Posts Tagged ‘Health’

Scrolling through a social media feed can inspire. A well placed article can sharpen my focus on an issue. A great photo can make me see the world differently. Sometimes what my friends are doing – working on their third book, winning a Nieman Fellowship, traveling through Korea – leaves me in awe.

And sometimes status updates are about just how heinous people who fart at the gym are.

Despite having an opinion on most things exercise related, I rarely chime in about cutting the cheese at your favorite fitness center. Because frankly…I’m one of those horrifically gassy people letting out stink bombs that make you think a dead raccoon has been decomposing in my stomach for a few weeks.*

Which I’m very sorry about.

I spent years learning to put the kibosh on my butt trumpets – which gifted me with an amazingly strong sphincter along with one shit-load of pain. Toward the beginning of grad school, after a doctor visit where the phrase “possible IBS” came up, I freaked. It was time to learn something new: letting ‘em go, stealthily.

And man, did I get good at that. I basically became the James Bond of gas-passery. Wooden chair? No problem. Not wearing any pants? Piece of cake.

Why am I pointing this all out? Because I never quite got what the big deal was about the whole gym-wind situation. Yeah, someone let a silent-and-maybe-deadly (never know til it’s out) rip. Big whoop. We’re human beings, it’s a natural phenomenon, yackity-smackity.

Until yesterday. While rocking the elliptical and gaining some really great knowledge about how to style my hair (seriously, after reading this article I whipped my hair up at home and got complimented all day long), it happened to me.

In my day, I’ve smelled some pretty scheisty toots. I’ve been Dutch ovened .  But this? This was something else.

I hadn’t even noticed someone get on the machine next to me. One second I was immersed in Jimmy Eat World’s “Chase This Light” and the May issue of Glamour, the next second I my eyes, nasal passages, and throat were immersed in something that would politely be called “gag-worthingly rank” and impolitely be called “a lot like dipping my head into a stale, pickled watermelon that had fecal matter spread inside of it.”

My eyes watered and instantly I thought of all the people who have sat behind me in spin class, shared a lane with me at the pool, played soccer against me, bought cough syrup with me, and stood next to me on an elliptical machine many other days at many other gyms. I kept my eyes forward and turned my head away from the woman who had cut a muffin, but those seven inches did me no good. Everywhere was permeated with her poot.

I held my breath, waited, and after far longer than you’d think possible for a fart to linger, the smell of the poop sitting in her colon dispersed.

Ten minutes later, it happened again. Repeat the last two paragraphs. Then skip this one and move on.

What that girl taught me was twofold:

First, I am sorry. I am very, very sorry.

Second, I’m going to try like heck to hold my trouser (or trouserless) coughs in at the gym. And around my friends.

Call it a mid-year resolution. This shit is serious.

*A friend once asked, “How can something so small and cute be so stinky?” The answer, friend, is practice.

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Ed note: I wrote this mostly for myself, to reflect upon the why’s of being a vegetarian or not. It’s not a formal, edited piece with a purpose other than examining this personal issue from multiple sides. 

Come June, I’ll have been a vegetarian for 16 years – over half my life. Wow. I’ve been a vegetarian so long, I’ve never self identified on a social media site as anything but meat-free.

I’m thinking of changing my “food preference” status to omnivore, though.

There are a lot of reasons.

I’m not an animal lover. It sounds kind of horrible to say, doesn’t it? Don’t misinterpret me, I like animals. I enjoy spending time with pets, I get excited when I hear an owl. But I’ve never self identified as an animal lover, nor would anyone who knows me classify me as such. The most animaly I’ve gotten in recent memory is as follows:

1)   Thinking about getting a hamster

2)   Thinking about getting a bird watching book and identifying birds

I say all this because most people are vegetarians because they feel badly for the animals. And man, I mean this in the best way possible (if there is such a thing): but the treatment has never really bothered me.

