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How to Feel Younger

Our health is one of our most valuable assets.  When we’re healthy, we can spend higher quality time with our loved ones, can move around easily, and enjoy going out and having fun.  When we’re feeling under the weather, or have been living an unhealthy lifestyle, it’s difficult to find the motivation to do anything.

Perhaps you were in great shape in the past, but over the course of a few months, or years, your health has started to slip.  How do you go about getting healthy and feeling younger?  Use these simple strategies to put a smile back on your face and add that spring back into your step.

Adjust your Posture

It sounds simple, but even just sitting with better posture will change the way your body feels.  Straighten your back, pull your shoulders back, and keep your head up.  Learn to get in the habit of paying attention to your posture throughout the day.  To get started, it’s helpful to stand against a wall and flatten your back against it.  It’s ok if it’s difficult at first.  After years of bad posture, you’re retraining your body to maintain the form it’s made to be in.

meditation

Get Moving and Increase Mobility

Even if you aren’t an athlete, it’s important to move around each day to get the blood flowing.  Take a walk around the neighborhood.  Walk up and down a few flights of stairs.  Do air squats in the comfort of your own living room.  By getting daily exercise, you improve your circulation, heart health, digestion, and strength.  Exercise is one of the absolute best things you can do for your body to look and feel younger.

Socialize Every Day

Humans are social animals.  For our entire history, we’ve lived in communities where we have regular interaction with our peers.  In this day and age, it’s easy to live an isolated lifestyle and go through the usual daily routine.  Even if your friends and loved ones don’t live nearby, make it a point to get out and socialize every day.  Start by making small talk with the people around you.  Strike up a conversation with someone while waiting in line at the grocery store.  When in doubt, ask questions.  People love talking about themselves, and asking a question is a sure way to get the conversation going.

socializing

Eat a Healthy Diet

The food we eat directly affects the way that we feel.  When we eat a diet full of sugar, processed carbs, preservatives, and and chemicals, it leads to weight gain, moodiness, and poor health.  On the other hand, when our diet is full of vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats, our body is able to repair itself.  We feel younger, look fitter, and grow stronger.

Feed your Body What It’s Missing

Go and get a blood test.  Often times, when we feel sluggish, it may be the result of micronutrient deficiencies.  It’s amazing how quickly you start to feel young again when your body has the proper balance of nutrients.  There’s no magic pill, or end-all-be all, but starting with a blood test will show you what’s healthy, and where you need to make improvements.

Practice Daily Gratitude

There’s an ancient Zen philosophy, that says “learn only to be content.”  It’s the secret to lifelong happiness.  Be content with what you have, rather than focused on what you want.  Practice gratitude by saying three things that you’re thankful for every day.  They can be simple.  I’m grateful for the great weather.  I’m thankful for a cup of coffee in the morning.  I’m thankful for my loving family.  See how easy that is?

gratitude

beef stew

The Saturday Smoothie – Digital Detoxing, Skipping Breakfast, and Fitness Competition

Welcome to the latest edition of the Saturday Smoothie! This week, we’ve got a ton of ideas for you to check out, including digital detoxing, calorie restriction, and intermittent fasting. As always, if you have any questions or comments on these, send us a note.

Taking a Digital Detox for Health Benefits

Getting Back in Shape After Fifty

How many times do you check your phone each hour?  When was the last time you went a full day without using any electronics?  We’re so plugged into our technology nowadays, sometimes it’s healthy to take a break from our devices.  It sounds tough, but the effort is well worth it.  Make a day, a weekend, or even a full week, and enjoy the benefits of taking the time to unplug.

Calorie Restriction is Key for Weight Loss

beef stew

A healthy lifestyle is all about balance.  Exercise is important, and has incredible health benefits. But, if weight loss is what you’re after, it all happens in the kitchen.  Our food choices are the most important factor in terms of controlling our weight.  Read this article to find out why healthy food choices are really the key to managing the number you read on the scale.

Intermittent Fasting to Lose Weight

coffee

Skip breakfast!?  I thought it was the most important meal of the day!  It’s something that we’re all told, but the science doesn’t necessarily back it up.  Consider using an intermittent fasting style of eating, there are numerous benefits. You’ll lose weight, increase productivity, and balance hormones.  Even better, it’s actually a whole lot easier than you think!

Read it here:

Compete for More Fitness Motivation

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When was the last time YOU competed in a fitness competition?  Weightlifting, running, or dancing, perhaps?  Entering and participating in a competition is a great way to kick start your fitness, and get your health back on track.  Check out these incredibly inspiring After Fifty’s.  You can see the joy emanating from their faces!

