Use National Nutrition Month as reason to make food your medicine

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Hey, did you know that March is National Nutrition Month?  What a great excuse to amp up your healthy food choices … as if we need an excuse!

You’ve heard the saying that “food is medicine”?  TRUTH!  Let’s get our eyes off “diets” and focus on nutrition instead.  Instead of scurrying to find a food “plan”, how about spend the rest of the month simply being conscious of the types of food you’re choosing.

Change out processed foods for real, whole food.  That one thing alone will improve your physical health!  If you can afford organic, do so, but it’s even more important that you’re choosing food in its natural state.  Fruits, vegetables, grass-fed beef, and wild-caught salmon.  You get the idea.  Ditch the protein bars, crackers, cereal, canned items, etc.  With two weeks remaining in March, just go for it and see how you feel!

Mwah!

Valerie

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Transformation & Habits – you gotta listen

how-people-change-square-500x500Okay, peeps, you know my heart bends toward faith, and there’s nothing better on Sunday than “soul food”!  So, from me to you, I’m going to share two SoundCloud audios that I hope will impact you as much as they impacted me!

What is transformation about?  How does change occur?  Are there habits we partake in that support and encourage our health and identity, or sabotage it?  This series of talks digs into the topic of “How People Change”, obviously from a spiritual perspective, but I would venture to say the health of our body, mind, AND soul are all somehow intertwined.  And let’s put things in perspective … our worth and value is NOT in the appearance of our outer shell.

So put those ear buds in, and hit the track (or bike or elliptical, etc.) and take a listen.  These truths will speak to your entire self.

Mwah,

Valerie

 

 

One step, bit by bit, to better health

With MLK Jr. day last week, I reflected on one of his quotes, which is applicable in sooooo many ways.  So as we near the end of January, I wanted to evaluate where I’m at with some health resolutions I made, and thought you might want to do the same.

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My resolution was to get a grip on my sugar cravings and lose the 10 pounds I put on over the past two years.  I gave up sugar for about 10 years (yes, you read that right!), but have found myself inching bit by bit (pun intended) into eating sugar again over the past two years, and hence 10 pounds!  And now, it’s not just that I’ve inched into eating sugar again, but CRAVING it.  We all have pitfalls in our health journey, right?  Now you know sugar is mine!

My resolution involved integrating a few methods together to accomplish getting a grip on my sugar cravings and losing the 10 pounds I put on, by combining some tactics from two health professionals I follow:  Dr. Susan Pierce Thompson of Bright Line Eating and Dr. Josh Axe.

I dabbled a little bit last year with the Keto method after reading Axe’s material, and really (I mean REALLY) liked how my brain felt when eating the Keto way!  Wow, the clarity of thought was amazing.  And Pierce’s uncovering of the neuroscience of eating  is so helpful to understanding one’s relationship with food, especially sugar addictions!

So here are the combined methods I’m trying:

  1. Intermittent fasting (IF): 11:00am-7pm eating window – AXE
  2. Automaticity:  From Wikipedia, automaticity “is the ability to do things without occupying the mind with the low-level details required, allowing it to become an automatic response pattern or habit. It is usually the result of learning, repetition, and practice.”  So in other words, I am training myself to only eat at my meal times, and not graze/snack in between.  My meal is my meal and when I’m done, I’m done.  Over time, as this becomes automatic, my body won’t go to the fridge at 9pm wondering what I might snack on b/c it won’t be part of my brain pathway to do so, etc. – THOMPSON
  3. Measuring food:  Nuff said.   THOMPSON
  4. Keto diet:  75% fat, 20% protein, 5% carbs.  AXE
  5. Carb cycling:  After 30-60 days of continuous Keto, introduce carb cycling.  AXE
  6. Accountability Partner:  The one person who won’t let me off the hook when I want to cave but will encourage me to be strong.  THOMPSON
  7. Exercise:  Use HIIT more,  minimum 3x per week.  AXE

So how am I doing on my resolution so far?  How are YOU doing on YOUR resolution?  And that’s where the MLK, Jr. quote means something to me today.  I’m down 2 pounds, but I’m still craving sugar.  Resolution isn’t met yet.  So, how am I doing on each tactic I set up to enable me to reach my resolution?  That question will reveal the weak links.

