A Guide to Healthy Living
We promise: Your taste buds will adjust and sugary, salty, fat laden processed foods will lose their appeal, and you’ll be craving a juicy clementine, some blueberries, or your favorite veggie with some lemon flavored hummus!
Science and medical research has proven that a diet with sufficient fiber, protein, and healthy fats, will lead to a healthy weight. It should be centered around fruits, vegetables, and grains with smaller portions of meats, poultry, and fish.
The impact of this healthy approach to eating reverses the progression of chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and coronary disease.
The new science of epigenetics has proven that moving from overly processed foods to whole foods will change the structure of our genes and chromosomes. This will slow the aging process, reduce inflammation in the body, reduce the risks of certain types of cancers, and promote a more stable mood.
“Fish for a person and they eat for a day, teach them to fish and they’ll eat for a lifetime.”
We won’t be giving you packaged meals or daily meal plans to follow. Our 3 step process takes more time and effort up front, but will lead to sustainable lasting results.
Step 1 After our third lesson we’ll ask you to log your food for 3 days. This is the most time consuming part of the program. We have tutorials and guidance to help you along.
Step 2 The benefits of taking this time is you will have a 3 day analysis detailing your current intake of fats, fiber, carbs, sodium, and proteins.
Mary Kate will review this report and share with you the mix of nutrients that will properly fuel your body, keep you satiated longer, and promote natural weight loss while enjoying what you are eating!
Step 3 We’ll help you to begin experimenting with different foods, making small tweaks in your diet to move closer to your recommended guidelines.
You’ll weigh yourself once a week. Don’t hyper-focus on short term gains or losses, monitor longer term trends to identify and make minor adjustments.
Natural whole foods are not something that you “should eat”, or “have to eat” just to get healthy and lose weight. While they are great for your mind and body, they can also taste great!
Sweet News About Chocolate
Could a food as delicious as chocolate really be good for you? The answer is “yes,” although with a few important caveats. The chocolate flavor that we know and love is derived from cocoa beans, which are actually the seeds of the tropical cacao tree. After being scraped from a tough outer shell, the cocoa beans are fermented, dried, roasted, ground, and separated into cocoa butter and cocoa powder. The low-fat powder is used for baking or to make hot chocolate. The dark, rich cocoa butter forms the basis of the delectable confection we call chocolate.
Secrets of the bean
Chocolate’s health-enhancing properties come from an abundance of plant compound know as cocoa flavonoids. Research suggests that these substances promote a range of heart-healthy benefits such as lowering blood pressure, relaxing blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the brain, improving cholesterol levels, reducing inflammation, and combating insulin resistance.
But before you dive into a bag of Hershey’s Minis and call it a healthy snack, there a few thing you need to know. Chocolate’s downfall is that the glorious taste we know and love depends largely on the hefty amounts of not-so-healthy butter and sugar that are used to amplify the taste of natural cocoa. Therefore, eating enough candy bars to yield a significant amount of cocoa flavanols would result in thousands of excess calories to your daily diet and unwanted inches to your waist.
Finding the flavanols
To maximize chocolate’s health benefits, your best bet is to enjoy it as a treat a few times a week as part of a balanced diet. However, since most chocolate manufacturers don’t list the flavanol content on their products’ labels, it can be tricky to determine which products contain the highest concentrations of these compounds. As a general rule, dark chocolate has more cocoa and therefore more flavanols than milk chocolate, but the darkness and % of cocoa of the final product is not a reliable proxy for healthfulness.
Flavanol concentration depends on several factors, including the genetics of the particular cacao plants harvested, the makeup of the soil in which the crop was grown, and the way the cocoa beans were processed. Commercial producers commonly use the Dutch processing method, which involves treating the beans with alkali to soften their naturally bitter flavor. Unfortunately, this step destroys nearly all of the flavanol content in the end product.
You guide to choosing chocolate
Cocoa solids—the nonfat part of the cocoa bean—are a rich source of flavanols, while cocoa fat (cocoa butter) lacks flavanols altogether. Here’s how chocolate products differ.
- Cocoa powder: Cocoa beans that are fermented, roasted, and crushed into a paste. After the fat is removed, the remaining solids are ground into a fine powder.
- Cacao nibs: Solid particles that are scraped out of the fermented, roasted cocoa beans. The have crunchy nutlike texture and a chocolatey but not sweet taste.
- Dark chocolate: A solid chocolate product that is made from cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and usually sugar. Package labels often state the percentage of cocoa in dark chocolate.
- Milk chocolate. A creamier chocolate that is composed of cocoa powder, cocoa butter, milk solids, and sugar. It usually has more sugar and less cocoa powder than dark chocolate.
- White chocolate: Not technically chocolate, it is made from cocoa fat, milk solids, sugar, and other flavorings. It has no flavanols.
It’s hard to find a person who doesn’t love chocolate. So, the news that this delicious food can actually be healthy has met with widespread enthusiasm. However, there’s a lot more to this story that you need to understand before going hog wild in the candy aisle. Chocolate’s healthy properties come from a plant compound know as cocoa flavonoids, which can promote a range of heart-healthy benefits. The downside is that most chocolate products depend on hefty amounts of not-so-healthy butter and sugar to amplify the taste of natural cocoa. To maximize chocolate’s health benefits without the overdoing it on calories and fat, enjoy a dark chocolate treat a few times a week as part of a balanced diet.
Could a food as delicious as chocolate really be good for you? The answer is “yes,” although with a few important caveats....
Gratitude in the Time of COVID-19
Starting a gratitude journal in the middle of a global pandemic may seem like an odd choice. Actually, psychologists say it may be a valuable tool for coping with the stress and uncertainty we now live with. Gratitude is defined as the thankful acknowledgement of the tangible and intangible gifts life offers. When you express gratitude, you are building a positive connection to the goodness within yourself and your surroundings. Goodness can come from external sources such as other people, nature, or your spiritual beliefs. Practicing gratitude can help you savor good experiences, strengthen relationships, improve your health, and withstand adversity
What is a gratitude journal?
A gratitude journal a place where you record the positive things in your life. Entries can be small or large—ranging from joy at seeing the first Spring flowers, to appreciating your spouse for washing your car or feeling relief that loved one has survived a serious illness. To reap the greatest reward from gratitude journaling, it’s vital that you approach the process with intention and remain focused on why you’re doing it. Be sure to set a clear intention on what you hope to gain. The ritual of writing things down rather than merely listing them in your head is key for enhancing the mindfulness of the practice.
Your journal can be as simple or as fancy as you want it to be—a small notebook or even a plain sheet of paper will do. With a quick internet search, you can find printable templates for journaling and even phone apps to guide you. Here are some tips to get started. • Commit to setting aside 15 minutes a day for journaling. Many people like to write in their journal before bedtime. Creating more positive thoughts in your mind and ridding yourself of negative ones may improve the quality of your sleep. • Focus on consistency. Keep your journal in a place where you’ll see it regularly so you’ll be reminded to write in it. If you journal at bedtime, your nightstand is an ideal spot. • Start with simple things. Write down whatever comes to mind that you’re feeling thankful for, such as a meal you ate or time spent with friends. Resist the urge to critique your entries—there are no “right” answers. • Once you’ve established a journaling habit, strive to be more specific about what you are grateful for. Fully expressing one deeply-thought can be more meaningful than listing many lesser items. • Take note of surprises. Reflecting on unexpected pleasant events can evoke a strong sense of gratitude.
Gratitude journal prompts
When first starting your journal, staring at a blank page can feel intimidating. Don’t worry--writing about your feelings will get easier with time and practice. If you get stuck, however, these prompts may help get your thoughts flowing again. • What 3 things are you grateful for today? • What are 5 qualities you like about yourself? • What are some things that made you smile today or this week? • Who are the people in your life that you are thankful for? • What is a challenging experience you learned from? • What accomplishments are you proud of? • What are 5 activities that make you happy?
So, let’s recap
Whether you’re facing personal challenges or struggling to comprehend catastrophic world events, feelings of stress and sadness can seem overwhelming. Taking a few minutes each day consciously reflect on the large and small bright spots that spark feelings of joy and gratitude can be an antidote for troubling times. Creating a gratitude journal and mindfully recording these moments of thankfulness can go a long way to strengthen your relationships and boost your mental health.
Starting a gratitude journal in the middle of a global pandemic may seem like an odd choice....
Turn Your Housework Into Exercise
With indoor gyms and many running trails currently closed, people are searching for alternative ways to meet their weekly exercise goals. The abundance of stay-at-home time is also putting a high premium on keeping living spaces clean and orderly. You can solve these dual demands with one clever hack: turn your housework and chores into a calorie-burning fitness session.
Get off the couch
Experts recommend that you aim for least 30 minutes of activity on most days or about 150 minutes a week. Any type of movement that gets you off the couch will burn at least a few calories. The key is to making housework and chores count toward your exercise quota is to work vigorously enough to boost your heart rate. You can also increase the intensity or speed at which you work by putting on some fast tempo music and dance, while cleaning. If you need more of a challenge, set a time limit for each chore so you will be motivated to move even faster. You can also try incorporating resistance and interval training activities into your session to round out your fitness routine.
Plan your workout
The type and intensity of the chore will determine your ultimate calorie burn. Moderately intense housework such as vacuuming and mopping, yard work, washing the car, or grocery shopping can all count toward your weekly total. Light dusting will burn very few calories. However, moving furniture to vacuum under or organizing your living area (such as lifting boxes, moving things from room to room, etc.) could be a much larger burn. Here are a few indoor and outdoor chores you might want to try out.
- Vacuuming. An hour of vacuuming will burn about 190 calories. The forward and back motion involved is also a great workout for your abdominal muscles. You can get in some stretches as well as increase your calorie expenditure by performing single leg lunges every 2 or 3 minutes as you vacuum.
- Sweeping and mopping. Move rugs and furniture out of the way before you start so you can clean several surfaces without having to stop. Flex your ab muscles and squat rather than bend if needed to get a hard to reach space. Be sure to switch arms as you sweep to prevent a muscle imbalance. Sweeping and mopping burns about 195 calories an hour.
- Tidying up. Walking or running up and down stairs will burn 500 calories an hour. Make it a goal to go up and down 5 or 10 times as you carry items from room to room. Squatting as you pick up objects from the floor will help build quadriceps, hamstrings, and ab muscles.
- Window cleaning. Reaching as high as you can as you clean your windows will work your abs, glutes, and lower back muscles. Use your right and left arms equally as you wipe in a circular motion. Window washing burns approximately 180 calories per hour.
- Raking and weeding. Gardening activities such as digging or turning compost can burn upwards of 300 calories per hour and work major muscle groups including the stomach, arms and legs. Raking leaves and shoveling snow are considered vigorous activities just like doing aerobics or going for a bike ride.
- Hand washing your car. Wetting, scrubbing and rinsing your car will work your arm, back, and leg muscles. Try to squat rather than bend over as you dip your rag or sponge into the water bucket. This exercise burns approximately 230 calories per hour.
So let’s recap
Even if your daily life has been upended by the current stay-at-home restrictions, your fitness goals do not have to suffer. In place of your usual gym visits, you can use your housework and chores as an opportunity to get a full body workout. The key is to move vigorously enough to raise your heart rate to aerobic levels. By incorporating squats and stretches as you work you can also exercise your major muscle groups.
With indoor gyms and many running trails currently closed, people are searching for alternative...
The Importance of Routine During Quarantine
With offices and schools closed, and sports and entertainment activities suspended, it’s a challenge to hold on to any sense normalcy during the current pandemic. But, without the habits and routines you depend on to organize your days, it can be a struggle to get anything done or even feel good about yourself. The surplus of unstructured time can also allow feelings of stress, frustration, loneliness, and anxiety to grow and intensify. That is why sticking to a routine is important.
Make use of your time
Your first step in maintaining your mental and emotional health during the quarantine is to consider what you hope to get out of this temporary situation. If your place of work is shut down, you may want to view this at-home period as a sabbatical or use it as an opportunity to learn a new skill. For office workers suddenly faced with conducting business remotely, it’s important to be able to work efficiently and productively. After you’ve identified your goals, create a check list of what you hope to have accomplished when the stay-at-home restrictions are lifted. This can include things such as trying a new recipe, reading the novel you’ve been meaning to get to, or getting caught up on a stalled work project. Referring back to this list every few days will help promote a sense of accomplishment.
Creating your routine
Mental health experts suggest structuring your time with a consistent daily and weekly routine such as:
- Get up at a regular time. Resist the urge to sleep in and stay up late. Set your alarm for a time close to when you would normally get up for work. Go through the activities that constitute your usual morning ritual such as taking a shower, making your bed, reading the news, or drinking coffee.
- Get dressed. Don’t worry about donning your full office outfit, but do make it a point to change out of your PJs. Think “casual Friday” not “pajama party.”
- Create a workstation. Set up a dedicated area, preferably not in your bedroom, for your home office or schoolwork. Keep the area uncluttered, and straighten up your belongings at the end of the day as you would at work.
- Plan your day/week. If your telecommuting, conduct your usual calls and meetings during your normal workday. Leave the weekends open for personal time. Even if you don’t have regular obligations, build a calendar that maps out times for meals, exercise, chores, and relaxation. Create a balance between the things you need to do (such work and chores) and the things you like to do.
- Go outside. With most fitness facilities closed, an outdoor walk or jog is a good way to get regular exercise. Plus, spending time in nature is a good mood booster.
- Make healthy meals. With the refrigerator only steps away, it’s tempting to snack rather than stick to a normal meal schedule. However, taking the time to prepare and eat nutritious foods at regular intervals will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and boost your morale during quarantine.
So, let’s recap
The current stay-at-home guidelines have upended daily life as we know it. Creating regular routines to structure your time is critical for maintaining your mental and emotional health. Habits such as getting up at a regular time, getting dressed, eating healthy meals, and exercising can boost your mood and help you stay grounded during these trying times.
With offices and schools closed, and sports and entertainment activities suspended, it’s a...
All About Plant-Based Meats
Before the fast-food debut of the Impossible Burger last year, few people were acquainted with plant-based meat. Since then, the alternative meat niche has expanded beyond ground beef patties. Now you can find highly engineered plant proteins that mimic the taste and texture of sausage, bacon, chicken and fish. The proliferation of these products on menus and store shelves has sparked questions about how these meat substitutes compare to the real thing. How they fit into a healthy diet? We’ve tried to answer some of the more common ones here.
What is plant-based meat?
Veggie burgers and other traditional meat substitutes have been marketed to vegetarians for several decades. But this new wave of products is quite different. Today, plant-based meats are engineered to look and taste like real thing. Not to mention, with the goal of winning over meat-eating customers. In general, plant-based meats are a combination of pea, rice, or soy proteins processed with coconut oil and other vegetable oils. They are also fortified with added vitamins and minerals in order to replicate the nutritional make up of animal protein. The Impossible Burger attributes its meat-like properties to an iron-containing molecule called heme. This molecule is extracted from genetically-engineered yeast.
How do they taste?
Fast food burgers made by Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat (the two largest manufacturers) get high marks from customers for taste, texture, and meat juiciness. For cooking at home, plant-based ground beef and sausages are available in the refrigerated meat aisle of your store. These can be easily swapped into family favorite recipes.
Are they healthy?
Plant-based burgers have about the same nutritional content as beef, which means that the two are roughly equal in calories and saturated fat. However, alternative meats are highly processed using many different ingredients, and tend to have higher amounts of carbs and sodium. They also contain more fiber than animal protein. More research is needed to determine if these there is any long term health benefit from substituting these products for red meat. Another thing to keep in mind is that the plant-based burgers served at fast food chains do not qualify as vegan or even vegetarian because they are prepared on same equipment used for meat items.
What are the environmental benefits?
The biggest bonus of alternative meats comes from their environmental impact. According to the Good Food Institute, a non-profit organization committed to finding sustainable alternatives to animal agriculture, plant-based meat production consumes less than half the land and water resources needed to raise cattle, chickens, and pigs. In addition, the manufacture of plant-based meat products emits a fraction of the greenhouse gases and is far less polluting to the water ways than animal agriculture.
So, let’s recap
For both environmental and health reasons, many people are looking to decrease their meat consumption by adopting a “flexitarian” diet. New products on the market that replicate the taste and texture of burgers and other meats can be a good transitional step on the way to a more vegetable-centered eating style. Most of the major fast-food chains now have a alternative meat menu item. You can also find sausage and beef-substitutes to use in your own recipes in the grocery store meat counter. Just remember to keep an eye out for the sodium and saturated fat components of plant-based meats.
Before the fast-food debut of the Impossible Burger last year, few people were acquainted with...
Foods your Heart Will Love
The statistics for cardiovascular disease are decidedly gloomy—each year nearly a million Americans die each from coronary artery disease or a related condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or stroke. But there is still plenty of room for optimism. Nutrition researchers have identified a few key dietary factors that can be linked to nearly half of these deaths. The bottom line is that the road to better heart health is a close as your local supermarket.
What makes a heart-healthy diet?
The best foods for heart health are those that are rich in certain nutrients, which have been shown to lower cardiovascular risk (such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats), and are also relatively low in calories so as not to contribute to obesity. Research-tested eating plans built on this approach include the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet and the Mediterranean diet, a popular guide for MindFirst participants. Both of these programs emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts and seeds, as well as beneficial fats such as omega-3 fatty acids and olive oil.
The all-star team
Examples heart-heart healthy foods loaded with nutrients include:
- Leafy green vegetables. Kale and similar dark green vegetables are high in vitamin K and minerals which help reduce blood pressure and improve arterial function. They are also good sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate.
- Whole grains. This group includes wheat, barley, oats, rice and other plant kernels that have not had the outer layers of the seed removed during processing, as is the case with refined grains. As a result, they are high in fiber, which can help reduce bad cholesterol. Eating whole grains is also associated with lower blood pressure and reduced risk of stroke.
- These fruits contain high amounts of soluble fiber, and vitamins. In particular, they contain antioxidant compounds known as flavonoids, which are associated with lower heart disease risk.
- Fatty fish. Salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which improve heart health by increasing good cholesterol, while lowering bad cholesterol and triglycerides. They also help to reduce inflammation and prevent the hardening of the arteries.
- Nuts and seeds. Walnuts, almonds, and other nuts are a good source of plant protein. They also contain monounsaturated fats, which may be a factor in reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Beans and legumes. Chickpeas, lentils, and beans are an excellent source of low-fat protein and fiber, which can help reduce blood sugar levels. They also contain high amounts of B vitamins and essential minerals.
- Vegetable oils. Olive oil is important source of vitamin E and monosaturated fatty acids, both of which are important for heart disease prevention. Corn, soybean, and safflower oils are rich in poly unsaturated fats that your body needs but cannot produce itself.
Just as some foods actively promote heart health, others can increase your cardiovascular risk. For optimum heart health, aim to consume less of the following:
- Saturated fats and trans fats. High amounts of saturated fat, especially from red meat can increase your level of bad cholesterol. Trans fats found in processed foods are also harmful to your cardiovascular health and should be avoided completely.
- Processed meats. Bacon, hot dogs, salami and other salted, cured, or dried meats contain high amounts of sodium and nitrate preservatives, which can contribute to high blood pressure, clogged arteries, and diabetes risk.
- Sugar-sweetened drinks. These beverages add calories to your diet and do not supply any nutrients or make you feel full. The excess sugar you consume collects in your liver and turns into fat, which contributes to obesity.
- Consuming too much sodium which is found in table salt and processed foods increases blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body. This puts an added burden on the heart, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure.
So, let’s recap
One of the best ways you can take control of your heart health is by choosing some foods and limiting others. Vegetables, fruits, whole, grains, fish, and healthy oils are the big winners. Although a heart-healthy diet can incorporate a range of foods, there are some choices that are best consumed in moderation. These include saturated and trans fats, sugary drinks, processed meats and other sodium-heavy items.
The statistics for cardiovascular disease are decidedly gloomy—each year nearly a million Americans...
Make the Most of Your Morning Coffee
Waking up to a steaming cup of rich coffee is one of the simple pleasures in life. Straight java, minus the cream and sugar is nearly a calorie-free beverage. In addition to its well-known caffeine kick, coffee contains a complex mix of hundreds, if not thousands, of bioactive components. Among these are vitamins, minerals, and potent plant-based anti-inflammatory compounds known polyphenols. For many people, coffee is the single largest source of antioxidants in the diet, outpacing contributions from both fruits and vegetables.
Health perks for coffee drinkers
Like the beverage itself, scientific research supporting coffee’s disease-fighting properties is strong and robust. Studies have shown coffee consumption is linked better cardiovascular health including a lower risk stroke, heart failure, and blood clots in the legs. In addition, the delicious beverage appears to promote good liver health and reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Scientists have also found that caffeine and other compounds may team up to help combat degenerative brain conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.
Boost your benefits
To capitalize on the disease-fighting benefits of java, it’s important to prepare your beverage in a way that lets its natural goodness shine through. Here are some tips for making your coffee the healthiest it can be:
- Limit sugar. Added sugar, which is linked to obesity and diabetes, undermines coffee’s healthful properties. If you find the taste of unadorned coffee too bitter, try substituting sugar with natural sweetener such as stevia.
- Avoid artificial creamers. Highly processed low-fat and non-dairy creamers may contain unnecessary ingredients such as stabilizers and preservatives. A better choice is to use fortified dairy milk or nut milk that contains healthy calcium and vitamins.
- Use paper filters. Brewed coffee contains cafestol, a substance that can raise blood cholesterol. However, dripping your coffee drip through a paper filter eliminates the cafestol, while preserving healthy antioxidants.
- Choose high quality beans. Commercially-grown coffee beans are often sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals. You can avoid potential contaminants as well as benefit the environment by choosing organically-grown coffee beans.
- Add a flavor twist. Natural flavorings such as cinnamon and unsweetened cocoa powder pair wonderfully with a full-bodied brew. Both of these add-ins have also been shown to confer heart healthy benefits on their own.
- Practice moderation. Research suggests that for most people the optimum coffee intake is 3 to 5 cups of regular brew daily. It’s also advisable forgo caffeinated coffee after 2 P.M, since consuming caffeine late in the day can interfere with sleep patterns. Decaf is suitable alternative for late day coffee drinkers, as well as people who should steer clear of all caffeine such as pregnant women, children, and teens.
So, let’s recap
Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverage in the world. Every morning, 2 out of 3 American adults start their day with a steaming cup of java. Although this beverage may be best know for the stimulant effects of caffeine, the bitter brew is also rich in antioxidants and other healthy natural compounds. You can capitalize on coffee’s disease-fighting properties by selecting quality beans, brewing with care, and opting for healthier flavorings and add-ins.
Waking up to a steaming cup of rich coffee is one of the simple pleasures in life. Straight java,...
Why Diets Don't Work
More than 50 years ago, researchers came to the realization that 95% of dieters will regain all the weight they lose within a year. Despite this fact, the weight loss industry rakes in billions on the false promise that diets work. Logic dictates that if a car maker produced vehicles that quit running within a year, that company would quickly go out of business. So, what is behind this startling discrepancy when it comes to weight loss? Here are some of the main reasons why diets, as we know them, are doomed to fail.
The myth of willpower
The central tenant underlying weight-loss diets is that self-control is the key to success. This is not true. Your body undergoes complex biological changes after you lose weight, which are immune to willpower. When you are dieting, your brain becomes wired to notice tasty looking food. Trying to resist through force of will draws even more of your attention to the food around, thus increasing your desire even more. Similarly, the levels of the hormones that make your feel hungry or full get out of whack so you end up feeling less satisfied at the end of a meal. Finally, your body responds to overly-restrictive diets by slowing your metabolism so that you burn fewer calories.
Unhealthy relationship with food
The psychological pitfalls of dieting are equally as damaging as the biological effects. Strict diets most often include lists of “off-limits” foods sending the message that some foods are “bad” which others are “good.” The bottom line is that you either feel deprived of things you want or guilty because you have broken the rules. Both ways, you lose out on the pleasure of eating. The stress of trying to adhere to these arbitrary limits coupled with the hormonal chaos brought on by harsh food restriction can lead to emotional eating and raise the risk of developing an eating disorder.
The mindful alternative
If diets don’t work, you may ask “what does?” Your first step is to quit focusing on losing weight. Instead, make feeling good your priority instead of an unhealthy preoccupation with looking good. When you begin to approach lifestyle changes from the inside out, it puts you in closer touch with what your mind and body need to be healthy. When you eat mindfully, you can better tune into the internal cues that that point you in a healthy direction. This also applies to your choices around physical activity. When you let go of the feelings of “should” or “have to” that are often tied to an exercise program, you free yourself to enjoy how great it feels to move your body.
So, let’s recap
Weight-loss diets as we know them are destined to fail. The vast majority of people regain all the weight they lose while dieting within a year. Often, people gain back even more weight, leading to the unhealthy pattern of yo-yo dieting. Taking a mindful approach to making positive lifestyle changes can release you from the harmful physical and emotional cycle of futile dieting.
More than 50 years ago, researchers came to the realization that 95% of dieters will regain all the...
Superfoods: What You Need to Know
The first thing you should know is that there is no official “superfood” designation. So, you’re not going to be able to find the chapter on foods with magical powers hidden away in a nutrition textbook. Instead, the term “superfoods,” is a newly-popularized term used to describe foods that are especially nutrient dense. This means they are high in the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which have been shown to lower the risk of cancer, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. Items that have been dubbed superfoods range from the exotic (donkey’s milk, anyone?) to the mundane (another day, another kale smoothie). However, no single food can give you all the nutritional benefits you need. In addition, some highly-hyped superfoods such as chia seeds and Goji berries may not offer enough additional health benefit to warrant their hefty price tag. Therefore, nutritionists suggest that you aim for a “super plate,” which includes a variety of healthy and readily available foods, rather than fixating on the latest food fad. Below are some proven nutritional winners whose disease-fighting properties justify that jazzy superfoods title.
- Berries. Blueberries have attracted a lot of attention in recent years because they contain high amounts of soluble fiber, vitamins, and compounds known as flavonoids that may reduce heart disease risk. However, many of the same nutrients can also be found in other varieties such as strawberries and cranberries.
- Leafy greens. Kale and similar dark green vegetables such as Swiss chard, collards and spinach are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium, as well as fiber and antioxidants.
- Nuts and seeds. Hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, and other nuts are a good source of plant protein. They also contain monounsaturated fats, which may be a factor in reducing the risk of heart disease. Your best option is to eat them without added salt.
- Fish is an excellent source of lean protein. Fatty varieties like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which support good heart health. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week.
- Cruciferous vegetables. Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower provide healthy amounts of fiber, calcium, and vitamins as well as certain phytochemical compounds that may protect against some types of cancer.
- Olive oil. This is important source of vitamin E and monosaturated fatty acids, both of which are important for heart disease prevention. You can add olive oil to your diet by using it while cooking in the place of butter or drizzling it on pasta or salads.
- Fermented dairy products such as yogurt and kefir provide calcium, protein, and vitamin D. They also include live cultures called probiotics. These “good bacteria” can aid digestion and protect the body from other, more harmful bacteria.
- Beans and legumes. Kidney, black, red, and garbanzo beans, as well as soybeans and peas are an excellent source of fiber, magnesium, folate, and plant-based protein.
- Whole oats are among the healthiest grains you can eat. The contain soluble and insoluble fiber as well as B vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants linked to lower blood pressure and reduced risk of colon cancer. Plus, they’re naturally gluten-free.
- Sweet potatoes. Orange-fleshed vegetables such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and butternut squash are rich in vitamins A and C as well as fiber. Their naturally sweet taste means that they don’t require butter or creams as do white potatoes.
So, let’s recap
The term superfood is used to describe foods that are dense in nutrients. These foods are linked to reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. Since there is no official superfood list, nutritionists suggest that you aim for a “super plate” that combines a variety of healthy foods rather than focusing on a particular product or supplement. Including berries, green and orange vegetables, olive oil, fatty fish, whole grains, yogurt, nuts, and beans checks all the boxes for a superfood diet.
The first thing you should know is that there is no official “superfood” designation. So, you’re...
The Power of Affirmations in Everyday Life
When you watch a televised sporting event, the action on the field is almost always accompanied by the non-stop patter of announcers critiquing each player’s performance. For many of us, a similar dialog takes place inside our own heads--analyzing and judging our every action. Not only does this chatter prevent you from experiencing life in the moment, it can easily turn into a defeatist dialog that sabotages your efforts at behavior change. So, what if you could rewrite script to a point where your internal commentator offered messages of support and encouragement? That is exactly what positive affirmations are designed to do.
What is an affirmation?
An affirmation is a positive phrase or statement that you repeat to yourself to challenge a negative thought pattern. The science behind affirmations asserts that you can program yourself into accepting a certain concept because your mind doesn’t know the difference between thoughts and fantasy. This helps to explain how negative attitudes turn into self-fulfilling prophecies. Affirmations, on the other hand, are a way to question the long-held ideas about yourself that are preventing you from moving forward.
Making affirmations work for you
For an affirmation to be effective, the belief you’re are trying to adopt has to penetrate beyond your superficial thoughts. Otherwise, any deeply held negative beliefs lingering in your subconscious will quickly override the positive sentiment. To move beyond this internal tug-of-war, psychologists suggest applying a technique called “interrogative self-talk.” The theory is that instead of making a declarative statement, which your inner voice is primed to reject, try posing questions to yourself. These can include things such as “Am I willing to do what it takes to succeed?” or “When have I overcome other difficult challenges?” This strategy taps into the creative problem-solving centers of your brain, prompting you to view negative thoughts with objective curiosity rather than accepting them at face value.
