Why #noexcuses is not healthy

Knowing that I’m opening myself up to criticism here, I’m going to share something with you. Back in August, I completely stopped working out and didn’t start back up again for about 3 months. At first, it just kind of happened, – I would skip a fitness class here or there. But then I made a conscious decision and said “I have too much going on right now. I’m going to stop working out for a bit.” At the time, to say that I had a lot going on would have been a massive understatement. I was barely keeping my head above water and I knew that what little time I had I needed for rest… at least for the time being. Long story short, I only started putting together a regular workout schedule again nearly 3 months later.

I’m not perfect (far from it) and I share many of the same struggles my clients work through. That gives me a very important perspective: I get it.

I hid this fact about me and I felt embarrassed about it and even ashamed of it. Who would want to work with a health coach who wasn’t even forcing herself to work out? The more I thought about it, though, I realized I would want to work with that coach because they’re a real person, too. I’m not perfect (far from it) and I share many of the same struggles my clients work through. That gives me a very important perspective: I get it. So I’m OK with my decision and with my struggle to get back into it.

One thing I noticed while I was making that decision not to work out is that I was literally being bombarded by an Instagram feed full of gym pics and #noexcuses. And if I logged into Pinterest, it would have been the same thing. I realized that I really freakin hate that hashtag and I’ll tell you why.

To say #noexcuses implies that there is never a reason not to workout. It then follows that, if there is never a reason not to work out and you come up with one, then you are somehow failing or being lazy. How is that healthy? Spoiler: it’s not.

#noexcuses is part of that fitness extremism known as fitspo or fitspiration – pictures of thigh gaps, gym selfies, and fad diet miracle before-and-afters. In general, this trend creates a constant striving for largely unattainable physical perfection characterized by extreme behaviors and unhealthy habits. The focus is entirely on looks. It engenders self-hatred and depression because it pushes constant comparison to others. What makes #noexcuses even more destructive as part of this paradigm is that it is based on blame and inferiority. To say #noexcuses implies that there is never a reason not to workout. It then follows that, if there is never a reason not to work out and you come up with one, then you are somehow failing or being lazy. #noexcuses also implies that whatever reason you have to skip your workout is unimportant, insignificant, so just get over it. How is that healthy? Spoiler: it’s not. #noexcuses is the stuff unhealthy body image and disordered eating and exercise habits are made out of.

Life is not all black and white. Fitness doesn’t have to be either/or. It’s not that either you work out every day or you’re lazy. That’s just not how it works, regardless of what the #noexcuses crowd would have you believe.

Your body needs rest just as much as it needs movement. Obviously, there is a difference between a reason and an excuse. That I’m mentally and physically exhausted and I don’t have the time are reasons. That I can’t find a hair elastic is an excuse. But on the days when you need a rest, take a rest and don’t feel guilty about it. When you don’t have time, don’t make yourself crazy trying to find time. Sometimes, it’s just that simple – there is no time.

Here is the truth. No one is perfect and even those #noexcuses people skip their workouts. They also drink beer and eat pizza. But they don’t tell you that because they need you to believe that they are perfect. Maybe some of them are good-intentioned and hope that their perfect image will somehow motivate someone. And I’m sure there are some folks out there who do find it motivating. But, in reality, it’s likely that it’s making more people feel like garbage.

There are excuses, there are reasons, there are needs. What is more important than hitting the gym without exception is listening to your body and what it needs. What’s important is that when you get out of your workout habit, you find a way to get back into it. That right there is often the hardest part. And that’s OK and that’s normal. You are not defective if you struggle to get back to the gym. You and your body are capable of amazing things. Listen to your body. Take what you need. Do what you need. And don’t let the Internet dictate your worth.

Have a Healthy Freshman Year

The first year in college is a very exciting time, but it is also an enormous adjustment for many college students. The lack of parental/caregiver oversight, freedom to set your own schedules, competition, stress, and having the ability to choose when and what you eat can often mean that health takes a backseat to other priorities, particularly during that first year of college. I can tell you based on my own personal experience that the dreaded “Freshman 15” is just the tip of the iceberg since eating habits are strongly linked to other factors, such as stress. So here are my tips for keeping healthy when you head out to college.

