Make 2015 A Nutrient-dense New Year

We can’t see the forest for the trees. The world is in the middle of a pandemic like it has never seen before and unlike any other pandemic in history, it is the gateway to almost every other disease pathway known to the human body. The pandemic is obesity and although you will rarely see “obesity” as the cause of death on a death certificate (if ever), rest assured, obesity is killing people by the millions around the world.

Why do we deny it? Why do many traditional doctors continue to push their pharmaceutical “solutions” as opposed to the common sense solution that the food we eat can do just as much good or harm as any pill they would have us ingest? I’ve never understood this oxymoron of western medicine. I know dozens of very smart doctors, some of whom I consider good friends, who continue to act as though being healthy is a game of luck and genetics and there’s not much anyone can do about being healthy. They seem to think it has nothing to do with what individuals are eating. There is a total disconnect.

One thing I can promise you, you don’t have to be a victim of your family history, a bad diagnoses or anything else. You have the power to turn your healthy genes on and there’s only one way to do it. More than anything else in this world that we can control, we can control our health by choosing the right foods.

Make the choice to control your health through nutrition. It will continue to get harder every year to sift through the ingredient list on packaged foods and know what is good or dangerous, at least until the FDA and USDA start changing the regulations of our food supply.

We don’t have to wait for those changes. The food you need is available now, it is in the produce section primarily, some organic protein, fruit, healthy ancient grains and filtered water. There is so much good food. It is nutrient-dense, lower in calories and everything your body needs to fight disease, build the immune system and live life to the fullest. Save “no” to processed non-food, sugar, gluten, dairy, GMO’s and trans-fats. You have control, all you have to do is take it.

What are you going to do in 2015 to take control of your health?

Pull Your Navel into Your Spine

Why do Pilates teachers love to say that?

Well, try it right now- pull your navel into your spine and see how long you can hold it.

Whew…harder than you thought and boy was that good for you!

How was it good for you? You got a stronger core, a stronger back, increased strength in the pelvic floor…wow, the list goes on and on! Try it a few more times.

When you pull that navel into your spine, you engage your deep core muscles and that helps to support your spine. Our spines are meant to be flexible, thankfully, but they do need support and that is what the core muscles do for us. Those muscles include stabilizing core muscles (transverse abdominus), flexion and extension core muscles (the 8 pack), the obliques (rotation), and your deep core moving muscles, the psoas (which connect to the top of your leg bone and help to pick your legs up). More muscles that work with the core are the back muscles, latissimus dorsi (largest muscle in the body), back extensors, inner thighs and the glutes. The core is actually made up of a lot more than just abdominals, but all of these muscles work together to support your spine and that helps us age better, move better and feel better.

Athletes need strong cores to swing (bats, gold clubs, tennis rackets, throw baseballs, you get the idea), to run (the psoas), to do yoga (oh yeah!), it’s called the core for good reason, it’s the powerhouse of the body, and the stronger yours is, the better off you’ll be and that’s a promise!!!

Do you have any supercharged core exercises? What’s your favorite way to work you abs? We’d love to hear about it :O)

Why Is Nutrition So Confusing?

Eating is easy, eating healthy has become a full-time job. I love nutrition. As a health coach and fitness trainer, I’m constantly having conversations with people about food. My clients are educated people with the best of intentions for their health and nutrition, but everybody is confused about what exactly is good for them, and I understand why.

As a constant researcher of nutrition, I’m shocked by the toxic substances that are allowed in even our “organic” foods. The labeling is tricky, the ingredients are hard to say, which usually means they’re bad for you, but not always. We know red #40 causes everything from ADD to tumor growth, but food makers continue to use it. What??? And don’t even get me started on all the other food dyes (but, please check this out: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/02/24/are-you-or-your-family-eating-toxic-food-dyes.aspx). I get it, they’re trying to make money, but come on, at the expense of the American people? The good news is that we choose. We vote with our dollars, so every time you’re grocery shopping, remember that.

