Five in 30 Week One: Let’s Get Real

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Welcome to Week One of the Five in 30 Sensible Weight Loss Challenge

Last week when I posted the article about the upcoming Five in 30 Sensible Weight Loss Challenge I said you only had to do a couple of things to be successful in this program:  S.M.A.R.T. goal setting (click here to download the printable goal tracker) weekly weigh-ins, and regular visits to PTCDN for weight loss tips to keep you motivated.

There is one more thing you need to do. You need to get real. What I mean by that is you need to figure out what change(s) you have to make starting today if you are going to lose five pounds in 30 days.

You have five pounds you want to lose. It is true that journaling, regular weigh-ins and goal setting/tracking will help you get to your goal, but you also need to acquire, eliminate or at least tweak those one or two behaviors that are getting in your way. Then, the other things mentioned – journaling, goal tracking and regular weigh-ins – will help you figure out whether or not what you’re doing is working. If it is, keep doing it. If it’s not you can fix it before you get discouraged.

Step One

You have five pounds to lose. That means you have some habits that are causing you to hold on to five pounds more than you want. What are they?

Possibly too much of the following:

– Sugary drinks (soda, sweet tea, special coffee drinks)

– Alcohol

– Convenience foods (fast food, heat and eat)

– Sugary foods (confections, candy, granola bars, some dairy products)

– Carb-loaded foods (bagels, breads, pasta, rice)

– Special occasion splurges (happy hour, birthday cake, pizza night)

– Inactivity

Or, not enough of some of these things:

– Low-calorie-high-nutrition foods (vegetables, some fruits, lean proteins)

– Physical activity

– Motivation

– Time (meal planning, grocery shopping, journaling)

number-2Pick Two

Once you’ve decided what it is you need less and/or more of, pick two. Now it’s time to set a S.M.A.R.T. goal for each one

– What is my goal?

– What specifically will I achieve?

– How will I measure it?

– Is it achievable by me now?

– Is it relevant to my larger goals?

– By what dates will I achieve it?

Make sure you put this in writing in your journal or on the goal tracker.

 

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

Once you get the goals picked and written down, the magic weight loss will begin, right? If you’re lucky you’ll wake up every day excited and motivated to achieve your goals.

That is sometimes the case, but often you have to start behaving differently before you can build a different mindset. To get you started, create some positive affirmations that will help you embrace your behaviors. “I feel so much better when I eat more vegetables.” “The 15 minute walk in the morning energizes me for the day.”  “Taking time to plan meals is positive for me and my family.”

How Positive Affirmations Can Get You Unstuck and Moving Again

Keep saying these affirmations to yourself until you believe them. Your brain has more power over your body and its behaviors that you realize.  If you make a habit of positive self-talk, losing the five pounds will happen.

See you next week!

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10 Ways to Improve Your Health This Year

Making a few basic changes to your lifestyle can have a big impact on your health. Below are 10 tried and true tips to help you get started on having a healthy 2017!

healthy-people-jumping

Flickr photo by ishan jha

It’s A New Year! Let’s Do This!

1. Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals— We start out the New Year with aspirations to change all of the things we don’t like about ourselves. We want to lose weight, get organized, eat better, exercise more, be more productive at our job. But by mid-January or the first of February we aren’t giving much thought to the resolutions we made a few weeks ago. By setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely, you’ll have a better chance of success.

Trim your big lofty goals down to smaller, smarter goals by asking these questions:

– What specifically will I achieve with this goal?

– How will I measure it?

– Is it achievable to me right now?

– Is it relevant to my larger goal?

– By what date will I achieve it?

2. Move More— A review in the Journal of Applied Physiology says that inactivity makes you insulin resistant and raises your lipid levels. These two factors, alone or combined, can put you at a greater risk for type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease. The Journal also says that prolonged periods of sitting make it harder for your body to burn fat and may even encourage fat storage. Finding simple ways to get more physical activity in each day can be easy and fun. A couple of things to try might be:

– Walk in place during the commercials breaks when you watch T.V.

– Get out of your chair and pace around when you talk on the phone

– Do a set of wall squats and desk push-ups every day at the office.

3. Cut Back on Sugar—Sugar is a substance that has 16 calories per teaspoon and zero nutritional value.  Eating too much sugar adds inches without supplying any of the daily requirements for vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Too much sugar also contributes to illness and chronic disease. The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and no more than nine a day for men. If your sugar intake is out of control, tracking your sugar to make sure you stay within the AHA guidelines is a good place to start.

4. Get Cooking—It’s not impossible to eat a healthy diet when you dine out, but it’s definitely more of a challenge.  Did you know that frequently eating foods prepared away from home is associated with obesity, higher body fat and a higher BMI. Plus, women who eat foods prepared outside of the home more than five times per week consume about 290 more calories, on average, each day than women who eat these foods less often. When you prepare meals at home, you control the ingredients, fat, sodium, calories and quality.

