Natural Treatments for Common Pains

By: Joe Fleming, co-founder of Vive Health

image via webmd (1)

image via webmd (1)

For many of us, pain is a part of everyday life, whether due to a fitness injury like shin splints, or a chronic condition like arthritis.  Because we all live such busy lives, we understandably want the pain to go away as quickly as possible and there are plenty of opioid painkillers that will do just that.

Unfortunately, these pills often come at a great price... and not just in terms of money.  They are extremely addictive.  It is easy to get hooked and almost impossible to quit.  Even worse, opioids are often gateway drugs to heroin or something even worse.  At some point, the cost simply becomes too high.

The good news is that there are a number of natural remedies that can either eliminate pain altogether, when coupled with time and some other things, or at least greatly reduce our pain pill consumption.

Arthritis

Most people know arthritis is chronic, degenerative, and incurable.  In other words, the underlying condition is always there, usually gets worse, and never gets better.  As a result, many people think that prescription painkillers are the only way to get through the day.  However, in many cases, that’s simply not true.

People successfully dealt with arthritis pain long before prescription painkillers came along, and what worked then will work today. Some ideas include:

  • Weight Loss: Obesity worsens arthritis in the ankles, knees, and other joints in the lower extremities, simply because of the extra pressure and stress.  Even just ten pounds should make a noticeable difference.

  • Exercise: Somewhat similarly, exercise increases flexibility and muscle mass, thus reducing discomfort.  Targeted exercise usually improves arthritis not only in the legs, but in other parts of the body as well.

  • Yoga: In addition to physical exercise, yoga provides a few minutes of quiet meditation.  There is considerable evidence that meditation decreases pain, if for no other reason than you are thinking about something else for a period of time.

  • Dietary Supplements: Turmeric, a common Indian spice, reduces joint inflammation.  Other proven supplements include S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e), fish oil and Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA).

Depending on the individual, these techniques may make a night and day difference or they may not have any effect at all.  However, nearly everyone sees enough improvement to either reduce the use of prescription pain pills or replace them with analgesics, like Motrin.

Back Pain

While back pain is usually curable, that cure may entail spinal fusion surgery or some other radical procedure.  So, for many people, the goal is pain management, as it is with arthritis sufferers.

Exercise is usually the best way to address back pain, and there are a number of activities and stretches that may work well.  Alternating hot and cold therapy, with a heat pad and ice pack, is also effective in many cases.  Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) has also shown to help reduce low back pain.

Fitness Injury

These injuries are usually quite painful but easily curable.  In the instance of fitness injury, pain-masking opioids may be an even worse idea than normal, because people might feel better before they actually are and re-injure themselves.  The RICE method is usually a great approach immediately after a fitness injury.

  • Rest: Talk to a doctor or trainer about how long you need to walk on crutches, wear a boot, or otherwise avoid using the muscle.

  • Ice: Twenty minutes of cold therapy not only reduces swelling, but also reduces discomfort.

  • Compression: An ACE Bandage will do in a pinch to decrease inflammation, but a specially-designed wrap, like a calf shin support, will usually help people get better faster.

  • Elevation: Keep the injured muscle above your heart.

About halfway through the recovery process for a fitness-related injury, cross-training is probably okay, to stay fit and help ease injury-related depression.  But be sure you talk to a doctor or therapist first.

The bottom line is that there are options other than addictive painkillers to decrease the discomfort associated with many everyday illnesses and injuries.

Sources

(1) A. Cassoobhoy.  (December 15, 2015).  What is low back pain?  WebMD.  Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/ss/slideshow-low-back-pain-overview

How to Achieve That Perfect Thigh Gap

...Throwing light on the facts.

By: Eric Olesen from Fitness Goals

photo via favim.com

photo via favim.com

If you’re someone who has always had big thighs, you would know the importance of a thigh gap.  

A thigh gap is the clear space right under your crotch and in between your middle and upper thighs.  

A small gap within your thighs is an ultimate symbol of a well-toned female body according to most media today.  

It appears that in order to have a minimum thigh gap, your thighs should be totally devoid of fat.  

However, as every woman knows, the inner thighs are outrageously difficult to curb fat and hence for all dieting women, inner thighs remain the Mount Everest of their body.

