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Why Do I Get Sick When I Start a New Workout Routine?

Does it seem like every time you try to start a new exercise routine you get sick and end up having to start all over again? You’re not alone and this is an actual thing – it’s not just your body betraying you, though it may seem like it.

So let’s look at what’s going on when this happens and the steps you can take to stop it from happening to you next time.

Stress on Your Body

While exercise is really good for your body, it’s important to remember that it is also a stressor on your body, especially if it’s different or more vigorous than you’re used to. That stress on your body can temporarily run down your immune system, making you more susceptible to germs and viruses. It’s similar to how your immune system can get run down if you’re lacking in sleep for too long. One way of thinking of it is that your body has so many resources to allocate. If it needs to move more of them to exertion and healing/recovery from a workout, there are less resources to allocate to your immune system. Obviously, this isn’t quite what’s happening but it’s a way of thinking about it.

Gyms are a Germ Pit

I’m not being dramatic- they are a germ pit. Unfortunately, civilized human beings who actually thoroughly wipe down the equipment they use when they’re done are few and far between, so you’re sharing whatever they left on the treadmill before you. Free weights in particular are the dirtiest piece of gym equipment. In fact, one study found that free weights contain more than 300 times the germs found on a toilet seat. Sorry, but you needed to know. It makes sense when you think about it – how many times have you seen someone actually wipe down the weights before they re-rack them? Exactly. Never.

Your fitness classes are also guilty of being germy places. Yoga mats in particular are fantastic incubators for a number of infection-causing bacteria. And, just as at the gym, you can’t count on your neighbor wiping down her equipment as diligently as you do.

Add to this germy mix a rundown immune system and you have a perfect equation for a fitness de-railing illness.

So what can you do to end the vicious exercise-sickness-exercise cycle?

Tips for Keeping Healthy

  • Wipe down your equipment BEFORE and after use.
  • Avoid touching your face until you’ve washed your hands thoroughly.
  • Bring your own towel – some gyms transport their dirty and clean towels in the same gym, thereby recontaminating the clean towels with bacteria.
  • Try to make sure you wipe your face with the side of the towel that hasn’t touched the equipment – you can do this by putting a mark on one side of your towel or using a towel that has a pattern on one side.
  • Ease into your new workouts instead of running headlong in so it’s less of a strain on your body. You can do this by taking more modifications in your first class or starting your runs at a slower pace, for example.
  • If you’re going to try a new workout that’s more strenuous or just different from what you’re used to, do what you can to support your immune system – drink lots of water, take your vitamins, get enough rest, eat lots of fruits and veggies for those phytonutrients.

My Routine

I’m a fairly fit person, but I’ve dealt with the struggle of starting a new exercise regimen and getting sick immediately many times. Most recently, I tried a new HIIT class which is very different from what I’m used to and I got majorly sick within a couple days. So I have developed a new routine to avoid that.

Hydration. Not only do I make sure to drink water while I’m working out, I make sure to refill my water bottle before I leave and continue to drink it on my way home with the goal of replenishing fluids and then some.

Hand Washing. I try to be mindful about not touching my face during my workout and I wash my hands in the locker room before I leave. I also wash them again when I get home even if I’m going to shower right away (Confession: I usually eat before showering #priorities).

Immune System Support: I make sure to support my immune system by taking a Shaklee Vitalized Immunity tablet with a big glass of water when I get home and I take my vitamins with a nutritious snack or meal.

Rest. I’m an early to bed person. I have always needed a lot of sleep and that hasn’t changed with age so I listen to my body for bed time.

Restore. I don’t go right back to it the next day. I give my body a break by doing something lighter that will still get my blood pumping, like a long walk or yoga. Then I’m giving my body some chance to recuperate while stimulating the lining of my blood vessels, the endothelium, which releases its own natural “medicine” to help me continue to recover.

Once you’ve gotten over this hurdle, be sure to check out my tips for keeping yourself motivated to workout so you can keep up the good work!

Decluttering

Today I want to share a post from a good friend of mine, Cheryl Russo of Organizing by Cheryl. I met Cheryl a few months ago and she quickly became on of my favorite people. She is such a positive, genuine person and really walks the walk when it comes to organization.