The Weight Loss Tip No One is Talking About

5. Take Up Strength Training—As you age you lose muscle. People that are inactive lose about three to five percent of their muscle mass per decade after the age of 30. That means, by the time you’re 50 you will have lost up to 15 percent. The loss of muscle tissue can generate a variety of inflictions including sarcopenia, osteoporosis, weight gain, loss of balance and decreased energy.

Adding a couple of strength training workouts to your cardio routine a couple of times a week can turn these conditions around or prevent them from occurring in the first place. Strength training is the key to looking and feeling younger than your age.

Strength Training: The Secret to Looking Younger and Better

6. Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables — Fruits and vegetables add color, flavor and texture to every meal. Plus they are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Set a goal to eat at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of veggies every day. Experiment with different types by trying a new fruit or vegetable each week. Best of all, most varieties are low in calories and can be consumed in abundance without the fear of weight gain.

Kale

 

7. Start Your Day With Lemon Water— Squeezing a half of a lemon into a glass of water first thing in the morning is a good way to hydrate your system, cleanse the liver, and get a supply of vitamins and anti-oxidants that can give your immune system a boost.

The best reason to add fresh lemon juice to your diet several times a week is because they are super-charged with Vitamin C which is one of the most important antioxidants in nature. Anti-oxidants can protect healthy cells from free-radicals that can damage cell membranes, which ultimately leads to inflammation, pain and chronic disease.

8. Practice MindfulnessEach day we have around 60,000 thoughts. Of those, 90% are not only repetitive, they are also negative. Psychologists refer to this as a brain loop and believe that these thoughts become so routine we aren’t even aware of the repetition of them.

Learning to live in the moment can help you break free of repetitive, negative thinking and can have a huge impact on your productivity, weight and health. According to Gregory Cherok, a sports psychology consultant with the American College of Sports Medicine, research shows that mindfulness meditation improves attention and sharpens impulse control.

Take Your Life Off of Auto-Pilot and Go Someplace Different

9. Keep a Gratitude Journal — Gratitude guru Professor Robert Emmons has spent much of his adult life examining the psychology of gratitude and its connection with positive outcomes in a person’s life. Through his work he’s found that being grateful improves both psychological and physical health.

Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, tend to take better care of themselves, and behave in a ore prosocial behavior. Giving thanks reduces toxic emotions, makes us less likely to want to seek revenge, and increases the empathy that we have for others. With all of the benefits that come from just being more grateful it seems like a no-brainer that this is something we should all be doing more of.

Use a journal to write down two or three things that you are grateful for each day. It will only take a couple of minutes and the rewards are well worth it.

10. Walk 10,000 Steps a Day – Taking short walks throughout the day, walking in place while you’re on the phone, and getting on the treadmill while you’re watching T.V. are some simple ways to get more walking in. To get to the goal of 10,000 steps a day, you’ll probably need to get creative and do something extra: park farther away, take the stairs instead of the elevator, pace around in your office or workspace, walk in place for three minutes after every hour of sitting.

One of the best ways to add steps is to prepare dinner for your family rather than going out to eat, running through the drive-through or nuking a heat-and-eat item from the grocery.

Keep Calm. You’ve Got This

Blackboard

Tackling all of these at one time would be overwhelming (and not very S.M.A.R.T).  Pick one or two that you think you would benefit the most from, and get started today by setting and tracking achievable goals.

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Join the Five In 30 Sensible Weight Loss Program That Starts January 9

First, Last, or Only: You Can Lose 5 Pounds in 30 Days

Do you have five pounds you’d like to lose? Whether it is your first five, last five, or only five, there is a way to lose five pounds in 30 days without turning your life upside down.

The Five in 30 sensible weight loss program has four basic components. These components are based on research that has proven that there are specific actions that, once put in place, lead to successful weight loss. They are:

Journaling – The first step is to purchase an inexpensive journal that you will use to record your weigh-ins and your track your goals. The Dollar Store has a variety of small journals for only $3.

Journal

Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals – Each week you will need to set at least one goal. That goal needs to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. For each goal that you set, use your journal to answer the following questions:

  • What specifically will I achieve with this goal?
  • How will I measure it?
  • Is it achievable to me right now?
  • Is it relevant to my larger goal?
  • By what date will I achieve it?

For example, If you are a non-exerciser, setting a goal to get up at 5 a.m. every day to go to the gym for an hour to work out isn’t S.M.A.R.T.   A S.M.A.R.T. goal would look something like this:

This week I will go to the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7 a.m. and will spend a half hour on the treadmill.

I Know We’re Smart, But What About Our Goals?

At the end of the week you will be able to measure how well you did with this goal. Did you complete the goal 100%? If so, what motivated you to get up go to the gym to get on the treadmill?  If not, what barriers kept you from getting there?  If you went four days instead of three, what inspiration or motivation did you draw from that helped you over-achieve on this goal?

Download a printable goal tracker here.

Weekly Weigh-Ins – Each week on the same day, at the same time, on the same scale you will weigh in and write your weight in your journal.  Weighing in and writing the weight down will help keep you accountable.

