Category Archives: Habits & Behavior Change

Capsule Nutrition = Meal Prep

brooke-lark-jUPOXXRNdcA-unsplashI love the idea of capsule wardrobes. So I thought, why not capsule nutrition? How about the essentials same shopping list (change out seasonal fruit & veggies) & change up the meals? So easy! Also, make recipes/prep short or able to be done ahead of time when you have more time or motivation. Consider once weekly grocery shopping- so foods that don’t last as long, would be used earlier in the week after grocery shopping…AWESOME. That’s the dream. So, I came up with the capsule nutrition plan’s grocery list.

Capsule Nutrition: What you need – Create your own list of the basics to have on hand for healthier nutrition. Here’s my list: 

Produce for the week (Varies with season & preference):

  • Green leaves – 2+ cups per day per person. Eat the flimsier green leaves earlier in the week as the heartier leaves last longer.
    • Lettuces – various kinds, Romaine hearts last longer
    • Kale, Spinach, Swiss chard, Collard, turnip or mustard greens
    • Parsley, cilantro
    • Salad packs – check the expiration date
  • Avocados, lemons
  • Additional veggies that looks good to you – 2 cups per day per person. Consider: cucumber, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, mushrooms, celery, tomatoes, etc. etc.
  • Fruit – approx. 1 handful per day. Berries are extra nutritious.

Enough for 2 meals daily, some combination of (Varies with availability & mood & season):

  • Fish (Fatty, wild) – 2 days of week
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey, etc.)
  • Meats (beef –grassfed, lamb, pork, bison, etc.)

Dairy for 1+ week (if you are including dairy in your diet):

  • Cheeses – individually wrapped are easy for packing and for quick snack
  • Whipping cream – organic
  • Butter – organic
  • Greek yogurt – plain – enough for 1 week. Individual packed are easy for portion control & for packing
  • Eggs – pasture raised – 2 dozen. Older eggs are easier to peel (remember to boil with 1tsp baking soda or if steamed in an egg steamer!).

Keep stocked:

  • Salad dressing (No sugars or high fructose syrup. Avoid diet dressings)
  • Olive oil, coconut oil
  • Mustards, vinegars, capers
  • Seasonings: pick your favorites. Some of mine: Greek seasoning, garlic salt with parsley flakes, Malden sea salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, dried parsley flakes, soy sauce, thyme, ground ginger, cinnamon.
  • Nut butters – like almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter. Make sure they are without additional ingredients other than salt. This usually means the oil separates and you will have to stir it when you first open the bottle.
  • Various nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts, etc.)
  • Old fashioned rolled oats
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Bittersweet chocolate chips
  • Flaxseed
  • Chia seeds
  • Almond flour
  • Coffee
  • Tea – various

Frozen- keep stocked:

  • Veggies (chopped onions, peppers,  & greens such as spinach, green beans, peas, edamame, etc.)
  • 1 bag Berries
  • Ezekiel bread (if bread is part of diet)
  • Low carb tortilla

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 4C. Relaxation & Sleep — Meditation

filip-mroz-zK049OFP4uI-unsplashThe act of quieting the mind…Meditation.

Meditation comes in various forms and is easily misunderstood. It does not require one to empty the mind. How many times have I heard, “I can’t think of nothing!”?  In fact, you can let the thoughts pass by in your mind and observe them.

There are many ways to meditate, but the focus is on practicing to quiet your mind. You might learn to quiet your reactions to thoughts and events in the past and future. You may work on focusing on the present and practice bringing your mind to the present and experiencing the present (Mindfulness Meditation). You may train your mind to be quiet by distracting it, such as with a mantra (Transcendental Meditation) or deep breathing exercises or by incorporating specific physical activity (Tai Chi or Yoga).

It does not require too much time. In fact, you can choose and you can meditate for various amounts of time based on time you have available or stress level in your life. Also, as you practice, like any sport or activity, it gets easier and you are more effective and efficient with the time. There has been evidence that as little as 12 minutes a day can make so much of a difference that it structurally changes your brain (for the better) and improves your overall function. It reduces stress, improves depression, anxiety, reduces pain, improves chronic disease management, improves quality of life, trains our minds to be more adaptable and flexible and it works for children too!

Meditation can be done anywhere, but it is easiest in a quiet place. There are apps on the phone/computer/tablet and there are books, classes, meetings and audio files. It can be learned on your own or with a guide or teacher. It’s pretty cool because it’s about you and it’s good for you and you can notice positive changes in other areas of your life pretty quickly. Your neurons in your brain start to work together and coordinate. Your body has a chance to check in with itself and reconnect.

Find a way to incorporate some practice of meditation on most days of the week. Work to find a time when you can disconnect from the electronics and focus on you, in the present moment. Give yourself a time out and allow yourself to be You. Just right. Right now. Exactly as you are.

