Guest Blog – Microcosm of the gym

Hi all! 

I’m your guest blogger – Becca is skate boarding at the moment (in my kitchen, without a skateboard.  I guess that makes her air skateboarding??)  Regardless, I’m here at the request of Becca, because I regularly comment on the microcosm of life at the gym.  I’m a people watcher- I LOVE staring at a person and trying to see inside their mind.  I’m not trying to be rude, I just think people are fascinating.  I suppose that’s partly why I became a teacher- I get to stare at people all day long and it’s not weird. 

Jess & Becca (L to R)

Jess & Becca (L to R)

Since Becca has moved in with me, I’ve signed up for a gym membership- and my fascination with people watching has resurfaced!  There are so many people groups at the gym- I love watching them and making up conversations with them.  It’s rather funny because I’m the chick with the headphones who gets in and gets out.  I don’t really talk to anyone, not because I don’t want to, but because everyone is so intimidating!  Almost everyone looks like they know what they are doing.  I digress- I’m here at the request of Becca because I like to comment on the people at the gym.  Again- not trying to be rude, or make a person uncomfortable, but I just like to observe.

First, there are the men who are there when I arrive, and are still working out when I leave.  They tend to have use the big weights, and talk to each other between reps.  They could probably bench me without breaking a sweat.  Becca assures me all the talking is necessary.  I find it humorous when they start talking to each other in gym speak. “Dude. My arms are wasted from yesterday.”  or “I lifted 200lbs on the (fill in the blank) last week.  What’d you do?”  I like to think they aren’t checking themselves out- but they do spend a lot of time staring in the mirror.  They’re also pretty oblivious to all 100lbs of me lifting my 10 and 15 pound dumbbells.  I tend to stare at them because they’re fascinating to me.  I want to be in shape, but I don’t fully understand (or have) the time and energy necessary to get this in shape.

Second, there are the few women who also look like they know what they’re doing.  Most use gloves and lift the 10 and 15 pounders like me, and don’t use many of the machines.   To fit with these women are the older men that aren’t massive like group #1- but still know their way around the gym.  This past weekend, I saw all the men hanging out with the women and realized they are all either friends, or married.  The whole group did their thing, and then hung around chatting.  I didn’t see a ton of interaction between reps, but perhaps they got all their socializing out ahead of time?

Then there are the younger women.  By younger, I suppose they’re in their 20s and early 30s.  They are as fascinating as the first group.  These ladies like to use all the machines- they do one set around the room, or use small weights and then they’re done.  I wonder if they know what they are doing (I hope I don’t sound judgmental, as I probably was one of these women in high school and college).  I certainly didn’t when I was doing the rounds 10 years ago.  I hope they are getting the results they want.  I also have to confess, I want to approach them and tell them I know of an awesome trainer who can help them.

Last, there are the few random people.  I’d like to think I’m one of these.  They look like they know what they are doing, but aren’t super ripped.  They get in, do their work out, and get out.  Maybe do a little talking, if they know someone.  Becca’s a bit random- she’s like the guys in the first group, but I’ve never heard her talk like them- rarely does she ‘boast’ about her squats, lifts, etc. (or if she does, it’s not to me)  There are also the girls who come back, do a bunch of ab workouts and then go to the elliptical.

The bottomline, as Becca would say?  People are wonderfully interesting!  Each of the groups above are great, unique and integral part of a healthy gym.  We need those people- and more- to make our workouts better. 

What’s your gym group?

Yoga ball = School chair?

Today’s Star Tribune printed an article out of Pennsylvania, Teachers make move to improve student focus by ditching desk chairs in favor of yoga balls. The shallow article does not include specific references and vaguely refers to nonexperimental research. Do you trust the article?

The research

I took it upon myself to find the research. Oddly enough, I have yet to find any scholarly research that supports the claims made in this news article. The research of Kilbourne (2009), who is mentioned in the article, is unscientific and purely qualitative. For example, students were asked before and after using the exercise balls to rank their perceived level of focus. A self-report measure, really? How about – at a minimum – using a math time table test score????

The ball 

A yoga ball? The stability ball – best known to Americans as a Swiss ball – has origins in physical therapy. Pilates, yoga, and other schools of exercise adopted the tool, incorporating them into workouts. I have a number of friends who are teachers – would you seriously consider replacing your chairs with stability balls on a permanent basis?

