Health Blog

The Kikkan Effect

Alaska Premier Health

She is the founder of Fast and Female. A 5 time Olympian who has DOMINATED the field in womens’ cross country skiing. She is a mom, an Alaskan and by far and away one of the humblest, toughest, most genuine yet uniquely talented woman I have had the honor to meet. Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s get behind Kikkan Randall of Anchorage, Alaska and her possie of off-the-charts USA teammates as they lay it all on the line is Sochi South Korea in 28 short days!

You may not be a rabid fan of cross country skiing and that’s ok. But know this – cross country ski racing is exponentially harder than it looks, and requires herculean mental and physical fortitude. As a novice and former ok skier (I could get through a few loops without falling), I have nothing but huge respect for these athletes. They are so committed to their sport. They train year round. You see them on roller skis in the summer, biking, running and strength training. They never give up! Good days. Bad days. Great weather. Awful weather. For them, it’s a dream made real by hard work and checking off interim goals. Now, in 4 weeks, they will proudly represent the USA.

To have a group from Alaska, led by Kikkan who blazed the trail and leads the masses, our relatively small town has a lot to be proud of. This is the OLYMPICS folks!! It’s the big game. On the big stage. Don’t miss it! If you follow Alaska Premier Health on Facebook, you know that Kikkan has spread her message to all of us. Not just elite athletes. She wants everyone to be all they can be – your best, healthy, active self, so that you can get back to back great moments out of life. I know that in 28 days, when Kikkan lines up to race, I will be among the tens of thousands of Americans with chills running down my spine and adrenaline on overdrive, whooping it up and cheering for a Fast and Female athlete who is without match.

Alaska Premier Health Series Episode 20 Rachel

Alaska Premier Health

Rachel discusses hitting rock bottom and how she lost 80 pounds!

Embrace the New Super Hero!

Alaska Premier Health

As a little kid way back when, we let our imaginations run wild as we read those thin, ten cent comic books, filled with the adventures of Spiderman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and a bunch of other awesome and powerful Super Heroes. Our little kid brains had us pinning on towels and jumping off ledges, racing around in our copycat “save the world” fantasies. Fast forward to today and Super Heroes are more popular than ever. The common theme is good vs. evil. The Hero is up against formidable odds, fighting off all kinds of impossible threats by using his or her Super Powers. The world is saved because the Heroes know they have a special power and that they are in control of that power.

Back to reality yet thinking about those Super Heroes, we all have super powers of the mortal kind. I just don’t think most of us know that or use them. Ordinary humans have incredible capacity for creating, doing and achieving. Tapping into this power takes the belief that you have it and that You Can Do It. It comes down to a choice to believe it and pursue it with laser, Super Hero focus. To do that means you have to decide what it is you want to apply your powers to. Maybe it’s a physical improvement. Maybe it’s a social outreach. Maybe it’s mind and heart development. Whatever that goal is, you have the power to achieve it. It’s not going to happen by wishing. You must purposefully and consciously apply your power to that thing you want to do. And you have to continually recharge your source of power to keep the momentum going.

How do you begin to use your super powers? First and foremost is to do what the “real” Super Heroes do – they ignore distractions and filter input. For us mortals, that means making a huge effort to decrease the nonstop barrage of information piling into our brains via the internet, media, TV, phones etc. Just stop it! Cut it back. Unplug it. Ignore it. Give your brain a rest from the constant assault and you will find energy to work on your personal power goals. If you can, go cold turkey. That may be scary to even consider, but remember, you ARE a Super Hero already. You have The Power that no one else has. It may be a tiny ember right now, but with a little charge, you can unleash your power. The more fuel (time and attention) you give that ember, the faster it will grow into the unstoppable power that YOU control. Do this now and you will be a real Super Hero. Unleash your power and find the sky is NOT the limit!

The F Word

Alaska Premier Health

FIBER. It’s a good word! An important and vital part of your daily health and diet. It’s not just a word because if you look around, it’s a thing and it’s everywhere. Plants, trees, nuts and for sure, store bought supplements. I like to think of it as a net that captures and scoops up the food we eat, kind of a mini-digestive system that helps move the food in its various components through our bodies.

