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10 Tips for Keeping Yourself Motivated to Work Out

We all lead very busy lives and it can be all too easy to find a reason to skip the gym for the day. I think we have all been in the place, though, where one excuse becomes many and before you know it, you haven’t exercised in weeks and have 0 motivation to get back into it. Taking that first step to get to the gym or hit the road for a run can be the hardest part, but if you can get that momentum started and keep it going, it gets loads easier from there. So how can you get yourself started and keep yourself motivated? Here are some tips that have worked for me and for my clients.

1. Find a workout you enjoy.

When it comes to fitness and weight loss, everyone has an opinion or story to tell. “Oh well, I ran 5 mi a day 5 days a week and I lost 30 lbs without changing how I ate!” “My cousin started doing Zumba twice a week and she has had amazing results.” It’s wonderful to try to share your success tips with others, but, here’s the thing, every body is different so what works for one person may not work for another. This isn’t just a physiological fact – it’s a psychological fact as well. If you hate running, then you are not going to get the same results as your friend who loves running and does it religiously. Why? Because you’re going to be miserable doing it, you’re unlikely to push yourself as much through it, and, chances are, you’re going to find any excuse not to do it because you hate it. If you find a workout that you have fun doing, then you are far more likely to stick to it and you’ll see better results.

2. Like your fitness clothes.

Fact: if you are uncomfortable with your body, you are not going to want to work out. Period. However, if you can invest in fitness clothing that you are comfortable in – that cover the spots you want covered, that fit the way you like, that breathe and allow flexibility – then you will be much more comfortable working out. Plus, I don’t know about you, but, if I have a fun new workout outfit I just bought, I’m way more excited to workout in it.

3. Track your progress and praise yourself.

It can be really easy to get discouraged and want to give up for a number of reasons. My advice, then, is find something about your workout that you can be proud of or makes you feel good and focus on that. For example, maybe you didn’t run as far as you wanted to or you struggled through your workout the whole time. Instead of focusing on the things you wish were different, high five yourself for getting out there when you weren’t even feeling it in the first place or for sticking it out even though you were struggling. Hold onto that self-praise and set a new goal for you to meet the next time.

4. Reward yourself.

Now, I don’t mean go out for a burger or ice cream here – not only will that defeat the purpose of your workout, it will also start you on a very unhealthy cycle. What I mean here is set a goal for yourself that you will continuously be working towards – maybe it’s running 5 miles or dropping a pant size – and pick something that you will reward yourself with once you reach that goal. It can be a pair of shoes you’ve been wanting or a new Fit Bit or a massage. Having something that you are working towards will help keep you motivated. The trick here, though, is that you can’t give in to the temptation to say “good enough” and treat yourself before you reach your goal.

5. Once you get that momentum going, don’t stop.

I think we can all agree that once you take a couple days off from working out, it is really hard to get back into it. To make sure that doesn’t happen, try to stay active regularly to keep that momentum going. You don’t have to keep at your regular workout routine every day, but commit to taking a 30-minute walk or doing some yoga while you watch TV. The goal is just to have something that keeps you moving so you don’t lose that momentum.

6. Find a workout buddy.

Accountability makes a huge difference when it comes to motivation. Find a reliable workout buddy and set a regular schedule to work out together. Make sure they are reliable though! I often see people declare themselves gym buddies and they just make excuses for each other to skip the workout.

7. Don’t make it a project.

If you have to drive 30 minutes to your gym or rush to and from commitments to get your workout in, you aren’t going to do it. Maybe you’ll do it a couple times, but it will fall off. Your workout doesn’t have to be a huge to-do. Take a run around your neighborhood or do a fitness video in your living room. Working out doesn’t have to include a gym membership and a commute.

8. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Comparison isn’t just the thief of joy; it can also be the thief of motivation. Constantly comparing yourself to others can make you feel self-conscious and defeated. Too much of those comparisons and negative self-talk can quickly slide into thoughts of “I will never be like that so why should I bother trying?”. Who are you exercising for? Yourself or them? I hope the answer is for yourself so you can live longer and healthier. If that’s the case, then who cares about anyone else at the gym or on Instagram? You’re in this for you, so focus on you. Confession: I get really self-conscious when I’m out running. My solution is to wear my sunglasses and listen to good music so I can drown out the rest of the world (but still hear traffic. safety first, after all) and focus on myself.

