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Medieval cuisine
Slow transportation and food preservation techniques based on drying, salting , smoking and pickling made long-distance trade of many foods very expensive. Luckily though, Nutrisystem offers many different foods to choose from. Overall, fine dining was a predominantly male affair, and it was uncommon for anyone but the most honored of guests to bring his wife or her ladies-in-waiting. We are so happy that Rachel was able to help you get started on the program. Thanks for keeping us posted, and wishing your daughter all the best.

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While animal products were to be avoided during times of penance, pragmatic compromises often prevailed. The definition of "fish" was often extended to marine and semi-aquatic animals such as whales , barnacle geese , puffins and even beavers.

The choice of ingredients may have been limited, but that did not mean that meals were smaller. Neither were there any restrictions against moderate drinking or eating sweets.

Banquets held on fish days could be splendid, and were popular occasions for serving illusion food that imitated meat, cheese and eggs in various ingenious ways; fish could be moulded to look like venison and fake eggs could be made by stuffing empty egg shells with fish roe and almond milk and cooking them in coals.

While Byzantine church officials took a hard-line approach, and discouraged any culinary refinement for the clergy, their Western counterparts were far more lenient. During Lent, kings and schoolboys, commoners and nobility, all complained about being deprived of meat for the long, hard weeks of solemn contemplation of their sins.

At Lent, owners of livestock were even warned to keep an eye out for hungry dogs frustrated by a "hard siege by Lent and fish bones". The trend from the 13th century onward was toward a more legalistic interpretation of fasting. Nobles were careful not to eat meat on fast days, but still dined in style; fish replaced meat, often as imitation hams and bacon; almond milk replaced animal milk as an expensive non-dairy alternative; faux eggs made from almond milk were cooked in blown-out eggshells, flavoured and coloured with exclusive spices.

In some cases the lavishness of noble tables was outdone by Benedictine monasteries, which served as many as sixteen courses during certain feast days. Exceptions from fasting were frequently made for very broadly defined groups. Since the sick were exempt from fasting, there often evolved the notion that fasting restrictions only applied to the main dining area, and many Benedictine friars would simply eat their fast day meals in what was called the misericord at those times rather than the refectory.

Medieval society was highly stratified. In a time when famine was commonplace and social hierarchies were often brutally enforced, food was an important marker of social status in a way that has no equivalent today in most developed countries.

According to the ideological norm, society consisted of the three estates of the realm: The relationship between the classes was strictly hierarchical, with the nobility and clergy claiming worldly and spiritual overlordship over commoners. Within the nobility and clergy there were also a number of ranks ranging from kings and popes to dukes , bishops and their subordinates, such as priests. One was expected to remain in one's social class and to respect the authority of the ruling classes.

Political power was displayed not just by rule, but also by displaying wealth. Nobles dined on fresh game seasoned with exotic spices, and displayed refined table manners; rough laborers could make do with coarse barley bread, salt pork and beans and were not expected to display etiquette. Even dietary recommendations were different: The digestive system of a lord was held to be more discriminating than that of his rustic subordinates and demanded finer foods.

In the late Middle Ages, the increasing wealth of middle class merchants and traders meant that commoners began emulating the aristocracy, and threatened to break down some of the symbolic barriers between the nobility and the lower classes. The response came in two forms: Medical science of the Middle Ages had a considerable influence on what was considered healthy and nutritious among the upper classes.

One's lifestyle—including diet, exercise, appropriate social behavior, and approved medical remedies—was the way to good health, and all types of food were assigned certain properties that affected a person's health.

All foodstuffs were also classified on scales ranging from hot to cold and moist to dry, according to the four bodily humours theory proposed by Galen that dominated Western medical science from late Antiquity until the 17th century. Medieval scholars considered human digestion to be a process similar to cooking. The processing of food in the stomach was seen as a continuation of the preparation initiated by the cook. In order for the food to be properly "cooked" and for the nutrients to be properly absorbed, it was important that the stomach be filled in an appropriate manner.

Easily digestible foods would be consumed first, followed by gradually heavier dishes. If this regimen were not respected it was believed that heavy foods would sink to the bottom of the stomach, thus blocking the digestion duct, so that food would digest very slowly and cause putrefaction of the body and draw bad humours into the stomach.

It was also of vital importance that food of differing properties not be mixed. Before a meal, the stomach would preferably be "opened" with an apéritif from Latin aperire , "to open" that was preferably of a hot and dry nature: As the stomach had been opened, it should then be "closed" at the end of the meal with the help of a digestive, most commonly a dragée , which during the Middle Ages consisted of lumps of spiced sugar, or hypocras , a wine flavoured with fragrant spices, along with aged cheese.

