Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Raise your hand if you like supplements!

A few people have seen me sprinkling some collagen powder into my coffee in the morning and have cocked their heads like curious golden retrievers, so I figured I'd post about supplements.  I take quite a few.  Okay, I take a bunch.

The usefulness of supplements is a big debate.  Some say they don't do a dang thing.  Some say they provide a boost.  And still some say they are essential.  I don't know what's true and what isn't, but I do know that at least a couple of the things I've taken have shown results.  Here's what I take:

1. Multi-vitamin - duh. I don't really agonize over which ones.  When I run out, I just get a bottle of regular multi-vitamins from whichever grocery store I happen visit that weekend.

2. Vitamin D - this was actually suggested by my primary physician.  (Have I mentioned that she's also the biggest cheerleader of my paleo-ish diet?  Yeah, my doctor's cool, man.) Many women with polycystic ovaries are low on Vitamin D.  My condition has improved, but I can't say if it's due to "the D" because I also take other meds to regulate the insulin resistance issues that cause my PCOS.  My doc highly recommends this particular brand and I've been using it for nearly five years.

3. Pharma-grade fish oil - this was also suggested by my doc.  Actually, she prescribed a specific fish-oil-based drug to me, but it was way too expensive, so I found an over the counter alternative and she approved because she's cool like that.  My bad cholesterol levels have decreased slightly, so it may be working, but the lower cholesterol could also be related to better eating habits and working out.  I am a fan of Omega Via, partially because they have a recurring purchase option where you pick how often you want them to send you a new supply and it comes automatically.

And my two favorite supplements of all...

4.Magnesium Citrate - Apparently a lot of women are also magnesium deficient.  The addition of magnesium can sometimes lower stress and aid with sleep.  Since beginning a daily regimen of a glass of water with this stuff (it's fizzy! AND tart!), I've definitely seen a slight reduction in anxiety and falling asleep at night is easier.  This could also be due to my increased workout intensity, but I've been taking Natural Calm for nearly two years now so I doubt it.  Now, those first three supplements up there come in easy, portable pill forms, but this is a big ol' container of powder.  Not the easiest thing to get through airport security for my frequent work trips.  Luckily, Natural Vitality also sells single serving packets, which you can usually find at Whole Foods or most health stores.  I buy a bunch before (or during) every trip and I'm set!

5. Collagen - I prefer to take it in water soluble powder form - both Great Lakes and Vital Proteins are good brands.  Since it can break down in hot or cold beverages, and it's flavorless, I add it to my morning coffee.  I have had very fine hair and brittle nails for most of my adult life.  Since starting regular use, I have seen my nails grow stronger and my hair has gained a lot of body.  My skin is also clearer.  This can also be a tough substance to take on the road, but I recently found Reserveage collagen chews.  I don't think they serve as much of a nutrient "punch" as the powder, but they travel well and I'll take whatever nutrition I can get while doing work travel.

(Pro tip: Vital Proteins tends to be cheaper at and Thrive Market.)

I think my general feeling on supplements is that they are not going to do much in a lifestyle that is not healthy in other ways.  I mean, that's why they are called supplements, right?  They can't do it all on their own, but they can help. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Paleo-ish on a time crunch

So let's take a break from talking about my exercise regimen, shall we?  Let's get back to food.  I know you're all thinking that after all, this blog is called COOKING in Kenzo.  It's supposed to be a metaphor, ok?

I've been pretty upfront about the fact that focusing on eating whole foods (what some would call "real food" or the dreaded "clean eating") has been a game-changer for me.  I grew up eating meals where most of the components came from a can and/or box, but I know a lot of us did in the 80s.  While canned green beans (shiver) have thankfully become a thing of my past, I've definitely been treading on the edge of what is whole and what is not, lately.  Most of that can be chalked up to laziness but a good chunk of it is because I'm just plain busy.  I have a demanding job, we're building a new house, and oh yeah, I'm running after a 4 year old and 2 year old when I'm not sitting on planes or trains.  (PS I'm totally on a plane to Los Angeles as I type this.)  I've been wracking my brain to come up with ways to make fast meals that stick within my paleo-ish guidelines.  I'm besties with my crockpot but I needed a way to do something besides roasts and stews.

