After last week when I blogged about some postural hints for parents from a physical therapist’s perspective (mine), I was pleasantly surprised by the feedback:
“Good tips, thanks!”
“Is that really you in the picture?”
“Got anything else to share with us?”
Well, you’re welcome, sorry that’s not me, and of course I can scrape up a few more pointers. Here goes.
When you’re lifting your child, remember to first get them close to your center of gravity as we discussed. Of equal importance, however, is making sure they are in your “safe zone.” Your safe zone is the area of your body between your chin and your belly button. So if your child is sitting or standing on the floor begging to get into your arms, be sure to kneel down so that your child can climb himself onto your body in the safe zone, instead of you reaching down and lifting your child up to your arms. In the same way, if your child is up on her loft bed and wants to get down for breakfast, do not try to grab her and lower her to you or the floor. A better plan is to ask her to climb down the ladder a few rungs until she is level with your safe zone, and then climb aboard. The likelihood of injury is greatly diminished with this technique, especially when it comes to some action that you might potentially do day after day after day, for years!
Here’s another one. I’ve been guilty of this, have you? I’m trying desperately to get my child to fall asleep in my arms on the sofa. He is fussy and cranky, and I admit that I am fussy and cranky too. All I want is to get this kid to sleep. I’m fantasizing about lying in my own cozy bed. But I’m stuck on the sofa and there’s no end in sight. But wait! He has found his sweet spot in my lap and has miraculously fallen asleep. I slow down my breathing and even reduce my heart rate so as not to wake him up again – I’m that desperate. I stay absolutely frozen in that position that he has chosen for me, but unfortunately it’s very uncomfortable for me. I’m developing a deep ache on one side of my neck, and one of my hands is falling asleep. I try to shut out the pain and discomfort. Sometimes I even manage to fall asleep myself right then and there, only to wake up hours later with more profound aches and pains.
This is not a smart move. Pain is your body’s alarm system. Ignoring the alarms can lead to more permanent changes and chronic pain. Make sure that you are comfortable before your child gets comfortable.
Keep yourself well conditioned. A rule of thumb of 30-60 minutes of exercise for 3-4 times per week is a good one. I personally try to incorporate walking, one of the world’s greatest exercises, into my conditioning regimen. Even though I run 10 miles or so about 4 or 5 times per week, and swim whenever I have the chance, or else ride the bike, I still try and squeeze some walking in. My husband recently gave me a Fitbit for Valentine’s Day, a device worn on your wrist that keeps track of your daily steps and syncs the data to your computer for your review. In order to maximize my step count, I’ve taken to walking around much more. I walk the stroller and baby to the store instead of drive. If I do drive, I try to park a block or two further away than I normally would park. I’ve noticed that my boys are even getting more used to the thought of waling everywhere. Just the other day I planned a visit for us to the in-law’s house on the other side of Los Angeles (26 miles away), and as we headed out the door my middle son asked “Are we walking or driving?” I think this is a good thing.
If you’re not a walker, at least try to sit less during the day. Sitting wreaks havoc on the spine, especially when done improperly. It’s not a coincidence that most of the occupations that involve lots of sitting (truck drivers, desk workers) also have a high rate of back dysfunction.
As you can see, there’s a lot of information to share. Hopefully I’ve made you at least more aware of some issues that affect you as a parent. Instilling this information in our children at a young age is one of the best things we can do to help them grow up to be healthy smart parents themselves. That is if we ever let them date.
By John Jericiau
At the moment, I’m sporting a deep dull ache in my low back. It came to me one morning, quite out of the blue. I don’t recall any incident or event that would bring this pain on, except last week I did act as ball boy during my sons’ tennis lesson. I pay good money for the session and I didn’t want time wasted while they themselves retrieved balls in the middle of their session, so I darted around the court catching a ball here and reaching down for a ball there, just like you see the boys 40 years my junior do during Wimbledon.
This pain hasn’t reared its ugly head since my last smart move years ago while washing the white picket fence in the front of our house. Both boys were around two years old and had just started their midday three-hour nap, allowing me to pick a project each day and attempt to complete it in the allotted time. To save time on this particular day, I got into a good rhythm of plunging my sponge into a large bucket of soapy water, scrubbing a slat with said soapy sponge, and then lifting and moving the bucket to the next slat, where I would repeat the cycle of plunging, scrubbing, and moving. It was an efficient way to get the job done – unfortunately, I chose to perform this job while remaining in the bent-over position for close to the three-hour mark. Upon hearing one of the boys cry out from inside the house, thereby marking the end of my allotted time, I tried but was unable to get erect (my body), or retrieve from the crib two important individuals (my sons.)
