A look at life at the intersections of wellness, culture, and current events

Author: Markita Lewis

Exploring Intuitive Eating

Exploring Intuitive Eating

It’s hard to believe that it’s already February 2018! The last few months have gone by quickly, with some dramatic twists and turns along the way. Now that things have settle down a bit, I want to focus on both personal and professional development. To […]

Thankfulness on an Anniversary

Thankfulness on an Anniversary

A year ago I made one of the most dramatic decisions in my life. I packed up all of my things, said goodbye to my friends and family, and moved to Los Angeles with only a vague idea of what life could be. Shortly after […]

My Personal Nosedive

My Personal Nosedive

Warning: Mild spoilers for S3Ep1 of Black Mirror titled “Nosedive.”

I watched my first episode of Black Mirror by accident. The show has been on my “To Watch” list for several months, especially following the buzz for the “San Junipero” episode. I heard that Black Mirror was a thought provoking, somewhat freaky sci fi show that I would enjoy. It stayed unwatched on my list for several months longer.

In comes Nosedive, the story about a woman who lives in a world where social rankings exist not only for narcissistic purposes, but to determine the quality of life one can live. This rising socialite tries so hard to reach the highest rankings she can to live in her dream place (with her dream boyfriend, dream social life, dream job), and ultimately causes her own crash into infamy along the way. She tried to play the numbers game and she got played. Fortunately, the ending hints at a different life, possibly filled with happiness of an odd sort.

Writing this blog and thinking about the path of my own career, I could see a lot of the world that we live in through this episode. The world that I can choose to struggle in, if I wanted to. I can pay Facebook $3 to boost my post to 700 more people. I can alter my SEO to obtain a higher ranking in Google searches and obtain more organic clicks to my website. It’s a numbers game, and numbers can feel pretty satisfying when they mean they boost your social ranking to some degree. Especially when that boosted social ranking can improve your quality of life by access to different people, opportunities, and the likes. The irony of me posting about this is not lost in the slightest.

Thinking about this numbers game has been a struggle for me. I would much rather think about what I want to write, and share with the world things that I find interesting or would be helpful to others. I want to be authentic, figure out the essence of myself and how to splash that across your screen. If given the choice, I’d rather nosedive (in popularity) than create an atmosphere of artificiality in order to boost my personal rankings among whoever’s out there. To be honest, I’ve never been that good at intentionally gaining favor from others anyway.

To some degree it makes me feel mad that these systems exist in the first place and we feel that we have to do these things in order to get to where we think we want to be. It makes me feel frustrated that I feel a personal pressure to join the struggle to become some beaming voice somewhere in the void (the internet is the void. the world is the void). And it upsets me that these systems can cause more anxiety and depression from this constant comparison and social curating that we do.

I want to dive, dive, dive.

I want to connect with people, not just think of them as numbers.

I want the things that I produce and interact with to be authentic.

It may be a tall order, but I can hope.

 

Synaesthesia: What is the taste of the color blue?

Synaesthesia: What is the taste of the color blue?

This fall, the International Association of Synaesthetes, Artists, and Scientists (IASAS) is collaborating with the Art|Sci Center of UCLA to bring a series of events to Los Angeles to teach the general public about synaesthesia and bring together the international community of synesthetes. Through art exhibitions, […]

#MeToo: Sexism and Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry

#MeToo: Sexism and Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry

If you’re one of my readers from Louisiana, you may already be aware of the John Besh scandal that came to light this past week. NOLA.com, the online version of The Times-Picayune, released details of an 8-month investigation on the disgusting sexism and sexual harassment […]

Nutrition Basics for Beginning Roller Derby Players

Nutrition Basics for Beginning Roller Derby Players

Hello everyone, I am Octavia Hustler, skater for Angel City Derby! When I’m not on skates, I work as a registered dietitian in Los Angeles. So why am I writing about this? Batty Davis from ACD reached out to me a few weeks ago to make a post about nutrition for all of you who have made it past the recruitment stage and are now starting your serious derby journey!

If you haven’t thought about it before, think of yourself as officially being an athlete. You’re doing combinations of off-skate workouts (aerobic and strength building) as well as skating for up to 8hrs a week! In addition to that, depending on your size and how much you do during practice, you can burn somewhere between 350 to 700 calories per hour doing derby! That’s a lot of exercise. For comparison, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans by the Department of Health and Human Services recommend either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week.

Nutrition is a very important component of building and optimizing your athletic performance, so I have written up a few basics on eating as an athlete. As a side note, I am not going to go into specialized diets and athletic performance (that is beyond the scope of this post). Of course, as you become more involved and increase your level of participation, your habits surrounding food may change and you’ll find out what works best for you. You may want to also consult a professional like a registered dietitian to help you with your nutrition and fitness goals.