A key attribute of positive self-talk is to create a mindset that the behavior changes you’re targeting arise from active decisions that are within your control. Structuring your affirmation to lead with “I choose to” or “I choose not to” is an instant reminder that you are staking claim to your choices rather than responding to the undesirable feels that often accompany phrases such as “I can’t” or “I shouldn’t.” Here are a few examples:
- I CHOOSE not to eat that vs I can’t eat that.
- I WILL wake up early to work out vs I should wake up early to workout.
- I CHOOSE to eat that cookie and I will savor it vs I shouldn’t eat that cookie.
- I CAN do a quick 30-minute workout vs I don’t have a full hour so I won’t workout at all.
There are no hard and fast rules on how to make positive self-talk part of your life, but here are some starting points:
- Reframe your thinking so that you focus on your progress rather than on perfection.
- Work on creating statements that reflect this attitude, such as “I am a work in progress, and that’s OK” or “Every day I’m making an effort to be more conscious about how I am nourishing my body”.
- Speak the affirmation to yourself 3 to 5 times throughout the day. A good time to do this is when you’re looking in the mirror, putting on makeup, or shaving.
- Write your affirmations on cards that you post in places where you’ll see them often such as your computer monitor or refrigerator. Carry copies of these cards in your purse or wallet to refer to as needed.
So, let’s recap
Positive affirmations can help transform your weight loss journey. An inner dialog that challenges your negative assumptions about yourself and reinforces your commitment to making positive choices can help counteract unhelpful thought patterns. Write down your affirmations and post them in prominent places to keep positive ideas present in your heart and mind.
When you watch a televised sporting event, the action on the field is almost always accompanied by...
Making Resolutions Work
The ritual of making resolutions for self-betterment in the new year is as traditional as the ball dropping at midnight in Times Square. Just as predictable, 80 percent of us well-intentioned folks will have abandoned our self-promises by mid-February. So, why do some many people persist in perpetuating such an unsatisfying cycle? And, isn’t there a better way make (and stick with) a commitment to a healthier lifestyle?
Where resolutions go wrong
The most common resolutions involve changing a habit, such as quitting smoking, losing weight, drinking less, or saving money. However, there is a built-in flaw with this type of resolution. To break a habit you have to adopt a new one. For example, if you always have a cigarette after a meal, quitting smoking means that you have to develop a new mealtime routine in order to uphold your resolution. Science tells us that it takes approximately 66 days before a new habit becomes automatic. Therefore, the lofty goal you set at the start of the year actually demands 2 months of practice before the new habit truly takes effect. The word “resolution” itself is also problematic. It turns a good intention into a rigorous demand that leaves no room for fumble or failure. Another built-in flaw in New Year’s resolutions is that they often involve something that you think you should be doing based on other people’s expectations rather than something you really want to do for yourself.
A better way
Many people associate the beginning of a new year with an opportunity for a fresh start. However, there is no magic in a particular date on the calendar. When you decide to embark on a behavior change, whether it be in January or July, here are some tips that can help you successfully meet your goal.
- Be realistic. Taking on too much is a common reason resolutions fail. Find a few small changes you can make that help you toward your larger goal. For example, if your objective is to be more physically active, don’t begin by forcing yourself to go to the gym 7 days a week. Instead, make small concrete changes such attending an exercise class once or twice a week, or taking the stairs to your office instead of the elevator. When these habits have taken hold, build on this foundation to expand your objectives.
- Keep it simple. Attempting a complete overhaul your lifestyle in one swoop is a recipe for failure and guilt. Choose one thing to work on at a time. Focus on the area of your life where you think making changes will bring you the greatest amount of happiness, health, and fulfillment.
- Make a plan. Before you start, give some thought to how you are going to tackle your behavior change. It can be helpful to write down your overall goal, and what you plan to achieve. You can also write down obstacles, which could potentially arise, and brainstorm tactics for overcoming these barriers.
- Ask for support. Share your experiences with family and friends, or join a support group of people going through similar struggles. If you find you’re having trouble moving forward on your own, consider talking to a counselor or other trained professional.
- Be kind to yourself. Any life journey has its ups and downs. Don’t berate yourself if you veer off course. Resolve to get back on track, and think about how the ongoing process of trial and error helps you learn along the way.
So, let’s recap
Making resolutions for self-improvement is a classic New Year tradition. However, the vast majority of people fall short of their lofty goals. Part of this high failure rate can be traced to the unrealistic demands people place on themselves. Many view the New Year as their one and only chance to make a major lifestyle overhaul. Consider, instead, that you can embark on a wellness journey at any time of the year. The key to success is your personal readiness to make changes in your life, not the date on the calendar.
The ritual of making resolutions for self-betterment in the new year is as traditional as the ball...
Holiday Stress and How to Handle It
The holidays are officially upon us complete with twinkling lights, peppy music, and eye-catching store displays. However, the joy and good cheer ushered in by each holiday season is often accompanied by less- welcome emotions such as stress, anxiety, and depression. It’s very easy for the multiple demands on your time to become overwhelming, leaving you feeling more frazzled than festive. If you find yourself struggling with the pressures of the season, here are a few tips for lightening your load.
- Stick to a gift budget. In the whirlwind that is holiday shopping, it’s easy to overspend before you realize it. Since money woes are often major stressors, commit to a realistic spending limit before you start your shopping. Also, consider engaging you family and friends in discussions about sensible dollar ranges for the gifts you give one another. Another creative approach is to choose less expensive gift options such as a homemade treat, or the offer of a service such as caring for a friend’s child for a day, or washing a family member’s car for them.
- Don’t skip exercise. Skipping your usual exercise routine may seem like short-term time-saver but it can have consequences down the road. Physical activity is a natural mood-booster and a surefire stress-buster. If a holiday commitment means you’ll have to miss your regular 6:00pm spin class, find time earlier in the day for a brisk walk.
- Simplify your holiday commitments. One of the secrets to minimizing holiday stress is to plan strategically. Assign specific days for different activities such as shopping, cooking, and visiting friends. Accept the fact that you may need to say “no” to some invitations or requests. Otherwise it’s likely that you will end up feeling over extended and resentful.
- Allow time for yourself. Make some quiet time in your schedule to let yourself decompress. Spending 15 minutes alone to meditate or just relax and clear your mind can help you restore your inner balance. Take occasional breaks from socializing to calm yourself by listening to quiet music or reading a book.
- Practice gratitude and generosity. Don’t let holiday chaos make you lose sight of the gifts of the season. Reflect on the warm feelings fostered by a holiday meal surrounded by loved ones. Let those expansive emotions move you to perform acts of spontaneous generosity with no expectation of anything in return. Revel in the joy you experience when you see how your caring attitude contributes to someone else’s wellbeing.
- Leave room for fun. Channel the holiday enthusiasm you had as a kid. Sing, dance, play games. Research shows that happiness is contagious. Therefore, the more connected you stay to your own wellbeing, the greater the chances of inspiring happiness in those around you.
So let’s recap
In addition to bringing joy and good cheer, the holiday season can place high a demand on your time, pocketbook, and patience. You can minimize stress and maximize fun by planning ahead so not to overextend yourself. To help fortify your mood, build self-care activities into your daily schedule including regular physical activity, and breaks for breathing and relaxation exercises.
The holidays are officially upon us complete with twinkling lights, peppy music, and eye-catching...
Mastering the Lunch Break Workout Session
If you’re struggling to fit regular exercise into your routine, a lunchtime workout may be the just the right solution. If this idea has ever crossed your mind in the past, you may have dismissed it with questions such as: “When will I eat? What will my coworkers think? Won’t I get sweaty?” While these are valid concerns, they don’t have to be deal-breakers. The bonuses of a midday workout include better work performance, more afternoon energy, and extra time in the evening for other pursuits.
Making it happen
Planning and preparation are the keys to a successful lunchtime workout. Don’t get discouraged if it takes you a few tries to master the logistics. Things will get easier with practice. Here are some tips to help you get started. • Schedule the time. Talk to your boss and coworkers about your fitness goals and why you want to try a lunchtime exercise routine around lunchtime. Assure them that you plan to be flexible to accommodate extra busy times and unexpected crises, and reiterate your commitment to always put work first. With these concerns out of the way, chances are they will be happy to support you. • Organize your gym bag. It’s a drag to haul a bulky gym bag to work each day, but having easy access to a variety of workout clothes and shoes can make all the difference. This gives you the ability to choose a yoga class one day, a HIIT workout the next, or a brisk walk around the park if you’re pressed for time. • Simplify your clean-up. Exercise is going to make you sweat, so the best idea is to just roll with it. Keep your gym bag stocked with essentials such as dry shampoo, deodorant, face wipes, and your make-up basics. If your locker room has shower facilities, you can just go with a quick body rinse, and let your dry shampoo do its magic. Otherwise, choose lower-sweat activities when locker room options are limited. Remember, you don’t have to strive for your aerobic max in every workout. • Never skip lunch. Your body’s need for midday nutrition is even greater when you add exercise into the mix. Packing your lunch is a huge time saver. It also gives you the option to eat portions of it at different stages. Many midday workout aficionados suggest eating a substantial snack such as a hard-boiled egg, protein bar, or yogurt and fruit about an hour before you exercise. Make sure you save healthy energy-boosting yummies for the afternoon because your metabolism will be peaking after your workout.
Benefits of the midday workout
A growing amount of research points to increased productivity and decreased sick days among workers who get physical exercise during the day. One study showed that on the days employees visited the gym, they reported having better time management, increased concentration, and smoother interactions with colleagues. In addition, breaking up the workday with exercise helped many people relieve the muscle aches and eye fatigue associated with hours behind a computer screen. They also said they felt less stressed and more satisfied at the end of the day.
So, let’s recap
Getting in a midday workout is becoming more convenient than ever before. Many workplaces offer fitness facilities and classes. Additionally, yoga studios and fitness gyms are popping up on street corners and strip malls everywhere. Although the logistics of a lunch-time fitness session may seem daunting at first, most of the obstacles can be worked out with a little planning and practice. You’ll be rewarded for your effort with better work performance, less stress, and more time at the end of the day for fun with family and friends.
If you’re struggling to fit regular exercise into your routine, a lunchtime workout may be the just...
How Friends Can Support Your Weight Loss Journey
When it comes to friends and weight loss, let’s just say it’s complicated. Social support is a key element in a successful weight loss journey. Friends both old and new make terrific workout buddies and can play a key role in keeping you accountable. However, even the most well-intentioned friends and family members can undermine your efforts with unsolicited diet advice and probing questions about your progress.
A little help from your friends
Here are some ways in which your friend network can help you reach your weight loss goals. • Form a mini weight loss club. Reach out to trusted friends or coworkers who have expressed interest in similar fitness goals. Have informal group get togethers to discuss challenges, share health tips, and swap recipes. Build in supportive, non-judgmental strategies to help each other stay on track. • Get an exercise partner. One of the best ways to stick with your fitness regimen is to find workout buddy. You’re much less like to blow off your planned workout if you know someone is waiting for you at the gym. Having a partner can also inject some friendly competition into your program, such as challenging each another to do an extra set of pushups. • Suggest healthy ways to socialize. When you’re trying to lose weight, it can be awkward when your pals want to try the latest diet-busting restaurant, or go out for Friday night cocktails. You don’t have to settle for staying at home and sulking, or joining in but suffering from inevitable next-day regrets. Instead, take the lead with suggestions for meetups that don’t revolve around food, such as getting tickets for a Daybreaker morning dance party, a walking and shopping trip to a new neighborhood, or catching the latest action movie (sans popcorn).
Helping your friends help you
When one person in a social circle embarks on a lifestyle change, it can cause a ripple effect within the group. Other individuals may feel threatened by the changes you’re making and unwittingly undermine your progress, or even sabotage your efforts. Here are some tips to help you navigate the interpersonal challenges that can come with weight loss. • Talk to people ahead of time about your weight loss journey and why it is important to you. • Let people you are close to know that their support means a lot to you. • Reassure friends and colleagues that you don’t expect them to adopt the same habits. • When eating out, say things such as “I’m getting a salad, but go ahead and get a burger or whatever you want.” Make sure to communicate that you aren’t judging their choices. • Eat like the rest of your social group on your pre-determined cheat days. If a social gathering falls on a non-cheat day, take only a small portion of the less healthier options. • When you don’t want to appear rude by turning down a certain food , such as a slice of birthday cake at a work party, say you will take “for later” then quietly get rid of it. • Learn to say “thank you, but….” when a loved one cooks a special food treat. Reiterate that you know they worked hard and you appreciate the effort, but you’re going to pass for now.
So let’s recap
Friends can be one of your most valuable resources when you trying to adopt healthy behaviors. Sharing activities such as workouts and healthy meal prepping can help keep you motivated. To get the most out of your support network, tell your family and friends about your wellness goals before you start and explain why it’s important to you. Be prepared to get unsolicited advice and awkward questions along the way, and practice ways to handle these situations gracefully.
When it comes to friends and weight loss, let’s just say it’s complicated. Social support is a key...
Pumpkin: Beyond the Pie!
Pumpkins could well be the official mascot of the harvest season. There are many reasons to love them. The Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, best known for her pumpkin-themed painting and sculpture, praised their “winsome form” and “generous unpretentiousness.” Perhaps more importantly, pumpkin is a delicious and versatile vegetable that is makes a great addition to a healthy diet. It is naturally low in calories but rich in vitamins and antioxidants, which help boost your immune system and protect your eyesight. It’s also a good source of fiber, which can support your weight loss efforts by helping you feel full longer.
Cooking with pumpkin
Pumpkin’s earthy flavor lends itself to both sweet and savory dishes from soups and pastas to breads and muffins. When it comes to pie-making, most of us are familiar with the canned version of the orange- colored puree. However, the height of the season is a great time to explore the many ways to cook with fresh pumpkin.
- Homemade pumpkin puree. If you’re the super thrifty type, you can repurpose your Halloween jack-o-lantern into pumpkin puree. Generally, however, carving pumpkins aren’t as flavorful as other types such as sugar or pie pumpkin. Whichever kind you use, cut the pumpkin in half and boil, bake, or steam until the meat is tender. Scoop the flesh out of the shell with a spoon or ice cream scoop and puree it in a food processor. Once it has cooled, you can use the puree in baked goods, pasta sauces, pancakes, or anything else you can think of. You can also freeze the extra for a later use. Generally, 3 pounds of fresh pumpkin will yield 3 cups of puree.
- Roast the seeds. Remove the seeds and rinse to get rid of any stringy parts or leftover goop. Dry thoroughly on a paper towel. Spread the seeds on a baking sheet in a single layer and drizzle with a little oil. Add salt and seasons to your taste and bake at 325o for 25 to 30 minutes. The roasted seeds can be eaten as-is for a healthy snack, or you can use them as a salad-topping or an add-in for pumpkin bread or muffins.
- Skinny pumpkin spiced latte. You can save yourself a lot of calories as well as some hard-earned bucks by using your homemade pumpkin puree to create a healthier version of Starbuck’s classic PSL.
- Pumpkin for dinner. Small pumpkins such as the Hokkaido variety can be cut in half and roasted in the oven like squash to make a healthy side dish. It is also a great fit for substantial vegetarian entrees such as this flavorful curry.
So, let’s recap
Pumpkin is a tasty and versatile vegetable that works well in both sweet and savory recipes. The silky texture of pureed pumpkin makes it a natural for soups and pasta sauces. Its nutty flavor stands up well to many different spice combinations. But, if general deliciousness isn’t enough to convince you to eat more of this bright orange vegetable, perhaps you’ll be persuaded by its impressive health benefits. It is rich in vitamins and antioxidants, which help protect against cancer and other chronic diseases. Pumpkin also contains compounds that support healthy skin and good eyesight. It is also high in fiber and nutrient-dense with fewer than 50 calories a cup, making it a smart alternative to other carbs, such as potatoes and rice.
Pumpkins could well be the official mascot of the harvest season. There are many reasons to love...
Fun Ways to Track Healthy Habits
Embarking on a wellness journey is serious business, but it doesn’t have to feel like hard work. Even though checklists and calendars are terrific motivational tools, record keeping can get tedious after a while. However, by merging these tried-and-true methods with creative games and challenges, you can inject some fun into your life as you adopt healthier habits.
Let the games begin
Remember how your fourth grade teacher gave you a crossword puzzle to help you learn the week’s vocabulary words, and then awarded a gold star when you solved it correctly? If so, then you get the basic premise behind “gamification.” The idea is to transform a mundane task into a game that grants a reward for successfully completing an activity. If you think this technique might help you in your quest for a healthier lifestyle, here are a few suggestions to get you started.
- Chart Art. It’s very satisfying to mark your progress toward a goal such as daily exercise with a chart or graph. You can spice up this simple system with goodies from your local craft store such as patterned papers, colorful inks, and clever stickers. Proudly displaying your work of art on the refrigerator door will help remind you of your wellness goals. It will also let others see how much you’ve accomplished.
- Healthy Habits Bingo. Create a personalized Bingo game based on the habits you are working to develop. This can include things like drinking more water each day, adding fiber to your diet, walking an extra 1000 steps, or meditating regularly. Write these habits on a slips of paper and put them into a jar. Pull out one each day, and mark a square on your Bingo card when you complete it successfully. When you’ve filled all the boxes in a row to win a Bingo, reward yourself with a non-food treat such as a movie with a friend or a new bath bomb.
- Bullet Journal. Many people use a bullet journal as an organizational and productivity tool. You can also adapt this method to track your wellness journey. The originator of bullet journaling describes it as a process “to help you organize your what while you remain mindful of your why.” Click here to find out more about how to set up a bullet journal notebook and learn fun ways to personalize it.
- Digital Games and Apps. The digital world is fertile ground for wellness gamification apps such as Fitocracy, which awards points, badges, and levels for reaching your fitness goals. The premium version also connects you with a personal online coach. Another app, Slimkicker that is available for web and iPhone, focuses on healthy nutrition and features challenges, games, tracking tools, and rewards for meeting goals. Zombies, Run! is fun motivational game for runners that places you at the center of a zombie apocalypse. You receive instructions through your headphones to deliver supplies or messages to other survivors. Hint: you’ll need to pick up your pace when the zombies are chasing you.
So, let’s recap
When you’re in the midst of a wellness journey, it can be hard to see how the small habit changes you make every day add up. Recording these individual actions over time will give you the big picture of your accomplishments and inspire you to keep going. Looking for fun and creative methods to track your behavior change can help you celebrate process instead of viewing it as another chore.
Embarking on a wellness journey is serious business, but it doesn’t have to feel like hard work....
Streamline Your Breakfast Prep
Weekday mornings are nerve-wracking under any circumstances. When you’re struggling to get out the door on time, it can be a monumental effort to find two matching shoes, much less concoct a healthy breakfast. While it’s completely understandable--even forgivable—to make do with a power bar or coffee-shop Danish, you’re not doing your body any favors with these choices. However, with the help of a few healthy make-ahead breakfasts ideas you can both streamline your morning and keep your body nourished throughout the day.
Before you start
Your goal is to have a week’s worth of healthy breakfasts packaged and ready to go on Monday morning. To make that happen you’ll need to have all your ingredients in place before you start your prep on Sunday night. Depending on what you plan to make, you’ll also need items such as zip-top baggies, aluminum foil, Mason jars, and plastic containers with tight fitting lids to store and transport the goods.
For ultimate ease, choose a breakfast theme for the week. That doesn’t mean that you will necessarily have to eat the same thing every day. Many of the suggestions listed below can be prepared and stored in the freezer for several weeks allowing you to mix and match as you go along. • Breakfast burrito. Scramble 6 lightly beaten eggs in a skillet with 2 cooked and crumbled sausage links. Season with salt, pepper, and cilantro to taste. Divide mixture evenly onto 4 whole wheat tortillas and top each with a couple tablespoons of grated cheese and black beans. Diced avocado and salsa are also nice additions. Tightly roll each burrito, cover with plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and freeze for up to a month. When ready to eat, remove packaging and heat in the microwave or oven. • Yogurt parfaits. Add a pint of berries, peaches, or other soft fruit to a saucepan and cook slightly over low heat until the fruit takes on a jammy texture. Spoon a layer of fruit mixture into the bottom of an 8-ounce Mason jar. Top with ¾ cup of yogurt and sprinkle with nuts or granola. The sealed jars will stay fresh in the refrigerator for several days. • Freezer oatmeal cups. Cook 2 cups of steel cut oats with 6 cups of liquid. Spoon into greased muffin tins and top with goodies such as coconut flakes, almonds, or dark chocolate chips. Freeze for 3 to 4 hours, then remove the individual oatmeal cups from the pan and wrap separately. Store the whole batch in a plastic bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheat individual servings in the microwave when you’re ready to enjoy. • Smoothie bags. For each serving, mix fruits such as ¾ cup of frozen berries or a banana with a scoop of vanilla-flavored protein power. Depending on your tastes, you can also add a spoonful of nut butter, walnuts, or cocoa powder. Store in the freezer. When you’re ready to use, dump the contents of the bag into a blender with a cup of nut milk or Greek yogurt. • No-bake energy bites. Countless recipes for these healthy nuggets can be found on the internet. This variation calls for 1 cup each of pitted dates, old-fashioned oats, toasted unsweetened coconut, and pepitas. Process these ingredients in a food processor along with ¼ cup pumpkin puree, 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice, a sprinkling of chia seeds, and a pinch of salt. Cover and refrigerate for about 20 minutes then use your hands to roll into individual balls. Store the energy balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
So, let’s recap
Even with the best intentions it can be hard to eat a healthy morning meal every day, especially during the work week. But, you can make your life easier (and healthier) stocking your fridge with a week’s worth of yummy make-ahead breakfast meals. When Monday morning comes all you have to do is grab one from the fridge and head out the door—right on time.
Weekday mornings are nerve-wracking under any circumstances. When you’re struggling to get out the...
Maximize Your Sleep
It’s hard to overestimate the value of a good night’s rest. In fact, sleep ranks up there with regular exercise as a primary ingredient for good health and successful weight management. Poor quality rest disrupts your well-being in areas such as including immune function, mood, energy, and appetite.
Sleep and weight
There is a documented link between obesity and insufficient sleep time (less than 7 hours nightly). One explanation for this is that sleep deprivation disrupts the levels of the brain hormones leptin and ghrelin, which signal sensations of hunger or fullness. This imbalance may be the reason that sleep deprived individuals tend to snack more and gravitate toward sweet or high-fat foods. Meditation for sleep Mindfulness meditation can be a useful tool for getting better quality rest. Anyone who has struggled with insomnia knows that sleep can’t be forced. Lingering feelings of tension and stress from your waking hours often keep you tossing and turning well into the night. Meditating at bedtime is not supposed to be a sleeping pill. Instead it is a way to quiet the nagging voices in your brain so slumber can naturally take over. A simple way to begin is to lie focusing on your breathing as you prepare to sleep. You can also try listen to sleep-inducing guided meditation through your headphones as you lie in the dark.
Tips for successful slumber
If an occasional restless night is morphing into a nightly cycle of poor sleep, you may be able to remedy the problem by making a few changes to your daily routines and lifestyle habits. Your daytime routines
- Get sunlight in the early part of the day.
- Practicing a relaxation technique during the day can improve nighttime sleep efficiency.
- Get the recommended daily amount of exercise (150 minutes per week). However, avoid vigorous exercise within an hour before bedtime so your body has time to cool down and relax.
Your bedtime ritual
- Aim to go to bed and wake up at around the same time each day.
- Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet. Running a fan or using a white noise machine can help drown out distracting sounds in your environment.
- Stop productive activity at least 20 or 30 minutes before sleeping. Replace screen time with a more relaxing pursuit such as reading or taking a bath. The brain needs time to transition from the faster brainwaves of wakefulness to the slower brainwaves of restful sleep.
Your eating and drinking habits
- Being either too hungry or too full can make it hard to get to sleep. Avoid high-fat and high-protein foods right before bed since they take longer to digest.
- Start cutting down on your liquid intake 90 minutes before bedtime so that your rest isn’t interrupted by bathroom breaks.
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol right before bed. Although alcohol may initially make you sleepy, it increases the stress hormone cortisol which interferes with deep sleep.
- Don’t drink caffeine late in the day. Caffeine stays in your body for several hours so it can cause lighter, more fragmented sleep even if you’re not aware of it.
So, let’s recap
Poor quality sleep interferes with your physical and emotional well-being. It can also derail your efforts to achieve a healthy weight. Practicing meditation and relaxation exercises at bedtime can help your mind and body unwind. It’s also important to examine your daily routines and lifestyle habits to make sure they are conducive to good quality sleep.
It’s hard to overestimate the value of a good night’s rest. In fact, sleep ranks up there with...
The Benefits of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
When you want maximum fitness results with minimum workout time, high intensity interval training (HIIT) may be your answer. Unlike traditional cardio workouts where you typically exercise for a longer time at 50-70% of your capacity, a HIIT routine combines short intervals (about 20 to 90 seconds) of full on activity with periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise. These workouts often mix aerobic and resistance training, and can be done outdoors or with gym equipment such as treadmills, elliptical runners, or stair-climbers. The resistance portion might consist of body weight exercises or utilize additional weight such as kettlebells or dumbbells. The whole workout is usually 30 minutes or less and produces health benefits that equal or surpass moderate-intensity exercise.
Benefits of HIIT
CrossFit and Orangetheory, two high-tech fitness chains, are partially responsible for ushering in the HIIT craze. However, you don’t have to be a hard-core athlete to capitalize on the health benefits of HIIT. Here are some things this fitness training can do.
- Improves cardio-respiratory health. Because you are exercising at 80 to 95% of your heart’s capacity during the high intensity phase of the routine, HIIT can increase the amount of oxygen taken up by your muscles with less total exercise time. This translates into better stamina and endurance all the way around.
- Lowers blood pressure and heart rate. HIIT has been shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rate over time, primarily in people who are overweight.
- Reduces blood sugar. An analysis of over 50 studies found that HIIT could lower blood sugar and improve insulin resistance in people more than continuous exercise.
- Burns fat. The high intensity component means that you expend more calories than you would with a similar amount of continuous exercise. An added plus is that your metabolism remains elevated for many hours following your workout leading to increased fat burn especially around your middle.
- Saves time. HIIT workout are usually only 20 to 30 minutes long and can be done anywhere without requiring special equipment.
Getting started with HIIT
Anyone in good health can consider a HIIT workout once or twice a week. Beginners can start with a 1:2 ratio of intense activity to rest. For example, after a 5-minute warm-up, pedal on a stationary bike for 30 to 90 seconds at high intensity, then switch to slow speed for double that amount of time (1 to 3 minutes). Repeat this sequence 3 or 4 times, followed by a 5 minute cool-down. You can work up to repeating the exercise/rest cycle more times as your fitness level improves, but make sure you don’t shortchange your recovery periods. Alternately, you can create a HIIT workout using intervals of body weight resistance exercises overs such as push-up, planks, and burpees interspersed with rest periods. YouTube has dozens of videos the Beginner Friendly Fat Burning HIIT Workout to give you inspiration.
HIIT exercise is not just for the super athlete. People at all fitness can enjoy the many health benefits (including burning belly fat) of interspersing short bouts of intense activity with recovery periods at a moderate pace. HIIT is also extremely versatile so that you can get a thorough workout in a relatively short period of time without special equipment.
When you want maximum fitness results with minimum workout time, high intensity interval training...
Hiking for Everyone
Bored with your treadmill workout? Tired of breathing in bus fumes on your morning run? Hiking in the great outdoors may be the perfect way to freshen up your exercise routine. In addition to building aerobic stamina and strengthening your leg muscles, spending time in nature is a great opportunity for relaxation and reflection. It can also make for a fun time spent with family or friends.
Many people dismiss hiking as an activity suited only for super outdoorsy survivor types, but that is far from the truth. A hike can best be described as a walk through natural areas, which often involves changes in elevation. Beyond that, you are free to make your outing as easy or challenging as your experience and fitness level allow.
Planning your hike
There are many valuable resources to choose from when planning a hike including dozens of excellent guide books as well as well-rated websites and phone apps. Examples include All Trails and GaiaGPS. You can also check out some designated walking sites or hiking trails in your own town. Some of the factors you’ll want to consider include:
- Time. Before you set out, decide how much time you want to hike. The average hiker can cover a mile in about a half an hour on gentle terrain. If you are new to hiking, begin at a pace that is comfortable for you. The key is to just get started. You’ll want to start early enough so that you’ll be sure to be back before the sun goes down. Also, factor in how long it will take you to drive to your hiking destination.
- Distance. It is common for rookie hikers to overdo it by picking a hike that is too long or involves too much climbing. As a beginner, a hike of one or two miles on fairly flat terrain is a great starting place. Also, unless you’re choosing a loop trail, be sure to factor in the mileage in both directions.
- Climb. As you progress, you may want to increase the level of elevation. The amount of elevation gain on a hike is a key factor in determining how difficult your trek will be. A trail that climbs a 1000 feet within a mile is considered steep. A good rule of thumb is to add an hour to your trip for every 1000 feet of elevation gain on the route.
- Weather and trail conditions. Be sure to check the current weather in the area of your hike. Temperatures at higher elevations are often significantly colder than in the lowlands, and you may encounter snow, ice, or slippery mud even in spring time.
What to wear
Your best bet when hiking is to choose layers of quick-drying, moisture wicking fabrics such as wool and polyester. Cotton is a no-no since it takes too long to dry if you should become wet. If there’s a chance you’ll run into cooler temps or rainy weather, bring along an outer garment such as puffy vest, lightweight fleece, and a waterproof jacket. Your choice of footwear will depend on the condition of the trail. Lightweight, low-cut shoes may be fine on well groomed trails. However, you’ll want sturdy hiking boots for navigating more rugged paths.