“A post about personal organizing?” you say? Yes, let me explain. Our surrounding physical environment has a massive impact on our inner mental and emotional environment. If you are surrounded by clutter and disarray, odds are you feel stressed out and discombobulated much of the time. Likewise, if your kitchen is a mess, you are more likely to order takeout rather than cook a healthy meal. Are your junk food snacks more visible/accessible than your healthy snack? Chances are you’re going to opt for the indulgence over the healthy choice most often. We know that our emotional state and our stress levels impact how we care for ourselves- from how we eat to how we sleep to how much we move. So making your living and working environments work for you is super important to your health.

I know, as well as anyone else, that once things get to a certain point, starting the process of decluttering and cleaning out can feel hopeless, even impossible. But Cheryl has some great tips to keep you from getting overwhelmed:

  1. Start small – like your junk drawer or a cabinet
  2. Start with just 5 minutes a day
  3. For big projects, use the Pomodoro Method: 25 min working on it, 5 min break, repeat

Once you get started, here are her Top 10 Tips for Decluttering and Organizing:

Decluttering

If the following statements are true, then donate or ditch it:

  1. Something doesn’t fit (e.g., jeans that you had hoped to fit into, but it’s been 15 years now)
  2. You own two of the same thing (e.g., two blenders)
  3. It’s tattered or a dust-magnet (e.g., that high school hockey team t-shirt; that eucalyptus wreath you’ve had on the wall for 19 years)
  4. You just don’t love it (i.e., it doesn’t “spark joy” to quote Marie Kondo or it doesn’t “add value” to quote Joshua Fields Millburn)
  5. It’s expired (e.g., medicine, food, batteries) or outlived its purpose

Organizing

  1. Store like items together (i.e., have a system for storing things) like camera stuff with the camera and hiking boots with hiking gear
  2. Label boxes and bins clearly and store the bins with the labeled side facing out
  3. Don’t overstuff drawers; to paraphrase Marie Kondo: to keep clutter from accumulating, items must be just as easily put back as they are taken out
  4. Daily-use items should be stored within reach (but not out in the open cluttering a counter)
  5. When in doubt, keep multi-use items (e.g., a large knife: it can chop and the side of it can be used to crush garlic) and get rid of gadgets that have only one purpose; you probably never use that melon baller anyway

Other things to keep in mind…

20/20 rule

For those “just in case” items, if the thing is less than $20 to replace and you could rebuy it within 20 minutes of your home, then donate it (20/20 rule courtesy of theminimalists.com).

Sharing apps and other “sharing” ideas

There are lots of music and other online sharing apps and sites where you can “borrow” music, articles, etc. without actually owning the physical items. There are also car sharing companies (e.g., Zipcar) where you can reserve a car for a few hours or days; this is good if you live in a city where parking is expensive and/or difficult.

Paper (e.g., receipts, documents, forms, etc.) accumulation ideas

Buy a scanner app (e.g., Scanbot about $6) for your Smartphone; many of these apps scan documents beautifully, then you can email them to yourself or send them to a computer folder.

Sentimental items

Take a picture of them, then donate to those who could use them now; keep only a few of the things you have, ditch or donate the rest; find a new purpose for the item (e.g., an old blanket; turn it into a scarf, a cleaning cloth, or a handkerchief); or just get rid of them and be ok with it.

 

For some more great advice on organizing and de-cluttering your life, make sure you visit Organizing by Cheryl’s website and like her Facebook page!

Meet Cheryl:

23-Cheryl-200x300I love organizing. I was that kid who always had an organized bedroom. But it wasn’t until early 2016 that I decided that this was my true calling. I love the challenge of using space effectively. I live what I say; I have lived in more than a few apartments that were under 500 square feet. Therefore, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the use of space, and now I can use what I’ve learned to help others with their space. I look forward to working with you to create the space in your home or office that will allow you to focus on what matters to you in life. We will declutter and create space that will be organized, peaceful, and efficient. I’ll work at a pace that is comfortable for you and offer advice on developing systems so that you’ll be able to easily continue to maintain the space we’ve created. Let’s work together!

Healthy Breakfasts on the Go

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day – that’s not just an old wives’ tale. But, it can be the most challenging meal of the day as we are struggling to get ourselves ready for work, get our kids ready for school, maybe squeeze a workout, or leave earlier to drive the carpool. With everything that we have going on in our busy lives, it can be asking a lot just to eat breakfast let alone make it a healthy one.

Why is Breakfast So Important?

As the first meal of the day,  breakfast literally breaks our fast from the night before while we were sleeping. Once we wake up, if we go too long before we eat, our bodies begin to go into a fight or flight stress response and starvation mode. This elevates the levels of cortisol, our stress hormone, in our bodies. Since our cortisol levels are naturally at their highest in the morning anyway, elevating them further this way ensures that your stress hormone levels will be higher than they should be for the rest of your day. Eating within an hour of waking up will prevent this stress response from occurring.