A meal would ideally begin with easily digestible fruit, such as apples. It would then be followed by vegetables such as lettuce , cabbage , purslane , herbs, moist fruits, light meats, such as chicken or goat kid , with potages and broths.

After that came the "heavy" meats, such as pork and beef , as well as vegetables and nuts, including pears and chestnuts, both considered difficult to digest. It was popular, and recommended by medical expertise, to finish the meal with aged cheese and various digestives. The most ideal food was that which most closely matched the humour of human beings, i. Food should preferably also be finely chopped, ground, pounded and strained to achieve a true mixture of all the ingredients.

White wine was believed to be cooler than red and the same distinction was applied to red and white vinegar. Milk was moderately warm and moist, but the milk of different animals was often believed to differ. Egg yolks were considered to be warm and moist while the whites were cold and moist. Skilled cooks were expected to conform to the regimen of humoral medicine.

Even if this limited the combinations of food they could prepare, there was still ample room for artistic variation by the chef. The caloric content and structure of medieval diet varied over time, from region to region, and between classes. However, for most people, the diet tended to be high-carbohydrate, with most of the budget spent on, and the majority of calories provided by, cereals and alcohol such as beer. Even though meat was highly valued by all, lower classes often could not afford it, nor were they allowed by the church to consume it every day.

In one early 15th-century English aristocratic household for which detailed records are available that of the Earl of Warwick , gentle members of the household received a staggering 3. In the household of Henry Stafford in , gentle members received 2. In monasteries, the basic structure of the diet was laid down by the Rule of Saint Benedict in the 7th century and tightened by Pope Benedict XII in , but as mentioned above monks were adept at "working around" these rules.

This was circumvented in part by declaring that offal , and various processed foods such as bacon , were not meat. Secondly, Benedictine monasteries contained a room called the misericord , where the Rule of Saint Benedict did not apply, and where a large number of monks ate.

Each monk would be regularly sent either to the misericord or to the refectory. When Pope Benedict XII ruled that at least half of all monks should be required to eat in the refectory on any given day, monks responded by excluding the sick and those invited to the abbot's table from the reckoning.

The overall caloric intake is subject to some debate. As a consequence of these excesses, obesity was common among upper classes. The regional specialties that are a feature of early modern and contemporary cuisine were not in evidence in the sparser documentation that survives. Instead, medieval cuisine can be differentiated by the cereals and the oils that shaped dietary norms and crossed ethnic and, later, national boundaries.

Geographical variation in eating was primarily the result of differences in climate, political administration, and local customs that varied across the continent. Though sweeping generalizations should be avoided, more or less distinct areas where certain foodstuffs dominated can be discerned. In the British Isles , northern France , the Low Countries , the northern German-speaking areas, Scandinavia and the Baltic , the climate was generally too harsh for the cultivation of grapes and olives.

In the south, wine was the common drink for both rich and poor alike though the commoner usually had to settle for cheap second pressing wine while beer was the commoner's drink in the north and wine an expensive import. Citrus fruits though not the kinds most common today and pomegranates were common around the Mediterranean. Dried figs and dates were available in the north, but were used rather sparingly in cooking.

Olive oil was a ubiquitous ingredient in Mediterranean cultures, but remained an expensive import in the north where oils of poppy , walnut, hazel and filbert were the most affordable alternatives.

Butter and lard , especially after the terrible mortality during the Black Death made them less scarce, were used in considerable quantities in the northern and northwestern regions, especially in the Low Countries. Almost universal in middle and upper class cooking all over Europe was the almond , which was in the ubiquitous and highly versatile almond milk , which was used as a substitute in dishes that otherwise required eggs or milk, though the bitter variety of almonds came along much later.

In Europe there were typically two meals a day: The two-meal system remained consistent throughout the late Middle Ages. Smaller intermediate meals were common, but became a matter of social status, as those who did not have to perform manual labor could go without them. For practical reasons, breakfast was still eaten by working men, and was tolerated for young children, women, the elderly and the sick.

Because the church preached against gluttony and other weaknesses of the flesh, men tended to be ashamed of the weak practicality of breakfast. Lavish dinner banquets and late-night reresopers from Occitan rèire-sopar , "late supper" with considerable amounts of alcoholic beverage were considered immoral.

The latter were especially associated with gambling, crude language, drunkenness, and lewd behavior. As with almost every part of life at the time, a medieval meal was generally a communal affair. The entire household, including servants, would ideally dine together.