Without further ado, here are the basics.

The Basics

Photo by StockSnap

If you would like to read more details about these basic nutrition notes as it relates to athletic performance, I highly recommend reading the joint position paper between the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine on Nutrition and Athletic Performance (and it’s open access!).

General Eating

You may think that because you’re doing so much exercise, you can eat whatever you want because you will “burn it all off anyway.” This is not true! The body is very complex, and getting what your body needs from a variety of foods is important. Even if you take a multivitamin, there are certain interactions within foods that can make vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and macronutrients affect your body in synergistic ways that an isolated nutrient cannot. If you need a refresher on the food groups, check out MyPlate (which replaced the Food Pyramid).

You will likely need to eat more than you do right now. Everyone’s nutrition needs are different, so there isn’t one set calorie intake or frequency of eating that you need to follow. There are several formulas out there that can calculate how many calories you should have per day, and some apps include calorie calculators.

For some of you, eating around roller derby is going to be a major life change. What will make all of this easier is adapting to your eating as a lifestyle and not something you must suffer through to achieve what you want.

Carbohydrates

Let’s all take a deep breath together and say “Carbs are not bad.” Carbohydrates are found in beans, fruit, vegetables, dairy products, and whole grains. Yes, they are also found in other foods that are not considered healthy (sweets, junk food, etc) but carbohydrates cannot be demonized without any nuance of understanding. Carbohydrates are the primary energy source of your body, and what your body is going to rely on to get you through a workout. Typically between 45 to 65% of your energy intake should come from carbohydrate sources according to the Institute of Medicine. If you want specifics on how many grams of carbohydrates are recommended for certain activities, I recommend checking out that position paper. Further details about carb intake prior to/after workouts are noted below.

Protein

Current research recommends that athletes get between 1.2 to 2g of protein per kg of body weight (quick math: 1kg= 2.2lbs). This is enough protein to account for muscle maintenance, growth, and inflammation from intense exercise. MyPlate gives a list of protein foods and their one ounce equivalent (1oz of a protein typically gives 7g protein, though individual foods vary). It is entirely possible to obtain all of the protein you need in your diet without using protein powders, or without eating meat (if you are vegetarian or vegan). Check out this post by the Rebel Dietitian for a bunch of charts detailing the protein content of vegetarian protein sources.

Fat

Fat is one of the important macronutrients that your body needs to function well. Fats are needed in every cell in your body and they serve several functions. Fat cushions your organs, it’s used as a secondary energy source, fats are required to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), and it does a lot more! Yes, we should be limiting trans fats and saturated fats (and watching our intake of the foods that contain them). We should also be getting enough mono- and polyunsaturated fats (found in nuts, seeds, fish, aquatic plant life) to help our normal functioning and mediate our inflammation response. Current guidelines say between 20-35% of your caloric intake should be from fats, with<10% calories from saturated fat.

Dietary Supplements

Dietary supplements are always a tricky subject to talk about. Theoretically, if you are eating a diet that contains enough fruits, vegetables, protein sources, grains, etc. then it shouldn’t be necessary to take any supplements (with the exception of some chronic conditions). The existing research is also mixed on whether certain supplements enhance performance or not.  Also note that some supplements can affect certain health conditions or have food-drug interactions.

On a food safety side, I do have other concerns about dietary suppplements. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, otherwise known as DSHEA, significantly impacted the FDA’s ability to regulate dietary supplements and ensure that they meet certain standards. As a result, some dietary supplements don’t contain the things they say they do. Some overstate the effect of certain components (without the same regulation as health claims from food). There can even be supplements on the market that can cause adverse health effects.

This is not to scare you away from using supplements entirely. Some companies do extensive lab testing and get their products certified by independent entities that may have very high standards to bring safe products to their consumers. It really is up to you if you would like to try different supplements and see how they affect you. If you do want to try supplements, you should do research on them (or ask a health professional) before you spend a bunch of money.

Eating Around a Workout

Photo from Angel City Derby

Now that you know some of the basics, let’s talk about how to put some of this into practice.

Before the Workout

Your day of fitness starts off well before you make it to the gym, warehouse space, or wherever you may be working out. Eating enough before a workout helps prevent fatigue and makes sure your body is using the correct energy sources while you work out. Optimally, you want to eat somewhere between 1 to 2 hours before you exercise. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting cramps or feeling sick because your body is attempting to focus on two different bodily systems at the same time.

