Category Archives: habits


Building healthy habits with food journaling

5 Key Benefits Of Keeping A Food Journal

If you’re trying to lose weight, improve your health, or prevent disease, you must to take a closer look what you’re eating (and what you’re not). And there is no better way than keeping a food journal.

In fact, I require all of my clients to keep food journal. And here are my top 5 reasons why:

Compares Perceptions to Reality

Keeping a food journal is truly the only way to determine whether or not your perceptions match reality. Many people think they’re eating healthy, but often find it eye opening when they see their food intake on paper. Because it’s not just about what you eat. It’s also about your eating habits.

Helps to Improve Your Diet

When you keep track of what you eat, you get a more detailed picture regarding your nutritional intake. For instance, are you eating enough protein? Are you eating too much sugar? Is your diet lacking sources of healthy fats?

Thus, you can use your food journal to help create a more balanced and nutrient-rich meal plan. And this will help you look and feel your best.

Helps Break Unhealthy Eating Habits

A good food journal keeps tracks of what you eat, but also how much you eat and when you eat.

You might learn that you eat more when you’re dining with others than solo. Or, maybe you’ll notice you always reach for sugar in the mid-afternoon. Seeing these patterns will help you make the necessary changes to break any bad habits.

For example, maybe you need to be more mindful when eating out with friends. Or, maybe you need a more balanced lunch to ward off your 3:00 PM sugar craving.

Identifies Potential Food Allergies, Sensitivities, & Intolerances

Even the healthiest foods can wreak havoc on some. Thus, for weight loss and optimal health, it’s really important to learn what foods work for you and what foods don’t.

Food allergies involve the immune system and reactions typically occur within two hours. On the other hand, non-immune related food sensitivities and intolerances are much more common and their reactions are usually delayed (up to 48 hours). Thus, they’re much more difficult to detect.  

However, using a food journal allows you to look back at your food intake should you start experiencing unexplained symptoms.

In some cases a food journal might help you realize that cheese causes you to bloat, which may be a sign of a dairy sensitivity or lactose intolerance.

Common symptoms of food sensitivities and intolerances include:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Excess mucus
  • Nervousness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Mood swings
  • Itchy or dry skin
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Dark circles under eyes
  • Night sweats
  • Food cravings
  • Acne
  • Brain fog

Connects the Dots Between Food and Your Health

What we eat affects every aspect of our physical and mental health. We can’t expect to eat poorly and feel great. Some foods may energize you, while others drain you. And some foods may lift your spirits, while others weigh you down.

Thus, by examining your food journal, you can learn a lot about how food affects YOUR body and mind. And once you connect these dots, I guarantee reaching your health goals will be much easier.

Food Journaling Tips

Food journaling may seem time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. While you certainly can carry your journal around with you, you can also take a picture of your meals and snacks with your phone and send them to your self with notes about your energy level and mood before and you ate. Then, each night before bed you can use your photos and notes to complete the food journal.

In Conclusion…

Keeping a food journal is one of the best strategies you can implement to help improve your diet, break bad eating habits, prevent disease, and successfully achieve all your health and wellness goals.

So what are you waiting for? Download a free copy of the food journal I use with my clients and start tracking your progress today!

 

 

mindfulness, the word of the year

The Word Of The Year – Mindfulness

Over the years I’ve developed a habit of choosing a word to serve as my intention for the year.  This year the word is mindfulness.  As I go through each year I reflect frequently on my word and see if I am meeting my reasons for having chosen it.  

Choosing a word

In past years it has sometimes been a struggle to come up with a word.  There are so many to choose from! And finding just the right one that resonates is not as easy as you might think.  Usually I wind up taking the time from Christmas until somewhere after the New Year to identify a word.

This year, as I worked on my new book on meditation I kept coming back to the word and it really resonated with me. Each time I thought about it, wrote about it, saw it on my desk or my computer it caught my attention and made me stop for a moment. 

I realized that it flows well from my previous word of Focus.