Luckily, I was standing in line at the grocery store when the latest issue of Real Simple called out to me.

"Oh Laaaaaura.  Buyyyyy meeee!," it said.

Inside that always-beautiful and tempting cover was a whole piece, entitled "Master Make-Ahead Meals," dedicated to prepping a week's worth of meal components on a Sunday and then combining them throughout the week.  Yeah, I know, there are plenty of paleo chefs out there who have suggested this, but I just wasn't ready to listen.  Of course, I had to adjust the plan a bit to accommodate what I eat, but I was able to do it in a way where I could make stuff that the whole family might enjoy.  Here's what I did in a Sunday Kitchen WOD:

  • snow peas
  • two pineapples chunked
  • head of lettuce washed and broken down
  • head of kale washed and taken off the stalks
  • brussell sprouts halved
  • asparagus trimmed
  • acorn squash sliced and roasted
Proteins cooked:
  • Bacon
  • Shrimp broiled with ghee and lemon
  • Beef and pork sausage meatballs
Starches cooked
  • Brown rice macaroni
  • Brown rice
  • Herb/garlic yogurt dressing
  • White bean dip (Real Simple recipe)
Basically I just built warm bowls or cold salads out of the ingredients I had on hand.  The most amount of work I had to do was warming up the starches and proteins, and maybe broiling a veggie like asparagus.  The yogurt dressing was a hit.  The white bean dip was eh but the kids at least tried (and liked!) the snow peas as a result of trying the dip. 

A salad (kale, lettus, almonds, asparagus, shrimp, squash, and simple lemon juice/olive oil dressing) on the left and a warm rice bowl (rice, meatballs, kale) with yogurt dressing on the right.
The brown rice macaroni went into a modification of the mac and cheese recipe in the Real Simple piece.   I ended up eating most of it even though it was really for the kids.  It was too much dairy for me so I'll nix it next week.  And I made too many shrimp, which didn't last more than a couple days in the fridge, so I will probably make less or use a different protein next week.  Other than that, this system was a huge success.  I think I will add in a batch of Nom Nom Paleo's cracklin chicken to next week's cook.  And maybe do a different kind of meatball.  Might also whip up a big bowl of my Colorful Kale Salad.  Finally, I am not against buying some of the pre-sliced veggies at the grocery story during weekends that are especially hectic.

More on this as things progress!  What do you do to get ready for the week?

Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 is the FITNESS

Photo credit @novem_bootcamp on Instagram

Happy New Year!

Let's get right to it - the run commuting was fun and I loved it, but...well...injuries SUCK.  My problems actually started on a regular morning run on a work trip back in late September.  It was a lovely run, too.  In San Francisco, along the Embarcadero, just as the sun was rising.  But my left foot came down at some point and I felt pain spike through my ankle.  Like the stubborn dummy I am, I ran through it.  Back at my hotel, I had to accept that it was the familiar pain of a stress fracture.  I knew I needed to ground myself from running for at least six weeks but couldn't stand the idea of not doing anything during the down time.

Friends convinced me to renew my membership to the local Crossfit box, which has a bootcamp style class that is more cardio and strength than the heavy weight lifting that most Crossfitters do.  I went begrudgingly to a Sunday class but soon realized it was exactly what I needed.  I knew I was getting injured because I wasn't cross training.  Bootcamp allowed me to scale things, so I've been rowing instead of running and staying away from jumping.  Oh, did I forget to mention that the stress fracture healed but then my other foot decided to go into plantar fasciitis hell?  The pain was exruciating - so much worse than the fracture.  I've done acupuncture, foot exercises, the nighttime splint, and the only relief has been cortizone shots from the podiatrist over the last two weeks.  I'm also shelling out bucks to get a specially made orthotic for my gym shoes in order to correct things in the long term.  I'm worried that if this is a recurring thing it might halt my running hobby all together, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it...even if I'm limping across the bridge.