Why is it important? Well to highlight the top 5 benefits of Fiber:

  1. It promotes digestive health. You really don’t want the details but trust me, fiber is like Mr. Clean.
  2. It helps lower blood cholesterol which is bad, gooey stuff in your blood stream.
  3. It helps prevent heart disease. This is like having a clean running motor vs. a junked up motor.
  4. It helps control blood-sugar levels by delaying the absorption of sugar. This gives your body a fighting chance to stabilize insulin.
  5. It helps with WEIGHT LOSS by making you feel full for longer.

Getting enough fiber daily is easy if you go green (vegetables). Every meal, if half your meal is green you’ll be close to the recommended amount per day. That amount is 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women. These amounts actually decrease once you pass the age of 50. Why? Because you have to eat less because your metabolism is slower. Personally I don’t see having to eat less as a benefit of passing 50, but it’s the facts. Aging does not imply weight gain is ok.

If you are currently low on fiber, add it in daily, but slowly. Don’t go from zero to 25 or 38 in a day. This is one of those areas when slow and steady wins the day. Be the tortoise not the hare. A gradual increase is easy. If you cannot add fiber via food, then be sure to add it via over the counter supplements. They are inexpensive and usually tasteless while dissolving in your no sugar added drinks.

Fuel for Thought

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My car’s check engine light kept coming on and then turning off on its own. What the heck? Is my oil low? Is the engine going to seize and I break down on the highway? Are parts and pieces going to fail and I end up with a junker? Pretty much everything under the hood is a mystery to me and the check engine light, while yellow as in warning, freaks me out. Rather than experience a breakdown or some other major problem, my husband bought this nifty device you plug into your car in some obscure place under the dash or maybe the hood. It then gives you the code that is generating the check engine light. If you can’t find out what that code means by googling it, you can do what I did, and call a mechanic. Fortunately, the code my husband found is not of the urgent variety. Basically my car’s engine was not running at its optimal power output and likely due to poor gas. I am now filling the tank with premium fuel only. Light off. Problem solved.

Our bodies are kind of like our vehicles. A big mystery under the hood and prone to poor performance if fueled improperly. Lack of routine maintenance and attention to various systems leads to problems. Most of us know the basics of vehicle care…check the oil and fluid levels; keep tires at proper inflation; watch for signs of trouble and address it early. Our bodies, which are much more intricately built and incredibly more adaptable require routine care and maintenance too. If you keep the systems in balance and an eye on possible problems, taking corrective measures before the problem is real, you will get optimal performance from your body. Optimal performance leads to a great quality of life!

Probably the most important care you can give your body revolves around what you put in it – what goes in the fuel tank. Premium fuel is like this: complex carbs, low fat proteins, healthy fats and water. That’s it. Junk fuel is eating mostly simple carbs, high fat proteins, bad fats and living on sugary drinks. Fuel with junk and you will in fact feel terrible and your engine will be sluggish. Your body’s warning light will be glaring red and you will get sick. It doesn’t take any nifty device to tell you this. Bad fuel is bad fuel. No two ways about it.

So take care of your vehicle like you already do. Keep it running smooth and safe. Way more importantly, take care of your body. The best way to do that is to fuel it well. You can always replace your vehicle – plenty of options and new models to choose from. But that body of yours? It’s all you’ve got! Love it, be kind to it and feed it well and it will take you more miles than any vehicle ever could.

Water – The Fountain of Youth?

Alaska Premier Health

Take a guess. What percent of your body is water? Less than 50%? Less than 60%? Maybe 70%? The answer is your body is 65-70% water, but less so if you have more body fat. Water is therefore quite obviously SUPER IMPORTANT. The average adult eliminates about 2.5 liters of water per day. You will get some water replacement from your food intake but the rest needs to come from water. H20. Pure and simple and FREE. Not soda. Please, never drink sugar soda. Ever! Not even diet soda. Not coffee. Especially not sugar and fat loaded coffee. Water – that clear, earth given refreshment.

