Getting Back in Shape After Fifty – A Complete Guide

Getting back into shape is an exciting time.  Just envisioning walking or running around with minimal fatigue or pain can be invigorating.  How many times have you thought to yourself, “if only I had the flexibility, strength, or mobility that I had ten years ago, everything would be so much better.”  Well guess what, you can!paddleboarding

There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The second best time is now.”  This same wisdom applies to health and fitness.  Of course it’s optimal to always live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, but if that hasn’t been the case for the past month, year, or decade, you have the power to make a change.  Now is the time to make a change.

Understanding Willpower as a Finite Resource

On your fitness journey, it’s essential that you understand the difference between willpower and habit. It will make your life so much easier.

mountain top

Using Willpower to Get Back in Shape

There’s nothing quite like taking your pair of running shoes or workout gear on it’s first training session.  You’ve been reading health and fitness articles for weeks, perhaps you even made the painstaking decision to sign up for your first 5k as a motivator to get back in shape, and now you’re ready to go out on the first training session.

It’s an exciting time, no doubt.  Chances are you’ll remember those first few workouts in your newfound training program for weeks and months to come.  Maybe you’re not even preparing for an event, but are training so you can move around with youthful vigor and spend higher quality time with your loved ones. Envisioning living life without the day-to-day pains that have crept up over the years can provide you with the energy to make great progress with your fitness.

When just getting started, improving your fitness is exciting because it’s a new experience, and a change to the routine you’ve become accustomed to.  But then, a conflict gets in the way.

When Excuses Get in the Way

What about the times when it’s the busy time of year at work, you have a packed schedule, and the in-laws are in town?  You work long hours, come home exhausted, and still have to run errands, prepare dinner, and do the laundry.  Don’t forget about those favorite Netflix episodes you can’t miss either!

Well what happens when it’s the dead of winter, it’s freezing outside, it’s rained or snowed for weeks on end, and your mood is as grey and bleak as the weather?  Thinking about lacing up the running shoes and getting a workout in may not seem quite as exhilarating as it did during those first few sessions.  When we rely on willpower to achieve our fitness goals, we can tend to burn out, because we only have so much of it.  When conflicts come up, our fitness routine can be one of the first things to go out the window.

Think of your willpower like a tank of gas.  When you continually use it, the tank depletes and needs to be refilled.  Our willpower is a finite resource – throughout the day, all of the decisions we make slowly deplete the tank.  When it runs really low, you may experience what’s known as decision fatigue.  Have you ever told yourself you’d eat healthy, but then find yourself eating fast food after a long day at work because it seemed so convenient?  If so, you’ve experienced first hand the challenges of relying on your willpower to achieve your goals.

roadblock

The Power of Habit in Terms of Fitness

If our willpower is a finite resource, and we know that our schedule is busy, we’re short on time, and still want to live a healthy and fit lifestyle, then how to we go about getting back into shape?  The answer is simple: fitness needs to become a habit.

It’s essential that you make health and fitness a part of your every day routine.  It needs to become a habit if there’s any chance of you following through over an extended time frame.  Habits can help us, and they can hurt us.  Think to yourself about one of the habits you have in your life that has a negative affect.  Drinking, smoking, or watching too much television, perhaps?  Now think of one that has a positive affect.  Is it walking, running, biking, or lifting weights?

Habits can help us, and they can hurt us.  When fitness becomes a habit, it leads to better health, longer lives, and more energy.

How to Make Fitness a Habit

Starting small is the key.  You want to focus on the process rather than the outcome.  If we set small and sustainable goals, then fitness will become a habit after a few months of consistent effort.

Let’s take a hypothetical example.

Mary went to the doctor for her annual check up. Her doctor told her that her cholesterol levels were elevated, and she needed to make a change.  Her doctor asks about her diet and exercise, and they have a frank discussion about her lifestyle.  Mary was honest and told her doctor that her schedule always seems so busy, and that she feels there aren’t enough hours in the day to get all her errands done as it is.

When she eats sometimes its an easy meal that requires little to no cooking. Mary’s doctor acknowledges how difficult it can be to fit everything you want done into a day, however he also recommended that she try to eat more balanced meals and exercise more regularly.

walking

Getting Started

How should Mary take her doctor’s recommendation into practice? She can make fitness a habit by starting with small, achievable and measurable goals.

Mary is early to bed and early to rise. She commits to going on a walk around the neighborhood for 30 minutes, after her morning coffee, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  The first couple days into her routine, she finds that it’s an adjustment, but loves the sense of accomplishment she feels after executing on her goals.

Six weeks into her routine, Mary has now learned to love her weekly walks.  She finds that on days she goes walking, she has more energy throughout the day.  It’s a time that she’s able to exercise, and it’s also a time she’s able to reflect on all the great progress she’s made.  What’s better, is she’s actually met a few of her neighbors who are also up early each day, and she’s shared her goals with them.

