Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Does size matter?

Yes. Size matters. Especially when it comes to... FOOD! Another food blog this week.

If you're anything like me, you probably love food. When I sit down to dinner, I usually clean my plate. And I like to have seconds. When you're eating healthy (or when you're not) you need to make sure you're keeping your portion size in mind.

Check out this nifty quiz I found from Prevention Magazine! I think you'll be shocked to learn how much you should be eating of what.


They also have a downloadable PDF that you can save (and print if you want) that shows portions as compared to common items, like a tennis ball or dice.

Smaller meals are much better for you than eating a lot of food in one sitting. Eating 5 or 6 mini meals a day, every 3 hours or so, is much much better than 2 or 3 large meals several hours apart. In addition, if you're eating good snacks, fruits, veggies, nuts, yogurts, and healthy meals, you're likely to feel full longer, and be less tempted by sugary snacks or get so hungry you over eat, or eat whatever is near by, even if its bad for you.

Thats it for this week. Have fun with the quiz! ^.~ Feel free to post your scores.

Next week, awesome abs exercises!

~ Samurai Girl Sahara

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Eat Before You Work!

Hey all, sorry for the late post this week, had a crazy weekend. The topic of the week is FOOD. I have decided to post on the importance of eating! In the last few days I have heard a couple of comments on the subject of eating after your work out rather than before, or not having breakfast till after your work out, etc. I feel these are probably some pretty widespread and common misconceptions, so lets clear the air!

First and foremost, breakfast is very important! In fact, it really is the most important meal of the day! When you go to sleep at night, your body goes into fasting/hibernation mode as it is essentially starving for 6 to 8 hours while you sleep. So, when you wake up the first thing you need to do is feed your body! This will jump start your metabolism and pull you out of hibernation mode. You really need to eat about half an hour after getting up. If you're lazy and like to sleep in till the last possible minute, like me, this can be very difficult to manage, but it is extremely important that you eat! You cannot get into shape or lose weight permanently if you don't eat regularly.

When you eat, the less processed food you are eating the better. Eggs make a great breakfast item. Scrambled or omelets are a great way to have your eggs and spice them up by tossing in some turkey, spinach, mushrooms, low fat cheese, etc. I have been leaning towards fat free Greek yogurt with fruit, oatmeal and nuts mixed in as thats a little on the faster side. Either way, be sure you eat!

*A side note: Working out in the morning is optimal, as it helps wake you up and gets your metabolism going for the day. Also, if you work out in the morning, then its out of the way and you have the rest of the day for work and play. If you cannot work out in the morning, working out in the early evening is better. The closer to bedtime you work out, the worse it is. Sometimes, it is unavoidable, but work out earlier in the day if you can.

Breakfast is important, even if you're unable to work out in the mornings. Eating at the very least half an hour before your work out is equally important. Not just that, but eating the right thing is key.

Before you work out, be sure you consume complex carbs. Complex carbs include wheat bread, brown rice, other whole grain foods, vegetables, and fruits. If you do not eat, especially complex carbs, before your workout you will not have enough energy to make it through your workout.

After you work out, be sure to consume a protein and a simple carb. This will rush the protein to your muscles. You should not be consuming simple carbs any other times. (or at least keep them to a minimum.)

So, best thing to keep in mind this week, and beyond: Eat and be happy and healthy!

Have a good week everyone.

~Samurai Girl Sahara

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Goal Setting

Happy Sunday everyone! Today I want to take a bit to talk about setting goals. Back in January I knew something had to change. The first step was to set some goals. Not only does clearly defining and setting goals give you a solid target to work towards, it feels really great when you reach your goal. However, there are some goal setting guide lines I'd like to share with you. If you set goals that are unrealistic or unachievable, you will not be able to reach them and you will feel pretty depressed and likely not stick to your plan.

So, how to set a good goal. In one of the martial arts books I'm reading right now, "The Way to Black Belt", they talk about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. These are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

Specific - answers the question who or what. Your goal should identify a specific action that is going to take place.

Measurable - Define measurements that will be used to determine the outcome or goal has been achieved.

Attainable - It is important to challenge yourself, but do not set the bar so high that it is unrealistic of you to reach your goal. Try setting a series of smaller goals as stepping stones to get to your ultimate goal.

Realistic - Some goals may be obtainable, but not realistic. For example, wanting to exercise every day is both attainable and realistic. However, wanting to train for 10 hours a day is technically attainable, but not very realistic.