I’ve gotten the IF and Automaticity going really well!  Two out of seven.  Next best would be my exercise and accountability partner, but not nearly as consistent where it needs to be.  Finally, consistently measuring food and strictly eating Keto has been my weakest to follow through.

So, as I look at the staircase in the picture here, and MLK, Jr.’s quote,  I’m encouraged with the thought that I’m not at the bottom of the staircase, but on Step 2!  No, I didn’t get all of my tactics under my belt at once, leaping to the top in one fell swoop.  BUT, I’ve got Step 1 and Step 2 going well!

The top of the stairs might look daunting on some days, but if you plant your foot solidly on one step at a time, bit by bit, you’ll get to the tippy top.  Just keep moving forward!

 

 

4 tips to reach health and fitness goals in 2019!

happy new year decorative plate
Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

So here we are on the brink of 2019 … another new year facing us.  Does the thought bring excitement?  Dread?  Fear?  Longing?  Relief?

There are so many emotions tied to this transition of one year to the next based on our life circumstances. Maybe you’ve lost someone in your life and there’s dread of a new year without them.  Maybe you’ve lost a job and the hope of a “prosperous” year seems bleak.  Maybe there’s a wonderful event in the upcoming year (college, wedding, trip) and the excitement is palpable.  It varies for all of us, from year to year.

In relation to health and fitness, we can place huge, unrealistic expectations and “rules” on ourselves in anticipation of making this new year THE YEAR OF (fill in the health wish).

I will lose 150 pounds this year.

I will exercise every day for 12 months.

I will get up at 4:30 am every day for exercise.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a list maker, a “to-do” killer.  I believe in goals and mapping out paths.  And I’m a lover of Benjamin Franklin’s saying, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail”!

So where am I going with this?  Let’s make 2019 something to look forward to through thoughtful planning and not just “wishes”.  Let’s get real.  Realistic goals.  Planning accurately and with specifics.  Managing expectations.  We all know that it’s easy to wave a white flag of surrender and quit when actions consistently can’t meet expectations.  So let’s bring these expectations into reach.

1. What is your health or fitness goal?

So what exactly is your health or fitness goal?  Is it to lose weight?  Is it to fit in smaller-size clothing?  Is it to reduce your sugar intake?   Is it to exercise more?  Is it to run in a 5K race?   Is it to be able to lift more weight in the gym than you currently lift?  You need to identify your exact health or fitness goal for the year.  Some people get all pumped up with a lot of resolutions for the start of the new year.  I suggest choosing just one goal for greater focus and chance of success.

2. Define the metric for your goal and ask, “Is this reasonable and doable?”

So you’ve decided on the health or fitness goal you will track throughout the year.  Let’s further define the goal with metrics and then ask, “is it reasonable or doable?”  If you want to lose weight, how much is reasonable?  Is it doable, or do you need to scale that metric down for THIS YEAR and then continue with it next year?

  • Is it to fit in a smaller size clothing?  What is your goal size?
  • Is it to improve your run time?  What is your current mile rate?  What minute-mile would you like to get to in the next 12 months?
  • Is it to reduce your sugar intake?  How much is “reduced?”  Is your blood-sugar level a metric you plan to use?
  • Is it to reduce your BMI?  From current level to what?
  • Is it to exercise/move more?  Define “more”?  Which forms of exercise?
  • Is it to increase weights at the gym?  How much is more?  20%, 30%, 40% more than what you currently lift?

3. Game Plan

Once you’ve figured out the above, it’s now time to do the nitty gritty work of your plan.  HOW will you carry out these goals?  How can you set yourself up for success?  Remember, you will use the metrics above as your gauge of how you’re doing during your plan.  Here are my recommendations to consider when making your game plan.

