5 steps to intentional health

woman-writingIntentional health.  I came up with this phrase because the word “intentional” drives me.

When I was raising my kids, I latched on to the idea of intentional parenting.  What was my goal for my kids?  What was the end goal of my parenting?  I had decided that my end goal in parenting was to raise children that were respectful, compassionate, productive citizens of our country, thoughtful, leave the world a better place because they lived in it, and finally, children who would have a strong grasp of faith and carry it into their culture and the next generation.

If you look at my list, it’s obvious these traits weren’t something that would just spontaneously occur!  Wishful thinking wasn’t going to make it so.  Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”.   And so I began to parent in a way that targeted these traits.  I took measured steps to train them with these results in mind.

Health is no different!  What are your health goals?  What are your challenges?  What measured steps can you take to reach your goals?

Here are five steps for intentional living…intentional health.

  1. Write down your health goals!  Be as specific as possible!  How many inches around your arms, waist, hips, or thighs would you like to lose?  By what date?  What will be your reward?  Is there a clothing size you’ve wanted to wear?  What would you like your BMI to be?   Do you desire to run your first 5K?  When?  In how much time?  What would you like to see your blood sugar levels at?  Lower cholesterol?  Lower blood pressure?  Develop a stronger immune system?
  2. List measured steps to reach your goals.  Examples:  I will reduce my sugar intake to ___.   I will walk 30 minutes four days per week.  I will follow a 5K training program.  I will take conscious steps to eliminate processed foods from my diet.  I will drink a protein shake daily.  I will take high-quality supplements to support my overall health.  I will keep a food journal.  I will do weight training to boost metabolism three days a week.  I will participate in two classes at my gym on a weekly basis.
  3. Be vocal about your goals.  When you verbalize your intentions, you create accountability to what you’ve stated.  Skin in the game.  Some may try to sabotage you, but those who love you will cheer you on.
  4. Plan out each day.   Those who are most successful in their careers have strong calendar/time management skills.  Health is no different.  Some people like to map out a week, others like to map out each day.  Find what works for you…but planning needs to occur.  When will you fit in a workout?  Do you need to have your clothes by your bed to eliminate excuses to avoid a 6:00 a.m. workout?  Or pack them for work for an after-work exercise?  What will you eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks?  How will you get enough water throughout the day?  How far do you have to run today in your 5K, 10K, or marathon training plan?
  5. Make this your life…commit. Your goals come from YOU.  They are what burn within you and drive you.  That makes them pretty important!  So make those measured steps you outlined for success in #2 as important as your other commitments... make them as important as showing up to work, meeting with your friends, taking Johnny to the doctor, or paying your bills.  Wishful thinking doesn’t accomplish goals and no one can reach goals for you.  Commit daily to your goals.

Be intentional today and every day.  It’s the only way to a guaranteed outcome and a life of no regrets!

Mwah,

Valerie

 

 

 

8 Protein Powder Ingredients to Avoid

spinach-shakeProtein powders are awesome.  I swear by mine and suck down a green protein drink every day!

People use protein powders for a variety of reasons, including improved athletic performance, healthy meal replacement options, meet necessary daily protein intake levels, and even improved digestion based on what’s in the powder.

Protein is a macronutrient, meaning the body needs large amounts of it (hence, “macro”). Protein helps to balance hormones; supports digestive health; is an extremely important component for building bones, muscles, skin, blood, and cartilage; boosts the immune system; curbs appetite; assists weight loss; and supports injury and illness recovery.

A quality protein drink should be made from whole food ingredients.  By including a quality protein drink in your daily regimen, you thereby help your body to achieve the optimal protein intake necessary for the aforementioned benefits.

Not all protein powders are created equal, so please read the label!  This can’t be overstated.    Here’s what you don’t want to find on the label:

1.  Gluten

Gluten has been a hot topic in recent years.  To people with sensitivities to it, it can  cause inflammation, hormonal imbalances, head aches, fatigue, skin conditions, and even mood swings.

2.  Dextrose

This is derived from starches.  It is used as an added sugar in many packaged and processed foods sweetened by the manufacturer.  The glycemic index is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale of 0 to 100.   It is based on how quickly and how much the carb raises blood sugar levels after eating.  Dextrose can increase glycemic load and can contribute to fat storage.