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

The 5 Keys to Incorporating Morning Exercise & Healthy Nutrition – How To Guide

stil-N9uOrBICcjY-unsplashPrioritize your health. Learn to plan and to follow a plan successfully. Make “Success” your habit.

1. Develop a PLAN. Every 2 weeks: Plan exercise in 2 week chunks. Make your exercise plan every 2 weeks.

  • Sit down with notebook and calendar.
  • Write how many continuous weeks you have been exercising as planned.
  • Review how the last 2 weeks went & determine how you change your workout or advance it for the next 2 weeks.
  • Write down what you learn from your review.
    • I total the calories I burned in the last 2 weeks and the total minutes exercising.
    • I make notes of what I want to do differently or if I will try a different exercise or weight.
    • I note if certain music correlated with more enthusiasm or a better workout.
  • Then write what you will change for the next 2 weeks, such as increasing the weights you were benching or the incline on the treadmill or the lower body exercises you are going to do in the upcoming 2 weeks.
    • I write my plans for improvement
  • Look on the calendar and note any significant scheduling challenges in the next 2 weeks (such as travel).
    • I might move a harder workout to a better day fo th
  • Look at the next 2 weeks and pick 5 days each week that you CAN workout in the morning. PUT IT ON THE CALENDAR exactly when you will work out. Include time for your shower, blow dry, etc. and your commute if applicable.
    • For example, I am least motivated to workout on Monday mornings and Friday mornings- so those are my “flex” days when I don’t plan to work out. The rest of the days of the week, I will plan a workout. I figure out when I have to be on the road to work & I schedule my workout 2 hours before I go off to work. 2 hours gives me time for my planned workout & shower & getting ready for work & eating breakfast. If I will be travelling or have a particularly EARLY morning, I may move one of my workout days to Monday and/or Friday– my “flex” days.
  • Make sure there is NEVER 2 days in a row without a work out.
    • For example, I have been following my plan and working out Sat, Sun, (Mondays are off),Tues, Wed, & due to a family emergency, I miss Thursday (which is my usual workout day), I will make it up on Friday (instead of taking that off as would have been my usual). So, Mondays & Fridays act as my make up days, my “flex” days.

2. TRACK it. Every Workout Day: Log every workout in the notebook on the day you work out.

  • Log at a minimum: date, time, what you did.
    • I log my weight & my heart rate (HR) monitor data: average HR, maximum HR, calories burned. I also take a minute to rate how motivated I was prior to my workout (scale 1-3) and how much effort I put in (scale of 1-3).
  • Jot down any notes on the past 24 hours including today’s workout .
    • I might reflect on how much I was yawning during my workout & recognize that it is because I ate so many starchy carbohydrates yesterday. Basically, by reflecting, I am learning to read my body and understand how I am feeling and how to optimize my daily function and happiness. It is kind of like mindfulness meditation.
  • Review what you will do tomorrow & make adjustments as necessary based on your reflection of the past 24 hours and how you are doing today.

Again, prioritize your health. Learn to plan and to follow a plan successfully. Make “Success” your habit.

  • KEY POINT: Once it is planned, you do not deviate from the plan unless you “plan” to deviate from it at least 1 day prior to the event. Here is an example using your workout plan: you planned to work out Upper Body on Tuesday, Lower Body on Wednesday, Upper Body on Thursday. Tuesday goes great. On Wednesday, after your Lower Body workout, you realize your Upper Body is not going to be ready to do the workout that was planned on Thursday. On WEDNESDAY, you can ADJUST your original Thursday workout plan, while you are reviewing the next day’s workout. You should change the workout plan for Thursday on that Wednesday- maybe you decide you will just walk on the treadmill. Now, when you wake up on Thursday and get ready to workout, your notebook tells you the plan is to walk for 20 minutes at a brisk pace. Fine. You are still ON PLAN and being SUCCESSFUL. You know the adjustment was thoughtful and deliberate instead of because of your “mood.” You are training yourself to be healthy and successful and feel good about what you are doing.

3. Have a BACK UP Plan. ALWAYS makeup any missed workout with SOME movement.

  • If possible, even if the workout will be missed, consider doing at least 5 minutes of some physical activity that will boost your heart rate.
  • 8Fit is an app with quick body weight exercises that can be done without any equipment in a small space- even a dorm or hotel room.
  • From the example above, that upper body workout that I planned not to do on Thursday, I will plan to make it up on the Friday morning. I put it on the calendar. I will also note that when planning my next 2 week workout schedule, I will need to reconsider if I need to change my workout pattern, the weights or the exercise(s) I am doing.