It’s not right. It’s not humane. But the way we treat plants isn’t humane, either. The way we treat diseases (and the way they treat us) isn’t humane. The point I’m circling delicately is that whole “circle of life” Lion King thing. There’s no denying we’re part of a rhyme and reason that was decided before anyone reading this was born. And there’s no denying we get to choose what to do with that information – we can go veg, or we can not.

I became vegetarian for two reasons. The first is that all my friends were doing it. In high school, my “clique” would have been labeled the band geek hippies. The name pretty much says it all – and of course, at some point, one person went vegetarian, and everyone followed suit. Two went vegan. Of the initial five or so of us, who were some variation of meat-free, only two still are; myself, and one of the vegan girls.

The second reason is because my grandmother told me it would help me lose weight.

Being vegetarian is part of how I self-identify. It’s a touchstone for what I perceive to be me. And yet, I’m a vegetarian because of someone else’s opinion of me. Which seems, frankly, wrong. Which is sad. If I let this part of go of me, it’s going to feel like a loss – good reasoning or not, it really is part of who I am.

But there is something wildly liberating about the idea of eating meat. Of making a choice that is my own that was not suggested to me based on an extreme desire to be liked (both by being thinner and doing what my friends thought was cool). I’m a people pleaser to a relatively unhealthy degree, and vegetarianism is one interesting way I chose at a younger age to please, even though it was never asked of me.

When I watch people eat meat, I often joke about being excited for them. It’s not a joke. I remember liking meat: the chewiness of clams in chowder, the saltiness of tuna, the primal feeling that came from gnawing on a chicken leg, and sucking marrow out the bone from pork ribs. I also often joke about wanting to try exotic meats. Also not a joke.

I want to eat meat because I want the ability to make the choice as an adult. I also want to one day be able to give blood, and I am always turned away for lack of iron. I’m also a lot more tired that I used to be, and can’t help but wonder if meat would help in me just having more energy. I want to eat meat because I think it might be more true to my authentic self, and because it’s ridiculous to continue to not eat it because I have so closely tied my identity to food preference.

That said, I don’t want to eat meat because I am really good at not doing it, and at this point, it’s a source of differentiation and sure, a little pride.

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No, that title isn’t missing a “Changs” at the end of it, though to be honest, I’d actually prefer it did — despite the fact that I loathe PF Changs. Which isn’t fair, as I only went there once, and there was definitely a monkey from the Build-a-Bear factory who joined Tami, Ryan and I at our table, wearing a sweater vest and everything. So, it’s been a long time.

In runner speak, PF is Plantar Fasciitis. It’s so common/dreaded, it has its own acronym. And honestly, though I’ve heard tale of PF, I never thought much about it. Even when I worked at the running store in Orange County, and PF was this thing that was hush-hush whispered about, complete with special shoe inserts. By “didn’t think much about it” I mean, “I actually had no idea what it was.” It had to do with feet. And orthotics. And maybe older people? Maybe not.

A few months ago, I noticed that I occasionally had a light pain in my heel. Nothing crazy. Nothing I even bothered to pay attention to. Until it occurred to me that it wasn’t clearing up on its own. The dull, barely-there, practically indescribable feeling was just…usually there for the first few steps of my run, sometimes even hanging out on my walk to or from the office.

I’m not even sure what inspired me to Google “Plantar Fasciitis” (and I’m sure the devs at my job could show you my search history and prove to you I couldn’t even spell the damn thing) but during a moment when I needed a break from copywriting, I looked it up. And what do you know…symptoms include:

  • The classic symptom of plantar fasciitis is heel pain when you take your first steps after getting out of bed or after sitting for a long period of time.
  • Pain at the beginning of exercise that gets better or goes away as exercise continues but returns when exercise is completed.