If you’re eating close to the two hour mark, a balanced meal containing some protein, carbohydrates and fats is good to have. Protein and fats help slow the digestion of carbohydrates, so you may not get hungry during the middle of practice. If you’re eating at this time, it should be okay to have more whole grains and complex carbohydrates. You have a longer period of time for your body to digest them and make the energy available during workouts. If you’re at the one hour (or less!) period, going for simpler carbohydrates is going to be best for quick digestion before your activity. If you want to look up food and their glycemic index/load (which is a measure of how quickly the carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed), look at the GI Database from the University of Sydney.

During the Workout

During a practice, it is very important to maintain your hydration. Always have your water bottle with you, and always refill it when you need to. Don’t be afraid to tell your trainers when you need a drink of water (sometimes they forget you need breaks). Whenever you have breaks in-between exercises or practicing a technique, take a few sips of water. If you chug a lot of water at one time, you may feel it sloshing around your stomach and feel nauseous when you return to skating.

I do like using some sport drink mix in my water to give me some continued energy and replenish my electrolytes during practice. Plain water or coconut water (which contains electrolytes) are also excellent. Typically, I’ll end up refilling my water bottle so that I end up with a diluted sports drink anyway.

It is recommended that if you’re doing exercise for longer than an hour, a small carbohydrate snack is helpful in helping you maintain your energy. We often don’t get the chance to stop for a snack during practice, but if you start feeling weak or dizzy while exercising, I recommend taking a break and eating something. I like to carry raisins or other dried fruit with me for this reason, but a quick granola bar or other snack can work as well.

After the Workout

You should eat after practice. Think about it – you just spent hours skating, pushing, falling, etc. and your body has used up all of the energy it stored to power you through a lot of activity. To help your body’s energy restoration, look for carbohydrate sources that are easily digestible (low fiber, high glycemic index). If you’re looking to build muscle, eating somewhere between 20-40 grams of protein within the first two hours after a workout is recommended. And of course, continue to hydrate after you’ve finished practice. Some things that I eat after a workout include grits and eggs, peanut butter and apples, or a high-protein yogurt with granola.

Photo by Vincent Mota

BONUS! Daily Tips and Other Advice

  • Stay hydrated all of the time. Try carrying a water bottle with you or some other reminder that you should drink water, tea, or another hydrating beverage
  • Eat snacks throughout the day! I think this is especially important if you don’t eat breakfast in the morning. Snacks can help you meet your energy needs throughout the day that you may not be able to achieve through meals alone
  • Be smart about your alcohol intake. It’s best not to drink a lot the night before you have a practice/workout. Even if you don’t feel different the next day, it can have a negative impact on your performance.
  • Listen to your body! If you’re feeling extremely tired the day after a workout or for several days at a time (not related to any existing chronic condition), it may be a sign that you’re lacking something! It can be a vitamin deficiency, an energy deficiency, or you could also not be getting enough sleep. Constantly check in with yourself to see that you’re doing alright, and make changes as needed.
  • Your weight is not always the best marker of how healthy you are. You may gain weight because of muscle, or lose weight because you’re not eating enough. Notice how you feel day to day, your progress in physical performance, the definition of new muscle or other changes in your body. Weight is only one anthropometric measure used in health assessment, so don’t let that number get you down.
  • For ideas on recipes and snacks, Greatist is a really good website to check out for their Eat section.
  • Need help tracking your intake of food and energy? Try a food record/tracking app like MyFitnessPal.

This was a rundown of some of the basics for sports nutrition. As you begin to integrate these principles into a healthy eating pattern, you’ll feel a difference in your body on and off skates.

Good luck on your roller derby journey and see you on the track!

Featured photo by Carl Grooms

From Brunch to Obsession: Bergamot Oranges

From Brunch to Obsession: Bergamot Oranges

Sunday afternoon is the perfect time to have brunch with friends who you haven’t seen in a long time. On a recent Sunday, I did exactly that. Along the way I also found a new flavor that I absolutely love: bergamot oranges. That morning I […]

Docs to Watch: Feel Rich – Health is the New Wealth

Docs to Watch: Feel Rich – Health is the New Wealth

When I talk about looking at the intersections of culture and wellness, this documentary is a prime example of what I mean. Feel Rich – Health is the New Wealth is a new documentary produced by Quincy Jones III that looks at health behaviors within […]

My friends at the UN: A reflection on Charlottesville

My friends at the UN: A reflection on Charlottesville

Seeing the events in Charlottesville, there were many topics that I could have easily written about in response. I could have written about racism, the President’s responses, or the hypocrisy in defending hate speech that leads to real violence against other people. Or, I could have written about the fear that people have existing in this country because of hateful rhetoric. I didn’t want to do that. There is already a plethora of other short-form and long-form articles about these subjects a simple Google (or Duck Duck Go) search away.