Debunking a few myths on thigh gaps

The extent to which some girls have gone in order to try and bring that gap in between both thighs has made it an extremely controversial topic.  

This has raised a bunch drama around the thigh gap... so what are the few myths and facts surrounding this topic?

Myth #1: Anyone can easily get a thigh gap like the supermodels

Under optimal situations, the female bone structure and the way in which the femur bone is spread out naturally forms a thigh gap.  

Since every woman is different, there are some who can never ever achieve a slight gap in between their thighs, no matter how much toned and thin their thighs are.

This is simply a matter of bone structure and it is okay if you have a body type that doesn't allow for a thigh gap.  

While the majority of women can obtain a thigh gap with enough dedication, it may not be healthy.  

It requires low body fat percentages that many people cannot maintain.  

And always remember: even if your bone structure doesn't allow the gap, there are still many other benefits to remaining healthy and fit.

Myth #2: You require being skinny like a supermodel to get a thigh gap

The absence or appearance of a gap within thighs is usually due to a layer of fat within your inner thighs.  

The less fat that you have, the more likely you are to have a gap.

This automatically means that the skinnier you are, the easier it will be for you to get that gap in between thighs.  

But again, as every woman is shaped differently, the structure of your body plays a big role in deciding the gap that you can have.

Myth #3: You can’t build leg muscles if you want a gap

Unless you’re working out like a man with heavy weights and doing squats with 225lbs, plus eating enough to put on tons of muscle, it’s pretty unlikely that you will get quads which block the thigh gap.  

Nevertheless, if you still want to do leg exercises with weights to ensure that you have streamlined legs, you have to ensure that you stick to lower weights to create strong, but lean, muscles.

Best exercises to help you get the much-desired thigh gap

Though it is true that losing those extra pounds through a proper schedule of diet and exercise is the best way in which you can get a thigh gap, yet there are 5 exercises which can speed up the long-muscle building process.

1.     Pile squats

2.     Pilates leg lifts

3.     Bridge raises

4.     Inner leg lift

5.     Lateral lunge

Once you keep doing these exercises daily, along with proper diet, you will be able to accomplish your dream of having a gap in between your thighs and feel like a supermodel (assuming, again, that your bone structure allows it).

To know more on this, you can check out www.fitnessgoals.com

Resources:

http://thighgaphack.com/how-to-get-a-thigh-gap/

http://upcominghealth.com/how-to-get-a-thigh-gap/

Photo: https://favim.com/image/2690410/

The Benefits of Broccoli Sprouts

image via drweil.com (12)

image via drweil.com (12)

This post started as a broader "benefits of microgreens" write-up, until I realized how broad a topic and therefore bad idea that would be.  There are too many types of microgreens in general to encompass in one post... at least for me at this time. :)

As mentioned in my post about growing your own broccoli sprouts, this whole topic came to me in the first place after listening to episode #901 of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast with Dr. Rhonda Patrick.  Prior to this episode, the only experience I'd had with microgreens was at the general level when I purchased a "mixed variety" of them from the farmer's market to try adding to my smoothies.  I was rough on the science, didn't really think much of it, and felt bad for buying living baby plants just to rip them from the soil and eat over the next few days.  I know, the huntress felt bad for killing plants.  Whatever.

This specific episode of the podcast, though, went into a ton of detail on why Dr. Patrick loves including broccoli sprouts specifically in her daily smoothie.  That's what I'd like to dive into here, as my geeky nature questions the "why" behind everything and I like to have a solid knowledge base to inform people about why I do what I do.  

So!  What are some of the benefits of eating broccoli sprouts?

  1. Anti-carcinogenic effects
  2. Protects the heart
  3. Protection against inflammation
  4. Promotion of longevity & life extension
  5. Increased fat burning in the cells
  6. Strong antioxidant properties
  7. Increased insulin sensitivity
  8. Promotion of muscular growth

That list looks pretty all-encompassing, but I still stand by my use of the word "some" to preface it because there are other possible benefits that have been discovered, but not extensively researched.  At the time of this writing, the above list has a good amount of study put to it already.

Wanna go more in-depth?

