

New Blog Feature: Farmers Market Vendors
While walking through the Aptos Farmers Markettoday, inspired by the gorgeous day and the wonderful array of produce around me, I got the idea to regularly feature a vendor from the market on my blog.  This fits my concept for this blog in two ways: 

One of the many hobbies that help me achieve a healthy balance in my life is photography.  Although I have been an avid amateur photographer for years, I have always been self-conscious about taking photographs in public.  Having a purpose behind my photography will hopefully help me get over my apprehension about taking photos of people and in public, and I will be using my camera skills for a specific creative purpose. One of the reasons I started this blog is to push my personal boundaries, and motivate myself to act on my goals, instead of just dreaming about them.

I also hope for this blog to inspire others to live a healthier life, and farmers markets make it fun and exciting to incorporate healthier choices into in your diet and lifestyle.  By featuring a local vendor of healthy products, I can also show support for buying local, fresh food.  So please enjoy my first in a series of features about booths at my local market.

Featured Vendor: Cole Canyon Farm
For my first attempt, I decided to try the first vendor who looked friendly and approachable.  Cole Canyon Farm  has a booth located on the east end of the second row of the market.  I was relieved to find that the woman manning the booth, Renee, was as friendly as she appeared and offered a wealth of information about the farm and its offerings. 
The Cole canyon Farm booth features wonderful organic vegetable and herb seedlings.

Beautiful, colorful leafy greens
A selection of salad greens

Today was the first day back to this market for the season, and I could feel Renee’s excitement as she talked about what the increasingly warmer weather and longer days will bring.  I was already impressed with the array of lettuce, leafy vegetables, and herbs available, but Renee pointed out that as the season progresses there will be many additional offerings, since the farm’s greenhouses are just beginning to produce young plants.

Renee and the Cole Canyon Farm booth at Aptos Farmers Market

There were many gorgeous offerings, but I was especially fascinated by the strawberry seedlings, which had been recently taken from cold storage.  Renee explained that as soon as they are removed, planted, and begin to feel heat they just take off in an amazing process.  These delicious starts are perfect for the organic home garden.

Renee also mentioned that in addition to home gardening favorites like rosemary, the farm also offers an intriguing variety of medicinal herbs, such as yarrow and chamomile.

Love Potion herb bowl

I was intrigued by this herb bowl . A nice quality bowl is planted with a selection of herbs to fit a particular theme, and includes little sign indicating the medicinal property of each plant.  I like the “Love Potion” bowl, which includes sage and thyme. 

After learning about the herbs and vegetables on sale at the market, and reading more about the farm on their website, I think it might be fun to visit.  According to Renee, Saturdays are a good day to go check out the farm.  Cole Canyon Farm is located in Aromas, California.  Their website is well designed and has a wealth of information.  You can also check them out on Facebook.  This farm also sells at other markets in the area, and list of where to buy their products is available on the website. If you are looking for organic vegetable and herb seedlings, Cole Canyon Farm is local, friendly, and has an excellent variety of offerings.

It was an exciting and fun experience talk with Renee and learn more about once of the local organic farms in this fertile region of California. I plan to try and include this type of article at least once a month, hopefully more. The Aptos Farmers Market is open all year, and there are about 75 vendors there, so I have plenty of material to keep me busy for a while!

Friday, January 27, 2012

So Lucky

I am training for a 10K next weekend - the Santa Cruz Superbowl 10K is a week from Sunday.  Last night I squeezed in a 4.2 mile run.  I am a little out of form in terms of distance, but my overall running ability is much improved from my last 10K, which was the 2011 Wharf to Wharf.
So stoked to finish my first 10K last summer

I feel so lucky to live in a beautiful part of California where my training runs can take me from the redwoods to the beautiful sunset coast.  Is anyone else out there motivated by the natural beauty around them while they run?
The beautiful view from my run last night

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

AM Yoga

Lately I've been trying to do at least 10 minutes of yoga and 5 minutes of meditation each morning.  I love the fact that these days you can go online and find just about any kind of workout video you want.  I remember having only 1 or 2 VHS workout videos to choose from!
Here is a great AM Yoga workout I found on Hulu.  It's only 10 minutes, and I love the instructor's bright cheerful tone.  This set includes some great shoulder openers, a few sun salutations, and a couple of warrior poses.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Candyland is Overrated

Improv 1

Since early December, I have struggled with hives.  I have also developed a secondary condition called dermographism, in which my skin  raises up in welts and itches when scratched or even if there is just too much pressure or friction from tight clothes, heat, or exercise.