To sneak off to enjoy private company was considered a haughty and inefficient egotism in a world where people depended very much on each other. When possible, rich hosts retired with their consorts to private chambers where the meal could be enjoyed in greater exclusivity and privacy. Being invited to a lord's chambers was a great privilege and could be used as a way to reward friends and allies and to awe subordinates.

It allowed lords to distance themselves further from the household and to enjoy more luxurious treats while serving inferior food to the rest of the household that still dined in the great hall.

At major occasions and banquets, however, the host and hostess generally dined in the great hall with the other diners. However, it can be assumed there were no such extravagant luxuries as multiple courses , luxurious spices or hand-washing in scented water in everyday meals.

Things were different for the wealthy. Before the meal and between courses, shallow basins and linen towels were offered to guests so they could wash their hands, as cleanliness was emphasized. Social codes made it difficult for women to uphold the ideal of immaculate neatness and delicacy while enjoying a meal, so the wife of the host often dined in private with her entourage or ate very little at such feasts. She could then join dinner only after the potentially messy business of eating was done.

Overall, fine dining was a predominantly male affair, and it was uncommon for anyone but the most honored of guests to bring his wife or her ladies-in-waiting. The hierarchical nature of society was reinforced by etiquette where the lower ranked were expected to help the higher, the younger to assist the elder, and men to spare women the risk of sullying dress and reputation by having to handle food in an unwomanly fashion.

Shared drinking cups were common even at lavish banquets for all but those who sat at the high table , as was the standard etiquette of breaking bread and carving meat for one's fellow diners. Food was mostly served on plates or in stew pots, and diners would take their share from the dishes and place it on trenchers of stale bread, wood or pewter with the help of spoons or bare hands. In lower-class households it was common to eat food straight off the table.

Knives were used at the table, but most people were expected to bring their own, and only highly favored guests would be given a personal knife. A knife was usually shared with at least one other dinner guest, unless one was of very high rank or well-acquainted with the host. Forks for eating were not in widespread usage in Europe until the early modern period , and early on were limited to Italy.

Even there it was not until the 14th century that the fork became common among Italians of all social classes. The change in attitudes can be illustrated by the reactions to the table manners of the Byzantine princess Theodora Doukaina in the late 11th century.

She was the wife of Domenico Selvo , the Doge of Venice , and caused considerable dismay among upstanding Venetians. The foreign consort's insistence on having her food cut up by her eunuch servants and then eating the pieces with a golden fork shocked and upset the diners so much that there was a claim that Peter Damian , Cardinal Bishop of Ostia , later interpreted her refined foreign manners as pride and referred to her as " All types of cooking involved the direct use of fire.

Kitchen stoves did not appear until the 18th century, and cooks had to know how to cook directly over an open fire. Ovens were used, but they were expensive to construct and only existed in fairly large households and bakeries.

It was common for a community to have shared ownership of an oven to ensure that the bread baking essential to everyone was made communal rather than private. There were also portable ovens designed to be filled with food and then buried in hot coals, and even larger ones on wheels that were used to sell pies in the streets of medieval towns.

But for most people, almost all cooking was done in simple stewpots, since this was the most efficient use of firewood and did not waste precious cooking juices, making potages and stews the most common dishes. This was considered less of a problem in a time of back-breaking toil, famine, and a greater acceptance—even desirability—of plumpness; only the poor or sick, and devout ascetics , were thin.

Fruit was readily combined with meat, fish and eggs. The recipe for Tart de brymlent , a fish pie from the recipe collection Forme of Cury , includes a mix of figs , raisins , apples and pears with fish salmon , codling or haddock and pitted damson plums under the top crust.

This meant that food had to be "tempered" according to its nature by an appropriate combination of preparation and mixing certain ingredients, condiments and spices; fish was seen as being cold and moist, and best cooked in a way that heated and dried it, such as frying or oven baking, and seasoned with hot and dry spices; beef was dry and hot and should therefore be boiled ; pork was hot and moist and should therefore always be roasted.

In a recipe for quince pie, cabbage is said to work equally well, and in another turnips could be replaced by pears. The completely edible shortcrust pie did not appear in recipes until the 15th century. Before that the pastry was primarily used as a cooking container in a technique known as ' huff paste '. Extant recipe collections show that gastronomy in the Late Middle Ages developed significantly. New techniques, like the shortcrust pie and the clarification of jelly with egg whites began to appear in recipes in the late 14th century and recipes began to include detailed instructions instead of being mere memory aids to an already skilled cook.