Eating Healthy

1. Keep healthy snacks in your dorm room

In college, I lived next door to the Mediterranean-themed dining hall, which, for me, meant bringing back tupperware containers full of baklava to snack on when I was studying later on at night during my first semester. That went as well for my waistline as you would think it did. When we are stressed out or up late, we are particularly susceptible to binging on unhealthy foods. Those foods actually increase the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies. So it is super important to make sure that these foods are an occasional treat and not a study-time staple. Keeping healthy snacks handy in your dorm room and back pack will help make sure you avoid this too-common pitfall.

2. Plan ahead

At most schools these days, you can check what the dining hall is serving online before you walk over for dinner. This is awesome because it allows you to plan your meals ahead of time and strategize around those temptations.

3. Hit the salad bar

A healthy plate should be at least 1/2 vegetables and hitting the salad bar can make sure you hit this benchmark. Starting your meal with a salad is also a great way to make sure that you don’t overeat more caloric or unhealthier foods later on in your meal. It has also been shown to buffer against the blood sugar spike we experience from simple carbohydrates and could mitigate some of the effects of fatty meats on our circulatory system as well.

4. Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is critical for your health in so many ways. Drinking enough water keeps your skin healthy, keeps your joints working properly, helps cleanse out your body, promotes cardiovascular health, helps you absorb nutrients from food, and can keep you from overeating.

5. Be present at meal time

It is so easy to eat a whole meal and hardly even notice it when you’re super distracted my homework, friends, etc. You will enjoy your meals more and feel more satisfied as well as diminish your likelihood of overeating if you pay attention to your eating.

6. Don’t wait until you’re starving to eat

When you’re really cramming or trying to meet a deadline, it can be easy to skip eating until you can’t ignore those hunger pangs any more, but you’re not doing yourself any favors this way. You will work better and more efficiently if you eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re starving. When you wait that long, you often end up opting for something unhealthy or inhaling way too much food. You’re better off having a snack or taking a meal break – chances are you weren’t getting as much done as you could anyway because you were being distracted by hunger and your brain was starving for the nutrients it needs to function properly.

Healthy Movement

1. Find a fitness routine that you actually like

It’s no secret that if you hate something, you won’t do it. Once you have your schedule down, finding some type of physical activity that you like – whether it’s playing a sport or going to the gym or taking a fitness class – is key to keeping physically active, especially when student life is often so sedentary. It’s also important to know yourself and what it takes for you to make something habit. Are you easily self-motivated so setting your own schedule works for you? Do you need external accountability so registering for a class or being part of a team is a must for you to stick to something? Asking yourself these kinds of questions will help you find what works for you.

2. Find a fitness buddy

Having a fitness buddy is a great way to keep yourself motivated and active. It’s also a great way to build a good new friendship.

Feel Healthy

1. Get enough sleep

College students are incredibly sleep-deprived. This can negatively impact academic performance, can increase stress levels, has been linked to higher body weight, can increase inflammation, and can contribute to depression. Practicing good sleep hygiene and getting a good night’s sleep (8 hours) is critical to overall health. Make sure that you have enough time to sleep for 8 hours. Keep electronics and their blue light out of your bedroom. Use sleep masks and ear plugs if you need to – even a little light can disrupt our sleep.

2. Find your stress relief tricks and make time for them

College is stressful. Period. And stress can have some very negative effects on our health, including weight gain, decreased immune system function, sleeplessness, and hypertension. It is so, so important to have healthy ways to manage your stress at your disposal, especially when it can be very easy to turn to unhealthy ways of coping. When I was in college, exercise and coloring were my go-tos when the stress got to be too much. I also had a great group of friends to turn to when I needed them. Try to have a variety of stress relief techniques you can use depending on what your situation is.

3. Use the school’s resources

From one-on-one therapy sessions to support groups to student mentors, there are a number of resources available to college students these days to support your mental and emotional health. If you are struggling – no matter what with – these resources are there for you to use and I guarantee you are not the only one to use them.

 

 

Deskercise!

This week, I’m happy to bring you a guest post from Concept Seating. We are a very sedentary society and that lifestyle takes its toll on our bodies and our health. Health risks of sitting too much include neck and spinal issues, muscle tightness, obesity, and metabolic syndrome, which includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol levels, and excess body fat around the waist. These translate into conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Many of us think that our half hour on the treadmill in the morning means that sitting at work for the rest of the day doesn’t matter, but that simply isn’t enough.

