Category Archives: Top Ten Things You Can Do For Your Health

Make Your Environment Work For You – #10 Ten Actions To Improve Health

Habits are like magnets; the stronger the habit, the stronger the force it takes to undo it.  The more we change our environment to repel the habit, the more likely the power of the habit will be weakened.  Making your environment work for you will help you reach your health goal.

Triggers In The Environment

Habits are behavioral patterns that are imprinted in our neural pathways that are automatic and are triggered by a stimulus.   The alarm goes off, we get out of bed (or maybe hit the snooze three times).  There is a trigger, in this case the alarm, and the automatic action or habit – getting out of bed.  When changing habits that lead to weight gain or are barriers to weight loss, try to reduce the triggers that stimulate the unhealthy habits.  Triggers can be smells, places, times of day, certain activities or even certain people.   When we come in contact with this cue or trigger it stimulates a reaction.  Trying to live a healthier lifestyle means addressing each of these cues that may stimulate an unhealthy reaction.   For example, if you’re in the habit of coming home from work and opening up a bag of chips, figure out the trigger.  Is it that you are coming home from work hungry?  Is it a coworker who makes you angry?  Is it because it’s what you’ve always done the minute you put your keys down?  Is it because you opened up the closet and you saw the chips?  Is it because your kids went shopping with you and you gave in to their demands?  Is it because you went shopping while you were hungry?  Determine your triggers and gradually replace them one at a time.

How To Get Your Environment to Work For You

Create an environment that will limit triggers to unhealthy habits.

IMG_0301

Notice how the orange painted daisy flowers and tall grass on the right of the hydrangea are much taller than the ones on the left. See what a healthier environment can do to plants!

1.  Find less tempting substitutes for the foods you crave.  If you are a potato chip lover then try black bean chips or popcorn.  If you love mint chocolate chip ice cream, then try freezing small servings of yogurt. If you love Peppermint Patties then try some mint tea and spearmint gum.

2.  Break up routines.  If you are in the habit of going to Starbucks on your way to work, then find a different route and substitute a plain coffee or tea instead of a drink
packed with cream and sugar .  If you are trying to break the chip habit, then keep a healthy snack in the car and run an errand before you go home or go for a walk right when you get home.

3.  Do not shop when you are hungry and always shop with a list.  Grocery stores are set up to entice people to shop for food they were not planning on buying.  Some grocery stores emit aromas of fresh bread or keep freshly roasted chicken by the entrance.  Shop after eating and shop with a list.  Focus on the healthy food around the perimeter of the store then go down the center aisles buying only what is on the list.

4.  Buy individual portion sizes of snack and treats when possible or put foods from larger bags into zip lock bags to create your own individual portions.  Eating from a large bag or box is a recipe for disaster.   There are individual portions available for ice cream, chips, nuts and even cookies.  Individual portion sizes are like a period at the end of a sentence.  They tell us when to quit.

5.  Limit your TV time to no more than two hours a day.  Too much TV watching leads to mindless eating and timeless sitting.  There are too many snack commercials that stimulate visual cues.  At a minimum mute the TV and walk around the room during commercials or do some strengthening exercises.

Create an environment that will foster the development of positive habits.

1.  Schedule your exercise.  Schedule it the same time of day and protect it so that it gets linked to other actions. The more a new behavior is linked to another activity, the more likely it will become automatic.  Setting the alarm earlier the night before, hearing the alarm go off, seeing the exercise clothes laid out the night before, and having the IPod or TV show predetermined will help the exercise regimen stick.  Or coming home from work and seeing the sneakers, the water bottle and IPod all ready can be the cues to go for a walk (instead of opening the closet!).

2.  Go out to eat with a strategy.  With the average person going out to eat almost 30% of the time and spending nearly 50% of their food budget eating in restaurants, eating out can be a challenge.  First try reducing going out to eat by doing a healthy pot luck or picnic instead of going out to eat one of those meals each week.  When you do go out, try to look at the menu ahead of time.  When you call for reservations check their willingness to prepare things your way.   Eat a healthy snack like a small handful of nuts before going so that you are not starving.  Choose a restaurant with a salad bar and avoid all-you-can-eat restaurants.   Be the first to order – you will be less likely to be tempted by what others order.  Ask for what you want – grilled instead of fried, dressing and sauces on the side, no butter on the meat, and extra veggie instead of fries or split on order with someone.  Ask for bread to come with the meal and keep it out of reach. If meal portions are large ask for a take home container to come with the meal, share a meal, or order a salad and appetizer for your meal.  If dessert is ordered ask for a serving of fresh fruit or split a dessert with several people.  Click here for more eating out tips from SparkPeople.