Timely - You want to set a deadline for yourself. Again, be sure this deadline is realistic and attainable, but be sure to challenge yourself.

By following these some of these guide lines you can set realistic goals that can be measured and reached by a certain date.

Since my goals were a little ambiguous, "Eat better, get in shape, take up martial arts again" I broke them down into chunks so that I would not feel overwhelmed.

I started by first going to see a personal trainer to discuss some actual physical measurable goals for getting shape. (Please note, my goal is not to be skinny, but to be toned, healthy and in shape.) I'm about 5' tall and when I went in for my consultation session I was almost 140lbs. My Body Mass Index (BMI) measured to be about 30%. This is pretty unhealthy, right along the danger line. In general women will ultimately have a higher BMI than men since we have curves and breasts. Thats just the way it is ladies. But typically women need to be in the low 20's to mid teens as far as a healthy percentage of body fat. Men can go as low as the low teens to high single digits if they're in great shape. We calculated my BMI using a device that sends electrical current through your body, but you can look online and find charts to get a good idea of where you stand. Keep in mind, chart numbers will vary depending on gender, so it is a good idea to make sure you're looking at one specific to your gender. So, in order to get in shape, I needed to lose a little bit of weight and bring my BMI down.

I know you see on T.V. lose 10 pounds in a week with this miracle diet! Blah blah blah. This really isn't healthy or safe for you. When you do what is called yo-yo dieting, which is dropping weight very fast, your body can go into shock and it will start to store fat which is counter productive to the weight loss process. So, realistically, you shouldn't aim to lose absolutely any more than 2 lbs a week. Real, lasting weight loss takes time and effort. The best, healthiest way to to lose weight is eating right combined with exercise. I definitely knew I wasn't eating well, and I wasn't getting enough (coughANYcough) exercise. So here is where I started to really define my goals. They say it takes 30 days to make or break a habit, and I wanted to make lifestyle changes, form good eating habits, not just 'go on a diet' so I set my time frame in spans of one month. Here is how I went about breaking them down into smaller chunks that I felt more capable of handling:

For the first month of January, I decided to cut back on eating fast food as much as possible. I decided to focus ONLY on fast food, a small, attainable, realistic goal. I would start bringing my lunch to work at least 3 or 4 days a week, and when I did eat out, I would steer clear of places like McDs as much as possible. At my office we always have Chipotle Monday, so I allowed this to be my one cheat a week. If you completely deny yourself of everything right off the bat when it comes to changing your eating habits, you're more likely to be miserable, to go crazy and instead of eating that one brownie you're craving, you'll eat the whole pan. So its important to reward yourself and allow yourself to cheat once a week or so. Chipotle Monday is my once a week cheat.

Once I cut about 98% of the fast food out of my diet, I started focusing on trying to eat a little better at home. Instead of frozen pizza or nachos for dinner, I started trying to cook more balanced meals. (I'll go over some good guide lines for food next week) I would cook chicken with a side of rice and a side of veggies instead. Or make wraps with a side salad. I also tried to focus on cooking JUST enough for us to eat, one helping of chicken, and more helpings of rice and veggies. (Again, I'll address portion size later). This was all I focused on in February. Just trying to buy and eat more veggies and less processed food. (High Fructose Corn Syrup and Hydrogenated oils are in everything and we eat waaaaay too much of them, check your labels and you'll be shocked.)

This month, March, now that I have myself more or less weened off of fast food and junk food, I am working on trying to eat the right things at the right time. For example, breakfast is very important, so I'm trying to eat a breakfast that contains protein and other good for you foods. Like eggs and whole grain toast, or yogurt with nuts and oatmeal. Making sure I eat complex carbs before I work out, and having protein plus a simple carb after my workout. Eating good is great! Now, I'm trying to challenge myself a little more and eat good things for me at the appropriate times. For me, its easier to focus on one thing at a time rather than trying to absorb no fast food, no buying junk food, eating specific things at specific times, etc. I didn't want to get overwhelmed and disappointed when I forgot something or didn't quite make my goals for the day, and give up.

The trick is to find out what works best for you. Maybe starting out by saying, I will not have fast food this week. Or even, I will not have fast food today. Just make sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T.

I started going to kempo, and coupled with changing my eating habits, one smaller, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely goal at a time, I'm making progress towards my overall goal of health and fitness, and ultimately Martial Arts Mastery.

As of the end of February, which was my last measurement, I have lost 7 lbs since January and 4% off my BMI. My clothes are staring to feel loose. Working towards your goals and making them is really great. When I meet one goal, I feel all that more excited to try to make it to my next goal.