Follow PTCDN for Weekly Tips and Motivation – Each week I’ll provide a quick tip to help you stay on track with your goal to lose five pounds in 30 days.  Please feel free to request additional information in the comment box. You can subscribe to the web site by putting your e-mail in the subscribe box in the upper right hand corner of this page.

See you soon!

Karen

Giving Thanks Is A Healthy Habit All Year Long

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” — Melody Beattie

 

We seem to hear a lot about giving thanks and being grateful around Thanksgiving but some experts and psychologists think that practicing gratitude is a habit that should be applied all year long.

Gratitude guru Professor Robert Emmons has spent much of his adult life examining the psychology of gratitude and its connection with positive outcomes in a person’s life. Through his work he’s found that being grateful improves both psychological and physical health.

Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, tend to take better care of themselves, and behave in a more prosocial behavior. Giving thanks reduces toxic emotions, makes us less likely to want to seek revenge, and increases the empathy that we have for others.

With all of the benefits that come from just being more grateful it seems like a no-brainer that this is something we should all be doing more of.

Gratitude Journal

Making Gratitude a Habit

Like all of the healthy habits that we strive to acquire throughout our lifetime, we know that if it is something that we are serious about doing we are going to have to work at it. Even Dr. Emmons admits that gratitude isn’t something that comes easily or naturally to him. In an interview that he did with Ben Dean at Mentor Coach.com, Emmons says that he “recognizes that it requires strong intention and sustained effort on his part to redirect his attention if he wants to live with an “attitude of gratitude.”

There are some specific steps that we can take to increase our mindfulness so that we become more grateful.

Start a Gratitude Journal – There are number of health perks that come from keeping a gratitude journal. The simple of task of writing down what you are grateful for at the end of each day can switch your focus from all that is wrong with your life to all that is right with it. People that take a few minutes to journal before they go to bed feel calmer at night and sleep better.

*Tip – Keep the journal on the table by your bed and plan to write in it each evening. You can keep is as simple as a couple of sentences if you don’t have time for more. Writing each day will help you establish the habit. Journaling also reduces stress and provides clarity on what it is that you want to have more of in your life.

Write Thank-you Notes– A sincere, simple thank you note given to a person that went out of their way to make you feel good or do something to help you goes a long way. And the thank you note is as beneficial for the giver as it is the recipient.

*Tip – Buy a box of thank you cards or blank note cards and find someone each week to give one to.

Thank you note

Say It Out Loud – Express out loud something that you are thankful for each day. My husband and I were watching 60 Minutes on Sunday evening and one of the segments was about villagers in Kenya that have to travel on foot for fresh water that they carry back to their homes in large buckets. It was easy to express out loud my thankfulness for living in a country where fresh water is available at the turn of the knob on the sink. I believe most of us take so many things like fresh, clean water for granted.

*Tip – Every day be grateful for something and say it out loud to yourself, or whomever you are with at the moment you recognize it.

Begin Each Day by Being Thankful – Don’t wait until the end of the day when it’s time to write in the journal to express gratitude. Start each day by saying thank you. This can only help you anticipate the good things that are in store for you that day.

*Tip – Remember that every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.

Get Moving – Take a walk, practice yoga for 10 minutes, or stand up and stretch. Learn to have a greater appreciation for all of the things your body does each day.

*Tip – Physical activity improves our mood and opens our mind to all of the things we have to be thankful for.

The Gratitude Experiment

With Thanksgiving coming, this week is the perfect time to begin implementing some of these steps that will help you establish a habit of saying thank you each day.

Check out the Gratitude Experiment from WellCast in the video below that discusses Dr. Emmons research and the undeniable health benefits of gratitude.

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Is Sugar Really That Bad For You?

If you roll your eyes at studies that tell you what to eat and what not to eat so that you can live a long, healthy, happy, prosperous life, get ready to roll.

Researchers have completed a study that was designed to determine if sugar is really the demon substance that we’ve been told that it is. Driving this research is the undeniable trend showing that in the United States more and more children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, and cardiovascular disease at a younger age. In September, the youngest person ever to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes was a three year old girl.

The occurrence of these maladies are much more common in American children than they are in other countries such as Pakistan, India, and China which leads scientists to believe there is more to it than caloric intake.

Lollipops

Sugar Study On Children Proves What We Think We Already Know

A study conducted by researchers at UC San Francisco and Touro University California involved 43 children between the ages of 9 and 18. All of the children were obese and had at least one other co-morbidity such as high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, and impaired fasting glucose.

During the 10-day study the children were provided specific foods to eat but it was not food that you would consider healthy fare. They ate kid-friendly foods like hot dogs, pasta, cereal, bagels and potato chips. But, the catch was their overall dietary sugar was reduced to 10 percent of their calories.

The children had to weigh themselves each day and if they lost weight they were instructed to eat more so they would maintain their original weight. This was done to prevent confusion as to whether the reduction in sugar or weight loss was having an effect on their health.