Breakfast is the fuel for our bodies to start our day. Think of it like this: your body, having healed and rejuvenated all night long, is like a nice new car with an empty gas tank in the morning. You wouldn’t put sludgy cheap fuel into your brand new shiny car, right? Likewise, you don’t want to put junk food into your body to fuel your morning. A healthy, balanced breakfast consists of a lean protein and a complex carbohydrate. You can add a healthy fat in there for bonus points as well. The complex carbohydrate is burned for energy but it is absorbed as a slower rate than a simple carbohydrate like a donut or sugary cereal. This slower absorption rate give you even levels of energy throughout your morning and doesn’t spike your blood sugar like a simple carb would. The protein further slows this absorption and provides fuel on it’s own as well. The combination of fiber in your complex carb and protein will leave you feeling fuller longer. A healthy fat added to the mix provides brain food to keep you on top of things as you start your day.

Healthy On-the-Go Breakfast Ideas

So now that I’ve bored you with the science, here are some suggestions for healthy breakfasts on the go!

  • Whole grain waffles (I recommend these waffles) with all-natural, no added sugar nut butter (like Teddie). Sprinkle them with some cinnamon or cocoa powder for more of a treat or top them with half a banana or sliced apple.
  • Whole grain toast with low-fat cheese or hummus and half an avocado
  • Smoothie made with plain, low-fat yogurt, 1/2 cup of fruit, and 1 cup of spinach. If you like to add protein powder, I recommend this protein powder as it also contains additional vitamins and minerals and is a clean protein.
  • Fried egg folded up in a slice of whole grain toast
  • A banana and nut butter rolled up in a whole wheat wrap or lavash
  •  Egg muffin cups
  • Baked oatmeal muffin cups
  • Overnight oats
  • Coffee Smoothie –  1 cup cold brew or iced coffee, 1/2 cup milk of choice, 1/2 frozen banana, 2 scoops vanilla protein powder, blend and enjoy!
  • Whole grain toast with low-fat ricotta cheese and sliced apple sprinkled with cinnamon
  • 2 hard boiled eggs and a slice of whole grain toast and a piece of fruit
  • Savory quinoa and egg jar – pre-prep a big batch of quinoa and dish it into jars (1/2 cup serving) with whatever veggies you’d like and store in the fridge. In the morning, fry up an egg quickly and toss it in the jar to enjoy on the go. Or prep the whole thing in advance, microwave it for a minute, then go!

 

Got any favorite healthy breakfasts you take on the go? Feel free to share them in the comments!

Egg Muffin Cups

These egg muffin cups are super popular in the online healthy recipe world right now and for good reason – they’re a great way to get your healthy breakfast on the go!

Ingredients:

  • 12 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 1/4 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (to taste)
  • 1 1/2 cups spinach
  • 1/2 cup shredded, low-fat cheese of choice

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin tray with coconut oil or spray with cooking spray.
2. Beat eggs, milk, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
3. Stuff muffin cups with spinach evenly. Pour egg mixture over spinach until cups are 3/4 full. Top with cheese.
4. Bake egg cups for 20-25 minutes until eggs are cooked through. They will puff up while baking and then deflate a bit.

Serve hot and fresh out of the oven or store them in the fridge and reheat them throughout the week for breakfast on the go. These also freeze very well!

egg cups

Product Review: Kashi 7 Grain Freezer Waffles

Breakfast can be a very tricky meal when it comes to eating healthy because it’s often the meal we find the least amount of time for. However, as we know, most of the “convenience food” options there are for breakfast are anything but healthy choices and can set the stage for your eating for the rest of the day. Throw into the equation a picky eater, and you have quite the dilemma.

I get breakfast food questions a lot – people are trying their best to eat well but they are short on time and energy and they know that there are not many convenient options out there that will cut it. I also often hear “My kid will only eat waffles in the morning. Is there anything I can give him/her that isn’t as bad?” I became a health coach on a mission in the freezer section of Market Basket and I landed on Kashi 7 Grain frozen waffles.

kashi

The 3-5-3 Rule

The rule that I use in choosing a healthy breakfast cereal I also apply to other breakfast grains. Looking at the nutrition facts, you want to find a product that contains at least 3 grams of protein, less than 5 grams of sugar, and at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.

