We are made of corn

I like reading books and watching documentaries about health and our food system. The only problem is that it makes me afraid of food I buy from supermarkets. I went to Cold Storage recently and they were having a sale of “jumbo chickens.” Instead of salivating, I looked at them suspiciously. They were all the same jumbo size with the same massive breasts, looking very swollen and brown.

Jumbo roasted chicken

(They looked something like that)

These thoughts raced through my head:

  1. Why is the chicken so big? Has it been pumped full of antibiotics?
  2. Where is the chicken from? Were they caged up with no space to run around and fattened up on corn?
  3. What’s the sauce they use to coat the chicken? Is there sugar in it?
  4. Why do I need to think so much before I buy a piece of poultry?

This makes grocery shopping very stressful.

In one of the documentaries I watched recently, a scientist examines the hair shaft of two Americans to see how percentage of their carbon originated from corn. He found that more than 50% of their diet derive from corn. But this doesn’t mean that the film makers eat corn on the cob half of the time.

Rather, corn is processed, broken down into so many additives and added to so many processed food that it manages to sneak into our diets without us realising it. Some of these industrial products are:

  • High-fructose corn syrup – a sweetener used in Coke and other soft drinks
  • Dextrose – a sugar added to French fries
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) – flavour enhancer used extensively in Singapore hawker centres. I have a big problem with MSG. Too much of it and I get a very bad neck and spine ache. They feel numb and start tingling at the same time. The last time this happened I ate a fish cake from a hawker centre, which turned out to contain more MSG than fish.

This is a great resource that lists the ingredients derived from corn.

To read more about the industrial food industry and the impact on our health, check out:

The documentaries are:

  • Food, Inc
  • King Corn

Yoga – front splits

Front splits

After a good body combat workout session last night, I asked Alicia to demonstrate her front splits. The front split, in yoga speak, is also known as monkey pose or Hanumanasana. In one yoga class that I went to, the teacher told us to get into our “monkey pose” and we all returned her instruction with blank stares. Since then, I knew what the monkey pose was, although I beg to disagree how Alicia looks like a monkey here. If you recall, she also demonstrated the Dancer’s pose in another post.

Once this is mastered, there are variations that can be added to the split, including backbends:

Front splits backbend

A more challenging pose would be to grab the toes of the back leg, which pushes the back thigh deeper into the mat:

Monkey pose

In contrast, this is my current progress. I still have a long way more to go. Splits are one of those things that I’ve always wanted to achieve and it takes daily hard work of practising – something I’ve clearly failed at!

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I had a very good yoga teacher called Brenda who has since left Singapore to work in the US. She told me that once I’m down to my maximum split, I should lean forward until my belly touches my front thigh and hold the pose for a while. Then I should lean backwards into a slightly backbend to get a stretch for my back leg. Essentially, it’s shifting my weight back and forth to put pressure on the front and back legs, which would help me get down quicker.

I like this video from Yogi Juls that explains how to get into the splits.

What I do at the gym

Every time I decide to do a workout, I’m faced with a myriad of choices. My subscription to a mega gym means that I have access to many clubs in the same area. At work, I have three gyms in the vicinity. Near home, I am a five-minute drive away from the nearest gym. I also have the option of going for an outdoor run.

Once I decide to go for a workout, I pull out the online schedule and my thought process goes like this:

Yoga Singapore

1. Are there yoga classes today?

Yes -> Taught by a teacher I like? -> Yes -> Go for yoga; if no, go to Option #2.

No-> Select a high-intensity interval training type of class -> Option #2.

2. Are there circuit training/body pump classes today?

Yes -> Do I have a lot of energy today and feel like kicking ass? -> Yes -> Go for circuit training/body pump; if no, go to Option #3.

No-> Select another cardio class -> Option #3.

3. Are there body combat classes today?

Yes -> Can I stand the thought of punching imaginary people, yelling in class and learning bad martial arts form? -> Yes -> Go for body combat; if no, go to Option #4.

No-> Select another cardio class -> Option #4.

4. Are there dance classes (Sh’bam or Body Jam) today?

Yes-> Am I in the mood to use my brain in an exercise class? -> Yes -> Go for dance class; if no, go to Option #5.

No -> Run on the treadmill or outdoors -> Option #5.