Despite intensive efforts to maintain the participant’s baseline body weights, at the end of the 10-day study, all participants experienced about a 1% loss. And all other makers were down including diastolic blood pressure, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, fasting triglycerides, and LDL.

Researchers have concluded that the health detriments of sugar, and fructose specifically, are independent of their caloric value or effects on weight.

Dr. Robert Lustig at the University of California, San Francisco, who has led studies on glucose and fructose says there is a direct link between sugar and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, excess belly fat and abnormal cholesterol. Lin says, “When you metabolize fructose in excess, your liver has no choice but to turn that energy into liver fat, and that liver fat causes all of the downstream metabolic diseases.”

What This Means For You

It is true that studies come and go and, in some cases, what was proved last year has since been debunked. However, I can’t imagine that a year from now scientist will be saying, “Nope. We were wrong. Sugar is good for you. Eat all you want.”

Whether your goal is to lose weight or improve your metabolic markers, when it comes to sugar, eating less of it is the way to go. The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and no more than nine a day for men. If your sugar intake is out of control, tracking your sugar to make sure you stay within the AHA guidelines is a good place to start.

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Five Tips To Help You Embrace A Return To Standard Time

Now that we’ve fallen back to Standard Time it’s dark at 5 p.m.  By this time next month it will be dark at 4:30.  After taking a non-scientific pole of the people around me, I can say with confidence that this change is not popular with most people.

Most of us don’t embrace the end of daylight saving time which brings with it dark evenings, and before too long, dark mornings too.  But, when we ‘fall back’ and return to standard time our body is more in sync with the circadian rhythms of our biological clock which impacts our sleep and our health.

clock

Standard Time Embraces Circadian Rhythms

Circadian rhythm is a built-in 24 hour cycle that all living beings – including plants, animals, fungi and cyanobacteria – possess.  “There are clear patterns of brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration and other biological activities linked to this daily cycle.”  (Science Daily) There are a number of things that can disrupt our circadian rhythm such as travelling through time zones, working the night shift, indoor lighting, drug use, and springing forward into Daylight Savings Time.

A large study in Central Europe, followed sleep patterns of 55,000 people and found that natural sleep patterns are in sync with standard time.  What this translates to is good news for the 1.6 billion people that moved their clocks back and return to ST on Sunday.

Too Much Darkness

If it’s so good for us, why don’t we like it? The biggest reason is that we feel we are being cheated out of daylight.  If you are a day shift worker that gets off 5 or 6 p.m., you’ll be greeted by darkness when you leave work beginning next week.  That makes us feel like we don’t have as much time to be active or get things done.  Research shows that’s not true. We will, in fact, be back in cadence with nature which improves sleep quality and overall health.

Just knowing that you are physiologically in sync with the planet may not be enough to keep you positive about the time change. Here are five tips that will ensure a smooth transition to the season of shorter days and longer nights.

Five Tips To Help You Cope

1.  Workout Before Your Day Begins – Use your body’s natural inclination to want to rise earlier to get a workout in before you day begins.  A walk or bike ride outdoors is a good option since sunrise is earlier.  If that doesn’t work, a 20 or 30 minute walk on the treadmill, an on-line workout, or DVD will get you moving and give you something to feel good about the rest of the day.  For suggestions on free workouts that you can access from the comfort of your own home, check out Liongate’s Be Fit Channel.  For even more options, find a post I wrote about free on-line workouts here.

2.  Take Sunshine Breaks – Find an opportunity to get outside for at least 10 to 15 minutes every day with some skin exposed so that your levels of Vitamin D don’t dip this winter.  For people that live in areas of the world that experience four seasons, the period from September to April can wreak  havoc on our body’s ability to generate adequate amounts of Vitamin D through sunlight exposure alone.

A deficiency in the sunshine vitamin can result in Seasonal Affective Disorder which brings about symptoms of fatigue, depression, and a feeling of malaise.  If you think you would benefit from Vitamin D supplements your doctor can assess your levels with a simple blood test.  Vitamin D in liquid form can be purchased at the local pharmacy.  It’s inexpensive to buy and easy to digest.

3. Stay Active In The Evenings – When it’s dark at 5 p.m., resisting the temptation to put on sweats and slippers for a night in front of the T.V. can be a challenge.  Find ways to keep active in the evenings either inside or out of the home.

Check the listings for your local library, park district, Y and community college for classes and family activities.  Volunteering to help at the local Goodwill center, offering your expertise to a focus group, or joining a recreational volleyball league are all ways to combat the hum-drum of long winter evenings. If you love to read, joining a virtual book club will connect you to people that share the same interests as you, and you won’t have to leave home to participate.  Check out the resources for joining – or starting – an virtual book club.

4.  Become A Healthy Comfort Food Chef – It seems like the first week after we turn the clocks back to standard time, I find I’m craving chili, pumpkin pie, cranberry bread, and a whole bunch of other comfort foods that undermine my goal of not putting the pounds on this winter.  There are a number of web sites that have recipes for comfort food makeovers:  Cooking Light, Eating Well, Taste of Home and Good Housekeeping all have healthy comfort food sections online.