Over time, Mary decides to add more days to her walking routine, and after 6 months, she finds herself walking almost every day.  It’s become something that she looks forward to each day, and it’s a habit that’s she’s grown to love.  Walking also inspires her to make healthier food choices, because she wants to fuel her body with proper nutrients that taste great and make her feel even better.

All of the great progress Mary made was the result of starting with a small and achievable goal, walking for thirty minutes two times per week.

Finding Your Why

In our hypothetical example, Mary wanted to get back into shape because her doctor discussed with her the risks of her high cholesterol and sedentary lifestyle.  Thinking about her family and loved ones, she knew that she owed it to herself and to them to make a change, to take a step in the right direction.

Think about the loved ones that you have in your life.  Your parents, your spouse, your children, your friends and colleagues.  Think about the activities that you loved participating in when you were younger and had vibrant health and energy.  Envision ten years from now, how you’ll look, feel, and act if you continue on the same trajectory that you’re currently on.  What is it that truly excites you?  What is it that motivates you?  What’s one of the driving forces in your life that you care about above all else?

As Simon Sinek explains in his groundbreaking Ted Talk, Start with Why, people make decisions based on their “why.”  They don’t just choose to get back in shape, they choose to live a better lifestyle because their health is suffering.  They make changes because they want to be around for their family for longer.  They make positive habits because they want to meet their great grandchildren.  Watch the 18 minute talk to develop a better understanding of why we make the decisions we do.  I promise you it’s time well spent.

The Pillars of Getting Back Into Shape

Instead of focusing on “getting back into shape,” it’s helpful to break fitness down into smaller sub categories so you can make progress on each of the different pillars.

pillars

Pillar Number One: Exercise

Exercise is the first pillar to focus on in your fitness journey.  The great news is exercise is a broad term that encompasses a whole range of activities.  It could be taking a walk around the neighborhood like our hypothetical Mary.  It could also be playing tennis, golfing, practicing yoga, or taking dance classes.

Make it Enjoyable

Whatever activity or exercise you choose, make it enjoyable!  It’s so much easier to stick to a routine and activity that you enjoy, rather than one you can’t stand.  Think about which activities you’ve practiced in your life that invigorate you.  Was there a sport you played, or an activity that you loved that stands out above all the rest?  How would it feel to have the energy and flexibility to participate again?  Whatever the activity is that you’ve loved, use it as a way to get back into shape.

Make it Consistent

Build your exercise or activity into your routine.  Whether it’s a daily practice, or just a few times a week, be as specific as possible with when you will do it.  That way, it’s not something that you rely purely on willpower to achieve.  When it’s in your schedule each day or each week, it’s much easier to stick to the process.  Over time, it will become something that you look forward to.  It’s time that you’re dedicating for yourself, so you can live a longer and more enjoyable life.

Get an Exercise Buddy

Everyone has days where they feel low energy, low motivation, or are just simply feeling under the weather.  Having a partner that holds you accountable on your journey can be an invaluable motivator.  On days that you just don’t feel like sticking the the process, a companion can help you get through that workout or activity.  Sometimes your buddy might not feel like sticking to their workout – then the tables are turned and you are able to serve as a motivator for them.

Evaluate Progress on your Goals

When you’re as specific as possible on the activities you use to get back into shape, it helps you track progress over a given time frame.  Keep a diary, journal, or log of the workouts you complete, that way weeks and months down the line, you can look back on the progress you’ve made.

Pillar Number Two: Diet

cutting board

Our bodies are comprised of the foods that we put into our body.  “We are what we eat,” sounds cliche, but has a lot of truth to it.  When we consume foods that are high in sugar and low in nutrients, it doesn’t give us the proper fuel we need, and our health suffers from it.  When we eat a diet full of vegetables, complex carbs, healthy fats, and lean meats, our diet helps support our health and fitness goals.

Practice Portion Control

At the end of the day, weight gain and weight loss comes from the amount of calories we consume.  When we take in more calories than we burn each day, then our body stores the excess as body fat.  On the other hand, when we burn more energy than we consume, our body uses some of the fat stores to make up for the deficit, meaning we lose weight.  Weight can and weight loss all comes down to total caloric intake over time.

Listen to your body each time you eat.  What’s key is eating until you are satisfied, not until you absolutely can’t consume another bite.  If you feel so full after a meal that you need to lay down or take a nap before doing anything else, you’ve eaten too much.

Adequately Hydrate

Many of us are chronically dehydrated.  Water comprises about 60% of our body, and is critical to vibrant health and energy.  An easy method to follow is the rule of 8.  We need about 8, 8oz glasses of water throughout the day to maintain proper hydration.  It amounts to about half of a gallon.  Whether you have a large water bottle you keep with you, or you keep track of how many glasses you drink, make sure your body has the proper amount of water that it needs.

When you’re hydrated, you’re body is more effective at digesting food, leveling your blood pressure, detoxifying your body, and fighting disease and infection.

