The Standing Desk – A Revelation in Health?

Looks comfy, hmm? And that great view...

Looks comfy, hmm? And that great view…

Ladies and gentlemen, a small but significant development in the offices of Highheelsandpinkglitter has taken place in the last week or so – I have been experimenting with the standing desk.

Throughout my working life, which now spans more years than the years I spent not working (why, why, why?) the bulk of my time has been spent stationary in front of a PC/iMac/laptop. Hence, according to experts who know stuff about the human body, my hamstrings have seized up and my glucose levels are in a permanent state of elevation. Boo.

Last week, I decided to embark on a standing desk experiment. Now, one can buy desks that are specially adapted to standing – fancy bits and pieces you can juggle around to hold your keyboard and monitor at precisely the right angle for your upright position, but I decided to go for the more basic, no-cost version.

I fetched two file folders from upstairs, positioned them on the kitchen counter and propped the laptop on top.

So, my wrists are in freefall  – I am not sure if this has long-term health implications for them, but heck standing does feel a lot more comfortable than sitting all day. Particularly as I, ahem, had elected to do so at the dining table sat on a dining chair and not one of those proper back support computer chairs.

I started a discussion on LinkedIn – does anyone else use a standing desk? A lot of people replied; yes, they do, yes they prefer it. A lot of them included useful links to sites which outlined the virtues of standing rather than sitting, or lists of famous authors who have done so (and when they died – now, not all of them reached a grand old age).

Anyway, here are the reasons why you should ensure that you’re not sitting down for the majority of your day:

Sitting for too many hours a day is harmful to health. It increases your risk of cardio vascular disease and cancer, and offsetting this with exercise (two and half hours in the gym a week) doesn’t seem to counter the risk.

Certain studies have shown that it is better for your health to be active all day – stand as much as you can, walk around, take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator, do household chores, get off the bus one stop early etc – than sitting all day and then going to the gym for an hour. I know what I’d rather do…

Whole body muscular inactivity – or sitting for long period – can also increase the risk of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors – high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, Low HDL (or good) cholesterol that increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Sitting all day causes weakness in the gluteus maximus (I’ve always loved the Latin name for one’s bottom), which results in lower back pain. It also causes poor posture because of poor alignment of the neck, shoulder and back, fatigue in the limbs, painful leg cramps and clots.

And finally, standing burns roughly 50 calories an hour more than sitting. Now that figure stacks up and anything that increase my calorie count over the day is good with me.

For further reading, there’s an interesting account of a standing desk experiment here, and for a great infographic, see this one on mashable. And finally, if you do elect to stand for your working day, it feels like the most incredible luxury to finally sit down at the end of the day… (Promise).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Power of Paleo

Salmon super skin recipe

When I gave up office work, I made a lot of plans for the lifestyle I wanted to lead.

Free from the tyranny of the nine to five and without a daily one and a half hour commute, the headiness of more freedom to plan my day was intoxicating. I’d be getting up early still, I decided,  I would immediately get into my work-out gear and I’d head out each morning, come rain or shine for a daily walk/run. I might also throw in 10 minutes or so of morning yoga to ensure I can still cut my own toenails post 60. I’d add in the odd lunchtime gym session and I’d ensure there was fresh air a-plenty every single day.

Oh, and I’d tidy the house from top to bottom and create a minimalist haven where ideas could freely flow, magically imbibing me with prodigious writing capabilities…

OK, OK some of this stuff fell by the way side.  The early starts…? Ho hum! Freed from the shriek of the six-thirty am alarm, I allow myself to wake up naturally these days. As it’s summer, that’s often 4am so I go back to sleep till 8-ish. Ahem, sometimes 9-ish. And our house remains gloriously stuffed full of weird junk. I’m just not hard enough for that ‘one-in/one-out’ malarkey.

However, certain things have happened. I’ve been reading for sometime about the benefits of a Paleo lifestyle – there’s a much better explanation of Paleo principles here, but basically proponents advocate emulating the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The bulk of your diet is meat, fish, eggs and veg, with plenty of natural fats, and a little bit of fruit. You do the odd bit of fasting. You get plenty of sleep, plenty of fresh air and sunshine and you do lots of low-level movement every day, with the odd sprint added in. (You’re pretending to run away from a mammoth/sabre-toothed tiger, say.)