Check out the recipes at these sites and make them for your family.  Take it a step further and create your own dishes and launch a web site or blog where you share your own fabulous creations.  

Lightpiccollage

5.  Embrace Scent and Light – A living space that has candles flickering or scented pots exuding warm scents is welcoming and comforting.  The wax chips that melt in the pots with the heat of a light bulb can be turned on in the morning when you leave the house.  The scent and light is waiting for you when you get home.  Some of my favorite fall scents are vanilla cinnamon, pumpkin spice and crème burlee.  These aromas elicit feelings of holidays, family, and togetherness.  Scent Sationals has a good selection to choose from.

Over To You

If you live in a part of the world where you’ve turned your clock back an hour, are you looking forward to the change or dreading it?  What tips do you have for surviving the short days and inescapable darkness?  Please give us your thoughts in the comment box below.

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(Pictures credits for the collage go to artists at Flickr.com:  Candles – ETIco68; Scent pot – honeybunched; and Chair in sunshine – crsan)

You Should Be Taking More Steps Every Day

You can’t out run a bad diet but you can out sit a good one.

You might be eating low calorie foods that are high in nutritional value, drinking plenty of water, avoiding sugary pop and drinking lite beer only on the weekends. But if you’re sitting at a desk or have another sedentary occupation or past time, the pounds will be hard to keep off. If you find your waist line is expanding in spite of your calorie counting it may be because you’re sitting too much. By being sedentary you’re also losing that precious muscle mass that keeps your metabolism at its peak.

Earlier this year, four experts for the Washington Post created a detailed list of everything that happens to the body when you sit for too long.  The expert panel consisted of James A. Levine, inventor of the treadmill desk and director of Obesity Solutions at Mayo Clinic, Charles E. Matthews, National Cancer Institute and author of several studies on sedentary behavior, Jay Dicharry, director of REP Biomechanics Lab in Bend, OR and author of Anatomy for Runners, and Tal Amassay, biochemist at Barry University’s Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences.

Pedometer

Levine, Matthews, Dicharry and Amassay’s created list of health related issues that are the result of too much sitting.  The three big ones are:

  • Heart disease – muscles burn less fat and blood becomes sluggish in the veins when we sit. Prolonged sitting is also linked to high blood pressure and cholesterol which are also indicators of impending cardiovascular disease.
  • Overproductive pancreas – The pancreas produces insulin which carries energy to the cells.  If you’ve been sitting for awhile, the muscles don’t respond to the insulin so the pancreas has to produce more which can lead to diabetes. Scarier yet, according to the experts, a study was done in 2011 that showed a decline in insulin response after one day of prolonged sitting.
  • Colon cancer – The reasons why colon cancer is more prevalent among sitters isn’t proven but it is believed to be related to the elevated levels of insulin that encourages cell growth.

Other reasons to move more during the day is to prevent mushy abs, tight hips, soft bones and a foggy brain. A sore neck and shoulders and back problems are also the by-products of immobility.

There’s More

You don’t need more bad new, but even if you get a healthy does of structured exercise every week it doesn’t undo the health risks of sitting. One study shows that the negative effect of six hours of sitting is similar in magnitude to the benefit of one hour of exercise. That doesn’t mean that if you sit for eight or nine hours a day you have to exercise for three hours to make up for it. That would be impossible to do. What the researchers suggest is to break up the sitting with short doses of movement.

Taking short walks throughout the day, walking in place while you’re on the phone, and getting on the clothes rack treadmill while you’re watching T.V. are some simple ways to get more walking in. To get to the goal of 10,000 steps a day, you’ll probably need to get creative and do something extra. If you need some tips, click here.

Why This Is Important For You

A study published in the American Medical Journal shows that inactivity in American men and women continues to rise.  Researchers at Stanford University Medical Center report that in 1988, 19 percent of women were inactive. By 2010, that number had jumped to 52 percent. For men the rate nearly quadrupled, going from 11 to 43 percent in the same period of time.

The study notes that what didn’t change is the number of calories people consumed.  More calories and less activity is the formula for obesity.

I could have turned this into a post about 50 ways to put more steps in your day but I think you all know what you should do: park in the space farthest away from the store, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk on your breaks at work. Knowing what to do and doing it are two different things.

Wear A Pedomoter

Wearing a pedometer will help you build the habit of reaching a walking goal. If you don’t wear a pedometer you don’t have any idea how many steps you’re getting in on an average day. It might be 2,000. That isn’t enough.

Try wearing a pedometer and set a goal to get to 10,000 steps a day every day for a week and find out what you have to do to get to the goal. If you’re a cube dweller it will be an eye-opener. It will help you reach your weight loss goals and might even save your life.

Pedometer 10,000

What do you do to put more steps in your day?