The dictionary defines mindfulness as

noun
1. the state or quality of being mindful or aware of something.

2. Psychology.

  1. a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them:
    The practice of mindfulness can reduce stress and physical pain.
  2. the mental state maintained by the use of this technique

 

Benefits of mindfulness

One of the things that appeals to me about choosing this word is how much it resonates with our need for self care.  When I work with clients I encourage them to be more mindful about their eating which, of course, has an impact on health. I encourage some sort of self care practice, breathing, meditation, yoga, all of which require a degree of mindfulness.

Moving forward into the new year there will be more of that.  Both for them and for me.  While I am a holistic health practitioner and I support others to achieve their wellness goals, I know I benefit from these practices as well.

The truth is that mindfulness is a very supportive piece of our overall health and wellness.  Studies have shown that it can help lower stress and reduce blood pressure. This, in turn, is good for heart health. [1]  Mindfulness can also help with nutrition, satiety, and even weight loss.  There are a number of studies about this and even a book on the subject

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the year ahead I’m looking forward to deepening my own sense of mindfulness.   And I’m excited to share with others, supporting them to develop their own mindfulness practices as part of their wellness plan.

Words from past years

If you’re interested these are the words that I’ve chosen in the past.  I find it fascinating to look back at previous years, at the reasons I chose certain words and reflecting on the growth that brought to my life.

I’d like to encourage you to pick a word of your own. It’s an interesting exercise and can have some amazing results. If you want to take it one step further you can even go to OneWord365 and put it out there into the universe.

* * * * *
Resources

[1] Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction for prehypertension 

 

Goals Not Resolutions

 

What’s in a resolution

With the New Year fast approaching many people sit down to make up a list of resolutions. This year I will…..

  • Lose 20 pounds
  • Exercise every day
  • Eat right
  • Give up junk food
  • Insert your favorite resolution here

The problem with the concept of a resolution is that we go about it the wrong way. We write down the results we are looking for not how we plan to get there. We craft ultimatum statements and that ultimately sets us up for failure.

In order to be successful with your anticipated changes for the new year consider setting goals instead of creating resolutions. Goals are a desired outcome. They are not as finite as resolutions. If you do not live up to your resolution frequently you are left feeling discouraged and possibly have a loss of self-appreciation or self-confidence. You’re also more likely to abandon it altogether (and perhaps any other resolutions that you formed at the same time).  With goals, however, the end result is planned for but not mandated. Along the way there may be reasons that you did not achieve your goal which you can examine and reconsider.  Or the goal may need to be modified along the way; because it’s a goal there’s room for that.

Creating goals

When creating goals there are a few things to consider. Because it’s one of the most commonly chosen resolutions, we’ll use an example of losing weight as a goal. Most people simply say that they will lose weight. They do not put qualifiers on the statement and do not think about how they will achieve their goal. Being prepared to think all the way through the goal helps to increase awareness and mindfulness and can increase your motivation and ultimate success.

  • What is your anticipated goal – to lose weight
  • Why do you want to achieve this goal – to look and feel better, so clothes fit better, to improve health
  • How much weight do you want to lose – is this goal realistic
  • How long do you think it will take you to achieve your goal – set realistic expectations for appropriate weight loss (you cannot lose 10 pounds in two weeks)
  • What are the steps required to achieve this goal – how will you have to change your nutritional plan and modify your eating patterns to achieve your goal
  • When do you plan to start the first step – choose a time that is workable, don’t start the day after a huge holiday party when you are not focused
  • What do you need to do to start that first step – do you need a support person, a program, a goal buddy, or a written plan

Be realistic

Don’t overwhelm yourself by setting too many goals at once. If you decide that in the next two weeks you are going to lose 20 pounds, start a new high-intensity exercise program, and give up your daily fast food run you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed. When we try to do too much without planning and awareness we can be setting ourselves up for failure. On the other hand, reasonable expectations and a well-thought out plan can be the cornerstone to your success.  And don’t discount the need for a deeper level of support.  A friend or family member who can serve as an accountability buddy, or working with a coach who can nurture you and design a program that works for you.