Um. Crap. Heel pain – check. Pain that gets better during exercise but then comes back? Check. Regardless of what the good old internet said, I consulted with Dr. Dad, just to be sure. I emailed him my symptoms and asked what he thought. Dr. Dad’s response:

It does sound like plantar fasciitis.  It could have arisen for no apparent reason.  It could be short term, or it could last a long time.  I had a recent experience that lasted for 6 months.  Initially, I could hardly walk.  It is not always that severe, however.  The best medicine is rest and ibuprofen.  I don’t think that you want to do a lot of resting, however.  A heel lift in your shoe may help.  I have some here, or sometimes, using some neoprene shaped to the heel of your shoe will work.  I suggest that you try to switch to biking for awhile.  I would not aggravate it too much.  There is my quick, off the top answer. 

Rest? Ibuprofen? Switching to biking?! Oy vey. Rest and recovery has never been my strong suit — and with the Oakland Half Marathon approaching, the last thing I want to do is take myself out of the running game.


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Ed note: This is part one of two on flossing. I recently had a both inspiring and empowering visit to the dentist’s chair, and I am veritably, nerdily enthused about the magic of floss. Enjoy! 

Twice a year, we all end up in that strangely shaped chair, a masked and armed assistant poised over us and a spit-sucker draped precariously over our lower lip…Yes, twice a year, even college students go to the dentist for what feels like a final exam of our oral health abilities. Pertinent periodontal questions will be answered: Is my brushing technique up to par? Do I swish mouthwash with enough vigor? Will I be told I’m drinking too much coffee (the horror!)? And without fail, before we leave this jaw-dropping exam, we are reminded to floss.

Flossing is really tripping me up these days. I have always been told that easing a waxy strip of glorified thread between my molars, incisors, and everything tooth in-between, is essential to having amazing dental hygiene. And dentists throw out powerful messages such as “you only floss the teeth you want to keep” as they prowl through your mouth. But why is there such a lack of emphasis on reasons to floss in the real world?

A simple search on Google proves I’m not making chewing gum out of toothpaste here. Finding well researched articles about the benefits of flossing is actually difficult. And finding articles that throw down the flossing facts in a way that someone outside the American Dental Association would understand is darn near impossible. After sifting through articles that all seemed to have been written by the same person whose job it is to slightly revise the same information for a variety of sources, here’s what I have boiled down as to why you, the college student, should keep your toothbrush close, and your dental floss closer:

Halitosis is the Grossest
The point of flossing is to clean where no toothbrush has gone before – between your teeth. And what is between your teeth? Tiny bits of old food and plaque that build up and will emit a peculiar odor when you open your mouth to talk, smile, breathe, and yes, kiss that girl you’ve had your eye on in class. Bad breath is a killjoy for any conversation, and leads to certain doom when leaning in close for a canoodle.

Smile Security
If you don’t floss, there is more chance of your smile resembling those incredibly terrifying pictures your dentist has up on their wall next to their diplomas. Scraggly gums, giant gaps, and worst of all – removed teeth.

Saving Teeth is Good for Your Life

Your mouth is a warm, spongy gateway to the rest of your body. Good germs, gnarly germs, and bacteria of all shapes and sizes, can and do enter you physical being through your mouth. By cleaning out all the little crevices between your teeth, you are not only increasing the life-span of your chompers, but you are taking more steps towards overall well being.

 No Pain is a Mouthful of Gain
Um, have you had dental work done ever? Flossing decreases your chances of needing to spend extra time in the dental chair. So unless your dentist is incredibly witty and interesting, a daily floss can get you back on campus and in the classroom–a much preferable place to be.
Flossing does not have to suck the life out of you. At least group on the internet is at least attempting to make flossing appear to suck less than we’re prone to believe it does – The National Flossing Council. You can find flossing haiku, flossing videos, and information about the annual Flossing Day holiday. But for the most part, you’re going to have be your own cheerleader when it comes to fetching the floss. My suggestion? Do it with a friend. If misery loves company, then flossing loves a party.

Curious about how to floss more effectively? Stay tuned!

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Ed note: folks, meet my dear friend Whitney. She recently took on a feat I struggle to imagine: 30 days on the Paleo diet! She’s kindly agreed to share with us the why, what and how of her experience. Now, in the immortal words of Jen Friel, hit it Whitney!