Limit Sugars and Processed Foods

Sugars and processed foods should not take up a large amount of your daily calorie intake.  Consuming too much causes spikes in blood sugar which can lead to diabetes, weight gain, irritability, inflammation, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and more.  Cutting sugar out of your diet is one of the single biggest positive changes you can make to better support your health over the long term.

Don’t Drink Your Calories

An easy change to make for a better diet is to not drink any of your calories.  Cut out the juices, sodas, and sugary drinks.  One can of Coca Cola has 140 calories, and 39 grams of sugar.  That’s the equivalent of 16 sugar cubes.  The soda may taste great in the short term, but it’s wreaking havoc on your overall health.

Instead of drinking sodas and sugary drinks, replace them with water, tea, and coffee.  They’ll help you hydrate your body better, and will add no calories to your daily intake.

Pillar Number Three: Sleep

Sleep is the third pillar to pay attention to on your journey to better health and fitness.  Adequate sleep is essential to our health because it’s the time when our body is able to rebuild, repair, and detox.  It may seem like it’s almost glorified these days to sacrifice sleep for productivity, but burning the candle at both ends is something that will do more harm than good in the long run.

koala

Set a Schedule

Go to sleep at the same time each evening, and wake up at the same time in the morning.  Yes, even on the weekends.  Humans are creatures of habit, and that’s especially true with our sleep cycles.  when we have consistency in our routine, it allows our circadian rhythm to function properly.  Our bodies perform best when they have a set schedule.

Avoid Screen Time Before Bed

When we stare at our screens before going to sleep, it messes with your circadian rhythm.  Screens emit what’s known as blue-spectrum light – the same light that’s emitted during the day.  Our brains can’t tell the difference between the light the sun provides, and the light that our screens emit.  When we use our electronic devices immediately before going to sleep, it sends our brains mixed signals because our brain processes the light and tells our body it’s daylight outside.  Do your best to limit the use of electronics within one hour of going to sleep.

Supplement for Better Sleep

On average, more than half of us are deficient in magnesium, a micronutrient that’s fights insomnia, helps our bodies relax, and cuts down on cortisol, the “stress” hormone.  Take a serving of it prior to bed to help your body relax and get ready for a restful and rejuvenating sleep cycle.  A great product to start with is Natural Calm – find it on Amazon, or at a local health foods store.  If that isn’t doing the trick, supplement with melatonin as well.  It’s a hormone that’s secreted by our pineal gland, and helps regulate our natural sleeping and waking cycles.  Staring at screens too much, especially at night, is one way that our melatonin levels get out of whack.

Get Started Today

Your health and fitness is completely in your control.  Sometimes it may not feel like it, sometimes it may feel like our body is craving sugar, wants to lay down, and do nothing.  These are purely signals that your body sends, but you are the one that acts on the signals.  At the end of the day, nobody is as invested in your health as you are.  Not your doctor, your spouse, or your loved ones.  It’s your health, and your body, and your life.  Even if you’ve spent years or decades with the wrong habits, it’s never to late to make a change.

Getting back in shape is one of the absolute best things you can do for your health.  You’ll live longer.  You’ll be happier.  Moving around will be easier.  You’ll be able to spend quality time with loved ones, and will get more satisfaction out of the time you have on this planet.

It’s not always going to be easy.  There will be days when you just don’t feel like sticking to the routine.  There will be meals that are full of sugar that just seem too resistible to pass up.  Some days you may not even want to get up from the TV.  That’s ok.  It happens to everyone.  What’s most important is making slow and consistent progress, and taking steps in the right direction.

If you miss a workout, or have a cheat meal, it’s not the end of the world.  Just don’t let it derail you from your progress over the long term.  Even when it doesn’t feel like it, it’s all within your control.

Gut Health and Why You Should Take Probiotics

yogurtWe’re always told it’s healthy to consume probiotics, but why is that the case?  First, it’s important to understand what comprises the human body.  There’s bones, muscles, tendons, blood, lymph, organs, and lots and lots of bacteria.  The truth is, our bodies contain trillions of microorganisms that live in a symbiotic relationship with us.  That means that the bacteria living inside our bodies are beneficial to us and our health, and we are beneficial to them.

Why Bacteria Lives in our Bodies, and Why It’s a Good Thing!

There are tens of thousands of types of bacteria that live in our bodies, with the highest concentration of them living in our intestines and gut.  As a whole, they encompass our gut microbiome.  Think of it as an entire world of bacteria and microscopic organisms, contained entirely within our bodies.  They’re important because they help our bodies break down the food we consume so we can digest and use the nutrients as energy.