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Ten Super Foods You Should Be Eating Every Week

As humans we are forever evolving, or if we’re not, we should be. We should be trying new foods and finding which ones are the most important to our individual life and eating style.

Over the years I’ve posted my list of superfoods and realize it’s time for an update. I’ve grown to depend on some foods more than others to keep me nourished, happy and healthy.  Below is a list of foods I eat every week, some every day.

Super Foods

1.   Almonds – Almonds are a prime source of protein and healthy oil. They have been found to reduce LDL cholesterol, and, when eaten with a meal, lower blood sugar.  Almonds are high in vitamin E, magnesium, potassium and antioxidants.  The best thing about almonds is that they are filling. I eat a few each morning with breakfast and it helps me stay full until lunch. You can add almonds to salads, vegetable dishes, yogurt and baked goods.

2.   Olive Oil – Olive oil is a key part of the Mediterranean Diet and is most known for its anti-inflammatory benefits and ability to reduce total blood cholesterol.  It’s also been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of some cancers. Keep in mind when cooking with olive oil that it has a low smoke point so you don’t want to get it too hot or it will lose some of its health benefits. Drizzle olive oil on breads, salads and garden vegetables.

3.   Blueberries – Blueberries are also famous for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  These berries are also believed to improve cognitive benefits and memory.  They may even slow down cognitive problems that are associated with aging. Blueberries are best when fresh but can also be frozen. They are abundant in vitamin K, vitamin C, fiber and manganese.

4.   Bananas – There isn’t anything that compares with bananas when it comes to post-workout recovery.  They have more potassium than sports drinks plus they are a good source of vitamins B6 and C.  Despite their sugar content, bananas are low on the glycemic index due to the amount of fiber and pectins they contain. Bananas can be added to smoothies, eaten with peanut butter or on their own.

Banana Smoothie

5.   Romaine Lettuce – Leafy, crunchy romaine lettuce is my favorite for salads.  It is high in vitamins K, A, C and B1.  Plus, it has fiber and folic acid that’s not found in a lot of other foods.  The best thing about romaine lettuce is its high nutritional value combined with being very low in calories.

6.   Coffee – Okay, it’s not actually a food but it has super powers. The proven benefits of coffee are that it helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and liver cancer.  It also is known to improve cognitive function and mood and will jump start a workout.  It comes in at zero calories when consumed without any creamers or sugar.

7.   Peppers – Colorful bell peppers are a staple on my grocery list. I add them to pasta dishes, use them as a topping for pizza, and eat them as a snack with hummus. Peppers have more vitamin C than oranges, and are high in antioxidants. We grow mini sweet peppers in pots on the patio in the summer and by fall we have a harvest of beautiful peppers to eat.

Sweet Mini Peppers are an excellent replacement for chips and other crunchy snacks.

Sweet Mini Peppers are an excellent replacement for chips and other crunchy snacks.

8.   Chia Seeds – Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and have an abundance of antioxidants.  They also provide calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin, and zinc. Research has shown that eating chia can lead to improvement in certain health conditions and has long been known as runner’s food. Aztec warriors ate chia seeds and it came them sustained energy.  The seeds can be added to oatmeal, yogurt, breads, and sauces.

9. Garlic – The sulfur component of garlic is, in part, what makes it a super food.  Sulfur is an important component for good health and helps keep blood pressure under control.  Some people may be deficient in sulfur so a daily dose of garlic is a good way to replenish your supply. The best way to buy garlic is fresh and whole. You can use a garlic press or a knife to chop it before adding it to soups, salads, meats and main dishes.

Garlic

10. Black Beans -Black beans are rich in fiber and protein which support the regulation of blood sugar. The beans are also a good supply of anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants and give support to the digestive tract. They are low in calories and high in protein and can be prepared in a variety of ways including black bean brownies.

I encourage everyone to experiment to find the foods that work for them.  A super food is a whole food that is high in nutrition, has the ability to improve your health when eaten on a regular basis. Most important, they must be foods that you enjoy eating.

What foods are on your super food list?

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Changing Behavior By Taking The Smallest Possible Step

Changing A Behavior Is Easy.  Making it Stick?  Not So Much.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a man that has lost over 140 pounds. His story was amazing and we talked for awhile about how it did it, what strategies he used, and what he’s doing now to maintain the weight loss.

Maintaining the weight loss proves to be the most difficult part.  He says that the pounds are starting to creep back on and he is struggling to keep doing the behaviors that helped him lose the weight. He finds he’s slipping back into his old habits.

We talked about what that one thing might be that he could start doing today to get back in motion.  After talking to him I was reminded of this post that I wrote almost two years ago and is what I encouraged him to do. Just take one small step.

Start

Flickr photo by jackandlindsay

How long is it from the time you download a phone app to motivate you to track your calories, steps, carbs or whatever it is you feel you need help in controlling before you’re no longer using it?  Three months?  Six months?  Five weeks?  Two days? I’ve downloaded several apps that have helped me drink more water or deliver positive affirmations to get me through a rough spot but after a few months I stop using them.