Above all remember to be kind to yourself. A goal is a hoped for achievement. If you do not master your goal it is not because you have failed. It simply means that you were not able to get to where you thought you might. This gives you an opportunity to re-evaluate your goal and see if it needs to be adjusted or modified.

Most importantly, when working toward a goal remember to stop occasionally, look back at how far you’ve come. Perhaps you’ve lost less weight than you had hoped for but you’ve made significantly healthier food choices. Maybe you haven’t been able to get to the gym every day like you had hoped, but when you do go you are feeling stronger and have more endurance. These are accomplishments to be proud of. Pat yourself on the back, review your plan and keep working towards your goal.

The Gratitude Issue

“To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.” -Albert Schweitzer

I thought I would write about gratitude.  Mostly because that’s what’s on my mind right now.  We’re at that annual cusp from old year to new.  That time when so many people make resolutions, often unrealistic and undefined.  And by doing so set themselves up to feel bad about themselves later.  There are a number of studies that show how beneficial a gratitude practice can be, mentally, emotionally, and physically, to support our overall health and wellness.  

The gratitude jar

I believe anytime is a perfect time to think about gratitude.  But I especially love this ritual that I’ve built up over time around creating an abundance of gratitude in my life.

For the past few years I’ve had a jar sitting next to my desk in my office.  When I have a moment of gratitude (and it can be for anything, not specifically for work, personal, others in my life) I write it down on a little scrap of paper and throw it in the jar.  I confess that I try to find colorful scraps of paper because it’s more fun that way.  I don’t go back through the jar throughout the year, I just keep filling it up.

Come New Year’s Eve while I’m waiting for the countdown, I open the jar and empty it out.  I unfold all those pieces of paper and savor reading them one by one.  I do this by myself, but you may choose to do it with friends or family members too.  It can be fun if it’s a group jar or if several people bring their jars and go through them together.

I find I do remember many of them, but what always strikes me is the number of things that I forgot about.  Every. Single. Year.  These are moments I was grateful for when they happened, but in the hustle and bustle of everyday life they slipped into the back of my memory and got buried there.   In opening this jar and going through them, I am grateful for those moments again.  

Some people write all of their gratitudes down in a book that they keep from year to year.  I have another friend who glues down all her little scraps into a composition book of gratitude.  I don’t do any of those things, mine go into the compost bin.  But I truly love this ritual look back over the year.  This ability in spite of any challenges or low moments we may have faced to see so many wonderful things.  So many reasons to be grateful.  

Once the jar is empty it almost seems to sparkle as I set it next to my desk to begin again.  And it brings hope and a cheerful spirit as I anticipate the year ahead.  

Cultivating a habit of gratitude

Being grateful doesn’t always come easy.  For some reason we are surrounded by a culture (and a news media) that brings out the worst in us.  Often we get so overwhelmed that we allow the negative things to strongly influence how we percieve what is happening around us.  Amidst the explosions of stress, worry, and overwhelming circumstance, the little sparks of gratitude can sometimes get lost.  Just as we learn to read and write and do any of the other things we’ve learned to do in life, so too we need to learn to cultivate the habit of gratitude.  

Below are some of my favorite resources and  articles on the topic.  I am not going to lie and tell you that I live in that blissed out place that is continual gratitude.  I don’t.  I sometimes struggle to get there, to get anywhere close to being grateful.  And yet I know I have to very much to be grateful for.

Yes we can get overwhelmed, sometimes we get lost.  But I have come to believe that by remembering that concept of gratitude and by trying to pay attention to it I am happier overall.  And so I’ve collected these resources and I have my ritual of the gratitude jar.  I’m excited and looking forward to what this new year will bring.

As we transition to another year I hope that whatever the year ahead holds for you it also brings happiness, health, contentment, and peace.