What to bring
For short treks in good weather, a small -sized day-pack should be sufficient for carrying water and some healthy snacks. For longer treks, you might want to bring extra clothing. In moderate temperatures, you’ll need to bring about half a liter of water for each hour of activity. Other essentials include, but are not limited to sun protection, bug repellent and safety devices such as an air horn or whistle.
Playing it safe
Knowing where you are and where you’re going is essential for a safe hike. If you’re using an app, be sure to download the trail map for offline use. You should also let someone know where you plan on hiking. In addition to electronic resources, beginners might also want to carry a guide book or paper print out of the trail. And, while being alone with nature s can be a magical experience, it can also be intimidating for new hikers. You may feel more comfortable if you bring along a companion to lend a hand if you get hurt.
So, let’s recap
As the weather warms up and the skies clear, it’s a perfect time to move your fitness routine into the great outdoors. In addition to strengthening your heart and lungs and building hamstring and glute muscles, hiking is a wonderful way to relax and recharge. The key to a safe and enjoyable hiking experience is planning ahead so that you can avoid common beginner missteps.
Bored with your treadmill workout? Tired of breathing in bus fumes on your morning run? Hiking in...
Why You Should Eat More Fish
Fish and other seafood are a featured part of cuisines across the globe. Fish varieties rich in healthy fats form the centerpiece of the Mediterranean-style diet which is known to combat chronic disease and promote a longer life. However, most Americans don’t eat enough of this healthful protein to reap the powerful health benefits it has to offer.
Why you should eat more fish
Fish and seafood are excellent sources of lean protein. These foods contain key nutrients including vitamin D, selenium, calcium, and long-chain omega-3 fats, which are associated with lowering heart attack and stroke risk. In addition, these nutrients help prevent abnormal heart rhythms, lessen the risk of sudden death, and keep high blood pressure in check. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), one of the two types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, also appears to be essential to brain health. Several research studies have linked high intake of DHA with improved memory and learning ability, and reduced rate of cognitive decline. Conversely, low levels of DHA have been associated with a greater risk of Alzheimer’s Disease in later life.
Are some kinds of seafood better than others?
The American Heart Association recommends that you eat at least 2 servings of fish a week. (One serving equals 3.5 ounces of cooked fish or ¾ cup of flaked fish.) White-fleshed fish such as haddock, tilapia, pollock, catfish, flounder and halibut contain less fat than any other source of animal protein. However, the fatty varieties, which include salmon, trout, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and canned light tuna, are particularly high in omega-3s. The best choice, according to nutritionists, is to include both types in your diet. Shellfish including shrimp, crayfish, crab, lobster, clams, scallops, oysters, and mussels are also rich in lean protein, healthy fats, and minerals. A potential downside is that shellfish is a common food allergen and can provoke a severe reaction in people who are susceptible. Also, eating raw mollusks such as clams, scallops, oysters, and mussels, that have not been chilled correctly can cause food poisoning. Some people worry they will be harmed by contaminants such as mercury, pesticide residues, or other toxins that are found in some types of fish. Researchers have concluded that the health benefits that most people get from consuming 2 weekly servings of fish rich in omega-3s far outweigh the risk from contaminants. Children and pregnant women who may be more vulnerable to the effects of mercury are advised to eat a variety of different types of fish, and avoid larger, predatory varieties such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel, which may have higher mercury content. Many people also voice ethical concerns about consuming varieties of fish that are under threat from over-fishing. Resources such as Seafood Watch can help you choose seafood that is fished or farmed in ways that have less impact on the environment.
5 ways to eat more fish
Adding fish to you eating plan may seem intimidating if you haven’t been eating it regularly. Here are a few easy ways to get started.
- Start with mild-flavored varieties. If you’re new to seafood, you may want to try white-fleshed varieties such as tilapia, cod, or halibut which have less of a briny taste. Baking or broiling with tangy toppings such as lemon juice, fresh herbs, capers, and tomatoes will bring out the natural sweetness of the fish.
- Stock up on frozen portions. Keeping a few Individual portions of flash-frozen fish on hand is a convenient option for a seafood meal anytime without the hassle of buying and storing fresh fish. You can even find some types that have been pre-seasoned with flavorful marinades.
- Cook with canned varieties. Canned tuna is a staple in most pantries. You can turn this basic variety into a quick salad served over lettuce, or get creative and add artichoke hearts and tomatoes to make a Mediterranean-inspired pasta dish. You can also try canned salmon or sardines for other interesting pairings.
- Order fish when eating out. Many restaurant menus offer seafood specialties. Take advantage of the chef’s expertise to enjoy a perfectly cooked and seasoned fillet.
- Collect some go-to recipes. Ask friends to share their favorite fish recipes or peruse cooking magazines for inspiration. Collect a month’s worth of recipe ideas and commit to trying a new seafood dish every week.
So, let’s recap
Seafood is an excellent source of lean protein. Oily fish varieties such as salmon, trout, and tuna are rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Consuming more of this nutrient has been linked to better heart and brain health. Aim for including fish in your diet at least twice a week.
Fish and other seafood are a featured part of cuisines across the globe. Fish varieties rich in...
We live in a busy world. If you’ve spent almost any time in the workforce, you’ve likely experienced that sense of dread that comes with a pending deadline, or the stress that can follow you home and consume your thoughts long after you’ve left the office.
Why is it so difficult to slow down our thoughts and appreciate the present moment?
Our minds are moving faster than ever before. And in a world where we are constantly connected and rewarded for multitasking, it can be hard to be mindful. But, if practiced regularly, mindfulness can help reduce stress and improve focus. How can you make mindfulness work for you?
1. Start Small
For beginners, meditation and other mindfulness practices can seem intimidating. But you don’t have to be a mindfulness guru to benefit from it. Setting aside just a few minutes a day to close your eyes and slow your breath can help improve your mood and enhance your focus. Not sure where to start? Check out a sample from MindFirst’s Learning to Meditate series. In just a few minutes, these short meditations can help you clear your mind and guide you on common meditation strategies.
2. Let Go of Your Expectations
If you are looking to become more mindful in your daily life, meditation is a great place to start. You might expect meditation to be easy. But it’s often very difficult to quiet your mind, and it can be frustrating when thoughts will continue to pop into your head during a meditation session. Letting go of expectations about how meditation is “supposed” to go and how mindfulness “should” make you feel takes the pressure off this practice. Once you let go of these expectations, you can learn to enjoy it.
3. Practice Regularly
Like anything else, becoming more mindful takes practice. We are all students of mindful living; we all face day-to-day stresses and are constantly learning strategies to slow down our thoughts and keep our minds in the present. With regular practice, you can learn to use meditation and other strategies, like mindful eating or exercise, to help reduce stress and achieve your goals.
So Let’s Recap
Becoming more mindful might seem like an impossible task at first. But by starting small, letting go of expectations, and practicing regularly, you can make mindfulness work for you. With so many health benefits, from reduced stress to improved focus, practicing mindfulness is worth the effort. Ready to start your mindfulness journey? Learn how MindFirst Health & Fitness can help.
We live in a busy world. If you’ve spent almost any time in the workforce, you’ve likely...
20 Great Ways to Get More Steps in Your Day
It’s not hard to increase your daily physical activity. Just take it step by step—literally. Walking at a brisk pace, the average person takes about 100 steps per minute. Depending on your speed and length of stride, you’ll cover a mile in about 20 minutes, and burn 80 to 100 calories in the process. A study in the journal Obesity showed that women over age 40 who increased their daily activity by 3520 steps (a little over 1.5 miles of walking) lost 5 pounds over the course of a year without changing their eating habits. They also reduced their belly fat by 12 percent.
How many steps do you need?
Ten thousand steps per day is often mentioned as the ideal goal, but there’s nothing special about this number. Here’s a fun fact: When pedometers were first sold in Japan in the 1960s, they were marketed under the name ‘manpo-kei,’ which translates to ‘10,000 steps meter’ and the number has stuck ever since. The rationale behind increasing your daily steps is that any amount of added regular walking is a good complement to your daily fitness routine. Therefore, counting steps is a good way to track it. Plus, short walks throughout the day help undo the havoc wreaked on our bodies by endless hours of sitting.
No-sweat tips for taking more steps
So, what are you waiting for? Strap on that pedometer and get walking. Here are a few fun ways to up your steps when you’re at home, at work, or just out and about. At home • Walk around the house while you’re on the phone. • March in place while you brush your teeth. • Walk your children to and from school. • Do yard work such as raking leaves, mowing the lawn, or shoveling snow. • Take your dog for a walk. (Borrow your neighbor’s dog if you don’t have one of your own.) • Download Pokemon Go on your phone and play it with your kids. • Take an after dinner stroll with a neighbor or family member. • Carry your grocery bags in from the car one at a time. • Park and walk inside the drug store or restaurant rather than using the drive through window. At work • Use a restroom on a different floor than your office. • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator whenever you can. • Walk to a coworker’s desk to deliver a message rather than send an e-mail. • Take a walk at lunchtime rather than eating at your desk. • Get off the bus or train a stop early and walk the rest of the way. • Set an alarm on your computer to remind you to stretch and take a quick walk around the office every hour or two. Out and about • Park at the opposite end of the parking lot from the entrance of the building. • Take an extra lap around the perimeter of the grocery store or shopping mall. • Walk around the building or the block when you’re waiting for an appointment. • Schedule an outing with friends to shop and explore in a new neighborhood. • Add some friendly competition with apps that let you post your progress on social media.
So, let’s recap
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week. But, many people fall short of meeting even this modest goal. A good way to complement your regular fitness routine and increase your weekly exercise quota is to add extra steps to your day whenever you can. There are plenty of fun, easy things you can try from marching in place while you brush your teeth to taking the stairs rather than the elevator at work.
It’s not hard to increase your daily physical activity. Just take it step by step—literally....
Why Breakfast Matters
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Like many other bits of grandmotherly wisdom, this old adage bears a nugget of scientific truth. Research shows that breakfast has a greater impact on your metabolism than meals later in the day (such as lunch or dinner) because your system needs to refuel after your nightly fast. Skipping breakfast may lead to unfavorable health issues such as insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol.
The weight loss myth
Many people claim they skip breakfast in an effort to lose weight, but this habit may actually have the opposite effect. Going for too long without eating can tempt you to consume excess calories when you do have access to food. On average, breakfast-skippers tend to weigh more than those who eat in the morning. In addition, 80% of people who lose weight and keep it off for a year or more report that they eat breakfast every day.
Building a better breakfast
The building blocks of the perfect breakfast are simple: fiber-rich foods, whole grains, protein and a smidge of fat. When planning your morning pick-me-up, be on the lookout for fresh fruits, nuts, eggs and even vegetables. Vegetables for breakfast can go a long way (think peppers in your omelet). It is important to be aware that not all breakfast foods are created equal. Many cereals are carb-heavy and loaded with sugar. While these may evoke childhood memories of Saturday morning cartoons, sugary cereal will elevate your blood sugar. An hour or so later, your blood sugar levels will come crashing down, making you feel hungry, tired and maybe even a little bit grumpy. Building a better breakfast full of nutrients will supply your body with a steady source of energy to sustain you for longer.
Reasons to (Not) Skip Breakfast
Despite breakfast’s proven benefits, nearly a quarter of all Americans admit that they don’t eat a morning meal. Here are some of the more common reasons breakfast-skippers start their day on empty and some helpful tips for overcoming these hurdles.
- Reason #1: I don’t have enough time in the morning. Everyone knows mornings can be hectic. To avoid the rush, try putting together something simple the night before, perhaps as you clean up from dinner. You can put sliced fruit in a bag and freeze it overnight. In the morning, throw your frozen fruit into a blender, add a splash of milk and you have a breakfast smoothie in less than three minutes. Don’t have three minutes? A sliced banana paired with a dollop of nut butter can be prepared in 30 seconds and checks all the nutritional boxes.
- Reason #2: I’m not hungry when I get first up. Before embracing this reason, take a look at how your current eating patterns may be contributing to the situation. If you are consuming the bulk of your daily calories after 4:00pm, try shifting to your food intake to earlier in the day, so your body will have gone longer without a meal by the time you wake up. Also, you may want to eat something small before drinking your morning coffee. Caffeine acts as appetite suppressant, so you will be less interested in eating after you’ve had a cup or two.
- Reason #3: I don’t like “breakfast foods.” The good news is breakfast can be anything you want it to be. Leftover lasagna or stir fry from last night’s dinner can be warmed up in the microwave. For another option, you can try a twist on a traditional Italian caprese sandwich by topping a whole wheat English muffin with a slice of fresh mozzarella and some tomato. All the better If you some fresh basil to add. Avocado spread on multigrain toast adds a little jazz to what could be considered a “boring” breakfast food.
So, let’s recap
Eating breakfast every day helps you manage your weight and maintain a healthy metabolism. To keep you satisfied and alert until lunch, build a breakfast that contains fiber, protein, and a little fat. Plus, you don’t need to feel confined to traditional breakfast foods. Your meal can range from dinner left overs to a serving of Greek yogurt and a piece fruit, or a healthy sandwich, as long as it does the job of keeping your body well fueled.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Like many other bits of grandmotherly wisdom, this...
Loosen Up with These Desk and Office Stretches
Eight out of 10 Americans spend their workdays hunched over a computer screen. The cumulative effects of constant sitting, poor posture, and repetitive movements result in daily aches and pains as well as chronic musculoskeletal problems. However, you don’t need to wait for your weekly yoga class to limber up. Taking short breaks for targeted stretches every few hours can loosen stiff joints and ease muscle tension. Before you start, here are a few pointers for engaging in proper stretches. Remember to breathe slowly and deeply through your stretch. Don’t hold your breath. Stretch gently without bouncing and stop before you reach the point of discomfort. If you feel pain at any time, stop immediately and talk to your doctor before trying that exercise again.
6 easy chair stretches
Here are a few quick stretching moves you can do throughout your day to ease tight shoulder and neck muscles. Shoulder stretch
- Place one hand under your elbow.
- Lift your elbow and stretch it across your chest without rotating your body.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then relax.
- Repeat with the other arm.
Upper arm stretch
- Lift one arm and place your hand on the back of your head, bending at the elbow.
- Place your other hand on the bent elbow to help stretch your shoulder and upper arm.
- Hold for 30 seconds then relax.
- Repeat with the other arm.
- Place both hand on the back of your head with your fingers laced and elbows extended to each side.
- Pull your shoulder blades toward each other bringing your elbows as far back as you can.
- Hold for 30 seconds then relax.
- Repeat 8 to 10 times.
- Face straight ahead.
- Gently tilt your head forward lowering your chin to your chest.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds then relax and return to the starting position.
- Repeat 3 to 5 times.
Side neck stretches
- Face straight ahead.
- Slowly tilt your head to one side so you’re moving your ear toward your shoulder. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
- Hold for 30 seconds and slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat with the other shoulder.
- Interlock your hands above your head with your palms facing upward.
- Sitting up straight, push your palms upward and straighten your arms as you elongate your spine.
- Keep your shoulders loose.
- Hold for 10 to 20 seconds.
- Repeat 5 times.
Beyond the desk chair
Standing desks have drawn much attention in recent years, largely due to research that has linked sitting for long periods of the day to of a range of health risks including obesity and cardiovascular disease. The theory is that doing your “desk job” standing up rather than sitting helps you burn more calories. Although experts have concluded that the actual calorie burn is inconsequential, standing rather than sitting all day can help alleviate the risk of musculoskeletal pain. Custom-built standing desks cost thousands of dollars, but you can experiment with a DIY version by elevating your computer by placing it on a stack of books on your regular desk. If you want to try working standing up, it’s a good idea to start slowly with 30 to 60 minutes of at a time. This will help you avoid problems such as foot and leg pain. Another option you might want to consider is swapping out your desk chair for a stability ball. Actively balancing as you sit prevents you from hunching over your computer or slouching in your chair, so your body automatically assumes a better posture.
So, let’s recap
Sitting at a desk or computer terminal for long periods of time can leave your muscles sore and stiff at the end of the day. Taking a 5 or 10 minute stretching break every couple of hours can help relieve muscle tension and leave your whole body feeling better.
Eight out of 10 Americans spend their workdays hunched over a computer screen. The cumulative...
3 Fitness Myths We Should All Ditch
When it comes to weight loss, myths about diet and exercise abound. Many exercise myths frame exercise and healthy eating as chores. Some exercise programs imply we can work out a specific area of the body to eliminate the fat, referred to as “spot targeting fat,” or that we can “burn off” junk food.
The old adage “if it is too good to be true, it’s probably false” applies here. Once you recognize the faulty premises behind common fitness myths, you can learn to use mindfulness to overcome the real barriers to your health goals.
“Fat can be spot-targeted through certain exercises.”
You cannot “spot-target” fat with certain exercises. When exercising, we lose fat stored all over the body, not in specific spots targeted by strengthening exercises. For example, crunches will strengthen abdominal muscles, but they won’t remove fat from the abdominal region specifically. Ultimately, programs that emphasize spot-targeting fat are focusing on negative insecurities, setting people up for frustration and disappointment.
Real, lasting change, begins by altering the way we think about exercise and food. Instead of having to lose weight or having to workout, try a positively-oriented, mindful approach. You don’t have to do either of these things. You can, however, choose to live a vibrant, healthy lifestyle that you enjoy. If want to strengthen your body, you choose to exercise. If you want to fuel your body properly, you can choose to eat delicious foods that also happen to be healthy. Experiment and discover things that you enjoy that also support what you want to achieve.
“I can burn off the junk food.”
A nutritious diet is a component to any weight loss program. Nutritious foods allow us to get adequate vitamins and minerals from our diet and properly fuel our bodies. While you may be able to “burn” enough calories to nullify occasional junk foods, this statement sets us up for failure. How? Like many health myths, it frames food as a reward, and exercise as the punishment.
Real, lasting weight loss is about more than counting calories; it’s about addressing the root causes of poor habits. We all have ingrained beliefs about our own self image and capabilities. To enjoy lasting success, become aware of these self-limiting, ingrained beliefs about health, nutrition, and self-image and begin to challenge them. Replace them with positive thoughts and positively-framed goals which will lead you to positive outcomes.
“Some people just enjoy exercising more, and that will never be me.”
People who enjoy exercising regularly are often motivated by more than appearance, and even look forward to exercising. But they weren’t born that way. Rather, their mindset toward exercise is likely internally motivated. Perhaps they love how they feel after exercising, they notice they have more energy, or they sleep better.
By reframing your thoughts about exercise to focus on positive beliefs and responses to the experience, you too can become that person who enjoys working out. Seem impossible? Try starting small; even five minutes of exercise can be beneficial to your health. During these short sessions, focus on how capable you are, how your muscles use energy, or how strong you feel when you do each exercise. Mindfulness practices like this can help you create positive experiences with exercise and reshape your entire mindset around it.
These three myths frame exercise as a chore and food as a reward. Enjoy real, lasting change by altering the way you think about the elements of a healthy lifestyle. With mindfulness, you can challenge your ingrained beliefs about food and exercise and enjoy a sustained healthy lifestyle. “Change the mind and the body will follow.” Want to learn more about how mindfulness can help you on your weight loss journey? Check out what makes MindFirst Health & Fitness different from other programs.
When it comes to weight loss, myths about diet and exercise abound. Many exercise myths frame...
Sugars: What You Need to Know
Would sugar by any other name taste as sweet? With apologies to William Shakespeare, the answer is “yes,” or perhaps even sweeter. The molecular name for the white stuff we call table sugar is sucrose. It is one member of a family of related carbohydrate compounds including glucose, fructose, and galactose, and maltose. Collectively these substances are known as sugars. Many nutritious foods including fruit, vegetables, grains, and dairy products naturally contain sugars. When consumed as part of a whole food, sugar compounds enter the blood stream slowly and provide a valuable source of energy.
Perils of added sugars
Sugars are also routinely added to packaged foods and beverages during processing as a flavor enhancer or preservative. That means people are consuming more sugar than ever before. The biggest offenders for added sugars are soft drinks, fruit drinks, flavored yogurts, cereals, cookies, cakes, and candy. However, added sugar is also present in many other processed items such as soups, bread, cured meats, and ketchup. In fact, a whopping three-quarters of packaged foods found on the supermarket shelves contain added sugars. The proliferation of added sugars in the American diet over the last few decades has raised serious health concerns. Research has linked high sugar consumption to chronic diseases include increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. For these reasons, the American Heart Association recommends that women should limit their intake of added sugar to 100 calories a day, which is the equivalent of about 25 grams or 6 teaspoons. For men, the upper limit is 150 calories (37 grams or 9 teaspoons). By contrast, Americans regularly consume more than double that amount each day.
Be a sugar detective
The most effective way to limit your intake of added sugar is to check Nutrition Facts label and ingredient list on the packaged food you buy. Currently, the Nutrition Facts panel lists only the total amount of sugar in the food, which includes both naturally occurring and added sugars. However, by 2020 large manufacturers will be required to specify what portion of the total sugar content is added in the preparation of the product. A close read of the product’s ingredient list can also help you suss out hidden sugars. One of the first things to look for, is names of ingredients ending in “ose.” This indicates that it is part of the sugar family. But, with over 61 names for sugar the food industry uses for sugar, the detective work can get tricky. Here are few types of sugar to look for in manufactured foods: • Sucrose: Occurs naturally in many foods and it is commonly added to commercially processed items. Sucrose includes raw sugar, granulated sugar, brown sugar, confectioner's sugar, and turbinado sugar. Table sugar is made from sugar cane or sugar beets. • Fructose (fruit sugar): Naturally occurring sugar in all fruits. It is also called levulose, or fruit sugar. • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS): Has almost the same level of sweetness as sugar. HFCS is often used in soft drinks, baked goods, and some canned products. • Glucose: Found in fruits in small amounts. It is also a syrup made from corn starch. • Dextrose: Chemically identical to glucose. It is often used medical purposes such as in IV hydration. • Maltose (malt sugar): Produced during fermentation. It is found in beer and breads. • Invert sugar: A natural form of sugar is used help keep candies and baked items sweet. Honey is an invert sugar. • Maple sugar: Comes from the sap of maple trees. It is made up of sucrose, fructose, and glucose. • Honey: A combination of fructose, glucose, and water that is produced by bees. • Molasses: Taken from the residue of sugar cane processing. • Agave nectar: A highly processed type of sugar from the Agave tequiliana (tequila) plant. Agave nectar is about 1.5 times sweeter than regular sugar. It has about 60 calories per tablespoon compared to 40 calories for the same amount of table sugar. Agave nectar is not healthier than honey, sugar, HFCS, or any other type of sweetener. • Stevia sweeteners: High intensity extracts derived from the stevia plant. Stevia is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar.
So, let’s recap
Sugar occurs naturally in all carbohydrate foods. When consumed as part of a whole food, sugar compounds enter the blood stream slowly and provide a valuable source of energy. However, excess sugar is commonly added to manufactured foods. The proliferation of added sugars in the American diet has been linked to an upswing in chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. To limit the added sugar in your diet, read the Nutrition Facts panel on packaged food to find out number of grams of sugar the product contains. Also, check the ingredient list for terms that indicate sugars have been added in processing.
Would sugar by any other name taste as sweet? With apologies to William Shakespeare, the answer is...
4 Mindfulness Tips to Help you Achieve Your Health Goals
Throughout the year, advertisements across television and the internet promise new diets to help kickstart your health and fitness goals. These programs tend to focus on a single metric of success: the number on the scale.
While weight loss itself is an admirable goal, focusing solely on a number is almost certain to lead to anxiety and disappointment.
Lifestyle changes don’t have to be something you dread. It may be hard to believe, but you can actually learn to enjoy the process. How? Instead of focusing on what you’re losing, use mindfulness to focus on all that you’re gaining instead. By staying present with each decision about what you eat, how you move, and how you take time for yourself, you can supercharge your goals and recognize your many successes beyond the scale.
1. Create positively framed affirmations
Adopting a healthier lifestyle has many benefits beyond weight loss, so why should a number be your only goal? Using positively framed affirmations, you can retrain your thoughts to focus on what you’re gaining instead of what you’re losing. Create goals that are specific and believable, and then frame them as if you’ve already achieved them. For example, if your goal is to lose 15 pounds, you might write, “I am X weight, I feel energized and happier, and I’m able to keep up with my kids when playing in the yard.” Structuring your goals as positively framed affirmations will elicit a vivid emotional response and motivate you throughout your health journey in ways that a simple number can’t.
2. Meditate daily
Meditating each day can help improve your focus, lower your heart rate, and reduce your stress levels. The best part? You don’t have to commit to hours of quiet contemplation to reap the benefits. Take just a few short minutes per day to pause, breathe, and recharge; it will help you stay in the present, lower your overall stress, and keep your affirmations at the forefront of your mind throughout the day.
3. Plan meals and make grocery lists
Each week, try to plan out your meals; it will help prevent snap decisions to eat out or order in. Make a grocery list based on your plan, and stick to it! This is a simple yet powerful way to not only stay on track with your nutrition goals, but to also save money on food in the long run by avoiding expensive takeout.
4. Learn to enjoy exercise
Enjoying exercise may seem like a pipe dream, but it doesn’t have to be. Think about your last workout: after you were done, you probably felt happier, more energized, and empowered to take on other challenges. Instead of viewing exercise like a chore to be completed, focus on how each action during the workout makes you feel. Do push ups make you feel strong? Does running fast make you feel powerful? By focusing on each exercise’s positive benefits, you can learn to enjoy exercise during the workout, not just afterwards.
So let’s recap...
The steps you’re taking each day to improve your nutrition, fitness, and mental health are worth celebrating. So every time you think you are falling short, focus on all that you’re gaining, such as more energy, less stress, and a healthier lifestyle, not what you’re losing on the scale. By creating positively framed affirmations, you can break negative perceptions about yourself and instead focus on your progress. Regular meditation, meal planning, and exercise can help improve your mood, reduce your stress, and keep your affirmations at the forefront of your mind each day.
Mindfulness can help you retrain your thoughts and actually enjoy the process of adopting a healthier lifestyle. Interested in applying mindfulness to your health goals? Learn more about what makes the MindFirst Health & Fitness program different from other weight loss programs.
Throughout the year, advertisements across television and the internet promise new diets to help...
Hit the Road for Your First 5K
Even if you don’t consider yourself a runner (or even much of an athlete), the idea of competing in a road race can be tantalizing. If the opening chords of the Chariots of Fire theme sparks even a small twinge of excitement, you may be primed to take on your first 5K run.
Reason to run
A 5K race is an ideal starting distance for beginners. At just 3.1 miles, it is a doable goal for people of all ages and running levels. Also, getting ready for 5K doesn’t take over your life the way preparing for a longer race often can. With a moderate training program, even a novice can be ready to cross the finish line in as little as 6 to 8 weeks.
Find a race
The inclusive nature of 5K’s means that there’s sure to be an event out there that fits your schedule and your goals. Many 5K runs are sponsored by non-profit groups to support social causes such as childhood cancer research or services for disabled veterans. If you feel like getting silly, there are also plenty of fun runs and themed events such as the Craft Brew Run, the Tofurkey Trot, the Color Run, or the 5K Foam Fest that might tickle your fancy. Your local running store is a good resource for information about races in your area or check out the handy event finder tool on Road Runners Club of America.
Gather your gear
Fortunately, running isn’t a gear-intensive sport. However, there are a few basic items that can help you maximize your comfort and avoid injury. The first essential is a good pair of running shoes. If you’re new to running, you may want to seek the advice of shoe experts at a running specialty store. Another must-have is a pair of running-specific socks made from a blend of synthetic materials that wick moisture away from your skin and help prevent blisters. In general, the best clothes for running are made from lightweight fabrics and designed to move with your body. Be careful not to overdress because the body heat you generate will make it feel 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the outside temperature.
Training for a 5K doesn’t have to be hard. If you’re already exercising regularly, prepping for a race can be a fun way to mix things up. If you haven’t been too active, then a structured training schedule with a concrete goal will help you integrate fitness into your lifestyle. A typical beginner’s training plan consists of 3 to 4 sessions a week of 30 to 40 minutes, which include alternating periods of walking and jogging with 5 minutes on either end of your workout for warm up and cool down. A good starting point is 30 seconds to 1 minute of jogging followed by 1 to 3 minutes of power walking as you catch your breath. The goal is to jog continuously for 30 minutes by your eighth week of training. There are countless variations of this basic training schedule, but one of the oldest and most popular is the Couch to 5K or C25K program. They even have a free phone app that provides day-by-day guidance for getting ready for race day.
Race day do’s and don’ts
When the big day arrives, no doubt you’ll wake up with butterflies in your stomach. Here are a few tips to help you make your first 5K a fun and rewarding experience:
- Get a good night’s sleep. Stick to relaxing activities the night before and turn in early.
- Eat right. Your best strategy is to eat a snack or light meal at least an hour before your run. Choose foods that are high in carbs but low in fat and fiber, which can lead to stomach cramps during the race.
- Arrive early. Give yourself at least a half hour before race time to park, pick up your race packet, and make a last trip to the bathroom before you head to the starting line. Also be sure to allow enough time do a thorough warm up.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids before the start of the race and take advantage of water stations along the route to replenish. Don’t forget to hydrate after the race as well.
- Have fun! Bring family and friends to cheer you along the route. As you run, be mindful of your progress. Take note of your increased strength and stamina compared to when you started your training. Celebrate yourself for meeting your goal!
So, let’s recap
Even if you don’t consider yourself a runner, there’s an undeniable thrill in competing in a road race. Most people can successfully prepare for a 5K event in just a couple of months. Committing to a regular training program with a defined goal can be a great way to boost your motivation and jazz up your fitness routine.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a runner (or even much of an athlete), the idea of competing in...