4. Keep meal planning simple. Have a plan for your basics (as back up in case you don’t have more exciting meal plan available) & modify as necessary. Here is an example of mine using drive thru which is on way to work :

  • 4 Breakfast options – availability and convenience are key, I don’t have to think about it.
    1. At home: Eggs with baby spinach, mushrooms, feta cheese with avocado &/or tomato slices or other veggies. Tip: Make Omelette Muffins. Mix up a large bowl of 12 eggs with a handful each of: chopped vegetables (left overs from dinner the night before are fine), chopped ham/bacon/sausage/lox (optional), and grated/crumbled cheese (cheddar, swiss, goat, or feta cheeses work great) and pour into greased muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes into omelette muffins. Store in the fridge or freezer for quick grab and go breakfast options that can be eaten cold or heated up.
    2. Home or easily transportable: Omelette muffin (above), Chia seed pudding or Plain Greek yogurt with 1 Tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes, dash of cinnamon and 2 Tbsp almond butter. Bonus additions: chopped pecans or ground flax seeds or Chia seeds too. Occasionally, I add 1/4 c. fresh berries. If weight or carbs is not an issue for you, you can add 2 Tbsp Old Fashioned Oats and/or 6 bittersweet chocolate chips.
    3. Traveling/On Road/No Kitchen/No Time: Drive thru breakfast sandwich or wrap with at 2 eggs (ask for the extra egg if it only comes with 1)- key when I am not able to eat breakfast before leaving the house and the boys ate the last of my prepared breakfast options.
    4. Anywhere: Large iced or hot coffee with cream with plan for midmorning “snack” or  late brunch out or just plan “not hungry.” Tip: If you make your own coffee at home, add cinnamon to the coffee grounds to jazz it up.
  • 3 At-Work QUICK Lunch Options:
    1. Time crunch day- no time to prepare or plan or grab a salad: In my work refrigerator: plain Greek yogurt, almond butter, cheese, boiled eggs. Will mix up yogurt, nut butter and nuts (always in my bag) for protein power lunch.
    2. Bring from home: salad or prepared salad pack & leftover protein from dinner night before or salmon or tuna pack. Often, I add cheese crumbles and/or avocado to the salad. Salad dressing at work.
    3. In a Rush/Out of Groceries at home: Drive thru Cobb or other salad with chicken, egg or other protein on top with unsweetened iced tea.
  • Dinners Vary. Make extra for lunch the next day. Always have protein & non-starchy vegetables. If no salad earlier in the day, I will have one with dinner on most days.
  • Drinks: Drinks are water, black coffee & unsweetened teas.
  • Desserts: Dark chocolate and berries and unsweetened fresh whipped cream,  individually or in various combinations, are favorite desserts. Nuts and cheese make a nice crunchy/savory option too.
  • The Day OF my plans to go out for dinner: If I am going out for dinner, ie. on Friday, I eat breakfast later and then nibble some cheese, handful of nuts or celery with peanut butter in the afternoon if I get hungry before dinner.
  • Eating out: Majority of the time– keep it simple with protein & veggies. Replace the bread/fries/potato with side of veggies or salad. If I had a great workout and did not eat any sweets or starchy carbs earlier in the day, I may share a dessert.

Keep your nutrition plan simple and easy to keep track of. Eat lots of veggies and eat your protein and stay hydrated. You don’t need to spend energy thinking up new ideas or figuring out what you need to eat when you are in a panic or have limited choices. Plan ahead and be prepared. Follow your plan.

5. Develop Self Compassion. Perfection is not the goal. You are human. Striving towards excellence as a human, as the most perfect version of you, means that sometimes, there are deviations. In those moments, practice saying to yourself: “I am doing the best that I can, right now.” Then, let it go.

Tomorrow, you can choose to reflect and learn from it. Ask yourself if there was something you could learn from that experience. For example:

  • Reflect: Was there something, a person, an event, a place, that triggered the deviation or altered your plans?
  • Learn: Is there anything you can do differently in the future under similar circumstances?
  • Reaffirm: Repeat to yourself, “I am doing the best that I can, right now.” Then, move forward as a wiser and more prepared You.

Summary: Prioritize your health. Learn to plan and to follow a plan successfully. Make “Success” your habit.

This post is in honor of my mom.

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

Healthier Together Series: 4B. Physical Activity – Crisp Weather

dan-freeman-VAWqURK_Th0-unsplashToday’s physical activity note:
Master the Common Fall Excuses

Enjoy now and prepare for what’s to come. In the Midwest, fall marks the changing weather and beautiful sounds and colors around us. Leaves are changing colors, sunsets and sunrises are beautiful, the crinkly leaves on the ground and rattling in the trees are lovely. Kids are in school so there are quieter times of the day in the neighborhood…depending on where you live.