So, who is looking out for us? Who is allowing this? Why isn’t the control of these terrible substances regulated and kept out of our food supply? Aren’t we protected by the “powers that be?” The answer is a simple “no.” If you want to protect your family from the myriad of health problems food is causing, including death, you’ve got to educate yourself and your family. As parents, it’s our job to teach our children to become responsible people that can go out and function in the world. What’s the primary thing they need to function? Nutrition, and if they don’t know what that is, how can they be living life to the fullest? Finally, here’s the definition of nutrition in Medicine per dictionary.com, December 2014:

nutrition nu·tri·tion (nōō-trĭsh’ən, nyōō-) 
n.
1. The process by which a living organism assimilates food and uses it for growth, liberation of energy, and replacement of tissues; its successive stages include digestion, absorption, assimilation, and excretion.

So the next time you or your kids are about to drink a soda (20oz contains 16ish packets of sugar) or eat oddly-colored snack foods (the food companies refer to processed snack foods as “negative calories” because they’re designed to make you hungry for more junk) think about that definition, read the ingredients and ask yourself “How is this nourishing me and family?” Are those artificial sweeteners causing behavioral issues, are those artificial colors causing an inability to learn? Is so much sugar making it hard for your body to regulate insulin? These things are BAD and you don’t have to eat them. You choose what goes into your body and for the most part, that of your family. If you offer healthy foods, they’ll crave them, because that’s what the body needs. If we eat junk foods, we’ll crave those because they’re made to make you crave them with chemicals. Our nourishment comes from vegetables, fruits, nuts, meats, eggs, ancient grains (gluten-free), and water. Don’t underestimate what nutrition can do for you and what  bad “food” can do to you. Help your kids grow strong, grow smart and become educated on what food means to them. This is how we can change the future of food, and thereby our world.

If you want more information on how the food companies are much more concerned about dollars than your health, please check out Pulitizer-prize winning author Michael Moss’s book, Salt, Sugar, Fat, it’s a real eye-opener: http://michaelmossbooks.com/books/salt-sugar-fat/. Remember that when a food is making a health claim, it’s not for your benefit, it’s just their marketing efforts.

Are you eating a nutrition-dense or calorie-dense diet? Can you feed yourself or your family without processed foods? Why or why not? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Living With Intention- 5 Simple Steps

A favorite phrase I use when teaching fitness is by Joseph Pilates, (I’m paraphrasing) “Movement without intention has no value.” It’s impossible not to think of how that carries over into every moment of the day, if we’re living consciously or want to live consciously. Here are some ways that every day can have more value, more awareness and more intention in everything we do.

1. Breakfast- I find that if I start my day with a cookie (even a healthy cookie, and that does happen) the rest of my day is shot. I know there are many common sense reasons having to do with the chemical reactions in my body, but there is unequivocally a thought process for the rest of the day that says “oh well, I had cookies for breakfast.” On the other hand, if I start my day with eating a healthful, fuel-filled, nutrient-dense breakfast, I find myself craving healthy foods for the rest of the day. And worst of all, if I skip breakfast, I tend to have no appetite. Not eating breakfast (within 1 hour of waking) is the fastest way to gain weight and it’s so disrespectful to my body. Eating with intention is probably the most important thing we do because it fuels our lives.

2. Kindness- I love to listen to a positive, inspiring book on Audible on my way to work. This inevitably makes me a better person in every circumstance. It is my intention to be kind and helpful to everyone I see (even the person that cuts me off on the road), but it’s not always easy. Listening to positive messages of love and acceptance helps me to remember that the best I can be is when I find patience, understanding and positivity within myself and offer that to anyone and everyone else.

3. Exercise- If I can just do some intended movement before starting my day, I’ll move better the rest of the day. Being a fitness teacher is gift from that perspective, but I have a lot of days that I’m working from home or on the computer. Consciously getting up, moving and caring for how my body works makes me more productive, thoughtful, creative and free all day, even if I don’t break a sweat. I’ll do a plank to down dog, a back stretch, maybe some lunges and hip flexors stretches, any movement early in the day keeps my intention of moving my body in a healthy way on track.