3.  Glucose

You might also know this by the name of “sugar”.  It is a simple sugar and a component of carbohydrates.  Again, it can raise glycemic load and contribute to fat storage.

4.  Artificial Sweeteners

While we’re talking about sugar, let’s add artificial sweeteners to the conversation!  My kids have heard me say this is “poison” over and over.  You might see the sweeteners under the following names in the chart below.  Several negative side effects can include headaches, migraines, gastric distress, depression, and weight gain.

Artificial sweeteners Sugar alcohols Novel sweeteners Natural sweeteners
Acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One) Erythritol Stevia extracts (Pure Via, Truvia) Agave nectar
Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) Hydrogenated starch hydrolysate Tagatose (Naturlose) Date sugar
Neotame Isomalt Trehalose Fruit juice concentrate
Saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet’N Low) Lactitol Honey
Sucralose (Splenda) Maltitol Maple syrup
Mannitol Molasses
Sorbitol

Xylitol
Advantame

Chart reference:  http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/artificial-sweeteners/art-20046936

5.  Soy

Soy protein contains phyto-estrogen, which is known to cause hormonal disturbances.  With high breast cancer risk in my family, I just steer clear of it!  Also, most soy proteins are derived from GMO sources (genetically modified organisms) with high pesticide use.  All around, it’s best to go soy-free.

6.  Casein

There are many powders on the market with casein or WPC (whey protein concentrate).  As discussed before, casein is high in lactose.  Many people who are lactose intolerant know to look for this, but for the average person, you should be aware that it can cause bloating, gas, and general gastrointestinal distress.

7.  Milk Powders or Milk Solids

In lesser quality protein powders, these skim milk powders and milk solids are added as a cheap bulking agent.  Again, they are high in lactose sugars as mentioned in casein above (with all the same potential side effects). The protein is not absorbed well by the body, so your body does not get the full protein capabilities.

8.  Vegetable Oils

Some protein powders have these oils added because they add richness to the mix.  These are high in trans fats, which are the fats that raise bad cholesterol levels.  Say no to vegetable oils!

 

Stay tuned for my next post and I’ll tell you what I LOOK FOR in a protein powder, and the one that I use…

Mwah,

Valerie

7 simple steps to clean living

My definition oliving-clean-logo-buttonf clean living is simply to live in such a way that I eliminate as many toxic things from my life as possible – not just from my body, but from my mind and soul, too.

Real food.  Simplify life.  Reduce stress.  Love God and my neighbor.  Work/life balance.

Do you beat yourself up because you are interested in clean living but haven’t quite “gotten there”?  Well, don’t be discouraged … it is a PROCESS, not just a destination!  And it’s a very personal journey for sure.  For example, I have been on the path to clean living for years, and I started with two simple things I knew were “poisoning” my body  … sugar and white flour.  You will have to decide what poisons are in your own life.

I started by eliminating these two things from my daily diet.  I’m not a sugar or white flour Nazi per se,  and occasionally I’ll allow myself that indulgence, but I probably stick to it 98% of the time.  That was my start.  After getting that under my belt, I began to tackle the elimination of processed foods in my routine – boxed, canned, jarred goods  that obviously didn’t come from Mother Earth that way.  That’s a harder mountain to climb.  If I’m short on time, I do buy prepared salsa or jarred pesto, etc.  I opt for the freshest and best food labeled product I can find.  But in general, I probably keep to the “no processed foods” 90% of the time.

Then I began to tackle my skincare and personal care choices.  The skin is our largest organ!  That’s exactly why nicotine and estrogen patches on the skin work!  So I’m evaluating my shampoos and conditioners, toothpaste, moisturizers, make up, and sunscreen.

For the mind, I’ve turned off most TV.  I make watching the screen an intentional choice. Instead of the TV being on 24/7, I make a decision if I want to watch someone else live life for two hours or if I’m going to live my own life.  If I make the decision to watch (and I DO love movies), I put on Netflix and choose what I want to fill my mind with for a limited time.  And books?  Yes, yes, yes!  The mind can be so much more creative with a book!  But again, there are trashy books and there are meaty books.  I’m training my mind to reject what I know is trash infiltration and crave intellectual, good story-telling, quality, subject matter books instead.