The Surprising Connection Between Sleep and Weight
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), adults need at least 7 hours of sleep a night to maintain good health. However, more than a third of the population fails to meet this goal.
While some people short change their sleep time because of hectic work or social schedules, others suffer from a disorder such as insomnia that interferes with good quality sleep. The hazards of a chronic sleep deficit range from drowsy driving and poor performance to a greater risk for chronic diseases including heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.
The obesity link
Interestingly, there is an increasing amount of research that links lack of regular sleep with weight gain and obesity. The Nurses’ Health Study followed the health habits including their weight, diet, exercise and sleep for roughly 60,000 women over a period of 16 years. None of the participants were obese when the study began. 16 years later it was concluded that those women who slept 5 hours or less per night had a 15 percent higher risk of becoming obese over the years, compared to the women who slept 7 hours per night. The short sleepers also had 30 percent higher risk of gaining 30 pounds over the course of the study. In another analysis of obesity among short sleepers, scientists found that the average BMI dropped .35 points with each additional hour of sleep the individuals reported.
What’s the connection?
There are several possible explanations for the link between sleep and weight. One theory is that short sleepers tend to snack more and take in more total calories. Another aspect is the effect sleep has on brain chemistry. In particular, sleep deprivation may alter the activation of the brain reward systems that control energy intake, judgement, and food choices. In some studies, very short sleepers consumed a smaller variety of foods, ate fewer vegetables, gravitated toward sweet or high-fat food items, and ate more in the evenings. They also tended to have lower insulin sensitivity, a factor that can raise the risk for diabetes. In addition, short sleepers are often chronically tired, which can lead to less physical activity.
Weekend sleep not a cure
It is tempting to think that sleeping in on weekends can repair a weekday sleep deficit. Unfortunately, the metabolic problems caused by lack of sleep, appear to return if you remain chronically sleep deprived. Researchers found that even when 5-hour-a-night sleepers were allowed to sleep 10 or more hours on weekends, their bodies still had problems regulating blood sugar.
Tips for a good night’s sleep
If you find yourself in a cycle of poor sleep, your first step is to look at your lifestyle factors that may be to blame. Try to avoid big meals or spicy food within 2 or 3 hours of going to bed. Drinking alcohol or caffeine too late in the day can also disrupt sleep cycles. Other things you can do for better quality sleep include going to bed and waking up at the same time each day and keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and comfortable. It’s also a good idea to replace “screen time” with relaxing activities such as taking a bath or reading before turning out the lights.
So let’s recap
Getting less than the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night disrupts your metabolism and can lead to obesity. Short sleepers tend to snack more and consume less healthy foods than people who get adequate sleep. You can help yourself avoid excess weight gain and lower your risk of chronic disease by making it a habit to regularly get enough good quality sleep each night.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), adults need at least 7 hours of sleep a...
Getting Started with Your Fitness Community
Embarking on a wellness journey can unleash a range of intense emotions. The exhilaration you feel when you’re finally ready to make meaningful life changes can go hand in hand with nagging feelings of self-doubt and flashbacks of past disappointments. While it is possible to travel solo on the road to wellness, research tells us that those who are most successful in meeting their lifestyle goals do so with the help of a strong support network or community.
The benefits of community
Your family and friends are important cheerleaders, but participating in a community makes you part of a team. This sense of belonging can help you in a number of ways. First, sharing your day to day journey with others makes you more accountable to your goals. Checking in with like-minded people who are invested in your progress means that you’re less likely to slack off or give up altogether. Your group also is a place when you can get inspiration and motivation when you hit a snag or feel like you’re losing momentum.
Find your tribe
There is no shortage of online groups focused on health and wellness, but you’re more likely to make lasting connections if you engage with people who share similar goals. When you take part in the MindFirst community, you have the advantage of knowing that your fellow members are taking part in the same lessons and activities as you. This will make it easier for you to share insights and discuss issues in real time as you move through the program.
Bond with your group
Unfortunately, many people who join online groups end up lingering on the sidelines rather than joining the discussion. While It can be intimidating at first to share your thoughts and feelings with others, it’s this kind of engagement that will help propel you on the way to your goals. Here are some tips for breaking the ice:
- Introduce yourself. Don’t hesitate to post a message letting the group know that you’re a new member. It is very likely that veteran members will reach out with welcoming words and offers to answer any questions you may have.
- Participate regularly. You don’t need to wait until you have a profound thought or major milestone to report. Check-in to see how other members are doing. Don’t be shy about offering congratulations when a member posts about their success, or expressing empathy when someone else is going through a rough patch.
- Be real. Usernames afford a veil of anonymity from the outside world which helps group members find a safe place to build trust. Take advantage of the cocoon a community offers to speak authentically about your thoughts, struggles, and emotions.
- Share your knowledge. If you’ve happened upon a great recipe or go to a killer new exercise class, bring your experiences to the group. Most people will appreciate the tips.
- Respect and kindness. Just like in real life, online relationships thrive on kindness and respect. Do your best to prevent judgment, criticism, and pettiness from seeping into discussions. Treat others like you would want to be treated yourself and assume other group members will do the same.
So, let’s recap
A strong support network is the not-so-secret ingredient for success when you’re on a wellness quest. When you join the MindFirst program, you become part of a robust community of people on a similar journey. Your active participation will allow you to draw upon the insights and achievements of veteran members as well as share your daily ups and downs with other newbies.
Embarking on a wellness journey can unleash a range of intense emotions. The exhilaration you feel...
Want to Workout from Home?
Want to workout but don’t have access to a gym? Not a problem. All you really need is your body… or a few pieces of inexpensive equipment, to create a whole-body workout that you can easily do in your house, apartment, or office.
The MindFirst fitness library contains dozens of workouts and short proper form videos that provide step by step instructions. There also three different fitness levels you can choose from.
Harness your body weight
Resistance training involves forcing your muscles to contract against the weight of your own body. A routine that includes maneuvers such as pushups, squats, lunges, planks, and more can be used to strengthen all your major muscle groups -- no exercise equipment needed. It’s important however, to follow proper form when doing these exercises in order to avoid injury.
Pick some props
The first purchase you might consider is a couple of sets of small barbells in different weights. Another handy item for a home gym is an elastic exercise band that uses resistance to build muscle strength. These brightly-colored bands often come in sets of four or five that range from very stretchy to heavy-duty resistance. You also might consider expanding your arsenal with a set of ankle weights that have pockets for you to adjust the heaviness.
A foam pad or yoga mat is a must-have for making your floor exercises more comfortable. A stability ball is also a handy tool for strengthening your core without stressing your joints. You can also bounce on it as you work at the computer or watch TV to get an aerobic boost. Finally, check out the toy aisle of your local department store. A jump rope, hula hoop, or mini trampoline might be just the thing to mix up your cardio workout.
Strength-training shopping list
You can purchase the basics for a home exercise program online or at a sporting goods store for $100 or less.
|Yoga-style floor mat||$8 to $40|
|Ankle weight (pair)||$15 to $30|
|Hand weights||$8 to $50 one pair;
$25 to $75 for set of three graduated weights
|Resistance bands||$10 to $20|
[*Prices based on Amazon search]
So Let’s Recap
Strength training helps you build lean muscle mass, which is essential for maintaining a healthy weight and active lifestyle. But, you don’t need a gym membership or heavy equipment to can get a full body workout. Resistance exercises, such as pushups and lunges, build your muscles by making them contract against the weight of your own body. You can also incorporate simple equipment such as small hand weights and resistance bands into your workout routine.
Want to workout but don’t have access to a gym? Not a problem. All you really need is your body… or...
Revving Up Your Water Intake
As an essential nutrient, everyone is always telling us to drink plenty of water. However, sometimes water doesn’t get the respect it deserves. It’s tasteless, colorless and calorie-free. It can stave off hunger and help ease headaches. In fact, your body’s thirst mechanism doesn’t kick in until you’ve already lost 2 percent of your body weight in water.
Why do we need it?
Staying hydrated is essential to your overall good health. Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and performs essential functions such as getting rid of wastes, keeping your body temperature stable, lubricating joints, and protecting vital organs. Even mild dehydration can lead to feelings of stress, irritability, and fatigue—a particular problem if you are not drinking enough before, during or after your workout. Adequate intake is especially important when you’re trying to lose weight. Water helps your body metabolize stored fat and carbs, and some research even suggests that consuming a glass of ice water can temporarily boost your calorie burn during a workout. Another plus is that water is a natural appetite suppressant and helps prevent you from drinking high-calorie beverages with your meals. Opinions vary on how much water you should drink, but the National Academy of Sciences states that healthy adults consume between 15.5 cups (men) and 11.5 cups (women) of fluid daily. Usually about 20 percent of this amount comes from foods such as fruits and vegetables and the rest from liquids.
6 ways to drink more water
Water may be “tasteless” and some may say it is boring, but there are many ways you can enjoy increasing your intake. Here are a few suggestions to help you overcome those hurdles so that you get the hydration your body craves.
- Experiment with new flavors. Lemon slices are always a safe bet to perk up a pitcher of water, but thinking beyond citrus can help you beat the boredom. Throw in a handful of berries, some sliced cucumber, or a sprig of mint for extra zest. If you’re feeling adventurous, add some muddled basil, thyme, rosemary, or lavender for an unexpected flavor profile.
- Let your water bottle lead you. Make it a goal to have your water bottle with you wherever you go 24/7. Fill it up before you leave the house in the morning and place it in an easy reach location on your desk at work. In the evening, have it next to you as you watch TV or work on the computer. Place it on your beside table to sip on if you get thirsty during the night. You can even keep track of your daily intake by drawing marks on the side of your bottle or writing down the fluid ounces you consumed at the end of the day.
- Don’t chug. Downing a whole glass at time can help you meet your water intake goals but it will probably cause that sloshy bloated feeling. A better solution is to use a bottle with a straw and take frequent sips. Not only will this make drinking more convenient and enjoyable, it will free you from the hassle of repeatedly opening and closing the lid to your bottle.
- Drink before meals. When you sit down for a meal, drink a glass of water before you start. Having water in your belly will add to a feeling of fullness and help prevent you from overeating. Also, keep a full glass handy to sip on with your meal.
- App it. When we use our smart phones for everything else, why not download an app such as Waterlogged to track your hydration? If you’re looking for a totally tech solution, you may want to invest in a smart water bottle such as HydraCoach or Drinkup that record your intake during the day and send reminders to your phone.
- Replenish your supply. Even healthy people can become dehydrated from a strenuous workout or outdoor activity on a hot day. If you find yourself in a situation where your body is depleting water faster than usual, make a point imbibe some extra ounces to replenish the loss.
So, let’s recap
Water is an essential nutrient for general good health. Drinking enough each day can also help you achieve successful weight loss. Too often, however, people fall short of the recommended daily intake. Adding interesting flavors to your water and implementing tracking systems to monitor your consumption can help you meet your body’s hydration needs.
As an essential nutrient, everyone is always telling us to drink plenty of water. However,...
Mindfulness and Weight Control: What the Research Tells Us
For centuries, mindfulness has been viewed as an avenue to relaxation and spiritual enlightenment. In the last few decades, the medical community is also taking a serious look at how mindfulness techniques can promote positive behavior change. The evidence is especially strong when it comes to healthy eating and weight control.
Long-term weight loss
In 2018, nutritionist Carolyn Dunn and colleagues at North Carolina State University conducted a comprehensive review of the recent scientific literature that examined the intersection of mindfulness and weight loss. In all of the studies they evaluated, participants successfully lost weight in the programs that incorporated mindfulness. In addition, four of the five studies showed that the people who had been in these programs continued to lose weight after the formal study period ended.
Perhaps the most impressive effect of mindfulness, however, appears to be in helping people maintain their weight loss. Most people who take part in traditional weight loss programs will regain half of the weight they lost within the following year. Within three to five years, 80% of these individuals will have returned to their original weight, and some will have gained even more. Remarkably, in four of the five studies that Dunn and her associates analyzed, this did not happen. The participants in these mindfulness-based programs were able to maintain their new lower weight over the long-term.
Why mindfulness works
Scientists have pondered why the programs that incorporate mindfulness techniques produce superior results to those that only emphasized diet and exercise. The secret seems to lie in the power of mindfulness to combat underlying stress and emotional problems that trigger unhealthy eating patterns and result in obesity. These include anxiety, negative self-image and binge eating. Instead, mindfulness training helps you shift your attention away from environmental cues that spark a desire to eat such as the sight and smell of food. Also, the heightened recognition of internal signals such as hunger and fullness helps you adjust your food intake accordingly. Refocusing your perception in this way, you can avert food cravings and avoid falling into the trap of emotional eating.
In other studies, researchers have demonstrated that mindfulness-based stress reduction can improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes. There has also been some early investigation into how mindfulness approaches could be used to correct imbalances in the brain connections in children at risk for obesity, allowing them better control over their eating behaviors.
So let’s recap
Mindfulness can change your behavior for the better. You can lose weight by changing the way that you think, and be on your way to a happier, healthier you.
For centuries, mindfulness has been viewed as an avenue to relaxation and spiritual enlightenment....
How to Practice Mindfulness When Driving
Blazing sun, pounding rain, crowded roadways—for many people the daily drive to and from their workplace is fraught with stress. But, what if this stressful, terrible, horrible, very bad time of the day could be converted into an opportunity for expanding your mindfulness practice while driving? “Count me in!” you say. Before we go any further, it’s important to note that we don’t recommend popping in your ear buds and sinking into a guided meditation while behind the wheel.
6 tips for mindful driving
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some, safe, relaxing opportunities for incorporating mindfulness into your commute.
- Breathe. Once you’ve settled into the driver’s seat, take 3 deep breaths before you turn on the engine. Focus on the sensation of each breath as it enters through your nose, travels into your chest, and expands your abdomen. Then exhale gently through your mouth. Repeat this sequence when you turn off the engine after you’ve reached your destination.
- Savor the quiet. Many of us pass the time on our commutes by listening to music or the news. Instead, try turning off the radio or CD player and silencing your cell phone so that you become aware of the quiet that surrounds you. Use this opportunity to notice what you see in your field of vision, feel the speed and movement of the car, and appreciate the sound of the air as it rushes by. Take note of the noise the road makes, or the humming of your engine as you change speeds.
- Be aware of your body. As you quietly contemplate your surroundings, turn your attention to how your body feels. Notice the how your arms and legs move as you steer and operate the pedals. Also, look for any telltale signs of stress such as your hands gripping the steering wheel, or stiffness in your shoulders and neck. Take a deep breath and feel your muscles relax.
- Keep your mind in the moment. Avoid letting your thoughts wander off into memories or leap into future scenarios. Getting pulled into this unconscious mental pattern can result in brooding about past mistakes and injustices, or anxiously obsessing about events that lie ahead. Use your powers of mindfulness to corral your thoughts back into the present while driving. One exercise you can try is the “Five Senses” exercise. See if you can identify one thing you can see, hear, touch, taste and even smell as you drive along.
- Defuse road rage. Packed roadways and slow traffic can bring out the competitive instinct even among mild mannered drivers. Next time you feel your blood boil because another driver cut you off or someone is puttering along at a ridiculously slow speed in passing lane, take a step back. The other drivers on the road are also trying to get to their destination as quickly as possible, and they may feel equally irritated with you. In the end, it really doesn’t matter much if it takes a couple extra minutes to get where you’re going.
- Commit to kindness. Have empathy for the fellow driver who unwittingly ended up in the right lane when they wanted to turn left. Or, slow down and make room for other cars to merge into your lane when the traffic is heavy. Also, note when you are the recipient of a similar small kindness, and acknowledge the generosity with a smile, nod or “thank you” wave.
So, let’s recap
For many people, the daily drive to and from work takes a hefty toll of stress and aggravation. Using your time behind the wheel as opportunity to expand your mindfulness practice can transform this period of the day from a dreaded chore into a refreshing interlude.
Blazing sun, pounding rain, crowded roadways—for many people the daily drive to and from their...
Popular Diets: How Do They Stack Up?
Are you curious about which diet is right for you? Which diet will fit best into your lifestyle? Or which diet may help reduce your health risks? Let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of a few popular diets according to their nutrition and their convenience.The table below provides an at-a-glance look at which dietary components are encouraged/discouraged in each diet, along with some important characteristics of each diet.
The Keto diet is an extremely low carbohydrate diet that promotes quick weight loss and improved insulin control through calorie restriction and entrance into a state of ketosis (increased ketones in body tissues). To achieve the low levels of carbohydrate in the Keto diet, diet followers eliminate grains, added sugars, legumes, and most fruits. Maintaining the level of carbohydrate restriction necessary to remain in ketosis can be difficult due to these strict limitations in food choices. This can be a particular challenge when dining out or visiting. It can also be challenging to achieve recommended levels of some nutrients such as fiber, B vitamins, and minerals that are present in food groups that are eliminated on the Keto diet. Thus, it is necessary to include a variety of foods through the preparation of some meals and snacks at home, as well as track nutrient intakes to help prevent the development of nutritional deficiencies. Most Keto-friendly foods are naturally gluten-free, so following a gluten-free Keto diet is simple. However, following a vegetarian or vegan Keto diet is more difficult; this makes it even more important to track your nutrients because eliminating animal products excludes another important source of essential B vitamins and minerals. Due to the various challenges involved in adhering to this diet, the long-term effects of following the Keto diet remain unknown.
The Paleo diet is similar to the Keto diet with the additional exclusion of dairy products and the inclusion of fruits. Thus, the challenges associated with following the Paleo diet are similar to those in the Keto diet. One benefit of the Paleo diet compared to the Keto diet is that the carbohydrate restriction is not as extreme as the Keto diet. Thus, the inclusion of more fruits and vegetables can lead to more variety in meals and additional ways to achieve optimal nutrient intakes. However, the additional restriction of dairy products in the Paleo diet makes it important to monitor your potassium and calcium intake along with your B vitamin and mineral intakes to minimize risk for nutrient deficiencies.
5:2 Diet (Intermittent Fasting)
The 5:2 diet is a form of intermittent fasting that has gained momentum in recent years. This diet is solely focused on weight loss and involves five days of eating normally and two days of fasting each week. There are a few different variations to this diet, but the main premise is that reduced calorie intake on fasting days promotes fat-loss. This diet is simple to follow and requires no regular meetings or diet tracking. However, this diet may not be sustainable in the long-term. Days of fasting can result in poor work performance, headaches, irritability, sleeping problems and overeating on non-fasting days. This type of diet does not promote healthful diet choices that could help reduce chronic disease risk.
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Hence the name, it was developed to combat high blood pressure and heart disease. Similar to the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet emphasizes the inclusion of healthful dietary components and discourages the inclusion of unhealthful dietary components. It additionally employs a strict cap on sodium at 2,300 mg, which is eventually reduced further to 1,500 mg. This cap on sodium makes eating out a bit more challenging on the DASH diet compared to the Mediterranean diet. Although nutrition labels and low-sodium options in restaurants are emerging, the options remain limited. The DASH diet also requires tracking of daily consumption of foods within the DASH food groups, which can become burdensome. Like the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet can easily be adapted to accommodate vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diet preferences.
The Mediterranean diet is a time-tested, sustainable diet that reshapes your eating habits to provide a variety of health benefits through the inclusion of traditional foods in endless combinations. Based on the latest scientific research, this diet emphasizes the inclusion of healthful dietary components and discourages the inclusion of unhealthful dietary components. Through emphasis of high fiber foods, you will naturally eat fewer calories and lose weight at a steady pace. No strict diet tracking or meetings are required. Emphasis is placed on creating new eating habits that are simple and easy to sustain. The Mediterranean diet can easily be adapted to accommodate vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diet preferences.
|Healthful Dietary Components|
|Fresh Meats / Seafood||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Nuts / Seeds||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Unhealthful Dietary Components|
|Daily Diet Tracking||X||X||X||✓||X|
|Ease of Dining Out||X||X||✓||X||✓|
Are you curious about which diet is right for you? Which diet will fit best into your lifestyle? Or...
Breaking Through a Weight Loss Plateau
It’s another week, another weigh-in, and the dial on the scale is stubbornly stuck where it’s been for the last month. You’ve hit the dreaded weight loss plateau. Pretty much everyone undergoing a major healthy lifestyle change has been there one time or another---even those who eventually meet their weight loss goals. So, before you throw in the towel, let’s dive deeper into what’s going on and take a look at some tips for breaking through.
Why plateaus happen
It’s a tremendous morale boost to see the scale steadily tick down in the early weeks of a new wellness program. Likewise, it’s a real bummer when your weight loss appears to slow down or stop altogether, no matter how diligent you’ve been. Some of this effect can be blamed on physiological changes taking place in your body. In the first phase of a wellness program or healthy lifestyle change, your body starts dipping into your fat reserves to make up the calorie deficit. In the process, you’re also releasing a lot of excess water so you appear to drop pounds quickly. Once the fluid weight is depleted, however, your weight loss trend more accurately reflects your actual fat loss, hence the plateau. For most people, this maxes out at 1 to 2 pounds a week. In addition, your body also breaks muscle tissue as well as fat when you reduce your calorie intake. Since lean muscle mass drives your energy consumption, your metabolic rate will fall as you lose muscle. Additionally, emotional factors such as boredom and complacency can contribute to plateaus. After a few weeks into your new lifestyle change you may have a more relaxed attitude toward portion sizes and even mind “less” eating.
How to break through
The good news is that if you continue to stay the course and take in fewer calories than you use up, you will eventually start losing again and overcome the plateau. Here are a few pointers to help you stay the course. • Keep up with your food diary. This is a biggie. Food logging is a proven strategy for successful weight loss. If you haven’t been recording your food intake, or have slacked off in recent weeks, start again now. Having a clear picture of your daily food intake will help you identify possible pitfalls and motivate you to keep making positive and healthy choices. • Watch your serving sizes. Measuring, weighing, and counting out portions is fussy and tedious. But “eyeballing” and “guesstimating” is a sure way to sabotage your efforts. A generous quarter cup of cereal can easily become a half cup, and 6 potato chips can often turn into 16 when you’re eating them directly from the bag. • Go easy on treats. “Healthy” snacks such as granola, nut butters, trail mix and full-fat yogurt can slide into the realm of “too much of a good thing.” Although packed with nutrients, these foods are also calorically dense, so they’re best used as a once-in-a-while snack rather than a daily staple. Other indulgences such as dinners out with friends and an evening cocktail can stall your weight loss if you partake too often. • Pump up your strength training. Muscle building exercises help your body convert stored fat energy into lean muscle—a total win-win for your fitness goals. • Mix up your exercise routine. Over time, your body will adapt to your usual regimen so you’re not achieving the same calorie burn you did at first. Interval training, in which you alternate bouts of high-intensity activity with periods of moderate-intensity exercise, is a good way to rev up your metabolism. For example, try 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise consisting of 3 minutes of light jogging alternating with an equal amount of faster paced running. Another good option is to look for ways to add more physical activity to your day outside of your usual workout, such as taking the stairs or walking farther to your car. Step counter apps on your phone can help you chart your progress. • Don’t lose hope. Don’t plateau your way into a pint of ice cream. Use it as an opportunity to practice mindfulness as you celebrate your progress so far and recommit to your path forward.
So, let’s recap
Almost everyone undergoing a healthy lifestyle change experiences the dreaded plateau. Much of this can be blamed on your metabolism struggling to find a new normal as you shed pounds. To get over this hump, look for any subtle changes in your eating patterns that may be contributing extra calories. Also, try revving up your workout by expanding your muscle-building routine. You can add periods of interval training and incorporate more casual physical activity into your day. The most important thing to remember, however, is that you are not that number on the scale. It does not reflect what kind of person you are and should not be your only measuring tool for success. Treat the scale as a casual guide and focus on the positive effects you feel from your new lifestyle change.
It’s another week, another weigh-in, and the dial on the scale is stubbornly stuck where it’s been...
Overcoming Emotional Eating
Since the dawn of man, finding food has been priority #1. The need to eat has led to astonishing innovations throughout history; think of the remarkable, ancient Aztec farming techniques or the invention of the modern combine harvester. We eat to live and some of us live to eat. Done in moderation, there’s nothing wrong with that; there are so many different foods to enjoy! But problems arise when we find we’re eating too much unhealthy food or eating when we’re not even hungry. In these cases, it’s less likely a physical need we’re reacting to but an emotional one. The phrase “comfort food” first appeared in a Palm Beach Post article about obesity back in 1966 and is now a common way to describe the urge to turn to food when feeling emotional. While the foods people turn to may vary, the underlying drivers are rooted in the same need: to self-soothe. To use food to feel better. But yet, this kind of eating usually makes us feel worse. Let’s face it, it’s easier (and more enjoyable) to polish off a bag of cookies than it is to psychoanalyze our feelings. Unfortunately, what ends up happening is that the cookies disappear but the problems don’t. Over time, this behavior loop adds pounds but does nothing to address the emotional triggers which led up to the mindless eating. So what’s a person to do? Mary Kate Keyes, Registered Dietician, Visiting Professor of Nutritional Science, and a MindFirst nutrition consultant, offers these suggestions to help curb emotional eating:
- Stop before you pop (that food in your mouth). Ask yourself, “Am I really hungry? Is this food the healthy choice?” If the answer is no to either or both questions then it’s time to take a beat and assess the situation before it gets out of your control. Give yourself time to understand what’s really going on in your head (or heart) before you put anything in your stomach. What’s triggering your desire to eat? If it’s not hunger you are feeling, what is it?
- Write it down. Have a notebook and pen on the counter (and one in your bag) and write down everything you eat during the entire day….all of it! Seeing every single item written down may be enough to stop you from eating in situations where you are not legitimately hungry.
- Reward your healthy decisions. Not with food but with something you also enjoy: a phone conversation with a friend; a cuddle with your pet; a cup of your favorite tea or a spontaneous walk around the neighborhood. It’s amazing how a little distraction can be all it takes to break free from the urge to emotionally eat.
The good news is that our brain is capable of rewiring itself rather quickly, replacing negative behavior patterns with these new, positive habits. Becoming more mindful of what’s triggering compulsive eating is the first step. Journaling your food intake throughout the day is another. For our MindFirst members, there’s also an online community ready to offer encouragement and shared experiences because sometimes, all we need instead of calories is a little friendly support. For non-members, check out the MindFirst websitefor more information on the entire health and wellness program, as well as an offer for a free trial subscription.
Since the dawn of man, finding food has been priority #1. The need to eat has led to...
Veggies for Breakfast? Why Not!
There are many, many reasons to eat veggies including lowering blood pressure, increasing your fiber intake, reducing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, as well as improving eye and digestive health. Plus they taste delicious. So, why do we only eat them during lunch and dinner?
Veggies at every meal
According to the USDA MyPlate guidelines, adults should be eating a total of 2 to 3 cups of vegetables a day. Servings are defined as 1 cup of raw or cooked veggies other than salad greens; 1 cup 100% vegetable juice; or 2 cups of raw leafy greens. You can meet this quota through a combination of dark-green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and more. Just about any type will do—raw, cooked, fresh, frozen, canned, whole, cut up or mashed. Despite the wide variety of options, many people struggle to include even the minimum daily recommendation of veggies into their daily diet. This task gets even harder if you try to squeeze your entire allotment into just two meals. By expanding your horizons and opting to put a few vegetables onto your breakfast plate, you can up your intake of this key food group, while adding some much needed variety to your morning meal.
Think outside the (cereal) box
Once your wrap your head around the concept of breakfast veggies, there are lots of yummy options to choose from. Here are a few to get you started.
- Scrambles, omelets, and frittatas. Many egg dishes practically beg for an infusion of vegetables. One of the easiest solutions is to fill your omelet with a handful of sauteed spinach, some cherry tomatoes, and a few sliced mushrooms. If you’re short on time, just add the veggies directly to the skillet and scramble them with your egg mixture. To make a frittata, pour the egg and milk mixture into a cast iron skillet over your choice of vegetables and bake it in the oven. A combo of onions, peppers, and potatoes with a small handful of cheese works great. The good thing about frittatas is that they can be eaten hot or cold, so you have the option to prepare it in advance.
- Shakshouka. Poaching eggs in a hearty sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers and garlic is the key to this North African staple. It makes for a great for breakfast or even a light dinner. Add some kale or chard to the tomato mixture to get in another veggie serving.
- Pancakes and waffles. We’re all familiar with carrot cake and zucchini bread, so why not shred these veggies into your pancake or waffle batter? You can also wrap thin crepe-like pancakes around roasted root vegetables or spring asparagus.
- Breakfast smoothies. You may already be adding spinach or kale to your morning smoothie, but what about diced beets? These naturally sweet vegetables blend deliciously with mixed berries, orange, carrots, and almond milk. If you’re a fan of the pumpkin-spiced latte, you may also go for a cozy combo of cinnamon, sweet potato, and almond butter pureed with a bit of maple syrup and unsweetened almond milk. Since 100% vegetable juice also qualifies as a veggie serving, try spiking homemade carrot juice with ginger and turmeric for a zingy morning refresher.
- Avocado toast and beyond. Pump up your avocado toast with layers of roasted cauliflower, sautéed onions, or fresh tomato. Let your imagination run wild!
So, let’s recap
Very few people consume even the minimum number of vegetable servings each day that are recommended for good health. Limiting your options to a lunch salad and a side of veggies at dinner can make the goal even harder. However, when you find creative ways to incorporate vegetables into your favorite breakfast dishes you can increase your veggie quota and add more flavor to your morning meal.
There are many, many reasons to eat veggies including lowering blood pressure, [increasing your...
5 Ways Meditation Can Improve Your Health
Meditation is not just a great way to relax, but it also offers a variety of physical and mental health benefits that can help supercharge your health goals all year long. So why should you consider adding regular meditation to your daily routine this year?