A personal thing I want to share which I hope might be helpful to someone reading this, Do NOT fixate on the numbers. I don't even own a scale, if I want to know how much I weigh, I'd have to go to the gym to find out, and to be honest, I don't really care enough to find out when I am there. Especially when losing weight is concerned, try not to say "I want to be 120 pounds." Or however much. Muscle weighs more than fat, so at the end of my time set for my overall weight loss goal, (Which is May) I may be in great shape, but weigh more than I expected to. Instead, I have decided I want to be able to see muscle tone in my arms, legs, and even my abs. I can both see and feel a difference in my body as I work towards this goal.

Numbers on the scale and clothing size are completely arbitrary. I might be a size 5 in one brand of pants, and a size 9 in another, even though I have walked right out of one store and right into another. I could be a large T-shirt in one store, and a small at another. Buy clothes that you like and that fit you, then when you get home, cut all the size tags off. The number doesn't matter. Are you happy with your body? Do you feel healthy? In my opinion its the answers to those questions are what matter the most. I wasn't happy with my body and I certainly didn't feel healthy. But as I am eating better and working out, I can see and feel my body getting stronger and healthier. I'm really starting to love my body and feel confident and attractive. I can honestly say this is the first time I've ever felt this way in my entire life. I always felt bad because I wasn't like the models on T.V., but now I see what is important is to take care of you body, love who you are, and ignore all those skinny air brushed magazine and bill board adds.

I hope this was helpful, sorry to go off on a bit of a tangent there at the end. Have a great week everyone, get out there and set some S.M.A.R.T. goals!

~ Samurai Girl Sahara

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Some very basic injury tips

This first week I was going talk about goal setting, but in light of a shoulder injury, I thought I would take a moment to talk about what do to if you get hurt. Obviously its best to stretch and warm up properly before you exercise so you can avoid getting hurt because, well, it hurts. But, in the event that you do get hurt, its important to take care of it right away.

First and foremost, I'm not a doctor, and if you get hurt, you probably want to go see one. Just to check it out and make sure you're not seriously injured. Your doctor can diagnose exactly what the problem entails and how best to treat it.

However, should you pull a muscle, sprain an ankle, strain your rotator cuff, etc. Here are some tips that should tide you over till you can get in to see a doc.

For Wrists, Knees, Ankles, first and foremost, when you feel the pain, stop and rest! Take some anti-inflammatory meds (ibuprofen) and put some ice on that injury. Keep ice on it as much as you can, taking anti-inflammatory every 4 to 6 hours. Keep your knee or ankle elevated if possible and stay off it as much as you can till you get in to the doc. Wrapping the sprain tightly is a great

For a shoulder injury, the first step is the same. Stop doing whatever caused the pain. Again, best first practice is to go see a doctor first. I have strained my rotator cuff before, so I know thats what I have this time. For a rotator cuff strain, be gentle with your shoulder. Rest, take the anti-inflamatory meds, alternate between ice and heat. Keep this routine up till you shoulder heals, this could take up to 2 weeks. My doc suggested a week of not lifting anything over ten pounds and taking two Aleve in the morning and two at night. Stretching is key. Be gentle, but do not put your shoulder in a sling or stop using it all together. This can cause Frozen Shoulder. Just be gentle, try not to lift anything with your injured side till it heals. Your doctor can tell you about what weight limits you should apply and such. When you do start to use your shoulder again, build up strength slowly. Your doc can give you some good exercises and stretches to do.

And thats all I have for you today! To sum it up when dealing with an injury, use RICE!

Compression (except on shoulders)

Monday, March 7, 2011


Welcome to Samurai Girl's guide to The Martial Arts, Nutrition and Fitness.

Here I would like to share my journey of getting in shape, eating better, and working towards my Black Belt. I have always been fascinated by the Japanese culture. I have dabbled in Japanese and studied Aikijutsu in High School. I will forever be hooked.

This journey began in January a few months after I graduated college. I was tired of being out of shape, eating crap, and I missed the martial arts. I knew something had to change and if I didn't make a life style change now, perhaps I never would. Since January I have started working out working out regularly, eating better, and found a dojo. I'm now learning Shaolin Kempo Karate and feeling better than I've ever felt before. My confidence is going up and I really want to share what I'm going through in hopes what I'm learning can help someone else out there. If I can do it, you can do it!

I will do my best to update once a week, every Sunday. Stay tuned for more!

~ Samurai Girl Sahara