Saturday, June 20, 2009

Healthy Tip Of the Day: Just Breathe

Upon rising, lay in bed for another 5 to 10 minutes to simply breathe. Close your eyes and try to put all negative thoughts behind you in order to make the most out of the new day. Then, for ultra relaxation, go into the yoga move known as child's pose for up to a minute.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

5 Sneaky Things Holding You Back: Little Fat Traps That Creep Up On You Behind Your Back

            You’re aggravated beyond belief. You’re doing everything you possibly can to lose weight and get in shape but the scale isn’t budging and you still can’t zip that pair of pants you’ve been trying to squeeze into. What’s wrong? Don’t worry, there is nothing seriously wrong with you. Actually, a few small tweaks to your daily life can make all the difference. Here are 5 sneaky things making you fat, and what to do to overcome them!

1.   Stress

The Problem:

Yup, you got that right. All the hustle-bustle and stressful thoughts filling your mind may be keeping you from loosing weight. Studies have shown that stress produces a hormone called cortisol, that may lead to weight gain when too much of it is produced.

Also, when we become stressed, many of us are inclined to crave certain foods-and a lot of them. Whether that’s French fries, donuts, or a big bowl of ice cream, many of us look to food to solve our problems. We’ve all heard of what emotional eating can do to our mind, and our bodies.

What to do About it:

Don’t worry, you aren’t doomed. First of all, try to take a breather once in a while and simply relax. Snuggle up with a magazine, read a book, take a walk or even a bubble bath. Do whatever you need to do to let yourself unwind.

And as for the uncontrollable cravings, learn to control yourself (and your mind) by adding more exercise to your schedule. Do anything you can to get moving, even if it’s just a 20-minute walk in the morning. This will do wonders for your body in the long run. Also, to let yourself relax even more, try taking a yoga class at your local gym, or practice meditation in your own home. Sometimes, this is all we need to add a little serenity to our lives.

2.   Trying to Save Money on Groceries

The Problem:

            With the economy not exactly going very well these days, people are doing everything they can to save money, even if that means ruining their diet. With prices going up, people are more inclined to buy cheap, bulk food like Mac and cheese or sodium-laded canned soups. Often, the cheapest foods are the most sabotaging to our diets, both high in fat and calories.

What to Do About it:

            Yes, things are more expensive these days. But a healthy diet is something you may want to consider splurging on. After all, it’s for you and only you. So what if the fresh grilled chicken at your local market is a few bucks more than the chicken sandwich at McDonald’s. Your body will be thanking you later (when the recession is over). And if you really don’t think you have enough money to spend on fresh, healthy food, maybe you need to reconsider if you reallllly need that manicure next week. Your body and health should be #1, right?

3.   Unhealthy Friends

The Problem:

            We all have those friends who are always egging you on to “Eat one more slice of pizza!” or “Skip the gym today, pllleeeasee.” Well, I’m sorry to say it, but these kinds of friends may be derailing your fat loss. Not only do many people tend to give into the peer pressure, but studies show that we are likely to mirror the habits and lifestyles as our close friends. That means, if your friends are lazy, fast food junkies, you may quickly turn into one too.

What to Do About it:

            No, I’m not going to tell you that you need to “break up” with your friends because of their unhealthy habits. But, you may need to let them know that you take your fitness and diet goals seriously, and that you’d like them to support you.

Or even better, try to get them to live a healthier lifestyle by hosting a healthy BBQ or signing up for a 5k together. If your friends don’t want to change, that’s fine. But maybe it’s time to separate time between your social friends from your healthy friends so that you can continue to achieve your goals.

4.   Not Getting Enough Zzz’s

The Problem:

With work and constant plans with friends and family, it’s easy to put your sleep on the back burner. But, that may not be the best idea for your body and your overall health. Studies show that inadequate sleep decreases our leptin hormone levels and increases our ghrelin hormones, which together work to increase appetite. (Yikes!) Also, not getting enough sleep can make you have a more stressful, cranky day, which we already know can’t be good (read above).

What to Do About it:

Try to get 8 hours of sleep every night for ultimate health benefits. Go to bed earlier if you have to wake up at the crack of dawn! You’ll feel so rejuvenated and your body will be thanking you. If you have enough time for everything else in your day, then you should make a little time for your snoozing.

5.   Your Chilly Apartment

The Problem:

I know it sounds silly, but some studies have shown that we eat more when we are cold. Something about the cold temperature makes promotes our brain to crave unhealthy foods.