1. Meditation improves your mood
Meditation can ease anxiety, depression, and day-to-day stress. Taking just a few minutes for yourself to clear your mind and slow your breath can help reduce your stress levels and improve your mood for the rest of the day. When you are in a good mood, good choices follow.
2. It rewires your brain
Not only does meditation help improve your mood, but it also rewires your brain to improve your focus and attention. Those who practice meditation have shown increased brain size in areas tied to attention and emotional control. By clearing your mind and taking control of your thoughts with short meditations, you can become more mindful and attentive in your daily life.
3. Meditation improves your emotional stability
Meditation can improve your relationship with yourself and others. Turning your focus inward can make you more mindful about your own feelings and emotions; it can also help give you perspective on your reactions to a variety of stressful situations. By becoming more aware of the root of your emotions, meditation can make you more compassionate toward yourself and others. It can also lend you more self-control over your actions and reactions.
4. It can keep you healthy
On top of its many mental health benefits, meditation may also have physical benefits that keep you healthy. By reducing your body’s physical response to stress, meditation can boost your immune systems function, improve your blood pressure and lower cholesterol.
5. Meditation keeps you focused on your goals
Meditation improves your focus and attention making it much easier to achieve your goals. With all of its physical and mental health benefits, meditation is an essential part of any health routine. Don’t buy into meditation myths; mindfulness is for everybody. If you are easily distracted or have trouble sitting still, you will benefit most by dedicating a few minutes a day to quiet your mind.
So Let’s Recap
As you embark on your resolutions and a new, healthier lifestyle, consider giving meditation a try. From reducing stress, to improving mood and focus, to even boosting immune function, meditation offers numerous physical and mental health benefits. And anyone can do it! If you are curious about meditation, but are not sure where to start, start small. Try MindFirst’s meditations, and gradually incorporate meditation into your daily health routine to keep you relaxed and focused on your goals all year long.
Meditation is not just a great way to relax, but it also offers a variety of physical and mental...
Getting Started with Yoga
With yoga studios popping up on nearly every street corner and numerous YouTube channels devoted to the practice, it’s clear that Americans have embraced yoga fitness in a big way. For the uninitiated, however, figuring out how to get started can seem daunting. Before tackling the “how to” of adopting a yoga practice, let’s first take a look at the “why.”
The many health benefits of yoga
Yoga has been practiced as means of gaining mastery of the mind and emotions for thousands of years. In modern times, the medical community has celebrated yoga as way for people to improve their flexibility and balance, as well as lower their blood pressure and cardiovascular risk. The increased mindfulness that is born out of regular yoga practice can even inspire mindful eating choices. In one study, researchers found that people who practiced yoga for at least half an hour a week, over four years, gained less weight during middle age. People who were overweight actually lost weight over that time.
If you’ve never done yoga before, experts suggest taking a beginner level class to get started. That way, you’ll have an instructor present to help you learn the poses and breathing techniques. Breathing is just as important as attempting the poses! There are a variety of yoga styles to choose from. Many yoga studios will offer an entry-level a Hatha class. This style can be a good fit for novices because it emphasizes stretching and slow movements. For a more aerobic workout, you may like a faster-paced Vinyasa, Ashtanga, or power yoga class. Other styles include Iyengar, which emphasizes proper alignment, and Kundalini, which incorporates spiritual elements and promotes healing. The currently popular Bikram or “hot” yoga is practiced in rooms that are heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Proponents of hot yoga claim that it speeds weight loss, boosts metabolism, and helps the body sweat out toxins. Skeptics contend that hot yoga participants would reap the same health benefits by exercising in a normal temperature setting. Whatever style you choose, it’s very important to start at the appropriate level of difficulty so not to risk injury. Many instructors will encourage you to listen to your body as you navigate the poses. By going at your own pace, you’ll be sure to feel comfortable trying something new.
Yoga at home
If you’re a little self-conscious about fumbling through yoga poses in a class full of spandex-clad strangers, there are also some very good at-home options for beginners. All you’ll need to get started is a sturdy non-slip mat, and possibly, a yoga block to help you keep your body stable in tougher poses. Highly-rated DVDs such as Yoga Stretch for Beginners and Beyond can be purchased online or even checked out from your local library. If you’re looking for more variety, there are thousands of online yoga classes, many of them for free. From Chair Yoga to Beginner Yoga to even Yoga for Lower Back Pain, Yoga with Adriene is a highly popular YouTube channel which offers a large selection of yoga sequences and poses on a regular basis.
So let’s recap
If you haven’t tried yoga yet, today is a great time to start! Yoga offers a huge range of mental and physical health benefits including better flexibility and balance, and lower risk of heart disease. The mindful aspects of yoga practice can also help support your weight loss journey and help you reduce stress. There are many different types of yoga. Whichever style you choose, make sure you start with a workout that is comfortable for your current fitness level to avoid injury.
With yoga studios popping up on nearly every street corner and numerous YouTube channels devoted to...
How To Outsmart Emotional Hunger
Bored. Tired. Stressed. If you close your eyes and think about these emotions (and let’s be honest, you could be feeling one of them right now), you may conjure visions of chocolate frosted donuts, bags of potato chips, and a pizza pie piled high.
Does eating these food items result in interest, liveliness, and peace? Very likely not.
And even if you feel better for a moment, physical and emotional sensations such as bloat, guilt, and defeat are sure to pop up soon enough.
The truth is that when we eat as a response to unfavorable emotions, we don’t really feel better afterwards. We don’t even savor and experience the treats we choose. Rich, chocolate cake is a dessert meant to be tasted and contemplated. When we are done with a small piece, we want to feel satisfied and remember a wonderful food experience.
But if we eat because of our emotions, we skip the experience and go straight to regret, contemplating our waistlines instead of delicious culinary sensations.
We can combat this emotional eating. We simply replace our pantry of fat and sugar with an arsenal of mindful techniques.
Follow these strategies to outsmart emotional hunger, and you’ll be able to enjoy your cake (and eat it, too).
Identify Your Emotions And Food Choices
If you want to outsmart emotional hunger, you need to outsmart your emotions first. A simple, but not always easy, way to gain back some power over your emotions is to clearly identify them.
According to a New York Times article, naming emotions takes away some of their strength and the burdens they create. Additionally, we can’t address something if we don’t know what it is.
The same theory applies to nutrition. We may not be fully aware of exactly what we eat each day if we don’t keep track of our food choices, and we won’t know how to address our eating if we don’t first identify what we are eating.
Keeping a journal is one of the easiest ways to record how we feel and what we eat. Remind yourself that the process of identifying your emotions and food choices is a step toward conquering emotional hunger. It will also help with noticing patterns of behavior.
Reflect On Your Habits
Once you have identified what you feel and eat for several days or even weeks, take time to reflect and think about your habits. Your brain is powerful; use it to your advantage.
Reflection occurs when we start contemplating the “why” and “how” of our emotions and behaviors. Why do I feel this way right now? How do I act when I feel this way?
If you begin to realize that the way you feel is “stressed” or “bored” and they way you act is “overeating or unhealthy food choices,” then you’ve identified a habit that you have control over. This habit is often an unhealthy cycle where negative emotions trigger overeating, and overeating triggers more negative emotions.
This mindful reflection helps you find the best interventions for your emotional hunger.
Develop Smart Alternatives
There are a few ways to interrupt the emotional hunger cycle, and they all require some degree of mindfulness.
When you start to experience hunger, ask yourself: Am I really hungry? Or am I experiencing an emotion that usually just makes me want to eat?
Identify your emotion, and think of a strategy to alleviate that feeling (non-food related, of course). A 2018 study shows that developing alternate coping skills for stress and other negative emotions is effective in reducing emotional eating. Meditation, exercise, and activities that help you relax, such as reading or taking a soothing bath, are all good choices.
If you do have a legitimate need to eat, choose foods that will not result in further negative feelings. Be careful with portion sizes and reach for fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
So Let’s Recap:
Outsmart emotional hunger by identifying your feelings and food choices, reflecting on behavioral patterns, and choosing the strategy that will give you power over unhealthy habits.
Our brains are powerful tools. We can regain control over what we eat and why we eat it if we put our minds to work for us and not against us.
With these mindful strategies, you will be on your way to a happier, healthier, more balanced you.
Bored. Tired. Stressed. If you close your eyes and think about these emotions (and let’s be honest,...
The Many Benefits of Fiber
Are you getting enough fiber in your diet? The answer is “probably not” if you’re like most Americans. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (ADA), recommends a daily fiber intake of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. However, only 5% of Americans meet that recommendation and miss out on the many benefits of fiber.
Why is fiber important?
Fiber is the part of fruits, vegetables, and grains that your body cannot digest. Therefore it passes through your body without being absorbed. Even though fiber doesn’t provide significant calories or nutrients, it is very important for your intestinal function and overall health. Fiber comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble. Many fiber-rich foods contain both types. Insoluble fiber is present in vegetables, beans, fruits with skin, and whole grains. Eating this type of fiber speeds up the movement of waste through your intestine, and helps you avoid constipation. It can also help prevent the formation of pouches in the lining of your colon, called diverticula, which can become painfully inflamed. Refined carbohydrates such as white flour and white rice are processed to remove the tough outer layer of the grain kernels so they lack the fiber benefit of their whole grain counterparts. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and gastrointestinal fluids to form thick gel-like substance. This substance blocks some fat and cholesterol from being absorbed in the blood stream. It also slows down the digestion rate of carbohydrates and other nutrients so that blood sugar levels remain relatively stable. For these reasons, eating enough soluble fiber helps lower your risk of heart disease. Both types of fiber help you feel full long after eating, which is an added benefit when you’re trying to manage your weight.
Choosing fiber-rich food
A healthful diet contains a mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fibers are more common in foods such as beans, peas, oats, barley, berries, apples and citrus fruits. Good sources of insoluble fiber include beans, whole wheat or bran products, green beans, potatoes, cauliflowers, and nuts. While many fiber supplements exist, most do not contain the additional vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B and iron, found in fiber-rich foods. Supplements may also not be, as easily or fully absorbed by the body. It’s also important to drink plenty of fluids when eating a high-fiber diet to help the fiber pass smoothly through your body and reap the healthy benefits. To get the recommended daily quota of 25 to 38 grams of fiber, you should aim for 3 servings of whole grains (bread, cereal, pasta), 2 servings of fruit, and 3 servings of vegetables per day. However, for most people, reaching this goal all at once would be difficult. Here are some tips you can try to get more fiber in your daily diet:
- Include fruits, vegetables or both in every meal.
- Eat legumes such as beans, peas and lentils at least 3 times a week.
- Snack on nuts, seeds, and popcorn rather than refined carbs.
- Replace white rice with brown or wild rice, bulger, whole wheat pasta, or barley.
- Check food labels to find bread and cereals with at least 2 grams of fiber per serving.
Add Fiber Slowly
Upping your fiber intake too quickly may lead to cramping and bloating which could counteract the health benefits. You should increase your intake gradually to allow your digestive system time to adjust. For example, you can try adding one extra serving of a high-fiber food to your daily diet for a week and see how your body reacts. If everything is okay, add another daily serving for a week and continue increasing until you’ve reached your quota.
So, let’s recap
Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet and has many benefits; however most people do not get the recommended amounts. It helps you avoid constipation, slows down the absorption of fat and carbohydrates into your blood stream, and helps lower your cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease. An added bonus for people trying to lose weight is that fiber keeps you feeling full after a meal. Fiber-rich foods include legumes and vegetables, fruits with the skin on, and whole grains, nuts, and seeds. When upping your intake, it’s best to increase gradually to avoid uncomfortable symptoms such as gas and bloating.
Are you getting enough fiber in your diet? The answer is “probably not” if you’re like most...
These 8 Anti-Inflammatory Foods Could Heal Your Chronic Inflammation
Chronic disease is on the rise in America and has been for many years. A diet full of processed foods, red meat, chemicals and more are drastically changing the American gut microbiome and immune system.
Long-term cultural and lifestyle changes are needed to combat this deadly rise in chronic disease. And at the very root of the problem is one symptom: inflammation.
What exactly is inflammation? Inflammation is one of the body’s natural defense mechanisms. When we are injured or sick, our immune system sends a plethora of white blood cells to combat the injury and protect the body from more harm. Symptoms such as swelling and warmth around an injury are signs that our body is doing its job. However, sometimes our immune systems overreact, due to an imbalance in our diet or lymphatic systems and instead of protecting us, our body begins to attack its own cells. It is only when inflammation becomes chronic that painful conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, chronic joint pain and dementia begin to arise.
How can we heal it?
While there are many different medications and methods for controlling inflammation, the one most overlooked and even disregarded is simple: diet. Food has always had the ability to heal us naturally. Certain foods contain natural anti-inflammatory compounds that can stop chronic inflammation and even heal the damage that has been done. It comes as no surprise that an anti-inflammatory diet contains many of the things any health expert would recommend - lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish, and fresh herbs and spices. And while traditional medication and treatment has its place, becoming more mindful of what we eat and drink can reap untold benefits for our overall health.
Below is a list of the top 8 anti-inflammatory foods you can incorporate into your diet to begin healing today.
Top 8 Anti-Inflammatory Foods
1. Turmeric - You may use turmeric already as a spice in your food or perhaps you have only seen it in the aisles of your grocery store. Used for centuries as a medicine to treat various maladies in India, Turmeric has recently come to light as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Specifically curcumin, a compound found only in the spice, may act to reduce inflammation in the body. So add it to your dinner, or make some golden tea - this spice is a friendly agent against chronic inflammation.
2. Fatty Fish - Fatty fish is your friend and the average American does not get enough of it. Fish oils contain Omega-3 fatty acids which are notorious for their inflammation fighting properties. They also lubricate joints and pad the brain for optimum wellness. So add a serving of salmon, sardines, ormackerel at least twice a week.
3. Berries - Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries - Berries contain an antioxidant called anthocyanin. These have anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce inflammation, boost immunity and reduce your risk of disease. 4. Cruciferous greens - Eating lots of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a decreased risk for heart disease and cancer. Greens like broccoli, kale and spinach are inflammation’s worst enemy. So sauté them, juice them or eat them raw - These greens are powerful! 5. Avocados - Avocados are a true superfood that pack a serious punch of nutrients while lowering inflammation response in the body. They are packed with potassium, magnesium and heart healthy fats. Avocado toast, anyone? 6. Green Tea - Green tea has been a staple in many countries of Asia for centuries and has recently become more popular in the West for its powerful health benefits. It reduces inflammation and inhibits damage to the fatty acids in your cells. One cup of green tea a day is a great addition to any anti-inflammation diet. 7. Dark Chocolate - Dark chocolate contains a powerful antioxidant known as flavonoids. These reduce inflammation, particularly in the arteries which can lead to chronic heart disease. Plus, it’s delicious. However, make sure you are consuming chocolate with at least 70% cocoa for maximum benefit. 8. Olive Oil – Extra virgin olive oil is one of the most heart-healthy fats you can eat. A staple of the Mediterranean diet, studies have linked olive oil to a reduced risk of heart disease, brain cancer and other chronic health conditions. So, swap out your generic vegetable oil for healthy olive oil.
Foods To Avoid
While adding the foods listed above can help fight chronic inflammation, it is only when inflammation-causing foods are eliminated that the true healing can begin. Some of the top offenders are:
- refined carbohydrates
- sugar and high fructose corn syrup
- processed meats
- fried food
These highly processed foods spike blood sugar levels, line the arteries and create an acidic environment that our immune system fights to control. Try diminishing or eliminating these foods from your diet to see the maximum benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet. A healthy balanced diet is the single best first defense against chronic inflammation. Incorporating foods high in healthy oils and antioxidants is a surefire way to calm your overactive immune system and begin to repair the damage done by years of unhealthy habits.
Become mindful of what you eat and your body will thank you for it.
Chronic disease is on the rise in America and has been for many years. A diet full of processed...
Keeping Fit When Traveling
Experts will tell you creating an exercise habit is a central pillar for getting and staying fit. Traveling for work or vacation can sometimes upend your daily schedule, so sticking to your usual fitness routine can be challenging during these times. But, when you take a mindful approach to exercise, you can discover fitness activities anywhere you go that will reward your body’s craving for physical activity. Here are some ideas for staying active when you travel.
Leverage your layovers
We can all agree, sprinting through the airport to catch a plane can be nerve-wracking. But long layovers between flights can also be an opportunity for a brisk walk along the airport concourse. You’ll add even more mileage if you forgo moving walkways and terminal-connecting trains. By wearing an activity wrist band (such as a Fitbit or other device) or downloading a pedometer app on your smartphone you can even track your total steps. Several major cities including San Francisco, Chicago, and Salt Lake actively encourage airport fitness by providing walking maps and self-guided tours. Philadelphia has exercise bikes in certain terminals for passengers looking for a quick “ride” before their flight. Other locations have on-site fitness clubs and yoga studios where you can squeeze in a workout between flights.
Stay strong anywhere
The most convenient weights to workout with are not hard to find. Bodyweight exercises can strengthen muscles using the force of your own weight. These exercises require little space and minimal equipment. This makes them a perfect solution for exercising in a small hotel room. All you need is a sturdy chair and a mat, towel, or carpet to cushion you from the hard floor. MindFirst Members have access to a great selection of body resistance exercise videos, like this five-minute bodyweight resistance routine, which can be accessed from your phone or computer.
Explore hotel facilities
Many hotels offer basic fitness rooms with aerobic machines for their guests. Some even have swimming pools, which can offer an enjoyable alternative to cardio equipment. If you’re looking for a gym with other amenities such as exercise classes, the hotel staff may be able to direct you to a health club in the area that offers visitor passes. Some chains such as the Westin will let you rent athletic clothes and shoes for about $5.00 a day. They will even throw in a new pair of socks for free. You can also ask your hotel concierge to recommend safe nearby outdoor running, walking, or biking routes. If you have a little more time or are traveling for fun, you may also be able to arrange kayaking, zip lining, city walking tours or other outdoor events.
So let’s recap
Making exercise a habit is an excellent way to incorporate fitness into your life. But when traveling disrupts your daily schedule, it may take some extra planning and creativity to get the physical activity your body craves. Staying focused on the rewarding feeling you get when you exercise can help you seize fitness opportunities even in unfamiliar surroundings.
Experts will tell you creating an exercise habit is a central pillar for getting and staying fit....
Why Fad Diets and Fast Diets Fail
The creators of “lose weight quick” diets want you to believe that there is a magic wand that can make all of your weight loss dreams come true.
They also want you to believe that their program has all of the right answers: drop an entire food group, eat only at certain times of the day, or mimic the eating habits of our distant ancestors.
Fast is clearly appealing, since we have such busy lives. But how realistic are all of these rules and regulations?
If you do find yourself following one of these weight loss plans, it is possible that you will see some success reflected on the scale.
The truth, however, is that these fast diets and fad diets don’t last.
While they may result in temporary weight loss, they do not result in lifelong health.
Here are a few of the reasons they fail:
Quick Weight Loss Can End in Weight Gain
Any diet that promises fast results can cause more harm to your body than good. This results in weight loss plateaus, and worse, weight gain.
If you cut out a lot of calories, you are likely to see initial weight loss. However, if you deny your body the nutrition it needs to function properly, in time you will actually trigger what weight loss experts call your body’s starvation mode.
Though you continue to eat less, your body actually holds on to the fat you want to lose. This is because your body gets energy from the calories you eat. So when you start to cut out too many calories in an attempt for quick weight loss, your body conserves fat and makes further weight loss more difficult.
Fast diets and fad diets are meant to be quick fixes, so people eventually stop following them. But once people stop dieting, they can quickly gain back all, if not more, of the weight they lost.
Studies show significant, fast weight loss can cause both a decrease in metabolism and an increase in appetite that causes this unfortunate weight gain.
To be sustainable, weight loss should be slow and thoughtful. Fast and fad diets, unfortunately, market quick and easy.
Diets Don’t Prepare You For Lifelong Wellness
When you go on a diet, you often follow a strict plan that includes what to eat, what not to eat, and when to eat. And the diet may work for a time as long as you adhere to its strict rules.
But do you plan to be on a diet for the rest of your life? The truth is that these fast diets and fad diets are by their very nature “fast” and “fads,” meaning not sustainable. They are often marketed to help you “lose weight in 30 days,” or “get a quick swimsuit body.”
If you’re unhappy with your weight or your body, then you need to change any habits that have led you the point you are now. One or two months of fast dieting are not enough to develop healthful habits that will replace decades of less healthy ones.
Further, diets rarely address the causes of overeating or unhealthy choices. They give you lists of approved or unapproved foods, but don’t help you combat stress and emotional eating.
Without these skills, without changing how and why you eat, any weight loss effort will eventually stop working.
So Let’s Recap:
A 2018 survey shows that the second most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight or get in shape. But 45% of the population wouldn’t need to keep making this resolution every year if they lost weight mindfully instead of through fast and fad diets.
Quick and easy is not the way to lose weight.
Losing weight too quickly can actually cause plateaus and weight gain.
Diets address what to eat, but not how to eat.
Mindful eating is the true key to weight loss success. Let us help you on your journey to become a happier, healthier, more balanced you.
The creators of “lose weight quick” diets want you to believe that there is a magic wand that can...
Mindful Snacking on the Go
Finding time for a healthy meal can be challenging when you’re juggling the demands of a hectic day. You know how it goes—your lunch hour shrinks to five minutes between back-to-back meetings, or hunger strikes when you’re already late for a doctor’s appointment. At times like these, chips and soda from the vending machine, or a fast food burger can look like pretty enticing snacking options. But, when you apply a mindful approach to snacking, you can keep your body fueled for the long run with healthy foods, even when regular mealtimes go out the window.
It’s always a good idea to keep a stash of nutritious non-perishable snacks in your purse or desk at work. The following snacks are tasty, non-messy, and full of good stuff such as protein and fiber.
- Jerky. You can find individually sealed packages of lean dried meat in the snack aisle of most grocery stories. Jerky can be made from beef, chicken, bison, turkey, or salmon and often comes in yummy flavors such as mesquite and black pepper. One note of caution--some brands are high in added sugar and artificial ingredients so be sure to check the food label to find the healthiest product.
- Nuts and trail mix. Dry roasted almonds and other types of nuts are an excellent source of filling protein. Best of all they are readily available in single-serving pouches. Trail mix is another great high energy snack that includes nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. However, calories can add up if you eat too much so stick to a reasonable portion of about a handful.
- Whole grain crackers. When it’s all about the crunch, whole grain crackers can hit the spot. Look for products that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. You can also keep some individual packets of nut butter on hand for a protein-rich pairing.
Preparing lunch the night before can be fun and even a bit exciting. As an extra bonus, think of all the money you’ll save by avoiding overpriced takeout.
- Salad in a jar. With quart-sized, wide-mouth canning jars, you can prep a week’s worth of delicious lunch salads within 30 minutes. The secret to the jar salad is the layering. Start by spooning a couple of tablespoons of your favorite dressing into the bottom on the jar. Next add vegetables or fruits, grains, and a protein. Top it all with salad greens and screw on the lid. Sealed salad jars will stay fresh in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.
- Yogurt parfaits. Similar to salad jars, layers of yogurt, fruits, and nuts can be pre-assembled in a tightly sealed jar for a quick breakfast or afternoon snack.
- Turkey roll-ups. You can build these high-protein, low-carb snacks by assembling layers of cheese and veggies on a slice of turkey breast and rolling the whole thing into a cigar Eat a couple of these for lunch or bring them out when the mid-afternoon blahs hit.
Grab and go
On those days that even minimal prep is too much to handle, the grocery store can be your friend. Most produce departments offer containers of pre-cut fresh fruits and veggies. A pre-made salad (dressing on the side), turkey sandwich, or a sushi roll from the deli department are also satisfying quick bites for mindful snacking.
So, lets recap
Mindful snacking involves conscious decisions about what kinds of food you want to put in your body. But, when you’re busy and stressed, snack attacks can lure you into dangerous junk food territory. Taking stock of your schedule and planning ahead can help you avoid common calorie traps when you’re forced to eat on the run.
Finding time for a healthy meal can be challenging when you’re juggling the demands of a hectic...
The Case for 5 Minute Workouts
A promotion. An exchange of vows. A sunset. A lot of wonderful things can happen in five minutes. So too, can a healthier you.
That’s right. A healthier, happier, more balanced, you can happen with just a few minutes of exercise each day, and this certainly would be wonderful for many of us.
Let’s explore the science behind micro-workouts, and how they can help us achieve our wellness goals.
Any Amount Of Activity Benefits Muscles
A 2018 Arizona State University report shows that micro-workouts are effective if they are done consistently. The authors of the study suggest that short bursts of calisthenic exercise, even just five to ten minutes in length a day, can help you get fit.
Calisthenic exercises are ones that use body weight and require minimal equipment. Examples include squats, calf raises, and pushups.
The reason this can work is that just simply contracting muscles helps improve heart function and insulin resistance. So even just a short duration of calisthenic exercise is beneficial for overall health.
Short Workouts Add Up
The same report also explains that doing short bursts of exercise throughout the day can be as effective as one, longer exercise.
For example, study participants experienced fat loss and an increase in cardiovascular health just by taking a 2-minute brisk walk every hour during their work day. If they worked for eight hours, this added up to 16 minutes of exercise.
Another study revealed additional benefits to breaking up exercise into short chunks instead of one long workout. Instead of exercising for one hour all at once, study participants exercised multiple times throughout the day, in short duration. They actually felt fuller and more satiated throughout the day, so they craved food less.
Micro-workouts are certainly significant if they help us with fat loss, heart health, and feelings of satiety.
Intensity Matters More Than Duration
A University of Utah study shows that what is important is putting our heart and lungs to work. We can achieve the same benefits in five minutes as we can in an exercise of ten minutes or longer.
In fact, the study found that shorter workouts of higher intensity came with a lower risk of obesity than longer workouts at lower intensity.
The study suggests that walking at a rate of three miles per hour is enough to reach an effective level of intensity.
How can you get in short bursts at 3mph? Take the stairs, park at the far end of the parking lot, and walk between errands as much as possible.
Exercise Improves Mood
After a five minute workout, we experience numerous benefits to our mental well-being. Though we may think of exercise as tiring, studies show it increases our energy levels and motivation. Exercise can also improve our sleep, sharpen our focus, and decrease depression.
When we finish a workout, we also feel more confident and experience a sense of accomplishment. Physical activity can also distract us from stressful situations or thoughts and can provide short breaks in otherwise busy schedules.
So even with just five minutes of exercise, we feel these mental advantages.
So Let’s Recap
Numerous studies show that there are benefits to micro-workouts of about five minutes.
Five minutes of exercise can improve our cardiovascular health, increase our fat loss, provide more feelings of satiety throughout the day, lower our risk of obesity, and generally contribute to our mental well-being.
If finding the time to workout has been one of your biggest hurdles toward physical fitness, then worry no longer.
Find five minutes, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier, happier, more balanced you.
A promotion. An exchange of vows. A sunset. A lot of wonderful things can happen in five...
How to Choose the Right Exercise Shoes
Call them what you will---sneakers, trainers, runners, or kicks—well-fitting exercise shoes can help you avoid injury and get the most out of your fitness experience. The combination of high-tech materials and super-engineered design has bred an athletic shoe for every pastime and foot type. So, how do you choose among the hundreds of brands, models and styles on the market today?
Pick your activity
They type of activity you will dictate the best type of exercise shoes for you. For example, the high impact sport such as running can put a great deal of pressure on your feet, legs and joints. Therefore, you want a supportive running shoe that is flexible and well cushioned. Walking shoes are similar to running shoes but tend to be stiffer. If you do both activities, it’s a good idea to have a pair of each type. For an all-in-one gym shoe, cross trainers may be the answer. Although they have less cushion than running shoes, they are sturdier and offer better lateral support for side to side movement. Cross trainers are a great choice for weightlifting, stair climbing, and stationary biking.
Follow your foot shape
To find the most comfortable exercise shoes for your activity of choice, you’ll first need to assess how your foot moves when you run or step down forcefully. This has a lot to do with the way the arch of your foot is shaped. You can get a picture of your foot shape by examining the prints you leave when you wet your bare feet and walk across a piece of brown paper (such as a grocery bag).
- Low arch. If your footprint shows the entire sole of your foot with little or no curve, you have a low arch. This means that your feet will tend to roll inward as you walk, which is called overpronation. This type of motion puts extra wear on the outside heel and inside forefoot. With this type of gait, you’ll fare better with a shoe that offers good support and motion control.
- High arch. If the wet-feet-on-paper test shows the outline of the ball of your foot and a small portion the heel connected by only narrow strip of outer foot, you have a high arch. This means that your feet roll outward while walking or running, known as This is far less common than pronation. A flexible shoe with a lot of cushioning and a narrower heel will give you the best fit.
- Neutral arch. If your footprint shows an imprint of the whole foot except for distinct curve under your arch, you fall into the neutral category. Look for a stability shoe with a comfortable mix of support and cushioning.
Shopping tips for a good fit
In general, it’s best to shop for shoes in the afternoon because your feet naturally expand during the day. When trying on shoes, wear the style of socks you would typically use when exercising. If you’re unsure of your size or buying a different type of shoe than you’ve been wearing, ask the salesperson to measure your feet. If one foot is longer than the other, buy the larger size. Take a test walk around the store to see how the shoes feel—trust your own comfort level rather than the shoe size or description. If you have any particular injuries or foot problems, it’s a good idea to go to a specialty store that caters to athletes. Their prices may be a little higher but you’re likely to get good quality fitting advice from expert salespeople.