Gratitude resources

How To Be Grateful To People We Don’t Like – Learning to look at negative situations and focus on the good things we have can help us achieve a transformational shift. Admittedly this is not always easy to do, but sometimes having a resource we can turn to the guide us toward this can be helpful.

Gratefulness.org – A wonderful website offering videos, audios, articles, a virtual labyrinth, and virtual candles you can light. This is one of my favorite resources.

How Gratitude Can Change Your Life – A good article about gratitude with some information about how studies showing how it can improve your life.

Why Living a Life of Gratitude Can Make You Happy – A few suggestions for ways to add a gratitude practice to your life.

Stumbling Toward Gratitude – The end of this article sums it up well, ” There are no miracles. … There are no long-term quick fixes for happiness, so if you become a more grateful person and you add [these] exercises to your repertoire, you’ll be different six months or a year from now.”

9 Ways To Cultivate Gratitude – Nine suggestions for ways to cultivate gratitude (and avoid focusing on criticism or complaints)

A Serving of Gratitude May Save The Day – This New York Times article has some great suggestions and offers gentle ways to get started

And here’s a video on gratitude that I found moving.  Thanks to my Aunt for sharing it just when I needed it.

How Gratitude Affects the Human Body

From Visually.

Focus – The Word Of The Year

Screenshot 2016-01-01 13.45.04

New day, new year, new word.  Each year I pick a word of the year.  One word that I use to help me pay attention to my goals and to give me a touchpoint to refer to throughout the year.  It sounds simple but it’s harder than you think to pick just one word.  To think about the overall goals for the year ahead, to find something meaningful that resonates within me as my inspiration.

This year I’ve chosen the word focus.  Last year’s word was balance  and I certainly put a lot of thought and effort into staying mindful with that word.  I feel like I did better with the whole work-life-spirit-me-others balancing act (although there is always room for improvement).  But being in balance and being focused are two very different things.

When I chose the word focus I had not really thought about all of the different meanings.  I was concentrating on the verb, to become more focused.  I meant it to be more attentive to things and to narrow down on what’s important.  To try to winnow through some of the distractions and what I call “The Octopus.”  You’re probably familiar with it.  The Octopus is where you feel like you have everything under control, then you get distracted by other things but you fold them in to what you’re doing.  Then you start spinning another plate or two and the next thing you know you’re overwhelmed, trying to figure out how to corral everything back under control.

But it’s a noun as well, bringing something into focus and I like that idea as I begin on the path that is this delicious new  adventure of a new year.  And it turns out I also like another definition as well.  To become a central point. I see that as being your resource, your go to person for reliable information about ingredients, food, nutrition, and health.  That loops back to the first time I did the word of the year challenge and chose the word inspire (you can read about that word here).

If you’d like to pick a word of the year consider writing it down.  You can even go online to OneWord365.com and find others who are using the same word as you are.  Whatever your goals are for this new year I wish you many good things along the journey.

Be well,

Mira e-sig

 

 

PS – If you’re nerdy like me you probably want to read what the official dictionary definition is.

focus

[foh-kuh s]  
noun, plural focuses, foci
1.  a central point, as of attraction, attention, or activity:  The need to prevent a nuclear war became the focus of all diplomatic efforts.
2.  Physics. a point at which rays of light, heat, or other radiation meetafter being refracted or reflected.
3.  Optics.

  1. the focal point of a lens, on which rays converge or from which they deviate.
  2. the focal length of a lens; the distance from a focal point to acorresponding principal plane.
  3. the clear and sharply defined condition of an image.
  4. the position of a viewed object or the adjustment of an opticaldevice necessary to produce a clear image:
    in focus; out of focus.
4. Geometry. (of a conic section) a point having the property that the distances from any point on a curve to it and to a fixed line have  constant ratio for all points on the curve.
5. Geology. the point of origin of an earthquake.
6. Pathology. the primary center from which a disease develops or in which it localizes.
verb (used with object), focused, focusing or (especially British)focussed, focussing.
7. to bring to a focus or into focus; cause to converge on a perceived point:  to focus the lens of a camera.
8. to concentrate: to focus one’s thoughts; to focus troop deployment in the east.
verb (used without object), focused, focusing or (especiallyBritish) focussed, focussing.
9. to be or become focused:  My eyes have trouble focusing on distant objects.
10.  to direct one’s attention or efforts:  Students must focus in class.