Anyways, all this is to say that I'm excited about 2016 because I'm focused on getting fit, feeling strong, and hopefully seeing the positive byproduct of some weight loss.  The husband and I have joined a weight loss study at the University where I work, mainly for the free WiFi scale, but also just so see if we can tweak a few things and see results.  But the truth is, I just wanna get some sweet biceps (I'm in the middle in that picture up there - some guns are slowly forming!) and look awesome in my clothes.

I'm trying to get back on the grain/dairy free wagon, too, but my real goal is to get the whole family eating better, including the littles.  I'm going to be focused on prepping ahead for the week and using my slow cooker more.  I will to try to post here once a week or so.  Fingers crossed I can do it.

For now, I will sip my collagen-infused coffee (a post on collagen will be forthcoming) and enjoy the Philadelphia tradition of watching the Mummers.  Here we go, 2016!

ETA: I have a few dear friends who participate in the Mummers Parade every year and I enjoy watching to see them perform.  But the repeated use of blackface, and one troop's hateful parody of Caitlyn Jenner's transition coupled with a few of their members homophobic behavior on and off the parade route, is just enough.  I will no longer be watching the Mummers.  It's one old Philly tradition I just can't endorse.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Just like the Salt n Pepa song...

She's "artfully" demonstrating the "O" in Obese, here.  Isn't she just lovely?
So if you are at all cognizant of the Twittersphere and YouTube (and I am only minimally aware), you may have seen some of the hullabaloo over the last few days about the lady in the picture above.  She appears to me to be some sort of failed actress/dancer person who has now decided to call herself a comedian?  I'm not sure, but I'm sure that any of her fans who read this will make sure to correct me. She posted a video to her YouTube recently which she claims was a stand up routine created at the direction of her fans - I've never met a real comedian who let fans tell him/her what to talk about, but whatever.  The basic message was that fat people are awful and that shaming them is necessary to get them to be skinnier.  She made sure, of course, to disclaim the whole thing by saying it doesn't apply to people who have a bonafide health issue that affects their weight, but I guess that means that she has some sort of magical power that allows her to look at a person and automatically know why/how they got fat?  Anyway, her YouTube channel has been mysteriously dismantled, so the video is hard to find, but the rebuttal videos are plentiful and some of them are downright hilarious.  This one happens to be my personal favorite.

I tend to focus this blog around the positives of eating right and my running goals.  What I don't talk about very often is that, according to the BMI scale used by most physicians, I am classified as obese.  I've struggled with my weight all my life.  All. My. Life.  I won't talk about the bullying I endured as a kid because I'm 37 years old and what happens now is up to me.  But I will say that kids are killing themselves because of the kind of stuff I experienced when I was younger and it's not ok.  I will also say that my feelings about the fat acceptance movement as a whole are mixed.  Nonetheless, I don't think that skinny wanna-be celebrities have a place in that movement, either for or against it, because...

It's none of your business.

When I go out for a run in a sports bra, tank top, and running tights, just like every other runner on the streets of Philadelphia, I don't need someone to give me the old "up and down" and laugh.  Why?

Because it's none of your business.

And when other people pat me on the back like I'm a child and say, "I'm so proud of you!" when I return from said run all sweaty and spent, all I want to do is point out to them how incredibly condescending they are.  My fitness is a point of pride, but I'm not a child who needs a pat on the head for doing it.

After all, it's really none of your business.

I eat what I eat and I do what I do because it works for me and it keeps me accountable...TO ME.  Because it helps me fight off an actual medical condition that has made my weight a daily focus for more than two decades.  However, whether or not I have a "real" illness shouldn't matter to some comedian who just wants exemption from being called a bigoted asshole.  If she thinks that all fat people sit around not caring about their weight, she is clearly oblivious to how impossible that scenario is when people like her exist.  But I guess that doesn't really matter.

'Cause it's definitely none of her business.