3.  Reward yourself.  That money not spent on snack food or a dessert or a meal out can go in a jar to be spent on a fun activity later.  Watch TV or go on the computer after you have exercised.  After a week of exercise reward yourself with a nice book, fun activity or a date night.  After a month reward yourself with a massage or a new outfit.

4.  Get support.  Get coworkers, friends, or family members to buddy up with you.   Create a healthy work environment by having only healthy foods at work, creating five minute walk breaks, or a monthly health discussion.   When you are feeling tempted, call your buddy to delay, distract, and increase your determination.

5.  Eat a healthy breakfast with whole grain breads or cereal and protein from eggs, lean meat, Greek yogurt, low fat cheese, nut butters or even beans.   A bowl of old fashioned oatmeal with ground flax seed, a bit of honey, a sprinkle of nuts and a dollop of fat free plain Greek yogurt is a perfect example!  Choose a low fat Greek yogurt with a handful of nuts and a fruit for something quick. There is a link between skipping breakfast and eating more calories later at night.

6.  Start a hobby.  Many times people eat out of boredom or habit, not hunger.  Having a fun hobby to distract and also calm your mind will help you to stay focused on your health goal.

7.  Drink more water.  Our body is composed of 60% water and we need it for circulation, digestion, kidney function, transport of nutrients, skin tone and temperature control.  Water can be from coffee, tea, seltzer water or even milk and juices in moderation.   Water helps to fill us up with fewer calories especially when substituted for a caloric drink or consuming vegetable based soups, oatmeal, beans, fruit and vegetables that are naturally high in water.  Water also energizes our muscles by maintaining a fluid and electrolyte balance important for their function.  If your urine is not light yellow, then you are not drinking enough water.

8.  Be mindful.  Notice your physical and psychological changes daily.  At the end of the day review the positive changes you notice.   Notice your energy level, the good feeling you get when you avoid a tempting situation, the confidence you gain as you conquer a healthier habit.  Thinking of these when you go to bed will help further imprint them on your neural pathways.

9.  Have a plan for the holidays, vacations or special events.  Do not let go of all the new habits you have created.  They will be very difficult to resume.  Even if you can’t exercise for the 30 minutes you had been doing, then at least go for ten minutes.  Think of it as earmarking the habit so it does not lose its place.  At family gatherings bring the healthy side dish or appetizer.  Find healthier versions of family recipes.  Do not go hungry to the gathering, eat a healthy snack before going.  Sit away from tempting foods and allow yourself just one spoonful of your favorites.  Focus on the people rather than the food.

Making lasting lifestyle changes means changing the way you have done things in the past.  Start with getting your environment to work for you as you gradually replace unhealthy habits with lasting positive habits that will last a lifetime!

 

Be The Artist of Your Life! #8 of Ten Actions To Improve Health

Blog 8The Artist Needs a Colorful Palette

Your life is an open canvas ready to be painted!  Our thoughts become the color in our palette.  If we ruminate over events of the past or worry too much about the future, not only does our palette become gray but the present is neglected, opportunities are halted and our canvas remains uncreated.  What we choose to think about becomes the palette and the picture we paint.  The more we live in the past or the future, the more the canvas of today is left unpainted.  Living in this moment, discovering what you want to create, believing you can accomplish it and focusing on taking the steps to develop it, the more colorful and beautiful your canvas will become. You are the artist of your life!

We Are Our Thoughts

Our reality is based on what is taken in through our senses and how we perceive that data based on Gray palettepast experiences, self image, and choice.  I add choice because in almost every situation there is more than one way to interpret situations.  The “negative” voice comes out when there is fear, doubt, anger or jealousy.   The “positive” voice comes out when there is confidence, tranquility, success and happiness.  We can choose whether to look at any situation in a positive or a negative light.  When more time is spent being positive, the more colorful the palette, the more beautiful the picture. Take your positivity test with Barbara Frederickson’s, an expert on being positive.

How Do We Become More Positive?