The company I work for has made an investment to provide employees with a wellness web site where we can track nearly everything we do.  We get points for healthy behaviors and a cash payout at the end of the year if we acquire enough.  You’d think everyone would sign up, but the participation rate is about 10 percent.

People lose weight and gain it back, spend money on gym membership and not go, decide to give up fast food, admit how much better they feel without it, and then end up back at McDonalds.

This question of how to stay motivated, and to me even more important – how to keep other people motivated – is perplexing.  Is this back and forth, stop and start, inspired then uninspired cycle that most of us seem to go through the trade off for having a brain that is complex enough to be able to make choices? Certainly it does have to do with our ability as humans to participate in a decision making process above and beyond basic instinct.

Why And How People Change Health Behaviors

Several years ago the book “Why and How People Change Health Behaviors” attempted to reveal the secrets to successful behavior change.  The book is written by Joseph Leutzinger, PhD and John Harris, MEd, who decided to throw off their ‘scientific research hats’ and put on their ‘curious but not judgmental’ hats to seek out individuals who had been successful at changing one or more behaviors.  The book is a collection of stories gleaned from those interviews.

Leutzinger and Harris found there were some recurring themes in the stories they heard.  Here’s what the interviewees told them:

– Do what works for you
– Be well informed about the change you are making
– Be ready – don’t go in unprepared or lacking confidence
– Set SMART goals
– Make a total commitment
– Take it one day at a time
– Plan ahead for scenarios that you find threatening
– Control your environment
– Take small steps
– Seek support from others
– Realize that compliments from others are motivating
– Don’t let a short term relapse negatively impact your potential for long term success
– Know that one successful change leads to another
– Reward yourself for success

Pick One

That’s a good list with plenty of suggestions to help with adherence. But, if I had to pick the one most critical to successful behavior change it would be “Don’t let a short term relapse negatively impact your potential for long term success.”

This darn brain of ours allows us to make choices.  Sometimes they’re good choices, sometimes not so much.  Both can gain momentum.  Once we get started practicing a ‘good’ behavior – for example taking a thirty minute walk before work four days a week – we get in the pattern of doing that.  It feels easy to do and we enjoy the aftereffects of knowing that we’ve kept our commitment and met our goal.

Then the day comes when we decide to go for a couple of birthday drinks with friends after work.  The following day we don’t feel like getting up early to walk so we stay in bed.  The next day it’s raining.  We know there are rainy day options; at home work out DVDs or the stationary bike in the spare bedroom, but we sleep in instead.  Before you know it, two weeks have passed since our last early morning workout that made us feel good all day long.

Take The Smallest Possible Step Forward

I read an interesting blog post yesterday on Daily Blog Tips about procrastination.  The author, Daniel Scocco, was working on a software development project that was overwhelming to him.  It wasn’t that he had no interest in working on the project.  Just the opposite was true, but because of very specific guidelines he had to follow he was having trouble getting started.  Day after day he pushed the project around his desk but couldn’t bring himself to tackle it.

After a couple weeks of this he decided he would try a new strategy.  He would take one small step. He would type the title of the project on a blank page.  That was all.  After he typed the words of the project into the word processor, ideas started to flow and within a couple of hours he had written over 1,000 words.  Daniel says, “Taking that first step is the hardest part for most projects and things, so if you are procrastinating with something lately, simply take the smallest possible step forward, and the rest should start flowing more easily.”

The Law Of Motion

The difficulty we have getting started again once we’ve stopped is the basic law of motion.  The famous scientist Sir Isaac Newton said, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion, a body at rest tends to stay at rest.”  It may take a little more effort to get the resting body back in motion, but it can be done.

Are you letting a short term relapse negatively impact your potential for long term success?  What is the smallest possible step you can take to initiate the law of motion?  Take that step today!

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Preparing For A Half Marathon: Thirteen Tips For A 13 Mile Run

As I was running I started thinking, “What tips can I take back that might help someone getting ready to run their first half marathon?”

Take Your Camera and Extra Clothes and Check Your Adrenalin At The Door. 

Seasoned event runners don’t give much thought to getting up on a Saturday morning to run a half, or even a full marathon.  For me it was different.

I put in some on-the-clock training hours but also considerable time figuring out how to make my training pay off so that I could enjoy the event without being too cold or warm, tired, or stressed.  The secret lies in getting organized well ahead of race day so that nothing is left to chance when the time finally arrives and your nerves are standing straight up.

Race Track

I did the Indy Mini half marathon last year. This is the Indy 500 race track that’s part of the course.

Two Weeks Before The Race

1.  Nutrition – Two weeks ahead of race day you’re still doing some good training runs so now’s the time to focus on the best nutrition possible.  Stay away from food and drinks that have simple sugars or are high in fat.  Now more than ever, you want foods that are nutritionally dense.  Focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins.  A green smoothie for breakfast or lunch is a good option too.