Improved focus

This is a hot research topic in my field (sport and exercise psychology). Does exercise improve cognitive processes? Cognitive performance seems to be improved by lower exercise intensities immediately after exercise, but by higher intensities after a period of physical recovery (Pesce, 2012). Further, findings support that with increasing cognitive task difficulty, performance would be worsened by a withdrawal of resources away from the task and towards motor control (Pesce, 2012). In dual-processing tasks – one task will always suffer.

Improved balance & posture

There is no scientific evidence that sitting on a stability ball will improve balance. Based on what exercise physiologists know about the human body and its ability to adapt, an individual may see minimal improvements initially and then nothing moving forward. In fact, as the human body adapts to sitting on a stability chair, posture will not be effected and may even be adversely effected.

Inappropriate generalization

This is a common error of our society – cherry picking information and applying it in ways that are not intended. For example, there is plenty of evidence to support the dose response of exercise (Everhart, 2012; Travlos, 2010). Attention levels and aptitude to learn have been shown to increase following bouts of physical activity.

The bottomline

Research supports improved learning following physical activity. The research specific to concurrent physical activity remains inconclusive. The reports in this article are unfounded and need to be critically assessed before implemented. The proposed benefits, such as improved focus, defy research findings – as well as logic.

One important aspect of school is learning social skills and socially acceptable behaviors. Allowing children to bounce all day? – maybe I am the only one that views this as a way to exacerbate attention disorders. Children need to learn to sit still, as they will need to sit still in life. While children are designed and need to move, it would be more beneficial to get out of the chair on a more consistent basis.

While there may be minimal benefits – there are also significant physiological and biomechanical risks associated with the use of stability balls as chairs.

However, sitting on a ball could reduce the prevalence of leg crossing – which may reduce hip and knee injuries – but this is me making a hypothetical claim (I did not find any research to support this).


Everhart, B. (2012). The influence of daily structured physical activity on academic progress of elementary students with intellectual disabilities. Education,133(2), 298-312.

Kilbourne, J. (2009). Sharpening the Mind Through Movement: Using Exercise Balls as Chairs in a University Class. Chronicle Of Kinesiology & Physical Education In Higher Education20(1), 10-15.

Pesce, C. (2012). Shifting the Focus From Quantitative to Qualitative Exercise Characteristics in Exercise and Cognition Research. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology34(6), 766-786.

Travlos, A. K. (2010). High intensity physical education classes and cognitive performance in eighth-grade students: An applied study. International Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology8(3), 302-311.

Protein bars – A better choice?

I was at Target yesterday, where they were serving samples of Clif Builder’s protein bars. As we walked away, a mother approached the samples and said to her child, “these would be good snacks for you to bring to school.” This made me want to stand next to the samples with some sort of educational materials. Marketing has done its job – we think that protein bars are good nutrition for us AND our children. Sadly, a protein bar is not a good choice for either. In my opinion, retailing protein bars as ‘nutrition bars’ should be illegal.

Purpose of protein bars

Protein bars were initially designed for endurance athletes – something easy to eat before/during/after high intensity activity. Despite the fact that protein bars have become mainstream, most have not changed their nutritional makeup to meet the needs of our daily lives.

Protein bars have a high nutrient density. They often contain high levels of fat, sugar, protein, etc. – for the purpose of sustaining an athletes intense energy expenditure. What happens if you consume more of these nutrients than you need? They become converted into fat (i.e., adipose tissue). What happens of you consume more protein than you need? It is converted into fat.

How much protein can the body use?

You see the protein bars that advertise containing 20+ grams of protein. The more protein the better, right? WRONG. You body can only utilize approximately 8 to 10 grams of protein an hour. While some experts suggest eating as much as 30 grams of protein at MEALS, this is ingested along with other foods that influence the length of digestion (sometimes hours). Anything above and beyond what the body can use will be converted into fat, storing it for later usage.

The facts

What is in a protein bar? For the sake of this post, I will remain with the Clif Builder’s bar.

Look at all the awesome stuff! First, let us remember that the Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet – which applies directly to very few of us. If you do not already know, please learn to read labels! I am not going to address everything on these Nutrition Facts, but I want to highlight a few things.