9. Find some music you like.

Music is an amazing motivator. It shifts your energy and affects your mood. Put on some music that makes you feel happy and energized and get out there!

10. Change it up.

If you do the same workout or run the same route every day, not only will you stop getting the same benefits from it, you’ll get really bored with it, too. Keep yourself interested in your workouts by switching it up and trying something new every once in a while, whether it’s running somewhere new or trying out a new fitness class like Zumba or kickboxing.

Your health is simply too important to let excuses get in your way. Follow these tips and get yourself moving so you can feel your best and live your best life!

Boost Your Immune System Naturally

I’m sure you’ve all heard the refrain “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Well, there is good reason why that saying exists! The foods we eat can help boost our immune systems to we get sick less frequently and, when we do get sick, it is less severe and we recover faster. There are also other healthful habits we can adopt that can maximize our immune systems to get through the Fall and Winter. So, now that Fall is here, the kids are back to school, and flu season is fast approaching, how can you support your immune system without relying on all kinds of medications?

Phytonutrients

Fresh produce is loaded with immune system-supporting compounds call phytonutrients (“phyto” means “plant”). These nutrients give plants their vibrant colors and distinct flavors. Phytonutrients include antioxidants which have been linked to a decrease in cancer risk by binding to the damaging free radicals in your body. They also include anti-inflammatory compounds as well. Inflammation continues to be linked to more and more illnesses and chronic diseases. Thus, phytonutrients protect your health on a number of different levels. To experience the benefits of phytonutrients, eat foods like berries, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and eggplant. An easy way to think of this is eating the rainbow – the more different colors you can eat, the more phytonutrients you’re eating as well!

Add Some Flavor with Honey and Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a powerhouse of a spice. It has both anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. It has also been shown to be antimicrobial and antibacterial as well. Once the cooler weather gets here, I start sprinkling cinnamon on top of my coffee grounds every morning – it’s delicious and I can enjoy the immune system boost from it as well. We are fortunate in that most traditional Fall recipes contain cinnamon, so eating seasonally will help get more cinnamon into your diet as well.

Similar to cinnamon, honey has proven antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Adding some honey to your tea, to plain yogurt, or to smoothies is a great way to consume more of this immunity boosting sweet.

Move!

Our blood vessels are lined with special cells called the endothelium. The endothelium is like your body’s own pharmacy in that it releases a number of different medicinal compounds into your bloodstream as is needed. When you exercise, it increases the blood flow through your blood vessels and over the endothelium, thereby prompting it to release more of those medicines. This is why sometimes when you feel a cold coming on, you feel better after going for a brisk walk. Additionally, regular exercise can help produce new blood vessels further improving your circulation and your health.

Rest Up

In the simplest sense, our bodies need just 4 things: nutrition, movement, water, and rest. The last of those is the one that we seem to value least in American society today. Sometimes it seems like there are competitions at work to see who is the most exhausted or the busiest. But sleep deprivation actually depresses your immune system, so the more exhausted you are, the more likely you are at to get sick. Sleep is the best opportunity your body gets each day to repair itself and flush out the toxins you take in during the day. It’s not just about the quantity of sleep you get, however, it’s about the quality, too. To make sure you are getting sufficient and quality sleep, avoid simple carbohydrates and big meals in the evening. Having a glass of wine before bed might help you fall asleep, but it will disrupt your sleep later in the night, so skip out on the alcohol as well. It’s also important that you sleep in a dark room and keep all devices out of the bedroom – just looking at your cell phone screen in the middle of the night will disrupt production of your sleep hormones.

Some other quick tips:

  • Practice good habits like washing your hands regularly (avoid using hand sanitizer – it’s loaded with chemicals and contributes to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacterias).
  • Avoid eating processed foods as they contain many ingredients that contribute to inflammation in your body and don’t contribute anything in the way of nutrition.
  • Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum.
  • Keep well-hydrated – this means 1/2 oz of water per pound of your body weight per day (for adults).
  • Not necessarily “natural” in the strictest sense, but get your flu shot if you are part of the flu vaccine priority population.

 

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

One of the questions that I get a lot is what kinds of things can you substitute for dessert that still taste good and satisfy that sweet craving. Without fail, this recipe is my top suggestion. It combines the healthy fats of an avocado with the antioxidants of cocoa and it tastes just like a chocolate pudding cup without the added chemicals and preservatives and with less sugar. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Really? Avocado? That can’t be good. Just trust me on this one. You will be pleasantly surprised.