Why I went Paleo

About a year ago, I started having horrible back and sciatica pain. Thus began my ongoing journey to mitigate the pain while trying to locate the source. I began physical therapy, practiced yoga, and enlisted a chiropractor. The latter recommended I try eating Paleo.

According to my chiro, eating Paleo would eliminate “inflammatory” foods (like gluten-based food) from my diet and could alleviate pain. I figured it was worth a shot.

Detour: thoughts on dieting

So, I publicized my Paleo decision on social media, documenting the 30-day challenge on Instagram and Facebook. This immediately elicited judgment from friends and strangers alike: “Why are you going on a diet? You’re already too skinny,” they’d say. I’m 26 years old, 5’6, and fluctuate between 125-135 pounds—so sure, I’m societally slender, but that doesn’t mean I’m as healthy as I could be.

The word “diet” never existed in my vocabulary. I’m of the opinion that I eat whatever I want without any concern, so long as I maintain a workout schedule. Honesty moment: I haven’t stuck to a workout schedule since high school.  I’ve always been thin, so I suppose I never felt the need to (not to say I don’t have body issues, because I do, but that’s a different story).

“Diet” has a negative connotation, especially coming from a young woman like myself. But the truth is, Paleo is nicknamed “The Caveman Diet” – so negative connotation or not, diet is what I did.

The how’s of Paleo

“The Caveman Diet” has a very simple formula – meats, vegetables, nuts and fruits. Basically, if a caveman couldn’t eat it, neither can you (recommended hilarious reading). I was used to grabbing a bag of chips or a granola bar on my way—late—to school, and I work at a restaurant, meaning I have limited food choices and odd meal hours. Going Paleo was a difficult task.

However, there’s a plus side. Paleo can be tailored to fit your needs, personal preferences, and dietary goals.  I have a horrible sweet tooth, and an unhealthy addiction to coffee, so I refused to give up was the milk and unhealthy amount of sugar in my morning coffee…and my occasional white mocha from Starbucks (yes, this is a habit I should break, but one thing at a time). On Paleo, there are no portion restrictions or meal times. You eat when you’re hungry so long as it’s caveman-approved.

How Paleo affected my eating

Thankfully, I had unconsciously given up fast food and soda already. Replacing my snack foods with healthier options was harder. Coworkers were used to seeing me walk around with Sour Patch Kids almost on a daily basis. I started carrying almonds, carrots, and cucumbers in my purse to snack on throughout the day.

Another change I made was breakfast. Not just coffee, but actually eating food in the mornings. An easy Paleo breakfast is eggs, except I was inexperienced when it came to making them. I totally admit to looking up how to fry an egg on YouTube, and went on to experiment with omelets, scrambled eggs, eggs over medium. It’s cliché, but breakfast really did boost my metabolism and give me more energy.

Lunch was typically a salad, and for dinner I again returned to the kitchen and focused on a protein (most often chicken), vegetables (such as kale, bell peppers, and broccoli), and a starch replacement (cauliflower) because…seriously…starches are hard to leave behind. If you want to get fancy, there are recipes out there for cauliflower rice and cauliflower mashed potatoes, but I was only cooking for myself, so simply steaming the cauliflower was fine.

Dinner at the restaurant was more of a challenge. Finding acceptable foods was not easy. On the menu of the restaurant I work at, there are only three gluten free options. Almost everything is made with butter or some other seasoning. This is another area where my leniency kicked in – and also where getting inspiration elsewhere worked wonders.

See, thanks to Pinterest, I was able to find a variety of Paleo recipes. While at work I would ask the chefs for modifications based on those recipes.  I would eat hamburgers with no bun and a salad as a side, or a salad with grilled chicken, or ribeye sliders in lettuce cups instead of buns.

Cheats, workarounds and challenges

Full disclosure: I would still use a small amount of ranch dressing for taste on the sliders, but opted for balsamic vinaigrette for my salads (leniency, see). At home, my mom made cookies…and brownies. While I helped myself to them, I did so in moderation. Instead of three cookies, it was one. Instead of a huge palm-sized brownie, it was a third of that. To curb the sweet tooth, I went to my local farmer’s market and bought white nectarines, and I also started making fruit protein shakes because I didn’t feel as though I was getting enough protein in my meals.