Let go of negative thoughts.  What has happened in the past is unfixable and the future hasn’t happened yet.  When those thoughts or worries appear, acknowledge them but don’t grasp them.  Let them flow through your brain and then replace it with a positive thought.  Notice your current environment and find what is going well.  Perhaps a friend or coworker has said something nice  and you didn’t really acknowledge it.  Listen to complements and say thank you.  Perhaps that coworker said something hurtful.  Did you take it personally or did you try to walk in his shoes to see what may be going on with him?  Do you feel anger at him or can you offer understanding.  Perhaps there is a beautiful flower or view in your eyesight.  Take in the sight.  Perhaps you have more energy because you ate a good breakfast.  Notice your energy, your fullness.  Perhaps there is an upbeat song in the background that is massaging your ears.  Close your eyes for a second and listen to the beat.  Perhaps you notice that your back is hurting.  Then notice that your arms, legs, head, neck and feet feel really good.  Perhaps you notice your shirt you are wearing is soft and makes your feel good.  Perhaps you are having a good hair day.  Now fill your mind with as many good thoughts as you can find.   Focus on them.  Focus on how they make you feel.  Focus how you become lighter, happier, and your palette brightens.  Begin to paint your canvas of today.  What do you want your canvas to be today?

Become Grateful

At then end of the day, as you are lying in bed, review all the good things that you felt, heard, or saw today.  Were there only a few things that came to mind? colorful palette Where was your head today?  Were you looking for opportunities or were you using a gray palette and not creating a beautiful image on your canvas?  Each evening see if that list can expand.  And when you wake up in the morning notice how much more refreshed you will feel, how others you see will notice your positive energy and how new possibilities will arise.  Your palette will be bright and your canvas will be full of color, clarity and beauty!

Know Your Health Numbers – #7 of Ten Actions To Improve Health

Health Numbers: Waist Circumference, LDL, HDL, Triglycerides, Fasting Blood Sugar, Blood Pressure

The American Medical Association no recognizes obesity as a disease. IMG_0198 The focus on obesity goes way beyond appearance.  We know that when waist circumference goes up, the cost of providing health care goes up as well.  When waist circumference goes above 35″ for women and 40″ for men, there are metabolic and hormonal changes that increase systemic inflammation, weaken the immune system, and increase the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  At a healthy weight, our bodies are like a symphony with metabolism and other physiologic activities happening efficiently and responsively.  But when waist circumference becomes unhealthy, the body becomes less efficient and less responsive setting up for a cascade of events that lead to heart disease, diabetes and cancer, especially when coupled with family history.  Knowing your health numbers – your waist circumference, lipids, fasting blood sugar and blood pressure, can give you an indication of how your body is performing and what is your health risk.

Lipids

It’s more than just total cholesterol.  Know what your LDL or “bad” cholesterol is.  This cholesterol is what creates plaque and hardening of the arteries.  Eating a diet high in saturated and trans fats does to your arteries what pouring bacon fat down your kitchen sink does to your drain.  Eventually you get narrowing and clogging leading to poor nourishment below the clog and increased work load for the heart as it is forced to pump harder to get blood and nutrients to all parts of the body.  Ideally LDL should be below 100, for those with heart disease or diabetes the goal is to get it to below 70.   The HDL or “good” cholesterol is the happy garbage truck that takes the LDL back to the liver where it is eliminated from the body.  It protects the heart and the arteries.  It should be greater than 40 and really greater than 60 to be protective.   Elevated triglycerides occur when too many calories are eaten than what the body needs at one time.  The extra fat is stored as triglycerides in fat cells and can be used for energy between meals.  But when people regularly eat too many calories – particularly those with high carbohydrate and fat, then this leads to chronically high triglyceride levels and hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis.  The American Heart Association recommends a triglyceride level below 100 for optimal heart health.

Fasting Blood Sugar

Type 2 diabetes has a story; it does not just appear suddenly.  If somebody has a family history of type 2 diabetes then we know they have a stronger likelihood of developing it as well.  When family history is combined with obesity, inactivity and a diet with excessive refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats, we know the “perfect storm” is created leading to type 2 diabetes.  We can tell that this is developing by looking at fasting blood sugars over time.  Gradually the blood sugars will go from 70’s, to 80’s then 90’s and then over 100.   If someone has a fasting blood sugar 100 or greater on 2 occasions then they have prediabetes, a preventable precursor to diabetes.  This can also be tested using a lab test called HbA1c that looks at an average of blood sugars over a 2-3 month period.  A result of 5.7 or greater indicates prediabetes.  A result of 6.5 or greater indicates diabetes.

