LeeCole Legette, Ph.D., is a Linus Pauling Institute Post-Doctoral Scholar, conducting research in the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases program under Principal Investigator Fred Stevens. Her focus is on the anti-obesity and anti-diabetic mechanisms of xanthohumol, a prenylflavonoid derived from hops. In Spring 2013, at the 61st annual conference of the American Society of Mass Spectrometry, she gave an oral presentation describing her findings from one of the first clinical pharmacokinetic studies of xanthohumol in healthy men and women. Before joining LPI in 2010, she earned her doctorate in Food Science at Purdue University.
LeeCole speaks about how joining the LPI community has influenced her personal life, including diet, recreation, and health.
When I was a grad student, I was always so busy. I ate a lot of fast food – sub sandwiches and pizza and things like that, and whatever anyone brought in to the lab to share – even though I studied nutrition! Then when I came to Oregon, I saw so much fresh produce, especially when I discovered the town’s Farmers’ Market. I started trying things I had never heard of before – so many berries, and different kinds of melons, like a Crenshaw honeydew. And they were all delicious
During my first year at LPI, I mostly spent time in the lab and didn’t meet many people. But ever since LPI moved to its new building – thanks to generous donors – most of our faculty, students and staff are now together, and we can interact every day. And when I went to the LPI Diet and Optimum Health Conference, I learned a lot from the speakers. The whole LPI environment helped me to learn about different activities to support health. It all led to a big change in my lifestyle, and now what I do normally is very different from what I did before.
For breakfast, I make smoothies with fresh produce. In the winter, I eat more whole grains, like oatmeal for breakfast.
For lunch, I might have soup and a kale salad with seasonal fruits, or maybe granola with yogurt.
My typical dinner this spring was spinach strawberry salad. When strawberry season first started, I picked five pounds. I also have some protein: chicken, or turkey, or fish. I’ve taken most red meat out of my diet; I may have an occasional hamburger or hot dog two or three times a month, but only if I go to a party or barbeque or something. I don’t cook meat for myself.
My palate has definitely changed. I’ve noticed I’m more sensitive to salt and to oil. Someone might say to me, “Have some of these chips, they’re really good,” but I don’t want them like I used to. I just don’t get hungry for processed foods. I’d usually rather have walnuts.
After my first year here, LPI was a sponsor of the Corvallis half-marathon, and I volunteered to help with the Healthy Youth Program’s aid station. It was the first time I saw a running race, and when I gave out water to the runners, I thought, “I want to do this.”
Then a friend invited me to start walking with her.
During LPI’s Diet and Optimum Health Conference every other year, there’s a “fun run” at 6 in the morning. I volunteered to be a route guide. I led the walkers through campus.
I started doing such activities more and more. It took a while, but I started jogging some, not just walking.
I’m healthier now than when I was in high school. I’m more relaxed, and I can do more things. I don’t take the elevator. I can walk to downtown or to work without getting so tired. I breathe easier. My blood pressure was never really bad, but it has definitely gotten better. I have lost a lot of weight – more than 50 pounds in the past year. If you make it past the two-month mark and get into the groove, you realize you’re breathing easier and can do things you couldn’t do before. I say to myself, “I can pick this up now. Yes, I can walk five miles.” Before, I thought, “I don’t want to walk five yards. Where’s the bus?”
I’m in the lab most of the day, but then I go out for an hour walk, and I come back with energy to keep working for a long time.
I try to sign up for at least one race a month, which ensures I keep up a running schedule of three or four runs a week. From January to June this year, I ran in two 5-kilometer races, one 10 K, one 15 K, and two half marathons – they’re 13.1 miles, or over 20 kilometers!
I walk and jog. I’m not really going for time, more for endurance. But I try to finish strong. I try to finish! I try to keep a good pace, but in the half marathons, I got tired and walked the second halves.
The winter months are challenging. You have layers of clothing, and gloves. It’s cold, but you’re sweating.
There are several runners at LPI who give me advice.
I haven’t run on trails; I’ve stuck to paved paths. I go for walks of 5 – 12 miles during the week, under two hours at a time. Usually I try to jog all the way, but sometimes I do interval training, sprinting and jogging. On the weekend I might have a long run day, 8 – 11 miles.
I also take workout classes – this university has a great program, “Faculty Staff Fitness.” I do cross-training in a circuit weight class, and they just gave me a Fitness Award!
On Event Accomplishments and Goals
Now I enter races and get a “bib number” and a chip – you tie it to your shoe, and it tracks your time.
In the Seattle half marathon, of about 12, 500 people, I finished 11,230. In my age and gender division, 30 – 34 years old, I finished 1,371 out of 1,423.
In early August, I was on the 12-person LPI team in the Cascade Lakes Relay. What an exciting, crazy experience. During my second leg, I ran at night for the first time – starting at two in the morning. And in the final leg, I set a personal record: a 13-minute mile! Our team finished in the top 50 percent with a time of 31 hours, 26 minutes, and 38 seconds, the best LPI has ever done.
Eventually I would like to do a 5K in 30 minutes; now I’m at 42-43 minutes. I finish a half marathon in three hours and 20 or 30 minutes – I’d like to do it in under three hours.
Being a part of LPI exposes me to knowledge and many different activities that allow me to make better decisions and improve several aspects of my lifestyle for health. I think everyone needs to learn about all the options and determine which work best for them. I discovered some options work better than others for me; it’s a continuous process and definitely worth the effort.
Now I like helping other people. One LPI post doc had never run when she started going along with me in my training not very long ago; she joined in the Cascade Lakes Relay and set a personal record as well. When other people in my Zumba class heard about our fun in that race, they said “We want to do it too,” and I’ve started to “coach” some of them and help them train for their first 5K race in September.
Getting healthy doesn’t mean you have to suffer. Here’s a good example of my changes: When I ran a half marathon recently, I thought that afterwards I’d be really hungry and want fries or pizza. Instead, I enjoyed three mango smoothies!
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