Friday, September 21, 2012

Fitness Friday: Exercise - It's Not Just About Lookin' Good

It's really about overall wellness and health.

There has been a lot of talk lately about what America's obesity scale looks like now and what it will look like in a few years. These figures are scary for a number of reasons, but maybe our biggest concern should be for overall health dollars spent on what are entirely preventable diseases.

Let's not fool ourselves, this has become an important national issue with repercussions we have yet to reap. What happens when these overweight/obese children come of age and have chronic health problems to deal with? How are they going to get insurance? What happens when they can't? It's extremely unfortunate that these aren't rhetorical questions. And as much as I focus on the US, we're not the only country that should be worried. Where are you on the global fat scale?*

My numbers? Turns out I have a BMI 65% below the global average and 90%(!!) below the national average.

What. The. Eff.

That is just crazy. 30 years ago my weight would have been average. How have we become this fat in such a short period of time?

That's why it is so important to get your family started on a healthy lifestyle early. Exercise helps combat obesity in a variety of weighs (ha ha). Being "skinny" is the least of our worries.

*Yeah, I know, but I didn't name the damn thing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Wait, I Thought I Was Signing Up for a Vacation

So I don't usually post awhole lot about my work, but I had a conversation today with some colleagues that made me feel like I should put into words some of my thoughts on recent events in the diplomatic world. There's been a lot of positive commentary recently on the difficult job of foreign service officers. I guess all it takes is the senseless murder of a few of us for the world to notice that we're not just a bunch of faceless bureaucrats traveling the world on the taxpayer dime! As someone who made the transition to State from the Department of Defense, I feel quite secure saying I felt far safer serving overseas in the military than I do in the Foreign Service. We go into some of the most volatile places in the world at the behest of the American people to represent our country's interests abroad. We work to protect Americans abroad and to promote American interests in the countries we are posted to without the benefit of secure bases or large contingents of armed personnel to protect us. FSOs get deployed to active combat zones just like military personnel with one very big difference - we can't carry guns.

So how do we keep our Foreign Service personnel secure? To be honest, we have to rely on our host countries for most of our protection. There just aren't enough Marines to go around. I can't comment about posts I haven't been to, but I can tell you that hearing things about local protection fleeing their posts and countries that refuse to allow the U.S. to send more Marines in to help protect our people* doesn't exactly give me a warm fuzzy about the situation.

To make matters even worse, there seems to be an awful lot of just flat out acceptance of the situation. I get that there are reasons for people to react in a given way to certain situations, hell you can rationalize away just about anything, but the idea that the reasons proffered somehow excuse the use of violence against innocent people is acceptable is just completely unfathomable to me. I cannot comprehend how anyone could ever accept this kind of behavior.

I won't go into specifics about how I feel about our government's response to the events occurring around the world, but I can at least say that I think we've not done nearly enough to express our outrage and work towards protecting our people abroad. I hope these events at least spark a larger conversation about the contributions of our brave men and women out of uniform, and that the tragic loss of our colleagues in Benghazi means a greater recognition of the amazing work done every day by the incredibly dedicated people of the State Dept.

My heart breaks for the families of Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods. They gave their lives in service of our great country, and their sacrifice is not forgotten.

*cough, cough* Sudan *cough*

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fitness Friday: Strong is the New Skinny

So I think everyone knows what a huge fan I am of girls like Jennifer Nicole Lee and Jaime Eason. They have those amazing, sculpted bodies that I aspire to imitate. These gals are figure models, and their training regimes tend to be pretty intense and specific to achieve that kind of look. I do like lifting heavy, but I find that if I can't keep my diet under very strict control, that heavy lifting does not do much in terms of weight loss for me. A lot of women I talk to claim that heavy lifting made them "bigger" and therefor they blow it off as a key to weight loss. So why do so many fitness professionals claim heavy lifting is the key to weight loss? Well, it turns out that they're not entirely wrong. Many female fitness professionals state that heavy lifting is not only desirable but necessary to achieve a great physique. This article by by the founder of Girls Gone Strong really clears up that concept.

Another great resource for understanding this phenomenon is Jaime Eason, who has a great program called Live Fit, which holds some explanation for us in its design. As Jaime explains, it's really important to have that lean muscle on your body to burn more fat and add those lines we're looking for. But, in order to have that muscle show through, you have to combine it with enough cardio and the right eating regimen to keep that extra layer of fat off. Therein lies the problem for many of us (me included!). I'm not a very big girl. Just barely clearing 5'1" means I don't have a huge calorie allowance to play with. In order to keep that "extra fat" layer off, I've got to keep my daily caloric intake around 1200 calories...I think anyone who's ever watched me eat can attest to the fact that I eat about 1200 calories before lunchtime :)

I also really enjoy cardio. I like the endorphin rush I get, and I like the feeling that I can jump higher, further, and complete more reps than anyone else in the room. So tend to end up doing either cardio-based programs or interval training where the weights are lighter in nature than a true weightlifting plan. This is exactly what JNL's Fusion program is all about. I actually ended up doing my JNL Fusion rotation for a couple of extra weeks, I was enjoying it so much. And, while I am still loving the set, I am definitely getting to the point of workout fatigue.*

There's just a couple more months until marathon time, so I'm not going to tweak my routine too much at this point. For the time being the cardio component will have to stay strong, and, in fact, I'm starting to add in speed work and an additional day of HIIT training to increase my cardio capacity. Once the marathon is over, I'd like to give Jaime's program a try again and see if I can't get the eating portion under control enough to see the results I'm looking for.