The pain eventually subsided – I think it was a week later – and now this current pain feels like a less intense reminder of that crippling incident. Luckily, I am a physical therapist, so I at least know what to do to soothe the pain (in general use ice, anti-inflammatories, and a good massage, but bag the useless Ben Gay, the TENS unit, and too much time on the heating pad.) I can help you to reduce your pain level, but as a knowledgeable PT I pride myself in being able to give information to help prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Some of this info is definitely applicable to us parents.
For one, think before you act. Don’t try to wash a fence in the bent-over position for three hours. Duh. Don’t just hop out of bed in the morning and start your Yoga routine, just because you’re worried that little Dustin will wake up at the sound of your first om. Get warmed up first. Walk around a little.
Don’t hold your baby over one hip while cooking, walking, or talking on the phone. That baby has grown right before your eyes into a 25-pound sack of potatoes. I doubt you would hold a 25-poung sack of potatoes for any period of time like this. You’d get on the floor or sit in a good chair and put said sack right in the middle of your lap, where your spine will remain protected and balanced.
Speaking of good chairs, your comfy cozy sofa is not one of them. Good low back support is crucial to maintaining the normal arch in the lumbar spine, and most sofas are notorious for forcing you to sit in a slumped position. Be sure to grab at least a couple of throw pillows and place them behind your back before you sit, so you can maintain what we call “lumbar lordosis” while feeding your baby and catching up on shows from your DVR.
When lifting or transporting your baby or toddler, be sure to remember these few tidbits: Keep breathing while lifting, so as not to increase the pressure between your vertebrae. Get your child as close to your body as possible before doing any lifting. It’s pure physics that having the weight as close to your center of gravity as possible reduces the strain on your back muscles and ligaments. This is exactly why you’ll see a fireman carrying a victim out of a burning fire slung over his shoulders instead of in his arms. And always ask your child to hang on to your neck/shoulders during the lift. Splitting the work with them makes everyone happy and healthy.
Easier said than done, but try to get some good sleep each night. A tired body means a tired back, and a tired back is more easily injured. Eat nutritious foods; what you put in your mouth directly affects your body’s ability to perform. Try to keep your stress level to a minimum. Stressed muscles lose a large amount of their normal flexibility, which means that simply reaching down to the floor for a fallen diaper can be met with disastrous results. Herniated discs have been known to occur simply by reaching for a pencil.
Any exercise routine would be beneficial to keeping your body in good condition, but if you only had time to focus on one body part I’d suggest your six-pack. It’s there (somewhere), and by performing a few crunches here and a couple of sit-ups there, you are keeping strong the natural “girdle” of your trunk. Act like you have strong abs at all times, keeping them squeezed in the “set” position during all activities. Do not protrude your stomach out and allow it to act as a shelf for your child to sit on while you carry him.
Our bodies don’t come with an owner’s manual. It’s up to us to use the knowledge we gain in order to break some of our life-long habits. And don’t be afraid to share this knowledge with your own children. Forming good postural habits at an early age (e.g. lift with your legs, not your back) will lead to a lifetime of good health.
By Susan Howard
A client of mine having great success in both fitness and weight loss, goes to a Weight Watchers meeting once a week to weigh in and to hear words of inspiration. Although she has maintained her weight loss for over two years, she goes to be reminded of good habits and to support a friend in his weight loss endeavor. At one meeting, her leader explained that every meal you eat doesn’t have to be sexy. To those of you that are foodies this may ring a bell. To my client, who is an excellent gourmet cook, this idea floored her. No amuse-bouche? No farm to table? No burrata pizza with a balsamic reduction?
As the Food Network has transformed food into porn, we tend to obsess about our next meal or feel the need to try the newest snout to tail eatery. To maintain a healthy weight, it’s easier to just come up with some nutritious choices and push repeat. That’s why I say on Sunday night get yourself set up for the week by hard boiling a dozen eggs, sautéing some chicken breasts and make a yummy grain, quinoa or brown rice. So you are ready with quick easy fix ups when you are hungry. Sometimes for a meal you just got to get it done. Success favors the prepared. At any given time I have on hand string cheese, Greek yogurt, raw almonds, chopped greens, and various fruits.
