Posts

The Saturday Smoothie: Fall Tips to Achieve Better Health

Creating an Active Lifestyle

Who says that staying fit has to be be a pain?  Guess what, IT DOESN’T!  One of the great things about living a healthy and active lifestyle is you can choose any activities you like.  Enjoy riding a bike?  Great!  Love going on long runs in the mornings before the world wakes up?  Fantastic!  Find something that actually excites you.  Something that puts a smile on your face, rather than something you dread even thinking about.  Use these practical tips for incorporating fitness into your daily routine.  In no time, you’ll learn to love it.

Learn How To Create an Active Lifestyle (click)

Healthy Lifestyle

Practical Ways to be More Present

When we’re so in our own heads, and with our own thoughts, it prevents us from actually contributing much to the world.  In fact, it’s a great way to let life slip you by.  Instead, focus on being present.  Well, what does that even mean?  I hear the term thrown around a lot, but how is it actually applicable to me?  When you’re present, that little voice inside of your head is silenced.  You’re one with your surroundings, and your attention is completely focused and receptive to everything around you.  Sound enjoyable?  It is.  It’s such a great way to live.

Learn How to Be More Present

Be Present

Being Healthy and Satisfied with Less

 Just how much food do we really need?  When you see some people that constantly are eating, taking in 3,000, 4k, or even 5k calories per day, do you ever stop and think, is that really necessary to eat as much as you can get away with?  Well, what if we looked at it from the other side of the coin.  What if we ate as little as possible in order to remain healthy, fit, and productive?  Learn all about Mark Sisson’s approach to diet and health.  He has plenty of great reasons, as well as some tips and tricks, for how to stay lean and fit with a healthy diet.

Learn How to Be Content With Less

Satisfied with Less

When Was Your Last Fitness Event?

Think back to the last time that you set a physical goal and trained for it consistently.  Was it this year?  Was it 5 years ago?  Has it really been more than a decade?  Well, there’s still some time left in 2016 to finish the year healthier than you started, and what better way to do so than to sign up for an event.  It may sound a little daunting at first, but like anything in life, it’s well within the realm of possibility if you take things step by step.  Give it a shot, and you’ll be well on your way to newfound youth and vigor.

Learn How Easy it is to Run (or walk!) a 5k

Compete

How to Stay Healthy at Work

One of the biggest contributors to obesity is a sedentary lifestyle.  We sit while we eat, when we’re watching television, at our desks at work, and when we catch up with friends.  Add some stress from the workplace into the mix and it’s no wonder why many of us are overweight, or weigh more than we’d like.

Use these simple tips to ensure you can keep off the unwanted pounds, stay healthy at work, and continue ever forward on your journey towards better health.

Don’t Drink Your Calories

Many people (myself included) love and need to start their day with caffeine.  Coffee is fine, but those caramel blended Frappuccinos or similarly sugar-filled drinks will make it downright impossible to stay in shape.  Instead of the dessert-like blended drinks, try a green or black tea, or even a black coffee.  If you don’t find black coffee too appetizing, try adding a bit of cinnamon – it works wonders.  If that combination is still too much to handle, try adding a splash of cream, but leave the sugar aside.

Sugary Drinks

Drink Water Throughout The Day

Keep a large bottle of water on your desk.  Fill it up.  Drink it.  Rinse and repeat.  It is a pretty simple concept, but even just having water in plain sight and within arms reach will substantially increase your water consumption.  If you want some variety, add a bit of lemon, lime, grapefruit, or carbonation to your water.  Worried about the increased number of trips to the bathroom?  Guess what, that’s a bit more exercise you would not have gotten in otherwise.  Often times when we snack, it’s actually because we’re dehydrated, not hungry.  So make it a priority to continually drink water throughout the day.

Take Short Breaks

Ideally you are utilizing a standing desk and trying to sit as little as possible, but if that is not the case or a standing desk is not available, take intermittent pauses in your day to take a stroll around the office, down the street, or up and down the stairs.  I’m personally a big fan of walking meetings.  If there is a meeting that does not require the use of in-office technology or the use of a whiteboard, try to have the meeting while walking around the block.  It gets you out of the office into fresh air, and lets you get a bit of exercise in during your workday.