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Digital Detox – How to Unplug from your Technology

The most present, calm, grounded, and centered I’ve ever felt was years ago on a 30-day backpacking trek through the Indian Himalayas. There’s an analogy my fellow backpackers and I regularly discussed.  Because of modern technology, our attention is pulled in so many directions.  It’s as if there are a dozen or more TVs that are constantly playing in the back of your mind.  One of them may be worries about work, another about finances, one for relationships, and they’re all competing for our attention.  The constant concerns and can get downright exhausting!  But, when you give your body and mind the opportunity to unplug from the constant digital distraction, these TVs shut off one by one.

computer

Taking Back Control of Your Thoughts

After a week, many of your worries have fallen by the wayside.  You’re calm, present, centered, and focused on the now.  It’s a truly liberating feeling when all of your attention is on the present moment.  The mental chatter that characterizes your day-to-day has been silenced, and you’re in control of your thoughts.  It offers you a fresh perspective on life, can improve your attention span, and foster creativity. Above all else, it adds a much-needed calmness amongst the chaos of the day-to-day grind.
Perhaps a 30 day long trek without technology and electronics is a bit extreme.  For the near future maybe it’s out of the question.  The good news is everyone can take a quick digital detox, large or small.  Try taking a digital detox to experience the benefits of unplugging from technology, your mind and body will thank you.  Use these tips to get started.

Start Small.

Many people nowadays have trouble being away from their devices for even an hour.  Some of us even experience phantom rings, where we feel a vibration in our pockets, only to find there’s no new notification and the vibration was just our imagination.  Give yourself a break by going just one evening without your phone, computer, iPad, and television.  Turn off the notifications from all of your apps, so when you do use your tech, it won’t be pulling your attention away from the task at hand.
small ladybug

Go a whole day.

That’s right, 24 hours without the use of technology.  No computer, phone, tablet, podcast, or television.  If you’re worried your life and world may come crumbling down, give your friends, loved ones, and family a heads up that you’ll be unplugging for the day.  Try getting outdoors and in nature.  Go for a hike, walk in the park, or somewhere away from the constant electronic distraction.

Detox for a weekend.

 Going a whole two days without technology may seem daunting, but it’s much easier than it sounds. Notify the people you care about you’ll be unplugging for the whole weekend, and give them a way to reach you in case of an emergency.  Shut down the laptop, unplug the router, and turn your phone on airplane mode.  Grab a book, get outdoors, or get back in touch with your creative side.  It may feel uncomfortable the first few hours, but make it a priority to focus on being present with whatever you’re doing.

Digital detox vacation.

forest

To really experience the benefits of unplugging, schedule a vacation for a few days.  If you’re up for it, try taking a week or more where you’ll go off the grid.  Hiking, backpacking, relaxing on the beach, or exploring a new city – the destination doesn’t matter.  Leave the electronics at home, notify your loved ones you’ll be unreachable, and set your out-of-office responder.  If it puts your mind at ease, give your loved ones the contact info of the hotel or accommodations where you’re staying.  That way, if they really need to, they can still get in touch.  Use the time away from technology as a chance to reconnect with the outdoors, your creative side, and take stock of your life and obligations.  When we unplug for an extended period of time, it enables us to look at our lives and the direction they’re going with a fresh perspective.
Above all else, technology should be a complement to our lives, and should add value, not distraction.  When you find yourself anxious to be away from your devices for more than a couple hours, ask yourself a question.  Are you controlling your technology, or is it controlling you?
Getting Back in Shape After Fifty

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

meditating

Meditation and Mindfulness – Why You Should Start

Meditation. When you hear the word, does it bring up imagery of tie-dye, long hair, and questionable hygiene?  How about cross-legged practitioners wearing flowing robes and chanting with eyes closed for hours on end.  This may be what comes to mind when you think of meditation, or what media has led you to believe, but there are plenty of reasons to change that perception.

Meditation is a practice that’s been around for thousands of years, and has been present in nearly every civilization around the world.  It has has substantial health benefits, and is something anyone can practice.  Scientists at Harvard studied the affects of meditation over a two week time frame, and found it to measurably increase the amount of grey matter in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that is closely associated with learning and memory.

The Benefits of Regular Meditation and Mindfulness

In addition to improving the capacity for learning and memory, meditation has a whole host of benefits; they’re right at your fingertips.  It’s been known to decrease depression, pain, and stress.  Meditation benefits practitioners by instilling a greater sense of life satisfaction.  It fosters a peaceful and calm demeanor that’s noticeable throughout the day, and can help you with more control, presence, and awareness with all of your thoughts and emotions.

What is Meditation Anyways?