Truth is, I have it pretty good as an "obese" person.  I fit perfectly into single seats on public transportation and on airplanes.  I can shop in most clothing stores, albeit at the high end of the size range.  I can run and jump and pick up my kids and all of the physical things that many people assume I'd rather not do in exchange for sitting on the couch and eating bon bons...or something. But there was a time when that wasn't the case, when I had 50 more lbs on my frame.  And I've seen how people treated me then versus how they treat me now, and it's disgusting.  I suppose people like that person up there think I should be happy to at least be getting a little less shit now that I'm a little less fat. 

But have I mentioned that someone's weight is no one else's business yet?

That's right.  How much I weigh and how I got there is my business.  And how much Nicole Arbour weighs is only her business too.  Yeah, sure, I'm blogging right now so I've at least made the words on this page the business of people besides me, but that's about it.  So if it annoys you that people like me have the gaul to walk the streets in clothes that make us feel confident, or that we have the nerve to insert food into our mouths anywhere outside of our own homes, or that we deign to think that public transportation was made for us too, I implore you remember one thing:


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Run commute recap

So, in a nutshell: I did it! (Cue victory dance.)  Here's a brief recap of the experience:

- My route: I ran 3 miles from my starting point to just a few blocks away from my office, mostly by way of large main roads that cross the city.
- What went to the office on Monday: That basket up there, the hair dryer, the flat iron, a jar of course ground coffee and a personal french press to keep up my cold brew addiction, a container of coconut creamer for said coffee, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, a towel, and a bag with three work outfits plus undergarments.
- What I took with me on the run: That backpack up there plus the hand held water bottle, ear phones, iphone arm band, sunglasses, work shoes, lunch, ipad, iphone wallet, keys, and the hair brush I forgot to bring in on Monday.
- Things I didn't anticipate: The weight of the backpack slowed me down a bit.  Even as the palest person I know I forgot to put on sunscreen.  The backpack created new chafing spots that I didn't even know were possible.  And so. many. stop. lights.
- What I loved about it: I got a lot of high fives - center city runners are so nice! Even though it was still a hot and humid run, the temperature was way more tolerable than during midday runs.  And the best part? I was done with my day's workout before I even started my work day!
- What I will tweak: My next run is supposed to be 4.5 miles so my route is going to have to be lengthened, but I also want to find a way to avoid the big streets that are just light after light after light.  I'm also going to try to pack less in the bag - being weighted down by a tiny backpack should not be a factor. And also SUNSCREEN.
- Overall: I'm so glad I did this.  It felt like I was finally making it work with the run training.  I'm hoping to fit in two more run commutes this week, and after looking at my schedule, I think one of them might be a reverse commute after work.  
- What I need from you: My Rhapsody playlists need some serious updating.  What's your favorite running song?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Fitting it in: Let's try run commuting

This is the face I want to recreate at the Philadelphia Marathon in November.  It's the face of victory.  I wasn't the fastest Broad Street runner by far, but I finished.  And I didn't finish last, so there's that.  I trained hard for this race and I mean HARD.  I ran 3-4 times a week, I cross trained with spinning and BodyPump classes, and I ate like a freakin' champ.  But since then, I've made two attempts to train for a half marathon - the next logical step for a Type A weirdo who can't do anything if she's not outdoing herself - and both have failed.  The reasons behind my failures were perfectly understandable so I'm not beating myself up over that.  However, I am agonizing at how lax my training has been on this most recent attempt.  I just can't seem to find the time to run. I know half the people who read this will say I'm not trying hard enough and the other half will say I shouldn't be so tough on myself.  I've had to accept that I'm just not going to be that runner who gets up before dawn to go for daybreak runs and I'm too much of a workaholic to break midday to do it during lunch; evening runs are tough with two little kiddos to get to bed.  I'm just trying to buck up and figure it out.  I'm thinking the only way to guarantee that I get in a run is to try run commuting.  It takes a good deal of prep, though, so I thought I'd share my plan and update later on how it worked.

Step One: Gear Up

This plan requires a few accessories to help make it happen.  First, I need to be able to shower when I get to work, so I'll be setting up a basket in my office that has shampoo, conditioner, body wash, a brush, a hair dryer, and a flat iron (luckily I already have a spare Chi).  For the runs, I purchased an Osprey Daylite running backpack to carry the few things that I need to have each day.  I chose it because it has a waist strap that will keep it in place while I run, and it can also hold a hydration pack for my long weekend runs.  I also got a Nathan Quick Draw hand-held water bottle for the weekday runs since I won't have the luxury of stopping for water along the way - these runs all have to happen within an hour.  