So, lets recap
When shopping for a good pair of exercise shoes, you want to have more than fashion in mind. Getting the right fit depends on your gait and foot shape. Before you begin, take into account the activity you plan to do while wearing the shoe. A sturdy shoe with good lateral support is an excellent choice for gym activities such as strength training and working out on exercise machines. If you’re a runner, you’ll want a well-cushioned shoe with a flexible midsection. A pair of comfy walking shoes, will also serve double duty as multi-purpose casual footwear.
Call them what you will---sneakers, trainers, runners, or kicks—well-fitting exercise shoes can...
Are Junk Thoughts As Harmful As Junk Food?
Junk food. We know what it is. We even know we should be avoiding, or at least limiting, our intake of junk food.
But what about junk thoughts?
It turns out that what we think, and not just what we eat, can have an impact on our wellness.
Some of us may think that we’ll be happier once we’re healthier. But a study from the University of Adelaide has revealed that it’s actually the other way around: Personal happiness can promote weight loss.
On your journey to a healthier, happier, more balanced you, it’s important to get rid of negative thoughts that could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts.
Here are a few:
Junk Thought: “I’m Not Seeing Enough Change On The Scale. This Isn’t Working.”
Many of us are motivated to lose weight. If we don’t experience weight loss as quickly as we want to, or the numbers on the scale aren’t budging, we can quickly become discouraged and give up.
Obsessing about our weight is a junk thought. The number on the scale does not tell the whole story.
Our wellness has numerous indicators. The more mindful we are, the more we’ll realize that we are making progress every day. But if we become too focused on our junk thoughts, we’ll miss the wonderful improvements we’ve made in our health.
Try focusing on these thoughts, instead:
Am I more energized? Do I sleep better? Does my food taste better? Am I better able to understand what my body needs? Have I made progress in my ability to meditate? Can I recognize and address my stress? Do I feel stronger? Do my clothes fit better?
Junk Thought: “I Made A Mistake, Now I Need To Start Over.”
Maybe you had a few donuts for breakfast. Or a bowl of ice cream after dinner. Now you’re thinking that because you’ve made a mistake, you need to start your dedication to wellness all over again.
This is a junk thought for a few reasons.
First, moving toward wellness is a journey. It does not have a start and end point. And yes, there may be a few detours on the way. But it’s important to always focus on moving forward and not backwards.
Secondly, a few donuts or a bowl of ice cream may not represent the healthiest choices, but they will by no means “undo” everything you’ve already been working toward.
Instead, think about it as a moment of enjoying food you normally don’t, and continue with developing your food habits. Focus on how you feel, and use those thoughts to power your next meal.
No one is perfect. If you keep thinking that you need to be, then you’ll be adding to your stress instead of mindfully enjoying each moment of your day.
Junk Thought: “I Can’t.”
I can’t exercise. I can’t resist my cravings. I can’t let go of my stress. I can’t meditate.
If you are trying to be healthier, happier, and more balanced, there is no more harmful thought than telling yourself there are things you cannot do. You will feel immediately discouraged, incapable, and frustrated.
Plus, you’ll give yourself an easy out anytime something doesn’t work exactly how you want it to.
It’s always important to focus on what you can do. And that’s why mindfulness is such a helpful strategy. With mindfulness, nothing ever needs to be completely right or completely wrong. It’s all about how you feel.
If something seems difficult, take a step back and try again later. Accept that you don’t need to be 100% all the time. If one day, you resist even one craving, then that’s success. Focus on the small victories and you’ll soon be thinking, “I can!”
So Let’s Recap
Junk thoughts can prevent your progress and your enjoyment of each moment throughout your day.
Take the time to appreciate each experience and to focus on the positive – and be mindful when junk thoughts creep in.
If you can resist your junk thoughts like you resist junk food, just think of the benefits you’ll reap.
Junk food. We know what it is. We even know we should be avoiding, or at least limiting, our intake...
The Joys of Mindful Walking
Walking is something most of us do every day without giving it much thought. Our legs move us forward, but our minds are occupied elsewhere—listening to music, talking on the phone, or worrying about all the things that still need to be done later in the day. But walking can also be a mindful experience, an opportunity to engage your senses and appreciate your surroundings. For many people, mindful walking can also be a good entry point to meditation because it encourages you to focus your attention on the present moment
Benefits of walking meditation
Unlike walking for transportation or exercise, mindful walking is practiced with purpose and intention. In doing so, you are able to connect with the present moment and become actively engaged with the sensations of your body and your environment. You become attuned to the flow of your breath in and out of your body. You become aware of the solid earth beneath your feet. Seated meditation is done in a quiet spot with your eyes closed. Mindful walking takes you into a setting where sights, sounds, smells, and other senses join your steady stream of inner thoughts. Learning how to focus on the simple rhythm of your footsteps can help heighten your overall power of concentration. In addition, surrounding yourself with nature can help free you from mental ruts and open your mind to a broader perspective of the world.
Get started with walking meditation
There are several types of walking meditations that exist. However, you do not need any specific training to take a mindful walk. Here are some guidelines to get you started:
- Choose a spot. Mindful walking is different from a general stroll or city walk. You will move more slowly and deliberately than usual, so it’s best to find a flat, uncrowded route where you won’t have to worry about tripping, bumping into things or other walkers, runners and cyclists around you.
- Adjust your body. Stand upright with your shoulders relaxed and your weight evenly distributed in both feet. Become aware of the feeling of your feet on the ground. Take a few deep breaths from your belly and allow your breathing to become natural and rhythmic.
- Slowly start walking. Take a step with one leg, swinging out the foot, then notice the feeling as your foot touches the ground. Does your heel hit first, and your toes follow? Or do you land on the ball of your foot and your heels and toes settle after? Keep your attention focused on the movement of feet and legs and the motion of your body as you move forward.
- Practice mindfulness. As you focus on the sensations of movement in your body, notice any feelings and thoughts that are flowing through your brain. Try not to analyze or judge any of these mental events. Instead, acknowledge them and let them pass by. If you get distracted, use your next footstep as an opportunity to bring your attention back to your movement.
- Open your senses. Allow yourself to take in the small details of your surroundings such as sights, sounds, and smells in the air. Does the air feel hot or cold? What do you smell? Take a moment to explore each sense one by one.
To get the most out of mindful walking, try to make it a regular practice. Begin with 10-minute walks. As you get more comfortable with the practice and your stamina grows, you can work up to 30 to 60 minutes at a time.
So, let’s recap
The fitness benefits of walking are no secret. Mindful walking will also improve your health and overall well-being. Walking mindfully involves concentrating on the movement of your legs and body rather than on your breathing to focus your thoughts. Walking meditation also allows you to open your senses to your surroundings and broadens your perspective of the world inviting you to see ordinary things as if they are new for the first time.
Walking is something most of us do every day without giving it much thought. Our legs move us...
Simple Ways To Practice Mindfulness Every Single Day
Mindfulness can help clear our minds and relieve stress. So, theoretically, it shouldn’t be overwhelming or stressful to incorporate mindfulness into our routines. But human beings are pretty great at complicating things, aren’t they?
So if you’re like most people, this list of simple ways to practice mindfulness everyday might be helpful. Print it out, put it on your fridge or keep it at your desk at work. It’s not hard to incorporate mindfulness…you’ll see!
Be Present For Routine Activities
There are some habitual things we do every day, like our commutes or brushing our teeth. Instead of running on autopilot for these types of chores, we can practice mindfulness by focusing on the smells, sounds, tastes, sights, and feelings we experience as we complete them.
Wake Up Consciously
Set a calm, accepting, and positive mood for the day by meditating when the alarm goes off. Try to practice your mindfulness before watching TV or checking your cell phone.
Fully Experience A Meal
From the moment you start preparing food to your last bite, reflect on all the emotions and senses that go along with cooking. How does it feel and sound to cut vegetables? What are the smells while the food is cooking? How does the food taste, and what emotions do you experience while eating it?
Take Advantage Of Long Lines
If you’re waiting in traffic, at checkout in a store, or for an event to start, use the time to be mindful. This would be an excellent time to focus on your breath, instead of the frustration of waiting, or to appreciate the ‘scene’ that is unfolding around you from the cashier to other motorists and customers. There’s never a shortage of interesting things to be observed when you’re observing mindfulness!
Select A Constant Reminder
Develop a habit of taking a moment to be mindful every time you see a certain object or a certain event takes place. For example, practice your mindfulness whenever you run the dishwasher, pass by a picture on the wall, or receive an email from your boss.
Notice Your Breath Throughout The Day
If you notice that your breath is becoming shallow or quick, take a moment to focus on your inhales and exhales. This technique can instantly help you feel more present, and can also offer some calm and focus.
Reflect On Your Urges And Cravings
We don’t need to act on every craving and urge we feel, but we don’t need to completely dismiss them, either. If we are mindful in these moments, then we can fully experience our emotions and move through them.
Love Your Chores
Back to those chores again...Cleaning the dishes, folding laundry, and vacuuming probably feel like tasks, even burdens. But there are a multitude of wonderful sensations, such as the warm, soapy water, the textures of each piece of clothing, and the hum of the vacuum that can help turn our chores into moments of mindfulness.
Commit To Five Minutes Of Stillness
Limiting distractions can help you feel more present, aware, and reflective. Dedicate five or more minutes of your day to turn off all electronics, sit in a comfortable position, and focus on what it feels like to just exist. Try to focus on your breath and clear your mind.
Create A List Of What You’re Grateful For
Part of mindfulness is gratitude, acceptance, and forgiveness. Making a list of all of the wonderful aspects of your life can help you appreciate each person and moment more.
Try Meditation Minutes
Set a timer for one minute. Try to focus on your breath, and only your breath, for the full sixty seconds and refocus as many times as you need to if you get lost in thoughts. Even one minute of mindfulness can be helpful if you’re feeling stressed.
Take A Walk
Escape into nature and awaken your senses. Feel the sun and wind, enjoy the natural colors, smell the leaves or freshly cut grass, and appreciate the changes in your muscles as you get some exercise.
So Let’s Recap:
Mindfulness is wonderful for our wellbeing. Luckily, it fits easily into the things we do daily.
With a little practice, and a little dedication, mindfulness can become part of your life. And every day you can be on your way to a happier, healthier, more balanced you.
Mindfulness can help clear our minds and relieve stress. So, theoretically, it shouldn’t be...
Dining Out with Mindful Tips and Tricks
Whether it’s a celebratory dinner at a fancy restaurant or a quick bite from a fast food outlet, eating away from home can be fraught with difficult decisions when you’re trying to lose weight. However, a mindful approach can help you navigate potential pitfalls when dining out. When you plan ahead and set your intention to have a nourishing meal that fuels your body, you will commit to good food choices.
Do your research
The first step is to plan ahead. Do a little pre-meal research about where you might be going out to eat. Many restaurants post their menus online. A quick review of the offerings will give you an opportunity to identify a few of the restaurant’s healthier options. You can apply a similar strategy when grabbing fast food for lunch. Large restaurant chains are required to publish nutrition information for their menu items. Therefore, you can find out the calorie count and nutritional make up of their standard meals and choose accordingly.
Avoid calorie bombs
You don’t have to be a super sleuth to decipher the restaurant code for high-calorie menu items. When you see the words: creamy, crispy, cheesy, buttery, breaded, battered, fried or au gratin in a menu item description; you will know the dish contains a lot of calories and most likely, extra fat. Instead, keep your eyes peeled for meals that are grilled, sautéed, roasted, steamed, baked, or poached. Opt for water, seltzer, or spritzers instead of sugary cocktails, sodas or sweetened beverages. At the end of the meal, consider fresh fruit or a fruit-based dessert over traditional cake, cookies, or ice cream.
Your healthy intentions may be tested when the server sets a breadbasket on the table. It is perfectly acceptable to ask for it be taken away, rather than inviting the carbohydrate temptation before your meal arrives. When it’s time to place your order, ask to order first. This way, you won’t risk being swayed if your companions’ choices trend toward the more fattening items. Remember to ask for sauces or dressings to be served on the side. To ensure the greatest amount of taste with the least amount of dressing, try dipping your fork into the side cup before you spear your salad greens. This way you’ll be sure to get flavor in every bite. Other mindful eating options when dining out include ordering small plates or a la carte items instead of a full entrée, sharing an appetizer or dessert with someone else, or asking that half of your meal be boxed up to take home.
Have it your way
Don’t let the fear of being labeled a “difficult diner” deter you from asking questions about the ingredients and preparation methods of the menu items. Restaurants are in the business of catering to a variety of dietary needs and preferences. For example, ask if you can substitute a salad or fruit in place of a starch for your side dish. Or, see if the chef will grill your salmon steak without adding butter. If you’re just grabbing a sandwich, ask that it is prepared without the mayo or special sauce. Having a burger? You can request the patty be served between lettuce leaves instead of a bun.
So, let’s recap
Whether by choice or necessity, more and more people are eating away from home. When you’re trying to lose weight, making healthy food choices in a restaurant setting can seem daunting. However, you can sidestep the worst calorie traps and still have an enjoyable experience by planning ahead, and setting a mindful intention before you start your meal. This awareness will guarantee a satisfying and sensible dining experience.
Whether it’s a celebratory dinner at a fancy restaurant or a quick bite from a fast food outlet,...
Why Do You Crave Sweets Instead of Kale?
Avocado. Sweet potatoes. Lemon water. Almonds. Grilled, lean meat. Tofu. And of course, kale. For a few of us, this list may sound delicious.
But there’s a good chance that for some (okay MOST) people, a list of foods like this inspires, shall we say…less than ideal emotions. We associate healthy foods with bland or even disagreeable flavors, lack of variety, and sacrifice. Or, we see people who eat healthy as being part of strange or expensive food cultures, like all-organic, vegan, or Paleo.
Where do these negative reactions to healthy foods come from? When we’re having a tough day, why do we crave sweets and chips instead of kale?
It turns out, it’s got everything to do with our conditioning.
For example, one recent study found that our taste buds seem to be impacted by our culture. Americans perceive something as tasting better when they think it is less healthy for them. The French, on the other hand, think that healthier food tastes better.
Part of this is cultural norms. The French, for example, focus more on the experience of food as a pleasurable and key part of socialization.
In contrast, Americans tend to think about foods in terms of what is allowed or forbidden and have anxiety over eating the right foods. So all of our associations with healthy food are related to restraint and sacrifice.
This means that our associations with unhealthy foods are related to indulgence and reward.
Likely, this explains why after a stressful day, we crave the foods that feel like compensation for all of the work we accomplished and the anxiety-inducing situations we encountered. That’s why we reach for sweets, carbohydrates, and fats… they are our reward.
In our society, we tend to value things that are inexpensive and convenient. Unfortunately, when we apply these descriptors to food, “cheap” and “fast” are not usually healthy. When we want a good deal, or we want something easy, we are usually compromising nutrition.
The same holds true for the companies that advertise foods on the television and radio. We don’t usually see commercials for fresh apples, whole grains, or crisp kale. We’re bombarded instead with catchy jingles for processed desserts and bags of fried chips.
A report released by the American Psychological Association discusses how our early, childhood exposure to food advertisements shapes our preferences later in life. And that the majority of foods advertised to children are unhealthy.
Even as adults, we are still bombarded with advertisements that pair unhealthy foods with happiness, fun, and beauty.
“Resetting” Our Perceptions
Everything we see and hear in our society seems to increase our preferences for unhealthy foods. What we should do instead is form a positive relationship with all foods.
So how do we do this? How do we start to counter our perceptions?
By eating mindfully.
If we take the time to savor and experience all of the foods we eat, then we can learn to enjoy healthy foods, too. Our senses, our reflections, and our increased feelings of well-being will help us form wonderful relationships with nutritious foods. We will be able to bypass, to reset, the cultural perceptions that have been forming since childhood.
So Let’s Recap
Our perceptions around healthy foods are largely a result of our social conditioning.
Culturally, we assume that unhealthy foods taste better than healthy foods.
We see advertisements that make unhealthy foods appealing through their convenience and their apparent ability to make us happy.
But the truth is:
Perceptions aren’t set in stone.
We can form new habits and associations with food so that we enjoy the experience of healthy eating. To do this, we need to start to eat mindfully. We need to be armed with the knowledge of our biases and with the tools to form better habits and relationships with food.
Once you start countering society’s influence on your food choices, you’ll be on the way to a happier, healthier, more well-balanced you.
Avocado. Sweet potatoes. Lemon water. Almonds. Grilled, lean meat. Tofu. And of course, kale. For a...
What Makes MindFirst Different: Q&A with Founder Bob Jacobs
With the New Year in full swing, many out there are looking for the right fitness program to kickstart a new, healthier lifestyle. What makes MindFirst Health & Fitness different from the plethora of digital health and fitness options out there?
In an interview, MindFirst’s founder Bob Jacobs shared his background in the health and fitness industry and how his experience has shaped the MindFirst program to be different from anything else on the market.
What is your background in health and fitness? How did you get involved in this industry?
Bob entered the fitness industry “through the side door.” He shared, “I was involved in the employee benefits field, specifically with group health insurance. Around the year 2000, all of the health insurance companies started championing the cause of health and wellness — and it was really for weight loss to reduce claims costs … I was excited about it.”
As health insurance companies and those in charge of employee benefits began to champion weight loss to reduce the costs of chronic illness, Bob shared that, initially, he saw a lot of people losing weight. “As we started doing that, we saw that people would lose weight by going into ‘biggest loser’ contests. People would start to exercise because you held a ‘Walk Across America’ contest. And then, three months later, when the contest was over, they stopped. A year later, most of them gained the weight back. Within two years, they’d all gain the weight back. What I saw was that it wasn’t working.”
How did the idea for MindFirst Health & Fitness come about?
Bob’s personal observations helped spark the idea for MindFirst. A few years ago, Bob’s workplace had held its own “biggest loser” contest. His coworker lost 105 lbs; but six months down the road, she shared with him that she still felt like the same, bigger person. She would reach for size 18 pants instead of size 6, and she still felt like she needed more room on public transportation. “I wanted to tell her, ‘Your self image is going to win out. You’re going to end up how you see yourself.’ I wanted to share how the subconscious mind works,” but he chose to keep it to himself. Later, he shared, that same coworker got married, had two kids, and gained the weight back and some. From this experience, Bob said, “I understood that what we were doing wasn’t working. That’s where MindFirst was born.”
As he thought about ways to make these corporate wellness programs better, Bob said, “I’d always used cognitive psychology to help me in business.” He went through a series of workshops in previous jobs covering how the mind works, how to use visualization and affirmations, and how to change thought processes. “And I said, ‘Let’s apply this to exercise and nutrition so the changes can be internal.’” He added, “Ninety percent of people who lose weight gain it back within two years. So we have to talk about changing how you think first.”
How is MindFirst Health & Fitness different from other health and fitness coaching programs?
Two years ago, Bob shared that he thought MindFirst was ready to go to market. But when they interviewed participants, he observed a problem. “We found that although people were losing weight, exercising with us, and changing how they thought, they were really stressed. People had way too much stress in their lives. When I went on the journey to explore that, it was a very short one.” Countless stories on covers of major magazines discussed the detriments of stress on the human body and the benefits of mindfulness. Bob said, “Mindfulness and meditation changes the brain; it reshapes how you think. It slows you down and makes you more present. So we added that in to our program.”
“Every other program out there concentrates on outside actions. They all deal with the outside activities.” Instead, Bob shared that the MindFirst Health & Fitness program focuses on helping people find what they enjoy about a healthy lifestyle. To make permanent, lasting changes, you have to alter the way you think about exercise and food. This program is built entirely around the MindFirst philosophy: “Change the mind, and the body will follow.”
“We have this tool, our brain, which has the ability to analyze and decide on over 10 million bits of information per second. We know that that’s the important part. But nobody is teaching you how to use it. So what we focus fully on is how your thought processes fit in with your health and fitness. How do your emotions or the words you say fit in the process? We dovetailed this seamlessly into exercise, nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. We do all the same things that other fitness programs do ... but we add cognitive psychology. That’s the big difference.”
What are your sources for the MindFirst Health & Fitness program?
Bob shared that MindFirst implements a variety of resources, particularly for the cognitive psychology and motivation elements. He read over 20 different books from a variety of motivational figures, including Lou Tice and Dr. Wayne Dyer. In forming the MindFirst program, Bob said, “[I used] the great minds of the world, and life experience, and put them together to create a great program.”
In addition to being well-read in the cognitive psychology field, Bob put together a team of experts in nutrition, exercise, and neuroscience to develop the MindFirst program. Mary Kate Keyes, a visiting professor of nutritional sciences and a registered dietician, is featured in many of the program’s videos. “Mary Kate Keyes seamlessly integrates nutrition and cognitive psychology together in our program. She delivers even more of the material than I do.”
“Dr. Wayne Westcott is the one who pulled our fitness program together. He’s the behind-the-scenes guy. Wayne has written 20 books on fitness, and he consults with the army, the navy, and AARP. He is well-renowned in the fitness field and an exercise physiologist.” And neurologist Marie Kazinsky consults with the MindFirst team, providing her knowledge about cognitive psychology research, which is incorporated throughout the program.
When discussing his role with the MindFirst program, Bob shared, “I’m kind of like Oprah. I’m not the expert, but I’m the voice of the people in the sequence of things.” In his weekly talks throughout the program, Bob breaks down Mary Kate’s discussions by sharing his own experience with how these lessons apply in everyday life.
What impact do you hope to have on those struggling with their weight?
“When John Lennon was in the first grade, a teacher asked, ‘What do you want to do with your life?’ And he said, ‘I want to be happy.’ And she said, ‘No, you don’t understand the question.’ And he replied, ‘No, you don’t understand life.’ So, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but if anybody said this in the first grade, it would be John Lennon.”
“My objective is to help people, first, live happy lives.” Bob said, “Being happy is the first goal … We’re so stressed, there’s so many demands on our lives and our kids. I’d like to help people clear their mind, slow down, and learn to think differently.” He added, “If they’re happier and learn to slow down, then we’re giving them exercise and nutrition information in a manner that they can easily use … I want [people] to feel better about themselves, be happier people, and the rest of it will all come together.”
Do you hope that MindFirst’s philosophy has a broader impact on the fitness industry? Do you see trends already going that way?
“Cognitive psychology and mindfulness, the combination of those, is helping people make changes toward their fitness and nutrition. It’s a no-brainer. With or without us, this is going to change. It’s just a question of whether we’re going to be the ones to do it. We’re getting great feedback from people who have been around this industry and from people who are enjoying the program. I believe we have a good chance of being really impactful.”
With the New Year in full swing, many out there are looking for the right fitness program to...
Things To Know Before You Start Exercising
If you’re seeking a way to be healthier, happier, and more balanced, then exercise is something you should aim to do every day, even if it means five minutes of getting your body moving.
Short workouts of five minutes will be beneficial, but beginning a workout program isn’t a five minute decision.
There are some things you should know, and do, before you start exercising:
Check Your Health
Before you begin any workout program, you should always check with your doctor. It’s best to have a professional’s approval and recommendation before exercising.
Your ability to exercise may be affected by medications you take, bone or joint issues, and diseases like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease. High impact moves and aerobics may be particularly risky for those of us with certain health histories.
In addition to making sure you won’t inadvertently cause yourself harm, your physician may also be able to help you select a workout that will be most effective for you.
Modify If Necessary
If it has been quite a while since you’ve exercised, you may not be able to do every move perfectly. It is always best to perform exercises at your level, not the level of others. And don’t worry, you’ll still benefit!
Modifications exist for almost all exercises. Just check ahead before starting your chosen workout, whether at home or at the gym.
Keep in mind that even if a move seems easy when you first try it, you could be very sore the next day. As you start to exercise, take it easy and just try it out first. The more comfortable you are, the more confident you’ll be as well.
Know What Equipment You Need
Weights, mats, bands, sliders, balls. Not all workout routines utilize specialized equipment, but some do. Always make sure you have the appropriate tools before you start to exercise, or you’ll have to stop in frustration.
Even if you choose to do mostly body weight exercises like squats or pushups, or you want to get your muscles moving by walking around the park, you still need to make sure you have comfortable exercise clothes and footwear.
Other things to keep handy while exercising, no matter what sort of workout you choose, include a towel and a bottle of water.
Be Realistic About Benefits
Exercise has incredible benefits, from reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes to improving mental health and mood.
However, exercise alone may not contribute much to weight loss. A study from the National Institute of Health found that weight loss during an exercise program is usually modest, about 4 pounds over 16 weeks. Combining exercise with healthy foods is the best way to guarantee weight loss.
There are other benefits, though, such as increased strength and tone, which can make clothes fit better even without a decrease on the scale.
Fuel Your Body
When you exercise, you’re using energy. It’s important to make sure you eat appropriate foods so that you can get the most out of your workout and have an efficient recovery.
A report combining multiple studies suggests eating a snack with carbohydrates, but low in fat (such as a granola bar), before working out to make sure you have the energy to do your best. After working out, aim for foods high in protein, like eggs.
Of course, the most important thing is to stay hydrated before, during, and after a workout.
So Let’s Recap:
Before you workout, make sure you are prepared and knowledgeable.
You should meet with your physician, check in advance for modifications of intense moves, make sure you have the right equipment and attire, set a realistic expectation of benefits, and eat meals that will fuel your body.
If you follow these recommendations as you start an exercise program, you’ll be on your way to a happier, healthier, more balanced you.
If you’re seeking a way to be healthier, happier, and more balanced, then exercise is something you...
Mindful vs. Mindless Behaviors
To be or not to be… mindful. We have choices every day about how we face issues concerning our health and overall well-being.
If we’re mindful, we learn to take steps that contribute positively to our happiness and wellness. If we’re mindless, we can make choices that are detrimental.
On our journey to mindfulness we should see positive patterns and habits emerging. But it’s always helpful to have a map along the way.
So here’s a guide to help you understand mindful vs. mindless behaviors:
|Mindful Behaviors||Mindless Behaviors|
|Snacking or eating because you feel hungry and you know your body needs fuel.||Snacking or eating because you feel bored, stressed, or because food is available.|
|Knowing when hunger cues are because of your body’s need for food and when they are because of emotions.||Not being able to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger.|
|Having a small, satisfying bite of a less healthy snack, like a few chips, one brownie, or a small bowl of ice cream.||Overeating unhealthy foods without being aware of, or caring about, amounts.|
|Accepting mistakes and moving forward.||Obsessing over small mistakes and feeling stressed or like giving up.|
|Consciously making decisions about what foods to eat and what foods to avoid or eat more sparingly.||Eating foods that are convenient, such as items in the break room or that are easily available in drive-through restaurants.|
|Enjoying and experiencing foods as you prepare and eat them, through their tastes, textures, and smells.||Rushing through eating and paying more attention to just finishing a meal than to the experience.|
|Being fully present and in the moment while eating.||Eating while distracted because you are working, driving, or watching TV.|
|Paying attention to cues that you feel satisfied and full as you eat, and following these cues to stop eating.||Continuing to eat past sensations of fullness, either because you are distracted or don’t know how to identify satiety.|
|Setting attainable goals and celebrating each victory.||Feeling as though you will never be perfect.|
|Resisting food cravings by addressing the issues that cause them, like boredom, fatigue, and stress.||Giving into cravings and continuing to feel bored, fatigued, and stressed.|
|Eating foods that are giving you energy.||Eating foods that are emotionally comforting.|
|Reflecting on how you feel after eating foods, and continuing to eat the foods that give you energy and avoiding foods that make you sluggish.||Seeking the immediate gratification of eating and not connecting later feelings of increased stress or fatigue to food choices.|
|Using activities such as meditation, taking a walk, and slow breathing to feel less stressed.||Using food to feel less stressed.|
|Taking time every day to feel focused through meditation.||Going through your day without taking a break for yourself.|
|Embracing the willpower and strategies to form new habits for overall health and wellness.||Making up excuses for unhealthy eating, not exercising, and not focusing on mental well-being.|
|Becoming more attentive of your thoughts and emotions.||Lacking reflection of emotional highs and lows.|
|Quieting a racing mind.||Feeling easily overwhelmed by thoughts.|
|Experiencing your emotions without letting them build and become overwhelming.||Becoming easily worked up and overly emotional, with no way to calm down.|
|Finding time for gratitude, acceptance, and forgiveness in everyday situations.||Harboring grudges and feelings of denial.|
So Let’s Recap:
Mindful behaviors are emotionally calming and involve an awareness and reflection of our mental and physical states.
Mindless behaviors, on the other hand, don’t alleviate stress or cravings, and we find ourselves easily being reactive and feeling overwhelmed.
As each moment passes, try to embrace it and experience it in a mindful way.
Once you can make mindful behaviors a habit, you’ll be on your way to a happier, healthier, more balanced you.
To be or not to be… mindful. We have choices every day about how we face issues concerning our...
You find a quiet, peaceful location. You turn off distractions and relax in a comfortable position. You begin to focus on your breathing. For a short time, you tune out thoughts of things that have already happened or that might happen soon. You take a break from your worries. You exist in the moment.
You’ve experienced a successful meditation practice.
But now what? What happens next?
You may be surprised to know that after meditating, things can seem a little different. This is because meditation has positive effects on both your mind and body that you may feel right away.
Here’s how a few moments of serenity can have an instant impact:
- Acceptance Of Your Present Experience
Many of us encounter times throughout our days and weeks when we feel stressed, anxious, or simply overwhelmed by what life has thrown at us. We might be facing something as seemingly innocent as a large pile of dishes to clean, or as risky as missing an important deadline at work.
Meditation can provide us immediate relief.
This is because meditation replaces the thoughts racing through our minds. As we become mindful and calm our bodies, we allow ourselves a break. Our problems won’t be gone, but we’ll emerge more collected and with a new perspective.