Good, Better, Best

Good better bestI recently had the absolute delight of being invited to cook in the fabulous kitchen at Three Goats Farm.  Designed and operated by the amazing Primitive Diva, Melissa Humphries, this is a fun place to hang out and you couldn’t ask for better company to hang out with.

Getting ready for the launch of Primitive Diva TV, PDTV, she invited me to film an episode while we chatted about the concept of good, better, best, when it comes to food and nourishing your body.  I love helping people move up the nutrition ladder so to speak.  It’s difficult to go from a highly processed food plan to one that truly nourishes your body.  I certainly know, from personal experience  and from working with clients, that it’s a step-by-step process which takes time and effort to achieve.  I don’t know anyone who has made a huge jump overnight and managed to stick with it.  You start where you are, decide what you’re going to focus on, and begin to make changes.  Just as in the fable of the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race.  Small measurable changes, mindfully made over time are most often the ones that are sustainable and lead to long-term, healthier change.  Extravagant changes and massive numbers of them, all at the same time, are overwhelming.

One way to manage this change is to focus on shifting food, recipes, ingredients up the ladder from good to better to best.

Here’s an example that we used in the filming.  [In case you’re interested we made the polenta and Tuscan Stew recipes from The Pantry Principle on pages 124 and 145 respectively]  In the example below I’m going to talk about upgrading your polenta.

Good is when you decide to shift from a heavy processed food and/or restaurant/take-away diet to making more foods at home.  There is often less chemicals, less sugar, salt, and fat.  The serving sizes are more reasonable.  In the case of polenta this may mean purchasing a chub of polenta and heating it up at home as part of your recipe.

Better is realizing that corn is one of the most highly genetically modified crops on the face of the planet.  You don’t want to eat conventional corn anymore because you want to avoid the GMOs and probable heavy pesticide residue.  So you choose organic corn.  Possibly still in a chub.  Or maybe you decide to make it from scratch and you use organic ground cornmeal plus other clean ingredients.

Best means you’ve decided to really focus on eating well and are buying organically grown, sprouted cornmeal.  The sprouting adds extra nutrition, better digestibility, and reduces phytic acids and enzyme inhibitors which can interfere with nutrition.

One step at a time we work our way up the ladder to better digestion, better nourishment, better food sourcing.

We had a great time chatting in the kitchen.  As you can see from the picture above the food was so enticing that the aromas got us and we didn’t get a picture until after we’d dug in and started devouring it.  Mr. Diva came in at the end and polished off a plate of his own.  I promise, this recipe is a winner.  And so is Three Goats Farm.  I’m so excited for the launch of PDTV and I’ll be sure to post a link to share once this episode goes live.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about food, nutrition, holistic health, or how to take your recipes from good to better to best, don’t forget to take advantage of my AskMira January special.  Purchase two hours of my time, which you can use any time during the year, and get a half an hour free.  That’s a $50 value.  This offer is only available for the month of January but you can use the time in 15 minute increments anytime you like during 2015.

And in the meantime, let’s eat well to be well.

Dieting Mindful Strategies

The holiday season has come and gone.  For many people that time of year means parties, social gatherings, buffet dinners, sweets, treats, and desserts.  All of this can contribute to weight gain. By the time the New Year rolls around some people have gained five to seven pounds or more. This means the feasting is followed by “holiday remorse” which leads them to consider going on a diet. Unfortunately where dieting is concerned, many people set themselves up for failure. Because they dread dieting they create reasons to postpone or they self-sabotage by planning a dietary blowout as a last hurrah.