If the above list convinced you to start sprouting your own broccoli or becoming a regular customer of the microgreens farms at your local farmer's market, great!  If you're like me, you want more details on the subject.  Never fear, for I am here and slightly angry with myself for loving to do this research so much!  

There is a compound in broccoli sprouts called sulforaphane, as already mentioned, which underlies most of the benefits listed.  With that in ming, let's get to it!

1. Anti-carcinogenic effects

In a 2004 study(1), certain doses of sulforaphane can actually be as potent as the standard-of-care drug trichostatin A, which works to inhibit a key enzyme in cancer proliferation.  The effects of the drug and sulforaphane when taken together seemed to amplify each others' effects.

2.  Protects the heart

Cruciferous vegetables are generally considered cardioprotective, i.e. they guard the health of the heart.  This is because of a sulfur compound found within them, hydrogen sulfide (H2S), is actually inversely related with the progression of cardiovascular disease(2).  The presence of H2S in garlic is why it is generally considered a superfood, as H2S is a vasodilator.  Vasodilation is the process of opening up the pathways for blood flow and is considered beneficial for cardiovascular health, as wider flow pathways means less resistance to blood movement and therefore lower blood pressure.  A lack of H2S in the body has also recently been linked to decreased endothelial function in obese patients, meaning that the lining of the blood vessels does not respond to vessel size changes as well as it would in non-obese individuals(3).  This makes sense, since we just covered that H2S promotes the widening of the vessels.

3.  Protects against inflammation

This topic can get broad very quickly.  As Dr. Jonathan Mendoza, a wonderful mentor of mine says, "all disease starts with inflammation."  To keep it as simple as I can, the aforementioned sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts inhibits something called NF-kB translocation.  This action at the cellular level basically describes the movement of an inflammatory compound into the nucleus, or "brain," of the cell.  When this compound makes this move, inflammation at that cell boosts and when too many cells experience this, signs of autoimmune disease can appear.

That being said, autoimmune disease is basically the worst outcome of chronic inflammation and compounds to develop over a long period of time.  The most-studied autoimmune disease with sulforaphane at this time is Rheumatoid Arthritis, which appears to benefit from mechanisms similar to the NF-kB inhibition at the cellular level(5).  Basically, advances in RA seem to be stopped by adding sulforaphane to the diet.

4. Promotion of longevity & life extension

A major cause of the appearance of aging in humans comes from the oxidation of protein in the body.  This has led some diets, like the Bulletproof Diet, to promote "protein-cycling," in an effort to recycle some leftover proteins for use in the body so they basically don't just sit around and stagnate from oxidation.  With broccoli sprouts, and the sulphoraphane they provide, there appears to be a reduction in the buildup of these proteins in the body.  This leads to the theory that cells will age slower, promoting longevity (if your cells die, you die) (6).

5.  Increased fat burning in the cells

While the practical significance of this benefit is still being researched, new studies have emerged to show that in the absence of a primary molecule called AMPK, sulforaphane may be able to release glycerol from the cells to produce energy.  However, in the presence of AMPK, sulforaphane may actually block the AMPK function and therefore needs to be further studied to understand the exact mechanism(7)(8).

Another note on this section, though: regardless of sulforaphane's role with AMPK, it does appear to help regulate adipocytes(9), also known as fat cells.  It seems to reduce their growth and needs to be studied further.

6.  Strong antioxidant properties

In relation to number 5, the study showing sulforaphane's regulation of fat cells also showed that it acts as an antioxidant in monitoring/regulating insulin sensitivity(9).  Do you know what the opposite of insulin sensitivity is?  Insulin resistance.  Do you know the common name for insulin resistance?  Prediabetes or even full-blown Type 2 diabetes.  Yeah.

7.  Increased insulin sensitivity

As just mentioned, insulin sensitivity in the body is crucial for avoiding chronic health issues down the line... specifically, type 2 diabetes.  In a 2012 study on rats with type 1 diabetes (i.e. the kind you can't really cure as of now), insulin sensitivity was still improved in this hard-to-control disease when the rats were administered concentrations of sulforaphane(10).  That is huge implications for future studies on both types of diabetes!