Kashi 7 Grain Waffles were a HUGE winner in this test with 4 grams of protein, 3 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of fiber for 2 waffles. These are an option that will keep you feeling full and satisfied and will not lead to a large blood sugar spike and crash.

Ingredients

The ingredients list for Kashi 7 Grain Waffles is enough to make my little health coach heart go pitter patter. The majority of ingredients are various whole grains and ingredients that you would expect to see in a wholesome grain product. As we know from the nutrition facts, they contain minimal added cane sugar and I’m not concerned about the canola oil in it as it is non-GMO and there is not a large amount in them.

A couple ingredients that some people get concerned about – soy lecithin and xanthan gum. While they sound scary, you are going to find these additives in virtually any packaged food product.

Soy lecithin typically raises red flags for people because of the word “soy.” A little while back, a very misleading study was conducted from which people concluded that soy acts as estrogen in the human body and can, therefore, cause certain cancers. However, there were a number of problems with this study that poke huge holes in those conclusions. 1. the study was conducted on mice which are not biologically similar enough to humans to make that extrapolation, and 2. the amount of soy those mice were given in the study far exceeds what any person would ever consume (here is a fantastic resource if you’d like to learn more about this). It also failed to account for the quality of the soy consumed. It’s also very important to note that, while soy lecithin is found in many, many foods, it is present in very, very small quantities.

Soy lecithin is typically added to food as an emulsifier or lubricant but it can also be used as an antioxidant and flavor protector. It actually has some health benefits, believe it or not. For one, it may lower cholesterol levels and, for another, it contains choline, which prevents organ disfunction, fatty liver, and muscle damage.

Bottom line on soy lecithin: unless you have a severe soy allergy or the soy is GMO, you need not worry about it.

Xanthan gum is the other additive people often worry about and it’s also found in almost everything that comes in a package. It is typically added to foods as a stabilizer and is found in very small quantities.  Although considered safe for consumption, it can cause gas and bloating in those who are sensitive to it. For this reason, those who eat a diet consisting of mostly prepackaged foods may notice a significant improvement in how they feel once they cut back on those foods.

Thus, while no additives is the best option, these two found in the Kashi waffles would not cause me to tell you to avoid them. (Here is a great resource on food additives if you’d like to learn more about what to avoid)

Flavor and Texture

Admittedly, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve had an Eggo waffle (I think I was watching Lamb Chop’s Play Along if that’s any indication of how long it’s been) but I don’t think these would be a noticeable change for your kids if they’re used to eating Eggos. They have the texture you would expect of a frozen waffle and a nice, very slightly sweet flavor. They’re not heavy or gritty like some would worry a whole grain waffle would be.

What’s Your Topping?

No amount of whole grain is going to matter if you are drowning your waffles in sugary pancake syrup. The typical store-bought pancake syrup consists almost entirely of unhealthy, even dangerous, ingredients: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, sodium benzoate, and artificial flavors to name a few.

Better options for waffle toppers include: real maple syrup, honey, fresh or frozen fruit, yogurt, natural sugar-free peanut butter, and avocado.

With a healthful topping, these multigrain waffles are a solid start to your day.

waffles

Accomplishing Your New Year’s Resolutions

Did you know that 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail? And 80% of them fail by February? Those seem like pretty depressing odds, but you CAN make your healthy New Year’s resolutions a reality by avoiding some of the common pitfalls I often see people making. Whether you are looking to lose weight or to just get healthier, here are my tips for keeping your resolutions alive.

Pitfall 1: You Don’t Make It Official

It may seem silly, but there is a lot of power behind writing down a goal. It puts the energy out there for it and also helps you get more clear about what it is you want to accomplish. Better yet, if you write it down and place it somewhere prominent where you can see if often, it can serve as a daily reminder/motivation to keep working towards your goal.

Pitfall 2: You Don’t Know Your Why

Knowing why you want to accomplish a goal is just as important as having a goal. There are going to be times when working towards your resolution is challenging, you’re beating yourself up, and you just want to quit. In those instances, having a very strong reason why you want to accomplish your goal will keep you going. I don’t mean “I want to lose weight because I need to be healthier” – that’s very vague and not personal. You need to dig deep for your why: “I want to lose weight because I want to be able to chase my children around at the playground” or “I want to lose weight because I want to go on an international hiking trip to see some of the world’s most amazing natural sites.” These are powerful why’s that mean something personal to you. Once you know your why, take it a step further and write it down with your resolution.