Sadly there is a somewhat popular notion that encourages binging on “comfort” foods and treats enjoyed before starting a diet. As if denial and deprivation are required in order to lose weight. Moderation and clean eating are often somewhat foreign concepts.  Then add in the fact that many of these “comfort” foods are highly addictive and contain negative ingredients which can be harmful for your health. This makes giving them up more challenging. To avoid getting stuck in the comfort food trap it’s necessary to retrain your brain and your palate.  It is important to reframe your way of thinking about food in order for any diet you embrace to be successful. Food isn’t the enemy, even the ‘tasty’ foods aren’t the enemy.  And that’s something not enough people really understand.

Our bodies need the nutrients in order to be healthy.  This includes proper nutrition that supports our overall physical health and mental wellbeing.  According to Trudy Scott, author of the The Antianxiety Food Solution, when we are in balance we don’t struggle with food cravings.  Energy dense foods, those that are high in fats and sugars, don’t provide much nutritional support.   When we consume higher levels of energy dense foods we often may not be eating more nutritionally dense foods, those which provide a lot of nutrition for not a lot of calories.  Nutritionally dense foods include good quality protein, raw nuts and seeds, vegetables without pesticides or genetic modification, and healthy fats.  Unfortunately energy dense foods have the added challenge of being highly addictive.  Many of the additives set up a cycle of craving; these include sugar, salt, fat, monosodium glutamate, and casein.  When we consume these it can overwhelm our neurotransmitters, the brain chemicals, and lead to increased desire for more and more of these foods.  Fast food manufacturers further support this addictive consumption by upselling or super sizing the menu.

I truly dislike the term diet.  We have let it become a negative connotation, “I’m on a diet.” “Oh man, I really need to go on a diet.”  “I can’t enjoy that, I’m dieting.”  Instead of feeding yourself negative messages and creating a goal plan for when you are “off the diet,”  embrace the process of building a healthier you. Think of your health goals as a positive direction in your life to make changes for the better.   It’s important to be mindful but not to go overboard.  Don’t get so caught up in what you eat that you develop an overwhelming need to control everything you eat and cannot enjoy a meal over a friend’s house or eat anything you have not prepared yourself according to strict rules.  It is important to note that if there are specifics that need to be followed (you are sensitive to gluten, you have diabetes and need to cut back on sugars, you have an issue with nightshade vegetables) these do need to be followed with compliance.

Changing your mindset is also important.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Don’t feed yourself negative messages.  These are self sabotaging.  Instead remember why you are working toward these changes to your nutritional plan.  To feel better, to achieve better health.  Love and nourish yourself physically and emotionally, you’ll feel so much better when you do.

Remember, the overall goal is to find and achieve balance. To create a new nutritional plan that you can maintain successfully without having to “diet” on a regular basis.  You don’t need to feel deprived, you don’t need to self sabotage with negative messaging.  Make small, mindful, focused changes and you’ll find yourself much calmer and happier.  You can eat well to be well.

 

Winter Fitness Tips

eat more fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C
Winter is here.  For many people that brings an urge to practically hibernate;  you just want to stay cozy and warm.  Cozy and warm is great, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t stay in shape. Here are five fabulous tips for staying healthy during the winter months.

Sleep Smart – A recent study from BYU shows that if you go to bed and get up at the same time every day you are less likely be overweight. It’s believed that your metabolism functions better with stable sleep patterns. Remember to avoid caffeine and alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime as these stimulants can prevent you from getting good sleep.   A cooler room with enough blankets to stay warm, and a dark space will also help to promote healthy sleep.  How much do you need? Aim for between 6.5 and 8.5 hours a night.