However, with these changes, comes some more frantic moments – before and after school- coordinating with others regarding schedules, homework, work, feeding the family, extracurricular activities, social activities, etc. running the household- whether you are alone or with others, is busy. And when the days get shorter and it gets cooler out, our body’s natural responses may mean we start to decrease our vigilance and focus in taking care of ourselves. Waking up gets harder, getting out of the warm bed and into the cold air is a challenge, the weather outside starts to seem too uncomfortable to go out there. On top of it, if you are also needing to worry about getting the kids up and ready for school, that takes up precious time so it’s easy to run out of time in the morning to squeeze in some physical activity. By evening, you are tired and hungry, have to drive everyone to their activities, cook, run errands, go through the mail, help with homework and “projects,” maybe even do some of your own work, etc. etc.

This “Fall transition” often manifests first, in skipping workouts or cutting out or cutting down on our physical activity. Where to squeeze it in?!

First: Plan ahead and be prepared. You know what interfered with your health plans in the past. “I am tired and have so much going on, there isn’t enough time” and “I need more sleep” and “it’s too cold” are common excuses of why those workouts fizzled out.

Master Fatigue
If you keep active through the changes of seasons and cold weather, your metabolism will continue to rev at a higher burn rate through winter (instead of the usual “metabolic slow down”) and especially during those times you may eat foods you wouldn’t normally eat (hello holidays). Also, if you remain active, you will feel less fatigued in general.

Remember, you need less time in bed and you get better sleep the more fit you are. In other words, you add time to your day when you are fit! So if you are tired of being tired, getting fit and staying fit, will help with that! Organize your sleep around your workouts! If you wake up early and are still sleepy, nap later, go to sleep earlier, deal with any sleep debts at times other than your physical activity time. Keep your physical activity a top priority.

If you are tired at the end of the day or after work when you normally workout, do your physical activity and THEN rest. The physical activity can be abbreviated or an alternative less intense activity- it still counts! You may find that once you start exercising and get in the habit of exercising, you develop MORE energy and are no longer too tired to do other things! Again, regular physical activity gives you MORE effective awake time in your day!

Master the Cold
About the cold, if you workout outside and you live in a climate with brutal winters, have alternative workouts for those days you can’t workout per your planned routine. Of course, if you are able and want to keep working out outside, you can find appropriate winter sports or go to an outdoor recreation store and get the appropriate cold weather gear so you can continue to be physically active outside.

When you have the right gear, it’s so much more fun and motivating! My personal cold weather outerwear is from the NorthFace. Initially, the cost prohibited me from trying it but after spending way more in multiple different jackets that each had limitations, and therefore limited
my options, I invested in a NorthFace jacket. I can wear my jacket indoors or outdoors and my body temp feels the same and unaffected by the temperature. No overheating or freezing and it is lightweight and easy to move in. Some days, I wear it all day long- inside and out. It has revolutionized my options for winter activities.

Here are some additional thoughts and tips. See also the earlier blog about how to manage excuses.

1. Pick a shorter workout to do in the morning, that you will do. Maybe you will workout at home and do a DVD workout program or use one from YouTube which is only 15 minutes? Or try high intensity interval training so that you get more out of your workout in less time?

2. Remember it is cold when you get out of bed whether it is to get ready for work or the kids or if you are going to treat yourself to some personal time to move and enjoy the quiet of the morning before others wake up. Use this early morning time for yourself first. Keep your workout gear, clothes nearby so you just start before you are fully awake. Have some warm cushy outer covering to put on over your usual workout clothes (or PJ’s) so you are warm as you get up to start moving. Get into those workout clothes, ie. sports bra. Just getting into my workout clothes – mainly my sports bra, makes it 99% more likely I will exercise.

If you can set your thermostat on a cycle to warm up 30 minutes before waking up, that will help too.

Then, see #1 above – move your body- Tai Chi is great or take a brisk walk outside. Do some stretches. Whatever will get your blood and fluids circulating…it is such a great way to start the day.

3. Plan to do some movement in those brief moments throughout your day when it’s not enough time to do something else, it may be the times you might check email or social media. Find some physical activities you can do at those times. At least standings is better than sitting. Walking is even better. Plank pose is good. Push-ups- even modified push-ups against a wall. Some crunches. How about some lunges or squats or plies? High knees? What about calf raises where you go up and down onto your tip toes? Do you like jumping jacks or jumping rope? Swing your hips while you are standing. Overhead reaches to stretch out. Gently roll your neck and shoulders. How about some arm circles?

Please share your tricks to maintaining or incorporating physical activity into your day as you master the excuses.

 

Photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 4A. Nutrition – Go To List

dan-gold-4_jhDO54BYg-unsplashREAL food. Here are some of my go-to REAL food ideas. A little planning & prep can go a long way.

Remember: Avoid foods and drinks that are artificially made “low fat” or “no fat.” If nature made it with fat, that’s how it’s best managed by your body. Avoid artificial sweeteners. If you are having something sweet, own up to it and only have a little. You can modify the list below to remove grains or dairy. 