Pitfall 3: Not Setting Specific Goals

Making your goals specific enough is critical and can be challenging. Without a specific goal, it can be impossible to track your progress or know when you’ve achieved your goal. Plus, if you don’t know exactly what you’re working towards, how will you stay motivated? Instead of making your resolution “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get healthier” make it “I want to lose 30 pounds” or “I want to be a size 6” or “I want to be able to run a 5k.” That way you can measure your efforts and your success.

Pitfall 4: You Don’t Plan Ahead

In a society where we are surrounded by sedentary entertainment and processed, unhealthy foods, it can be a challenge to stick to healthful goals. This is why planning ahead is crucial. Going to a party or gathering? Bring some healthy foods you can snack on. Taking a trip? Plan for some activity time in advance. Going out to dinner? Review the menu online ahead of time so you know what the healthy options are going into it.

Pitfall 5: You Go It Alone

Accountability is a very powerful motivating force. Tell someone you know will check in with you about your resolution and your plans for accomplishing it. Even better, find someone to work towards it with you. For example, if you know that you have a hard time getting yourself to the gym, find yourself a gym buddy. If you want to become a runner, sign up for a 5k with a friend so you have a deadline and an accountability partner.

Pitfall 6: You’re Too Focused

The major reason why most diets fail is that they are not sustainable. They are built on the premise of deprivation so they give you results fast, but you can’t stay on them in the long-term and you gain back the weight pretty quickly. If you are looking to lose weight or to just eat healthier, make sure that you build in a treat day. Balance is the key to success and having a designated time to indulge will help keep you on track – as long as you plan ahead for it so you don’t go overboard and get right back on track after. For example, if sweets are your thing, you could say that Fridays are your treat day and you can have dessert with dinner on Fridays. Likewise, if you are going to a party or some other function and know there will be treats there, make a deal with yourself ahead of time that you can have one slice of cake or some of your friend’s famous nacho dip. We are human. We eat for two reasons: to survive and for pleasure. You need both sides of the coin to be successful.

Pitfall 7: You Eat Too Much Salad

Many of us think that in order to lose weight and eat healthy, we need to just eat a lot of salads. Don’t get me wrong, salads are an awesome powerhouse of nutrients, but they can get old really fast. There are tons and tons of healthy meals you can have that are not salads. Check out my recipes or jump on Pinterest and there will be lots of healthy food inspiration for you. Variety is the spice of life, so make sure you change it up a bit!

Pitfall 8: You’re Not Tracking

No one wants to track what they eat but it is super important, especially in the beginning of any healthy eating routine. You would be shocked at how much you eat without even realizing it and also how much of it isn’t as healthy as you would think. My recommendation to you is to track your eating at least for the first 2 weeks of your resolution so you can really get a feel for what you’re putting into your body. Think about it, how can you change what you don’t know? It’s worth the tedium of tracking for a couple weeks.

Pitfall 9: You’re Not Exercising

We often hear that maintaining a healthy weight is 80% diet and 20% exercise. But if you’re only eating healthy, then you’re only going to get yourself 80% of the way there. Remember that our bodies can acclimate to our calorie intake and just focusing on food will get you to that dreaded weight loss plateau. A varied exercise routine will help keep you working steadily towards your goal and you will get there more quickly as well. Plus, exercise is crucial to a healthy heart and circulatory system, a healthy respiratory system, healthy bones and muscles, and it’s even beneficial for your immune system.

Pitfall 10: You’re Not Hydrating

As an adult, you should be drinking 1/2 oz of water per pound of your body weight per day. Water keeps your joints and muscles working well, helps flush your body, helps you feel full, helps keep your skin healthy, and so much more. I bet that you have had someone say to you that there is a chance you’re thirsty when you think you’re hungry. Keeping yourself hydrated is critical to helping you get healthier and/or lose weight.

Pitfall 11: You’re Not Supplementing

Regardless of how healthy you eat, I can promise you that you are not getting all of the nutrients that your body needs. In fact, 90% of Americans aren’t getting the nutrition our bodies need. There are a number of reasons for this. Among them are that our produce isn’t as nutritious as it once was, that, biologically speaking, a 2000 calorie diet isn’t normal for humans so we are trying to get all of our nutrition is fewer calories, plus factors like antibiotic use, consumption of inorganic meats, and digestive issues. In order for your body to function at its best, it needs to be properly nourished and supplementing with quality supplements is the way to do that. Regularly taking supplements will also help you reach your health goals by properly fueling your body. With regular supplementation, you may even notice a change in your appetite!