For my soul, well that’s probably the most significant clean living choice of all!  Matthew 15:17-20 in the NIV says:  “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person…”  Enough said.  I know my own failings so I enjoy church where I have to be transparent and I am accountable for my actions, reading Scripture, and being challenged through intelligent and thoughtful discourse about God.  

But I haven’t “arrived” at fully living clean yet!  That’s the personal part of each person’s journey.  I color my hair.  My bad!  Talk about toxins!  But I don’t like how I look with grey hair compared to my dark locks.  So it’s a toxic choice I’ve willingly made.  I occasionally wear nail polish.  Another toxin!

And the “toxin”list in our lives is huge … carpets, bed sheets, house paints, teflon cooking surfaces, detergents, etc.

So in your interest and journey toward clean living, don’t get overwhelmed with the whole kit and caboodle!  Start with one step, just one “poison” that you know is in your life.  Then another.  Then another.  The important thing is to get on the path and start moving toward the goal.  Here are seven starting ideas:

fruitwater

  1.  Substitute water for other beverages.
    • Do you drink lots of coffee or soda or sugary juices?  Begin to substitute water over these other choices a little at a time until water is your go-to beverage.  Water hydrates the body, improves complexion, flushes toxins out of your system, and is the earth’s natural beverage resource to us.  It’s the “cleanest” choice of beverages.
    • If you are one of those who struggle with drinking water, don’t buy flavored versions!  That defeats the purpose of putting something “clean” in your body.  Instead, add sliced real food, like fruit, mint leaves, cucumbers, etc. to your water to infuse it with those flavors.
  2. Coffee and tea green-tea
    •  On my journey, I gradually moved from full caffeinated coffee to half decaf, and also moved to organic.  I was raised with offering coffee as a sign of hospitality.  There’s something comforting and welcoming about holding a warm mug of beverage with a heavenly scent.
    • I began to collect organic teas and green teas, and offer guests hot tea in addition to decaf organic coffee.
  3. Increase intake of fruits and vegetables
    • The more you fill up on fruits and vegetables, the less room you’ll have in your stomach to fill with junk and processed foods!
    • Fruit and vegetables are from the earth … no additives and preservatives.  Not formulated in a factory.
    • Eventually, for truly clean living, you’ll also need to migrate to purchasing organic fruits and vegetables.   What you purchase at your local grocer most likely has pesticides, could be GMO (genetically modified organisms), and if it’s an out-of-season/out-of-region food source, it’s been shipped from who knows where to get to your locale!
    • In time, farmer’s markets will become your favorite shopping destination!
  4. Convert to coconut oil for cooking
    1. Virgin coconut oil resists oxidative damage from heat unlike olive oil.
    2. Vegetable oils contain long chain triglycerides (LCTs) which are more difficult to break down.  This is an added toxic burden to your body.
    3. Coconut oil contains lauric acid which converts to monolaurin in your body.  Monolaurin is known to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antiprotozoal properties.
    4. Beware:  As in many cases with food, not all coconut oils are the same!  Mass-produced coconut oils are oftentimes refined, deodorized, and bleached which not only strips the oil of beneficial nutrients but also adds toxins to the oil.
    5. The BEST coconut oils?  Look for ones that are made from fresh coconuts and are cold-pressed.  This avoids the need for additives and solvents in the process.
  5. Decrease sugar consumption!
    • Just DO IT!  I can’t emphasize this one tip enough.  Refined sugar is poison to your body and proven to be more addictive than cocaine.  Monitor your children’s intake so you don’t create in them the same lifelong addiction that you experience!
    • Begin by taking coffee black, use honey in tea.
    • No diet sodas or artificial sweeteners.  These are toxins as well.  The point is CLEAN living, reducing toxins.
    • If you have to use a sweetener, you can use stevia, but once again, not all stevia is processed the same!  Use green leaf stevia...  it’s the least processed type.  The leaves are dried and ground into a powder form.  It isn’t as potent as other stevia products.  But just because it’s a natural sweetener, moderation is still key.
    • Read food labels!  Cereals, protein bars, protein shakes, etc…  Always be aware of how much sugar you are taking in!
  6. Don’t eat “white”!
    • If you’re not gluten-free, then you can change from white breads, to whole-grain breads.  From white rice to brown rice.  From white potatoes to red potatoes.  You get the idea.  If you’re trying to go gluten-free, then you need to dig deeper than just not eating “white”.  You can’t eat whole grains, because those will contain gluten and instead will need to convert to coconut flour, corn flour, etc.
  7. Mind and Soul
    • Evaluate your mind and soul.  What are you watching?  What are you reading?  What do you focus your time and energies on?  What stress could you reduce?  What kinds of friendships and relationships do you keep?  Do you seek a place for God in your life?
    • DO something about the evaluation.  Notice what’s healthy and what’s not.  Action plan one thing you could do differently…