Blood Pressure

A healthy blood pressure protects the heart muscle as well as the walls of our arteries.  The top number or systolic number represents the pressure your heart has to pump against inside your arteries.  The higher the number, the harder your heart has to pump.  Over time this can lead to thickening and weakening of the heart muscle.   The bottom number or diastolic number represents the pressure between beats of the heart.  This number is important because this is when the heart itself gets its nutrients.   Consistent numbers greater than 120/80 indicate some concern and need for intervention in order to avoid long term damage to the heart and arteries.

Your Life Is In Your Hands

I tell my clients that we can not choose the cards we are dealt – meaning we can’t change our family health history – but we can affect how those cards are played.  Knowing your numbers is like knowing all the strengths and weaknesses of your hand, not just working with wild cards.  This can motivate you to gradually change unhealthy habits and to protect your health.   Unfortunately we do not feel whether blood pressure, lipids or blood sugars are elevated.  We only know when we have them checked, understand their significance and play our cards wisely.

 

 

 

Just Breathe – #6 of Ten Actions To Improve Health

Sit, Be Still, Close Your Eyes and Breathe for a Few Minutes

Making the time to sit and breathe for ten minutes every day allows us to get closer to our thoughts IMG_0149and emotions and to bring perspective to our lives.   Done daily, focusing on breathing while in a comfortable and upright posture, allows us to bring clarity and energy into the rest of our daily life.  As Pema Chodron says in Comfortable With Uncertainty, sitting quietly is a “vehicle for learning to be a truly loving person” both to ourselves and to the world around us.  It brings awareness in a nonjudgemental way to other aspects of our lives so that we are less apt to react to a stressful situation and instead act with more calmness and certainty.

Notice I don’t call this meditation.  This word can be misconstrued by those who are new to the concept of sitting still and breathing.  For some, the idea of not doing anything for minutes at a time can be overwhelming .   Some feel that if their mind is not empty of all thoughts then they are not going to reap the benefit.  For others the concept of sitting and being still seems like a magical gift that only a few can be blessed with.  Speaking as a neophyte and one who has read quite a few books and articles on meditation and has lead some guided meditations, I view this activity in a more simple way.  What I notice is when I sit in an alert posture, focus on my breath, let thoughts come and go without holding on too tightly, I feel more relaxed the rest of the day.  I become more aware of what makes me upset and what makes me happy.  I’m able to anticipate situations better and bring more control into my life.

How To Begin

Plan a time each day to be still even if it’s only for a few minutes.  You can set your alarm on your phone if you are worried that you might fall asleep.  If the day gets away from you then go to bed a few minutes early and sit up in your bed with your back upright and well supported and just focus on your breath.  You can count to 4 as you breath in and breath out.  Keep counting as your mind quiets.  If your mind is filled with thoughts then the counting will help you focus on the now and just the air going in and out of your lungs.  Become aware of all parts of your body and consciously tell your shoulders, your neck, your eyes, your belly, your arms and your legs to relax.  If thoughts arise then let them come in and then flow out.  Don’t let your mind grasp any of them tightly.  Try doing this every day for 3 weeks.   See how it flows over to the rest of your life with improved relationships, improved attitude and improved coping with daily stress.

For your enjoyment I’m attaching a guided meditation that Belleruth Naparstek wrote in Staying Well With Guided ImageryRelax with this guided meditation

 

Get Good Sleep – #5 of Ten Actions To Improve Health

The Importance of Getting Good SleepSleep

We all have so many demands on our time we often sacrifice sleep in order to snatch a bit more time to watch the end of a game, a show or just to indulge in free time.   For some, being tired is a statement of self worth, choosing to keep a crazy pace as a emblem of self importance.   For others being tired is a sign of life out of control.  And for others being tired is a sign that the importance of a good night’s sleep is either misunderstood or difficult to attain due to a sleep disorder or poor sleep hygiene.

Sleep has a purpose.  It’s not just self indulgence.  Dr. Merrill Mitler from the NIH states, “Sleep services all aspects of our body in one way or another: molecular, energy balance, as well as intellectual function, alertness and mood.”   In order for our body to perform at its best emotionally, cognitively and physically we need a good night’s sleep.  “The fact is, when we look at well-rested people, they’re operating at a different level than people trying to get by on 1 or 2 hours less nightly sleep,” says Mitler.