5. Run on the treadmill or outdoors

This is my last resort if I cannot find a suitable class in the gym.

Looking at what I just wrote, I realised that this pretty much means that I prefer yoga, circuit training and body pump over all the other group exercise classes. For yoga, it is very much dependent on the teacher. I like teachers who focus on fitness, body alignment and throw us challenging poses to stretch us. I don’t like teachers who give us strange breathing exercises (fire breath) at the start of the class and expound on the spiritual essence of yoga. But yoga with a good teacher wins all other group exercises anytime of the day.

The next is circuit training. Unfortunately, I only have one circuit training class every week that falls on a Friday lunch. This class is a killer. It’s very difficult and usually I’m collapsed before the end of each round but I can tell that it’s doing good for my muscles and toughening me up.

As for body pump, this class is great for women who are intimidated by the weight lifting. I have never used the weights and machines at the gym because I don’t know how to use them. I am also frightened by the grunting and heaving in front of the mirrors. But body pump classes are great because the instructor will tell us when to add weights and when to remove them depending on the muscle we are exercising. I can also imitate the instructor’s posture because good form is crucial for lifting and it’s important to learn it to stay safe.

If I had more time and money, I would prefer other types of exercise. I found a lot of interesting little gyms online that offer fat loss boot camps, kettlebell classes, outdoor circuit training and even crossfit. But they are not cheap considering that I would have to add it on to my costly two-year gym membership.

What are your favourite group exercise classes and most importantly, which do you think are the best for burning fat?

Yoga – dancer’s pose

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Source: Nina Dobrev

Nina Dobrev, one of my favourite actresses, is also apparently an accomplished yogini. Here is a recent photo of her (pictured on the right) holding a Dancer’s pose, also known as the Natarajasan.

Now I’m not sure if being paleo has anything to do with yoga but I really enjoy practising yoga and have been trying to increase my flexibility for the longest time. I’ve been really lazy about it because it’s so painful to train. But for the past two years, I’ve been making new year resolutions to be flexible enough to do a split and have never reached that goal. I’ve gotten more flexible ever since I started yoga, yes, but the progress has been excruciatingly slow.

Dancer's pose

Here’s my Dancer’s pose. Terrible, I know. This pose requires both hamstring and spine flexibility, both of which I lack.

Dancer's pose

This is my good friend Alicia, who is also my yoga inspiration. Her Dancer’s pose is incredible as you can see. Her leg is nearly straight. I suppose she is even more flexible than Nina Dobrev! On a side note, Alicia’s sister Michelle has an interesting blog about travel and life in Singapore if you’re interested to visit.

I’m going to revisit this pose in a couple of months to see if I’ve made any improvements.

How it all began

blue-eye-husky-wolf

It all started six months ago when I stumbled on Mark’s Daily Apple. This website talked about the Primal Blueprint, a set of principles to live by that brings us back to our paleolithic roots (thus, the name of this blog – Paleorina). It talked about the right way to eat, the right way to move and the right way to sleep. It was about making sure no processed food entered our bodies and about how grains and so-called healthy cereals were actually making us sick. It was about eating what our ancestors ate instead of the modern convenience food that contained preservatives and strange chemicals we cannot even pronounce. In return, your health and energy would soar.

I was enthralled.

I was already eating quite well in the paleo sense. I consumed very little rice. I hated pasta and pizza and stayed off biscuits ( I really really love bread – although that’s for another post). And before this I was already an aspiring hippie. Yes I was a city girl but I wanted to live my life in a way that shunned blatant consumerism. The boldest thing I tried was to wean myself off shampoo and relied on baking soda to wash my hair for one month (I didn’t stink). But to have everything articulated and put together in a sensible philosophy turned a light bulb on in my head. It clarified why we should live as simply as possible, be it in terms of eating or the products we use.

I read Robb Wolf’s book The Paleo Solution, followed by Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation book. For a more complete list of good paleo books, check out Food Education on the header.

Since then, I have started on our paleo journey here in Singapore. It’s not easy, this being the land of yummy roti prata and char kway teow. I hope that by documenting our adventures in this blog, I would be able to inspire and help other paleo-poreans. I also love to hear from you and your tips and tricks for improving your health and fitness.