Meetups -support for body, mind, and spirit!

As you seek health in your body, mind, AND spirit, have you thought of using Meetups as a way to support your entire well-being?

For those of you who aren’t aware of what “Meetups” are, the http://www.meetup.com site says they are: “neighbors getting together to learn something, do something, share something.”

These Meetup groups cover a huge range of interests and are started by individuals who have a need (new in town, or have a hobby/interest they want to share with others) and form a group on the website to satisfy that need.  Individuals get onto the website, put in the geographic range that they would travel for activities, and voila, a list of formed Meetup groups shows in a list.  The range of groups I’ve seen vary from volleyball, photography, hiking, women of Christian faith, dog lovers, book writing and aspiring authors, business owners, running, young business professionals, entrepreneurs, coed baseball, knitting, prayer, yoga, book lovers, flag football … on and on and on.  SO many choices! Continue reading “Meetups -support for body, mind, and spirit!”

Perfect female body around the world?

I have three points I want to make sure to get across here… I promise the end point is encouraging!

  1.  Researchers identified the “perfect body shape” for women based on cultural preferences in various countries (click here to view – ugh).  What did it tell me?  Well, one, that “beauty” is determined by cultural influences.  Researchers found the “ideal” 5’4″ woman’s weight in China was considered to be 102 pounds, however in Columbia, it was 147 pounds.  There truly is NO perfect body shape!  NONE.  So if you’re a woman who looks in the mirror and says you don’t measure up…well, WHO’S STANDARD are you trying to measure by? Take that pressure off yourself NOW because every body standard is simply subjective to a bunch of people’s preferences in society, people who have no individual interest in YOU!
  2. Now, the really important second point is this … beauty is not defined by a body shape!  There is inner beauty of kindness and compassion.  There is intelligence that just humbles me in its scope.  There is external beauty,  like hair that is thick and wavy, or straight and smooth, or curly and out-of-control.  There is skin that is chocolate, or porcelain, or anywhere in between.  There are blue eyes, brown eyes, green eyes, black eyes.  Young and old.  There are smile-line wrinkles, wisdom-old wrinkles, and skin as smooth as a baby’s butt!  There are large bodies and small bodies.  Who is to say what is beautiful?  It’s YOUR place to say what makes YOU feel beautiful.  Have grey hair and color it and that makes you feel beautiful?  Ok!  Love your grey hair and flaunt it?  Ok, too!  Have a curvy shape and it makes you feel feminine?  Embrace it.  No one has the corner on determining whether you are beautiful or not.
  3. Here’s the third catch.  Getting HEALTHY is different than getting beautiful!  When one begins a journey of HEALTH, they end up feeling beautiful from the inside out!  If what you are putting into your body, or on your skin is poison, toxic, known-to-be-bad-for-you food or products, it affects your mood, self-esteem, energy levels, and all around well-being.  If you were worried about your beauty, transfer that energy into getting healthy.  