Calories – 270. 13.5% of a 2000 calorie diet, I suppose this may be a snack. Snacks should generally be limited to approximately 200 calories.

Saturated Fat – 25%. 13.5% of your daily calories but 25% of your saturated fat? If you are not using the fat as fuel (like an athlete may be), it will be stored as fat.

Total Carbs – 10%. Let me begin by saying that this is incredibly misleading. Look at the sub categories and there are 20 grams of sugars. I have previously written about sugar and how much sugar you can utilize at a given time.

Protein – 20 grams or 40%. Look at the math – 13.5% of your calories and 40% of your protein. Does this make sense? So what are you going to eat for the remaining 86.5% of your calories? Protein contains 4 calories per gram, so 80 of the 270 calories are from protein. Where do the other calories come from? I will let you do the math – I hate math. (Hint: 80 calories from the sugar. That leaves 110 calories. 72 from fat, leaving 38 calories from carbohydrates other than sugar.)

Protein bars and weight loss

Are you on a weight loss journey and using protein bars in place of meals or snacks? How is that working for you – honestly? Are you bloated? Unfortunate for us and fortunate for the protein bar industry – many individuals who are overweight and losing do not know when they are bloated. Unfortunately, most overweight individuals have been bloated for a significant amount of time and would not be able to tell the different of whether the bar elicited water retention or bloating. (What does sugar do?).

Remember, a protein bar is highly processed. I did not include the ingredient list for the Clif Builder’s bar above, but you can view it on their website. The list is not terrible, but not great. They use ‘sexy’ terms like no trans fat and organic. The bar provides sustained energy. What does that mean? Do you need energy to sit in your chair at work? If so, how much energy do you need?

I know, I am asking a lot of questions and not giving the answers. I want YOU to think critically.

Protein bars and muscle building

The name, Clif Builder’s, infers muscle building – correct? I know very few bodybuilders who eat protein bars – because they are mindful and go for the most effective and efficient sources. The cut and ripped look of bodybuilders comes from natural proteins – supplemented with shakes and other things not critical to the point of this post. Will a protein bar assist with muscle building? Slightly. Is that what it is designed for? No.

The bottomline

This post just addressed the outer edges of this issue and is oversimplified. Just know, a protein is NOT designed for regular consumption by an average individual. Marketing will lead you to believe otherwise. Bars for women (Luna Bars?). Snack sized bars. Meal Replacement bars. And what are all these bars? Glorified candy bars and granola bars. Processed junk that our bodies are not designed to process and digest.

Are protein bars a better choice? Better than what? A candy bar? Give me a choice between a Clif bar and a Snickers – and I will always pick the Snickers. A – it tastes better. B – the overall nutritional benefit is nearly identical. (i.e., fewer total calories, same saturated fat, modestly more sugar, and protein within and absorbable range)

Do you eat protein bars? You might want to think twice – – – 

Grieving the loss of my heart rate monitor

Do you use heart-rate based training? Although it has its limitation, monitoring your heart rate during exercise can be incredibly beneficial. If you do not use one, how do you determine whether you are working with enough intensity? Knowing that the biggest battle is the mental game, how confident are you that your perception of how hard you are working is accurate? FT7

While I highly encourage that everyone invest in a quality heart rate monitor (e.g., Polar, Garmin), it can be liberating to work without it. Having consistently worn a heart rate monitor for years, my heart rate monitor died several months ago and I have been working out without it ever since. This has given me a great sense of freedom. I was to a point where I was obsessive about burning an obscene amount of calories according to my monitor – which I know is inaccurate anyway!


I am focused on my task at hand – lifting a weight or performing a movement – with no distraction of looking at my watch.

I am not smashing  my watch with the kettlebell. Now that I think about it, I wonder if all that smashing shortened its life.

I do not have to remember all the pieces AND to turn it on before a workout.


I have no idea what my heart rate is – I know my intensity has decreased as I do not have a number to ‘shoot for.’

Without a watch, I am not timing my workouts.

I cannot brag about how high my heart rate has been. (Mine gets freakishly high.)

I miss the immediate reinforcement of being shown that I burned a given amount of calories – even when I knew it was inaccurate. I feel like without the watch I am not burning calories (our minds are tricky, aren’t they?).