Sleep is also important for the health of our body.  “Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies,” says Dr. Michael Twery, a sleep expert at NIH. “It affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure and cardiovascular health.”  Inadequate sleep has been linked to obesity, heart disease and infection.

A good night’s sleep involves 4-5 cycles of sleep going between deep sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.  These cycles are critical to get the optimal performance from our body.  And the recommended hours of sleep varies with age.  “On average, adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.  Babies typically sleep about 16 hours a day. Young children need at least 10 hours of sleep, while teenagers need at least 9 hours,” says Twery.

Sleep Apnea – take the test

sleep apneaIt is natural to be be awake for a few minutes when you turn the lights out.  If you immediately fall asleep when your head hits the bed that could be a sign that you are not getting enough sleep or good quality sleep.  If you wake up tired most of the time and you are allowing yourself at least 7 hours of time to sleep, then you may have sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea happens when someone stops breathing or breathes lightly throughout the night.  This can be due to obstruction of the airway.  The body is deprived of oxygen when this happens which makes the body release stress hormones in order to waken the body and increase the oxygen level.   Over time this has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, stroke not speak of decreased alertness and strain on relationships.

Establish Good Sleep Hygiene

  1. Maintain a sleep and wake time structure.sleep hygiene
  2. Get your bedroom dark with darkening curtains.
  3. Keep pets out of your bedroom.
  4. Stop drinking caffeine after early afternoon including coffee, tea and soda with caffeine.
  5. Limit napping during the day to no more than 20 minutes if at all.
  6. Keep your bedroom just for sleep and sex – take the TV and lap top out of the bedroom.
  7. Use a fan or soft noise machine to block out external noise.
  8. Don’t eat a meal or large snack within 3 hours of bedtime.
  9. Keep a notepad with pencil by your bed to write down thoughts or ideas that keep you from falling asleep or getting back to sleep.
  10. Put your worries “on a shelf” once you go to bed.  Nothing is solved at night time.  Allow yourself to take a mental hiatus from things that you are worried about.
  11. If you are having a difficult time falling asleep, do some activities that will help calm you.  Read a book for a few minutes, do some slow deep breathing by counting to 4 as your breathe in and breathe out.

A Good night’s sleep is so underappreciated and so easily achievable when it is respected, planned for and facilitated with the right environment.  Notice how much you get done and how much happier you feel when you get your zzzz’s!

 

 

 

Address the Obstacles – #4 of Ten Actions To Improve Health

IMG_0143Making lasting lifestyle changes means examining and tearing down the obstacles to making healthy changes. The brain can be reprogrammed. We just have to be deliberate about it and be willing to make changes.  To increase awareness of your obstacles, track for a couple of days how much time is spent:

          • sleeping
          • working
          • being physically active
          • shopping, preparing, eating, and going to restaurants
          • doing household tasks like laundry, cleaning, house chores, and paying bills
          • doing personal grooming like showering, dressing, hair
          • relaxing with friends and family, doing a hobby
          • doing community work like volunteering, going to church
          • sitting watching TV, computer, reading, games

Are there any adjustments that can be made to give you more time to take care of your health?  Can you delegate? Can you combine chores like folding laundry while you are on the phone?  Can you cook extra rice or chicken to have for other meals during the week?  Can you keep a running shopping list so you don’t have to run out and get something you forgot?  Can you wear some of your clothes a few times before washing? (maybe not if it’s 90 degrees outside!)  Can you decrease your sedentary time, give up some TV and use your time more constructively?

Examine Your Obstacles More Closely

We know that being healthier takes planning, choosing healthier foods, eating fewer unhealthy foods and being more physically active.  If you are struggling with any of these areas, then pinpoint exactly what makes it difficult.