8.  Promotion of muscular growth

In proper conjunction with a few other signaling pathways within the skeletal muscle, a 2012 study(11) found that sulforaphane could have the potential to create anabolic effects in the body's muscle mass.  "Anabolic" events are events of growth.  See that?  #gainz.  Had to throw them in there somewhere.  This is Flabs to Fitness, after all.  :)

Final thoughts

Well... thank you for making it with me this far, if that's what you did!  As you can see, the benefits of broccoli sprouts largely stem from its high concentrations of sulforaphane.  I didn't even go into the other compounds that help the sulforaphane react!  For now, just know that you'll get the most out of these little superfoods if you eat them raw (or drink them raw in a smoothie) or only cook them at low temperatures for a short period of time.  Examine.com recommends steaming them for no more than 3 minutes to still get the benefits of the sulforaphane.

Sources

(1) Myzak MC, et al A novel mechanism of chemoprotection by sulforaphane: inhibition of histone deacetylaseCancer Res. (2004) 

(2) Benavides GA, et al Hydrogen sulfide mediates the vasoactivity of garlicProc Natl Acad Sci U S A. (2007)

(3) Candela, J., Wang, R., White, C.  Microvascular Endothelial Dysfunction in Obesity Is Driven by Macrophage-Dependent Hydrogen Sulfide Depletion.  Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol.  (2017)

(4) Heiss E, et al Nuclear factor kappa B is a molecular target for sulforaphane-mediated anti-inflammatory mechanisms . J Biol Chem. (2001)

(5) Fragoulis A, et al Sulforaphane has opposing effects on TNF-alpha stimulated and unstimulated synoviocytes . Arthritis Res Ther. (2012)

(6) Stadtman ER Protein oxidation and aging . Science. (1992)

(7) Lee JH, et al Sulforaphane induced adipolysis via hormone sensitive lipase activation, regulated by AMPK signaling pathway . Biochem Biophys Res Commun. (2012)

(8) Garton AJ, Yeaman SJ Identification and role of the basal phosphorylation site on hormone-sensitive lipase . Eur J Biochem. (1990)

(9) Xu J, et al Enhanced Nrf2 Activity Worsens Insulin Resistance, Impairs Lipid Accumulation in Adipose Tissue, and Increases Hepatic Steatosis in Leptin-Deficient Mice . Diabetes. (2012)

(10) de Souza CG, et al Metabolic effects of sulforaphane oral treatment in streptozotocin-diabetic rats . J Med Food. (2012)

(11) Fan H, et al Sulforaphane causes a major epigenetic repression of myostatin in porcine satellite cells . Epigenetics. (2012)

(12) Weil, A.  Better boost from broccoli sprouts? Weil.  (2012)

Top Fitness Trends of 2017

By: Erin Vaage

At the start of a new year, everyone decides what trends from the previous year should stay, what trends need to die a quick death and what new trends everyone should get excited about.

But fashion and beauty trends aren’t the only trending topics you should be following. A new year really can mean the start to a new and improved you; a time to set health goals you’ll actually achieve.

How? Because this year, you’re jumping on the shiny, trendy fitness bandwagon. And 2017’s top fitness trends have workouts and classes that fit with your schedule and your fitness goals.

They’re fun, effective, and guaranteed to get you excited to exercise and maintain motivation throughout the year to shed those 15 pounds or get those killer Chris Evans-like abs that the ladies love.

The Top Fitness Trends of 2017

Mixed Format & Live-Stream Workout Classes

[Image:  piloxing.com ]

[Image: piloxing.com]

Class is now in session. And no, I don’t mean boring, monotone-speaking science classes. 2017 is going to make you actually enjoy going to class with mixed format gym classes or attending class in your living room with live-stream exercise classes.

Also called hybrid classes, these group gym workouts are anything but boring. For 45-60 minutes, they mix multiple workout styles into one, so you’re not just sitting on a bike for an hour. Instead, you’re doing combinations of cardio and strength training, which is even more effective at helping you shed off your winter weight and getting you bikini-bod ready. Find out who’s offering Piloxing or a combo spin and yoga class that you can try out.