The bottomline

I am honestly pretty lost without my heart rate monitor. I do not believe this is a terrible dependency, seen as I know that it is not a completely accurate tool. I know I could be pushing myself harder in my workouts, but I like having that number goal.

The good news, I will have my replacement monitor in about a week! I may be lost, but I will be found!!!!! And as I work towards being in the best shape of my life by May, being found is more critical than ever!

We cannot choose our imperfections

As those who follow my blog may know, I am overly concerned with my torso. I am concerned with the imperfect appearance. And more than that, I am concerned with the pain and impaired quality of movement associated with my rotated rib cage (I do not think I have mentioned this before). I have overactive muscles throughout the right side of my body that pull on everything, making me uneven. I do self myofascial release, active release technique (ART), I poke and prod my psoas and sarratus on a regular basis…

Last night, I was gently massaging my sarratus. My wonderful roommate began to comment that my imperfection makes me ME – assuming I was analyzing the imperfection of my torso. I explained that I was massaging. And I said, “If I have to have an imperfection I would rather have cellulite on my butt.” Would it not be awesome if we could choose? Now, I am sure that those with cellulite on their butts would likely choose something else, but that is besides the point. The point: we cannot choose.

No spot reduction

And just as we cannot choose our imperfection, we cannot choose to perfect an area of our body. It is unfortunate, but there is no such thing as spot reduction. I regularly have individuals ask me what they can do about thighs or tummies – the honest answer is workout. More importantly, a program of fat loss workouts. (Quiz: Are group fitness classes designed for fat loss?) Can you emphasis an area for toning and muscle building? Yes. But we have ZERO control over where fat sits on our bodies. Annoying? I believe so.

It is genetics

As I thought more about how each of us is imperfect in a different way, I got to thinking about the role of genetics on our physical structure. “My calves are awesome and I rarely work them; whereas, my torso is my ‘weak point’ and I work it nearly every day.” This is the truth. It seems counter-intuitive. It is incredibly frustrating. But it is what it is. Some of my friends have never had tummy area troubles. I have never had leg, thigh, or butt woes. We can thank our mothers for this, and grandmothers – it is in our genes.

NOTE: Do not mistake this for a genetic explanation for overweight or obesity. Genes control how easy or difficult it may be to lose. Genes influence where on your body you hold fat, muscle, etc. Genes influence hormones – which effect our weights. But genes do not make someone overweight.

I do have nice legs – truly always have. While I do work hard to maintain them, I have never focused on my calves (like I have my torso and biceps – my weak points). Maybe it is because I am 99.9% German. Maybe it is because I come from a long ancestral line of farmers – who needed the strong legs for bailing hay and working all day. Regardless – it is out of my control. Does it feel to you like I am talking myself into believing it?

Acceptance – the hard part

So, how do I come to terms with the fact that I may not have the flat stomach that I desire, but I have the great legs that others may desire? We all have something – true or perceived – and this is real. I know the science. I know that there is very little I can do. But I still fight the acceptance. I still cannot find satisfaction.

The bottomline

Our imperfections make us beautiful. Our imperfections make us individuals – lovable for precisely who we are.

We do not get to choose our imperfection – but we can choose to embrace them. I am working on this, are you?

Do you embrace your imperfections?

Finding more on a weight loss journey

A dear friend shares her journey and her heart.

To love yourself right now, just as you are, is to give yourself heaven. Don’t wait until you die. 
If you wait, you die now. If you love, you live now. – Alan Cohen

Often times, when we discuss love, it is in relation to our connections with others.  We give love anthropomorphic tendencies, describing its ability to create harmony, whether through our own personal connections or a universal exchange (that links all persons in a global community).  Discussions regarding self-love are relegated to conversations relating its pertinence in the face of limited self-worth.  The implicit necessity of loving one’s self is paramount in establishing worthwhile connections with others. 

Since this blog is about health & fitness, I will tailor this entry, relating self-love to my weight loss journey.   