PlanningChoosing Healthier FoodsEating Fewer Unhealthy FoodsBeing More Physically Active
Like
being spontaneous – think about why you like being spontaneous
Don’t know how to include healthier foods in your dietEating large portions of unhealthy foods makes you feel betterPain
Have never had experience with planningToo complicated/do not know how to prepare and cook themSatisfies cravingsDon’t like it
Believes it adds stressDo not like healthy foodsLess expensiveNever had experience with exercising
Don’t like the ideaToo expensiveLess complicatedDon’t like doing it alone
Takes the fun out of lifeUncomfortable with making changes in dietExposed to it often so it increases temptationAfraid of getting hurt or aggravating a condition
Other:Other:Other:Other:

If you have answered “yes” to any of the comments under the categories, then ask yourself if this is truly accurate or an overgeneralization.  If you list that you don’t like healthy foods, then ask yourself if it is really accurate that you don’t like any veggies, fish, fruits, nuts, whole grains – who doesn’t like popcorn!  I’m sure there are some items in these categories that you do like.  If the idea of exercise totally turns you off, then think in the past, perhaps even when you were a child, how you were active.  Was it having fun while playing hide and seek, riding your bike, going skiing, or playing Marco Polo in the pool?  Would you be more committed if you had a partner or looked for group activities in your town?  Can you start doing a small amount for a few weeks and become aware of what you notice – a sense of control, a sense you are taking care of yourself, an improved outlook?  Can you wear a pedometer and gradually increase your steps even if it means walking around your house a few times in the evening?

If you have had no experience with planning what you will eat for the week then break it down for a couple of days at a time.  Start with coming up with several recipes and write them down on index cards with the ingredients on the back.  Take these when you go shopping and make a goal to add a couple each week.  Before you know it you will have 30 recipes that you like and you’ll be able to shop once a week using these cards as a guide.  If you have a hard time keeping tempting foods out of the house then keep them out of sight.  If your spouse likes ice cream at night and you know you don’t like mocha flavored and he does, then ask him to buy that instead of the tempting mint chocolate chip.  If you know you love potato chips but are not tempted by Fritos and other family members love both, then just get the Fritos.  If you have a potato chip craving then just buy a small bag at the check out instead of the 7 ounce bag in the aisle.

Eliminate Your Obstacles One At A Time

With a shift in attitude, stopping overgeneralizing, and taking small steps, no obstacle is insurmountable.  Tackling one area at a time and developing a clear strategy, leads to a gradually healthier you.  Reaching out to a health coach can help you identify your obstacles, develop strategies, and stay successful!

 

Exercise- #3 of Ten Actions To Improve Health

lilybayjuly08011Exercise for Your Health

As we get older we lose about 8% of our muscle mass every decade after age 40.  Our metabolism is determined by our muscle mass.  So if we continue to eat the same way every year and do not exercise then weight creeps up as metabolic needs decrease.  That quarter pounder at lunch can lead to a gradual weekly quarter pound weight gain that becomes ten pounds by the end of the year.  Couple that with a family history of diabetes and you can see why more and more people are developing prediabetes and diabetes, not to mention feeling sluggish, tired and frustrated.  We need to exercise for health.

The Diabetes Prevention Program

The Diabetes Prevention Program, a study involving 27 health centers nationwide, compared 3 different groups of people to see what intervention was the most effective for preventing type 2 diabetes in participants with blood sugars in the prediabetes range.  The first group was a lifestyle group, the second was a group that was put on the drug Metformin and the last group was given a placebo.  There was a fourth group that was put on another drug but it was stopped after it was found to cause liver damage.  The results revealed that the lifestyle intervention group was the most effective for delaying and preventing the development of diabetes.  The lifestyle intervention goal was to lose 7% body weight and exercise 150 minutes a week at moderate intensity.

Exercise Is the Best Kind of Medicine

So why is exercise the magic pill?  Moving our bodies involves large muscle groups that helps our bodies be more sensitive to our own insulin, it helps reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and raises the good cholesterol (HDL).  It maintains muscle mass preventing the slowing down of metabolism after age 40.  If strengthening exercises are done then this can increase muscle mass and raise metabolism even more, helping with weight loss.  Regular exercise improves sleep, mood, and energy level.  So why isn’t everyone doing it??

What Do You Do If You Hate to Exercise?