*Meaning that I'm tired of doing the same workouts not that the workouts make me tired, lol!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Tragic Day

It's been a very sad day for the Department. My thoughts and prayers are with my colleagues in Benghazi and also with those in Cairo. It's hard to remember sometimes that even though we aren't being shot at on a daily basis, we do have dangerous jobs. I am filled with sadness for those brave men and women and their families.

Monday, September 10, 2012

I H8 the Foosball

Pick 6, kickoff return, running touchdowns, passing touchdowns, 27-7 at half-time, the Bills were lookin' ... oh wait, that was the Jets...against the Bills. Fuck you, football...fuck. you. *

*I'm just kidding. I still love you, football. Don't ever leave me again. RGIII!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, September 07, 2012

It's My Bag, Baby, Yeah!

Baguio, that is. And it is totally my bag. I freaking loved it there. It was by far the most awesome place I have been to in the Philippines. Known as the City of Pines, Baguio is a stunning city in the mountains about 5-6 hours drive from Manila. I was up there for work, but the ambiance made it feel like a vacation. I was lucky enough to stay at the Ambassador's Residence there:

My stay was made all the more significant considering part of the reason for the trip was to commemorate the anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific. How incredible to stand in the very room where Gen Yamashito signed the Japanese surrender. And the views, I could not get over how gorgeous the city views were.

My photos are a bit crappy since I am the world's worst photographer, so google some better pics to do the place justice.

The staff at the Residence are amazing, and although it is not an easy place to get to, I can't wait to go back again and take the family.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Manila Shopping: Legazpi Market

There are lots of open air market options in Manila. We live in Makati, and, thanks to copious traffic, we tend to stick to markets that are in our neighborhood. There are two main markets here: the Saturday Salcedo Market and the Legazpi Market, which happens on Sunday. The Salcedo Market is mainly food oriented but also has things like fresh flowers and some local non-edible goods. For today's post, we'll concentrate on the Legazpi Market mainly since I forgot my camera the last time we went to Salcedo.

The Legazpi Market has a wide variety of different items for sale, including all sorts of local-made goods like the cool salad bowl my husband got me for my recent b-day. There's also a variety of vendors with everything from toys and candy to jewelry to hand-crafted furniture. There are still a few fruit and vegetable stands, though not nearly as many as in Salcedo, and my favorite poultry people are there selling free-range chicken products (although you've got to get there on the early side if you want boneless, skinless breasts). I also like the honey people who sell three different varieties of locally produced honey based on the types of flowers the bees get their nectar from. I tend to get my eggs at Legazpi, too. There is a vendor there that sells free-range eggs in reusable crates, and if you bring your crates back they will take P15 off the price of another dozen. There's a lot of plant vendors, too, which Husband likes. Husband has bought a few small plants, and we've acquired two small fish* and two small turtles along the way.

Legazpi also offers a bit of pre-made food vendors, and we almost always buy some lunch on our way out. My favorite food vendor is the Indian lady who sells pre-made fresh or frozen samosas along with cumin scented veggies. Husband's favorite is the green smoothie place which sells smoothies to go in old water bottles for us to take home for the week.

Although Salcedo has the wider variety of food products, I tend to prefer Legazpi because there are less people. I can still get most of the produce I want and there's less hassle, which is a welcome change from daily elbow-to-elbow Manila life.

*and these fish are har-dee. These be Manila Bay fish!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Fitness Friday: Let's Hear it for the Buns

Whether you love your butt, hate it, or just like to sing about it

there's no denying that a nice round butt is either something you're born with, or something you have to work really, really hard at.* Besides the aesthetic benefits, a well-rounded butt** helps with all kids of other athletic endeavors. For example, as I continue to work through my ITB issues on our way to el marathon de Bangkok-o, I am finding that my pain likely stems from a variety of form issues which have resulted in weak and relatively inflexible hip flexors and glute muscles. How crazy is that? I've spent so much time trying to figure out how to fix my knees that it never occurred to me that the knee pain could be a result of under-training other, linked areas. T-Nation has a great article***on the basics of why glute training is so important, and I've decided to devote at least 2 days per week to additional glute training based on this Bret Contreras article because, well, it's been at least two weeks since I fucked with my routine and that's reason enough!

*sadly despite my prodigious butt mass, it mostly hangs flat :( 
**pun intended
***FYI - moderately NSF thanks to some creative pictures!