Freelancing/home working does make such a lifestyle more possible. Fresh air does feature more often in my day-to-day life. It’s almost intoxicating. Sunshine is a little harder to come by, seeing as my location is the west of Scotland, but when it comes I make a point of getting out in it. And the diet? Much easier to follow when you’re working from home as knocking up protein and salad lunches is very do-able.

I struggle with the digital detox, especially now that I’m freelance as checking my emails frequently seems compulsory, and the odd TV programme in bed always feels like a nice treat.

Over all though, Paleo living gives me a lot more energy. There are no more afternoon slumps (though from time to time, I take advantage of my non-office working life and take a cheeky wee siesta) and there are productive evenings. Next week, the de-clutter begins…

 

Mama Nature 3: Straight Hair Mission 1

hair 09_01_2013So, one Brazilian BLOW-DRY treatment later [I feel I must keep emphasising the second word of this treatment or readers may fear I’m about to share a little too much information about my grooming habits] and am I frizz-free, swishing glossy locks over my shoulder a la haircare ads?

Ah, the things we curly girls have done to fight what Mama Nature bestowed on us! First there was chemical straightening, then came serums closely followed by ceramic straighteners (leaving burn marks on carpets up and down the country). I always viewed the after pictures in the serum & straightener ads with suspicion. Those girls really didn’t look as if they’d ever been curly tops in the first place.

Anyway, post-Brazilian I washed my hair, I let it dry naturally, I peered at it every five minutes or so. Was it springing up, were curls coming back? Was that a touch of frizz on top? Well, yes and no… If you aren’t prepared to spend 40 minutes drying your hair, if it gets wet in between washes and if you go to the gym or walk in fresh air/wind frequently – welcome back frizz, your holiday from my hair hasn’t been a long one…

To be fair, I’m a little less curly.  My hair does feel as if it’s in good condition. I’m taking a little more time over hair care. But I’m also very glad that I didn’t spend the full whack on a Brazilian blow-dry (upwards of £150) and I probably won’t do it again.

It's just pics of wine and cake for me this month... January; a fun-free zone

It’s just pics of wine and cake for me this month… January; a fun-free zone

Quick skincare news flash – anyone else on the frankly dull January detox? Are you wine free but willpower wobbling? A good friend pointed me in the direction of a website where you can download an app called Drink Mirror (android phone app only at the moment, but they are promising an iPhone one soon) which shows you what your skin might look look like after a glass or two or three.

Needless to say, it ain’t pretty… Willpower back on track.

5:2 Sticking with the Eating/Starving Thing?

I’ve blogged a couple of times about the 5:2 diet… Being something of an internet research nerd (a fun way to pass a few hours when you’re bored), I’d noted mention of this diet online several weeks ago and investigated.

The basic premise is – for two, non-consecutive days a week, you eat a mere 500 calories a day (600 if you’re a bloke) and then eat normally for the rest of the week. Et voila – weight loss! Improved health! Decreased risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s!

I could pretend I did it for the slightly nobler improved health, lowering the risk of contracting nasty illnesses reasons, but that would be a lie. The promise of weight loss lured me in and I tried the plan for three weeks.

Pluses – I lost five pounds and my stomach feels a lot flatter.

Minuses – those two days are MURDEROUSLY hard… Funnily enough, as the day goes on it seems to get easier, but first thing in the morning the thought of not eating very much all day feels like the most enormous hurdle to get over. And that is why I’m not doing it anymore.

Short term, I’ll probably try it again (shock news revelation, bride-to-be tries extreme diet ahead of wedding), but in the long term, I’m taking my chances with dementia and the Big C.

5 + 2 = Weight Loss?

I love the internet! The hours you can spend reading and researching (procrastinating on my part usually) jumping from link to link and seeing where it takes you… heaven!