Specific steps:  Get VERY specific.  You’re going to get nitty gritty here.  Which actions on a daily, weekly, or monthly (DWM) basis need to occur to reach these goals?   You’ve already decided these goals are reasonable and doable, and which metric to use as the goal, in #1 above.

  • So you’ve defined what “smaller-size clothing” means to you, so now:  How do you plan to get into size X clothing?  What is your food plan DWM?   What is your exercise plan DWM?
  • You’ve decided to run in a 5K race, so now:  What is the date of the race?  Have you registered for it?  What will you do DWM to be able to run this by the race date?  Where will you practice run?  What time of day will you do this?
  • You’ve defined how much is “reduced sugar”, so now:  What does that look like?  No soda?  No alcohol?  No desserts?  No breads?  Will you track your blood sugar levels?
  • So you’ve decided to reduce your BMI to a certain level, so now:  How exactly to get there?  Weight lifting?  Exercise?  Diet?  (DWM)
  • You’ve defined how much is increased weights at the gym, so now: How will you have to lift DWM to get to a XX% overall increase?  What does that look like?
  • You’ve defined “more exercise” so now:  Which forms of exercise?  What does that look like?  When during the day will you do this?  Where will this exercise occur?

Create a chart with columns Daily | Weekly | Monthly and write the specifics actions you decided upon under each column.  Post this where you can refer to it easily.  You can make a page for each day, week, or month and checkoff when you accomplish the specific actions for more visual accountability or you can find plenty of templates online as well.

Accountability person:  Who is my “safe” person?  This isn’t a person who will tell you what you want to hear or allow you to get off track.  Instead, this is the person who understands your deep desire to improve your fitness and is on board as your cheerleader – they will tell you what you need to hear.  This is a person who has agreed to be there for you when you feel weak, when you’re headed to an event where temptation is leering at you – you can text or call and they will cheerlead you through the difficulty.

Reset preparation:  My mom used to say “There’s only one person who walked this earth who was perfect, and you’re not it.”  The nature of our humanness is imperfection.  So, if your expectation is that you’ll never fail or falter, you’ll be devastated and possibly go off the rails when you do.  The mentality is not to use your imperfection as an excuse to give in to temptation, but instead to manage your expectations so you don’t wave the white flag of surrender!   So if you falter, the key is to recover quickly.  Let me say it again, QUICKLY!  The goal here is that you accept you didn’t follow through your plan, and instead of throwing in the towel for the entire day, week, or month, you reset immediately to reclaim the day.  Think through in advance how you will reset back onto your health plan in the event you falter.  You might even want to work this through with your accountability partner … a phone call to them when you fall and the “next steps” you plan in advance to get back on track.

4. Gratefulness and Hope

Remember as you step into 2019, that you are more than weight!  You are more than how you look!  Don’t get so focused on the exterior that you lose track of who you are as a person.  You were created with purpose and plans and you have great worth and value.  The greatest antidote to hopelessness is gratefulness.  Keep a journal of all the things you are grateful for, of your hopes and dreams, and document when good occurs in your life as a marker of hope and praise.  And lastly, find ways to give back.  When you’re a giver instead of a taker, you oftentimes are more blessed than the receiver!

 

6 holiday strategies to avoid sabotage of your fitness goals

Here are six strategies to help you stay on track with your fitness goals during the holiday season.

 

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Yup, it’s that time of year again!  The holidays are upon us and there is a paaartay at almost every turn!  We had our office party, a staff departmental party, volunteer party, neighborhood party, friend party, and spouse’s work parties to boot.  You get the idea!

And while it’s hard enough to navigate all the parties, there’s also the “goodies” that are being thrown at us as gifts and celebrations.  I walked into the break room at work and there was a box FULL of sweet treats.  Peanut butter and chocolate no less.  GASP!  And these evil temptations were in the break room for days!

So here are six strategies to put into effect to counteract any sabotage to your will power and fitness goals.