If you’re not a gym rat, or your working-parent schedule doesn’t allow you to be, join a live-stream workout class. I know, those old Jane Fonda and Denise Austin workout VHS tapes were cheesy and not enough motivation to keep you burning calories five days a week. But I bet streaming an intense Jillian Michaels workout or bringing the ballet barre into your home will do the trick. More brands and studios will start jumping on this trend later in the year, so keep your eye out for live-stream classes that work best for you.

Rebounding

Watch a video on rebounding

Some of my best memories as a kid were jumping on a trampoline during the summer. Why do we have to stop doing all the things that brought us joy as kids? We don’t have to. And to start feeling young again, you can get yourself a mini trampoline. It doesn’t just make you feel like a kid again, it also makes exercising enjoyable.

Rebounding is one workout that does it all. Seriously, spending just 10-15 minutes a day jumping and doing various exercises on a rebounder can help you lose weight, improve your balance and coordination, strengthen your muscles, increase your metabolism, and even reduce headaches and help you sleep better at night.

And since it’s small and portable, you can keep your rebounder in your room or even at work and spend 10 minutes of your lunch hour rebounding.

Body Weight Training

This fitness trend requires minimal equipment; in fact, for most body weight training exercises you just need your body. From pushups to pull-ups, squats, lunges, planks, and more, if you’ve got yourself and enough space to do those things, you can get in an effective, lean-muscle-mass building workout. And you can modify your workouts based on your current training level.

Not having the money to buy a gym membership, get a personal trainer, or fill your home office with bulky workout equipment can’t be your excuse anymore. Anyone can do body weight training.

Intuitive Training

Several years back, intuitive eating was the latest health trend people were getting excited about. Its focus was on trusting your body and yourself. And this year, intuitive training is making its mark on the heath and fitness world.

Like intuitive eating, it involves listening to your body and choosing your workouts based on how your body is feeling on a day-to-day basis. Nothing against people’s set workout programs, but sometimes their routines have a one-size-fits-all mentality. Except, we’re not all the same, and our bodies definitely aren’t the same.

We’re individuals. We each have individual health needs that need to be met. Intuitive training reminds you to daily check in with your body. If you have an intense cardio session planned for today’s workout, but you’re feeling exhausted from yesterday’s workout and this morning’s workload, it’s probably better that you swap it out for a 30-minute yoga session or something a bit lighter.

But with intuitive training, you have to be committed to maintaining a regular workout schedule. Listening to your body doesn’t mean, “Oh I’m just tired (read lazy) so I think my body just needs to skip working out today.” Be in tune with what your body needs, but don’t let yourself start regularly skipping workouts to binge-watch Game of Thrones.

About the Author

Erin graduated from Central College with a degree in Health Promotion and is a Certified Personal Trainer through NASM.  She has enjoyed training people of all abilities and ages, from 13 to 102.  When not at the gym, she likes to spend most of her time outside hiking, skiing, climbing or mountain biking in her home state of Utah.

Sources

Barre3 (2008). Barre Online Workouts and Videos. Retrieved from http://barre3.com/subscription

Cellercise (1998). Cellercise with Dave Hall. Retrieved from https://cellercise.com/

Fit Fusion (2004). Workout Anytime, Anywhere. Retrieved from: https://www.fitfusion.com/

Smith, Jim (n.d.). 5 Best Bodyweight Training Exercises. Retrieved from http://www.muscleandfitness.com/workouts/workout-routines/5-best-bodyweight-training-exercises

Piloxing (2008). Image retrieved from: https://piloxing.com/

Romaniello, John. (n.d.). How to Build a Sexy Female Body. Retrieved from http://romanfitnesssystems.com/articles/6-tips-for-building-a-sexy-female-body/

Walters, Jennipher. (2013, September 29). My Secret to a Healthy Lifestyle: Intuitive Eating. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennipher-walters/intuitive-eating_b_3976172.html

Does Food Quality Matter?

Food quality is a hot topic right now.

Retrieved from Pranzo UK (6)

Retrieved from Pranzo UK (6)

Well, well, well.  We meet this subject again.  

If you've been following my Instagram, Facebook, or this website for any length of time now then you're already acquainted with my strong bias in support of producing food at only the highest sustainable quality.  