Snacks to have on hand (**Always available, keeps longer):

In the Fridge:

  • Raw veggies – usually have 2-4 varieties in fridge for week:
    • carrot sticks
    • sugar snap peas
    • celery sticks
    • radishes (eat salted- yum)
    • cucumbers
    • peppers
    • romaine hearts
    • grape tomatoes
  • salad/baby spinach packs
  • hummus
  • Greek plain yogurt
  • Baby bell (or other individually wrapped) cheeses**
  • crumbled smoked blue cheese or feta cheese
  • blue cheese or other salad dressing**
  • boiled eggs (boil a dozen at beginning of week- remember boil older eggs & add 1 tsp baking soda to water helps make them easy-peel)
  • crispy oven baked nitrite/nitrate free bacon (line on cookie sheet & bake)
  • deli meats, (pasture raised IS better)
  • leftovers: roasted veggies or meats
  • Berries occasionally
  • dark chocolate covered cocoa dusted almonds** (Buy in bulk & stored in freezer)

NOT in the fridge (often in my desk drawers in office or pantry at home)

  • nuts** (various flavors ie. wasabi soy sauce almonds, smoked almonds, salted peanuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, etc.)
  • nut butters** (peanut, almond, cashew, etc.) – great to add to other foods or when in a pinch, just scoop it out in a spoon and eat 1 spoonful- surprisingly satisfying.
  • beef jerky** (pasture raised is best)
  • tuna packs**
  • salmon packs** (great way to get wild salmon, instead of farm raised “Atlantic” salmon – which doesn’t have the higher omega 3’s of wild salmon)
  • olives**
  • pickles**
  • Kind bars** – there are many varieties…these are when I want something sweet

Rotating foods:

  1. Kale Salad: kale- 1 bunch (julienne or chopped fine, massage leaves with drizzled olive oil), juice of 1 lemon juice, sprinkling of pine nuts, grated Parmesan to taste
  2. “Everything” Mix: nut butter + flax seed + chia seeds + old fashioned rolled oats (optional) + few choc chips + coconut flakes (unsweetened) (which is combined & put together with some maple syrup & stored in fridge in balls or crumbled…then when I want it, mix it into plain Greek yogurt +/- berries). Recipe for a no-bake snack.
  3. Chopped Colorful Salad or Wedge salad – nitrite/nitrate free bacon, boiled eggs (as above) +/- avocado/blue cheese +/- grape tomatoes on salad pack (or quarter of iceberg lettuce or cut up hearts of romaine lettuce) with leftovers from dinner
  4. Tuna/egg/salmon salad on romaine lettuce leaf (use like taco shell) or on cucumber slices/boat (scoop out the seeds) or on salad pack. (If you like capers, add some to your egg salad – it is divine!)
  5. Nut butter on celery or apple slices or stirred into Greek yogurt
  6. Deli meat (as above) or tuna/egg/salmon/chicken salad wrapped in romaine with hummus or cheese +/- additional veggies like peppers slices or tomato or avocado (wrap in saran wrap like nori-maki to store in fridge if making ahead)
  7. Spinach with almost anything (can saute or eat fresh or put in microwave. Then, put dressing or soy sauce or vinegar w/olive oil or sprinkle with cheese & bacon or toss berries in it)
  8. Broccoli slaw – saute or add to almost any dish. It’s easy and an excellent source of vitamins and delicious.
  9. Eggs: fried/scrambled/boiled with tomato slices & avocado (+/- sprouted ezekiel bread-if occasionally eating whole grains, found in freezer section only) +/- salsa
  10. Homemade Trail Mix: mixed nuts with some dark chocolate chips/carob chips +/- unsweetened coconut flakes
  11. Cabbage – sauteed as “base” for other foods in place of pasta or rice
  12. Spaghetti squash -baked – to eat with spaghetti with meat sauce
  13. Cauliflower – as “mashed potatoes” or “rice” or baked with parmesan or roasted or raw, etc. etc.
  14. Meatloaf, prefer grass-fed ground beef or ground lamb – great as leftovers & easy to add to almost any other meals (if have extra time, would make it into meatballs)
  15. Green beans (blanched) & grape tomatoes halved (soy sauce, chopped garlic & sesame oil)
  16. Edamame – boil x 5 minutes & sprinkle with salt over pods. Good hot or cold.
  17. Eggplant slices – baked or fried with some olive oil & salt or grated Parmesan or other seasonings. Add some tomato or marinara sauce on it with a sprinkling of Parmesan or Asiago & baked- it is AMAZING.
  18. Mushrooms – stuffed. Or baked with soy sauce or cheese
  19. Cheese crisps (sliced or shredded cheese placed on parchment & baked or microwaved until melted & flattened out, then browned just a bit to make them crispy when cooled down)
  20. Stir fry veggies +/- protein
  21. Hummus with veggies
  22. Peppers stuffed with deli meats (see above), tuna salad or sliced with hummus or in stir fry or salads
  23. Leftover meats cut into strips (Always cook extra protein for dinner & cut up the leftovers. Strips are easy to grab as snack or put in romaine boat or toss in salad or stir fry or with cabbage stir fry)
  24. Coconut granola (I did not use both honey AND maple syrup, so it wasn’t too sweet)
  25. Golden Low Carb granola from the Low Carb Diet Doctor

Keep healthy food options easy and readily available and you will improve your nutrition and your health from inside…out. Please share some of your suggestions for easy healthy real food ideas.

