Elevated heart rate and heavy breathing equals high stress. And you need energy fast.
Glucose, you’re up! Lower heart rate, controlled nasal breathing equals lower stress. And you can use a slower source of energy. Fat is the obvious choice. I harp on this because of the boom in high-intensity class studios that have gained popularity over the past decade. Think CrossFit, Orange Theory, F45, Barrys Bootcamp and the like. While there are plenty of benefits to these high-intensity style workouts, building the strong foundation of a more efficient heart and increased fat utilization are not part of that list.
This is a practice of delayed gratification. Spend the time now to build the foundation, and the benefits you gain from higher-intensity workouts will be significantly greater down the line.
It’s an unfortunate fact that after the age of 30 bone density starts declining and after 40 muscle mass starts declining. One of the strongest indicators of longevity is grip strength. That’s a bit of a red herring since that could be interpreted as “I just need to train my grip strength and I’ll live longer.” Grip strength is really a proxy for resistance training or that of an active physical lifestyle.
If you spend time lifting weights or carrying things around on a regular basis, increased grip strength will be a natural byproduct of that behavior. I already touched on a few reasons why resistance training matters for health. Increasing bone density and maintaining or increasing muscle mass is vital to our overall health. For these two targets, there is nothing better than resistance training. Below is a quick tutorial on how our body responds to resistance training (or any stress for that matter).
Women: In the 5-7 years following menopause, bone loss can be as high as 20%. Start “investing” early!
Earlier in the low-intensity cardio section, we went over how that form of exercise can help increase how much blood is pumped out with each heartbeat. While that is important for heart health, it’s only half of the equation. Before we were talking about increasing the size of the heart (more expansion, more blood).
Resistance training helps provide the other major benefit by increasing the thickness of the muscles in the heart so they can contract with more force. When you’re weight training, there is increased blood pressure throughout the body. [Don’t worry that is a transient rise in blood pressure. In the long-run, exercise lowers blood pressure.] However, with more blood pressure, the heart has to contract harder to push blood out of the heart against that elevated blood pressure.
This makes the muscles of the heart stronger and thicker, just like any muscle in the body adapting to a certain amount of stress applied to it. So the combination of weight training and low intensity cardio is going to go a long way in keeping your heart healthy throughout your lifetime.
There are many additional benefits to resistance training, but the final interesting benefit is what it does for you from a metabolic standpoint. Regularly lifting weights makes your muscle tissue more insulin sensitive, which means you need to pump out less insulin to shuttle the same amount of blood glucose into your muscle tissue for storage. The largest storage banks for blood glucose in your body are muscle tissues. So the more muscle tissue you have, the more glucose you can clear from the blood stream. Lower average levels of glucose are a good overall indicator of health.
Also, immediately following resistance training your muscles can actually allow blood glucose into the tissues without insulin at all. For reference, there’s evidence around chronically elevated insulin levels being linked to most of the major disease states in this country (heart disease, diabetes, pre-diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and metabolic syndrome). In short, it’s a good idea to keep insulin levels in check.
Adding muscle mass through resistance training does that extremely well. Let’s be clear, you don’t need to look like the hulk. So how much is the right amount of muscle mass for each person? It will depend on things like gender, age, % of visceral fat, insulin sensitivity or resistance, glucose levels, and a variety of other factors. Essentially, it is on a person-by-person basis, and you will need an attentive professional or professionals to help narrow down the right level for you.
The Plate Method is a simple way to ensure that at meals, you’re getting the right combination of food groups and nutrients. Think of your plate as having three sections: one for vegetables, one for starch and one for protein. The biggest section of your plate is vegetables.
In fact, veggies should take up HALF of your plate. The rest of the plate is shared between starch and protein.Not only does this way of meal planning ensure we get a sufficient amount of vegetables, it also ensures that we don’t get too much starch or carbohydrate (carbohydrate is the main macronutrient found in starchy foods). Carbohydrates are not bad for us – in fact the nutrient provides us with energy. But we tend to eat too much of this nutrient, which prevents us from achieving balanced meals.
Many of us have grown up hearing the rhetoric that fats are bad. It is important to distinguish between the types fats, as some fats are actually very healthy for us. There are two types of fats: unsaturated and saturated fat. Unsaturated fats are primarily plant-based fats and are found in foods such as olive oil, nuts and seeds and avocado. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, are also a type of unsaturated fat.
These are fats are heart healthy fats and should be included daily in you healthy eating plan. Including a small amount of healthy fat with each meal also helps with satiety and therefore portion control. Saturated fats are primarily found in animal foods. It is not necessary to cut out saturated fats. But you should consider replacing some saturated fats with unsaturated fats to reduce your risk of heart disease and to improve your cholesterol levels.
To help reduce saturated fat intake, you should also consider the following:
Choose baked not fried foods.
Remove excess skin from meats.
Limit higher saturated fat foods like bacon, processed meats and cheese.
Choose lower fat dairy products and limit snacks foods like fries and chips.
The final area to focus on in your journey is sodium. We need sodium. But like many of the other nutrients we have discussed, we tend to get too much. The average American consumes 3400 mg of sodium per day, whereas the recommendation is 2300 mg/day*. Much of our sodium intake comes from packaged and processed foods. By preparing more homemade meals, you can help reduce your intake. Watch foods such as sauces, and seasoning mixes. Instead flavor your foods with fresh or dried herbs and spices.