Last summer I began a journey towards health & fitness, though my immediate goal revolved around losing a tremendous amount of excess weight, my exigent goal was to learn to love myself.  My excess weight was a reflection of my inner turmoil, my struggle to find acceptance (a struggle I presumed to be externally founded…. thereby, extrinsically resolved).  I assumed that loving myself would be a natural effect of changing the way I looked physically.  By changing my appearance, I would become more acceptable to others, allowing me to become more acceptable to myself.  This change would provide an avenue for me to establish connections with others (at that point I was socially isolated, spending tremendous amounts of time alone with limited social interactions) and increase my self-efficacy (believing I could accomplish the many goals I had set for myself).  To a degree these presumptions were accurate.  I have changed the way I look, I am more appealing to others and have a greater sense of comfort in my physique, but that has not translated itself into increased self-worth. 

There is still a sense of lacking and deficiency.  As I strive towards attaining what I believe to be the “perfect body” (for myself), I constantly have to face the impact of my limited self-worth. I am faced with the unhealthy habits I’ve developed, as I strive to love myself . . .. having formerly “loved” myself with food.  I developed a reliance on food to cope.  In the absence of self-acceptance and social relationships, food became an ally.  In losing weight, the foods I formerly relied on for comfort have become an enemy.  They no longer provide me with the same semblance of peace or “happiness”.  I have come to realize that my perception of myself is highly correlated to all of my struggles, I have to resolve my intrinsic feelings of worth, so that I may find the acceptance I long for.  The lack of connectedness I feel with others is greatly attributed to the lack of connection I feel with myself.  Changing my physiognomy has not changed the pertinence of answering these issues. 

photo (15)

I have to learn to love myself, to be comfortable in my own skin, to appreciate who I am.  I have to become whole.  I have to learn to live, because I’m tired of feeling dead to myself . . .. not knowing or appreciating the characteristics that make me a worthwhile individual.  It’s exciting, this concept of self-discovery.  But this undertaking is by no means easy.  This process has been laden with valleys and peaks.  It requires changing my mind, literally.  Reframing thoughts, addressing hurts, and examining fears.  Exchanging unhealthy behaviors that were once associated with loving myself for behaviors that truly reflect love for myself.  In doing so, I am hoping to experience the tranquility that comes with loving one’s self.  Partaking in the ubiquity of love, as it connects me to those I care for. 

I am grateful for those who are willing to love me along the way, as I learn to love myself.

What has your journey shown you that you did not expect?

AWESOME wellness App – Recovery Record

I put a lot of time and energy into reading weight loss and fitness self-help books, using health and fitness Apps, and – of course – reading scholarly research. This is rarely specifically to expand my personal knowledge but for the benefit of my clients. I want tools in my box to offer my clients as a means of teaching them independence. I want to empower! Finding quality tools has proven difficult! The multi-million dollar industry is filled with a lot of, for lack of a better term, JUNK.

Therefore I have resorted to a lot of “use this, BUT” referrals. For example, I suggest that a client use MyFitnessPal as a food diary but I advise against tracking physical activity and exercise in the App. This follows with a disclosure of the risks of working for the calories that the App claims to you earn. Most calorie expenditure methods are frustratingly inaccurate.

BUT, I have found an App for my iPhone that I absolutely LOVE for self monitoring. (Keep in mind, that I am not a huge fan of Apps and I tend to gravitate towards a pen and paper when it comes to things like journaling, maintaining workouts records, and food recording.)


In the process of my own self-improvement, no one App seemed to meet my needs. I found I would need to use 4, 5, or even more Apps in order to track everything that I wanted to track. This was not efficacious nor efficient. Further, it did not allow me to compare them all and I was looking for correlations. One of the most critical things for me to track has been my pain – how do my activity level, activity choices, and nutrition correlate with my pain. Is there a weather association? Mood? How do these all interact? I compiled my own worksheet for self-monitoring to meet my needs.

self monitoring


I am excited to share that I recently discovered the Recovery Record App. It looks to me like someone beat me at my own game – this is my worksheet in an App! Initially designed for use as eating disorder therapy homework – do NOT let this deter you! With Recovery Record you can track:

  • Meals and snacks (e.g., what, where, when)
  • Emotions
  • Motivation
  • Self-Efficacy
  • Accountability
  • Goals & Achievements
  • Hope
  • Pain
  • Thoughts & Feelings
  • Eating behaviors (e.g., bingeing, desire to binge, dietary restriction)
  • Hunger
  • Physiological/Somatic symptoms

Fully customizable, you can establish reminders and rewards, find accountability partners, and share your information with others (e.g., dietitian, physician, counselor, family). While you can track disordered eating behaviors, you can also disable that tracking – along with any other logs you may not want to keep.