Stopwatch

Pack Your Lunch

Think veggies, fats, and lean meats.  Ideally grass-fed / free range / wild caught, but that’s a whole different conversation. The key takeaway is that when you pack your lunch, you know exactly what you are ingesting, how fresh it is, and where it comes from.  Not only will it help you look better, feel better, and perform better, it also will be a bit easier on the wallet when compared to eating pricey takeout from the restaurants around the block.

Exercise Regularly

A great way to achieve this is by building it into your schedule.  You don’t even need to go too crazy, you just need to go consistently.  It is not about what you do, it’s about consistency.  Weight lift, run, practice yoga, take dance classes – whatever physical activity you prefer, just make sure it is something that you can do on a regular basis.  If possible, try to get some exercise during your lunch break at work, then eat at your desk afterwards.  It will break up your day, and you may even notice a newfound energy throughout the rest of the afternoon.

Snack Healthy

I love snacking.  I could eat dark chocolate and candy bars all day, but I opt for the healthy snacks.  Try a piece of fruit, a handful of mixed nuts, some carrots, or some yogurt and granola.  Ideally you want to keep the snacking to a minimum, but that is not always possible.  When you do feel that urge, go for the healthy choice.  Often times, realize that the snacking may actually be out of boredom, not out of hunger.  If that is the case, refill that water bottle we talked about earlier and take a quick stroll to clear your head.  You will find yourself back in that productive workflow in no time.

healthy snacks

Sit less, stand more, reward your body with healthy and nutritious food that will serve you, and get some exercise in each day.  If you cannot pronounce the ingredients it probably doesn’t belong in your body. It sounds simple, but it comes down to all the small choices you make on a daily basis.

The key to making these lifestyle changes is keeping your eyes on the bigger picture – your personal well being; realizing that it is all about the journey rather than any one destination.  Make changes and improvements continually along the way, and you’ll find your fitness and wellness goals are easier to achieve.

Lose Weight with Intermittent Fasting

For many people over fifty, losing weight is one of the biggest changes he or she can make to positively influence health and longevity.

The center for Disease Control found that 70% of adults nowadays are overweight, or obese.  That’s more than two thirds of the population!  Heart disease is the biggest killer every year, killing more than half a million people.  Obesity is a direct cause of heart disease.  I don’t know about you, but that’s motivation enough for me to shed a few pounds!

Why has there been such an increase in weight in the population?  The answer lies in our food choices.

Eating Like Our Ancestors

hunter gatherer

For thousands and thousands of years, humans evolved as hunter gatherers.  We are typically a nomadic species, always on the move, with lots of exercise and mobility.  The hunters would go out into the wild and track down whatever game they could encounter.  Sometimes they would be on hunts for days at a time, subsisting on very little.  Nuts, berries, roots, seeds, etc.  Our bodies are physiologically wired to sharpen our senses when low on food.  When this happens, we’re better equipped to hunt down that rabbit, deer, bird, or wild game.  We’ve evolved to be able to not only survive, but thrive during periods of relatively low caloric intake.

When the hunters were fortunate enough to finally track down and kill a wild animal, they’d bring it back to the village and feast with everyone else.

Contrast that with our current eating and exercise pattern.

The Modern Day Eating Pattern

For breakfast, we eat bagels, cereals, pancakes, donuts, pastries, fruit and fruit juices.  Our whole lives we’re led to believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

For lunch, we consume soups, sandwiches, burritos, leftovers, and salads.  Often times there’s also that afternoon snack to tide you over for supper.  Then comes that large meal at night full of meats, potatoes, breads, and the occasional serving of vegetables.  Many of us consume so much at dinner we feel slow and sluggish for hours afterwards.

Let’s not forget that bowl of ice cream, slice of cake, cookie, or brownie to enjoy while watching your favorite television shows.

Couple that with the time we spend sitting down at our desks while we’re working.  Then add the time spent on the computer, or in front of the tv.  We sit or lay down when we’re sleeping, eating, working, relaxing, and socializing.