Anyway, I have spent a considerable part of the weekend that has just passed researching the 5:2 diet, as I’m feeling a bit unhealthy and a wee bit bloated. (I fear too many of the lovely ‘C’ words in the form of chocolate, cheese and Cava have been in my life of late.) My BMI is fine, but I’d love to lose half a stone for my wedding.

Wee aside: do you think anyone ever achieves their perfect weight? Because we see so many images of skinny celebrities and our culture contains such strong messaging around the importance of appearance, can we ever feel slim enough? I’m horrified about the amount of time I spend thinking about my weight – it just feels so wasteful… But wasteful or not, back to today’s topic – a diet!

The 5:2 diet featured on a recent Horizon documentary* where a TV doctor followed the plan for a month – eating 600 calories on two non-consecutive days a week and eating normally (the recommendations for daily calorie intake for men and women, not pigging out obvs) for five days. The doctor lost a stone and also enjoyed additional health benefits, such as lowering his blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels. Other rumoured benefits include reduced risk of developing cancer and Alzheimer’s.

The idea does appeal to me – two hard days and the rest normal. A lot of people spoke about noticing losing weight off their middles, where my excess fat prefers to reside. So, I thought I might try it out, even if it is a fad and even if there are people lining up to condemn it. (Such is the power of anecdotal evidence over peer-reviewed clinical studies, hmm?!)

If anyone else has tried this diet and would like to share their experiences, please feel free to get in touch!

 

*This link doesn’t take you to the actual programme by the way, but you will find various extracts from the programme on YouTube.

Tell Me Why I Don’t Like Mondays…

Fruit: very, very, very good for you.

Oh dear! Of late, there’s been a little too much lotus-eating in my life. Cheese, chocolate and wine have featured prominently. For those of you who like to live precariously through others’ indulgence, I’ll ‘fess up…

Marks and Spencer’s Blacksticks blue cheese on toast with butter, chocolate fudge pudding with squirty cream [the purists may not approve, but squirty cream is FAB], and the most glorious Rioja sipped at levels the Government definitely does NOT recommend. So, I’m feeling a bit bleurgh.

If the small size wedding dress is still to remain a goal, I fear we’re back to auld claes and cold porridge for a few days (I’ve referred to this previously; it’s a Western Isles saying which means the return to sobriety after the excesses of celebration). Fruit, early morning exercising, fish, water, water, water…

Together Forever… Whatever?

In precisely eight months’ time, I get to stand up in front of beloved family and friends and say: “I do.” (Should Mama Nature spare us and providing neither of us decide there is a better other half out there – y’know I can’t predict the future.)

Neither of us are religious: I am an out and out non believer and my fiancé describes his religious beliefs as “weak and conventional”. So, we have chosen a registrar wedding rather than a religious service.

The privilege of this is that one does get a say on one’s vows. My fiancé is pretty excited about this. He reckons he can work in something which results in me vowing to be his lawfully wedded wench, possibly also resurrecting the obey bit (as if!) whilst I am wondering about a long term promise, via wedding vows, to always fetch me wine when I ask, and forgive me my grumpiness as I forgive those who grumpy against me.

I’m very fond of my engagement ring…

One wedding vow I have been mulling over is the “in sickness and health bit”. Thanks to having relatives that lived to very old age (the magnificent Granny B lived to 101) and perhaps through a heightened awareness of the issue because of the organisation I work for, this one’s a bit of a clincher…

Some 17 years ago, my fiancé had a bad motorbike accident; unconscious for a long time, blood transfusion, permanent disfigurement etc. His future is likely to include a walking stick at the very least. I myself have a chronic condition which means cataracts may blind me, dialysis is a possibility and heart disease four times more likely. The ‘in sickness’ bit is just that bit much more likely to happen.

Projections for the future estimate that three in five of us will end up in an unpaid caring role. That brings with it all sorts of challenges – a relationship changing, the loss of independence, equality, finances and savings, not to mention loneliness, isolation and resentment.

Fate works in its own wee way. And there are plenty of self help tomes which will recommend that you always live in the present.

In sickness and in health… With the intelligent bit of ourselves, we can work out that the ‘in sickness’ bit is much more probable. Does that put me off? Not a chance!