ACCOUNTABILITY 

We tend to hate being accountable to someone as it creates a responsibility.  Dare we say, transparency?!  But this is probably your strongest strategy during the holiday season!  Contact your “safe” friend or family member (the one who won’t say, “It’s ok, it’s that time of year, just have fun!”) and enlist their support.  Prior to going to an event, tell them what’s up, and ask if they’re available for you to text during the event if you get weak.  Tell them to encourage you to stay strong and be your cheerleader.  And trust me, they’ll take it seriously when you entreat them for help!  USE THEM when needed.  You just may end up reciprocating the support as well.

BE PREPARED 

If headed to the office and you know people are bringing desserts, snacks, and other delectable, tempting goodies?

  • Bring an insulated lunch bag that doesn’t need the break room’s refrigerator and don’t venture near the break room.  Choose to eat in the lobby, or anywhere else with your box lunch, away from the desserts and tasty snacks that well-meaning colleagues brought in to work!
  • Drink water or tea.  When the temptation first knocks, start there.  And use the distraction of a challenging project or work to give time for the temptation to wane.

If headed to a party?

  • Fill up on your allowed foods prior to the event.
  • Bring a dish to pass to the party.  Something that YOU can eat, without cheating.  Veggie tray.  Fruit bowl.  Lean slices of cut meat.
  • My husband works in the alcohol industry and learned early on to have flavored seltzer water and a lemon in a glass instead of alcoholic drinks all night at events.  It looks festive, but you don’t load up on sugar, calories, nor risk the embarrassment of looking like an idiot in front of your boss from a wee too much rum!  Win-win

EXERCISE  

You know this already…   The busyness of the holidays can make it very difficult to fit time for exercise.  If that’s the case for you, try to avoid the all-or-nothing mentality and realize that getting in some exercise, is better than nothing … walk stairs on your 15-minute break or park further away in the parking lot!  Not only does your body need it, but your emotional and mental well-being needs this stability during the holidays, too!

IDENTIFY YOUR WEAKNESS

For me, I’m a sugar addict.  Actually, I think this must be similar to what an alcoholic feels!  If I eat sugar, then I must have more.  I don’t want to stop and it feels like it’s controlling me instead of me controlling it.  It’s the one place in my life where I struggle with moderation … I have to have it all!  Most of us striving for improved fitness have to identify and deal with a weakness of some sort.  Is it breads?  Salty foods?  Volume of food?  Sugar?  Soda?   You wouldn’t tell an alcoholic that it’s the holidays, so drink up and be merry!  Maybe that’s the same for us in our individual weaknesses.  Identify what it is that sends you into cravings to the point of insanity.  And GET RID OF IT.  Don’t have it in your house, and don’t go near it at work or at parties.  Be that serious about it.

WE’RE NOT PERFECT

Being a human means being imperfect.  So don’t let an imperfect food choice spiral you out of control for a day, a week, a month.  Or to use it as an excuse to allow yourself a free-for-all 24-hour binge because “well, I already blew it so I might as well continue!”  (Yes, I’ve done that.)  Dust yourself off.  Have some self-compassion and hit reset, quickly!  Okay, so you blew it.  Past tense.  Get over it.  The past NEVER has to dictate the future.  So call your accountability friend, fess up, and ask for encouragement going forward.  And do something positive to counteract the negative feeling about falling off … go for a walk, help someone in need, get out of your environment, just get moving.

GRATEFULNESS

It is the season for kindness and gratefulness after all!  In the days before Christmas, keep a notebook by your bed and write down just one thing you are grateful for each day (and if you’re like me, you won’t be able to stop at just one thing!).  For me, I’m a woman of faith and this anchors me.  You may just find yourself carrying this habit into the new year!  It’s the best antidote when feeling overwhelmed, under-equipped, and out of your comfort zone.  Being grateful re-centers you about what’s important and turns off the negative chatter in your mind.  Be kind to yourself, too.

So put your on your armor this holiday season and gird yourself with these strategies.  Be proactive instead of reactive so you’re not caught off guard.

May you find much grace and peace this season.

Mwah,

Valerie

Broccoli can make cells younger?

broccoli-mdWell, it’s been well-known that broccoli is good for your health in general.