How Gut Health is Tied to Overall Health

The health of our gut is a great indication of our overall health, because the two are intimately tied together.  When you have a healthy blend of bacteria in the gut, you’re able to digest food effectively and efficiently, detoxify the body, absorb nutrients, and fight infection and inflammation.  If your gut microbiome is out of balance, or contains too many of the wrong types of bacteria, it can leads to problems.  Rapid weight gain, irritability, indigestion, poor mental performance, skin problems, and a weakened immune system are all characteristics of an unhealthy gut.

old ageIs my Gut Bacteria Trying to Tell Me Something?

Our gut communicates with our brain, through the vagus nerve.  Ever had a “gut feeling,” or do you make decisions “based on your gut?”  What about an intense craving for sugar, a craving so strong that it was just impossible to say no to that delicious cookie or cupcake?  This was likely due to the bacteria in your gut signaling a desire for sugar.  The bacteria in our guts communicate directly with our brain, and can even change the way that we behave via cravings and signals that are sent to our brains.   

How do we Change the Type of Bacteria in our Guts?

The good news is we can have a direct affect on the balance of bacteria in our bodies.  The microorganisms in our gut microbiome feed on the food we put into our bodies, so it’s crucial we eat healthy food to promote better gut health.  Ever heard the phrase, “you are what you eat?” 

We quite literally are comprised of the foods that we put into our bodies.  When we eat leafy greens and healthy fats, healthy types of bacteria that digest those foods tend to flourish.  If on the other hand, we eat a diet full of sugar, toxins, preservatives, and processed foods, it allows other types of microorganisms to take over the healthy balance in of bacteria in our bodies.

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What Should I do to Improve the Balance of Healthy Bacteria?

  • Eat Healthy

The single biggest positive influence we can have on our gut bacteria is eating a diet comprised of whole foods, vegetables, healthy fats, and fiber.  It feeds the healthy microbes in our bodies, so they are able to flourish.  Get as many vegetables into your diet as you can.  They’re low in calories, high in micronutrients, and are critical for long term health and wellness.

  • Eliminate Toxins

Processed foods, sugars, preservatives, and environmental toxins can wreak havoc on the balance of healthy bacteria in our bodies.  Cut them out of your diet completely, or minimize them as best as possible to help get your gut micro biome back in check.  Everyone wants the cookie or the slice of cake now and then, and that’s ok.  Have your cheat meal or special dessert that you love, but don’t eat in excess.

  • Consume Probiotics and Fermented Foods

Yogurt, cheese, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso are all great sources of healthy bacteria.  Probiotics and fermented foods contain healthy bacteria, so it’s a way to repopulate our gut with the right types of microorganisms.  They’ll help with digestion and make you healthier both inside and out.

  • Manage Stress and Get Adequate Sleep

Our stress and cortisol levels have a direct affect on the balance of bacteria in our bodies.  Frequent stress and lack of sleep weakens our immune systems, and prevents us from performing optimally.  Guard your sleep as best as you can.  Stop using electronics an hour before bed time, turn off notifications to avoid interruption, and learn to meditate and be as present as you can throughout your day-to-day life.

  • Only Use Antibiotics when Absolutely Necessary

Antibiotics are one of the most important and effective aspects of modern medicine, but they must be used with care.  They are able to destroy harmful bacteria in our bodies, but they also tend to wipe out the good bacteria as well.  Only use them if absolutely necessary, because it’s critical to protect your gut health to the best of your abilities.  Make no mistake, they’re incredibly beneficial, but they need to be used in moderation, and only to treat specific illnesses when prescribed by your doctor.

What Should I Take Away?

The health of our gut and our body is intimately paired with our overall health and well being.  When the microorganisms are in check, they can be our best friend because they promote health, digestion, and longevity.  When they’re out of balance, they can be our worst enemy. 

Do everything you can to protect your gut, because it will help you achieve vibrant health and vitality.  At the end of the day, nobody is as invested in your long term health as you are, so consider the foods and nutrients you put into your body each and every day. Get in the habit of asking yourself, “is this going to help me, or hurt me?”

sleep

7 Ways to Optimize your Morning Routine

The sunlight peaks through the edges of your windows, and the chirping birds slowly make you more and more conscious of the world outside.  Should you doze a few more minutes, hit snooze on the alarm a few times, or jump out of bed to start the day?  Such a big decision!

Perhaps you savor your slumber, and snooze time after time until you begrudgingly need to roll out of bed and kick off the day.  Ugh, not another Monday.   Sound all too familiar?

How you do anything, is how you do everything.  The way that you start your day has an affect on the rest of your waking hours. Over the long term, the small decisions that we make on a day to day basis dictate the trajectory, and the quality of our lives.  That means starting the day with productivity and purpose is a must.

So how do we go about optimizing our morning routines?  It’s important to understand that an effective morning routine doesn’t start in the morning – it starts the night before.  Set aside the clothes you plan to wear ahead of time, because it’s important to leave yourself with as few decisions as possible as you kick off the day. Half an hour before you plan to go to sleep, shut off all social media, and stop using any electronics with a screen.  The blue light that our electronics emit affects our circadian rythym, and tricks our brains into thinking it’s daylight outside.  Have you ever been tired as you browse your news feed, and then can’t seem to fall asleep once you’re in bed?  If so, you’ve experienced first hand how our screens can alter the quality of our sleep.