There are plenty of ways to go about it, but at the very core, meditation is the act of sitting calmly and quietly, clearing your mind, and focusing on your breathing.  When thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them, then slowly let them pass.  Some folks like to chant a mantra over and over to stay focused, others prefer to pay close attention to their breathing.  Some meditators sit cross legged on the floor, others sit comfortably on their beds or in their desk chairs.

The great news is there’s no right or wrong way to meditate, it’s a very personal and subjective experience.  There’s no need to worry about posture, position, or what you’re wearing.  Try to find a method that is enjoyable, and is easy to build into your schedule for the day.   

Start Small

small ladybug

Commit to dedicating just two minutes per day.  Within the first hour of waking in the morning is a great time to do it, and so is in the evening before bed.  How about right now.  Let’s silently meditate for two minutes together right this very moment.  Sit back in your chair so you’re in a comfortable position.  Take a few deep breaths, and let your eyes slowly close.  Focus on your breathing, and just contently sit in place for two minutes.  Do it now.  Breath in deeply through your nose, and out slowly through your mouth.  Count your breaths slowly up to ten, then count back down.  Pay attention to any aches and pains in your body, any signals that might be getting sent, signals that you may be ignoring in your day to day life.  Relax and clear your mind, and just sit contently in place.

Am I Doing it Right?  Don’t Worry!

One of the easiest pitfalls is when practitioners worry whether or not they’re meditating correctly.  Don’t get caught up in this trap, because there really is no right or wrong answer.  Just go through the motions, and focus on the process and the journey, rather than a specific outcome.  The benefits of meditation come through consistent practice over a longer time frame, so learn to appreciate the couple minutes of peace and calm.  Focus on your breathing, try to quiet the voices in your mind, and pay attention to how your body feels as you relax and meditate.

Come Back to Your Center

When you’re meditating, it’s inevitable that your mind will start to wander.  Learn to be aware of these tangential thoughts, and come back to your peace and calm.  Think of each time your mind starts to wander as a chance to practice self awareness.  Acknowledge the thoughts as they come up, then let them slowly pass.  Each time you are able to become aware of your wandering thoughts, and refocus on breathing and clearing your mind, it gives your brain more control and awareness.

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Be the Observer of Your Thoughts

You are not your thoughts, you are merely the observer.  A metaphor that’s always helped me, is to think of your mind as a vast ocean.  Envision it as you meditate.  The ripples and waves on the top level of the water are your thoughts, but you go much deeper than that.  You are not your thoughts.  You are the vast body of water, that goes seemingly infinitely deep, and spans for miles and miles, farther than the eye can see.  Sometimes there’s a quiet peace and calm, and the water may be still as glass.  Other times, there may be a torrential downpour with tidal waves that could capsize an ocean freighter.  Quietly observe, and come back to your center each and every time.

Smile and Be Grateful for the Moments of Calm

smiling man

Whether you set an alarm each time you meditate, or you end your practice when it feels right, take a few moments to reflect on the experience.  Smile.  Breathe deeply.  Say something you’re grateful for, it can be big or small.  Today you woke up happy and healthy.  You have a community of family and loved one that care about you.  You dog was excited to see you in the morning.  There is so much to be grateful for all around us.  Meditation helps us focus on the blessings we have all around us, and helps us live with more appreciation and gratitude throughout the day.  Learn to appreciate the time that you dedicate for your practice, because it’s a time that’s truly yours, and will help your mind and body become more aware and present throughout your waking life.

Resources

There are tons of resources out there that can help you get started, or refine your practice and take it the next level.  A few of them which I personally recommend because I’ve used them consistently, are:

ZenHabits

Headspace

cheese

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.

headstand

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?”

sleepy dog

Willpower and Decision Fatigue

Remember years ago when you laid out your clothes for school the night beforehand?  Did you teach your children the same practice as they were growing up?  It turns out there is actually some solid science behind why it’s a good practice to implement.

Wait, Willpower is a Muscle?  fit woman

Our willpower is not an infinite resource.  Think of it like a muscle – after consistent use it needs to rest and recharge before it’s back to its full capacity.  Ever stick to a diet diligently throughout the day but then couldn’t resist that cookie or slice of cake after dinnertime?  Yes it may have been delicious, but you still may be kicking yourself. You turned down donuts at the office, candy at the convenience store, and that soda in the afternoon.  Why then, did you give in to the dessert?  The answer may be because your willpower waned later in the day, and you fell victim to something called “decision fatigue.”
This concept is one of the reasons why Steve Jobs frequently donned his blue jeans and black turtleneck – to cut down on the decisions he had to make to save as much willpower throughout the day as possible.  It’s much more important that Steve used his willpower make choices on the future of Apple, its products, and its strategy, rather than his outfit.  He didn’t even need to make decisions on what he wore, because he essentially automated that choice by wearing the same thing.  Mark Zuckerberg, Albert Einstein, and Barack Obama do the exact same thing, they consistently wear the same outfits, or they have someone else decide what they’ll wear.  It’s to keep their brains as sharp as possible to focus on the decisions that matter.
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The Choices you Face Each Day Add up Quickly