In most households, cooking was done on an open hearth in the middle of the main living area, to make efficient use of the heat. This was the most common arrangement, even in wealthy households, for most of the Middle Ages, where the kitchen was combined with the dining hall.

Towards the Late Middle Ages a separate kitchen area began to evolve. The first step was to move the fireplaces towards the walls of the main hall, and later to build a separate building or wing that contained a dedicated kitchen area, often separated from the main building by a covered arcade. This way, the smoke, odors and bustle of the kitchen could be kept out of sight of guests, and the fire risk lessened. Many basic variations of cooking utensils available today, such as frying pans , pots , kettles , and waffle irons , already existed, although they were often too expensive for poorer households.

Other tools more specific to cooking over an open fire were spits of various sizes, and material for skewering anything from delicate quails to whole oxen.

Utensils were often held directly over the fire or placed into embers on tripods. To assist the cook there were also assorted knives, stirring spoons, ladles and graters. In wealthy households one of the most common tools was the mortar and sieve cloth, since many medieval recipes called for food to be finely chopped, mashed, strained and seasoned either before or after cooking. This was based on a belief among physicians that the finer the consistency of food, the more effectively the body would absorb the nourishment.

It also gave skilled cooks the opportunity to elaborately shape the results. Fine-textured food was also associated with wealth; for example, finely milled flour was expensive, while the bread of commoners was typically brown and coarse. A typical procedure was farcing from the Latin farcio , "to cram" , to skin and dress an animal, grind up the meat and mix it with spices and other ingredients and then return it into its own skin, or mold it into the shape of a completely different animal.

The kitchen staff of huge noble or royal courts occasionally numbered in the hundreds: While an average peasant household often made do with firewood collected from the surrounding woodlands, the major kitchens of households had to cope with the logistics of daily providing at least two meals for several hundred people.

Guidelines on how to prepare for a two-day banquet can be found in the cookbook Du fait de cuisine "On cookery" written in in part to compete with the court of Burgundy [44] by Maistre Chiquart, master chef of Amadeus VIII, Duke of Savoy. Food preservation methods were basically the same as had been used since antiquity, and did not change much until the invention of canning in the early 19th century.

The most common and simplest method was to expose foodstuffs to heat or wind to remove moisture , thereby prolonging the durability if not the flavor of almost any type of food from cereals to meats; the drying of food worked by drastically reducing the activity of various water-dependent microorganisms that cause decay.

In warm climates this was mostly achieved by leaving food out in the sun, and in the cooler northern climates by exposure to strong winds especially common for the preparation of stockfish , or in warm ovens, cellars, attics, and at times even in living quarters.

Subjecting food to a number of chemical processes such as smoking , salting , brining , conserving or fermenting also made it keep longer.

Most of these methods had the advantage of shorter preparation times and of introducing new flavors. Smoking or salting meat of livestock butchered in autumn was a common household strategy to avoid having to feed more animals than necessary during the lean winter months. Vegetables, eggs or fish were also often pickled in tightly packed jars, containing brine and acidic liquids lemon juice , verjuice or vinegar. Another method was to seal the food by cooking it in sugar or honey or fat, in which it was then stored.

Microbial modification was also encouraged, however, by a number of methods; grains, fruit and grapes were turned into alcoholic drinks thus killing any pathogens, and milk was fermented and curdled into a multitude of cheeses or buttermilk. The majority of the European population before industrialization lived in rural communities or isolated farms and households. The norm was self-sufficiency with only a small percentage of production being exported or sold in markets.

Prolonged fasting can lead to anemia , a weakened immune system, liver and kidney problems, and irregular heartbeat. Fasting can also result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies, muscle breakdown, and diarrhea.

When you drink laxative concoctions during a fast, there is an increased risk of fluid imbalance and dehydration. The risks get more complicated and severe the longer you stay on a fast, or if you repeatedly go on fasts. It sounds logical that fasting could cleanse your body of harmful substances that could cause a host of ailments like obesity , fatigue , and headaches.

But there is no scientific evidence that you need to fast to "cleanse" your body or remove toxins. Your body - specifically, the kidneys , liver , lungs , colon , and skin -- is perfectly capable of removing toxins itself. Nutrition experts agree that fasting is a potentially dangerous, and not particularly effective, way to lose weight.

Instead of a fast, opt for a healthy eating plan that you can stick with long-term Healthy diets provide a minimum of 1, calories and include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein, and healthy fats , along with regular physical activity. Her opinions and conclusions are her own. Dangers of Fasting for Weight Loss When you dramatically reduce your calorie intake, you will lose weight. Keeping your hips stable and body aligned gets a whole lot tougher when the ground can roll.