A few moments of meditation allows us to be present through our seemingly negative experiences, and we can calmly accept them without overwhelming emotions.
- Instant Improvements To Your Brain And Body
You may have heard that our minds and bodies are connected. This may be more than a turn of phrase. It turns out that the way we focus our thoughts through meditation can actually have a positive impact on our physical well-being.
One research study published in the Journal of Bio-Behavioral Medicine shows that mindful meditation can positively change both your body’s immune system and your brain. Another study published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that meditation reduces blood pressure. Both prove that meditation is a form of mind-body intervention for your health.
Longer-term meditation has even more benefits. Yet another NIH study found that it can actually change the brain’s physical structure, specifically increasing the brain’s thickness in the areas responsible for sensory and emotional processing.
So after you meditate, you won’t just have improved thoughts. You may actually physically feel better, too.
Improved Mood And Energy That’s right. Meditation can actually make you happier and lead to better sleep.
According to research published in Science Magazine, one of the common causes of unhappiness is the tendency of our minds to wander. A study conducted at Yale University revealed that meditation is beneficial because it teaches living in the moment.
When our minds wander, we have an increase in activity in parts of our brain that lead to anxiety and lapses in attention. The study from Yale showed that meditation decreases activity in these centers. So we focus better and feel less anxious.
The same decrease in racing and wandering thoughts may also explain why research shows that people who meditate sleep better.
If you can find a few minutes to meditate, to focus, you’ll find your mood drastically improved, and you’ll have a more restful night.
So Let’s Recap: Meditation doesn’t need to take a lot of time. But those few conscious moments can bring about incredible benefits to your mind and body.
You’ll exist more in the moment and accept experiences.
You’ll change your brain and immunity for the better.
You’ll have a decrease in your blood pressure.
You’ll feel happier, less anxious, and more focused.
You’ll get a better night’s sleep.
Meditation has an instant, mind-body impact. The second you meditate, you’ll be on your way to a happier, healthier, more balanced you.
Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash
You find a quiet, peaceful location. You turn off distractions and relax in a comfortable position....
10 Ways To Make Your Workout More Fun
Be honest: Are you enjoying your workouts? If you can’t reply with an enthusiastic “yes!” to that question, it’s time to rethink your approach. The more you enjoy something, the more likely it is to become a habit, and creating an exercise habit is one of the key components of lasting weight loss success.
So before you sweat through one more un-enjoyable workout, try one of these ten ways to amp up the fun factor.
- Listen To Music
Crank up the volume on music that inspires you to get moving. Try working out to your favorite show tunes, hip-hop, techno, and dance. Play whatever inspires you!
Not all workouts need to be fast and furious, though, so your music doesn’t need to be, either. You can search for playlists online and find one that matches your workout mood.
- Workout With Friends
Whether you go the gym, take a walk, or push play on a video, your workout will be more fun if you can laugh and talk with a friend at the same time.
Plus, a 2017 report shows that there are many benefits, including accountability and a mood boost, when you tackle fitness with others.
- Change Your Scenery
There’s no rule that workouts need to take place in a fitness center or a home gym. Even if you do have one of these places to workout, switching up where you exercise can make it seem new and fun.
Take a mat or towel outside on a nice day. Go for a walk around your neighborhood, a park, your favorite shopping mall, or the staircase at work.
- Mix It Up
If you do the same workout every day it can get boring. To turn exercise into something you look forward to everyday, try to vary your workouts.
Try dance, yoga, swimming, pilates, kickboxing, and cycling. Experiment with strength training, interval training, stretching, and cardio. Consider alternating days that focus on your core, arms, and legs. The opportunities for variation are endless.
- Set A Goal
Goals are important, because they help us stay focused and motivated. Plus, it’s encouraging and rewarding when you meet them.
Maybe you want to work your way up to ten reps of an exercise instead of six, walk 1.5 miles instead of one, or slowly increase the amount of time you spend working out each day. Choose any goal that is appropriate for you, and don’t be afraid to start small.
- Include Your Family
There’s no better way to promote family health than being healthy together. Plus, exercising with people you love can be fun, motivational, and a great bonding experience.
Take a walk together on a nice day, turn on music and have a dance party, or rep out some squats as a family team! As an added bonus, you might be able to incorporate some household tasks into a fun, family event, like raking leaves or shoveling snow… wink, wink.
- Wear Fun Clothes
Our old, paint-stained T-shirts and sweatpants are comfortable, no doubt about it, but how motivational and inspiring are they? Are you excited about putting them on to exercise every day?
Find an outfit you can’t wait to wear, like something bright and colorful or that has an encouraging, even funny, phrase. Then put it on and get moving!
- Exercise For Charity
Lots of organizations sponsor 5Ks or similar runs/walks. They are an increasingly popular way to raise money for charities and common causes.
Benefits to participating in a charity walk are that you have an opportunity to workout in a new location, you’ll be motivated by the people around you, and you’ll know you that helped raise money for a good cause.
- Fuel Your Body
If you are too tired or haven’t been eating energizing foods, you may feel as though you can’t make it through your workout. This can be discouraging, and definitely isn’t fun.
Staying fueled with healthy carbs, lean proteins, and plenty of sleep can help you feel as though you have the strength and energy to enjoy your workouts and complete them to your best potential.
- Celebrate Victories
Was this week the first time you made it through seven straight days of exercise? Were you suddenly able to use a 3lb weight instead of a 1lb weight? Did you workout at the front your favorite exercise class?
No matter how insignificant you may think they are, it’s important to celebrate these victories. They show how far you’ve come. Share what you accomplished with others, buy something you’ve been eyeing recently, or indulge in a small treat.
So Let’s Recap: There are (at least) ten ways to make exercise a fun habit. Pick a few and enjoy a workout today!
By investing in your physical activity, you’re on your way to a happier, healthier, more balanced you.
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Be honest: Are you enjoying your workouts? If you can’t reply with an enthusiastic “yes!” to that...
Mind, Body, and Soul: Qualities of Mindfulness and Meditation
Many of us are motivated to improve our health because of what we hope to see change in our outward appearance. But the journey of mindfulness is about our overall wellness. What is so beautiful about becoming more mindful is that we are able to bring out the best qualities of our minds and souls. We heal, and become our best selves, from the inside out. Here are a few of the powerful traits that mindfulness and meditation help us foster: Awareness One of the most basic tenets of both mindfulness and meditation is awareness. In meditation, we only need four elements: a quiet location, a comfortable position, a focus of attention, and an open mind. Whatever we choose to focus our attention on, we also become more aware of. With mindfulness, we think as fully as possible about every moment. We try to experience our food, through preparation, cooking, and eating. We become in tune with our emotional ups and downs throughout the day. Many of the other traits stem from this ability to be present, to experience each moment. Fascination Imagine a toddler discovering that she can move her body to dance with music, and that music can be made from everyday objects all around her. The fascination, the wonder, felt by this toddler is ours to experience when we try something new. The habits of mindfulness and meditation open us to new experiences every day. If you eat mindfully, you may one day realize that you’ve never before truly experienced a strawberry and all of its textures, smells, and tastes. When you meditate, you may for the first time discover the rhythm of your breath or the openness of a cleared mind. Gratitude Remember that strawberry? The one we experienced fully, with all of our senses and our new sense of fascination? Now we realize how much we have to be grateful for, even in the experience of eating a small fruit. Once we develop mindfulness, we pay more attention to our thoughts and experiences, and we have the ability to appreciate what we have everyday. This is because we are more mindful of each moment that passes. Acceptance Meditation helps us develop openness. As we improve our meditation practice, we learn to let go, to stop struggling with overpowering thoughts and feelings. We learn to face situations, especially stressful ones, with calm, composure, and presence of mind. This is an incredibly beneficial trait. According to a study at Carnegie Mellon University, meditation that enhances our ability to be accepting also decreases our levels of stress. It also teaches us to be accepting of others, and ourselves. Compassion Another important trait, and one that develops from our acceptance, is compassion. As we learn to be more open to situations, we let go of grudges, stay in control of our feelings, and ultimately accept others. Compassion enables us to forgive others because we learn that what has happened in the past does not need to affect our present. We also learn to accept people for who they are, not who we want them to be. Mindfulness and meditation also foster self-forgiveness and self-compassion. They help us let go of mistakes and feelings of disappointment toward ourselves. Self-Love We’ve already discussed several beneficial, and beautiful, traits we can develop through meditation and mindfulness: awareness of each moment, fascination with new experiences, gratitude for what we have, acceptance of all situations, and forgiveness of ourselves and others. Perhaps the most important trait, though, is self-love, because this is likely the one we struggle with the most. According to a report by Harvard Health Publishing, meditation and mindfulness lead us to this self-acceptance. We learn to identify, understand, and experience our emotions. But as we observe them, we learn not to judge them. Rather, we accept how we feel, and we accept ourselves for who we are. So Let’s Recap: Meditation and mindfulness bring about many positive traits, such as awareness, fascination, gratitude, acceptance, forgiveness, and self-love. Many of us may not look on the outside exactly how we wish we did. With mindfulness and meditation, we are on our way to better health. And we are also on our way to better minds and our best selves, from the inside out. With mindfulness and meditation, you’re on your way to a happier, healthier, more balanced you. -- Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash
Many of us are motivated to improve our health because of what we hope to see change in our outward...
What To Do When Food Cravings Strike
Desserts. Stressed. These two words happen to be made up of the same letters in reverse order, which is a neat spelling trick to help you distinguish between cupcakes and the Sahara. But the relationship between these two words is also an excellent reminder that there are reasons we crave certain foods. To fulfill our wellness goals, we need strategies for when we feel overwhelming cravings. We need to learn ways to put down the bag of chips, pass on the plate of cookies in the staff lounge, and avoid the drive through. Here are a list of ways to counter your cravings when they strike. Identify Your Feelings So you’re craving a sugary, blended, coffee-like beverage in the early afternoon. Before you take this calorie-filled caffeine plunge, ask yourself: am I stressed? tired? anxious? bored? If you can identify how you are feeling when you experience a food craving, then you are already being more mindful about your food. This is an excellent first step because you’ll realize the difference between the food your body needs and the food your feelings want. It is effective just to realize that your stress is making you want a food that you don’t need. But that doesn’t fully address the craving. Your goal is to be able to reflect fully: “I’m feeling stressed, so I don’t really need this food right now. I need to relieve my stress.” Meditate Meditation is an excellent way to help you feel less stressed and anxious, and you can practice this mindfulness strategy whenever you need it. Most forms of meditation require only four basic elements: a quiet location, a comfortable position, a focus of attention, and an open mind. It doesn’t need to take long, but meditation can help you feel more relaxed and ready to face the rest of your day without giving into your craving. With practice, you’ll find yourself relieving your stress and anxiety easily, and your cravings will subside. Exercise Exercise has multiple benefits. One benefit, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association, is that exercise can enhance your mood significantly, even reducing depression. There’s no need for a lengthy trip to the gym for weight-lifting or interval training. Just a short walk outside, or even around the office, can be enough to give you extra energy and a better outlook. Exercise can also help you take your mind off of your weighty emotions and contribute to your overall wellness goals. Distract Yourself If you find yourself dwelling on negative thoughts, or you’re simply bored, distraction might be the key to reducing emotions that are leading to a food craving. Turn to an old, trusted hobby, or develop a new one, such as knitting, reading, drawing, dancing, and gardening. All of these can be relaxing and keep your hands busy. Be careful of distracting yourself with the television, though, as this often leads to thoughtless snacking! Substitute A Healthier Option Instead of directly addressing your emotions, you might be able to focus on the food craving itself. It’s still best to avoid eating if you aren’t really hungry, but this strategy can certainly be effective if you know your body needs fuel but you also know it needs healthful fuel. If you are craving something rich with chocolate, like a brownie, try celery topped with peanut butter and a few chocolate chips. If you’re looking for something salty with a satisfying crunch, walk past the chips and try carrots or nuts instead. If you really want something sweet and tart, there’s no need for sugar, sugar, and more sugar. Enjoy an apple or a handful of naturally sweet berries. So Let’s Recap Our cravings come from our emotions. To reduce our cravings, we need to be aware of the emotions that cause them. Mindful strategies that address our emotions include identifying our feelings, meditation, exercise, distraction, and healthy options. The benefits of all of these tricks extend beyond helping you fight your cravings. They contribute to your overall well-being, health, and happiness. Continue to integrate these mindful techniques into your life and you’ll be on your way to a happier, healthier, more balanced you. -- Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Desserts. Stressed. These two words happen to be made up of the same letters in reverse order,...
Is Stress Eating Your Weight Loss Nemesis?
Food is a biologic need for human survival. It gives our cells the energy they need. Without food, our bodies cannot function at an ideal level, or even at all. For some of us, however, food has become a way to fulfill more than our biologic drive to fuel our bodies. Some of us eat when we are bored, or stressed, or tired. But when we eat for reasons other than hunger, we can start to forge a relationship with food that isn’t beneficial to our overall wellness. It’s important to recognize when you are feeding your stress instead of your body. So today, let’s talk about emotional eating, the role of stress in your daily food choices, and how it can impact your long term weight loss success. Emotional Eating The Mayo Clinic defines emotional eating as eating food in an attempt to alleviate emotions such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness, and loneliness. Possible causes of these negative emotions include stress at work, fatigue, health problems, conflicts with loved ones, and pressure related to finances. Once it becomes habitual to reach for food whenever you feel stress, anxiety, or fatigue, your emotions could be so tied to eating that you don’t even think about it. How do you know if you have formed emotional eating habits? Pay attention to the reasons why you eat throughout the day. Keep track of how you feel and how you eat. If you find yourself eating when you are not hungry, when you are bored, or when you are feeling stress, anxiety, or fatigue, then you have likely developed emotional eating habits. You may also find yourself craving foods that you know are not healthy, such as “junk” foods high in sugar and fat. Recognition of emotional eating habits is an important step in developing healthier habits and coping skills for when you do feel stressed. Stress and Food Choices According to a report from Harvard Health Publishing, stress can cause you to eat more food and can cause you to eat less healthy food. Persistent stress releases the hormone cortisol, which increases appetite and motivation to eat. Essentially, when we are stressed, we develop a strong desire for food that is not directly related to whether or not we actually need food. Additionally, stress can affect the types of food you eat. Under stressful situations, a person is more likely to eat foods high in sugar, fat, or both. These comfort foods seem to lessen stress, and this may be why people crave these types of foods when they feel stressed. Unfortunately, stress and the subsequent emotional eating can negatively affect weight loss efforts. Weight Loss Success A study published by the National Institute of Health found that diets are not effective against emotional eating. Study participants who were following diets found themselves engaging in emotional eating habits just as much as participants who were not dieting. What does this mean for us? It means that if we are emotional eaters, we need something more than a diet to help us successfully overcome our cravings. A list of what to eat and what not to eat, as is typical with traditional diets, does not decrease our desires for high fat and sugary foods. We know they are not “approved” foods, but we still want them. Diets also do not decrease our levels of stress. To combat emotional eating, we need to learn to eat mindfully. We need to replace our stress eating habits with healthy habits that support our wellness efforts and weight loss goals. So Let’s Recap
- Emotional eating occurs when we eat food to help us feel less stressed, tired, bored, or angry.
- Stress causes us to eat more food and less healthy food than we usually would.
- Diets are not effective in preventing emotional eating, or stress eating—but mindfulness is.
With MindFirst, you can develop mindful eating and stress reduction habits that can put stress eating in your rear view mirror, permanently. And when you change your habits, you’ll be on your way to a happier, healthier, more balanced you. Learn more about our free trial here. -- Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash
Food is a biologic need for human survival. It gives our cells the energy they need. Without food,...
Five Quick and Healthy Breakfast Options
Check out 5 quick and healthy breakfast options...
- Banana in a blanket: One slice of whole grain bread, a smear of almond butter wrapped around a banana - almost hands -free and delicious.
- An apple and hummus: No one thinks of the humble chickpea in the morning; embrace the chick pea.
- A smoothie pop: This one does take some prep but a little work can go a long way. Make your favorite smoothie, pour it into popsicle containers, then instead of looking for a travel cup in the morning simply enjoy a frozen treat!
- Oatmeal: It really is simple. Half a cup of steel-cut oats, 3/4-1 cup oatmeal (depends on your consistency preference) - zap it in the microwave. But HERE is the aha part: once it's out of the microwave, it's too hot to eat and it's often forgotten on the counter... instead of leaving your oatmeal to permanently fuse itself into a bowl, add a little unsweetened applesauce, it cools down your porridge and tastes awesome.
- Baked potatoes: A baked potato travels very, very well and can be eaten as you drive, just like a corn dog sans wooden stick. Want to enjoy your baked potato at a table or desk? Now we're getting fancy: add some cottage cheese - an awesome source of protein.
Check out 5 quick and healthy breakfast options... 1. Banana in a blanket: One slice of whole...
Is Peanut Butter Good for You? (Does It Make You Fat?)
Yes! Peanut butter is packed with the good stuff...
...Protein, a little magnesium, phosphorus and potassium too. Peanut butter is also a really good source of fat. Fat's great, it tastes good, helps us absorb certain vitamins and fills us up.
The trouble with nut butters (technically peanut butter is a legume but who's checking) like almond butter, sunflower seed butter and cashew butters is that a little goes a long way - calorically speaking.
And if you're a peanut butter lover, you can easily put away a few hundred calories of the goop. The best way to enjoy peanut butter - and his cousins - is sparingly, get out that tablespoon and stop at two!
Yes! Peanut butter is packed with the good stuff... ...Protein, a little magnesium, phosphorus and...
Are Smoothies Healthy?
Smoothies - those creamy concoctions we love, but are they a wolf in sheep's clothing?
YES.... and no (read on man!) Smoothies can be an awesome way to get vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein but fill that blender with sugar and fat, and your smoothie may be no better than a buttery croissant and jam.
A great smoothie is first: not that big! A 8-12 ounce glass should be about your serving.
And second, a great smoothie is made with a protein base (think: yogurt, tofu, or maybe even a protein powder), water or milk and some frozen fruit and/or veggies. I love yogurt and frozen berries with a little spinach. The yogurt for creaminess, the fruit for sweetness and the spinach - just for the heck of it!
Smoothies can shift into the dessert category when you add: syrups, a lot of fruit juice and of course ice cream.
Keep is simple, keep it real, and start our day off right.
Smoothies - those creamy concoctions we love, but are they a wolf in sheep's clothing? YES.... and...
Meet Our Members: Brian
The MindFirst program has been a true salvation for me! I am retired and enjoying life to the fullest now, but before MindFirst I was concerned about the health implications of my weight, the stress of daily life, and the lack of discipline in my approach to exercise.
Fortunately, MindFirst offers a comprehensive program that seamlessly addressed all my concerns. In addition, the value of participating in a supportive group with similar goals was extremely satisfying. Like many other people, I have struggled with a variety of weight loss programs with varying degrees of success, but in the long run none of them truly offered a sustainable strategy that I was able to live with, so eventually the weight would tend to creep back on.
What made the MindFirst program work for me was the truly integrated three-pronged approach to a healthy lifestyle. First, there is the nutrition component which not only provided a practical, livable approach to healthy living, but also many lifestyle management tips such as how to shop in a grocery store or dealing with high salt and calorie foods while eating out in restaurants. The mobile technology platform greatly facilitated the daily nutrition program.
The second integrated component of the MindFirst program was the exercise platform. The program provided simple, easy to follow programs that could be completed in twenty minutes a day.
The third integrated component of the MindFirst program was the key differentiator for me. Many other programs attempt to address nutrition and exercise, but no others that I have seen also seamlessly incorporates mindfulness into the program. The importance of this fact cannot be understated! You can be diligent in your diet and exercise, but if you are stressed and depressed, the outcome will inevitably be failure. The mindfulness activities such as meditation techniques are crucial to the overall success of the program. MindFirst has been a life changer for me!!
The MindFirst program has been a true salvation for me! I am retired and enjoying life to the...
Debunking Common Meditation Myths
Meditation has numerous benefits—that’s no myth.
Research conducted within the NIH shows that meditation treats numerous conditions such as high blood pressure, insomnia, and pain. It also increases overall health and well-being.
But for all of its proven benefits, many people still have trouble getting started with meditation thanks to the cloud of myths and misconceptions that hover around it. Let’s look at some of the top meditation myths we tell ourselves and break them down:
Myth: Meditation Is Religious or Spiritual Meditation can trace its roots to Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Today, though, many people practice meditation without studying or following these religions.
Meditation focuses more on being aware of your thoughts, and when you think about that concept…there’s nothing inherently religious about it.
And since meditation can be practiced completely separate from religious or spiritual teachings, this means that practicing it won’t put you at odds with any current beliefs you do have.
Myth: “I Don’t Have Time in My Day to Meditate” It would certainly be difficult to put aside three hours of every day to dedicate to the practice of meditation. We all lead busy lives: work, family, homemaking, friends...and sleep fits in somewhere, too!
The good news is that meditation doesn’t have to take a long time. In fact, the best way to make meditation part of your daily routine is to start with just a few minutes everyday.
The benefits of meditation come more from consistency—trying it daily—than any lengthy amount of time you can practice.
Myth: Meditation Is Boring If you think meditation is just sitting and staring at the wall, sure, meditation might seem boring. And, yes, thinking about absolutely nothing for an hour would be a bit tedious.
But neither “sitting and staring” nor “thinking about absolutely nothing” is an accurate description of meditation.
When you meditate, you pick a focus, such as your breath, a phrase or mantra, a specific sound, or a guided meditation recording. And you are bound to have other thoughts, and these are fine, too, as you learn to refocus them. There is also a whole range of meditation styles to experiment with: like visualization, mantras, and more. There’s nothing boring about sampling them all.
Myth: Meditation Is Too Complicated It’s not uncommon for people to think that meditation requires memorization of mantras, an entire carefully decorated room, burning incense, an uncomfortable posture, and a long playlist of the sounds of the ocean. While some people who meditate may prefer to practice this way, it is far from necessary.
Most forms of meditation require only four basic elements: a quiet location, a comfortable position, a focus of attention, and an open mind.
Perhaps more importantly, there is no wrong way to meditate.
Myth: Meditation Takes Years to Learn If you have never tried meditation before, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel you’ve completely mastered it after only five minutes on your first day. However, it will not take long for you to start to feel comfortable with meditation.
A Harvard study shows that participants in a mindfulness meditation program had measurable changes in their brains after only eight weeks.
Even better, after just one short session of meditation, you are likely to feel more relaxed than before you started.
Myth: “Meditation Doesn’t Work for People Like Me” Do you feel like you have too many thoughts constantly running through your head, such as errands, lists, and due dates? Is it difficult for you to sit still for more than three seconds? Do you tend to overanalyze everything? Are you super busy?
None of these things will prevent meditation from working for you.
Meditation is a practice. This means it’s something you learn. So over time, even with just a few minutes in your busy day, you’ll learn to quiet your mind and be still.
So Let’s Recap: There are a lot of things meditation is not. It’s not a huge burden on your time. It’s not religious, boring, or complicated. And it’s not meant for only certain types of people.
But there are also a lot of things meditation is. It’s a short break in a busy day. It’s an effective technique to quiet your mind and find relaxation. And most importantly, it’s a way to listen to your body.
With meditation as part of your weight loss journey, you’ll find that you have the ability to reduce negative thoughts, fight your craving, and nurture a mindset of success.
Learn more about the MindFirst approach to weight loss and try one of our meditations for free today by clicking here. Photo by Dingzeyu Li on Unsplash
Meditation has numerous benefits—that’s no myth....
How Often Should I Exercise and What is the Best Exercise to Lose Weight
Two questions that everyone asks me is how often should I exercise and what is the best exercise to lose weight?
Shared from our own MindFirst Fitness Director, Wayne Westcott: The #1 culprit of weight gain is a slow metabolism. Lean muscle fuels your metabolism allowing you to burn more calories.
As we age we lose on average 5 pounds of muscle a decade.
When we diet as much as one-third of weight loss can be muscle.
Cardio exercise burns calories but does not build muscle.
Resistance Workouts (dumbbells, bands, body resistance) rebuilds lean muscle at any age!
The optimum workout for immediate results as well as sustained weight loss is a Cardio-Infused Resistance Workout. Cardio elevates your heart rate while the resistance builds lean muscle.
So, how long do I need to work out for? While twenty minutes twice a week is optimum, we suggest you start out with three minute full body workouts. As you develop a craving for fitness you can increase the length of each workout.
Want to try a great cardio-infused strength workout? We have workouts for all fitness levels!
Two questions that everyone asks me is how often should I exercise and what is the best exercise to...
The Science Behind Mindset
You’re ready. Ready to make a change. Ready to improve your life. Ready to become a healthier, happier, more balanced you.
Where do you start? Your food? Your activity? Your sleep?
If you’re like most people, you’ve tried diet, exercise, and earlier bedtimes before. And eventually, yes, these aspects of your life, and likely others, will require improvement as you strive for wellness.
But the key to making true, lasting change is not to change your behaviors.
The key is to change your mindset.
Science supports that our mindset impacts our decisions and habits. By setting our minds on what we want to accomplish and changing how we think, we are more likely to achieve impactful and sustainable goals.
What We Think A study has shown that it’s more important to think about how you are eating than what you are eating. Participants who thought about eating healthy while preparing their food actually served themselves smaller portions.
This is why mindset is much more important than diet. With diets, we tend to focus on what and how much we can eat. With mindset, we consider more broadly the why and how.
It’s much more impactful to think, “I’m eating carrots and hummus because I want to effectively and healthfully fuel my body,” than to think, “I’m eating carrots and hummus because they’re on an approved list of foods.”
As we consider why and how, we learn that we have ownership of the choices we make when it comes to our bodies, including our food, exercise, water, sleep, and relaxation.
This ownership, and this control, is imperative to reaching our health goals. In a study published with the National Institute of Health, individuals who were ready to lose weight and who felt both competent and empowered to do so were much more likely to see long-term, healthier behavior changes.
How We Think Researchers use two categories when discussing mindsets: fixed and growth.
With a fixed mindset, a person is likely to see herself with set characteristics and abilities. Unfortunately, this can actually cause her to feel that she has a personal shortcoming or lack of ability if she faces a common setback or makes a mistake.
When we’ve allowed ourselves to fall too much into a fixed mindset, especially in regards to our health, we can face difficulties as we try to make changes.
For example, if you believe that you just aren’t the type of person who is good at exercise, you’ll be more likely to doubt yourself before you even start, give up quickly, and avoid exercise in the future.
The growth mindset, on the other hand, is strongly correlated with achievement.
A person with a growth mindset believes that she can always improve and adapt. She uses mistakes as learning opportunities and is particularly resilient when it comes to setbacks.
If you have a growth mindset, you might recognize that physical activity is an area of your health that needs improvement. You will be more likely to put forth effort to achieve your exercise goals, accept new challenges, and use constructive feedback.
Fortunately, we can cultivate a growth mindset. If you believe you are in control, and you believe you can change, you will be much more likely to reach your goals.
So Let’s Recap: What we focus our minds on is important. Studies support that thinking about why and how makes us feel more empowered than thinking about what and how much, and this empowerment leads to lifelong change.
How we focus our minds is important. With the growth mindset, we believe we have the ability to improve our behaviors. This means that we also believe that we can make the changes necessary to lead healthier lives.
If you want to lose weight, you need to start with your mindset.
When you change your mindset, you’ll be on your way to a happier, healthier, more balanced you.
Learn more about how MindFirst uses the science of mindset to help you achieve lifelong weight loss.
Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash
You’re ready. Ready to make a change. Ready to improve your life. Ready to become a healthier,...
Meet Our Members: Jill Rossi
My husband Kip and I are truly grateful that we joined the MindFirst program.
We wanted to ensure our health and wellness for our future together. We both had gained weight, we were stressed 24/7 by life, work and care of aging parents. We saw firsthand how lifestyle choices can have a major effect on your health and well being.
We have altered our outlook on food, exercise and mindfulness. We plan our weekly menus, shop, prepare, cook and enjoy our meals together. We exercise separately, but we do meditate together in the morning and evening. We really feel the difference if we miss a session. Throughout the day I routinely take three deep breaths to get myself focused or calm. These practices have helped me enormously and we both sleep better now.
All the components have worked together to move us towards our goals. We have changed emotionally, mentally as well as physically. I lost 32 pounds and Kip lost 42 pounds. We have a brighter picture of our future together and with our family. We truly have gained the lasting tools needed to manage our daily lives with peace, balance and joy.
Many, many thanks to everyone at MindFirst – especially Bob Jacobs – who had the vision to bring this wealth of knowledge together in one complete program.
My husband Kip and I are truly grateful that we joined the MindFirst program. We wanted to ensure...
Set Your Mind on a Better You: Weight Loss and Fitness the MindFirst Way
No doubt, you’ve heard or spoken certain phrases throughout your life, but have you ever really paused to give thought to the meaning behind them?
What exactly is this all-powerful, yet intangible and invisible thing called “the mind” and how can you harness its full potential to live a healthier, happier better you?
“It’s a case of mind over matter.”
“It’s a state of mind.”
“All I want is peace of mind.”
“The mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
The more we understand about perception, memory, and learning – essentially, the way that we think – the more we recognize the impact our mind has on our behavior and our ability to change those behaviors.
This is what makes MindFirst different from any other weight loss or fitness program. Rooted in the ancient Buddhist philosophy and practice of mindfulness and honed over years of research in cognitive psychology, the MindFirst program focuses effort on building habits that will transform your life in just minutes a day.
No doubt, you’ve heard or spoken certain phrases throughout your life, but have you ever really...