With this in mind, try to think about how many decisions you might have made thus far today.  I bet it’s more than you would have guessed.  What am I going to wear?  What errands need to be done today?  How will I get to work?  Is it trash day today?  What should I eat for breakfast?  Should I go to the yoga class later today?  Am I going out to lunch today?  What are my plans this weekend?  They add up pretty quickly, don’t they?
Clearly we’re all faced with numerous decisions throughout our days and our lives, and that’s likely not going to change.  But with this understanding, there are a few tweaks we can use to really maximize the impact of our willpower and decision making.

Decide your Outfit the Night Before.

This one makes your morning routine significantly easier.  Choose the outfit you’ll wear, pack your lunch, decide how you’ll get to work, what time you’ll leave, and plan what you’ll do as soon as you get into the office in the morning.

Stick to the Plan.

Whether it’s a to-do list, your Google calendar, or in a daily planner, write it down and stick to it.  Having a plan or a strategy around what you want to accomplish helps you waste less energy because you don’t have to decide on what to do, it’s already scheduled into your day.

Prioritize the Most Important Tasks.

Now that you have your plan, make sure that tackle your most important tasks early on in the day.  This ensures that your mind and willpower are sharpest with the obligations or choices that are most valuable.  I know it seems enticing to knock out all the little tasks early, but really this is just a form of procrastination to avoid the to-do’s that really matter most.

Automate the Small Choices.

Wear the same outfit every day.  Eat the same meal several times each week.  Post to social media at the same time each day.  Pay your bills the same time each month, or better yet, use Autopay so you don’t even have to think about it.  Whatever task or decision it is, try to automate it so it’s one less choice slowly chipping away at your willpower.
saladdd

Eat Healthy.  Exercise Often.

Nourishing our bodies with the proper nutrients, and exercising on a consistent basis ensure that our minds are as sharp as possible.  By now you’ve automated what you’ll wear, what you’ll eat, and your schedule, why not throw some physical activity into the mix.
Over the long term, our lives are dictated by the choices we make on a day to day basis.  Some are big, some are small, but all of them tend to slowly take away our willpower and decision-making potential.  With that in mind, focus on what’s truly important to you, and build your schedule and your life around achieving those goals.  Don’t waste time or brainpower deciding on things that you can automate, save that willpower for the the aspects of life that matter most.
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The Saturday Smoothie – Tips for Better Health Today

fitnessDo you feel like you just might need to lose a few pounds?  That’s ok!  Many of us feel like we’re not as fit as we once were, and we want to help you do something about it!  But what’s the best way to get started?  Sometimes it feels as if it’s tougher to lose the extra flab in your fifty’s than it did a decade ago (is it my metabolism?).  Use these 7 proven strategies for getting back into shape and helping you lean down.

Just Tell Me What Foods I Need to Eat!

There’s so much information out there for what you should eat, what you shouldn’t, why gluten is bad, and why we need to cut our sugar consumption.  Do you ever wish that someone would just tell you which foods to add into your diet to promote better health?  Well now you can! Learn what foods you should eat, why you should eat them, and how they’ll help support long term health and longevity.
vegetables

I Swear I Used to Touch My Toes, What Happened!?

Does it take you a while to get started in the morning, or do you find that you’re not quite as flexible as you were a few years ago?  Well to get started on increasing your flexibility, take the easy self assessments to figure out which body parts need the most help.  We think you’ll love these because they’re simple and can be done at home.  You can gain more flexibility with as little as 5 minutes of practice per day!
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Take a Deep Dive Into Nutrition

Have you ever wanted to go a a little bit deeper on the nutritional side?  Are you someone who likes to understand exactly what’s in the food you’re eating?  But fruit and vegetables doesn’t have nutrition facts!  Well guess what, now they do.  Use this tool and it will tell you exactly what’s in the food you eat.  We love it because it will even give you recommendations on which foods to eat based on your diet and lifestyle.
nutrition-facts-information-assorted-food-labels-35369269

Brain Fog?  That Can’t Actually Be Real, Right?

Have you ever parked the car, gone shopping, and then couldn’t remember at all where it was parked? How about forgetting where you put your keys, or taking out the trash on trash day.  Our brains and our diets are intimately connected, find out what may be causing the cloudiness and lack of mental alertness so you can address it head-on.

[button link=”http://fitafterfifty.com/brain-fog/” size=”xl” text=”grey”]Read All About Brain Fog[/button]

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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.
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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!
lighthouse

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