Sometimes I don’t have the extra time to make a whole meal, but I can grab a string cheese and an apple and off I go. Don’t expect every meal to be the most delicious fried crispy saucy morsel you may crave, remember you are feeding your body. Think protein, carbs, and fat, some of which should be in most meals and snacks, the less processed the better. If you find a meal that is fairly good tasting and healthy, push repeat.
Let me take this notion a step further and say every workout doesn’t have to be sexy. I used to think if I didn’t max out weight training or run it wasn’t worth doing it at all. Now my goal is consistency over intensity. Which isn’t to say a hard ass session isn’t useful, merely that it’s better to make it to the gym than to worry you only have thirty minutes to workout. Just go and turn in the best workout you can do that day.
Above all be kind to yourself. You’re all you got.
By: Susan Howard
This is my tater tot series part two, furthering the inquiry about how to keep your child at a healthy weight and give them habits for years to come.
Never tell your child to eat everything on their plate.
Teach them to listen to their body’s natural cues of hunger and fullness. Let them be in charge of taking inventory as much as possible.
Fill their plates with tons of colorful nutritious options and then let them decide how much of what they eat. Our pediatrician, Dr. Liddy, told us kids will self regulate if given the chance. Isn’t that what you ultimately want?
When they are out of the house you aren’t going to be there telling them to finish their veggies. (Unless they are still in the house after college, which seems common these days, but is a different story.)
Teach them about what food does. Brandy is tireless in explaining that protein builds your muscles, milk helps your bones get strong, carbohydrates gives you energy and veggies help give you vitamins to see, and keep you feeling good. It doesn’t have to be too complex simple stuff like that broccoli has fiber in it so you can poop. Then they understand what a balanced diet is and why they need it.
Take them to local farmers markets, farms, and berry picking spots. Teach them that food doesn’t come from a package, it comes from the ground or a pasture. Allow your children to have a connection with what real food is. No it’s not in a Twinkie wrapper.
Plant a garden, herbs is an easy one to start with, and let them help. My daughter loves dirt and worms and being a little pioneer toddler, she’s a regular Laura Engles. She also now loves basil, parsley, and rosemary, and can pick it right off the vine.
Cook with your kids. Start with something easy that involves a lot of stirring and pouring. There is a fun recipe that is basically penne pasta, veggies and cheese in a muffin tin, super easy pasta muffins.
Make healthy foods flavorful. Take a cooking class, buy a new cookbook, watch the Food Network. If your kids aren’t eating it, up your game.
Limit excessive television watching. One of my clients just told me her house rule, if the sun is out no television. I like that because it seems to encourage kids to take on the day be active.
Inquire about the hot lunch program at your school. Be involved and try link fresh produce with the cafeteria. It is a battle worth fighting for.
By: Susan Howard
It used to be, if I didn’t sprint three 8 minute miles up hill, followed by 100 pushups and 500 crunches it wasn’t a workout. If the veins in my head weren’t about to explode I wasn’t doing anything. A 45minute hike was something I did to shake my legs out. Even an hour and a half yoga class didn’t count as more than a rest day. It was then that I taught at Barry’s Bootcamp in West Hollywood, where all the supermodels and twiggy actress go. There is something funny about Hollywood in that it attracts very pretty people who will stop at nothing to be in ridiculously good shape. As the instructor, it was my job to push the clients to the furthest possible place their bodies could handle. This method brought results. Assuming the overstressed ultra routine didn’t leave you injured you might get down to 10 percent body fat with toned muscles.
That was ten years ago. Now I count EVERYTHING as a workout. Hikes with friends, walks with the dog, tennis you name it. My point of view has changed from needing to max out every gym visit to celebrating movement in my day. Each day I aspire to move for at least 20 minutes. I tell my clients to try for the same. I do still go to the gym and sometimes put myself through a balls to the wall routine, it just depends on my mood.
My point is this, don’t discount activity, pay attention to each day and even if it’s not the max reps, gasping for breathe effort, commit to an active life.
You will feel better. You will see thinks clearer.
The world is waiting. Start now.