 

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 3D. Putting it all together — Power Recharge!

tracey-hocking-tq1J9imFJ3g-unsplashIn our 3rd cycle, we covered healthy responses to hunger, that little bits of physical activity count & add up, and the power of nature in our abilities to recharge. Here’s how it might look:

1. In the morning when you first wake up, drink a glass of water, maybe with a lemon. Or drink some tea. Or some coffee with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Spend some time walking (it can be a leisurely pace or as fast as speed walking), doing some enjoyable exercise (including the obvious like lifting weights, interval training, treadmill, biking, elliptical, nordic track, but free form dancing also counts!) or some other physical movements of the body (tai chi, yoga, pilates, Nia technique, Callanetics, etc.). If you wake up before others in your home, this is your GIFT time. It’s ALL yours, to spend how you want. I cherish this GIFT time in my life. I can choose EXACTLY how to spend it.

If you have beautiful nature nearby, you can take your activity outdoors, as is commonly done with Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese practice of coordinated physical movements that used to be a martial art for self defense. Moving your body outside in nature is a VERY nice way to start your day. Have another glass of water/tea/unsweetened coffee when you move onto the rest of your day. After your physical activity, have a breakfast with protein for better function later in the day. In nicer weather, have breakfast outdoors- what a dream!

Once this routine becomes your regular routine, you will find that this is a FANTASTIC way to start your day. It’s great to start out your day as your own perfect person, fully recharged and ready to face the day!

2. At work, when you would normally take a break to walk to the coffee machine/break room/vending machine/bathroom, grab a cup of water/tea/coffee and stand or walk a bit extra. Take a step outside if you can, or look out the window. At least move your body: This can be stretching your arms up high, arching your back (especially if you sit hunched over a desk or computer),  or bending forward at the waist to stretch out your lower back. You might pull out your travel yoga mat and do a floor stretch or two, maybe downward dog and plank pose? A sun salutation? You may take a walk by the potted plants or a window and shake out your legs, roll your shoulders. Bottom line, make an effort to hydrate and move and expose yourself to nature. If you are hungry, go for the protein snack you have as back up.

3. In many countries, people take extra “rest” time at lunch, commonly known as a siesta. In the US, we don’t traditionally incorporate that into our day, but we do commonly take a break for lunch. At lunchtime,  get as close to the outdoors as possible so that you can see the weather, you can see something naturally green or view the sky or a natural body of water. Spend at least a few minutes just seeing what’s “out there.” If possible, stand or walk in places you find peaceful or that allow you some exposure to nature. It can be surprising how enchanting this habit can be. To complete the picture, take a bottle of water with you on the lunch time walk outdoors. If you eat lunch AFTER your walk, you will be much more alert later in the day and you may find you make better food & drink choices. Choose water/tea/coffee, protein, and some non-starchy veggies for lunch & you are good to go.

4. In the evening, stay away from caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee. Drink water. Taking some time in the presence of nature, stop to connect with other people and give them your full attention. Taking an evening stroll with friends or significant other is a great way to do this. Having a meal with someone(s) you care about is also beneficial to your health. Think about, talk about, journal about the events of your day. Process your day…better with someone, but OK with nature. Think about what you learned that day and consider 3 things you are grateful for or appreciate. In this way, you will be refreshed and able to be recharged for tomorrow.

5. When you find you have greater time, unplug from the electronics and spend some time reading, writing, drawing, moving, singing, or communing with others- ideally in person. Sip some water or tea or coffee. Move around, walk a bit. This is the equivalent of “hanging out on the piazza” and recharging your soul. The more regularly this becomes a part of your life, the more relaxed and comfortable the rest of your life will become- the ripple effect.

Please send me your ways of bringing it all together.

Photo by Tracey Hocking on Unsplash

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 3C. Relaxation & Sleep — Missing Nature

behzad-ghaffarian-LBjA0WPtUhQ-unsplashAre you wired 24 x 7? Do you ever unplug? Maybe it’s all about missing nature.