Wishing you a very happy, healthy New Year and all the best with your resolutions!

Let’s Talk about Bread…

One of the questions I get from my clients most often is “what about bread?”. There is a lot of confusion about bread today thanks to the diet crazes of the late 90s/early 00s like South Beach and Atkins and the current keto diet rage. Many people think that bread makes you fat and that it is bad for you while others prefer to stick with a reduced calorie bread. Really, it seems everyone has an opinion on bread. So in this post, I’m hoping to answer your bread questions.

Do I need to stop eating bread?

The short answer is no. As a certified health coach, I really do not advocate for any diet that completely eliminates a healthy food group, with obvious exceptions being if you have a food intolerance or allergy or are trying to determine a food intolerance. What I do advocate for is balance and making the right choices.

Whole grains play a very important role in our diet. They are a good source of fiber and nutrients and they support our heart health. So my answer is no, you should not completely cut bread out of your diet.

How do I choose the right bread to eat?

To start, white bread is a no-no right out of the gate. White bread is over processed and essentially devoid of any nutritional benefit. So step number 1 is select a whole grain bread.

Here’s where we get into food labeling laws: just because a bread package says “whole grain” doesn’t make it so and doesn’t make it healthy. I’ve actually seen a package of white bread labeled “whole grain white bread” which isn’t even possible. It’s an oxymoron.

So, when you’re bread shopping, flip that package over to the nutrition facts side and this is what you want to look for: 3-5-3. At least 3 grams of protein, less than 5 grams of sugar, and at least 3 grams of fiber. If you can find even more fiber and protein, even better.

How much bread should I eat?

Not all calories are created equal, but bread can be a very calorie-dense food adding up to just too much. Depending on the bread you choose, you could be adding over 200 calories to a meal just by adding two slices of bread. I recommend incorporating just one slice of bread with a meal to avoid overdoing it. If you want to have a full sandwich, be cognizant of how many calories are adding up with that filling or opt for something like whole grain pita or flatbread.

The majority of what you should be eating every day is plants and lean proteins. Whole grains should be a complement to that.

What bread do you recommend?

I am a big fan of sprouted whole grain breads. The process of sprouting the grains used to make the bread increases the amount of certain nutrients in them. Sprouted grain breads also contain fewer carbohydrates and more protein than non-sprouted bread. Those who are sensitive to gluten may also find that they have an easier time with sprouted grains as they contain less gluten and more soluble fiber than non-sprouted grains.

There are 2 brands of sprouted whole grain bread that I recommend. The first is Ezekiel and I like the 7 Sprouted Grains Variety (found at Market Basket and Whole Foods). It contains 3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and just 1 gram of sugar and one slice contains 80 calories. The texture and density of Ezekiel bread can be a bit tough, especially if you are used to eating a white or lighter bread. If that’s the case, then you might like Mack’s Flax Bread from Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery (found at Whole Foods and slightly cheaper than Ezekiel) . This variety clocks in at 5 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, and 1 gram of sugar and contains 110 calories per slice. The slices of this bread are thicker and fluffier than those of Ezekiel, but are more caloric. Another option that I like though don’t recommend as highly is the Trader Joe’s generic sprouted grain bread. It’s cheaper and also has a lighter texture than Ezekiel bread but it only contains 2 grams of fiber per slice though it has 5 grams of protein.

Holiday Party Health Tips

Holiday parties can end in regret for a number of reasons, overindulgence very often being top amongst them. Overindulgence once in a while isn’t really a problem, but during the holiday season when parties are often at least a weekly occurrence, those extra treats can really add up and derail your weight management goals. So how can you enjoy your holiday parties without overdoing it?

Plan Ahead

Staying on track through the holidays requires advanced planning. Before you head out to a party, or to your office break room for that matter, I recommend making a deal with yourself. What are you going to drink? How many drinks? What snacks are you really looking forward to enjoying? Pick one or two you will allow yourself to have and then switch to healthy options. By doing this, you are starting off with a game plan right out of the gate with clear limits to follow. You also get to start off your night with enjoyment without overdoing it so you will feel even better afterwards.

Accountability

Very often, these plans will require you to be your own accountability partner, but you may be able to recruit your partner or friend to hold you accountable to sticking to your plan. If you know yourself and know you are the type who needs that external accountability (and there is nothing wrong with that!) then make sure that your accountability person is someone you trust, someone you know will hold you accountable, and that it is not a relationship that could suffer as a result of your accountability arrangement.