One thing to remember with this recipe is that, just like an avocado that is left cut for a while and starts to tastes weird, that will happen with this, too. The brown avocado flavor will start to come through if you allow this to sit for too long. Fortunately, this recipe is so quick and easy to make that it won’t be a problem to just whip it up whenever you’re ready. And you definitely won’t have any leftovers!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large, ripe avocado (not overripe)
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar (optional, but recommended)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy.
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The final product looks just like regular chocolate pudding and it tastes like it, too!

I think this mousse tastes better cold, personally, so I suggest popping it in the fridge or the freezer for a little bit to chill it.

Try topping it with homemade whipped cream, chopped nuts, or shredded coconut before serving. This also makes a great lunchbox snack – just scoop some into a small tupperware and you have a DIY Jell-O pudding cup.

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Should You Try the Ketogenic Diet?

The ketogenic diet has become the rage for rapid weight loss recently, but is it worth giving it a try? As I do with any fad diet, especially ones that involve eliminating entire food groups, I examined this one with a healthy amount of skepticism.

First, what is the ketogenic diet? You may recall the Atkins diet craze that preceded the South Beach Diet back in the late 90s/early 2000s – this is like a more extreme Atkins. Essentially, you slash the amount of carbs you are consuming down to just 2-4% of the calories you consume per day and focus on eating large amounts of fat. Your body primarily relies of carbohydrates to burn for energy. By cutting the amount of carbs you are consuming down to such a small amount, you force your body to begin to burn fat for energy – thus the weight loss results. Burning fat for energy – sounds great, right?

Well, not so fast.

First, it is very important to note that this is an incredibly unsustainable diet. As anyone who has tried Atkins or South Beach will tell you, you can cut out carbs…for a while. But long-term it’s just not doable. For most people, this is invitation to deprive and then overeat carbs when it finally gets to be too much. Such a diet is great for setting up a pattern of yo-yo dieting, which has been linked to heart disease and diabetes, as well as more weight gain over time. Furthermore, if you don’t follow this diet completely, you won’t see the results, which makes it even less sustainable. Basically, you will lose significant weight quickly on a ketogenic diet, but you will regain it quickly as well – this is not a diet for long-term weight loss.

If you are able to adhere to this diet in the long-term, the weight loss effects are likely to fade over time. Additionally, many experts say that this diet will result in muscle loss, which will slow down your metabolism, hindering further weight loss. You will also likely see a significant drop in your energy levels. This diet is not recommended for people with heart disease for the above reasons (remember, your heart is a muscular organ).

There are also a number of nutritive issues with this diet. For one, you really need to make sure you are supplementing very well because you will not be consuming anywhere near the nutrition your body needs on this diet. For another, this diet is very low in fiber, so you may encounter some serious digestive issues.

As a certified health coach, I do not espouse any diet plans that are unsustainable or involve cutting out an entire food group. This diet is not an exception. However, I am even more opposed to this diet because of the dangers it can pose to patient health. The keys to lasting weight loss are and will always be: a sustainable, balanced diet of fresh produce, healthy fats, and right carbs, regular exercise, and supportive healthful habits such as stress management.

Quinoa, Apple, & Chicken Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

Fall is officially upon us and today’s weather was like jumping right into the deep end of it with the rain and the cold and the wind. So I decided to prep one of my favorite nutritious comfort foods for dinner tonight. This recipe combines a bunch of fall produce and flavors and leaves you feeling satisfied but not guilty.  It also features my favorite seasoning blend: Bell’s Turkey Seasoning. I will put this into almost any recipe and I am of the humble opinion that you can never have too much of it. It’s a New England classic!

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I created this recipe a couple years ago while just messing around in the kitchen with the random things we had in there. It ended up becoming a favorite and my partner requests it regularly in the fall and winter.

A couple notes before I get started on the recipe:

  1. You should alway sharpen your knives before you use them, like every time. If you don’t, I strongly encourage you do it this time because it can be a challenge to cut through the acorn squash.
  2.  You’ll see salt listed in the ingredients list below but not an amount. This is because I salt regularly while I cook to build different layers and complexity in the food, so I don’t actually know how much is in it. I find this particularly important when you’re cooking the quinoa as that can be a tough item to flavor. Just a dash of salt every cooking stage or two and you’ll be really happy with the flavors you evoke. That said, always taste regularly as you cook as well!