We are busy. There’s so much to do & often, not enough time. When we are staring at a screen for much of our day (smartphone or tablet or TV or computer or movie or presentation), we are missing an opportunity to view nature, other beings in 3-D, in real life. We may be focused on driving to our destination or doing a task (often with electronics involved), we may miss the subtle beauty and appreciation of the world around us. We lose the ability to process and recover from our daily events and it becomes easier to close ourselves off to the joy and vibrant world around us and we may gravitate towards UNhealth: increased stress, poor sleep quality, more frustrations, poor nutritional choices, less time spent making healthy choices, increased blood pressure, more chronic disease issues, less enjoyment,  more depressed or anxious moods, diminished sense of humor, fewer interpersonal relationships, decreased sex drive and burn out.

In addition to meditation, journal-ing, listening to beautiful music, singing, dancing, physical activity, connecting with others (people/animals), one of the simplest ways to recharge is by spending some time in nature. Just being in nature. It has been shown that even having a picture of nature in plain site, improves overall well-being in those who see it, so imagine how powerful it is if you can see it in real life. All it takes is a few potted plants outside where you can sit or stand. Or a small path you can walk along with plants or pond or water along the way. A place where you can feel the wind on your skin and hear the birds or the waves or the movement of water or leaves.

This small but powerful exposure to nature doesn’t have to be exotic or take a long time or require time off from work. In fact, put some plants in your office or home. Put a cut flower in a vase. Step outside into the sun (or rain or snow) for a midday break. Take a walk in the woods or arboretum or park or neighborhood. Allow yourself to pause and notice the nature around you. Seeing and appreciating the natural world around you will nourish you. Think about whatever you want. Spend as much time as you plan – whether it is based on need, ability or desire. Nature accepts you as you are and you are part of nature. Remind yourself that you are human and it’s OK to take a small break and recharge.

Over time, if you allow yourself regular exposure to nature, no matter how brief, you will notice a small change inside of yourself. That internal flame, your life source can glow and grow. Then there’s the ripple effect. Things will start to improve. You will start to feel better. You can gain perspective, remember the beauty and awesomeness of nature and learn to love and accept yourself and others as nature intended. There is always change around us, and we can’t control it all and that is how life is supposed to be. We can more easily accept and adapt to those changes, improve our sleep, enjoy more relaxation and our continue to improve our overall well-being by allowing nature to recharge us. We are natural beings. Give nature a chance. You may just be missing nature.

Photo by Behzad Ghaffarian on Unsplash

Healthy Together Series: Cycle 3B. Physical Activity – It only takes a little.

toa-heftiba-fmQh9ouUofY-unsplashToday’s physical activity note:

Increasing your overall activity level adds up.

  • Stand instead of sitting if you can.
  • Tap your foot if you are sitting.
  • Use a stability ball in place of a desk chair.
  • Take the stairs.
  • Plan to walk or bike places instead of driving.

The more you move, the better.

  • Walking and getting up and down from a chair or seated position is very good for you. Stand up when you take a phone call or if you are on a conference call.
  • Go up and down steps or stairs- it is working against gravity and aging. Walk upstairs to use the bathroom on a different floor.
  • Dancing or swinging your hips is good for everyone. Solo or with a partner or in a class, great music makes it way more fun.
  • When you raise your arms overhead, it’s hard to feel bad or to cry. Smile at yourself when you reach up.
  • Stretch your arms  up and out if you’ve been staring at a computer screen or smartphone. You can feel your body open up.

Find ways to just increase your overall daily energy expenditure. Moving is what keeps your body and mind young and able to adapt to changes around you.

 

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 3A. Nutrition — When you’re hungry…

josh-bean-i817tD8-Ly4-unsplashNutrition notes today:

How to stay in control and eat for nutrition and health and achieve a healthier weight.

Do you frequently have times when you make poor food choices because you were too busy or tired to prepare ahead or cook? It’s all about having a plan and easily available options for when you get hungry. Make a list and make it a habit to keep a few options on hand ALWAYS.

First, recognize that sometimes, it’s not hunger but boredom or loneliness or feeling bad in some way and needing to fill a void. A walk, connecting with nature, listening to music, meditating or journalling for 5-10 minutes may resolve the “hunger.”

If you are still hungry, drink water first. Add lemon or lime or cucumber slices and even mint leaves if you like. Thirst can present as hunger.

If still hungry, eat protein. If the thought of eating protein doesn’t sound appealing, reassess if you are hungry. Boiled eggs or some meat, chicken, turkey, canned fish, precooked shrimp can be easy to keep available. Make some extra chicken tonight and store it in the fridge in strips that can be eaten tomorrow as a snack dipped in dressing, on a salad, in soup or in a Romaine lettuce wrap (like a taco). Nuts and nut butters are also easy to have on hand.

If you eat some protein and are still hungry, eat non-starchy veggies- like celery, leafy greens, cucumbers, peppers, jicama, radishes, cauliflower, zucchini, etc. Crunchy seems to be more satisfying sometimes!

If you are needing something creamy, Greek yogurt, smoothie, hummus, or a nut butter works.