To optimize your routine in the morning, there are a several simple ways you can guarantee you’ll have a great start to the day, and will feel productive and focused for hours afterwards. 

Make Your Bed

It sounds so simple, and it is.  But why is it important?  By making your bed every morning, it’s an immediate win early on in the day.  It lets your brain feel accomplished, even if it’s just a small task.  Making your bed right after waking helps set the tone for increased productivity throughout the day.

bedHydrate

Many of us live in a state of constant dehydration.  A simple trick to help start your day on the right foot is consuming a few large glasses of water within an hour of waking.  It helps hydrate your body, flush toxins, and increase your metabolism.
water
 

Breathe deeply

We need oxygen to survive, but we need lots of oxygen if we really want to thrive!  If you have a tendency to hunch your shoulders, breath shallow, and don’t live a very active lifestyle, you’ll notice immediate benefits from this one.  Take 10 deep breaths right as you jump out of bed in the morning.  It can even be while you’re making your bed, if you like multitasking.  It helps improve our respiritory, digestive, lymphatic, and immune systems.  Deep breathing also reduces stress levels and helps increase circulation throughout our bodies.

 breath

Stretch or Exercise

Air squats, pushups, stretching and jogging.  There are so many activities you can practice to get your blood flowing first thing in the morning.  Even if you don’t have the time (or the willpower!) for a full workout, spend some time stretching and paying attention to your body.  It helps you fully wake up, increases your alertness, and gets your brain in a mindset where you’re ready to be productive.

 stretch

Practice Gratitude

When we tell ourselves the things that make us gratful, it conditions our brain to pay attention to the blessings that we have.  There are plenty of studies that show when people practice gratitude, it leads to higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction.  No need to overcomplicate things – practicing gratitude can be as easy as choosing three things you’re grateful for; your health, your family, and your job perhaps?  Try mixing them up each day, and remember, it doesn’t have to be complicated!
 gratitude

Daily Goals

If you fail to plan, then plan to fail!  It’s important to be crystal clear on the things that you want to accomplish on any given day.  Write down the biggest or most important tasks, even if it’s just a mental note.  By being clear on the precise things you need to accomplish, it leaves no question of how you should focus your time, and what you should do that day.
map 

Consume a healthy meal

Our bodies are comprised of what we fuel it with.  We quite literally are what we eat!  The good news is that healthy food is downright delicious!  Once you’re hungry in the morning or around lunch time, treat your body to a nutritious and satisfying meal.  Try to minimize the sugar and refined carbs, because those are the nutrients that lead to mood swings and weight gain.  Choose the lean proteins, healthy fats, and plenty of vegetables to provide you with clean, healthy energy throughout your day.
salad
Optimizing our morning routines doesn’t have to be difficult.  With a little planning, we can set ourselves up for an incredibly productive and satisfying day.  Our livelihood is completely within our control, once we make some simple improvements to our routines first thing in the morning, it helps us throughout the rest of our waking hours.
Let us know if there are any great tips that we might have missed!

What Is Brain Fog, and How Can I Reduce it?

fog

We’ve all been there.  It’s a crisp Saturday night and some of your closest friends and family members are gathered around the table for the dinner party you’ve meticulously planned over the past several days.  The table is set, delicious smells fill the air, and everyone is in good spirits.  To spur conversation, you begin to share that story you always reserve for dinner parties—it’s a surefire crowd-pleaser.  Although this time, it seems that the words just aren’t coming to mind, and the story doesn’t land with the usual impact and punch lines. You shrug off the lack of mental recall as a “senior moment,” have a chuckle, and move on. However, your concern remains.

Brain Fog?  Wait, Why am I Reading this Again?

How about the other day after frantically running errands all day, when you couldn’t for the life of you remember where the car was parked in the grocery store parking lot.  “I swear it was right down this aisle!”

parking lot

The scenarios might by different, but the symptoms can often be similar. Brain fog is a term that encompasses everything from forgetfulness to a lack of mental clarity – it’s that feeling you can’t quite put your finger on but you know there’s something not quite working optimally.  Are you more frequently asking yourself:

  • Where did I park that car again?
  • Where are my keys?
  • What was his/her name, again?
  • What did I come into this room to get?
  • Which ingredients was I missing?
  • Where did I park that car again?
  • That meeting was today?

What are some of the causes?  Burn off the fog with a better diet.

veggies

The truth is, the mental fogginess you experience can come from a variety of places—some or more serious than others.  If you think your lack of mental acuity is stemming from a more serious health problem— schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. But, for those of us who just aren’t feeling on top of their game—consider your diet as one of the first places to look for some answers.  The food you eat not only tastes great, it fuels your body and mind with the nutrients it contains.