Step Two: Prep

My current running schedule calls for three weekday runs and a long run over the weekend.  My plan is to come in to work on Monday with three extra work outfits and shoes, a small laundry bag, and a clean towel.  The dirty workout clothes and towel will go home with me on Fridays.  This way, all I need to carry in the backpack is my wallet, iPad, and lunch.  

Step Three: The Route

My weekday runs range from 3 miles to 5 miles and it's a little over 3 to get from my starting point to the office.  I will run straight there on my short run days, but the 5 milers will require some creativity.  My plan is to try running across the city, then up Kelly Drive, past the boathouses and back again in order to tack on some mileage.  There are endless possibilities, though, and I'll need to switch up the route often in order to stay motivated.  (I'm saving the Rocky Steps for when I really need a boost.)

Step Four: Yeah, that motivation thing

I am not gonna lie - motivation has certainly been a factor in this slow start.  Between work, family, and other stuff, there are days when I just say, "Well, I don't want to run today."  And on some of those days, I run anyway, only to remember the glorious high that comes at the end of the run.  Runners' high is not a myth, y'all.  When I slow to a strolling cool-down at the end of a run, I feel like a total warrior.  I haven't been feeling that way very much in my daily life, so a reminder of my badassery is very much in order.

So there it is.  My plan to become a three-day-a-week run commuter.  Think I got a shot?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Firing it up...

Has it really been two and a half years since I posted anything here?  I've been feeling inspired lately and thought maybe I should try to write a weekly post.  Ideally, I'd like to buy a URL, get a custom design, and really try to make something of this, but baby steps.

So what's happened since January 2013?  Let's see:

1) I ended up losing a total of about 50 lbs and have plateaued for the last year and a half or so.  One of my goals in starting up this writing again is to get back on that train.

2) In the fall of 2013, I decided to train for and run a 5K for cervical cancer in memory of my mother.  I figured I'd stop at 3.1.  Well that wasn't good enough so I trained for the 2014 Broad Street Run, a popular 10-miler in Philly.  Finished it.  Since then I've tried to train twice for a half marathon but was unsuccessful due to other updates that will reveal themselves below.  I'm now training for the third time and determined to git'er done.  I have a loose goal of completing a sprint tri by the time I'm 40 but that requires more weight loss.  See where I'm going here?

3) Also in the fall of 2013, my beautiful niece M was born in California.  Due to a variety of circumstances, she ended up in foster care just days after birth and we were asked if we would consider taking her.  We never hesitated for a second.  My husband and I began the arduous process of flying one of us to the west coast once a month for visits.  We opened our home to various agencies to qualify us as her foster parents.  Finally, after nine long months, M came to live with us in Philadelphia.  She is now almost two and we are working to adopt her.  She and her "big brother" C (now 4) are our awesome little crew and we couldn't be happier.  But training with that sort of schedule was tough.  So attempt #1 for a half marathon was out of the question.

4) This past winter I was on half-marathon attempt #2 when I came down with what I thought was a horrible cold that I'd caught from the kids.  But when my entire right shin swelled up and I became delirious, I knew it was more.  I landed in the hospital for four days with a case of cellulitis that was a combo of a strep infection gone wild and something that got into my system through - wait for it - a blister I got from running.  My doc and I still suspect that there might be some sort of auto-immune issue at play, but nothing major.  I have adjusted my training to be more yoga and running focused so that I'm not potentially causing adrenal fatigue. Nonetheless, the recovery from that stint was long and attempt #2 was down the drain.

5) We're finally building our new house!  It took nearly three years, but we are almost done with the money stuff and a builder is waiting to get to work.

6) Due to an awesome promotion at work, I'm still traveling but with more long distance, so I am working to incorporate healthy eating and exercise while I'm on the road.

That's all gotta be good for a few posts, right?