Meet Our Members: Michelle Frank
When I first heard about MindFirst, I was topping the scale at the most I ever weighed, had played the up and down weight game more times than I cared to remember, and figured why not see if this program can help me lose some weight one more time. I had nothing to lose except weight...or so I thought. I was the type of person that thought I had my life in order, stress was being handled just fine, it even propelled me through my days. My mentality was "doesn’t everyone work 50 plus hours a week?" Multi-tasking is a way of life and dealing with anything and everything that comes my way is one for the win column! I had a handle on it all, if I could just get my weight under control, I will be so much better off. I believed that “Diet and Exercise” with some accountability is what was needed to get the scale down one more time. What I did not realize was diet and exercise is what I had done in the past, and here I was once again bigger than when I started the last “diet” - so what I really needed was something more, something different. And that is exactly what I attained through MindFirst.
I had made a promise to myself that I was going to give 110% to all information that was given to me no matter if I thought it applied to me or not. Here is where I should share with you that at first I was simply going through the motions. I was a task master and I would do anything that someone tells me to do - that is just what I was doing with the MindFirst program. Little did I know what a positive spin it would have on my life, I was implementing all the lessons no matter what, not only was the weight coming off but people were noticing what a different person I was. Home life was improving, I was so much less stressed, I just took the changes for what they were and enjoyed the happier new Michelle.
I can recall looking back for the first time at the 90 day mark and thinking this is working and being very excited. The lessons were common practices now and I was no longer going through the motions, but now I was eager to learn. Weight loss was not the first priority anymore, it was more a result of my new life style. It was here that I knew that this new lifestyle, new awareness and mind body connection would provide me with lifelong success.
By implementing the practice of mindfulness I was able to totally change my life for the better, I looked at food and exercise as a positive rather than a negative. Exercise is now a way of life and something I do for myself both mentally and physically. Mindful eating gave me a new appreciation for food. I now feed my body with the proper foods for fuel, rather than feeding a bottomless pit.
Through mindfulness I gained the knowledge to change my attitude about stress. By practicing mindfulness I am able to be less reactionary and this gives me the pause I never had before to be able to see if I need to come up with a solution or is it really just something I cannot change. By being mindful, I am more efficient and have a better sense of wellbeing in my life overall.
Once someone asked me, “What I could have done better”, because that is always a learning tool in all life lessons. I can reflect back that it took me about 5 months for exercise to resonate with me. I was doing the minimum and not really enjoying it. When I found what made me happy and hit my stride, I felt a major change in me. My mental state changed towards exercise and therefore my body reaped the benefit. Yes, diet and exercise can change the numbers on the scale but my journey with MindFirst has created a new way of life for me, which I can maintain and enjoy all that it offers.
When I first heard about MindFirst, I was topping the scale at the most I ever weighed, had played...
Meet Dr. Wayne Westcott
Meet Dr. Wayne Westcott, health expert, author and fitness consultant for MindFirst.
It wasn’t so long ago that people over 50 were conditioned to accept aches, ailments, and weight gain as an inevitable part of aging. Of course, people also believed cigarettes were not harmful but that rock & roll was. Fortunately, we live in more enlightened times when “youthfulness” and feeling young are no longer just a young person’s game. Unfortunately, the Fountain of Youth remains a myth which means staying healthy over 50 does take some effort.
The cultural shift in attitudes about aging is in part due to an increase in the life expectancy of the average American; people live longer and as such, many of society’s assumptions about “old age” have changed. But credit is also due to health experts like Dr. Wayne Westcott, fitness consultant for MindFirst and author of more than 20 books, 400 articles, and 600 newspaper columns about the importance of muscle-building exercise in aging well.
Dr. Westcott, age 69 and recently described as “uncannily youthful” in an article about his work in the field of exercise science, supports the many benefits of strength training for keeping the body fit for life. According to Dr. Westcott, as many as 80 percent of men and women in their 50s and older have too little muscle and too much fat, leading to obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, low back pain, and numerous types of cancer.
“People say, 'Well, you’re in fitness, you train all the time,' " Westcott said. “No. I do research all the time, and teach… But I [also] do strength training twice a week, and endurance exercise in some form probably about five times a week, whether it’s cycling or jogging or walking.”
It’s not just the physical body that benefits from exercise, either. Dr. Westcott has conducted several studies on the psychological changes associated with regular resistance exercise, noting significant improvements in depression, physical self-concept, fatigue, revitalization, tranquility, tension, positive engagement, and overall mood disturbance among adults and older adults.
It is because of his expertise, combined with his natural talents and professional skills as a teacher, that MindFirst asked Dr. Westcott to join its efforts in helping participants reach their fitness goals. His straightforward, holistic approach mirrors many of the same principles of the MindFirst program: establish healthy habits, eat nutritiously, drink lots of water, and never underestimate the restorative power of a good night’s sleep.
We are honored to have Dr. Westcott as part of the MindFirst community and excited for you, our members, to experience the long term benefits that come with his fitness routines.
Dr. Wayne Westcott is an internationally recognized fitness professional who develops innovative exercise programs, conducts exercise research studies, writes for several fitness publications (Prevention, Shape, Fitness, Self, Perspective, Fitness Management, etc.), gives fitness presentations to numerous organizations (U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, Ford Motor Company, Penn State University, Boston University, World Bank, etc.), speaks at most major fitness conferences, and authors books on physical fitness and strength training (20 books to date). During his 35 years in the fitness field, Dr. Westcott has been a consultant for a variety of organizations (Nautilus, General Motors, President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, YMCA of the USA, Beverly Healthcare, etc.). Dr. Westcott has received Lifetime Achievement Awards and similar honors from a dozen professional associations and colleges. He is a graduate of Penn State University (BS, MS) and Ohio State University (PhD). Since earning his Ph.D. in Physical Education from the Ohio State University in 1977, Dr. Westcott has written more than 20 books, 400 articles, and 600 newspaper columns on the topic of muscle-building exercise. He has spent thousands of hours in the research lab, presented his findings to tens-of-thousands of seminar attendees, personally educated, tested, and certified many thousands of fitness trainers from around the globe and consulted to some of the most prestigious organizations interested in this business … including, but not limited to; The United States Navy, The United States Air Force, several national League Football Teams, General Motors Corporation, The Nautilus Corporation, and the President’s Council on Sports and Physical Fitness.
Meet Dr. Wayne Westcott, health expert, author and fitness consultant for MindFirst. It wasn’t so...
Stress is the New Sugar
If you’re on a journey to a healthier you, then you probably already know that sugar is best to be avoided. After all, it has little to no nutritional value and has been associated with obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
But while sugar has been Public Enemy #1 for some time now in diet and fitness circles, there’s another, arguably even more powerful force keeping millions of Americans fat, sick, and unhappy…one that makes sugar look downright sweet by comparison: Stress.
There’s a saying that “sitting is the new smoking” when it comes to overall health and wellness. When it comes to weight loss, you could say that stress is the new sugar. Here’s why:
- Stress Hormones Make Us Feel Hunger
Reports show that biology is to blame for the link between stress and weight gain.
Thousands of years ago, the adrenaline from stress helped us in “fight or flight” scenarios against predators. As the adrenaline wore off, the stress hormone cortisol signaled us to eat. When we were physically fighting or fleeing dangerous situations, food was necessary to refuel our bodies.
Additionally, the more stress we encountered, the more our bodies stored fat to prepare for the hard work of fighting or fleeing.
Today, however, the stressful situations in which we find ourselves don’t usually result in significant physical exertion.
We still feel the emotional components of stress. For example, we experience the rush when we realize we are running late to work and are about to miss an important presentation. It’s not unlikely that later, when the scenario has played out, we put our head in our hands and want to eat half a dozen of the donuts in the breakroom.
Regrettably, since we haven’t done much more than dash the 100 feet to the office from our car, six donuts is hardly necessary to refuel our bodies.
- Stress Makes Us Crave Unhealthy Food
Not many people can say that they want to eat a large salad of vegetables, grilled shrimp, and a light vinaigrette after a long day of running errands, managing their households, dealing with coworkers, or chasing after children.
There’s a biological reason for this.
Cortisol, the stress hormone previously mentioned, causes our insulin levels to rise and our blood sugar to drop. Therefore, we crave fatty, sugary foods to raise our blood sugar back to normal levels. In fact, studies have shown a direct correlation between cortisol and obesity.
We could get healthy sugars from fruits and vegetables, but a bag of candies tends to seem much more appealing.
Our stress also makes us crave comfort, because we want to feel better. “Comfort” foods such as macaroni and cheese may remind us of the simple, easy years of our childhood. However, they are rarely nutritious.
- Stress Makes Us Fatigued
A long, stressful day is tiring. Unfortunately, science supports that as we become fatigued, our bodies crave carbohydrates as a source of energy. Worse, overeating can actually cause fatigue, resulting in a vicious cycle.
Fatigue can also affect our food choices in other ways.
When we get home after a long, stressful day, cooking a healthy meal seems like one more daunting task. We resort to fast food on the way home, a quick delivery service, or a no-prep meal of the potato chips, cheese, and ice cream that we can scrounge from our kitchen.
Fast food and snack foods aren’t healthy, but somehow we think they will make us feel better when we are stressed. What we are likely really craving is relaxation, and convenient meals satisfy our immediate urge to collapse on the couch with food.
So Let’s Recap: Stress often results in unhealthy choices. We eat more food than we need, we crave convenient and unhealthy foods, and we feel more fatigued.
Once we realize we are eating because we are stressed, and not because we are actually hungry, we can better control our unhealthy cravings. Controlling our stress is actually the best way to “eat less sugar.”
It’s important to learn ways to recognize stress-induced eating, and to develop a number of strategies to reduce stress before you resort to unhealthy food.
Combatting stress is an incredibly effective way to become a happier, healthier, more balanced you. We’ll explore ways to put stress in its place in upcoming blog posts. In the meantime, click here to learn more about how MindFirst helps you tackle the stress that keeps you from achieving lasting weight loss here.
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
If you’re on a journey to a healthier you, then you probably already know that sugar is best to be...
Mindful Meal-Planning Tips
Eating prepared meals is easy. That’s why so many of us get breakfast and coffee from the drive-through, microwave a frozen meal for lunch, and go out for dinner.
If we’re ready to make a commitment to mindful eating, the days of fast food, dining out, and frozen meals need to be (mostly) behind us. Planning is the name of the mindful eating game!
With a little bit of time, you can prepare your meals in advance. Then eating healthy, filling, body-fueling meals throughout the week will be just as convenient as your old eating habits used to be.
Here are some tips for mindful meal-planning, so you can get the most out of the food you eat and fuel your body for energy and weight-loss.
Use the Process As Part of Your Food Experience To eat mindfully, we need to experience our food as much as possible.
Think about what you want to eat. Imagine it fueling and satisfying your body and mind.
Use your senses as you prepare it: smell your fresh produce, feel yourself chopping and peeling, see the vibrant colors, hear the skillet sizzling.
This is all part of building a positive relationship with your food, and will help you enjoy the meal-planning process.
Make Lists It seems like a no-brainer, but so many of us who struggle with weight loss don’t actually make a shopping list or meal plan before we head to the super market. Lists are helpful because they save us time and set us up for success. We don’t wander through the store figuring out what we want to eat, and we don’t need second, or third, shopping trips for items we forgot.
Lists also help us avoid impulse buys. If you know that the food on your list is all you’ll need fuel and satisfy you throughout the week, you’ll be less prone to skipping to the candy aisle. If it’s not on your list, you don’t need to buy it!
Be Realistic About Food Choices For mindful meal preparation, take into account your food preferences and your strengths in the kitchen.
If you know you won’t want to eat it, there’s no point in preparing it. You’ll just open your lunch, take a bite or two, and find something else to eat. And chances are that “something else” won’t be very nutritious.
You also don’t want to buy ingredients for complicated recipes if cooking isn’t your forte.
Consider Your Cravings If you usually eat something sweet for breakfast, like a pastry, then planning for eggs isn’t likely to satisfy your morning cravings. Yogurt, fruit, and granola sweetened with a little honey is more likely to be a nutritious breakfast that you’ll enjoy.
Reflect on your afternoon snack. If you eat a bag of chips because you want something crunchy, try sliced apples or peppers. If you eat a brownie, try a piece of dark chocolate with strawberries.
Prep Meals, Sides, and Snacks If you get home from work and you have a whole pineapple on the counter and a pint of ice cream in the freezer, which are you more likely to snack on? If you’re feeling particularly fatigued at the end of the day, are you likely to cook a dinner from scratch?
Rinse, slice, and store your food in advance, even fruits and vegetables you just want for snacks.
With a little planning, you will have healthy, filling, body-fueling foods that meet your need for something quick and easy after a long day.
Stock Your Kitchen Sometimes things just don’t go the way we plan. Sometimes we prepare a stir fry but crave pasta.
If you keep simple, healthy ingredients stocked in your kitchen, you can be prepared for anything.
And don’t forget about work. Consider taking some non-perishable but filling snacks to store in your desk. (You might want to put a sticky note reminder on any convenient work snacks: “Remember to only eat me until you’re full!” or “Have you tried a glass of water, a walk, and a quick meditation before me?”)
So Let’s Recap: Preparing your food is part of mindful eating. Take advantage of the opportunity to experience your food in all of its stages.
Make lists to help you plan and stay on track.
Be realistic about your food choices and consider your cravings as you think in advance about what you’ll want to eat.
Prepare everything: meals, sides, and snacks. Then you’ll always have easy and nutritious foods.
Plan for the unplanned: stock your kitchen with healthy options.
Soon you’ll realize that fast food isn’t the only type of convenient food. You’ll feel more connected to the meals you plan, prepare, and eat.
You’ll be on your way to a healthier, happier, more balanced you.
MindFirst gives you meal planning tools, recipes, and personalized guidance on becoming a mindful eater. Guided by Registered Dietician Mary Kate Keyes, you’ll learn the science and strategies of mindful meal planning in daily video lessons that arm you with everything you need to develop a healthy relationship with life-fueling foods.
Try MindFirst for free for a week (coming soon!), and see what it can do for you.
-- Photo by Kay on Unsplash
Eating prepared meals is easy. That’s why so many of us get breakfast and coffee from the...
Short and Sweet: Why Mini-Workouts Work
Most of us know that exercise contributes to our health and well-being. Numerous studies, including one from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, list the benefits: weight control, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes, increased strength, and improved mood.
But despite the overwhelming evidence in its favor, many of us just don’t make exercise a priority. We feel like we don’t have the time, energy, or ability to participate in daily exercise.
Fortunately, there is a way to put an end to our defeatist mentality toward exercise: short workouts.
How short, you ask? Five minutes. That’s right. You can be on your way to a healthier, fitter you in as little as five minutes a day.
Short Workouts Help Form An Exercise Habit We engage in habit cycles everyday. When we feel tired in the morning, we drink coffee, and we feel more alert. When dinner is over, we relax on the couch with a few glasses of wine, and we destress after a long day. This is why so many of us are addicted to our morning coffee or associate alcohol with relaxation.
These habits may not make the best contributions to our overall wellness, but we can use the same concept to form a healthy habit of exercising.
The idea is that exercise can become an addiction, a craving, if we start to incorporate a short workout into our daily routine.
A five-minute workout can easily fit almost anywhere in our schedules. Turn off the alarm, exercise for five minutes, and continue with our mornings. Feel the mid-afternoon slump, exercise for five minutes, and return to work or errands. Trade our heels for sneakers when we get home, exercise for five minutes, and then start dinner.
Soon, you’ll notice that you crave exercise when you wake up in the morning, when you feel fatigue in the afternoon, or when you get home from work...and all it took was five minutes a day.
This is because exercise generally improves our mood. What we are craving is the way we have become habituated to feel at a certain point in the day:
Energized Even after a short work out, we feel more alert and refreshed. As oxygen floods our bodies and our brain, we feel an increase in both energy levels and motivation.
If you exercise in the morning or early afternoon, both times of the day when we tend to feel the most fatigue, we can reap the energizing benefits of a short workout.
Happy Researchers explain that after just five minutes of moderate activity, people who exercise experience a “feel good” effect. So, it’s true: exercise makes us happier.
Exercise is also a great distraction from the stressors in our lives. If we’re doing squats, yoga poses, or just taking a brisk walk around the office, we’re preoccupied and get a mental break from whatever has caused us stress.
Confident For some of us, exercising for fifteen minutes seems daunting. Exercising for half an hour feels almost impossible. An hour of exercise might as well be a mythical unicorn… at least for now.
Start with five minutes. You can do anything for five minutes, or even just three. Boost your confidence that you can exercise, and that you do like it. Then work up from there. You’ll be catching that unicorn soon enough!
So Let’s Recap: Mini-workouts work because they help us form healthy fitness habits. It’s easy to fit a five minute exercise into our busy days, and we learn to crave the way that exercise makes us feel: energized, happy, and more confident. You have to start somewhere, and 5 minutes is a great place to begin your journey to a happy, healthier you.
Once you’ve developed a healthy addiction to exercise, you can work to increase the length of your workouts and build on what you’ve started.
MindFirst was built on the science of habit to help you create positive attachments to working out, which is why our Fitness Expert and Trainer Dave Gleason offers you guided full-body video workouts that start you at just 5 minutes a day.
Try our groundbreaking program for free for a week, and see what it can do for you.
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Most of us know that exercise contributes to our health and well-being. Numerous studies, including...
It Takes a Village: Why Sharing Your Weight Loss Journey Helps You Succeed in the Long-Run
If you’re ready to dedicate yourself to a plan for weight loss, congratulations! You’re committing to a change in your lifestyle, and you’re committing to developing habits that will make you happier and healthier. Know: it takes a village.
This decision is monumental. You’re proud of yourself, you’re eager to see a positive change, and you feel confident in your willpower to succeed.
As you begin this weight loss journey, take some time to share your excitement, your goals, and your conviction with others.
Because the most successful weight loss comes from changing your mindset about food and fitness, it can seem easy to completely internalize the process. However, we can never separate ourselves from the external world. Here’s the truth: Weight loss goals are actually easier to achieve when we share them with others. Sharing your weight loss journey helps you succeed in the long-run, and that’s why MindFirst was created with community as an integral part of every day of the program. We want you to connect with your peers, to have a ‘tribe’ to rely on for support and encouragement: Because we know it will help you succeed. Here are just a few ways that sharing your weight loss journey with others helps you succeed, long term.
It Helps Reduce Obstacles Deciding to eat healthier doesn’t magically make fast food restaurants disappear. If you keep your decision to yourself, temptations from others won’t disappear either. Coworkers will still want to go out for lunch. Your friends will still invite you over for wine and binge-worthy snacks. Family members will continue to request comfort food at home.
But when you share your weight loss journey with the people in your life, you may not need to constantly face external obstacles in order to reach your goals. Coworkers, friends, and family members can actually help support you!
If people know you’re trying to lose weight, most of them are unlikely to try and sabotage you. Instead, they may very well make it easier for you, especially if you ask for their assistance.
There’s Power in Shared Experiences Your coworkers, friends, and family might be able to support you, but unless they are on a weight loss journey with you, they won’t be able to completely share in your experiences.
Connecting to an online weight-loss community helps us stay personally accountable for making healthy choices. A 2017 study has found that participants achieve better results when they share weight loss successes and struggles with an online support community.
Finding common ground is important when making a commitment to leading a healthier life. Other people have gone through, or are currently going through, the same successes and setbacks that you are. By sharing your journey, you constantly reflect, and therefore become ever more mindful.
We also find motivation and encouragement from others who know what barrier we might be facing or how impressive our latest healthy habit really is.
You Get Helpful Information in Return! Recipes. Meal planning. Fitness tips. Strategies for stress relief. Unless we feel like using the Internet (and our valuable time) to constantly search for current, reliable, and relevant information that will support our weight loss, we need a community of others while on our journeys.
Online communities can be especially helpful when we have questions, because they often consist of dozens, if not hundreds, of others. We can ask for advice, such as: “What did you do when…?” or “How long did take to…?” or “What would you recommend if I…?”
Members are also likely to offer helpful tips without prompting, such as: “Check out this amazing recipe!” or “This is how I found more energy today!”
Plus, when you find that you can offer information to other members, you feel validated in your weight loss decisions and successes.
So Let’s Recap: When we share our weight loss journey, we are more successful at reaching our goals.
Our social network of coworkers, family, and friends can offer support and help reduce the temptations that we encounter daily.
We can share experiences with an online community and find the motivation and encouragement we need while staying more accountable to ourselves.
When we share our healthy eating goals, we get information about cultivating a healthy mindset in return.
MindFirst was created to harness all the powerful benefits of community to help our members lose weight and keep it off.
MindFirst is coming soon! Try our groundbreaking program for free for a week, and see what it can do for you.
And remember, getting healthy starts with your state of mind. Just by reading this you are closer to a healthier, happier, more balanced you.
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5 Ways Mindful Eating Helps You Lose Weight Without Dieting
Many of us are very familiar with mindLESS eating. This is what we’re doing when we inhale a large order of French fries while running errands, or when we devour a pint of ice cream while watching TV.
We’re even eating mindlessly when we follow a diet that tells us exactly what to eat and what not to eat.
Mindful eating is not a diet. It’s a way of consciously thinking about food. It helps with weight loss because it cultivates a healthy relationship with what we eat and contributes to overall health and happiness.
Mindful eating helps you lose weight without dieting because:
- It Helps Reduce Your Stress
Life can be stressful. Unfortunately, this stress often causes us to turn to food for comfort, which can have negative consequences on our health.
A 2017 study from the Michigan State University shows that people who experience stress at work are more likely to make unhealthy food choices and to eat more than usual.
Mindful eating doesn’t mean avoiding snacks or dessert, but it does mean not eating if we’re not really hungry. A major component of mindful eating is reflecting on WHY we are reaching for a bag of potato chips or a double chocolate brownie.
- It Helps You Feel Happier and More Energized
Food fuels our bodies, and what we eat at each meal can affect our energy levels and overall mood.
In fact, a Harvard Health Blog article explains that eating too much refined sugar can actually be harmful to our brains and worsen symptoms of depression.
By eating mindfully, we learn to reflect on what we eat and how it makes us feel. We realize that we felt fatigued and unmotivated after eating too many cookies at the holiday lunch party. Additionally, we remember how alert, satisfied, and positive we felt after eating a nutritious breakfast with foods selected specifically to fuel our bodies in a healthy way.
We start eating better foods and losing weight because it makes us feel better.
- It Helps You Plan Meals
Planning meals is an important habit to cultivate in an effort to lose weight. If we don’t plan what we’re going to eat, we might find ourselves skipping breakfast, splurging at a restaurant at lunch, and ordering take-out for dinner.
If you prepare your food in advance, you know you always have nutritious meals.
When we eat mindfully, we fuel our bodies with a breakfast that can impact us all day and help reduce after-dinner snacking. We not only pack healthy lunches for work but also feel prepared for making healthy choices if we end up dining out.
- It Connects You to a Community
Mindful eating is a new lifestyle for many of us. Participating in a community of others who are also cultivating new mindsets is a key component of learning to eat more mindfully.
A National Institute of Health study explains how participants in an Internet-based weight-loss community gained encouragement, motivation, and helpful information from others.
When we share our experiences, we are reflecting on them. When we read the experiences of others, we are learning from them. We become ever more mindful and conscious of our habits.
- It Helps You Develop a Healthy Mindset
Our thoughts are incredibly powerful. What we tell ourselves has an impact on what we feel we can and cannot do. Mindful eating emphasizes a positive relationship with food and helps us gain confidence in our abilities to know what our bodies need.
We think about how food makes us feel. We learn to recognize emotional triggers to overeating. We listen to our bodies and eat only until we feel full, and we realize that we have the ability to know what “full” feels like.
When we practice mindful eating, we do so much more than count our calories and obsess about the number on the scale. We find our way to a healthy mindset and balanced life.
Ready to think your way healthy? Through mindful eating, we can reduce stress, combat fatigue, enjoy healthy foods, connect with others, and develop healthy habits. It’s powerful!
MindFirst takes an approach to health and fitness that is unique and empowering in the wellness industry. We begin by helping you discover the incredible power your thoughts and emotions have on your overall wellbeing, and give you the tools you need to eat mindfully—no dieting needed! Using time-tested and scientifically proven concepts, you’ll find yourself more relaxed and less reactive. And before you know it…the pounds will melt off. See what our members have to say here: [testimonial page].
Try our groundbreaking program for free for a week, and see what it can do for you.
MindFirst is Coming Soon -- Signup for Our FREE 7 Day Trial! Remember, getting healthy starts with your state of mind. Just by reading this you are closer to a healthier, happier, more balanced you.
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Many of us are very familiar with mindLESS eating. This is what we’re doing when we inhale a large...
The MindFirst Approach
Created by experts in mindfulness, nutrition, and fitness, MindFirst takes an approach to health and fitness that is unique and empowering in the wellness industry.
Here's how we do it:
Mindfulness We begin by helping you discover the incredible power your thoughts and emotions have on your overall wellbeing, and give you the tools you need to eat mindfully—no dieting needed! Using time-tested and scientifically proven concepts, you’ll find yourself more relaxed and less reactive. And before you know it, the pounds will melt off.
Nutrition MindFirst gives you meal planning tools, recipes, and personalized guidance on becoming a mindful eater. Guided by Registered Dietician Mary Kate Keyes, you’ll learn the science and strategies of mindful meal planning in daily video lessons that arm you with everything you need to develop a healthy relationship with life-fueling foods.
Fitness: MindFirst was built on the science of habit to help you create positive attachments to working out, which is why our Fitness Expert and Trainer Dave Gleason offers you guided full-body video workouts that start you at just 5 minutes a day.
Community: MindFirst was created with community as an integral part of every day of the program. Finding common ground is important when making a commitment to leading a healthier life. We want you to connect with your MindFirst community peers, to have a ‘tribe’ to rely on for support and encouragement because we know it will help you succeed.
Getting healthy starts with your state of mind. Unlike fast weight loss fads and restrictive ‘diets’ our program is holistic, it’s pleasurable, and it works! In fact, believe it or not, just by reading this you are closer to a healthier, happier, more balanced you.
Sign up for MindFirst! Try our groundbreaking program for free for a week, and see what it can do for you.
Created by experts in mindfulness, nutrition, and fitness, MindFirst takes an approach to health...
MindFirst is Coming Soon
Here’s great news for anyone who wants to lose weight permanently while avoiding the pitfalls of every other fast weight loss scheme or diet fad: We're coming soon.
A new and improved MindFirst is on its way. Our groundbreaking weight loss method has already worked wonders for our community, and now we’re taking it to as many people as we can in a way that’s more powerful than ever.
Say goodbye to dieting and hello to sweet (and sustainable) success. We take an approach to health and fitness that is completely unique and refreshingly empowering in the wellness industry. Forget deprivation, forget punishment, forget short-term wins outnumbered by long-term failure. This is not your grandmother’s diet.
MindFirst was created by experts in mindfulness, nutrition, and fitness to give you something far more nourishing to your mind and body. It’s holistic, it’s pleasurable, and it works – unlike fast weight loss fads and restrictive ‘diets’.
Here’s a preview of how MindFirst works:
Get ready to shift your mindset, and change your life. MindFirst starts by discovering the incredible power your thoughts and emotions have on your overall well-being. Using time-tested and scientifically proven concepts, you’ll find yourself more relaxed and less reactive. Now you can achieve permanent and lasting change regarding stress, anxiety, fitness, nutrition and weight loss. Founder and CEO Bob Jacobs will be your Mindfulness Coach, guiding you every step of the way as you sculpt a powerful mindset that positions you for lifelong results.
“I’m living proof of the incredible impact mindfulness, meditation, and unlocking the power of habit can have on one’s health. I’ll be here every week of your journey to help you understand, think about, and practice the MindFirst way, and to celebrate with you as you manage stress and shrink the number you see on the scale!”
– Bob Jacobs, CEO & Founder/Mindfulness Coach
Get ready to fuel your body with delicious food, and love it. In our daily 5-minute lessons, Registered Dietician Mary Kate Keyes will teach you a new way of eating that fuels your body for effortless weight loss. You’ll discover delicious, energy-rich foods that boost your metabolism and keep you fuller longer. You’ll learn strategies for meal planning, curbing cravings, and much more. And the best part is, our mindfulness-based approach to nutrition helps you completely reshape how you think about food…so you’ll never diet again.
“Mindful eating means you can enjoy all the foods you love, even chocolate cake! But it also means choosing foods that will fuel your body to peel away the pounds effortlessly. Just give me 5 minutes a day, and you’ll never diet again. Let’s do this!”
– MaryKate Keyes, Registered Dietician
Get ready to get moving, and reinvent your relationship with exercise. Our video workouts will allow you to progress at your own pace in the comfort of your own home. MindFirst Fitness expert Dave Gleason will guide you every step of the way towards attaining a more fit and healthy lifestyle. Start with just minutes a day, and before you know it, you’ll crave exercise.
“The fitness industry is notorious for making exercise feel like a chore. But we’re going to flip that mentality upside down! We’ll help you love the burn you feel when you work your muscles, because you’ll know you’re getting stronger, fitter and you’re becoming a fat burning machine.”
– Dave Gleason, MindFirst Fitness Expert & Trainer
Get ready to meet your weight loss tribe. Our weight-loss community will here to help you succeed. After all, connecting with other people who are on the same weight loss mission has been proven to help you lose weight and keep it off.
Plus, you’ll get all the tools and guidance you need to succeed. From a world-class online meditation and workout library, healthy recipes, and nutrition logging tools – you’ll have everything you need to get the results you want.
Are you ready to stop dieting and start succeeding? Good! We’ll see you soon.
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Here’s great news for anyone who wants to lose weight permanently while avoiding the pitfalls of...