Simply put, in this day and age, we’re eating too much, and moving too little.  This is why so much of our population is obese, and dying from obesity-related ailments like heart disease.

lazy

Let’s do Something About it

Enter: Intermittent Fasting (IF).  It’s a pattern of eating, rather than a particular diet.  A diet is all about restricting certain foods for a given amount of time.  It’s hard to stick to, because it’s often-times temporary, and prevents us from eating many of the foods we enjoy.

Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, is all about changing the way we think about eating food.  At the core of it, it’s about behavior change.  In intermittent fasting, there are periods of time when you fast, and periods of time where you eat.  The most popular (and easiest) method of intermittent fasting uses a 16 hour window of fasting, and an 8 hour window of eating.

The great news is you’re already doing this to a certain extent.  Have you ever had a meal on a Friday night, slept in on Saturday, and then had a late brunch or lunch?  If so, you had a fasting period of about 16 hrs (8pm dinner, 12pm lunch the next day).

When we give our bodies time to fast, we’re able to spend energy on detoxing and burning fat, rather than simply digesting the foods we consume.  There are numerous health benefits (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ) to following an intermittent fasting style of eating.

Weight Loss

This one is everyones favorite, and frankly it’s much needed for many people.  One of the most significant benefits of intermittent fasting is how easy this protocol makes weight loss.  A large portion of the weight loss often times tends to be body fat as well.  When we reduce our feeding window to 8 hours per day, it lessens the chance that we’ll consume more calories than we need.  There’s simply less time to mindlessly consume calories, so we tend to eat less when following an intermittent fasting protocol.

Improved Fat Burning

When we’re fasted, our body has time to repair itself.  When it needs energy, since we haven’t consumed food, it turns to body fat.  When our body is burning its fat for energy, we’re in a state called ketosis.  The longer we fast, the more our body is able to burn energy from our stored body fat.  Fasts of up to 36 hours have incredible benefits with very little risk of adverse consequences, but we can gain benefits from fasting for as short as 16 hours.

Hormonal Benefits

Intermittent fasting lowers insulin resistance.  This means that it will lower blood sugar levels, which reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.  It also means that since your blood sugar is more stable throughout the day, you’ll experience less moodiness, cloudy thinking, irritability, and sugar crashes.  When fasting, our bodies also produce more human growth hormone, more testosterone, and they’re better able to repair injuries and muscle tissues.

Better Appetite Control

Once our bodies are accustomed to an intermittent fasting style of eating, we experience far fewer cravings throughout the day.  Since our insulin sensitivity is reduced, and our hormones are in check, our bodies aren’t signaling us to constantly eat.  We learn to listen to our bodies and eat when we’re hungry, and stop eating when we’re full.  Over time, it becomes easy to control the amounts of food you consume each day.

salad

Reduced Inflammation.

Intermittent fasting reduces inflammation throughout the body, because when our bodies aren’t digesting food, it can spend energy healing and repairing itself.  Inflammation is a contributor to many chronic illnesses and skin conditions, including alzheimers, arthritis, chrohn’s disease, exzema, psoriasis, and multiple sclerosis.   

How to Do it

The simplest method to abide by is a 16:8 protocol.  16 hours of fasting, and 8 hours of feeding.  It’s even easier if 8 of those hours are spent sleeping.  If that’s the case for you, skipping breakfast is a very simple way to start intermittent fasting.

Wake up in the morning, and don’t consume any calories until about 12 or 1 in the afternoon.  Coffee and tea are fine in the morning, as long as you don’t add any sugar.  A small splash of milk is ok, but avoiding it is ideal.  Coffee is particularly helpful in the morning because it suppresses hunger cravings.  If you start to get hungry, drink a few glasses of water, or even try sparkling water – it can be a big help in reducing hunger pangs.

When lunch time rolls around, break your fast with whatever food you want.  The ideal choice would be a salad or a meal filled with plenty of vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein.

In the afternoon, if you want to have a snack, go for it!  A healthy option is a handful of mixed nuts, a serving of fruit or vegetables, or even another salad or small meal.