What happens a couple hours after the turkey lunch or dinner every Thanksgiving?  Are you and your loved ones bouncing off the walls with energy and enthusiasm, or is everyone groggy, drowsy, and ready to take a long nap to sleep off the feast?  That feeling of fatigue and sleepy is a direct result of an amino acid in the turkey called l-tryptophan, which has side effects that bring on the drowsiness.  L-tryptophan may not be the reason you forgot where the car was parked, but it’s a great example of how the food we eat affects the way we feel, and it’s one that many of us can relate to.

Which foods are making my brain foggy?  Where is your personal lighthouse?lighthouse

The first place to look in your diet is your sugar intake.  Many of us ride that rollercoaster of high sugar consumption for years on end.  We hear we should cut back, and a part of us understands that intuitively, but that soda and chocolate just tastes so delicious!  When we excessively consume sugar and simple carbs (which are processed by the body just like sugar) it causes massive fluctuations in our blood sugar.  One minute it’s high, and the next minute it comes crashing down, just like a roller coaster, and sometimes it takes your mood and mental acuity along with it.  When you reduce the amount of sugar and simple carbs that consume on a regular basis, it helps your blood sugar remain at a more stable level throughout the day.  It’s great for your mood, your memory, and your waistline!

Do You Have Grain Brain?  What does that even mean!?

pasta

If your sugar intake is in check, and you’re not riding the roller coaster of blood sugar spikes that come with excessive intake, then your problem may be with the amount of grains you consume. Many of us have slight intolerances to grains, especially grains that contain gluten.  We hear all around us gluten free this, gluten free that, but what does that even mean?

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, and rye.  It’s one of hundreds of variations of proteins that are found in grains.  It creates the stretchy, elastic texture of raw dough.  Individuals with Celiac disease are severely intolerant to gluten, because it irritates the lining of the small intestines.

It’s not only individuals with Celiac disease that are intolerant to gluten.  In the best seller Wheat Belly by Doctor William Davis, he explains that our massive consumption of wheat and gluten is the single biggest contributor to our massive waistlines.  By cutting it out of our diets, it can significantly reduce the foggy-headed symptoms and give you back a clarity you may not have even realized you were missing.

Are processed foods making your thoughts harder to process?

If sugar and grains don’t do the trick in reducing your brain fog, you need to take a closer look at the amount of processed foods you consume.  Yes, processed food is convenient, and often times taste downright amazing—but it’s difficult to understand exactly what’s in food in the box or bag and the affects those foods have on our body and mind.

Aspartame

Aspartame is a sweet sugar substitute, which is often times found in low calorie or low sugar products.  It can taste great and mean lower calories, but the problem lies in that it can lead us to experience a variety of negative symptoms.  Brain fog is one, but it can also make you feel dizzy, irritable, anxious, depressed, fatigued, can make it difficult to sleep, can impact your vision, make you nauseous, and pack on the pounds.  That diet coke doesn’t sound so sweet any more, does it?

MSG

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is another very common additive in many of the foods we eat.  It’s in lots of Chinese food, processed food, fast food, and canned food.  It tricks our brain into thinking the meal we are eating contains more protein than it actually does, and makes our meal taste “savory.”  Sounds great, right?  The problem is it causes brain fog, headaches, chest pain, facial pain, and back pain.  Definitely something you want to leave out of your diet to experience more health and vitality.

Is Lack of Sleep Causing My Brain Fog?

Many of us are chronically sleep deprived.  We’re up early getting the kids ready for school, running errands all day, and preparing meals at night.  Perhaps you’re even juggling a full time job while also being the home maker.  When is there ever enough time for sleep!?  If you can’t seem to remember where you left your keys, or where the car is parked, lack of sleep is a big contributor to brain fog.  It’s not only the duration of your sleep that’s important, it’s also the quality.

There are a few simple tricks that can have a direct affect on the quality of your sleep, and in turn your brain fog.

Stop Staring at Screens! screens

Especially within an hour or two of going to bed, it’s important to minimize your exposure to electronics screens.  They emit a blue spectrum light which messes with your circadian ryhthym, and makes your brain think it’s still daytime.

Play some white noise.

Try running a fan or air purifier.  Your brain is able to tune out the noise of the fan so you hardly notice it.  The benefit is that having the white noise in the background “conditions” the air so to speak – it helps eliminate creaks, coughs, and dog barks which can always seem to wake you from the deepest slumber. 

Limit caffeine use throughout the day.  coffee

It’s great first thing in the morning to get an energetic start to the day, but consuming coffee, tea, or caffeine-containing products tends to decrease our ability to fall asleep, and experience high quality sleep.

The Benefits of Walking or Running – For Body and Mind!

running

Physical exercise is an all-around fantastic way to make your mind run clearer.  Whether it’s running, walking, playing tennis, or a round of golf, getting out and moving increases circulation, reduces inflammation, and will help you cut through the mental fog in your brain.  Even if you’ve been sedentary for months or years, it’s never too late to make exercise an important part of your day.  Your body and mind will both thank you!