What To Do About it:

            Lucky for you, summer is coming so get outside and enjoy the sun! Keep warm all day, by putting on more layers when your chilly or adding in extra bits of exercise, whether that’s a short jog or some fast-paced jumping-jacks!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

10 Little Things We Forget to Take Time For

We've all been there. We get so busy that we tend to forget the really little things in life, the things that if we took a little time to do, we'd be much happier...or healthier. So, I put together a little list to remind you of the things you may want to remind yourself to live a more peaceful, wholesome life.

1. Take Your Vitamins. Even though they don't taste like grape and resemble Flinstone characters anymore, they are still super important to our health and all it takes is a few seconds to gulp one down. Try One a Day Women's, which has calcium for bone strength and loads of Vitamin D. 

2. Say "I Love You" at least once a day to someone, whether that be your mom, your boyfriend or even your best friend.

3. Say "thank you" when someone compliments you once in a while, rather than brushing them off. C'mon, sometime it feels good to get a little confidence boost, so eat it up for once! You deserve it.

4. Turn off your phone, computer, Blackberry, ipod, or whatever piece of technology you have with you 24/7. Even just turning it off for a few minutes or hour a day can give you a new peace of mind. 

5. Make dinner for yourself. A healthy salad or grilled fish with veggies takes less than 20 minutes to put together!

6. Call a friend who lives far away, and talk for hours...

7. Send a hand-written letter to someone special.

8. Smile.

9. Play like a kid for a day. Yes, that means catching fireflies, eating grilled cheese and letting yourself go.

10. Go for a walk, even if it's only for 10 minutes. The fresh air will make you feel refreshed and at ease.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Weird Body Quirks: Why does the size on the tag matter so much?

           A few weeks ago, a friend of mine came home from a long day at the mall.  Excited to hear about her new buys, I asked in anticipation what clothing items she had bought, only to find myself shocked by her answer. “I didn’t buy anything,” she replied. “WHAT?! Nothing? Not even one dress? One shirt? WHY?” I asked, confused. (Yes, I admit when I go to the mall I come home with 5 bags but that’s besides the point.)  “’Cause nothing fit me in my size,” she responded. “And there is no way I was buying clothes in the next size up!”

            After that day, I really started thinking about size and how today’s society today defines everything by size. It’s as if size defines the person, or brands them in a way. There are the tiny size “0” model-like types, the petites, the “average size 8s” and the “plus-size” crew.

It’s funny how that tiny little number on the tag holds such a great amount of meaning to some people. After all, it’s a measly strip of nylon! And, yes, I’ll admit that I myself have been a culprit of this ridiculous thinking. I once refused to buy a pair of jeans because they were a size bigger than I usually wear. So instead, I bought the size too small that didn’t look nearly as flattering, hoping I’d squeeze into them some day.

            But why do we do this to ourselves? If you’ve been working out and feel good about yourself, then treat yourself to a new pair of jeans that you think you look great in, rather than a too-small size that temporarily make you feel great, but that you can barely zip. Otherwise, no one’s going to see your great figure anyway.  

            In the end, you have to remind yourself that every store’s sizes run differently and they are always changing. So, if an outfit fits you and makes you look slimmer, then go for the bigger size! I promise, no one’s going to know. And hey, cut the tag off if it really bothers you that much.

            And remember: sizes by all means don’t define who you are and don’t showcase your overall appearance. Remind yourself every once in a while that you’re absolutely beautiful just the way you are (despite your jean size). 

Thursday, June 4, 2009

6 Ways to Slim Up Your Summer Salad

      Salads don’t always have to be a boring “diet food” with just iceberg lettuce, a tomato and a few cucumber slices thrown onto a plate. However, on the other hand, some salads (especially at popular chain restaurants) can pack on thousands of calories. But don’t fear: here are some tips to keep you salad delicious and healthy at the same time.

1.    Make Your Own Dressing:

Instead of pouring on fatty store-bought ranch dressing, try making your own dressing using an olive oil base.  

Whisk the oil with your favorite all natural 100% juice, like pear, pineapple, or raspberry to create a thick, delicious salad dressing in minutes. If you’re not a fan of the fruity flavors, simply top your salad with olive oil, lemon and a dash of salt and pepper.

2.    Pack on the Nuts

Ditch the fattening croutons for a variety of nutritious nuts. Nuts are packed with good fats and are a great source of Omega 3’s, which contribute to heart health and overall nutrition.

Be creative with your choice of nuts, changing it up from pine nuts, slivered almonds and chopped walnuts. They’ll add an extra crunch to your salad, and you won’t even miss those croutons after all!

3.    Say Yes to Fruits

Add fresh fruit to your salad, like chopped apples or fresh strawberry slices. Fruit, which is high in antioxidants and nutrients, will give you a nice, healthy energy boost for the day.

4.    Go Green

The greener your salad, the more nutrients it provides. Greens are a great source of important good-for-you minerals, including calcium and potassium. They also provide a variety of vitamins.