My dermotologist, while able to accurately diagnose the problem, was able to perscribe meds to cover the symptoms but could offer no solution to the root cause of the problem.  He called the conditions "stress-induced", which I think is probably true because my father-in-law passed away two weeks before Thanksgiving, and that put a lot of stress on top work stress during an already difficult holiday season.

The derm told me to continue taking 2 claritin (20mg) each morning and a benadryl at night.  This was great as masking my symptoms, but breakthrough itching made it clear that the condition was not gone.  So I decided to try acupuncture.

My first treatment was last Wednesday at 4 pm, and that night I did not need any antihistamines to sleep.  The hives were gone from that point on, but the dermographism continued.  My second treatment was last night, and it was not as effective at addressing the condition, but it has slowly been getting better.  My acupuncturist has hopes that it will eventually be managed and the itching and welts will appear less frequently and intensely until they are gone.

My acupuncturist believes that there is an imbalance in my liver that is preventing my body from efficiently flushing toxins.  Stress, she says, is a contributing factor because it presents the smooth flow of blood through the liver.

the whole focus of my blog is my healthy journey, so I guess it is time to admit to the world that I struggle with binge eating.  Binge eating has repeatedly been a major stumbling block in my weight loss and relationship with food.  And my binge foods of choice are nearly always sugary carbs or chocolate.

I asked my acupuncturist if she felt there was some connection between eating large amounts of sugar, white flour, or chocolate and the problems with my liver.  She said that it is possible, because digesting large amounts of sugar puts a great strain on the body systems.

I have known for a while that sugar is not good for me.  At the same time, I struggle to control the compulsive eating behavior or binge eating.

Thinking about my skin and health, I have decided to try and go sugar free until Friday night this week.  For me, that means so "junk" food and no added granulated sugars.  Honey and maple syrup are OK.  I already avoid artificial sweeteners so that is not an issue.  I don't think I've consciously eaten corn syrup in over a year!

Are there any readers out there struggling with any of these health issues?  Have you discovered that Candyland isn't as sweet at is appears?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My Weight Loss Journey

I have lost about 60 pounds over the past five years, and hope to inspire others to make the changes thay want in their own lives by sharing my story.  This is the first installment in my weight loss journey narrative.

I have always struggled with my weight.  As a tall, large-framed female (I'm 5' 8.5"), I began to feel self conscious about my size around third grade, when I became bigger than most of my classmates of both genders.  As I got older, I realized that I am just a bigger person than most, regardless of weight.  But by adulthood, I had established unhealthy habits and developed a complicated, troublesome relationship to food.

At my heaviest, in June 2006, I weighed 247 pounds.  Five years later, I was 57 pounds lighter!

June 2006 - 247 pounds
June 2011 - 190 pounds

It has taken me a long time to lose the weight.  I have maintained my weight loss and have fluctuated between 185-190 for about a year and a half, since August 2010.  I am not at my goal, however.  I would like to have a healthy BMI, which for me means getting down to around 165. 

More and more, I am coming to realize that losing weight is about so much more than the number on the scale.  To be a fit and healthy person, you have to have a certain degree of self awareness and self control, because food in America today is about much more than simply fueling our bodies and minds.

An essential part of my health journey was reading Fast Food Nation and Fat Land, two books that revealed to me the fundamental and extreme changes that industrialized farming and food manufacture have forced in American eating habits.

Our bodies and minds are tuned by years of evolution to crave the very things that do the most degree of harm in the long run: sugar and fat.  These nutrients are very energy dense and, as humans developed and evolved, were traditionally scarce in nature and therefore expensive and limited in terms of widespread consumption.