One Sunday I went wedding dress shopping with a friend of mine, and I knew we would be having lunch out. Not wanting to be to the person who had to have specific, I had my first cheat day. I ate bread for the first time in two and a half weeks—and my stomach was in knots later that evening. It’s amazing how fast your body adapts to change.

TMI alert: within the first four days of changing my diet, my digestion went into overdrive. I’ve had constipation issues for a long time and have never been regular, and going onto a once-a-day (sometimes more!) schedule was a huge change, and a welcome one at that.

The biggest challenge with Paleo was not the no bread…it was keeping down cost and making time for the food prep (fine, and the clean-up – who likes dealing with dirty dishes?). Had I been strict on the parameters of the diet, organic, grass fed, and cage free foods were the way to go. But grad-student my budget couldn’t accommodate the expense. The simple fact that I was eating vegetables instead of candy was a big improvement, so I wasn’t going to be that hard on myself for not sticking to organic foods.

Results are in

Weighing in at the start of my 30 days, I was 130 pounds and wore a pair of size 6/7 jeans.

On day 30, I was 121.8 pounds and wore a size 2. More than numbers on a scale though, I noticed changes in my body and how my clothes really fit: ab definition, noticeable hipbones, a way smaller muffin top and smaller thighs. I hadn’t much hit the gym, opting for two mile walks with a dog I was watching each day.

I’ve never believed in diets, and I still don’t. People get crazy with their detoxes, juice cleanses, and portion control. I don’t believe that Paleo is a diet – I believe that it’s a lifestyle change. It’s a conscious choice to be aware of what you’re fueling your body with. I’m now a believer in the saying “Abs are made in the kitchen and carved in the gym.”

Though the change in diet didn’t decrease my back pain, it made me feel better about myself. I was happy that I was making healthier choices, and I enjoyed seeing the way my body changed for the better. The regulation in my digestion was also a positive benefit.

Going forward

It’s been over a month since my 30 day challenge ended, and I while I have fallen off the wagon a bit, I still stick to some of what I learned while Paleo. When I cook for myself, I only make vegetables and protein. It’s the snacking and eating after work that remain problematic, especially with all the Halloween candy in the house.

A lack of income and an increase in bills has made it difficult to continue buying groceries and that was a big part of how I managed to stick to the Paleo guidelines – by cooking for myself. Once I catch up financially, I know I’ll have an easier time falling back into the parameters of Paleo. For now, it’s up to me to make better choices. I will give in to cravings again, I will have cheat days, and I’ll have wine with a friend, but I’m not going to beat myself up over one cookie or a slice of bread. Consistency is key, and I know I have it in me to get there.

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I’m rediscovering the joys of buddy-running.  You know…when you and someone you know agree to meet at a certain time and place and then together you go jogging off into the wild blue yonder sans earbuds. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good hour to myself with State of the Re:Union or 99% Invisible – but taking a run with someone else has it’s own unique set of pros and cons that I’d sort of forgotten about.

Good Looking (Out)

Back in “the day” I remember my mom always telling me to make sure I had a swimming buddy–someone who would look out for me, and who I would look out for in return–when we went to a community pool or a water park. One of the joys of a running buddy is mutual looking out. My RB Alexis has definitely pulled me away from oncoming traffic, and though I couldn’t reverse her fall, I was there to hug her and check her for broken bones when it happened.

Conversation Makes Time Fly

Chattering always makes the running time pass by faster than yes, even your favorite music or podcast. Letting your mind get wrapped up in thought allows for your mind not to be thinking about that big, freaking hill in front of you. I know, 50 minutes should be the same with or without someone. But it feels so much faster with. Especially when you’re having existential crisis like convos and helping each other through the art of living.

