Tag Archives: exercise

The Importance of Health and Kick-Ass Mothers

16 Mar

A pretty powerful photo:

I don’t weigh 120 pounds. Honestly, I don’t know if I would ever want to. I do have an “ideal weight” goal, but it’s higher than 120 pounds. Both sides of my family produce rather curvaceous women, and I started developing secondary sex features (*cough* boobs *cough*) in the 5th grade. I’ve never been the petite or slender type, and I am perfectly okay with that. I don’t mind my current weight, nor do I care about the stretch marks on my tummy.
What I care about is my health. My cholesterol and glucose values are far more important to me than my dress size.

Health was a huge deal in my childhood. My mom was adopted and her biological family’s medical history remains unknown, so the best she and I can do is lead a healthy lifestyle. She taught me to decipher nutrition labels as soon as I could read. She showed me a bunch of little tricks, like how to compare not only calories, but serving size, carbohydrates, fat, sugar, etc.

She also taught me that:

  • Mayonnaise is Satan in culinary clothing.
  • Salads should be a part of Every. Single. Dinner.
  • There is no such thing as too many vegetables.
  • Bacon is delicious meat-candy which will make your heart absolutely hate you. And can also be microwaved. She would always microwave bacon in a 2 inch layer of paper towels to absorb the grease. It wasn’t until I was 13 did I realize that bacon could also be fried in a pan. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I realized that’s how most people actually cook bacon. 

However, she did forget to teach me that bacon is very useful when it comes to making meat-themed Nativity scenes, but hey, nobody’s perfect. She was probably too busy being an awesome mom.

She preached against dangerous fad diets, explaining that true weight loss is a lifestyle choice, and there is no easy way. Weight that is easily lost is easily regained. She never complained about her own weight struggles in front of me, instead pursued them with steady perseverance and patience. She never once made a negative comment about my weight, try to guilt-trip me into dieting, or do anything else that would have crippled my self esteem. The goal wasn’t to be thin or to hate your body; The goal was health, because your body deserves to be loved.
I cannot thank her enough for that.

Parents play the biggest role in their child’s health, and too often don’t fully realize it. The Mayo Clinic has a wonderful online resource with simple and effective steps for families to battle childhood obesity in a way the promotes healthy lifestyle choices and doesn’t damage self esteem. I highly recommend checking it out, it’s a quick read. Best of all, while the article is written for parents, their simple suggestions can be applied to all ages:

  • Eat nutritious foods
  • Don’t bring junk food into the house
  • Control your portion sizes
  • Save treats and high-calorie snacks for special occasions
  • Turn off the TV and computer
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine
  • Stress the importance of healthy lifestyle choices, rather than a number on the scaleFor other great resources, be sure to check out The University of Michigan Health System, the Help Cure Childhood Obesity website, or simply Google childhood obesity. Another great resource for families on a budget (and poor college students like me) is this super awesome Hamilton Health Science Eating Guide. Money should not be an issue when it comes to eating healthy, and may even save you money.Teaching your child good nutritional habits doesn’t end when they turn 18. Even though I’ve grown up and live in another city, she still gives me handy tips on eating healthy. Just recently she introduced my to a variation of peanut butter on celery sticks. She substitutes peanut butter with a Laughing Cow Lite spreadable cheese wedge. One wedge will fill 3 sticks, at only 35 calories. Genius.

    It smiles because it knows it can kill you.

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Genetic Coffee

7 Mar

I love it when science validates my coffee addiction ^_^

Exercise and Caffeine Change Your DNA in the Same Way, Study Suggests

via Science Daily, March 6th, 2012

You might think that the DNA you inherited is one thing that you absolutely can’t do anything about, but in one sense you’d be wrong. Researchers reporting in the March issue of Cell Metabolism, a Cell Press publication, have found that when healthy but inactive men and women exercise for a matter of minutes, it produces a rather immediate change to their DNA. Perhaps even more tantalizing, the study suggests that the caffeine in your morning coffee might also influence muscle in essentially the same way.

The underlying genetic code in human muscle isn’t changed with exercise, but the DNA molecules within those muscles are chemically and structurally altered in very important ways. Those modifications to the DNA at precise locations appear to be early events in the genetic reprogramming of muscle for strength and, ultimately, in the structural and metabolic benefits of exercise.

“Our muscles are really plastic,” says Juleen Zierath of Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. “We often say “You are what you eat.” Well, muscle adapts to what you do. If you don’t use it, you lose it, and this is one of the mechanisms that allows that to happen.”

The DNA changes in question are known as epigenetic modifications and involve the gain or loss of chemical marks on DNA over and above the familiar sequence of As, Gs, Ts, and Cs. The new study shows that the DNA within skeletal muscle taken from people after a burst of exercise bears fewer chemical marks (specifically methyl groups) than it did before exercise. Those changes take place in stretches of DNA that are involved in turning “on” genes important for muscles’ adaptation to exercise.

When the researchers made muscles contract in lab dishes, they saw a similar loss of DNA methyl groups. Exposure of isolated muscle to caffeine had the same effect.

Zierath explained that caffeine does mimic the muscle contraction that comes with exercise in other ways, too. She doesn’t necessarily recommend anyone drink a cup of joe in place of exercise. It’s nevertheless tempting to think that athletes who enjoy a coffee with their workout might just be on to something.

Broadly speaking, the findings offer more evidence that our genomes are much more dynamic than they are often given credit for. Epigenetic modifications that turn genes on and back off again can be incredibly flexible events. They allow the DNA in our cells to adjust as the environment shifts.

“Exercise is medicine,” Zierath says, and it seems the means to alter our genomes for better health may be only a jog away. And for those who can’t exercise, the new findings might point the way to medicines (caffeinated ones, perhaps?) with similar benefits.

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Further evidence on why coffee is amazing. Exercise is ok too. Just not as awesome as coffee. A related article can be found at Nature, which is also pretty awesome ^_^