The majority of water is stored around our cells and in the bloodstream. Our bodies are hard at work 24 hours a day trying to keep a fluid balance. This balance is critical to the proper function of everything – keeping you warm, keeping you cool, keeping you awake, helping you sleep, keeping the silent biological processes working smoothly all day long – from thinking about what to eat, eating it, digesting it and eliminating waste. Think of your plants when you forget to water them. They wilt. Fast. Water has to be a top of the list priority for you every day. The old standby rule of 64 ounces per day will not do you wrong. Give or take a few ounces and you will be fine.

Keep in mind, physical activity will use more water – yeah! Drink more! More flushing of the system so to speak. If you lose more than 1-2% of your body weight during physical activity you can end up decreasing your performance by 15-20%. So in other words, that water is calorie free, but it is nutritionally vital to optimal performance so replenish and replace. And one last thing. You will save a TON of money by drinking your tap water. Fill your water bottle(s) and keep them handy. You save money. You save mother earth from gazillions of plastic bottles. And I don’t know if it’s true or not but I’ve been told that the makers of Evian water named it as such because look what Evian is spelled backwards: Naïve. And they are laughing all the way to the bank.

Be Like Peter Rabbit

Alaska Premier Health

There is a bumper crop of wild rabbits in Anchorage this summer. Not a day goes by where I don’t see at least half a dozen scampering about, chowing down on all the weeds and wild flowers, pulling a frozen position in the middle of the road so as not to be seen. Yeah – I get where the phrase “dumb bunny” came from. Little hopping geniuses these critters. Yet I have to say they aren’t so dumb as to not know how to survive in the wild. Sure, it’s mostly instinct and adaptation, yet I can’t help but wonder if the rabbit diet of lots of greens – dandy lions in particular, is not a fantastic secret that keeps them so healthy and active. And satisfied.

An eye to the wild kingdom that survives and thrives might give us, the superior human population, some pointers to being healthy and active. I know you can eat dandy lion leaves and they are reportedly loaded with amazing green stuff that beats spinach, kale and the like. Whole Foods sells them in the produce department. I have yet to try them even though my yard is covered in them. Maybe one day. More interesting to me is how these rabbits eat just enough. Only what they need. I mean seriously, these furry hoppers have a non-ending smorgasbord of green meals growing all over the place, yet I have never seen an overweight rabbit. It’s like they have a meal, then hop to the next feeding place (hopping burns a lot of calories – try jump rope), and commence to the next meal. Or maybe a nap. Or maybe well planned raid on someone’s garden. I admit I have not seen all this happen in a sequence but I feel pretty sure that this is how they roll (hop).

What if we only ate what we needed? How would we look and feel if we had to walk, run, hop, skip to every meal? If we ate only good, nutritional food, what would our health status be? Would we ever even need to go to the doctor? I would say rarely. Would we be super healthy people who rarely get sick compared to our junk food, non-active friends? I would say yes. Seems so simple. The cure for chronic disease and a boatload of other ailments is right at our fingertips. Yours and mine. It’s all in what we choose. Because indeed and in fact and in every way, we ARE what we eat. I’ll take being a dandy lion any day over a supersized side of fries.

Fathers’ Day – Gratitude for a Job Well Done

Alaska Premier Health

In 1948, blinded by young love and oblivious to the terror they would cause their parents, two young people, he, a young US Army lieutenant back from the war in Korea, and she, his beautiful college graduate, hometown sweetheart slipped off into the night on a bus headed from Boston to Seattle. Her parents didn’t like him, and his parents didn’t like her parents. Fuel for the fire for two besotted, determined twenty-somethings. Half way to Seattle they each called their respective parents. There was no turning back and the banishment was in force.

Upon arrival in Seattle, they bought a tiny house using the GI bill, in an area of Seattle that was affordable but what most would consider on the “south side of the tracks” – a part of town known locally as Rat City. But that didn’t matter. They were devout, determined and resourceful. They were fearless of what each tomorrow would bring, but that never stopped them from embracing the present and dreaming of the future.

Over the course of the next 24 years, they raised 12 children in that same tiny house. Duty, honor, country. Those were the marching orders he delivered and demanded. Love, God, gentle kindness. That was her aura and hope for her 12 little bandits.