But whoa, Time.com recently reported the results of a study published in Cell Metabolism where an international team of researchers headed by the Washington University School of Medicine discovered an agent “that can balance out what happens in aging cells to essentially make them behave as they would in a younger mouse. That substance, as it turns out, is also found in a number of natural foods, including broccoli, cucumbers, cabbage and edamame.”

Wow.  Even more incentive to nibble those greens!

But keep in mind, this study was on mice.  Not humans.  Not yet.

But still, this is definitely intriguing.  The article states that, “the compound, called nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), is involved in producing another compound that is critical for energy metabolism. When they gave normal aging mice infusions of NMN, they made more of that energy-fueling compound and some of the biological problems associated with aging went away. The NMN-treated animals did not gain as much weight, they were able to convert food into energy more efficiently, their blood sugar was better—even their eyesight improved. The mice receiving NMN were also able to prevent some of the genetic changes associated with aging.”

That’s my food for thought today.  Smile.

Mwah,

Valerie

The research of willpower

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When I introduced running into my exercise regime, I quickly realized that running was more a battle of the mind (will) than a battle of the body.  There’s a LOT of self-talk that goes on  … tuning in to the voice on the right shoulder saying “You can do it, just keep putting one foot in front of the other” and rejecting the voice on the left shoulder that’s saying, “Go ahead and stop short of your intended mileage.  What does quitting halfway through your goal matter?”

The same can be said for making lifestyle changes, such as eating or exercise habits.   There is a definite need to tap into willpower at points along the journey of change.  

Stanford Medicine published a Q&A session in 2011 with Stanford health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, PhD, who studied the research on the science of willpower.  According to the article, willpower is “a complex mind-body response that can be compromised by stress, sleep deprivation and nutrition and that can be strengthened through certain practices (italics mine).”

Hmmmmmm.

According to McGonigal, research shows the following:

  1.  When you exert self-control, it results in a “pause-and-plan response”.  These are changes in the brain and body that help guard against temptation and urges.  When the body and brain experience these changes, it actually sends additional energy to the area of the brain (prefrontal cortex) that is responsible for goal tracking and overriding impulses/cravings.  “The result is you have the mindset and motivation to do what matters most.” 
  2.  “Learning how to better manage your stress – or even just remembering to take a few deep breaths when you’re feeling overwhelmed or tempted — is one of the most important things you can do to improve your willpower.”  
  3. Improve how much quality rest and sleep you get and you’ll increase your ability at self-control.
  4. “Something as simple as eating a more plant-based, less-processed diet makes energy more available to brain and can improve every aspect of willpower from overcoming procrastination to sticking to a New Year’s resolution.”
  5. Any muscle in your body can be made stronger through exercise. If willpower is a muscle, even a metaphorical muscle, it should be possible to train it. That’s what the research shows.”  McGonigal states that practicing self-control increases the strength and stamina of your self-control, thereby making it easier as time goes on.   “New behaviors become habits, temptations become less overwhelming and willpower challenges can even become fun.”
  6. Meditation and physical exercise strengthen the brain’s willpower.  “Regular meditators have more gray matter in the prefrontal cortex. And it doesn’t take a lifetime of practice — brain changes have been observed after eight weeks of brief daily meditation training.”  And physical exercise is similar.  Regular exercise “also makes the body and brain more resilient to stress, which is a great boost to willpower.”
  7. McGonigal’s advice for meeting goals or resolutions?  Think big:  “Research shows that when you scale up to the big want, the biggest why, you automatically have more willpower. You’ll look for opportunities to make progress on your goal and be more likely to see how small choices can help you realize your goal. ”   Think small:Allow yourself small steps toward your goals.   “Sometimes we get frustrated when we don’t know exactly how we’ll reach our goals. We can’t imagine how what we’re doing now will ever get us where we want. Or we try to take huge steps all at once and end up exhausted and overwhelmed. Choose small steps you can take that are consistent with that goal. When those steps are easy, or have become a habit, look for next steps and keep going.”