However, I will do my best to push that aside and do an objective report on how the food in Italy has affected my body over the past 7 weeks.  

This is usually referred to as an "n=1 study," since I am only testing it on myself.  

These are usually super effective for people trying to figure things out for themselves and their health, because I am in my body and only I am in tune with that enough to feel what it feels and see how it is being affected: by clothes fitting a certain way or how heavily I'm breathing after certain activities.  

So that being established, this is going to be a compilation of how I've felt with this drastic diet change while in Florence for the summer.  

What is different in Italy?

The diet change I'm referring to is this: at home, I eat primal (no legumes, only rice sometimes if grains are consumed, no processed sugar, moderate dairy, LOTS of veggies, high protein, a little bit of fruit, lots of healthy fats).  

Here, I've pretty much only stayed away from gluten and soy because they really bother me.  

Pizza and pasta and gelato and milk chocolate that exists without soy lechitin as an emulsifier here have been very present in my body.  

I will place here that there are also other variables.  

One is that I've walked at least 5 miles a day, usually more.  

My workout routine went from lifting 5-6 days a week plus at least 4 cardio sessions on top of that to 3-5 HIIT & body weight workout sessions per week, not lasting longer than 45 minutes.  

So, I will do my best to explain what happened as a result of that.  But first, I think a little Italian food history is in order.  

Italian food quality

In the Italian cooking class I took the first week I was here, the chef got on his soapbox for a few minutes.  

He talked about how when the US really started pumping GMOs and hormones into their food, Italy went the opposite route.  

He explained the laws here are really in favor of organic produce, grass-fed and free-range meats, and full-fat foods without the sugar added to reduce it.  

I decided to do a little poking around on the interwebs and found some cool stuff in these regards. 

For instance, Italy not only rejected the idea of GMOs when they first became popular in the US, they still stringently fight against them.  

As recently as 2015, the country opted to reject 8 strands of GMOs that the EU was promoting for its countries (1).  

In 1993, the year before the first GMOs hit grocery stores in the US (2), Italy was not super focused on organic farming, either.  

They were pretty exclusive to small northern markets near the farms that produced them.  

However, as the "organic" title began implying the meaning that a product was also "non-GMO," it seems that my chef was right about Italians' push back against GMOs.  

Production of organic produce increased 200% between 1997-1999, with production still increasing yearly, though not necessarily at that high a rate each year (3). 

But don't they love their sugar?

After hearing the chef & reading those things about Italy's unique perspective on food production, I was more confused about this place than ever.  

If you've ever been to Italy, you know they love their sugar.  

Gelato or a granite (basically a slush) for breakfast is the thing to do in Sicily, and up north it's not much better with sugared tarts or croissants paired with your sugared-down cappuccino first thing in the morning.  

Pizza or a bread-heavy sandwich for lunch.  

Gelato as a cool afternoon snack, followed by a 3-course dinner of pasta, meat & veggies, and dessert.  Oh, and always wine.  

The realization that the people are very concerned about food quality & sourcing here was interesting to me.  

I've crusaded against processed sugar for the past 2 years and haven't consumed any other than the tiny bit in dark chocolate back home.  

So the fact that the sugar capital of the world cares about quality means maybe our idea of "quality" is skewed.

I was even more interested to see if the fact that even though there is a lot of white cane sugar in Italian food, high fructose corn syrup is rarely used.  

In fact, the population in Italy consumes less than 1 pound of it per person per year (4).  Compare that to the 35 pounds per year the average American takes in (5)! 

Okay, enough of the research.  

What did my time here teach me?

Retrieved from Gelato Giuliana(7)

The first week, I was in full "vacation mode."  Eating out for almost every meal, gelato at least once a day, and skipping breakfast.  

I didn't work out because at that point I was allowing a week off since my training was vigorous for a solid 4 months leading up to coming here.  

Plus, I wasn't sure if I was going to join the local gym or not and wanted to check it out before "settling" for using the staircase in the hallway to our apartment.  It's 98 steps, by the way.

The second week, I could feel it.  

My normally-low-carb body was in full revolt with bloating and breakouts galore.  

The reintroduction of excessive white sugar was definitely the culprit, in my opinion.  