We’ve just gone over a lot of things to consider on your healthy eating journey and you may be feeling overwhelmed. If you are, remember to go back to what we spoke about at the beginning and to start small. Start with one or two SMART goals and focus only on those. Remember, making lifelong, sustainable changes is a journey, not a race. It takes time, patience and self-forgiveness.
Gary O Hanlon, Executive Chef:
Gary O Hanlon, Executive Chef: Chateau du Coudreceau, Loury France
Mise en place is a French culinary phrase which means “putting in place” or “everything in its place.” This is a common term that most Chefs will be familiar with. This popular French term basically means preparation. You know, all the slicing, dicing and measuring you need to do prior to cooking. Chefs love lists and are meticulous about their preparation.This is a great habit for you to get into in the home setting as well.
If you’re following a recipe, always read through the entire recipe before doing anything. Not all recipes are written by an organized chef or home economist. Quite often, important details are left out. E.g. preheating an oven is common, and is something that can cost you 45 minutes if it’s not stated in the recipe. Reading through the recipe before you cook really gives you a feel for the dish and it can be of great help.
Never cook two days in a row. Basically, always make more food than you need. I always cook enough of whatever it is I’m making to cover three dinners. One for that day, one that I can amend to create a different dish (think turning Bolognese ragu into lasagna) and one batch to freeze for a rainy day.
Always think of the freezer. I tend to cook in bulk when it’s a dish that freezes well. Not all foods freeze well but those that do are massive time savers. Also, freeze in single portions. If you live alone or with just a partner freeze in small batches, so that if you need to defrost food you don’t need to defrost it all at once. Remember, once it’s defrosted, it can’t be frozen again unless it’s raw food, which you cook. For example, you can defrost a piece of raw chicken, cook it and then freeze the cooked dish but you can’t defrost the raw chicken, forget to use it and then place it back in the freezer.
Always have a wet paper towel. Use this or damp dishcloth under your chopping board. It’s extremely dangerous to have a chopping board that moves when in use.
When seasoning, simply season what you see. Do this minus 10% of what you think you need. In other words, always leave room for more seasoning. When I talk about seasoning,I don’t just mean salt and pepper. Seasoning can come from salt, pepper, herbs, spices, citric acid, sugar, vinegar and other elements. Try not to over complicate things. If you’re on a low sodium diet, using herbs and spices will help give you added depth of flavor to a dish, and there is no doubt that eating wholesome, home-cooked food is a lot more likely to happen when you enjoy the flavor.
Always take notes. Keep tabs on what you add to dishes and what you cook. In moments where your imagination can let you down, it’s always a great help to take a look over some notes from some previous successes.
Taste. Taste. And Taste again
Invest in one or two good knives. Remember, buy cheap and buy twice. Blunt knives are a greater danger than very sharp ones.
Buy a heavy based cast iron pot. This is a fantastic addition to any kitchen. It’s perfect for one pot wonders, and they create an excellent balance of heat which allows for slow cooking.
Use these helpful tips I’ve offered you here, and you can create delicious and wholesome dishes that are also good for you. Not only that, you’ll be fine-tuning your cooking skills and learning valuable tricks of the trade. In no time, you’ll be cooking gourmet meals for you and your family.
While these are just a few activities that you can engage in that will help maintain your previously defined mental health baseline, there are many more. It is important to balance and maintain your mental health because this determines your ability to function and cope with all of life’s daily stressors, as well as set the tone for your ability to meet your goals. Similarly, our mental health directly impacts our physical and physiological health and well-being, so if we focus on one, then we must focus on the other.
Now that you have developed an understanding of your mental health baseline, as well as the importance of mental health maintenance, the best way to achieve mental health balance would be by setting measurable and achievable goals.
Mindset (helpful verse harmful thinking patterns)
Emotions (helpful verse harmful emotional experience)
Language (Self-talk, inner dialogue, i.e., I can’t vs I don’t)
Motivating factors (internal (for you) vs external (for others))
What does this mean? For example, say you have a goal of weight loss, but you’re struggling to lose weight. A simple change you could make is to start drinking water every morning upon waking. This is one simple change that you can introduce into your daily functioning that won’t overwhelm your system, and messages to yourself that you are working towards change and increase physical health.
Often times, we get in our own way of accomplishing goals. We set the goal too far out of reach and are left dumbfounded when we don’t meet it. One skill that is likely more helpful than any other skill is mindfulness.
Incorporating the practice of mindfulness into one’s health journey is the difference between skimping on the final three minutes of your walk or completing your walk in its entirety. The act of mindfulness allows us to gain awareness and pay attention to our thoughts, feelings, and actions which are the primary drivers and decision makers of if we accomplish our goal(s) or not.
Setting goals, specifically for mental health, can feel overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to. If you focus on creating SMART goals, you give yourself the opportunity to meet your goals, all while enhancing your mental health and moving up your mental health baseline.
Growth equals goals. If you’re not setting goals, you’re not growing. Start small and you will reap the benefits of what happens when you focus on your mental health.
Focusing on your mental health, and what it means to have a mental health baseline and maintain it. This allows you to experience outcomes that may otherwise not come to fruition or may not be as desirable. Positive outcomes of working on your mental health include increased boundaries with yourself and others, improved communication skills, healthy interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships, healthy sleep patterns, health nutritional habits, and increased ability to focus on other areas of growth such as your physical or physiological needs.
A healthy mental health baseline allows you to focus on these areas with ease verses working on these areas all while breaking down barriers or working through old habits. No matter what your desired goals in health are, you are the primary target. Develop your regimen with you in mind and you will experience much more rewarding results.