Susan Howard is a private trainer in Los Angeles
By Susan Howard
Instead of my usual blog about health and fitness, I wanted to take this moment to honor one of my clients who in the past 6 months has melted away over 40 pounds. My clients are constantly inspiring me to do better and I thought it would be nice to highlight her journey. She is, I must let you know a busy mom of 2, a full time doctor, as well as a women that goes out on girls weekends and dinner dates with her husband. I’ve heard about these profound weight losses and have watched the shows where someone drops half their body weight, but I want to give the regular busy Joe or Jane an insight to how it’s really done. She asked to remain anonymous, but here it is in her words.
Me: “What is the most significant thing you’ve changed?”
Her: It is impossible to isolate one, single change. So, I will take a minute to ramble on about a few key differences in my attitude towards food and exercise, and in my daily habits.
1) I think I’ve had significant weight loss success because I made important changes to both my eating habits and exercise routine. I know people who go to the gym religiously, but do not change what or how much they are eating, and then act surprised when they don’t lose weight. Conversely, some people calorie restrict but remain completely sedentary, again without achieving significant results. I felt it was important for me to approach this as a complete lifestyle overhaul and to make healthy changes both in my eating AND exercise habits simultaneously.
2) I did not immediately over-restrict, but gradually decreased my food intake over time. I started out by cutting back to 1700 kcal/day, which is actually still quite a bit of food, and was able to loose a good deal of weight without feeling deprived or hungry. After a few months of eating 1700 calories and feeling quite satisfied with this regimen, I cut back to 1500 kcal/day by making just a few small changes (dropped 1 yogurt and 1 serving of almonds), easy. A few months later, I dropped down to 1200 kcal/day on most days, and 1500 kcal/day on days when I exercise, which is the routine that I maintain today. I like the variation and the idea of a little reward for exercising (a frozen yogurt and a serving of rosemary and sea salt marcona almonds.)
3) I found ways to keep eating my favorite foods, just in smaller portions. For instance, having a large latte with low fat milk (not skim!) is something that I enjoy immensely and look forward to each morning. I have easily incorporated it into my diet such that I have one every single day. Likewise, I have a 150 kcal dessert every day – Cadbury cream egg? Why not? Handful of goldfish (55 to be exact)? Of course! Small wedge of decadent cheese? Absolutely. I’ve come to a place in my thinking about food where I am satisfied having 1 cream egg, and no longer feel a compulsion to eat 5 or 6. I can have 3 bites of Trader Joe’s chocolate pudding and feel content. I never thought I would be the person who could stop eating after 1 or 2 bites, but that is exactly who I’ve become. I have complete control over my intake of food now. I’m not sure how I was able to make this profound attitude change it just came gradually over time with lots and lots of practice.
4) I threw out the “must do a solid 45 minutes of cardio” mentality, and replaced it with a love for and understanding of the importance of strength training. This is where you, Susan Howard, have been an invaluable and completely integral part of my weight loss journey. My body feels and looks different because for the first time in my life, I have lost weight by routinely engaging in light to moderate strength/resistance training in combination with moderate cardiovascular exercise. My husband has commented several times on how I seem more fit and look different/better than I have after previous weight losses. He maintains that my overall body composition is different/more toned/healthier looking than it has been in the past, even when I weighed less than I do now.
5) I gave up my gym membership! Susan told me, “The best gym is the one that you use.” Well, I wasn’t using mine at all, due to a serious time crunch with a full time job and 2 kids. So, for the first time in 25 years, I gave up my gym membership and started working out at home, this was the best fitness change I’ve ever made. I now know that I can achieve better results at home with a spin bike (for 10-30 minutes of cardio) plus a mat, a set of 5, 8, 10 and 12 pound weights, a 4 pound medicine ball and a resistance band than I ever achieved pounding away for 45 minutes on an elliptical machine at the gym. By working out at home I am able to take advantage of golden opportunities for exercise (do it while the baby is napping! Or while the kids are gardening with dad), prefect for a 30-60 minute home workout, but would not have allowed for a time-sucking trip to the gym. I also vary my workout every time I exercise, so as to avoid boredom and to be challenging different muscle groups. This is where having a regular meeting with Susan has been invaluable, because it allows me to constantly be adding new exercises and to be tweaking old ones as I grow stronger. My years of extreme gym boredom and monotony are forever gone!