You do not have to start out like gangbusters.  I recommend my clients buy a pedometer – a good one that you can wear in your pocket and will be accurate will cost you about $30.  The Fit Bit is a good one that can also count your stair steps as well as walking steps.  It is recommended that people walk about 10,000 steps a day.  A sedentary person only walks between 1000-3000 steps daily.  Wearing a pedometer can be a motivator.  I had one client who near the end of the day was behind in her steps and ended up walking around her house several laps to meet her daily goal.  Another trick I tell my clients is to mute through the commercials (which also helps avoid the munchies ads) and do sit down leg marching through all the commercials.   This adds a little aerobic as well as some core strength as you lift your legs.  I also recommend that whenever you are on the phone to walk around.  The other key is to know yourself.   Would you do better in a class that is fun and structured or would you do better working with a trainer to make you accountable?  Know what the obstacles are and tackle those first.  Is weather an issue that could keep you from going out or making a class?  Then try a walking DVD by Leslie Sansone or personal equipment like a stationary bike, elliptical or Cybex.  Is time a problem? Set the alarm earlier to get exercise in first thing in the morning before you have time to talk yourself out of it.   Or consider exercising over your lunch break or in the evening after dinner.

Other Tricks

The hardest part about exercise is just forming the habit.  The more often you do it the more likely the habit will stick.  Exercising for 15 minutes every day will make it a habit sooner than exercising just 1-2 times a week.  The more you associate your exercise with other habits the more likely it will stick.    Free up time in the morning to give yourself more time to exercise by doing some of your chores the night before like making your lunch, laying out your clothes and feeding the pets.  The more you plan for your exercise and work other life demands around it, the more you will stay with it.

Start Gradually, Notice Improvement, and Encourage Yourself

I have many clients who tell me that exercise hurts their knees or back.  Keep in mind that it is our muscles that give our joints and spine support.  If you have been sedentary you may have lost this support which might initially cause some pain with movement.  I have witnessed many times how my clients who have stuck with the exercise regimen gain strength and support and their pain goes away.  The key is to start gradually and divide it up into 10 minute segments if this is all your body can tolerate.  Tell yourself that after a few weeks you will notice positive changes.  After a few weeks be aware of the positive changes you notice.  Take the time to notice and talk to yourself kindly and positively!

Other Safety Tips

Wear supportive shoes – your feet are your shock absorbers.  Treat yourself to some new sneakers and keep them just for exercise.   Replace them every 6 months when you develop a regular routine.  Hydrate ahead of time if you plan in being out in the heat.   And remember to stretch after you exercise.

Know Your Body, Know Your Workout

The ideal exercise routine should include some aerobic exercise, some stregthening exercise and some stretching.  Obviously if someone hates to exercise then the ideal might be to just start walking on a regular basis.  To expect more might mean complete derailment.  Often times after a few months of doing a routine and noticing the positive changes in how clothes fit, energy level and compliments from friends and coworkers, then willingness to try other kinds of exercise improves.  Success builds success.

Eat More Veggies – #2 of Ten Actions To Improve Health

Popeye had it right eating his spinach to gain his strength – “I am what I am”, chuckle, chuckle chuckle!  We are what we eat as well.  And putting emphasis on eating more veggies helps us to get the nutrients to lower the risk of getting hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity and age related eye disease.   But it is not as simple as just eat more veggies.  There has been more recent research on how the quality of our fruits and vegetables has declined over the years due to breeding of plant species for disease resistance and taste.

Hypertension

The DASH diet plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) recommends eating a minimum of 4 servings of veggies a day.  The benefit of filling half of our plates with dark leafy greens like arugula, kale, spinach are that they are high in potassium which offsets some of the damage done by sodium.  It is thought that potassium makes arteries less stiff.  Hypertension is caused by stiffening of arteries and having to pump too much volume (sodium makes us retain fluid, leading to increase blood volume that the heart has to pump, thereby raising blood pressure).   Eating more dark leafy greens that are high in potassium helps our arteries.

Type 2 Diabetes

Vegetables are full of fiber, high in magnesium and can be low in carbohydrates.  This means they will have little impact on your blood sugar and can actually slow down the usual rise in blood sugar after eating.  Some studies have indicated that magnesium improves insulin sensitivity, consequently eating foods high in magnesium reduces blood sugars for those with pre-diabetes or diabetes.  However starchy veggies like potatoes, winter squash and corn can raise blood sugars so for those with diabetes they should plan for them as part of their total carbohydrates for the meal.

Weight Loss

You don’t hear of anyone gaining weight from eating too many veggies!  There is nothing better for weight loss than loading up on non-starchy veggies like broccoli, kale, cabbage and brussel sprouts which are low in calories, high in fiber keeping you fuller longer without all fat – provided there is no cheese topping!  Vegetables have low calorie density meaning that they are a low calorie food choice that will go a long way with giving you volume without all the extra calories.