4. Work- I work for myself, so staying focused and keeping productivity high is a must. Having a productive work day is kind of like having breakfast. If I start my day off with some work-related goals, I find I’ll not only accomplish those goals, but each goal leads me to several other things that add up to a very productive day and that helps me sleep better. Sometimes my best approach to work productivity is to make myself a list the night before on my phone and then I can check off each item through the day. It’s a great feeling when I’ve checked off every item and I’m ready for the next day, bring it on.

5. Sleep- Getting up early and to bed on time requires setting a schedule and sticking to it. Fortunately, I grew up on a farm, so getting up early was just part of the day. It’s carried over with me and getting up early makes going to bed early easy, because I’m tired. Sleep is truly everything to our health, positivity, energy levels, exercise and how our body metabolizes food. Stay busy during the day, break a sweat when you can and you’ll have a good night’s rest.

These may seem like simple things, and they are, but living with intention requires awareness in all of these areas of life and when we can set our goals and accomplish them, we are happier, healthier people with so much more to offer to this amazing world. I love the book from years ago “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” it’s so true, but live for the small stuff, it’s what makes the big stuff.

5 Changes That Could Save Your Child and Your Health

I often hear from friends and clients (I’m a health coach, fitness trainer and Pilates teacher) that their doctor has prescribed this or that medication for their child’s ADD, ADHD, autism, Asperger’s, allergies, asthma, anxiety, depression, etc. What if you could make HUGE improvements to your child’s symptoms and behaviors by cleaning out your pantry? Would you do it? It seems like a simple question and an obvious answer, but I’m confronted daily with the disconnect between our processed food environment and what’s going on with our health.

My 10 year-old son, James, was diagnosed with Asperger’s, Tourette’s and allergies when he was very small, but the diagnosis was wrong, he did have symptoms, but it wasn’t his body that was sick, it was our diet. James no longer has symptoms of Asperger’s or Tourette’s and he’s never taken any medication for those diagnosis. We’ve changed his life (and ours) forever, by simply changing our diet.

James was 18 months old when we began to notice him changing. I did not allow any of his vaccinations to be done on the doctor’s schedule, we did them, but on James’ time, not the pediatrician’s. Between 18 months and 3 years old he became more and more withdrawn. He had violent outbursts when he was unhappy, spitting, hitting, kicking, saying every bad word he could conjure (they were minimal, thankfully). His anxiety attacks were devastating. He reminded me of a spooked horse, unable to focus on anything but fear. It was heart-breaking to watch and I’ve never felt so helpless as a parent.

After James was born I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. Looking back, I’m so grateful for that diagnosis. The medication offered to me had awful side effects that I couldn’t get past, so I found a holistic doctor. The doctor drew several vials of blood, informed me they would run some tests and said to stop eating anything with yeast or gluten until my results came back. Within about 48 hours the pain I’d lived with for 8 months subsided, just like that. And a side effect of this simple change was that my lifelong asthma vanished- never to be heard from again (10 years later).

At 8 years old, after a week long bout of Tourette’s “barking” and considering hospitalizing James to stop the Tourette’s episode, we opted to try cleaning up James’ diet. We took him off all simple carbohydrates (including grains). He ate only vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs and nuts. Within 48 hours his “barking” tic had reduced to a barely audible “chirp” that continued to improve as the weeks went by. James’ anxiety has vanished. He never has violent outbursts. He no longer has tics. He could not be a more pleasant, sweet, loving and endearing human being. He is my sweetest and easiest child (out of 3). It was a long road- but we are healthy and symptom-free, simply by changing our diet.

Here are the 5 things that made a HUGE difference for our family:

1) No gluten
2) No sugar
3) No dairy
4) No preservatives (like MSG, yeast extract, nitrites)
5) No artificial coloring

Processed foods are causing unprecedented illness. Will you try these changes in your home? What’s stopping you? Please- leave a comment and let me know how I can help you.

Diets and Marketing in the USA

Diets and Marketing in the USA

Why is food such a mystery in the USA? The only thing that has changed with nutrition is marketing. Marketing is not nutrition, it’s about sales and marketing people do not care about your health. It’s literally their job to come up with creative ways to get you to eat foods that are bad for you and shockingly 16 billion marketing dollars are directed at children each year!