For many of us, the modern work environment leaves us little option than to sit most of the day, so it’s important to try to counteract those effects as much as possible throughout the day. How? Well, getting up and taking regular walking breaks is one way – try setting a reminder to get up and walk around your floor or the building every half hour or hour (some fitness trackers do this for you by buzzing every so often). As an added bonus, taking these breaks can improve your focus and thinking when you get back to your desk. Stretching is also critical to counteracting the muscle contractions that happens from hunching in front of a computer screen for hours on end.  The following exercises from Concept Seating give you a great combination of stretching and strengthening that you can do at your desk at any time of the day.  They help improve your posture, loosen up those shrunken muscles from hunching, and get you moving. Give them a try and let us know what you think!

Deskercise

Infographic courtesy of Concept Seating

 

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!

Are Condiments Freebies?

We pay so much attention to the big things that we’re eating that very often we don’t even think about what we are putting on that food. Condiments are a really wonderful thing. They can add a new dimension to a food, complete the flavor profile, or cover up an otherwise unpalatable dish…like that time I forgot I was cooking chicken. Just like they add so much to our food, these sauces and dips can add to our waistlines as well. So what should you look out for when it comes to condiments?

Sugar

Many of our favorite sauces and toppings in the Standard American Diet contain a lot of sugar. Well, let me rephrase that – it might not seem like a lot in one serving as listed on the label, but, let’s face it, no one is sticking to that small serving size (new regulations yet to be enacted by the FDA will require serving sizes to be based on what people actually eat). Major sugar offenders include ketchup, barbecue sauce, and reduced and low fat salad dressings. Salad dressings in particular are sneaky because most taste savory; remember, when they take the fat out, they take out some flavor and texture that they have to make up for and they do that most frequently with sugar. Other more obvious offenders include sweet and sour sauce, duck sauce, and honey mustard sauce.

Sodium

Sodium is another concerning factor in many of our favorite condiments. Soy sauce is a fairly obvious one with it’s very salty taste. Ketchup is another big offender in this category. In general, Americans greatly overconsume sodium. It’s added into almost everything and then we top it with more. One tbsp of ketchup has 6% of your Daily Value of sodium in it. That may not seem like much, but, chances are, you’re eating more than one tbsp and that will be on top of salted french fries or a burger with salty cheese or salt mixed into the meat and before you know it you’ve reached your Daily Value quota in one meal.

Trans Fats

Trans fats are the unhealthiest fats in our diet and they have horrible effects on our health. Trans fats do not occur naturally – they are manmade and our bodies do not process them like other fats. Because of this, they contribute to decreased cognitive function, increased LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels, decreased HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels, increased abdominal fat, and an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Type II diabetes.  Salad dressings are the major culprits for containing these harmful additives.

Under current FDA regulations, if a food contains less than 1/2 a gram of trans fat per serving, food manufacturers can put a label on it that says “0 G Trans Fat” so you can’t make an assessment based on that. In order to ensure you are not consuming trans fats, make sure that you read the ingredients label carefully – if you see the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated,” then you will know the food contains trans fats and you should find an alternative.

So Then What Should I Eat?

My food philosophy is all about balance so I’m not going to tell you that you should never eat ketchup again – that would be impractical and…well, cruel. The only exception to this would be the condiments containing trans fats – just go out and find an alternative to those.

What I am going to recommend to you is to monitor your serving size. Literally, pull out a measuring spoon and measure out a tbsp of ketchup. If you eyeball it you will over serve yourself (obviously if there is no measuring spoon on hand then eyeball it).

Also, keep in mind that you have no control over or insight into what is in the dressings or sauces they serve you in a restaurant and those meals are frequently overdressed. To avoid an overload, always order your salad dressings and sauces on the side. You will be shocked at how much less you use and yet you’ll still get the flavor you’re looking for.

Substitutions

  • Salad dressing replace with Olive Oil and Vinegar
    • Avoid all of the sugar and trans fats by just making your own dressing with olive oil and vinegar – it is literally the healthiest thing you can put on your salad
  • Ketchup/Mayonnaise replace with Mustard
  • Store-bought mayonnaise replace with homemade
    • Store bought mayonnaise is almost always loaded with processed oils and preservatives. You can avoid all of this by making your own. Mayonnaise is super easy to make, all you need is eggs, dijon, lemon, vinegar, olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a blender or whisk. Boom. Mayo.
  • Soy sauce/Sweet and sour sauce replace with a drizzle of sesame oil
    • It’s a different flavor but sesame oil is delicious and is a very healthy fat. Because of the high levels of unsaturated fats in it, though, it should be used as a finishing oil rather than being cooked or heated.

 

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.

 

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.

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.