Age Related Eye Disease

Vegetables are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that benefit the lens and retina of the eye, which many studies have linked to lowering the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.

Breeding of Vegetables

In Jo Robinson’s article in the New York Times Sunday Review May 25, 2013 she writes about how many varieties of fruits and vegetables have lost there nutritional value partly due to natural mutation over time, but mostly due to breeding by farmers to create more disease-resistant and tastier produce.  She recommends eating foods that have a stronger taste to improve nutritive value like dandelion greens, arugula, deep yellow corn, scallions (particularly the green part) and fresh herbs.  She states that the more bitter the food, the higher the nutritional value.   She also  says to go for peruvian purple potatoes and blue cornmeal (can be found on Amazon) to boost the healthy food nutrients as well.

But What if You Don’t Like Veggies

OK, the idea of eating 4 servings of vegetables a day can be a little daunting!  So how could you sneak them in?  Make a Frittata (see under my breakfast recipes) or a veggie omelet with chopped broccoli or spinach.  Have a glass of low sodium V8.  Add frozen chopped veggies to your soups, chili’s and casseroles.  Prepare some fresh veggies like carrots, celery, scallions, cauliflower and broccoli and have with some fat free yogurt dip or humus.  Know that veggies are better than medicine and by eating more of them you might find yourself needing less medicine.  After all, would you rather develop diabetes, heart disease, lose your vision or have weight concerns or feel and be healthier and perhaps even lose some weight?  Would you rather look like Popeye or Brutus?

 

Avoid All Or Nothing Thinking – #1 of Ten Actions To Improve Health

Sometimes my clients have “all or nothing” thinking.  If they do not do something 100% perfectly, then they think they failed and will not give themselves any credit at all.  I tell them that small changes do add up and do count and to adjust how they think about changing habits.  That no matter what, they are on a different path than they were on last week.  They have already left their old lifestyle and are moving towards a healthier version of themselves.

I tell my clients that my motto is “enhance the good and dilute the bad”  which corresponds to my belief that our actions do not have to be perfect, they can just be better choices.   It’s when you add up all the small changes that real achievement is acknowledged.

Dilute the Bad

So what are some of those small steps?  You can “dilute the bad” with some of these suggestions. Switching from 2 Tbsp of half and half in your coffee to 2 Tbsp of 2%  milk will save you 25 calories and 2 grams of artery clogging saturated fat. And that’s just one cup of coffee.  Switching from 1 cup of whole milk to 1% milk will save you 50 calories and 5.5 grams of saturated fat. Using  2 Tbsp of light ranch dressing instead of regular ranch dressing will save you 84 calories and 12 grams of saturated fat.  Eliminating the thin slice of American cheese on your sandwich will save you nearly 100 calories and 7 grams of saturated fat. You can see how combining all these small changes can save over 300 calories a day.  It takes about 3500 calories to lose one pound, you can see that in about a month one could lose about three pounds.  Weight comes on gradually; why not have it come off gradually so it feels more natural and sustainable.

Enhance the Good

On the “enhance the good” side of the motto, adding chopped frozen spinach, turnip greens or broccoli to a chili adds all kinds of wonderful nutrients like potassium that are important for heart function and can improve blood pressure eating proper amounts.  Adding low calorie foods like vegetables reduces the calorie density of foods, gives us more volume to help give us a feeling of fullness after eating without all the extra calories of just the standard meat chili.  Switching from regular yogurt to Greek plain fat free yogurt and adding your own fresh or frozen fruit will give you much more protein – one of the macronutrients that helps maintain our muscles and prevents the aftermeal sleepiness that often happens. And since our body does not store protein, it’s important to eat some with every meal. Topping your potato with plain fat free Greek yogurt sprinkled with fresh chives instead of sour cream will save you about 25 calories and 2.5 grams of saturated fat plus it will give you added protein.  Adding barley to your rice or adding kidney beans or some other canned beans to your soups will give you added fiber, particularly the soluble kind, that will fill you up, improve bowel health, help with weight loss, lower blood sugars for those with diabetes or prediabetes and lower cholesterol.

Each of these small steps, done on a daily basis, can add up to gradual, sustainable weight loss but more importantly a healthier, better performing body!

2.  Eat More Veggies ….next week