Start in push-up position, but with your shins on a Swiss ball. Your body should form a straight line from ankles to head.

Without rounding your lower back, lift your left leg off the ball and bring that knee toward your right elbow. Return to start, then bring your right knee up to your left elbow. Lie faceup on a bench and grab the bench next to your ears so that your elbows are bent and your upper arms are next to your head. From here, slowly lower your body using your core, maintaining a straight body line.

Then bring it back up to the start and lower slowly again. Food Tips for Six-Pack Abs. Mimicking a dog marking his territory might not sound like an efficient ab exercise, but this move will prove otherwise. Start on all fours, knees below your hips, hands below your shoulders. Kick your leg straight back and return to start. Repeat with the right leg.

Try them suspended upside down. Grab a pull-up bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. From the hanging position, use your shoulders, back and core to pull your body -- totally straight -- from the perpendicular position up to a position parallel to the floor.

If you can reach this position, hold it for as long as you can. To work your way up to this position, start with your knees tucked in: Your glutes -- and hips and back -- are all part of your core. Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, palms down. Bend your knees so your heels are on the floor, feet flexed.

Squeeze your glutes so your body forms a straight line from knees to shoulders. Maintaining this straight line and keeping your hips square, lift your right foot off the ground and bring your knee to your chest. Return it to the floor and lift your left knee to your chest. Hang from a pull-up bar with an overhand grip, hands wider than shoulder-width apart. To make it more difficult, keep your legs straight as you raise them and work toward raising your straight legs all the way up to the bar.

Popularized by CrossFit, this exercise, like the banana roll, will make you feel silly twice -- first for how you look and second when you realize how much you underestimated its challenge.

Using your core to get going, rock your body so that you look like the bottom of a rocking chair. Crunches are like Nickelback -- incredibly popular but most people agree they stink. But throw in some incline gravity! Lie faceup on an incline bench with your hips lower than your head, your body forming a straight line from head to heels.

Grab the bar behind your head for support or grasp the sides of the bench. Lift your knees toward your chest. Slowly lower your feet toward the floor and repeat. Top Core Exercises for Runners. One benefit of the weighted carry is that it builds functional strength.

But in the real world, little variables pop up, says Mike Wunsch, director of training and program design at Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California. Double-wrap a thick mini exercise band around the handle of a kettlebell. Perform a weighted carry holding the band with the kettlebell suspended underneath. Engage your entire torso to maintain an erect posture while carrying the heavy weight.

Walk 20 yards or so, then turn around and come back. Set two benches parallel to one another a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Get between the benches and hold yourself up with your arms so that your body forms an L shape. Your torso should be perpendicular to the floor, your arms straight at your sides and your legs out in front of you, parallel to the floor. The Best Exercise for Ripped Abs. Your body will form an L shape.

While holding this position, perform pull-ups, pulling your chest up to the bar while pulling your shoulders back and down.

Return to the bottom of the pull-up, but keep your legs in the L shape. The Best Core Workout Routines. Even though this exercise has it's roots in yoga, don't let that fool you as to it's intensity. Get a or pound weight plate and hold it in front of your chest as you come to the top of a modified boat pose -- seated, leaning back, legs in a tabletop, weight in front of your chest.

Hold this position as you breathe in and out through your nose, keeping your abs contracted and preventing your lower back from curving. Take a break for 30 seconds and catch your breath.

Fastest Ways to Get a Six-Pack. Concentrate on pressing your lower back into the floor at the beginning of each rep by pinning your navel to your spine. This will engage your pelvic floor throughout the exercise. Lie on your back with your legs straight. Hold your arms straight above your head, gripping a medicine ball so your elbows are by your ears. Without bending your elbows or knees, contract your abdominal muscles, fold your body up by lifting your arms and legs off the floor and stretch your arms toward your toes.

Keep your back straight. Pause, then return to the starting position. Stand next to a cable station with a rope attachment, the stack on your right.

Kneel on your right knee closest to the base of the cable , your left knee bent 90 degrees. Grab the rope with both hands and stretch it taut, holding it down below your right hip. Return to start, repeat and switch sides. Squats tax your core already. Moving the weight over your head makes maintaining your proper squat form even more difficult. What keeps that form correct? Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly. Grab a barbell with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart, and raise it overhead so your shoulders are roughly in line with your heels.

Keep your arms straight and directly overhead as you push your hips back to squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Press back up to standing.

Kettlebell Exercises for the Abs. Most non-crunch core moves focus on rotation. But your core also functions to resist rotation -- the world tries to wrench you into a twist, and your torso keeps you from getting pulled.

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