Nutrients, vitamins and even calories haven’t change one bit. You need mostly vegetables to survive, fruits secondly and protein. Grains are great for most people, but there is a rapidly growing section of America that can no longer digest gluten, and we can thank GMO’s for that. Please reference this blog article for more information on GMO’s and how they have affected our immune systems: https://mardeecalkins.com/2014/03/16/gmo-corn-are-you-eating-it/

If you’ve lost your way to a healthy body, the good news is that nutrition and fitness are a journey and you can jump right back on the path to a healthy body at any moment of any day, it’s always a choice. And that choice starts with what you put into your mouth. We’re all evolving and learning everyday and we can become better at feeding ourselves, at moving with intention and becoming the strong and capable body that we dream of. Ultimately, we are all a work in progress for as long as live.

Some simple rules to follow:

1) Always eat your vegetables first at every meal, green leafy is best, cellulose vegetables like celery, cucumbers and jicama are fantastic, then the root vegetables like sweet potatoes, turnips and beets (always eat organic beets, they are the next big GMO crop). Consider white potatoes as a carb, not a vegetable.
2) Have some protein, preferably white meat or fish, no bigger than the size of your palm, your body will store excess protein as fat.
3) Fruits for desert! Watermelon, peaches, berries, AMAZING for satisfying your sweet tooth.
4) Grains are great- just keep them organic and gluten free and you should be good.

5) Water is the drink you NEED- no juice, no milk, no tea- WATER for thirst.

Please send me your thoughts, questions and concerns. It’s my mission to make America a healthy and strong nation once again! Let’s fight obesity together.

Start Your Day Like a Cat

If you have a cat, watch them wake sometime. They don’t hop up like we do. Cats take their time. They stretch, one foot reaching forward, the back leg reaching back. They arch their back, they extend their back, then they go. It’s a smart way to start the day. Once they’re up and moving, they typically have a little play time, running around, getting the blood flowing, another really smart way to start the day. Then they settle back down until they start that whole process over, several times a day. What could that mean for you? It could mean that you stretch, that you get your blow flowing (heart rate up) and then you settle back down, several times a day, just like the other smart predators. So here’s your challenge:

Before getting out of bed, curl your hip bone towards your bottom rib (low back pushes down into your bed) then press the pelvic bowl away from your ribs (low back arches up). Do this 8-10 times, using the abs to make the movement happen. Then try dropping one hip bone down then the other hip down, knees bent, legs still, moving the pelvic bowl side to side. It feels funny at first, but you will feel a stretch across your low back. After releasing your low back, stand up and do 20 squats, right off the side of your bed. Make sure your knees stay behind your toes, engage your core and simply bend your knees, and straighten, pressing up through your heels- 20 times. Your heart rate will go up, but you won’t break sweat. Then start your day. Try doing this 5 times a day, but when you’re at your desk, just do the pelvic bowl rolls standing. You will draw your navel to your spine, feeling your hip bone curl up towards the bottom rib, then release it, press your belly out and feel your low back extend. Do this 10 times and then your 20 squats. If you don’t want to do your pelvic rolls standing, try them sitting, but you’ve got to get up and do the squats.

Doing this simple routine will get you off to a great day. It will release some muscles that might be tight from sleep, and start your metabolism with the increased blood flow created by the squats. We are the smartest animals, we just need to follow our instincts for movement to keep our beautiful bodies healthy.

Have questions? I’d love to hear them. Thanks for reading and have a STRONG day!

Are you eating consciously?

Are you eating consciously?

Today we run through life. We are busy, our kids are busy, work is busy, technology is busy and we seem to think we don’t have enough time for food. So we buy junk and we inhale it. So many people unconsciously drive through fast food windows and grab food and eat in their car. We grab boxes off of shelves that state silly and misleading things like “low-fat” or “low-carb.” Whatever the latest diet says is best for us.