You also have the option of logging in via your computer, which I prefer if I want to add a lengthy note or track a significant amount of food.

Stop calorie counting

One of my favorite things about this App is that there is no built-in calorie counting. I discourage calorie counting and encourage mindful eating – and tracking everything that you put into your mouth is just as effective – if not more effective – than counting calories (Cooper, Fairburn, Hawker, 2003; Fairburn 2008).


How often do we use the excuse, “I forgot!”? The reminders in this App are useful without being annoying. The App will nudge you to record your meals, but you are free to go back and record information later as well. the best part, you can disable the reminders you do not want.

The bottomline

This App will help you improve and monitor whole-body awareness. This is an App that will EMPOWER you. We know that how and what we eat and exercise are correlated with thoughts and feelings. How about where and when you eat? If you suffer from chronic pain or illness – do you eat more or are you restrictive during times of suffering? Do you avoid exercise? Once you are aware – you can work to change where you may see a need to change. And you can share this information with nearly anyone you choose!

And no, the developer is not paying me to endorse the product – she (they) do not even know that I exist. But they will soon! Kudos to developer Jenna Tregarthen – she may have made it to the list of individuals I want to meet in my lifetime.


Cooper, Z., Fairburn, C. G., & Hawker, D. M. (2003). Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Obesity: A Clinician’s Guide. New York: The Guilford Press.

Fairburn, C. G. (2008). Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Eating Disorders. New York: The Guilford Press.

Hays, K. F. (1995). Putting sport psychology into (your) practice. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 26(1), 33-40.

I am NOT an athlete – Or am I?

It is hard for some individuals to believe, but I am not all that athletic. I look like at athlete, I can lift weights and train like an athlete, but I rarely perform like an athlete. This past weekend, I went cross country skiing for the first time since – well, since who knows when. I am terrible! My coordination is limited, my movements are impaired. I move slowly. Nothing about the activity feels comfortable. I am not drawn to sports that require true athleticism.

Looks can be deceiving

During my career in corporate America, my employer sponsored numerous team building activities – kickball tournaments, blind volleyball, etc. Coworkers were often quick to ask me to join a team – I would shake my head, “no, no, I am noooo good!” Believing this to be impossible, they would encourage me to join. I would agree, clarifying that I hoped they did not expect to win. More often than not, these individuals believed that I was being sarcastic or humble. But they always learned the hard way – watching me underperform and fail to meet their expectations. Later they would say things like, “but you are so athletic, how can you be so bad?”

Minimal experience

While I am a natural athlete – in a sense – I have to have experience and exposure and I need to practice. I have had minimal direct exposure to most sports and activities. I was always picked last in gym class and rarely given an opportunity to play – was the fat girl! I became really good at watching! I watched my brothers play many sports – but I did not play myself.

Several years back I joined an indoor volleyball league. The first few weeks were hilarious – I often ducked from the ball (I blame my brothers who often threw balls at me when I was a  child and this instilled a fear of balls). But it was not long before I was quite good at volleyball and moving around the sand court like a champ.

What is an athlete?

What makes someone an athlete? Natural ability? Excellence? Discipline? Genetics? Someone who partakes in sports? According to the dictionary, an athlete is:

a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina

With this definition in mind, am I or am I not an athlete? I am trained and skilled in exercises requiring physical strength, agility, and stamina. I believe that makes me an athlete!

The bottomline photo (14)

I have been telling myself for years that I am not an athlete. LIES! I am a life athlete – training for life. I’m just generally terrible and inexperienced at sports.

Are you an athlete?

A healthy vending machine – Revisited

You may remember me writing about the so-called healthy vending machine. Well, here we go again…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently proposed new nutritional limits for school vending machines. An article on outlines the limits – emphasizing that candy bars will be replaced with granola bars (and other 200 calorie or fewer snacks) and the removal of sports and other sugary drinks. All efforts to improve health and reduce obesity?!?!!!!

What is healthy?

