Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Miraculous Human Body

I was recently reading with my younger kids from their health book about some of the different body systems. It highlighted the respiratory, skeletal, digestive, muscular, circulatory, and nervous systems and then explained what each one does. I am always in awe of how the different systems function and work together so well. I told them there are even more systems which include the endocrine, lymphatic, reproductive, integumentary, excretory, and immune systems.

An impressive thing about these various systems is how they carry out their specific functions yet are all inter-related and work together for our health. We recently had another baby and it has been amazing to watch her little body grow and develop each day. There are so many things that could go wrong with the various body systems, so I consider it a miracle that there are not more children with serious birth defects and diseases.

Our bodies have trillions of cells, 640 muscles, 206 bones, and various organs all neatly packed in our bodies. There are some amazing creations in this world, but non can rival the human body. The scientific and medical communities may be able to create things like dialysis machines, respirators, artificial hearts, and prosthetic limbs, but they can't manufacture anything as complex as the human body.

I think the human body is one of the most amazing and beautiful creations, and I'm not just talking about beautiful models or amazing athletes. Even the most out of shape couch potato or person who is afflicted with disease still has an amazing body that does so many impressive things.

Your body is far more valuable and amazing than the most expensive sports cars.
Obviously, the better care we take of our bodies, the better we can expect them to perform. We bring many of the infirmities we experience on ourselves due to poor lifestyle choices. Many of the diseases the population deals with could be avoided by better nutrition, exercise, stress control, and prevention. If you are not happy with your body, then you probably don't realize all of the amazing things it does. Your body is a miraculous creation so you should start treating it that way.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Vegan Bodybuilders

The other day I decided to research the topic of vegan bodybuilders. I know the phrase "vegan bodybuilder" may sound like an oxymoron to some people since vegans are frequently stereotyped as being skinny and weak. I came across this photo of Avi Lehayani who is a vegan from Israel and it really caught my attention.

I also found a website called vegan bodybuilding which I thought was interesting. It features profiles for bodybuilders, athletes, and strength and fitness competitors who have decided to completely avoid all animal products in their diet.

Most of the people profiled on the site had impressive physiques, but I didn't see any of the really freaky stuff like you see with the Mr. Olympia competitors. I assume that is because people who avoid animal products due to health concerns are also more likely to avoid steroids and drugs than some of your hard core body builders who are willing to do anything to get big.

I personally think most Americans eat too many animal products, but I am not a vegan and don't necessary agree with their eating philosophy. They do, however, have my respect. In a world of gluttony and overeating where most people consume high calorie and overly processed foods, it is always encouraging to see people who practice self control and are disciplined when it comes one's diet.

It is nice to know that those who choose to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet are not doomed to have a skinny and malnourished body. They may need to plan what they eat more carefully and supplement their diet with certain foods, but building muscle is still possible without having to drink raw eggs like Rocky and eat steak for dinner every night.

PS-I got a kick out of the comments some people made about how elephants, gorillas, and bulls are the strongest and most muscular animals on the planet, yet they only eat plants. I appreciate that fact, and understand the point they were trying to make, but that's kind of like saying giraffes are so tall because they eat a herbivore diet. You have to take genetics into account when you make statements like that.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Essential Oils

I used to turn my nose up at any sort of alternative medicine or therapy, but I have become much more open minded over the years. Several years ago my wife started using essential oils. I was skeptical at first, but I have to admit I have really warmed up to them and actually been quite impressed in some cases.

It is important to understand that essential oils are not a magical potion or secret elixir. They are oils which have been extracted from plants, leafs, or roots. They are then concentrated so the beneficial properties of those substances can be used for human benefit.

Essentials oils can be taken internally by putting a few drops in a capsule, applied topically to the skin, or diffused into the air and inhaled.

Some of my favorite oils are:

Geranium- stops bleeding and bruising.
Peppermint- reduces fever, nausea, and treats headaches.
Lavender- used for burns, cuts, as an antihistamine, and as a stress reducer.
Melaleuca- Ear aches, skin and scalp health, and cold sores
Frankincense- Anti-inflammatory and skin health
Ginger- Indigestion and nausea control.

There are also different combination or blends of oils that are used for joint and muscle pain, to fight infections and airborne pathogens, mood enhancement and aromatherapy, etc. Different companies that manufacture these oils use different names for these blends.

With oils becoming more popular over the years, it is a wise idea to find a brand that is reputable and that produces a good quality product. If you are going to invest the money into using them, then I suggest find a reputable company that guarantees high quality products. I only use oils that are certified pure therapeutic grade quality.

As much as I like essential oils, I still don't consider them to be the "end all" product for health car like some enthusiasts may tout. I believe they can be part of a balanced approach to health which would also include exercise, good nutrition, getting proper rest, stress control, prevention, etc. However, I think they can be a natural, safe, and effective alternative for an over-medicated society.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


We live in a very competitive society. Some people are extremely competitive and everything is a contest for them. Even though some may take it to an extreme, I still think competition is a good thing. If it weren't for competition, we wouldn't have such impressive world records or other great accomplishments happening all around us.

The word "competition" can conjure up images of stress, opposition, and fear, but competing doesn't necessarily have to be against an intimidating opponent. I have found that competing against yourself is an effective way to progress when it comes to improving your fitness. You could try to run the 800 meters against Usain Bolt, but that would only make you feel like a slow failure. If however, you monitored and kept records of your personal best efforts, you can compete against yourself. This way you can feel like a champion whenever you make improvements.

Since I was a teenager, I have kept stats on my height, weight, measurements, how fast I can run, how many push ups I can do, etc. For years I watched my stats slowly decline as I aged. About 12 years ago, I got fed up with watching my conditioning slowly deteriorate so I pulled out my chart and went to work. I'm 43 now and within the last year I've set personal bests in nearly half of the 20 categories I have kept track of and even started dunking in basketball games again after not being able to do so for over 4 years.

If you don't know what your personal best time is for running a mile or a 5K, or how many push ups you can do, then I challenge you to get back in the game and see what you are capable of. Keep records of your personal bests if you don't already do so. You don't need to compete or feel intimidated by the people who run 5 minute miles at a race you may be running. Just compete against yourself instead and constantly strive for improvement.

I'm not saying you need to be super competitive and try to set a new personal record every time you exercise. There should still be times when you just go out for a run because you enjoy it or you do some other physical activity you love, but competing against yourself is a great way to keep you moving forward and keep you from getting discouraged in a very competitive world.