Know Yourself and Strategize

Do you struggle with self-control? Are you a mindless eater? Are you easily swayed by others? It’s really important that you know yourself – your strengths and your weaknesses.

If you know that you like to pick at foods or are a mindless eater, then choose a place away from the food table to station yourself to socialize. When you get food, portion out what you want onto a plate, even if it’s chips and dip, and walk away. Give yourself some time before returning for the table for more. Very often, if you distract yourself with socializing or playing a game, you will forget about that urge to indulge some more. You might also find that you weren’t actually still hungry  – don’t forget that those treats trigger pleasure receptors in your brain that make you want more even if you’re not actually hungry.

If you find that you eat more or drink more in social situations, try to find people to hang out with who are moderate themselves more or maybe aren’t drinkers. Likewise, if you have that one friend who is really not a good influence, ie. “come on! One piece of cake won’t kill you!”, try to avoid one-on-one time with them. You could also try being very honest and up-front with them: “I really am trying very hard to stay on track tonight and your support would mean a lot to me. I really don’t feel like having another piece of cake.”

Stay Hydrated

Making sure you drink plenty of water throughout the gathering is key. Not only will it help pace your drinking, it will also help you control your eating as water can make you feel more full. Drinking water between drinks or plates or even bites can also help slow you down so you can check in with yourself and see if you really want/need more of whatever treat you’re thinking of.

Bring Something Healthy

If it’s a gathering where people are pitching in by bringing different dishes, why not bring something healthy you will want to eat? You might worry that you’re being selfish or will catch some flack for bringing something healthy or that no one will eat it, but I can guarantee there is at least one other person there trying to keep on track as well who will be grateful that you brought it. Plus, you will be guaranteeing yourself a healthy option that you enjoy to focus on after you’ve had your treats.

 

These are health tips from a certified health coach who has had her own struggles with staying on track in the past (spoiler: it’s me) and, while they are helpful, I have to say that you really must be committed and ready to make this holiday season different for them to truly work. Advice is only as useful insofar as you are committed to following it, so that commitment and readiness are critical for the success of any health goals.

So, are you ready to make this holiday season different with balance and commitment and start your New Year off in health and wellness? Comment below with your goals!

How to Handle the Leftovers

Let’s be honest, our big holiday dinners aren’t a one-time event – we end up with refrigerators full of leftovers for days. Either way, despite your best efforts, during the holiday season you may very often find your home full of temptations and those can be the undoing of many health goals. For most of us, if it’s there, then we are going to eat it. So how should you handle having those leftovers, whether they’re appetizers, from the meal, or candy?

Food waste has long been an issue that bothers me to the core so, for a long time, I was the type of person who would keep it in the house and eat it, even if it wasn’t good for me. Then, at the beginning of my weight management journey, at a meeting of a weight loss program that I will not mention here, I was given one gift. In that meeting the group leader was talking about throwing away junk food and many of us were visibly not cool with that idea. Then she said something to the effect of the following: food contains nutrients that nourish, heal, and support your body and your health. Junk food does not contain anything that does any good for your body. Therefore, we need to stop thinking of junk food as food and get comfortable with putting it in the garbage.

Am I saying to throw all of your leftovers out? No. What it really comes down to is balance.

We, as human beings, eat for two reasons: 1. to survive, and 2. for enjoyment. If you’re not eating any foods you enjoy, if you’re not treating yourself, then you’re only getting half the experience and, on top of that, you’re going to feel deprived and unhappy….and maybe a little cranky.

So here is my advice for those leftovers after you have mindfully enjoyed your holiday dinner, party, etc.:

Set Deadlines

Just like you need to set boundaries with people who maybe aren’t so good for you to be around, you need to set boundaries with foods that aren’t so good for you, too. Having those unhealthy foods in your fridge or pantry for a week is too long – that could be 7 days straight of indulging and, the longer you’re off the bandwagon, the harder it is to jump back on.

I recommend setting a deadline of 3 days. After those 3 days are up, sort through what you have and part ways with those problems foods – like gravy, candied yams, green bean casserole, pies, white bread rolls, cranberry sauce (sorry – it’s basically just sugar), etc. Keep the good things – the veggies, the turkey (not the skin), whole grains, you get it.