If we are reading boxes from food marketers, we are in trouble. They do not care about our health. They care about their bottom-line, and it is large (yours will be too if you follow their advice). We must slow down and think for ourselves. Can we grow this, can we hunt this? Can we pronounce these ingredients? If you can’t grow it or hunt it, it has very little nutritional value for you. If you can’t pronounce it, you don’t have the enzymes to digest it. Are you eating nutritionally dense foods or calorically dense foods?

Your body is your vessel. It is what you are traveling through this life in. Every morsel of food you take into your precious body feeds your cells. Respect the importance of that for you and your loved ones. We are indeed what we eat. Do not allow yourself to become made of chemicals. Allow yourself to become made of positive energy. Plants that were grown with respect and care. Animals that were raised in positive environments. Fish that come from healthy bodies of water. As these natural and real foods become part of you, you will become stronger, healthier and more conscious of what it feels like to be well.

Don’t be too busy to feed yourself or your family. Take care in your choices and take time to prepare your food and enjoy it. Eating slowly and consciously with love and gratitude. Don’t wait to become sick and wonder why or what you can do to get better. Slow down, think of food as medicine and plan on health. You can save a lot of time and a lot on doctor’s bills by being conscious.

Happy Spring! Are you eating for the season?

There’s so much truth and value in eating the foods that are naturally available to us within each season. The great news in Spring and Summer is that there is so much fresh produce available.

Here’s a brief reminder of all the great nutrients and vitamins that come in the form of tasty fruits and veggies for Spring:

Apricots; mangoes; rhubarb; strawberries and cherries just to name a few in the fruit section!

Artichokes; asparagus; mustard greens; spinach; carrots; chives; and water cress just to name a few in the veggie area.

Look for organic produce that is not coming across the country to your grocery store or just go to the local farmer’s markets. It reduces the footprint on the Earth (less gas and pollution to get our food to us) to buy local and it’s so much better for your body! Happy Spring!!!

Can Stress Make You Fat?

Unfortunately, stress will cause our bodies to store fat and especially right around the belly. Some more bad news is that it becomes an even bigger problem as we age because our hormones are changing and when we get stressed our bodies get more out of balance than when we were younger and it becomes harder for the body to “re-set.”

Cortisol is a good thing. It signals your body to respond appropriately to stress, the problem is that we often stay stressed and we don’t give our bodies a chance to re-set from stressful days at work, stress with kids, and stressful thoughts. Should I have eaten that? Did I pack the kids lunch? Did I do a good job on that important project for my boss? These thoughts creep into our head all day long and sometimes while we sleep. And Cortisol goes up.

Often stress leads to sleep loss, another reason that we store fat around the belly. Our Cortisol levels should be down at bedtime, but when our brains are overloaded with the days events and what tomorrow brings, it’s hard for us to settle down and get into a healthy, deep sleep. So, we wakeup tired and the whole process starts again the next day.

Constantly bombarding our systems with panic-alarm thoughts followed by panic-alarm moments of concern throughout the day prevents our bodies from re-setting the alarm button and getting back to a normal state.

Sound familiar? Sound depressing? It’s not so much, because like almost everything that has to do with your body– you can control this. GET EXERCISE. DO YOGA. DO PILATES. So we know that exercise helps us sleep better, produces good endorphins and helps us feel better all around, add yoga and/or Pilates into your routine and in addition to all the good feeling endorphins, you will learn to breath.

Just breathing deeply is the easiest way you can restore your Cortisol levels to normal, resetting your body for tomorrow and signaling your brain that it’s time to settle down, relax and sleep.

So, if you’re laying in bed tonight, worrying about what tomorrow is going to bring or what could have gone better today, let it go. Breath in, feel your lungs expand fully, and then breath out, letting go of every worry, every tense muscle, every self-doubt. Continue breathing deeply until you have fallen into the blissful state of sleep your body needs, your Cortisol level will go down and you’ll wake up ready to face tomorrow with all of the joy and vitality you were meant to live your life with.

Please feel free to send me questions anytime, I love it!

Mardee Calkins is an ACE certified personal trainer, wellness coach, double certified Pilates teacher, a PMA certified Pilates instructor, Spin instructor, registered yoga teacher, Kettle Bell Instructor, Rebounding instructor, expert at using food as medicine, author and mom of three.