So don’t be deceived that your beauty is a body shape or a number on the scale!  Don’t allow a cultural preference to dictate your esteem!  Fight against that!   For me?  Well, I’m determined to work on “me” from the inside out.  I care about pursuing  compassion and kindness as a human being, deepening my faith in God, pursuing healthy eating habits and physical strength, pursuing education and learning new things, and lastly, about touching others’ lives so that I make a difference by being in the world.  Now THAT is beautiful to me…

Valerie’s Nugget:  If you were worried about your beauty, transfer that energy into getting healthy.  

 

Container gardens – the art of growing food

I’ve been traveling the past few days and had the pleasure of visiting an incredible national treasure … Monticello.  For those who are history challenged, this is the home of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States.  Monticello is located on a gorgeous mountain in western Virginia with views of rolling hills and valleys.  And part of the beauty of the estate is not just the orchards and flower gardens, but the vegetable garden, too! OH MY … Be still my beating heart!

Monticello garden 2

 

The soil was rich, the furrows straight, and the entire vegetable garden must have reached the length of two football fields!    The garden is still farmed with primitive methods and includes an incredible variety of vegetables.  As I gazed in awe at the garden, it reminded me how we’ve lost the appreciation for growing our own food … as well as the knowledge of how to farm!

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s  Agriculture Food and Statistics report in 2014, the number of farms in the U.S. has fallen from more than 6 million in 1935 to roughly 2 million in 2012.  The family farm is on the decline while corporate-owned farms rises!   One of the ripple effects?  The experience and knowledge of how to farm and grow sustainable gardens will disappear as these family farms disappear, too…

Monticello garden

My dad grew up on a farm in Iowa in the 1930’s.  I’m so proud of that fact!  Grandma and Grandpa were sturdy midwest folk and taught all they knew about farming to their kids, who worked alongside them on the farm.  My dad and mom went on to raise eight children (yes, I have seven siblings!) on a small parcel of land on the outskirts of an Iowan town … and as you can guess, they turned a large portion of our yard into a garden!

I grew up snapping beans and shelling peas under the maple tree in the yard, eating tomatoes like apples, and grabbing grapes off the grapevine on the way to the school bus in the fall.  We ate canned vegetables in the dead of winter and enjoyed homemade jam on homemade bread.  And that is what we are losing … the art of growing food!  And we aren’t teaching our kids!  There is knowledge in gardening that comes solely from past experiences and generational teaching.  My dad knew just what to do to make his Iowa corn grow, when to plant, when to harvest, what made great natural fertilizer, how to rotate his crops, etc.

Monticello

My encouragement to those of us who live in the suburbs and want to embrace healthy living, is to connect with our history.  LEARN gardening.  For you and your kids!  If you have a patio or a small backyard, you can plant vegetables in containers.   You can do a raised garden bed near your house.  Options.  Simple.  Start with just one type of plant.  Get your confidence up and plant more next year.  And let the kids own part of the work of “gardening” the plant.  Second best option is to hit your local farmer’s markets!  Not only do you support the local business, but you also know exactly where your food comes from!

There is such GREAT satisfaction in eating what you grew with your own hands. Your body will thank you, too!

Mwah,

Valerie

 

 

 

 

 

Stressed? Pound it out…

dog in blanket

I have a saying… if you’re upset or stressed, take it out in a way that will benefit you, not hurt you.   Yes, punching a hole in the wall would be a negative way to handle anger!  Yes, eating a bag of Doritos and a gallon of ice cream would not be good for your body.  And yes, storming into  your boss’s office and screaming at her, as tempting as it sounds, would be a harmful choice as well!

So what’s a healthy alternative to unleashing your stress?  EXERCISE.  When I went back to school to get my MBA during my divorce, in the midst of working 50 hours per week, and learning to be a single mom, I began to run.  Seriously!  It became my catharsis … “me” time in a world that was swirling and demanding everything from me.

I began by telling myself I was allowed one hour of “me” time per day.  That became my exercise time.  At first, I could only run one minute, so I then walked 59 minutes.  Then I worked up to four minutes of running and 56 minutes walking.  Within a few months, I was running the entire hour!  With headphones on, listening to music or podcasts of sermons, it was a healing time of sorts.   And don’t think it was easy…there were times I couldn’t fit that hour in until 10:00 PM!  But I did it because the alternative wasn’t pretty. Continue reading “Stressed? Pound it out…”