Could my body be telling me something else?

If you live a healthy diet and exercise regularly, and still experience excessive brain fog, it can be a symptom of another underlying condition.  It’s never normal to feel fuzzy headed day-in day-out, so talk to your doctor or health practitioner if it seems to be persistent.

How Can I Reduce my Brain Fog Today?

There are many things within your control that you can do to minimize the fogginess and forgetfulness that is brain fog.  It’s important to hold yourself accountable to your health because really nobody is invested in it as you are.  The small decisions that you make each day when it comes to your diet and fitness are the things that affect your health over the long term. Start reducing your brain fog today by paying close attention to the things you eat, and how they make you feel. If an hour or two after a meal you feel slow, forgetful, and sluggish, take note of the ingredients that could make you feel that way!

Resources:

Dr. Axe on Brain Fog

http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=15584

 

The Saturday Smoothie – Join Us on Your Fitness Journey

Welcome to the first edition of our new feature – the Saturday Smoothie. Each week, we’ll bring you our favorite health and fitness content from around the web. Got feedback, or an article suggestion? Tell us here!
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Can Food Heal?

Is your food harming or healingCan food serve as a medicine, and help you heal your body and improve the quality of your life?  Yes, it absolutely can.  Learn how you can take back control of your health, why you should listen to your body, and what you should do to kickstart your diet for newfound youth and vigor.

How You Can Take Back Control of Your Health

Ask-a-Trainer!  Is Nutrition or Exercise More Important?

We’ve also started a new video series, Ask A Trainer. Each week we take your questions to a certified trainer and video his advice. Watch the first video below, and click the button to submit your own question.

So which one is it!?  The two are tied very closely together, but is one that’s more important than the other?  If for some reason, I only wanted to choose one, which one would have the biggest positive affect on my health?  This week we met with Bill Mines, Washington D.C.-based personal trainer, to tackle the classic question of what’s more important, your exercise or your nutrition.

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Which Foods Will Help My Brain Function Better?

Who’s else loves going to the farmer’s market?  There’s something so satisfying about meandering through all the aisles, tasting the samples of fresh-picked produce, and purchasing a basket of healthy, local ingredients.  But what foods should you actually buy?  Well, the second resource we’re excited to share this week is from our friends at NutritionSecrets.com, and it provides you a list of foods that are great for your body and your brain!  A few of them may even surprise you.  (Hint: so you should stock up on dark chocolate!?)
farmers mkt

What’s an Exercise Routine I can Use Today?

Get out there and get moving!  Whether you are in the best shape of your life, or have been sedentary for weeks, months, or years, it’s never too late to exercise.  It increases your circulation, strength, longevity, quality of life, and well-being.  The benefits of exercising on a regular basis are truly limitless.  We wanted to share the 10 Best Exercises for women to get out there and get moving this weekend.
stretching

Mental Toughness – What’s the Best Way to Improve it?

Self awareness is the key to mental toughness.  When was the last time you took the time to sit down, find a comfortable position, and just quietly observed your thoughts?  Do they race, or are you able to bask in the blissful calm of a still mind?  One of the absolute best ways to improve your physical, mental, and spiritual health is regular meditation practice.  Learn the Basics, so you can experience a peace and calm that carries over to every other facet of life.
zen

Can Food Heal Your Body and Help You Regain Health?

How the Food You Eat Effects You (it also affects you!)

Is your food harming or healingCan food heal your body, and help you regain your health, vibrancy, and energy?  “You are what you eat.”  It’s a cliché phrase that’s been said time and tie again, but there’s an incredible amount of truth to the idea that our bodies are made from what we consume.

The fact of the matter is; our diet is in our direct control.  Sometimes it may feel like our food controls us, but each day we face choices about what food to eat.  Even if for years on end we’ve selected the French fries over the salad, or the sugary cereal over the veggie omelet, it’s never to late to take back the control of our health through the foods we include in our diet.

Eliminate the Common Problem Foods – Members of the Food Mafiatoast

The first step in reclaiming your health is taking a break from the foods that commonly irritate our bodies.  Our ancestors all came from different parts of the world, and as such they likely consumed different diets.  This means that some of us are tolerant to certain foods, while others may irritate us.  What’s key is understanding which foods are your own personal kryptonite.

The foods that generally tend to be problematic are gluten, grains, dairy, eggs, soy, coffee, sugar, processed foods, nuts, alcohol, and nightshades.  You may be tolerant to some, but others might make you feel terrible. Sometimes even the wrong combinations of different foods can make your stomach upset, but by themselves they’re fine. Just how deep can this food rabbit-hole go?

By removing all of the foods that can tend to be problematic, it gives our bodies a chance to recover, detox, and reduce inflammation.  Many of us spend years and years feeding our bodies foods that may taste great, but actually irritate us and make us feel awful.