Summary: Eat 1200-1500 kcal/day
Exercise 30-60 min, 3-4 times per week
20 min cardio + 30 min strength
Typical day’s food:
Morning: Large low fat latte
200 kcal breakfast muffin/bar
Lunch: 250 kcal Lean Cuisine
1 string cheese
Afternoon snack: 110 kcal Fiber one bar + 1 fruit
Late afternoon snack: Carrots + Light Laughing Cow cheese (35 kcal)
Dinner: 250 kcal Lean Cuisine
Spinach/Arugula Salad with 1 Tbl Girard’s Light Champagne Dressing
Dessert: 100 kcal Trader Joe’s milk chocolate bar
Optional (if exercised): 130 kcal yogurt (frozen or regular) OR 1 oz goat cheese on salad and 10 almonds
That’s all folks, not too confusing. That was her trail and she travels on to this day. Right on!
By Susan Howard, Personal Trainer
Habits are often thought of in a negative way. Something to be kicked…smoking, nail biting, boozing, getting that sugar fix…the list goes on and on.
We poor mortals are victims of our habits. Unconnected to our repetitive behaviors, we simply must continue acting them out. How did it all begin?
Well let’s break it down. At one point way back when, you felt anxious (or tired or bored) and you turned to sugar, which relaxed you, or gave you a momentary burst of energy. Now that action has imprinted itself as something to help you fulfill that void. Then you become addicted to the substance, and at this point you don’t even really need a reason to turn to the habit. The habit becomes the cue.
Our brains are so overwhelmed, sifting through constant stimuli to decipher what is important and what isn’t. Once something becomes a true habit our brain goes into cruise control and doesn’t even need to think; it just repeats itself.
Knowing that we like patterns, that familiarity is comfortable to us…why not use this to our advantage? Create a routine to workout everyday (if possible the same time of day). Put out your shoes and clothes the night before, get your same water bottle ready, all of it.
At first it will take thought. But ultimately it will become such a ritual that you may not even remember doing it. Your brain goes into autopilot. Then when you miss it, you will crave it. Like a junkie.
So….I want you to have a nasty habit, a dark little secret you partake in at the crack of dawn, something that makes you jittery if you skip using it even once.
By Susan Howard, Fitness Ghuru
Often I hear clients complain about not having time to workout, which translates to not wanting to workout. I have been training long enough to know that people are only going to do what they want to do.
Why don’t people want to workout? Why not? It’s because they forget how awesome it feels. How incredible it is when your body burns through that ATP, lungs take in oxygen, the adrenal glands release epinephrine, endorphins kick in, the heart rate raises up and the blood is pumping.
When I am at my best I feel strong. Being static makes me feel lazy and like there are no possibilities. Energy equals more energy. Kind of like you get what you pay for, or you reap what you sow.
So why don’t people want to workout? Because they haven’t found the thing they love. Here are a couple photos from a hike and a run I took last week. Embracing my true spirit up in the mountains. I stand in awe of these moments in that I wonder why do I have to beg people to get moving, to commune with nature, to be who they truly are? WE ARE MOVERS! We are supposed to move. It shouldn’t be that big of a bummer to run in beauty and feel powerful. It’s amazing. It’s out there. It’s your day. Take it.
By: Susan Howard
A client of mine lost about ten pounds last year and is holding strong to her new fighting weight. “I am done,” she exclaimed. “I am tired of gaining and losing the same ten pounds. This time is the last.” There was something very definitive about how she pronounced the end of the games she plays with her weight. She is tossing away that habit. Gone.
Another client who is now down a full clothes size was going through her closet realizing a bunch of stuff doesn’t fit -it’s too baggy. “Give it away,” I tell her. “I know,” she laments. “But what if I gain it back, then I’ll have nothing to wear?” Exactly. First of all, the old stuff is probably out of style, and either way it fits the old you -not the one you are becoming. Also, if you are frugal like I am and hate to spend money, then it could serve as an extra incentive to keep the pounds off.
Allow yourself to change, make changes, and then step into the new version of who you’ve become.
Creating new habits takes effort, making little decisions each day that culminate into a larger metamorphosis. Only by exorcising your old self can you clear a space for the new you to be born. Can I get a Hallelujah?
Let’s stay open and also take charge of 2013. It is all inside you to have -whatever year you decide. Make a choice and stick to it, be unwavering, be fierce. You got this. Now go get a garbage bag and throw out your old stuff or, even better, donate it.
A question to you the reader: have you been successful at losing weight and keeping it off? If you have, let me know what worked in your transformation by commenting below.