Vitamin C – Vitamin C is essential for normal body function. Although there is conflicting research about whether or not Vitamin C can prevent or shorten cold symptoms, it appears that higher levels of vitamin C are a good marker for health according a study from the University of Michigan. Dr. Mark Moyad, the study researcher, suggests taking 500 mg as a supplement in addition to eating 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C.  The best fruit and vegetable sources  are:

Oranges and grapefruits
Kiwi fruits
Cantaloupes
Raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries
Cauliflower and broccoli
Green and red peppers
Spinach
Tomatoes

Exercise – It is very hard to stay motivated during winter, so get your workout in first. Don’t put if off. The short winter days make this even harder, so try to exercise before it gets dark out. This can be a real challenge in the winter time. Ideally it would be great to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine, but winter conditions don’t always allow for that.  If you can’t be outside head to the gym or try a workout DVD or YouTube video and exercise in your living room.  Home gym equipment can be purchased inexpensively and used for fitness year-round.

You can even go to the mall and walk some laps; the key is to keep moving as much as possible. Even walking just 15-30 minutes a day can make a huge difference in your fitness level. According to the American Heart Association, walking as exercise is enough to prevent heart attacks and extend life expectancy.

And as soon as there is a break in the weather, get out and move that body. Bored of walking? Why not try dancing lessons? This can be a fun way to get out and stay fit in the winter.

Avoid Alcohol – Winter time is full of parties and festivities. Alcoholic drinks are full of “empty” calories meaning that they provide very little nutritional benefit. Too much alcohol is a sure way to get out of shape during the winter. Try to stick to one glass of beer or wine a day or less.

 

Avoid Carbohydrate Loading – Winter makes you crave carbs. Less sunlight means lower serotonin levels which cause hunger.  Less sunlight can also be a trigger for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Instead of loading up on carbs enjoy different meal choices.  For lunch, make sure you get plenty of protein, veggies and dairy products to lessen afternoon hunger pangs. Healthy carbohydrate choices are sweet potatoes and oatmeal. Check out these other eating tips for SAD.  Try to get as much sunlight as possible since this stimulates serotonin release and suppresses hunger. If needed, there are even special sun lamps that you can buy to get enough light during wintertime.

Just because it is cold, wet and dark doesn’t mean you can’t stay in shape. Follow these ways to keep fit and you will be full of energy come springtime.

Joe Alter is a fitness buff, writer, and the CEO of Yowza Fitness, a leading manufacturer of home fitness equipment, including treadmills, elliptical machines, and stationary bikes. He is on a mission to lead the home fitness industry to a new era of innovation, with biomechanically superior cardiovascular fitness equipment.

photo: Fæ

One Word – Inspire

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It’s that time of year…the time we arbitrarily close the cycle of days that has come before and look forward to a New Year.  One filled. one hopes, with promises, joy, and many good things.  As I’ve written about before, I’m not much of a one for resolutions, I prefer goals.  Each year I do sit down and think about what I would like to accomplish for the upcoming months.  To set out a roadmap that I can at least use as a guide to moving forward.

This year, a random post by my friend Trudy Scott posed the question what would you pick as your defining word for the upcoming year.  She heard about it over at Intent.com.  I was immediately struck by how powerful this could be.  The idea of focusing in on just one word.  One defining concept and trying to achieve the goals set by that word.   After much thought, writing and crossing out, saying aloud, and defining, I’ve hit on a word.  Inspire.

The dictionary defines this as:

inspire – verb (used with object)
1.  to exert a stimulating or beneficial effect upon
2. to produce or arouse (a feeling, thought, etc)
3. to guide, influence, or impel
4. to take or draw (air, gas, etc), into the lungs; inhale
5. archaic to breathe into or upon

I find myself motivated by this one word.  I see so many permutations of how it might be used as a focal point over the next 12 months.

As a nutrition educator and real food advocate I am always seeking to help those around me.  To support them so they can make educated choices for themselves and their loved ones when it comes to their food and health.  Through my work, my writings, lectures, and connections I hope to inspire people to make those choices for health.

I frequently ‘shout out’ about a wide range of topics all related to food, nutrition, and holistic health in an effort to motivate others.  [An example is all those who are now aware (and disgusted) about the use of chicken poop as cow feed – if this bothers you please tell the FDA how you feel by signing this petition].  While it’s often upsetting information, I am very sincere in my desire to share this not as a means of upsetting people but in the hopes that they will be, indeed, inspired to make different choices and to speak out in their turn, to have an impact.