Moderation and Mindfulness

Just because you have the foods from the big holiday meal, doesn’t mean you have to replicate that big holiday meal every time you have some leftovers. Before you toss those unhealthy options out, you should absolutely enjoy some – but do so with moderation and mindfulness. What does that mean?

Start with smaller portions. Using a smaller plate is helpful for this. I also recommend dishing out your small portion and then putting everything back in the fridge even before you warm up what’s on your plate – this will help curb that temptation to pile more on your plate or go back for seconds.

Finally, eat that delicious, indulgent food slowly, chew it completely, really enjoy it. Eating slowly and mindfully allows you to get more enjoyment out of your food and you will feel more satisfied by it. Don’t forget that digestion begins in your mouth with the process of chewing and salivation and your stomach doesn’t register the food you put in it right away – eating slowly will help you absorb more nutrients from your food and help prevent overeating.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

If you have some less perishable leftovers – maybe some candy that never got opened or alcohol that wasn’t drunk – and you want to use them at your next get together, remember the old refrain “out of sight, out of mind.”

It seems simple and almost silly, but it’s been proven that if you aren’t able to see those temptation foods, you will forget about them and they won’t tempt you. With this in mind, put those treats in the back of the cupboard with lots of healthful foods in front of them, or put them on a bottom shelf with healthful foods at eye level. You could also put them in an opaque container so you can’t see them. It’s been shown that having healthful foods fully visible and unhealthful foods not visible or out of reach prevents people from opting for the unhealthy foods and getting off track.

A quick note on food donation: I deliberately didn’t suggest donating leftovers in this post for several reasons. One is that many pantries and soup kitchens will not accept homemade or opened donations for sanitary reasons. Additionally, most leftovers are perishable which makes it difficult for pantries and kitchens to take them as they will spoil too quickly. That said, if you have unopened items, then by all means, donate away.

Following these three pieces of advice will help you enjoy the holiday fun without getting completely off track. Wishing you good health this holiday season!

Recovering from Holiday Eating

The holidays are a time for family, togetherness, gratitude, and very often, overindulgence. There is no way to “undo” your holiday overindulgence, but you can bounce back on track so one big party or meal doesn’t slippery slope into another and other. Here are my rules for overindulgence recovery:

1.Don’t try to compensate by skipping meals the next day

Many people think that they can balance out what they consumed the day before by simply eating less, or none at all, the next day. This simply isn’t how our bodies work and taking this approach will do far more harm than good. In addition to making you cranky, deliberately skipping out on meals will leave you ravenous and often leads to binging and poor food choices. Instead of trying to balance out your calorie load, focus on eating healthful foods and grazing on them throughout the day instead of eating a few larger meals. You will feel better, both because you aren’t starving and because you are nourishing your body, and you will be setting yourself up for getting back on track and staying there.

2. You can’t run your way out of that second helping of pie

You might often hear people say that they are going to hit the gym extra hard the day after their jumbo holiday meal. Again, this is not the right approach. First of all, it’s not feasible to truly burn off all of those calories and then some. Second of all, this is a really good way to overdo it or even hurt yourself, thereby taking you off track for a longer period of time. Instead of trying to burn off everything you ate over the course of an entire day in a 2-hour gym session, just do your regular workout. If you want to kick it up a little bit for a little extra sweat and burn, that’s fine, but running yourself to the ground is not the answer.

3. Drink lots of water

Let’s be honest, many of us overindulge in more than just food over the holidays. Over consuming alcohol plus eating so many salty treats at parties and the dinner table can leave you dehydrated and feeling terrible. Drinking plenty of water during the party or holiday dinner will do two good things for you: 1. it will help keep you hydrated, and 2. it will help prevent you from overeating as much because drinking water slows you down and makes you feel full. Drinking plenty of water the next day continues that rehydration process to get you back to feeling good again.

4. Be gentle with yourself

This is a big refrain you hear from me all the time. Be gentle with yourself. It is way too easy to beat yourself up for going off your diet or eating until you felt sick but berating yourself for it does you absolutely no good. In fact, it could foster a mind set of “well, I’ve already completely ruined my diet and I have no self-control so why should I even bother trying?” Instead, appreciate how delicious the food was and congratulate yourself for realizing that you don’t want to continue on that course. Then you can get back on track.

Those are my tips for recovering from any holiday overindulgences you may be feeling the effects of this weekend. There are more holidays ahead of us, so I will just leave you with this: remember that there is nothing wrong with indulging occasionally – the key is that you do so mindfully so that you are truly enjoying it and you don’t overindulge.