Ingredients:

  • 1 acorn squash, halved the long way
  • 1 medium orange or yellow bell pepper, dicedIMG_20170922_190700
  • 1 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1 medium gala apple, diced (about 1 1/4 cup)
  • 1 cup diced portobello mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (3/4 cup dry)
  • 3-4 chicken sausages cut out of the casing
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 1/4 tsp Bell’s turkey seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • cinnamon
  • coconut oil
  • sea salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the halved squash face-up on a foil-lined baking sheet. Spread a very light layer of coconut oil of the cut surfaces and sprinkle with cinnamon. Place in the oven and bake until tender.
  2. While the squash is baking, prepare the quinoa according to the package and set aside.
  3. While the quinoa and squash are cooking, prepare the other ingredients. Warm extra virgin olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the pepper, onion, celery, and mushrooms and sauté until they begin to get tender. Add the chicken sausage until the outside begins to turn gray. Add the apple. Continue to cook until the apple softens and releases its juice but not to the point that it becomes mushy.
  4. Without draining the sauté pan, add the quinoa to the veggies and sausage mixture and mix well to combine. Add the Bell’s Turkey Seasoning and garlic powder and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix to distribute throughout.
  5. Once the squash is tender, remove it from the oven. Fill the middle space with quinoa mixture until heaping. You won’t be able to use all of it in the squash.
  6. Place the squash back in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or so to combine the flavors.
  7. Cut the squash pieces in half and serve with additional filling.

Makes 4-6 servings.

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Product Review: RX Bars

If you have any health-oriented friends on Facebook, I’m sure they’ve been filling your feed with photos of them proudly holding an RX Bar and proclaiming how thrilled they are at its simple, natural ingredients. Many people rave about these and many people absolutely hate them. Most notably, the Food Babe has decried their ingredients list and marketing as misleading and toxic. As a general rule, I don’t listen to anything Food Babe says since she has no nutritional education whatsoever and her concerns are rarely if ever based on actual science. See this article here for more on that.

Given all the love it or hate it out there on these bars, I wanted to give you my take on them as a certified health coach and human who likes food.

Ingredients/Nutrition

I am all for simple, short ingredients lists and these bars deliver on that. However, short simple ingredients does not a healthful food make. While these bars do not contain added sugars, they still contain dates as a sweetener and a binding agent. In fact, these are listed as the first ingredient. Looking at the different flavors, the amount of sugar in them ranges from 13 grams to a whopping 17 grams! These are not a low-sugar snack and their stickiness really underscores that. That being said, they are a great source of fiber and protein which help slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. However, I wouldn’t make this a staple of your daily diet.

Some critics (cough cough Food Babe cough cough) will say that these bars are poison because their ingredients are not organic and may be genetically modified…….. if you know me you know that my eyebrow went way up at this. Yes, organic is always preferable  but it is unreasonable in today’s world to expect everything to contain small-scale, completely unprocessed, entirely organic ingredients, especially if you are eating a food that comes with a wrapper. I would much rather have you eat a snack bar made with whole food ingredients (like these) than chips or cookies made with trans fats and preservatives.

Texture/Flavor

As I alluded to above, these bars are STICKY. Like hillbilly Halloween costume smile after a few bites sticky. They’re similar in texture to a Larabar….but stickier. Given their stickiness and sugar content, these could be a good money maker for your dentist if you eat them frequently.

As for flavor, the only one I truly like is the Coconut Chocolate flavor. It tastes like coconut and chocolate, what’s not to like? The other flavors are not so good. I’ve heard this same exact thing from a number of people as well. The date flavor tends to come through and doesn’t always play well with the other flavors. It’s all about personal preference though.

Satiety

RX bars contain just over 200 calories per bar so they’re not at a meal replacement level. However, given their high protein and fiber amounts, they will fill you up and keep you feeling satisfied for a while. To me, those are two great things to look for in a snack, not too many calories and long-term satiety.

Conclusion

There are definitely some texture and flavor issues with RX Bars, but if you don’t mind those, they’re not a bad option for a snack. While I wouldn’t recommend eating them every day or regularly, they are a solid occasional snack and are definitely a better option than reaching for some cookies or chips. They contain far more nutrition than most prepackaged snack foods and are missing the troublesome ingredients that prepackaged snacks often have, such a artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, trans fats, and added sugars. Having some fruit or veggies or nuts is definitely a healthier snack option, but these will do on the go or in a pinch. The key here, as with most things, is balance and moderation.