For dinner, eat whatever you’d usually eat.  Meat, pasta, potatoes, vegetables, soups, and stews.  Intermittent fasting is not about limiting your food choices, it’s all about limiting the window of time in the day where you’re consuming food.

ScheduleIf you want to have that dessert after dinner, go for it if you must.  Just make sure that you finish your last meal no more than 8 hours after you broke your fast.  You’ll probably find that you sleep better when you don’t eat right before going to bed.

The next morning, do it all over again.

Getting Started

The first few days, it may be tough to adjust to this style of eating.  After years and years of eating breakfast first thing in the morning, your body becomes accustomed to it.  When you get started on intermittent fasting, it’s helpful to keep your schedule busy the first few days.  That way you’re not sitting around idly thinking about when you can eat food.

After a few days or a week of intermittent fasting, you’ll notice that you’re no longer hungry first thing in the morning.  Most practitioners actually experience more energy and focus in the morning when they’re in a fasted state.  Your sugar cravings will be gone, you won’t be worried about what to eat for breakfast, and you’ll have more time to accomplish the things you want to get done first thing in the morning.

The Takeaway

If you know you need to lose a few pounds, want to experience less cravings, and want to feel all around healthier, give an intermittent fasting style of eating a try.  Nothing will change if you keep sticking to the same routine over and over, so only you can be the one to make a change to improve your health.  If after a month, you realize this approach isn’t for you, that’s ok.  Just recognize that you have the power to make a change in your health.  Nobody is as invested in your health and longevity as you are, so take things into your own hands!

stretch

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

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.

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.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

10 Motivational Tips For When the Weather Outside is Frightful

Our lovely fall weather seems to be wasting away quickly into plain ol’ yucky rain and pre-winter crud. There is a good reason bears and other creatures go into hibernation during this kind of weather. To help you not fall into hibernation mode and to make the most of even the dreariest weather, we have come up with some great motivational tips to stick with your fitness regimen in the months to come.

  • Getting up out of your warm flannel sheets can be a bear when the house is cold. Set your programmable thermostat to heat up the house 15 minutes before you wake up so that you can get up and get going with one less excuse to hold you back. If your thermostat isn’t programmable, investing in a new one is just a few dollars and could just be the thing to keep you going through the winter…in addition to the energy savings you will see!
  • Set out all of your workout clothes, water bottle, and gear the night before. Pack your gym bag, set up your yoga mat, dumbbells, kettle balls, or Bosu ball so everything is ready to go and calling your name.
  • Write up a variety of messages on colorful slips of paper with reminders of how good your feel after a workout, pics of yourself at your fitness best, motivational quotes, or the many health benefits of working out. Whatever you know are YOUR greatest reasons for working out, jot those down. In the morning, pull one slip out at random and surprise yourself with your “Workout Inspiration of the Day”
  • If it is the cold weather that is keeping you inside, have your coziest hoodie waiting to go in the dryer and warm it up just before leaving the house for the gym.
  • Re-create morning sunlight with a Wake-up-light to help set your inner clock to get moving even when it is still dark these winter mornings. Setting your body clock to get going these dark mornings is a huge help.
  • Plan your workout breakfast the night before so you are less likely to cast about for something to eat in the morning. When you start off your day in “healthy mode” you are more likely to continue it by not skipping out on your workout.
  • The night before, check out a few workout videos on YouTube for some fresh inspiration. Just one new idea is all it takes to get you excited to try it out the next morning.
  • Get a workout buddy. Even if some days your schedules prevent you from working out together, just agreeing to a text check in and knowing your partner will be counting on you to also check in, will keep you both going strong.
  • Set up a fresh, new workout music playlist so that the next day you have new tunes to get you jazzed.
  • Print up a pic of a great holiday outfit you will reward yourself with, that awesome new bike, or the entry form for that spring triathlon or Tough Mudder race you have been meaning to enter. Keeping your eyes on the goal (literally) can keep up your motivation and focus

Whatever floats your boat (especially for you kayakers); learn to adopt the tricks and motivational tips that keep you in the game and on top of your workouts these dark, cold months ahead. Let us know what motivational tricks work for you!