2.  Hydration  – Increase your water intake.  You should be drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.  If it’s summer or you live in a warm climate bump it up to ten glasses a day.

3.  Game Day Shoes – Pick out the shoes you plan to wear on race day.  Running shoes should have between 40 and 50 miles on them before you race in them so if your event is two weeks away it’s probably too late to buy new shoes.  But, if your shoes are worn and don’t have enough life in them to give you proper cushioning  and good support, consider buying a new pair and wear them throughout the day for the next two weeks to get some extra miles on them.

4.  Jelly Beans – Sports jelly beans are loaded with caffeine, sodium, potassium, and carbohydrates and can provide just enough energy to give you a second wind if you start to fatigue around mile 9.  Don’t wait until race day to test them out.  Pick a couple of brands and try them while you’re out on your training runs so you’ll know that you like them and they like you. On race day save them until you really need them.

  • One word of caution.  I have a friend who popped one in his mouth while he was running an event and he sucked it into his windpipe and wasn’t able to finish the race.  I’m sure this was just bad luck for him but it doesn’t hurt to slow down, or even pull over if it’s time for a bean.

One Week Before The Race

5.  Music Is Magic – I started experiencing some nervous energy one week before the marathon. Finding new music to download and putting a play list together helped channel  that energy into something that would pay off later on.  I have a playlist with 100 songs on it that shuffle.  I know that every song on the list is one that I enjoy running to.  This works for me because I can turn the iPod on, hit play and never touch it again until I’m done.  I don’t want to be hunting down the songs that I want to hear while I’m running an event.  I have a play list that I created a few months ago (check it out here) and continue to add songs to it including Mr. Saxobeat, Who Dat Girl, Call Me Maybe and Wild Ones.

6.  Unpredictable Weather – Check the weather so you’ll know what you need to wear before, during and after the run.  For the Illinois run we hung around before the start in gloves, hoodies and wind breakers.  We left most of that behind.  I would rather be on the side of having too many clothes in the car to take on or off rather than not enough. If rain is predicted take a big green garbage bag and cut a hole in the top of it so you can put it over your head.  If you have to stand around at the start line in the rain it will keep you dry. These garbage-bag raincoats were all over the place at the event on Saturday.

7.  Clothes: Lots of Them – Pack a full change of clothes for after the race.  You’ll hang out after the race for awhile in the damp clothes you ran in but there is nothing like dry clothes – and shoes – to put on for the drive home.  I packed my drive-home-clothes in a separate bag so they would all be together and easy to grab when it was time to change.

Three Days Before the Race

8.  A Real Camera – Pack your camera and make sure it has working batteries.  You will want a picture of you at the finish line taken with a real camera, not one that is taken with a Smartphone.  You need a quality picture.  Trust me on this one.

You will want a picture of yourself when you finish.

You will want a picture of yourself when you finish.

9.  Smart Carbs (Not A Carb Load) – Add an extra serving or two of complex carbohydrates to your diet such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, beans and fruits.  Complex carbohydrates will provide your muscles with an adequate supply of glycogen which will enhance your performance on game day.

10.  What Time Does It Start? – Double check the start time and location of the race.  If you’re not familiar with the area make sure you have a map that shows where you need to be, at what time and what arrangements there are for parking.  Is parking free?  If you have to park on a city street or metered lots you’ll need quarters.

The Big Day

11.  Early To Bed – Get to bed early and get up early so that you can eat breakfast at least three hours before the race and take your time getting ready.  I’ve read many times how important it is to eat a breakfast that you have eaten before.  Don’t try out anything new the day of the event.  If you want to find the best pre-race breakfast start working on that a few weeks before.  Oatmeal is my standard breakfast so that’s what I had.  It’s an easy, warm, comfort food that stays with me all morning.

12.  Feel The Rush? – Don’t underestimate the power of the adrenalin rush that takes place when the race starts.  That rush has the potential to throw you off of your game and leave you drained before you’ve completed the 13 miles.  Standing at a half marathon line with 10,000 other people is exciting. Look around.  No one is standing still.  You can feel the enormous energy oozing out of the crowd and into your body and it’s really cool.  But if you get taken up with it and go out of the gate too fast you’ll lost your momentum once the adrenalin level tapers off.  Start out slow and then push yourself after the halfway point if you’re feeling great and have a lot of energy left.

13.  Experience It.  You’ve worked hard and are ready to do something others can only dream of.  Take it in.  Look at the people and scenery around you.  Say thank you to the folks along the way that are cheering you on even though they have no idea who you are.  Be gracious to the volunteers handing you Gatorade or water.  Return the high five to the boy standing on the sidewalk that reaches his palm up to you as you run by him.  Have someone take your picture at the finish line with your medal on then post it on your Facebook page.  Give yourself a high five. Let it all soak in. Savor it. Celebrate. It doesn’t get any better than this.

No doubt number 13 is the most important, but if you skip 1 through 12 enjoying the race might be more of a challenge.

What tips do you have for someone that is going to run their first half marathon?

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