Of course, when capitalism realized the powerful sale value of these natural products, it was only a matter of time before people hungry for wealth figured out how to manufacture less inexpensive, more shelf stable versions of both to appeal to consumers: corn syrup and trans fats.  The timing of these developments, combined with an emerging American car culture, contributed to the rapid rise and development of the fast food industry, especially in Southern California.  I remember reading, for example, that after corn syrup was in widespread use in the 1970's, overall sugar consumption jumped dramatically in America.  The growth of the fast food industry led to the demand for and development of large scale industrial farms, built on relationships like the one between McDonald's and their french fry producer. 

After reading these books, I realized the extent to which the fast food industry and the mainstream agricultural industry in America influenced not only my attitude toward food, but indeed my very tastes in terms of preferring food with artificial food flavor and color additives.  I had grown up on fast food, right in the middle of where fast food was born... it is part of my cultural heritage.  In fact, here I am at 16, dressed for my first job: fast food at KFC.
Age 16 - working fast food

After this realization, I was filled with resentment and anger about being tricked into poisoning my body with artificial ingredients for so long.  I became determined to completely overhaul my was of life.  This was in January-February 2008.  Very soon after that I had my car accident which put about 4-5 months of limitation on my fitness and activity, but I still tried to eat healthier.  Since then, I have made a conscious effort to improve my overall fitness and eating habits to both lose weight but also to be as healthy and fit as possible.

I think back to just how unhealthy my eating habits were in high school.  It's no wonder I had high cholesterol.  I sometimes wish I had an accurate weight from this time in my life to compare to now as an adult woman.  I was active for the most part, playing soccer up until my sophomore year.  But I also ate so much crap!  Breakfast, if I ate it, was probably Pepsi and crumb donuts.  I might have another Pepsi and chocolate cupcakes for snack.  For lunch, I would usually eat whatever was offered by the school... I think I would usually eat a salad with ranch dressing and saltine crackers, and maybe another thing of donuts and another soda.  When I got home, I would eat maybe a whole bag of pizza rolls or two bags of butter flavored microwave popcorn.  Maybe I'd sneak some cookies... oreos or chocolate chip.  Or some cheez-its.  Some more soda, probably.  If dad cooked that night, dinner would be pretty healthy, but I would certainly eat too much of it.  If he didn't cook, then we would have eaten fast food or frozen food.  Fast food would not have been healthy no matter what I ate, but I preferred onion rings, double burgers, big dell burritos, fries, etc.  I loved fast food so much.  I craved it all the time and once I was in high school was eating it pretty much 4-5 times a week.  After dinner I would probably eat ice cream... 2-3 servings worth.

1995, age 17.  Hostess cupcakes for a snack

I also think back to the slumber parties and times spent with friends in junior high.  I think during those sleepovers my food intake was limited to pizza, diet soda, licorice, and chocolate candy.  No wonder I was all pale and pasty! 

In 2008, I was 30 years old.  I had three decades of terrible eating habits behind me, but I was determined to make permanant changes and get control of my weight and eating habits.

In 2008, at about 215 pounds, just a month before my car accident

To be continued... with a timeline of the many changes I have made in my lifestyle over the past three years to lose weight and improve my health. Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Motivation of Failure

My sister-in-law sent me a link to an inspiring blog, White Hot Truth, where Danielle LaPorte writes about the relationship between creativity and failure.

Don't Cry Over It
I find this to be true for me.  Even when I receive praise and accolade, there is a small part of me that is not satisfied.

I have always attributed this aspect of my personality to being a "perfectionist".  But LaPorte suggests that it is the very feelings of inadequacy that drive us to move forward, to continue creating art in a constant quest for improvement.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cabrillo Sculpture Garden

On Wednesday, I took my bike for a cruise, enjoying being on vacation in the beautiful weather.  I spent some time enjoying an art installation in the theater plaza of Cabrillo College.
From the Void
VW Bug
Improv 1
New Bike

Monday, January 2, 2012

Welcome 2012

We had a quiet New Year's Eve at home this year.  I made one of my Christmas gifts from Jason, "Sombreroli": pasta shaped like hats!

Making Sombreroni