Because of these crappy feelings, I began inventing HIIT workouts on the stairs and turning it into my little gym.  

I went to the local market and got fresh, preservative-free cheeses & meats and lots of produce.  

Another great thing on the produce: Italians are snobs about eating in-season.  

So a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of peaches was €2 since they're a summer fruit, whereas apples were closer to €5 per kilogram.  

Still way cheaper than America for ANYTHING organic, in-season or not.  But it's cool to see that most farmers refuse to even sell things that aren't in-season.

Cooking the freshest in-season produce

Cooking for myself definitely helped.  

I made sure to remember probiotics and prebiotics daily, only discoverable here in the form of full-fat yogurt and the tub of Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides I brought along with me (thanks, Sarah!).  

I still ate out plenty of times, mind you.  

Lots of GF pizza.  And gelato was still a very regular occurrence. 

But here's the interesting part: those HIIT sessions invigorated me.  Walking everywhere rarely felt like a chore.  I began loving the constant movement.  

I ate until I was full, and then some.  

If I was exhausted from visiting 2 museums and rehearsing Shakespeare and writing too much all in one day, I let myself not worry about missing a workout.  

This resulted in the 3-5 times a week exercise schedule.  

Sure, I lost some muscle since I wasn't lifting weights like back home.  

But my core is much stronger now from the functional nature of the workouts I've been doing.  My acne went away and the bloating reduced.  

My clothes still fit, so I haven't gained that much weight, if any.  

I'm actually scared the number went down because of muscle loss... I was very hypertrophic from over-training when I got here.  

My abs are hiding a little more than my first week, but honestly not as much as I'd expected.  

And you know what?  

My mental state is better than ever.  

I love the routine I've got at home: I kick ass on a primal diet there.  But I needed this break more than I knew.  

Italy taught me how to enjoy dessert again without guilt.  

Final thoughts

But I strongly feel that the simplicity, care, and quality put into food production in this country made all the difference between how I do feel and how crappy I would be feeling if I ate like this regularly at home.  

I've eaten like this before in the States.  

It's called the no-diet plan.  

Or if you're on one, IIFYM.  

And I was always depleted, constantly had cravings, and got irritable very easily.  My brain got foggy.  

Maybe because I was eating pounds of HFCS without meaning to.  Maybe because I wasn't exercising for stimulation and health.  

But whatever it was, I've never felt this good on a lifestyle considered so "unhealthy" back home.  

Here, I've filled a journal and written more than 30 letters just on this trip.  

Again, I credit the food quality and lack of hormones, GMOs, and preservatives.  

I'm luckily very in tune with my body and am a hippie snob with chemicals as a result.  

But you can take from my n=1 experience what you will. :)

Sources

(1) Tropia, C.  (September 28, 2015).  "No a 8 produtti ogm, l'Italia contro l'Ue."  il Salvagente Test.  Retrieved from https://www.testmagazine.it/2015/09/18/no-a-8-prodotti-ogm-litalia-contro-lue/2714/?v=cd32106bcb6d

(2) Shireen.  (March 10, 2013).  "GMO timeline: a history of genetically-modified foods." GMO Inside Blog.  Retrieved from http://gmoinside.org/gmo-timeline-a-history-genetically-modified-foods/

(3) n.a. n.d. "Italy."  FAO Corporate Document Repository.  Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/004/y1669e/y1669e0a.htm

(4) n.a. (December 4, 2012).  "Countries with the greatest use of high-fructose corn syrup also have more diabetes."  Yahoo! News.  Retrieved from https://www.yahoo.com/news/countries-greatest-high-fructose-corn-syrup-more-diabetes-182823674.html?ref=gs

(5) Gucciardi, A.  (June 2, 2012).  "Americans eat 35 lbs of 'stupidity' linked high fructose corn syrup on average."  Natural Society.  Retrieved from http://naturalsociety.com/americans-eat-35-lbs-high-fructose-corn-syrup-average/

(6) n.a. n.d. "home."  Pranzo Fresh Italian Food to go.  Retrieved from http://www.pranzo.uk

(7) n.a. (2016).  "Our passion."  Gelato Giuliana.  Retrieved from http://www.gelatogiuliana.com