Truthfully, I had no plans of writing anything about this at all. Those of you who already are connected to me on social media know what I post about, and my feelings about the situation shouldn’t be any surprise to you. But for some reason, a particular set of memories kept rising to my mind. I want to share these with you all, and I hope you’ll understand why.

Memory One: In 9th grade, sitting on the bleachers with my friends while listening to a Holocaust survivor speak

Our 9th grade history teacher Ms. Andrews helped organize a visit from a Holocaust survivor to speak with several of the classes in our year and give us a better understanding of what actually happened during WWII. I remember our particular speaker told us about how it was like to work at a concentration camp, what it felt like to narrowly escape being gassed (more than once), and the elation of being able to eat a potato after being nearly starved to death.

That day we were allowed to sit wherever we wanted (meaning, we grouped up with our friends). Near the end of her speech/presentation, she made an observation. As she observed all of us sitting before her on the bleachers, she saw a social division that paralleled the division she saw in Europe around the time of the war. Nearly all of the white students were group together on one side, and nearly all of the black students were group together on the other. By chance, me and my friends were sitting in the middle – the self-proclaimed “United Nations” – made up of white, black, Asian and Pacific Islander, Native American, Latino, and other international students. In response to her words, some of the other students were shocked to notice their self-segregation. So were we, as we looked around at our fellow classmates and the stark racial divide among them. Our speaker hoped for unity for our generation, to prevent another Holocaust from ever happening again.

A few of us on 80s day in 10th grade

Memory Two: Talking about college with my stepfather’s aunt, a former dean of UNC Chapel Hill

I remember standing under the car porch speaking with my stepfather’s aunt who was down for a visit. It may have been the summer before I started my undergrad at LSU, or during my first year, and we were talking about the differences between high school and college. One thing I remember is her talking about how it would take some adjusting to get used to being around (and making friends with) people of different backgrounds since LSU is a PWI.

When I told her about the friends I had in high school, there was a notable pause in the conversation. Her mouth opened slightly, and her eyes attempted to hide her shock and confusion. She couldn’t believe, being in the small town where I grew up, that I didn’t only socialize with other black people in my peer group. At this point in her life she was retired, well-off and had traveled the world several times. And yet it was unfathomable that I had a diverse group of friends in high school. My mother and I occasionally talk about this moment.

Memory Three: Sitting in the back of a Lyft on the way back from a kickback in Lincoln Heights

I was talking to my Lyft driver about how I was new to California, and how it differed from being down South. She told me that for a period of two years, she lived in Texas for a job. The culture was too different for her, and she returned to California as soon as she could. Something she noted was that in Texas, everyone seemed so segregated to their own kind – Mexicans, white people, black people. She didn’t see the integration of cultures and people that she saw in California. I told her about my experiences growing up and the multitude of people from different races, genders, and nationalities who I got to know and befriend. For a while, she couldn’t believe that such a thing was possible in the South based on what she had experienced there. I reassured her that what I said was true. I’m still unsure if she’s convinced of the veracity of my statements.

Summer reunion circa 2011 with part of our high school friend group

These three memories are all about the same thing: a reality that mimics what society should be like but is seen as an anomaly in today’s world. The four of us across these memories represent four different generations of people, spread across wide geographical spaces, with widely different life experiences. And yet there is not yet the societal change we would like to see in today’s world.

Me and my group of high school friends were/are not perfect, but I’m glad that I got to know them. We did and said things that would probably make us cringe now, but we were open to learning about each other. We listened to our friend’s struggles and frustrations about getting her green card. When our friend transitioned during high school, we learned about transgender people and LGBTQ issues. Because we were friends, we wanted to learn about and support each other in addition to sharing our interests. It was that simple.

The takeaway?

Who you sit with matters. The conversations and experiences you allow yourself to have matters. The world has not changed as much as you think, so everything that you do still matters. It’s important that you’re genuine about what you do, because paying lip service and continuing on with your terrible beliefs isn’t good for anyone. Neither is having a “token” friend to show how progressive you are. No one needs a fake or performative allyship. We need people who care about our humanity, people who really care.

Remember that.

Advice on making a lifestyle instead of a diet

Advice on making a lifestyle instead of a diet

In 2009, Michael Pollan published a book called Food Rules. It’s a relatively short book that has 64 bits of advice on what to eat and how to eat. Some of the advice is useful, depending on what your life circumstances are. Some of the […]