Fill your plate with a leafy green base, such as baby spinach or romaine. Then, pile on green vegetables such as fresh string beans, asparagus and broccoli chunks.

Side Note: Even though they aren’t actually green, tomatoes, avocados and black beans provide wonderful nutrients and health benefits as well.

5.    Spice it Up

Give your salad an extra boost by adding spices and herbs. Cayanne pepper, red pepper flakes and cilantro will give your salad (and your taste buds) a kick. Also, spices are known to boost your metabolism into high gear.

Experiment with delicious herbs as well, such as oregano, parsley and dill. In summer months, you can find fresh herbs for sale at local stores or gardening centers.

6.    Choose Your Protein Wisely

Forget the fried, fat-laden chicken and chose healthy, grilled chicken, fish or shrimp instead.

Vegetarian? Go for the whites of hard-boiled eggs or tofu, which is super high in protein and low in fat and calories.  

Monday, June 1, 2009

Mind Over Matter: How Your Mind Can Affect Your Body

             I used to be one of those people who, like many others, were obsessed with losing weight. My mind was consumed with thoughts of looking “perfect” and fitting into that dress hanging in my closet that I hadn’t worn in five years.

 I’d let my compulsive, negative thoughts take over and get to me so much that I’d weigh myself three, four, or sometimes even five times a day. My behavior was crazy. It was unhealthy.

 That’s when I recently realized that being healthy doesn’t have to be so stressful and difficult to achieve. Sustaining a healthy body shouldn’t feel like a never-ending, horrifying chore. It shouldn’t feel like work… it should feel good, shouldn’t it?

That’s when it hit me. So I made a vow to myself to try to stop all those “bad” thoughts and habits, and began treating my body a little more nicely, a little more positively. And that’s exactly when I finally started seeing some real results that I-and all of you-deserve.

Here are 4 simple steps to help you use the power of your mind to get the body (and positive body image) you’ve always dreamed of!

1.   Reward Yourself:

Holiday’s and birthdays shouldn’t be the only time for presents. If you’re working your butt off at the gym, or finally lost those last five pounds, pamper yourself a little. Buy yourself a new pair of running shoes or treat yourself to a relaxing manicure. After all, you deserve it!

Little perks like this will also help keep your mind in check and keep you motivated, making your workouts a little more fun. You’ll be more apt to continue with your routine as well!

2.   Be Your Own Coach

When it all comes down to it, in the end it’s just you and your mind. You can’t rely on anybody else to be your personal coach or cheerleader. Even if you have a personal trainer or gym membership, it’s up to you whether you go or not, or how much effort you put in to your workouts.

So, think positively and tell yourself “I can do this! I know I can.” If you lie in bed, putting yourself down or tell yourself you’ll never be able get out of bed for your morning run, you most likely won’t be able to. Remember: you’re mind is a very powerful tool.

Rather, have some faith in yourself and think you can accomplish anything, whether that’s running your first 5K or completing a Boot Camp course. If you envision it and imagine it, then more likely than not, you will do it.

3.   Be Easier on Yourself:

People (myself included) are far too hard on themselves.  Whether it’s pointing out personal flaws or stressing over those last few pounds, we are usually our biggest body-critics, and that’s no way to be. You wouldn’t tell a friend he’s fat and needs to loose wait, would you? Most likely not… so don’t be so hard on yourself.

You’ll be much happier if you think more positively about yourself, complimenting the things you like about your body. That may be acknowledging the fact that you have nice, toned arms or strong legs that enable you to run for miles. If you have trouble reminding yourself of these positives, make a list and look at it when you’re feeling down.

This will help you begin to love your body and make you a much happier person in the long run. And remember: be patient. Results don’t happen over night. But, if you stay optimistic and upbeat, you’ll see results much faster than if you were complaining and consumed with negative thoughts 24/7.

4.   Take a Breather:

Lastly, remember to relax. Your body and even your mind need a break sometimes as well. If you think too much about loosing weight or squeezing into those skinny jeans, you’re just going to get stressed out over it…and the results most likely won’t come.

But, if you continue to practice healthy habits and keep up with your routine, results will come much more quickly. And if you have a minor slip up, so what! Don’t beat yourself up over it.  Studies show that unhealthy stress can actually lead to weight gain, so take a breather. 

Whenever I stop analyzing my diet and give my mind a little “vacation,” I begin to see real results. In fact, when I went to Italy two years ago, I was stress-free and wasn’t thinking about my diet or exercise, and actually ended up loosing five pounds! So, I’m living proof that giving yourself a break can work for you too.

It’s like the old saying, “When you’re not looking for it, it will show up.” Well, that goes for your body as well. When you’re not thinking about it, you’ll start to see some results.