Featured photo credit Wikipedia Commons.

3363654727_0eb049ab5c_z

Understanding “Good Fats” vs “Bad Fats” in Your Diet

For many years, now the accepted school of thought is that fat in our diet is bad, lean is good. More and more studies in recent times are providing evidence that carbohydrates, not fat, is the root of an unhealthy diet. Fat is a necessary part of a normal, balanced healthy diet. Hold on to those two words: “Balanced and healthy”. Rather than avoid fats altogether or blindly consume low fat options in our diet, it is important to understand the various forms of fat and how our bodies metabolize them.

Understand that when food manufacturers provide low-fat versions of peanut butter, salad dressing, etc., they are usually adding sugars, additives, and salt to make them taste better. Don’t trade less fat for more sugar and processed ingredients. For example, margarine contains lower calories than butter but is high in trans fat. Margarine is manufactured using hexane, hydrogen gas, emulsifiers, bleach, and synthetic vitamins and colors. Call me crazy, but a bit of butter seems healthier on my toast than lower calorie margarine.

The healthy fats include omega 3 and omega 6 which are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. These fats help increase the good HDL cholesterol in your blood and combat the bad LDL. LDL collects in the walls of blood vessels, causing atherosclerosis. LDL cholesterol deposits in the artery walls as early as childhood and adolescence. White blood cells increase to protect the blood vessels and convert the LDL to a toxic, oxidized form of cholesterol. Soon a low level inflammation is occurring in the artery wall, creating plaque.

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats not only help lower your bad cholesterol levels, but also tend to be high in vitamin E, which is deficient in most people’s diets and essential for your bodies’ development of cells and healthy skin

Examples of monounsaturated fats include:

  • Avocados
  • Canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, rapeseed oil, tea seed oil, macadamia nut oil, and sunflower oil
  • Nuts like almonds, cashew, pecans, peanuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts and pistachios
  • Olives
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Whole grain wheat
  • Cereal
  • Oatmeal
Flaxseed oil contains a high level of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Photo source.

Flaxseed oil contains a high level of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Photo source.

Examples of Polyunsaturated fats include:

  • Cereal grains and pasta
  • vegetables and vegetable products
  • Fruits and whole fruit juices (non-pasteurized is best)
  • Nuts and seed products
  • Legumes
  • Finfish and shellfish
  • Poultry
  • Beef
  • Dairy and eggs

While these good fats contain more calories, they also help you to feel more satisfied, less likely to continue to consume more low fat options higher in sugar. But don’t load up on peanut butter and real butter; just use them in moderation.

Saturated fats comprise of more than two dozen different kinds and they are not all the same, nor should we approach them all the same. Until recently, the school of thought was to avoid all saturated fats.   But many sources of saturated fats are also really good for you in many other ways.

A 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that there was not enough proof linking saturated fat alone to either heart disease or stroke. People had been replacing animal fats for vegetable oils and refined carbs, which caused triglycerides to go up and good HDL cholesterol to go down. A New England Journal of Medicine study showed that people on a lower-carb diet shed more weight faster than those on a low fat diet; even the low-carb group was consuming more fats. Likely because fewer carbs release less insulin, control hunger and reduce storage of fat. All of this helps to keep cholesterol at healthier levels.

So the question is not which saturated fats are acceptable and which aren’t but keep your entire fat consumption to no higher than 20-25% of your daily intake. Avoid saturated fats that are highly refined due to the additives, sugars, and chemicals involved in the process. If you have to choose between “low cal-low fat” trans fats such as margarine, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and vegetable shortening, or natural, saturated fats (in moderation, of course) then choose saturated fats. Keep your saturated fats as low as possible, but choose from sources of “good” saturated fats such as:

  • Organic, extra virgin olive oil
  • Organic Peanuts and other nuts
  • Regular 100% peanut butter instead of “low-fat” options
  • Wild Salmon instead of farmed
  • Butter instead of margarine
  • Organic, grass fed meats instead of grain and hormone fed (also avoid meats that are cured, processed with nitrates and other preservatives).