I only summarized how you can improve your willpower, but I encourage you to read the entire article because it also detailed how willpower can be sabotaged.  If willpower is as much about the mind as it is the body, then you need this information!

Mwah,

Valerie

Let it go – stress release

Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen” had it right … let it go, let it go…

Many people struggling with weight and poor health cite stress as the beginning of their health woes.  They turned to food for emotional comfort during stressful situations, and oftentimes experienced depression which led to a sedentary lifestyle, further compromising their health.

According to WebMD, stress has also been known to drive people to alcohol, tobacco, and drug use in efforts to reduce the feelings of stress, but obviously, it increases it on the body instead.

WebMD published the following list titled, “The Effects of Stress on Your Body“:

  • “Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
  • Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
  • Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress a hazard of the workplace. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually.
  • The lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.”

There are a myriad of articles about reducing stress in order to improve health.  But the best advice I’ve ever heard is … let it go.

In fact, it’s such a great piece of advice that even Serenity Prayer addresses it:

Serenity prayer

“… And the wisdom to know the difference. ” Bingo.  That is the letting go.

We can get our minds wrapped around the axle about all kinds of things.  But in the big scheme of life, over all the things that could possibly be important, what are the chances that what we’re fretting about doesn’t really rank up there with life-altering issues?!

Freedom from worry occurs when you finally let go of the outcomes, let go of anger, let go of owning someone else’s emotions.  Own what is yours and what you have control over, and stop right there.

Peace.

Valerie

Start with 2 nutritional changes

I recently had someone ask, “What would be the MOST IMPORTANT few steps to take when looking at improving nutrition/health?”  They knew they had a journey ahead, and they felt a little overwhelmed.  So to simplify initial steps to take, I narrowed it down to two nutritional changes to make ASAP.  You’ll be amazed at how these simple changes will make big improvements in how you feel!

  • ELIMINATE REFINED SUGAR.  Just do it.  Don’t argue about it or justify why you think you need it.  You don’t!  Your body just craves it because it’s like a drug!   Use maple sugar for baking if you must.  Consider stevia or honey in your tea.  But again, these are substitutes.  Do you even need these??  How much can you do without?  Lifechanging equation:   Sugar = “poison”.

           NOTE:  Per other posts, do NOT use artificial sweeteners.  “Poison” as well!

  • INCREASE THE AMOUNT OF NON-STARCHY VEGETABLES YOU EAT.  Okay, you don’t hagreen veggiesve to go overboard at first.  But begin to introduce an extra serving of a non-starchy vegetable to your meal.  Preferably GREEN ones at that!  After some time, introduce another serving to your meal.  The goal is that over time, you would be filling your plate with more of these delicious, lifesaving macronutrients, and less of junk.   For now, just know that “macro” means large-scale and “nutrient” means  a substance that provides nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life.  I’ll cover macronutrients in another post.
    • NON-STARCHY VEGETABLES 
      • Amaranth or Chinese spinach
      • Artichoke
      • Artichoke hearts
      • Asparagus
      • Baby corn
      • Bamboo shoots
      • Beans (green, wax, Italian)
      • Bean sprouts
      • Beets
      • Brussels sprouts
      • Broccoli
      • Cabbage (green, bok choy, Chinese)
      • Carrots
      • Cauliflower
      • Celery
      • Chayote
      • Coleslaw (packaged, no dressing)
      • Cucumber
      • Daikon
      • Eggplant
      • Greens (collard, kale, mustard, turnip)
      • Hearts of palm
      • Jicama
      • Kohlrabi
      • Leeks
      • Mushrooms
      • Okra
      • Onions
      • Pea pods
      • Peppers
      • Radishes
      • Rutabaga
      • Salad greens (chicory, endive, escarole, lettuce, romaine, spinach, arugula, radicchio, watercress)
      • Sprouts
      • Squash (cushaw, summer, crookneck, spaghetti, zucchini)
      • Sugar snap peas
      • Swiss chard
      • Tomato
      • Turnips
      • Water chestnuts
      • Yard-long beans

Bam!  That’s it for a very basic start to better nutrition.

Mwah,

Valerie