Want something cheesy? Have a cheese stick or small individually wrapped cheese or real cheese dip for your crunchy veggies.

Craving chocolate? Dark chocolate covered almonds dusted with cocoa works wonders. This is also good when you want something sweet and/or crunchy.

If you HAVE to have fruit, a handful of berries are good.

Remember, most of us are chronically dehydrated- so drink water. When you eat, you are supposed to be nourishing your body with essential nutrients that are found in proteins and veggies. So if you are hungry, provide your body with those essential nutrients.

Make your list of “Go To” foods and have a couple of them available regularly. Then, when you are urgently needing some nutrients, you will be able to fill that need without resorting to the foods that don’t nourish you and that you will regret later.

 

Photo by Josh Bean on Unsplash

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 2D. Putting it all together — What it looks like now…

Today’s post is an example of putting it all together.

No matter the time of year, we should nourish our bodies. This 2nd cycle included much of the basics of nourishing ourselves. After a brutal winter, I am definitely needing to make sure my body & mind has what it needs to continue to function at its best. Spring is here & I get the feeling of fresh beginnings and new blossoms.

At this time of year, in addition to looking for a new haircut, outfit or makeup, I reassess my nourishing health behaviors and make sure to keep moving forward. In one of my favorite books, Joe X, the author, Avery Hunnicut, notes that we are never just maintaining. We are either moving forward or moving backwards. If you don’t move forward, you will move backwards by default. So, of course, I choose to move forwards every day.

At this time, I make sure I am continuing to stay hydrated ideally with water. During the winter, sometimes I get into habits of drinking other fluids too, so often in the Spring, I switch back to more water. I have a couple of water bottles that I LOVE — they are bright and colorful & girly and cheer me up when I see them, so I take a swig of my water. Sometimes, I will add lime or lemon or some mint leaves to the water – my favorite is a squirt of lime in my ice water.

So, I drink an entire large water bottle of iced lemon/lime water with my workout in the morning on waking. I’m wearing my heart rate monitor while I work out and I am logging my “data.” I keep track of my daily activity with a FitBit.

Although I feel active at work, I notice on the day I don’t do any planned work out, on Monday, I am lucky if I walk 4,000 steps at work! Yikes! I guess I am NOT so active at work. Now that I know, on Monday evenings, I will incorporate an evening walk with one of my boys, my dog or my husband. I also have great music I can listen to if I want to walk alone. My goal: to make sure I bump up that number closer to 10,000 steps!

On my workout days, I definitely hit the 10,000 steps. If I seem to be going way over, then I don’t feel so bad if on Monday (my day off from working out), I log fewer steps.

In addition, I note that my baseline (resting) heart rate is low (which is good when due to regular exercise). I also monitor how long it takes my heart rate to come back to baseline (my recovery time- remember shorter time to recovery means better fitness) & am very pleased it is still improving. I’m also excited because I am able to do so much more with the same effort. I’m continuing to move forward!

Finally, I have to check my sleep. I use the Sleep Cycle app on my iphone. I notice a pattern: 2 nights a week, I get only 5 hours of sleep. The rest of the week, I am getting enough sleep. I feel extra good about this because one of the reasons I continued working out regularly was so that I could function just as well on less sleep (which leaves me an extra hour a day to do what I want). I had learned that when people are fit, their sleep-time needs decrease. I needed to function on less hours of sleep in medical school, so I knew I had to maintain my fitness.

In addition, to make up my 5 hours of sleep debt in the week, I found I can make it up on most Friday nights if I am not on call & don’t have Saturday clinic. Also, I can add 30 minutes over several other days in the week depending on the week- I just have to schedule it. And, I realized that I will need to make a conscious effort to get in bed on time so I get adequate sleep. The boys, my sexy husband, the iphone, emails, internet, books & journals are easy to get lost in…Time flies & next thing I know, I am cutting into my sleep time! Note to self: set a pleasant alarm to remind me to put all that away & get in bed! If I can’t sleep, I will meditate quietly.

Summary of Cycle 2:
1. Assess daily water intake and find ways to increase water intake. Attractive water bottles help.
2. Assess baseline activity level (count your steps every day) & aim to increase it 10% every 2 weeks (NOT TOO FAST) until your average number of steps is at least 10,000 steps or more.
3. Learn your baseline heart rate by checking first thing in the morning & then learn how much time it takes your heart rate to return to that baseline after you have been active or exercising. As you get more fit, the baseline gets lower and your body return to the baseline faster after strenuous activity or exercise. That is fitness!
4. Figure out your average number of hours of sleep over 5 days & make sure you get at least 7.5 hours of sleep per night on average. If you are sleeping less than 7.5 hours on average, then you need to make it up over several days and find a way to get adequate sleep in the future. Determine which nights you can make up your sleep on a regular basis…your “make up sleep debt” nights. These are often the days when you can sleep in as late as you need.