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Attacking Heart Disease

February is Heart Health Awareness month.  Sadly, we are familiar by now with the heart-breaking statistics:  Cardiovascular Disease is the number one cause of death globally; one in every 3 deaths in the U.S. is caused by CD or stroke, and 2,200 people die from heart disease every day (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs317/en/index.html).   What makes these numbers even more depressing is that Heart Disease is largely preventable.  We know that lifestyle factors like smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise are what make people get heart disease.  The good news?  Change your eating and exercise habits and you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim of the number one cause of death.

Now, here is where it gets controversial.  First off, I am glad that the U.S. decided to coin February as a month where we bring awareness that cardiovascular disease is a serious epidemic.  My concern, however, is how the general medical establishment recommends we go about preventing and treating the disease.

Remember, I am the Aha! girl.  I am all about using smart science and analysis to find out what works for people, and if we look at our nation as a collective, something is not right.  The public continues to receive information on “the right way to eat and exercise” yet obesity and Heart Disease continue to rise.   The big question is does the general recommendation for preventing and treating Heart Disease work for everyone?

Please forgive me if it sounds like I am criticizing our American medical establishment.  Actually, I am very grateful for the AMA.  Because of modern medicine, other fatal epidemics such as tuberculosis, polio, and typhoid fever have been eradicated.  I am strongly suggesting, however, that the AMA needs to reexamine their “cure” for the Heart Disease epidemic. Instead of continuing to give the same information on how to end Heart Disease and seeing the public’s nonadherence as the problem, they need to go back and confirm their recommendations are appropriate.  I hope they consider we Americans are not just indifferent and lazy; at least, not when it comes to life and death, and especially not when it comes to the life and health of our children.  I wish they would consider that maybe there is something inherently incorrect about the mantra of low-fat, whole-grains, and just get on the treadmill more.  They keep telling people to do it, and it simply IS NOT WORKING.

Maybe it does work in the chemistry lab.  Maybe without the complexities of a human life (or the human body for that matter) the hypotheses prove correct.  But here is an analogy:  a teacher gives a test and most of the class fails (Let’s say 1/3 of the class since that is the number of obese people in the U.S.).  Now, who is to blame?  Is it more likely that 1/3 of the class is too dumb or too lazy to pass the test?  Or, could there be something unsuitable about the test?   Is it that we as a society are just too dumb and lazy or is it that the information we are being given is wrong or at the very least, just not plausible to follow?

There are two ways you can practice Heart Health Awareness this month.  One way is you could completely disagree with what I am saying.  You can continue to try to do what all the experts say.  If this works for you–great.  Really, that is great.  If it hasn’t been working for you though, consider that the best predictor of the future is the past and the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Another option is you could be open to the possibility that what I am saying may be true.  You could start educating yourself more on the history of Heart Disease.  You could find out when it began and what people were eating and doing for exercise before and after it started to get bad.  Then, find out what people were eating and doing for exercise when it really got bad.  You could read books that perhaps counter what the mainstream is saying.  (Remember, the best scientist looks for what will refute their hypothesis, not what supports it).  Then, when you have empowered yourself with knowledge, you can stop following advice “just because you should” and commit to taking care of yourself in a way that you know in your heart is best for you.

As the Aha! girl, I leave it up to you.  I believe you know your body, heart, and life better than anyone.  I would love to know your thoughts on attacking Heart Disease.  What will you do this month to take care of your own heart?  Please share your comments below:

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The Sugar Monster

I don’t drink.  I’ve never smoked a cigarette.  I’m not into drugs, gambling, or even impulsive shoe shopping.  But…I am addicted to sugar.

People just don’t understand why I choose not to eat sugar.  “But you don’t have a weight problem…anymore,” they say.  “You can get away with a cookie every now and then.”

But they don’t get it.  I am the Sugar Monster.  I can’t have ONE cookie.  A cookie for me turns into the plate of cookies and it’s just not worth it.

I am so grateful that finally more and more research is coming out about why some people like me are truly addicted to sugar.  Sugar, like heroine, cocaine, nicotine, or any other drug, stimulates the pleasure chemical, dopamine, in our brain.  Some of us can eat a little sugar, satisfy our dopamine, and be fine.  Others, however, find that our dopamine has an undesirable response to sugar.  We eat sugar and we feel good, but then our dopamine level drops.  We need more sugar to feel good and the more sugar we eat; the more we need to keep feeling good.

Dr. Mark Hyman explains, “In our brain, a little receptor, the dopamine receptor D2 or DRD2 for short, must be activated or switched on for us to feel pleasure. The amino acid dopamine triggers this response. Sugar and other stimulating addictions increase dopamine in the short term.