He could never have known he would take his last breath at age 59. He never knew he wouldn’t meet most of his grandchildren, nor see the wild and fantastic achievements of his twelve children. Every family has their story – everyone has a Father. This weekend we remember our Fathers, whether living or passed on. My memories have evolved from rebellion to deep gratitude for the dreams, sacrifices and solid support my Father gave all 12 of us. My hope is that all Fathers know they are vital, that they inspire and pave the way for the future. That their dreams lead to the life their children lead – and as the 8th child of that batch of 12, I say “Thank you Dad. The dream is alive.”

Dog Tired

Alaska Premier Health

For so many years I believed I could survive on very few hours of sleep. Needing sleep was a weakness, and fatigue and tiredness were states of mind. It was like a competition, silent or otherwise, to see how much I could get done on the least amount of sleep possible. Well now I am much older and wiser and let me tell you, sleep is NOT over-rated, and in fact it is critical to well-being. If you don’t get enough sleep, and enough is 7 solid hours of deep sleep each night, you can rapidly become a mess. Making mistakes, making poor decisions, forgetful, stressed out, overweight, edgy, hyper sensitive, and the list goes on, all the way to some serious bad stuff like heart attacks and diabetes. All because you didn’t get enough sleep.

Here in Alaska, we are blessed with wild amounts of extra daylight starting several weeks ago. I don’t know about you but that extra light makes me think: projects! outdoors! long lists of to-dos! parties! camping! food and activity filled events! and this list goes on as well. Top that off with sunlight blaring in the house till almost the wee hours of the morning, how can anyone get any sleep let alone 7 hours of deep sleep?

I can’t tell you how to get enough sleep. I have yet to figure that out (don’t get a puppy though – wait! I can’t believe I said don’t get a puppy but if you do you will know why I said that.) What I can tell you is that your brain needs to be washed. Nightly. We aren’t talking a good scalp scrub either. Every night, when you are fast asleep (getting that required 7 hours) your brain releases chemicals that flush toxins that have built up during your waking hours. This brain washing (flushing) is critical to your ability to function well when awake. When you function well, you perform better, make better decisions and in fact will not be driven to overeating or lousy food choices.

The experts say that eating healthy, being active, limiting caffeine, and keeping your room cool with help you sleep. They also say you need to keep your room dark. Yeah – that’s a tough one here in Alaska. Blackout blinds can help. Eye masks work if you can keep them on without them being annoying. I’ve even seen people foil cover their windows to block the light. Maybe melatonin will help. And when all else fails, cuddle up with that puppy that you just had to get and chances are exhaustion will overtake all the stuff that keeps your brain awake – until about 2 a.m. and then again 4 a.m. Then take heart, because even dogs need their brains washed.

Just do it

Alaska Premier Health

The phrase is so simple. So easy to remember. A tag line that flattens excuses. It just so happens there is a story behind it. A rather creepy story. I was less than pleasantly surprised because I love this slogan. So I started to tell you what the story was, but then decided if you really want to know you can google it. At this point I think you shouldn’t! Why let the inspiration for a great tagline wreck a perfectly good, super powerful message?

“Just Do It” is for all of us – for anyone who is at the very beginning of anything, be it exercise, weight loss, a new career, house or yard work….anything! The phrase embodies the motion of doing without thinking. Or overthinking. Or rationalizing. Or being immobile. The minute the brain engages and says non useful things like, “I’m too tired” or “I can’t do that” or “I’ll start tomorrow”, that testy old behavior of procrastination wins. By blanking the mind and Just Doing It, you are filling your Just Do It bank with priceless progress and feedback. Every Just Do It done counts!

Today, after saying for weeks I need to get my living room carpet cleaned (thank you break up and thank you pups), I didn’t even think about the project. Not for a second. I just grabbed the old Bissell, fired it up and got the job done. I would have been done in half the time had I remembered how to work the darned thing. But done is done and it’s in the bank. And the carpet is clean and that makes me happy.

So Just Do It! And please, tell me what YOU did. I really want to know if you blanked your mind and got something done – any little thing that says, Yeah – I DID IT!