Inhaling, breathing, is a good thing.  I believe we all need to do more of that.  Especially deep breathing.  Taking a moment in time to draw air deeply into our lungs has a beneficial effect when it comes to lowering stress.  We should all do more of that, myself included.  Breathing in sharply can be a sign of surprise, of interest, an aha! moment.  I hope to find, and share, more of those moments throughout the year ahead.

But inspire is a word that I chose not only because of how I hope to use it to connect with those around me, but because of what I hope that focus can mean for me.  I want to be inspired.  I want to find that surprise, those guiding, influencing moments that I know lie ahead.  To do that means I need to be aware, open to the possibility, to the gifts that bring those moments of inspiration.  I also need to be open to the opportunity to share, to give, to be inspired.

It turns out that other people are interested in the idea of a one word focus.  You can connect with them through the OneWord365 website.  You can find a word that speaks to you, connect with others who share your word, or just set your intention for the year.  I’d love to hear your word and why you chose it, leave a comment below and share.

Wishing a healthy, happy, peaceful and joyous New Year to you all.

Be well.

Student Nutrition

The kids have gone off to college. Some for the first time, some returning to that parent-free no nutrition guidelines environment. If you’ve just sent your student back to school you may be wondering what they’re eating. Unfortunately for many of them if it’s not standard college fare (often run by cafeteria companies such as Aramark) it’s fast food. As parents we know this isn’t a great choice but now that they’re off on their own it’s tough to get information across to them.

Five fabulous tips for your college student are:

    1. Portion Control: Dining halls make it easy to overeat. Be mindful of your portion sizes. Start small. If you’re still hungry you can go back for seconds, but if you load up your plate chances are high that you will over-eat.
    2. Don’t Skip: You’re in a hurry and it’s tempting to skip breakfast but don’t do it. Eating a balanced breakfast keeps your metabolism going and your blood sugar stable all day long.
    3. Rethink Your Drink: Cool, they have soda at every meal, even breakfast! NOT! Those empty calories sure add up. And diet soda is high in chemicals that are not good for your health. Juice is also freely available but very high in sugar. Make sure you stay hydrated and drink more water. Consider adding lemon to flavor it a little. Get a water bottle and take it with you around campus.  Or see if mom and dad will spring for one of those soda makers and make your own sparkling water right in your room. [note:  FREE SHIPPING on all Home Soda Maker orders with Promo Code: FREEFIZZ]
    4. You Are Not A Hobbit: Avoid the fourth meal. That late-nite pizza or mac-and-cheese at midnight? Not a good idea. If you’re hungry have a healthy snack (such as low sugar protein bars, fresh fruit, raw nuts, fresh veggies, hot air popcorn, or yogurt) but don’t eat a full meal right before bed. You won’t sleep well and you’ll pack on the pounds.
    5. Get ZZZZZs: Sleep deprivation affects not only your ability to think straight, it also changes your metabolism and your hormones making it harder for you to make good food choices. Aim for seven or eight hours a night. The occasional all-nighter is going to happen, but try not to make it a habit.

and a bonus tip:

Exercise: Hitting the books means lots of sitting. This sedentary lifestyle can really contribute to weight gain. Remember to stay active. Walk to class if possible, go to the school gym (it’s FREE!), or join in some sort of club that encourages physical activity. Keep moving and keep off the pounds.

Other issues which may be challenging include the fact that most, if not all, fast food is highly addictive. The more you eat it the more you want. And because it’s so energy dense, meaning a lot of calories/fat/sodium/sugar, it can often lead to weight gain. Learning how to choose nutrient dense foods, or high nutrient foods, is an important part of a healthy college lifestyle. The infographic below may be a great way to share information with your college student, helping them to make better choices.

 

The Best Foods for Body and Brain