Understanding the wide variety of saturated fats and how they are metabolized is a detailed subject that we encourage you to explore before you just blindly toss all saturated fats out of your diet. The key is moderation and balance in all things. Know your fats and you will make better, healthier choices for your life. Please share with us your experiences with changing fats in your diet and what has worked for you.

 

Featured photo credit Flickr user Jaanus Silla.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 11.22.38 AM

Fabulous Fall Recipes for Fitness

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are blessed with a lovely, long fall harvest season with our temperate climate. Many veggies are readily available locally and organic and it is a great opportunity to stock up, try new recipes, and enjoy the bounty.

Here are some fantastic fall recipes that are friendly to your fitness regimen, as well!

Nothing says fall faster than soups. This simple, yet hearty Autumn Chicken Stew features some of fall’s top offerings: carrots, apples and parsnips. This one is easy to prep the ingredients the night before so that it is all ready to put together the following evening ready for dinner. In addition to its high vitamin A count, this soup is low calorie, low in cholesterol, and appropriate for diabetics. Serve with cheese sandwiches on the side for a full meal.

One of the healthiest squash you can try is pumpkin. It is action packed with beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, and lots of antioxidants. So start those brisk fall mornings off right with Spiced Pumpkin Maple Baked Oatmeal, it is high fiber, gluten free, good for your cholesterol, easy on the budget, preps really well the night before, allowing you to spoil your family and yourself with the yummy scents and flavors of spices and pumpkin with a hearty, warm morning meal.

This oh-so-easy-to make Roasted Fall Vegetables recipe takes full advantage of the abundance of organic squash and root vegetables available. The red potatoes are a great source of iron and vitamin C. Rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, the butternut squash makes this a winning side dish to any entrée.

The abundance of apples each fall is a great opportunity for cooks everywhere. Put your fall apples to good use with this Apple Sangria recipe for your fall gatherings. Lower sugar content in white wine keeps this one a bit more in the “healthy” category than most drink recipes. Everything in moderation, right? 😉

 

In the comments section below, share some of your favorite fall recipes and how they are helping you in your healthy and fit lifestyle.

picjumbo.com_HNCK2125

A Balanced Nutritional Approach that Supports Your Exercise Plan

You are staying faithful to your commitment to an active and healthy life in your fifties and beyond. It takes work and discipline, but too often, it is more fun to choose an activity and pay less attention to the foods you are consuming since you have “earned it”.

Studies have shown that what we eat and how much of it will have a more direct effect to weight loss than exercise alone.  Human nature tends to give more thought and energy to one healthy habit over another.  We are not suggesting that people should diet only and forget your workouts or exercise plan.  Just make sure you don’t buy into thinking that one is more important than the other.

What should your balanced nutritional approach include for food choices when you are exercising and staying faithful to your fitness plan? There is no one particular diet for workouts, but when you remember the Pilates approach to mind and body balance, that will help you choose the foods that result in feeling better and more balanced. Strike balance with the major food groups and learn to listen to your body, it will make it clear what it needs.

Photo credit: Sweet on Veg

Photo credit: Sweet on Veg

Have you been counting calories and restricting yourself? Instead, look around at all the healthy choices available to you. Nutritionist Lily Nichols, has written an information-packed post discussing the negative calorie track and how to get off of it with 11 tips to a healthier approach to food and nutrition. It is about finding balance nutritionally when you listen to your body and pay attention to the flavors of the foods you eat. Take time to educate yourself on healthier choices and also allow for indulgence in your favorite delights so you are not in depriving yourself all the time.

Here is guide for some great options that support your commitment to a fit and healthy lifestyle and nutritional balance.