Eliminating the Common Problem Foods – Which Ones are The Worst?

The rule of thumb is cut out the most common problem foods for at a minimum of 3 weeks.  It takes somewhere between 21 and 25 days four our GI tract to heal from the foods that have caused it constant irritation and inflammation.  Cutting out all of these foods is no easy task! For someone who wakes up looking forward to his two cups of coffee each morning, and a glass of wine with my cheesy pasta in the evening, telling me to give up all these foods seems more difficult than climbing Everest! It’s critical to realize that strictly cutting the kryptonite foods out isn’t permanent. It’s an important first step.  It’s a part of a process, and a transformational one at that.  It’s a mindset shift where you pay attention to the way foods make you feel, rather than just how it tastes. When we’re ruthless with our elimination, our bodies have the chance to heal, and we’re able to figure out which foods are most problematic for our own health.

Identify Which Foods Negatively Effect You – What’s Your Kryptonite?

You’ve done it. You’ve diligently cut out all of the foods that tend to irritate, and likely you feel fantastic. The healthiest you’ve felt in years! But it’s been no easy task. The good news is that your body has had a chance to heal. Now comes the fun part – it’s time for re-introduction, so you can discover once and for all what foods act as your own personal Kryptonite. The key here is to re-introduce one food at a time.  This way, you can find out how it effects you, and whether it’s one of your problem foods.

Reintroduce one of the problem foods, for example, dairy.  Sprinkle some cheese on top of your meals that day, have a few slices as a snack, and drink a couple tall glasses of milk.  Over the next 24 hours, listen to your body so you can determine how the dairy is making you feel.  If there are no negative affects, then your body is most likely tolerant to dairy. Congratulations! This means you can keep it in your diet, because it’s not causing you any negative health consequences.  Wait another day before re-introducing the next food category on the list, and keep listening to your body.

But wait, the dairy is upsetting your stomach? If instead of feeling the newfound vibrancy and health you’ve grown to love over the past three weeks, and you have an upset stomach, feel bloated, have GI distress, or any stomach pains, your body is telling you that you should stay away from dairy! Does this mean that never again should you have that delicious gelato, melted brie, or glass of ice-cold milk? Absolutely not! It just means that you’re more in tune with your body and the signals that it sends you.  It means you can recognize when dairy or any other food makes you feel bad, so you can use that information to make better choices in the future.

What are Some of the Negative Effects of Foods?

The key to taking back control of our health is in listening closely to our bodies.  It sends us signals for all of the nutrients we ingest. Sometimes it may be a subtle energy and satiety that leaves us glowing for hours after the meal. Other times it may be a screaming headache with congested sinuses.

A few common symptoms of foods our bodies don’t agree with are:

-Skin breakouts

-Fatigue

-Stomach aches and GI distress

-Bloating

-Sinus congestion

-Headaches

-Joint pain

-Brain fog

What Foods Should I Eat – How Can I Feel Like Wonder Woman?

brussels sprouts

Finish those veggies on your plate! We’ve all heard it, and we may have even told our children or grandchildren the same advice. It’s important to fuel your body with plenty of veggies, as well as healthy fats (think olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, avocados), and lean meats.  A good rule of thumb is 30% of your diet should be from lean meats like chicken, wild-caught fish, and grass-fed red meat, and the other 70% should be from veggies.

If weight loss is the end goal you have in mind, then limit your carbohydrate intake, especially the sugary, processed ones! Sometimes these are called simple carbs, or processed carbs – think sugary cereals, bread, and pasta. If it comes in a box or a bag, it’s probably not the most ideal staple to keep in your diet. The reason processed carbohydrates are bad is because the body easily breaks them down into sugar.   Too much sugar leads to fat gain, inflammation, mood swings, and that crash you’ve probably experienced 40 minutes after eating that (delicious) donut.

How it Feels When you Clean up Your Diet – Simply Amazing!

After you’ve committed to taking time to let your body heal, detox, and reduce inflammation, you’re going to feel fantastic. When we have vibrant health through our diet, it makes us feel downright amazing. It’s a mindset shift that takes place when we pay attention to the ways that foods make us feel, rather than simply how they taste. When you experience first hand a food or meal that truly satisfies you, it’s a liberating experience. We shouldn’t feel bloated, congested, and achy day-in day-out. Our diet is directly in our control, and our bodies and well being are directly related to the food we consume.

Even if we’ve let years go by with poor food choices, we can always commit to making a change.  By dedicating just 3 weeks to eliminating the foods that may irritate us, it lets our bodies begin the healing process.  From there, it’s all about making choices which promote health, and listening to the signals your body sends.  The information we learn by listening to our bodies, and paying attention to our diet ultimately helps us live longer, healthier lives.  It allows us to see our grandchildren grow up, and continue the hobbies we know and love.

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