Excuse the redundancy from my previous most, but I must  re-present this information. By definition:

Healthy (adj):
1: enjoying health and vigor of body, mind, or spirit
2: envincing health
3: conducive to health

Health (n):
1: the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit;especially : freedom from physical disease or pain
2: the general condition of the body

…the definitions of healthy and health are ambiguous. As an educated and informed individual, I perceive a healthy food and one that will provide macro- and micro-nutrients that will benefit my health, either as improvement or maintenance. What do most low-calorie granola bars offer? A bunch of sugar or sugar substitutes and little to no fiber, protein, and fat. So – – –

Are granola bars healthy?

A goal of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is to instill healthy eating habits in children. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “Good nutrition lays the groundwork for good health and academic success.” By filling vending machines with low-nutrient dense foods, are we truly laying a healthy foundation of behaviors? It seems to me like we are setting them up for failure.

Caloric needs – Children & adolescents

Is a 200-calorie snack with low nutrient density sufficient for an adolescent? Will it satiate? Or are we setting them up to eat MORE of these snacks to feel satisfied? Below is a table that outlines the caloric needs. Adolescence is a time of massive growth, demanding significant fuel from calories. NOTE: Keep in mind that these are guidelines and true needs are highly individual.


The bottomline

Better vending machine choices is not the answer and will never reduce the rates of childhood obesity. If anything, eating the number of granola bars required to satiate a teenage boy could encourage obesity – at least a candy bar has fat which aids with satiety and curbs appetite.

The answer? Remove vending machines from schools. Out of sight and out of mind. Parents need to be responsible for the health and well-being and send them to school with food and sustenance. The schools need the money? There are other ways to earn money – schools are filled with teachers and the teachers I know are some of the most creative people I know. Let’s use those creative juices!

There is no such thing as a healthy vending machine.



A story about hula hoops

I previously posted about the value we assign objects when I discussed what I packed into my car to move across the country. I found it interesting, noting the items that made it into my car – like my label maker – and the items that did not – such as my diplomas. When a friend recently shared this image with me on Facebook, it made me think further about the value we assign to objects. Why? Because I would definitely lock up my hula hoop. In fact, I in a sense have locked up my hula hoop – for my hula hoop is safely sitting in storage.


The story of my hula hoop

I do not remember when it first started, but for YEARS, I have driven with a hula hoop in my trunk. I would guess 7 years? Everywhere I go – the hula hoop goes as well. I enjoy impromptu hula hoop contests and I often ensure that I also have a small, ridiculous prize in my trunk for the winner of said contest. The contest focus = who can hula hoop the longest length of time. This became a big hit at cabin weekends and bonfires. (Not as pig of a hit at family holidays).

How and why did this begin? I have no idea! But I do know I had found my childhood hula hoop in my parent’s garage and I found it to be great fun.

Hula Hoop Queen – 2008

The value of my hula hoop

In June 2012 I had to pack up my car – driving from Wisconsin to New York with no idea when I would be back. Everything I owned was either being sold or donated, put into storage, or put into my car. In retrospect, I believe that the items that made it into my car had the most value, the items in storage second in value, and the items sold or donated least value.

Despite the years it spent in my trunk, the hula hoop did not make it into the most valuable. Why not? Honestly, I wanted it in my car but I could not find a way to effectively make it fit in the car with the rest of my life – the hula hoop is awkwardly shaped and difficult to pack around.

However, the hula hoop DID make it into storage, while items like bedding were donated and my television was sold. Everything that held the most monetary value was sold – furniture, television, stereo, a computer, etc. Items that would be expensive and therefore difficult to replace down the road were not kept. But my hula hoop – an item which may cost $5 to replace – sits safely in storage waiting for me.

Hula hoop for fitness?

There are hooping fitness classes, but I am not about to get into that fad. I simply love the fun that comes with the activity. Most recently, I have worked to master the art of running while hula hooping. I believe this to be a priceless skill. It is important to note, however, that hula hooping is a great abdominal exercise. As such, I am a much stronger hula hooper in one direction versus the other! I had better practice my weaker movement!

The bottomline

I am not going to overanalyze this. I am not going to try and figure out what that means – putting my hula hoop into storage while ridding of other items. It is, however, interesting.

As I give significant consideration to becoming a minimalist (living with fewer than 100 items), I am assigning value to the items that I own. What items do you value?

If you had to move and could only take with you what fit into your car, what would you bring?

Final thought: I miss my hula hoop! Maybe I will go get it out of storage soon (along with my bike lock).