  • Oatmeal: Start your day with this power-packed slow release gold mine and you will burn more fat since slow release carbohydrates don’t spike your blood sugar
  • Almonds: A 2-ounce serving of almonds requires chewing and leaves you feeling satisfied. Chewing more causes a greater fat release from the almonds, triggering the hormones that curb hunger.
  • Apples: With only 95 calories, this gem is packed with fiber and phytonutrients to regulate your blood sugar as well as having a positive impact on digestive bacteria.
  • Soup: People who start a meal with vegetable soup tend to keep the rest of the meal in balance in regards to caloric intake, nutrients, and fiber.
  • Mushrooms: These guys served as an entrée leave you feeling just as satisfied as if you had beef, but are packed with important nutrients such as niacin, selenium, vitamin D, riboflavin, and potassium.
  • Hot Chile Peppers: consuming one of these 30 minutes before a meal leaves people less hungry and cutting down on unnecessary intake.
  • Eggs: not only high in protein, but eggs leave you feeling fuller longer and support muscle gain

You certainly will not maintain balance if you run out of energy in mid-workout, so plan to have a small meal or snack of complex carbohydrates and lean protein. There are also some great recipes out there for healthy pre-workout protein shakes. It is best to begin your workout with glycogen-rich muscle and a stable blood sugar. Make sure to start with filtered water for your liquid:

  • 1-2 Tablespoons of omega-3 sport oil such as chia, flax, or fish
  • 1-2 servings of whey, hemps or soy protein isolate
  • ½ to 1 cup of low glycemic, organic fresh fruit

At the end of the day, opt for approach that emphasizes the great choices you have for flavorful and healthy options instead of one that focuses on restrictions. This results in a balanced approach supporting your commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Please share with us tips and tricks that you have adopted to improve your nutritional approach.

old man exercising

Tips for Weight Lifting and Body Building as You Age

As we age, our bodies naturally begin to lose muscle and bone density.  Continued bone loss can lead to osteoporosis, muscle and joint pain, and injuries as well as increased risks of developing chronic metabolic diseases. However, it is no reason to throw in the towel, as there are things we can do daily to slow down or even stop that process.  Studies long have shown that weight training not only slows down muscle and bone loss, but it can increase your body’s protein and metabolite levels; both of which stabilize the immune system. According to the Journal of Applied Physiology, performing prolonged resistance type exercise training improves functional performance as well as increases skeletal muscle mass in the elderly.

If you have not done much weight training before, it can be intimidating and even bewildering to head to the gym and just start. We highly recommend setting up an appointment or 4 with a certified personal trainer.  Most gyms have them on site or asking around can get you some good recommendations.  Weight training can do amazing things for your health, but can also cause life long injuries if not done correctly.  Do NOT assume that badass muscle-bound individual is lifting correctly or with good form.

Life long legendary body builder Ric Drasin has some great tips to weight training in your 50’s and beyond. He has learned as he is aging to do lighter weights and more sets, as well as using more machines and less free weights than what he used as a body builder.

Screen Shot 2014 01 18 at 3.23.32 PMOnce you have met with a trainer to gain a basic understanding of how to lift safely and with good form, how repetitions and sets work in your favor, then here are some tips to get you started with confidence and success for body building as you age. Check out this article for more details and tips from a pro.

  • Set a regular schedule and you are more likely to keep it. Put your weight training into your calendar as appointments and schedule other events around them. It won’t be long before it is a regular part of your week and you will miss it when you skip it.
  • Avoid mini workouts! Yes, it is possible to get a full body workout done in 20 minutes, but this should be saved for when you are in a pinch, not a regular routine each week.  Especially when you are first getting started building your fitness through weights, it takes months of regularly planned routines to be comfortable and familiar with what works for your body.
  • Make sure you have comfortable, moisture wicking clothing and quality workout shoes for support. They may cost more up front, but proper support will help prevent injuries and protect your joints.
  • Don’t forget a good warm up, stretching, and cool down.  Weight training on “cold” muscles can directly cause injuries.  No short cuts!
  • Leave the ear buds behind-at first.  When you are first learning the movements and form, you need to have full focus and concentration.  It can be too easy to get lost in your tunes and also lose good form.

Here is a motivational video with training tips for real life women ages 50 and over.  Joe Hashey has some great tips for getting started, preventing injuries, and understanding repetitions and sets.

What are some things that have worked for you as you have started or continued your weight training programs in these years over 50?  We would love to hear your stories.