The only problem is it appears that those with sugar addictions, compulsive eating, and obesity have DRD2 systems that need much more stimulation to feel pleasure. Those who have sugar addiction, it seems have fewer D2 dopamine receptors and they need extra stimulation to make them “turn on”.

You can also read the study from Princeton University here and from NCBI here that conclude sugar causes addictive-like behavior.

So if you think you have a sugar addiction like me, what should you do?   Well, I think the Aha! E.A.T. protocol would really help you.

First you need to Experiment.  Are you someone who can have a little sugar or do you need to avoid it entirely?  Would you be willing to try a Sugar Detox?  Note:  you may be surprised just how much sugar you’ve been eating.  Four grams of sugar equals about 1 teaspoon.  Read the nutritional labels of the foods you are eating.  Many “healthy” cereals have between 3-4 teaspoons.  A can of soda has about 10 tsp of sugar.  Also, watch out for sugar disguised by another name such as sucrose, dextrose, fructose, maltose, evaporated cane juice, and corn sweetener.

Next, Analyze how you feel.  Do you feel better when you cut sugar out of your diet?  Do your cravings disappear?  Do you do okay with natural sugars like honey or molasses?

Finally, make sure you are Tracking your results.  It may be good to enlist the support of a friend, loved one, or a Nutrition Coach like me to help hold you accountable to your Anti-Sugar Plan.

As for me, I know I feel better when I don’t eat sugar.   I struggled with binging on sweets and the hangover and withdrawal symptoms that come afterwards for waaay too long.  I prefer to keep my cravings low by keeping my sugar intake very low.  Occasionally, I might have a taste of a dessert I cook for my husband made with natural honey or maple syrup, but I usually don’t.  I don’t need that little chemical in my brain grumbling that it needs more.  I don’t like it.  It makes me feel like…a Sugar Monster.

Now how about you?  Are you a Sugar Monster too?  How do you handle your sugar cravings?  I’d love for you to leave your comments below.


Recipe: Crispy Carrot Fries

Want a super alternative to greasy french fries?  May I present–Crispy Carrot Fries!  Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, a good source of potassium, and contain vitamins C & B6, copper, folic acid, thiamine and magnesium. Their high level of beta-carotene is what gives them their healthy orange glow.


2lb bag baby Carrots

2 Tablespoon Coconut oil (melted)

 1teaspoon Sea Salt

 1 teaspoon Black Pepper

 1/8 teaspoon each of Paprika and Parsley flakes (optional)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Put your carrots in a bowl and pour on the coconut oil, salt, pepper, and herbs.  Stir well to coat all the carrots.

Line a baking tray with waxed paper and spread out your carrots on the tray.

Bake for 20 minutes.




Roll With It: Giving Myfacial Release A Try

Do your muscles ever feel tight, but when you stretch, you don’t get the relief you expect?  I used to have the same problem.  In my heavy running days, my hamstrings and calves would feel so tight the day after I ran, but even with stretching, stretching, and more stretching, my legs still felt stiff.

It took me awhile to experiment with what I needed to do different, but finally one day…Aha!  I found out about foam rolling.

What is foam rolling?  To understand how it works, you must first understand why your muscles feel so tight and stiff.  Surrounding your muscles is a dense form of connective tissue called fascia.  You can read more about fascia here, but basically fascia covers the inside of your body from head to toe, webbing itself around your bones, nerves, organs, and even your eyeballs.  This fascia can get knots or adhesions in it which can cause pain, stiffness, and can also lead to injury.

Imagine your fascia is like a balled up wad string that threads in-and-out of itself causing knots.  What would happen if you pulled the ends and tried to stretch the string?  The knots would just get tighter, right?  Well, this is what happens when you try to stretch a muscle and your fascia has knots in it.  The more you stretch the string, the tighter the knots become.  If when you stretch, you feel tighter not looser, you probably have some fascia knots you are pulling on.

How do you get rid of fascia knots?  By using a technique called Myofascial Release (fancy name for an easy thing to do ) on a foam roller.

All you do is get a foam roller that looks like this, and roll around on it until you find a tight spot.  Then, gently move back and forth just slightly on the area for 3 to 5 minutes or until you feel the tightness dissolve.

So the next time you feel like stretching, maybe try rolling instead.  After sitting at a computer all day, myfascial release on a foam roller can smooth out the fascia that has been held in a stagnant position for hours.  After doing cardio or lifting weights, foam rolling can realign fascia and help remove tissue waste that might have broken down during your work out.  I recommend foam rolling everyday.  A foam roller is for your fascia what a toothbrush is for your teeth.

Rolling right along…what about you?  Are you a roller or a stretcher or both?  Tell me about your fascia?  Got knots?

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