 

Butternut Noodles and Mushrooms

I don’t know how it happened, but fall is already right around the corner. I am actually sitting here with a blanket on my legs since the mornings are already getting cool here in MA, so I decided to post one of my favorite warming and satisfying fall recipes.

The mushrooms used in this recipe have a very meaty texture to them so it’s very satisfying without the meat. Depending on your model of spiralizer, making veggie noodles can be pretty labor intensive, so I recommend buying the packages of pre-cut squash to spare yourself the extra effort of cutting, spooning, and peeling a whole squash before spiralizing it.

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash, spiralized
  • 1 cup oyster mushrooms, chopped (not too small – you want pieces big enough that allow you to still get the texture)
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (you may need a little more or less depending on how much noodles you end up with)
  • 2 tbsp fresh, finely chopped sage
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large frying pan over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil until it begins to glisten (not smoke). Once it’s reached that temperature, add the oyster mushrooms and sage and sauté until the mushrooms are tender. As you are cooking it, the sage is infusing the olive oil with its flavor.
  2. Once the mushrooms are tender, add the butternut noodles to the pan and toss so that they are all coated with the oil and the mushrooms are distributed throughout. Cook 1-2 minutes to soften the noodles.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

If you want some even bigger fall flavor or are really into the taste of sage, like I am, you can also finish this dish by sprinkling it with a little Bell’s Turkey seasoning before serving it.

What’s the Deal with Fish Oil?

One supplement that has been all the buzz for a little while now is fish oil – and for good reason, too. In fact, this is a supplement that I, as a certified health coach, recommend to most of my clients. I also take it daily and have gotten my family on the bandwagon, too. Fish oil, also known as Omega-3 fatty acids, is an interesting and multi-talented fat but most people don’t know all of its benefits. So, here is everything you need to know about fish oil.

What is Fish Oil?

Fish oil is the common name for Omega-3 fatty acid supplements because fish are the richest source of these essential oils (here, I mean literally essential, not “essence of”). Fish oil contains two forms of Omega-3s that our bodies can use, EPA and DHA. You don’t need to take a supplement to get your Omega-3s, though. Cold water fish, such as tuna and salmon, contain the greatest amounts of Omega-3s. However, unless you are eating fish regularly (and most of us are not), I strongly recommend you supplement to make sure you are consuming enough to reap the benefits.

Non-Fish Sources of Omega-3s

Flaxseeds, greens, and various other seeds also contain Omega-3s; however, they are in the form of ALA which the human body cannot use. Because of this, when we consume a plant source of Omega-3s, our bodies must convert the ALA into EPA and DHA, forms it can use. Unfortunately, once the ALA has been converted, our absorption of the Omega-3s from plants is less than 5% so you must consume much, much more plant sources than fish sources of Omega-3s to derive the same benefits and your body has to work harder for them. Therefore, unless you have an allergy or food sensitivity that prevents you from doing so, I strongly recommend opting for a fish source over plant sources of Omega-3s.

Benefits of Omega-3s

The more we learn about Omega-3 fatty acids, the more amazing things we learn they do for us. Studies have shown that Omega-3s may help lower your blood pressure, mitigate the effects of stress on your heart, act as anti-inflammatories and anti-coagulants, lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and steady your heart rate. They may also diminish depression and may help protect against Alzheimer’s, dementia, and memory loss. For pregnant women, DHA (a form of Omega-3) has been found to be important for neurological and vision development in babies. Pretty amazing stuff, right?

What to Look for in a Fish Oil Supplement

When selecting a fish oil supplement, you want to make sure that you are purchasing one that is made with clean, quality ingredients. You may have heard people complain about the flavor of their fish oil supplements repeating on them throughout the day – this is common with low-quality fish oils. As with all supplements, it’s important that you do your research here. You want your fish oil to be sourced from wild-caught fish, not farmed fish. Often, you will find quality fish oils made from sardines. You also want to read the label to verify what the capsule’s coating is made out of. Gelatin is commonly what the coating is made out of; however, some poor quality capsules may actually use PVC or BPA materials (enteric coating) which have been linked to cancer and other health problems. Finally, you want to read the label to make sure that the supplement contains EPA and DHA – the forms of Omega-3s that can be readily absorbed and used by our bodies. Here is a link to the fish oil supplement that I have selected for myself and my family.