Motivation Nation

It would not shock me if my running buddies actually all live together on a small tropical island with sweet, rum filled tiki drinks, only leaving paradise when I need a swift jolt to get myself out the door. (I bet they ro-sham-bo to figure out who is going to partner up with me, too.) Having someone to run with is a sure fire way to make sure you actually hit the pavement. If I know Nessa is waiting, I’m not going to suddenly say, “You know, if I  watch this episode of Parenthood right now from the comfort of my workout pants, no one will mind.” Because day-um, Nessa will mind.

Jealous? Want Your Own? 

Finding a running buddy, especially if your friends are not the runnerly types, doesn’t have to be horrifyingly hard.

1) Craigslist. Go to “Activity Partners” section and peruse. You might be surprised. I’ve connected with a running buddy that way, and even though we don’t live in the same town anymore, we stay active on Facebook.

2) Dating SitesI know. I KNOW. But seriously, OkCupid has an “Activity Partners” selection, and I did indeed meet a really nice guy to run with, who was indeed dating someone else he’d met on the site. And it was definitely a chaste experience (and not just because I explained my kidney-stent related fruit punch pee to him about fifteen minutes after we met).

3) Your Current Social Circle. Chances are you know someone who knows someone who runs. And chances are also that you know someone who wants to run. If you’re a novice yourself, or willing to train with someone for a few months to get them up to your speed, convincing a friend who is eagerly nervous to give running a try is another way to stop running alone.

I actually made a running buddy out of an old high school acquaintance. She sat in my section at a brew-pub I used to waitress at, and literally her and her brother goofily left me a note with her number and suggested running together. I later introduced her to the man who became her husband, stood up with her at her wedding, and remain close friends with her – all because we spent hours upon hours running a lake together, encouraging each other, and telling each other the tales of our lives.

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Ed note: This is the first in a series of a few guest blog posts on different topics, ranging from running to the Paleo diet to boxing. I’ll be spacing these out over the rest of the year. Enjoy a few different voices here on Runner’s Delight! Up first, transportation planner Brian muses on being in the moment when running.

When Alicia asked me to write a guest spot on the running blog my first inclination was to write something about runners deuce (she said it had already done) or the crazy things witnessed on many outings around Lake Merritt in Oakland (of which there are many!). But then I thought about why I love running, how it makes me feel, and realized that something amazing happens when I run, my thinking shuts off, which is to say that the chatter in my mind about the day ahead and things on the agenda fall away. I realized that I’m doing something like meditation, but not the type where you sit cross-legged, saying a mantra.

In the past I have read a book on mindfulness and after reading this article in the New York Times I was inspired to enroll in a class on mindful meditation. I have tried mindfulness meditation with some good results, but also found that it was difficult for me to sit longer than 10 minutes and I would not find the time to do it on a regular basis. Then much to my surprise, without even knowing what was happening, the things that I learned and practiced were occurring when I did not expect them to, while running.

Running alone or with a partner are different experiences, but still reveal an essence of mindfulness. Running alone I tend to feel all the experiences in my body. My breathing becomes super important and focused when I run. I notice my feet hitting the ground, my legs swinging, and my arms moving back and forth. I also think: “I feel sweat dripping in my eyes” or “my foot feels weird” or “look at those birds.” Immediately I am transported to my experiences in the moment, feeling each of these sensations as they happen. Welcome to mindfulness and all things that the meditation book and teacher had referenced.

When running with a partner, namely Alicia, our conversations are remarkable. From our first date until now Alicia and I have been, in my opinion, great at the art of conversation and banter. Somehow our exchanges get beyond this when we run. I find that I will reveal and share even more openly and honestly than usual. It is as if some part of my brain is turned way down when I run–the part that makes me second guess, judge or take something personally.

In running I have found an outlet that helps my mind as much as it helps my body. It has also exposed me to the possibility that mindfulness can be a useful tool in my life. By noticing how I react and feel while I run, I am able to more readily access the mindfulness part of myself and turn down the volume on the chatter even when I’m not running.


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