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Nutrition and wellness is tasteful

  • Exercise

    Exercise is a benefit to every part of the body--mind included.

    Exercise makes you look better, lose weight, and lowers your risk of many chronic diseases, and slows down aging.

  • Healthy children, healthy life

    "You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces--just good food from fresh ingredients."
    --Julia Child

    "If we're not willing to settle for 'junk living,' we shouldn't settle for junk food."
    --Sally Edwards

  • Food is medicine

    "Let medicine be thy food, and food be thy medicine."

    "Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."
    --Michael Pollen

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

10 Proven Ways to Help Improve Your Mental Health

One thing I find to be interesting in my general observations as I delve further into the health and wellness world is that there is never one way to reach a specific goal -- like weight loss, a good attitude or even our mental health.

How many times have we found ourselves on a good path of eating healthy well-balanced meals, being productive at work, sleeping enough and just feeling pretty good about ourselves -- then, the inevitable happens! An obstacle gets in the way! All it takes is neglecting one of the activities I just mentioned to throw us off of our game and at times, believing that the way to leading a healthy lifestyle is just unreachable. Isn't it always a work in progress?

The following list of 10 Proven Ways to Help Improve Your Mental Health gives a realistic approach to how to tackle difficult situations when they come up -- and inevitably, they will.

(1) Devote Time to Self-Reflection. How well do we know ourselves or even bother to want to know ourselves? In the process of self-reflection, we can learn so much about ourselves and how we've been affected by people in our life as well as the experiences we've had. This is where a little self reflective time or meditation can come into play.

(2) Spend time with people who really care about you! In particular for those that may suffer from anxiety or depression, it may be easier to simply isolate, but keeping a healthy social support friend or two is actually good for you and your mental health!

(3) The old cliche, "You are what you eat" really is true. In paying attention to the foods we eat, we become more aware of our own energy and how it can influence our decisions. Hence, there are foods that specifically boost our brainpower such as blueberries, oily fish (salmon and sardines) and tomatoes -- those foods all contribute wonderfully to our mental health.

(4) Regular exercise is good for you. I know, I know -- we've heard all about the benefits of exercise, so stop already! But, it is true! At this point -- unless you live under a rock -- you know how exercise is incredibly important. In looking at exercise as a type of meditation, it becomes more meaningful to us. We can see the results in not only losing or maintaining weight, but in lowering our stress levels, sleeping better and being more mentally aware.

(5) Read uplifting books. This really is helpful in improving our mental health since reading is to the mind as what a good work out can do for the body. Reading something especially interesting or uplifting builds our concentration and our focus. Reading can protect our brain from mental illness, can encourage our positive self-talk, get our stress levels under control and just make us smarter!

(6) Get a good night's sleep. Sleeping is really so complex and fascinating. Many times we put sleep on the back burner simply because we run out of time. But, everyone gets 24 hours in a day -- so, how do really productive people get so much done you may ask? It is probably because they plan and get enough sleep so as to function well. After all, "the mind -- although operating under reduced activity -- sorts everything out while you are sleeping, so that you can go into the next day with more clarity".

(7) Set achievable short-term goals. If you haven't heard of setting SMART goals, now is a good time to become familiar with them. These goals are an excellent way to improve and maintain our mental health. The acronym SMART stands for goals that are (S) specific to our needs, are (M) measurable or meaningful, (A) achievable or attainable and also (R) realistic or results-based and time-sensitive. By goal setting, we can focus more productively on achieving something rather than remaining in a negative state where nothing is accomplished.

(8) Set long-term goals. Another aspect of SMART goals is setting long-term goals that primarily focus more on what the future holds and remaining optimistic throughout the process. By setting long-term goals, the focus on future achievement and success is a continuous process even when obstacles arise.

(9) Find a hobby. While it is most certainly great to focus on our careers, our families, our obligations, it is also healthy and good to find something we really love to do outside of those things -- like something fun or interesting and for our own personal growth. Maybe it's something you've wanted to do, but just haven't -- like taking a photography or calligraphy class or learning how to ski.

(10) Positive self talk.  How many times have we actually spoken to ourselves in a negative way, especially when preparing for something important like an exam, a job interview or even making Christmas dinner preparations. By focusing on the positive and thinking good thoughts, we prepare our minds for success, and that builds our self-confidence.

We can gain a new perspective on our life in general if we plan ahead, eat well-balanced meals, exercise and give ourselves the positive self-talk we need in order to make our lives a true success story.

Friday, December 2, 2016

6 Easy Weight Loss Tips That Also Increase Better Health

Okay, so I have written about weight loss in previous posts in order to reach those much anticipated goals that we have in mind. But, as you've already probably guessed, it's not just about weight loss -- it's about creating and living a realistically healthy life!

So, below I've outlined the 6 wise tips that are not only about weight loss, but also about the real good stuff -- how to live a good and healthy life!

(1) Change Your Perspective! We all know that our attitude is so very important in how we approach things in life -- from our jobs, to our kids, to our co-workers and loved ones as well. Imagine if we had a bad attitude with wanting to accomplish a goal at work or asking your kids to help you around the house? Do you think they would want to help us? No Way! The same goes for how we approach eating wisely with every bite and exercising. Our much anticipated goals will soon disappear (much as many of us would like to see the weight disappear, right?) if we don't stick with some tried and true healthy habits like eating more fruits and veggies and exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes a day and keeping positive at the same time!

Forget about how the previous 15 or 20 diets from your past didn't work! Remember, it's first about changing your attitude. It's okay to have a bad day -- we all do -- but just remember that tomorrow is another day and another chance to make good on your weight loss and health goals.

(2) Get Active; Stay Active! Yes, you absolutely can lose weight without exercise, but you won't get all the added benefits that exercise provides. Not only does exercise help burn more calories, but it also provides great health benefits like putting you in a better mood, better heart health and better blood pressure.

The amount of calories burned really depends on how active you are. The best thing is to be consistent and just make exercise a part of your daily activities. Even thinking of ways to move while watching TV is super helpful!

(3) Enjoy Healthier Foods. The words "healthy foods" may send chills down the spines of many, but it doesn't have to be that way! It's like riding a bike, you can learn to like foods that you've typically not eaten before, just as you've learned to ride a bike! I had a good friend who absolutely hated sweet potatoes because she grew up "traumatized" with the way she'd eaten them as a kid! Actually, so many of us may have similar horror stories about a fruit or vegetable that was prepared in an unsavory way. Now-a-days there are tons of great ways to prepare many of these vegetables by observing what tastes good and in knowing that they can be super flavorful!

(4) Set realistic goals. As I've worked with clients, it is quite common to initially hear of unrealistic weight loss goals. It really is about setting their minds at ease while enabling positive and realistic encouragement with a workable and doable "schedule" for weight loss. By also emphasizing the benefits of weight loss in order to lower the risk of chronic health problems, the load can be lightened and can even set the stage for continued motivation and perseverance.

(5) Find Your Inner Motivation. Haven't we all been motivated in our lives at one time or another? We may have the motivation to look our best for an upcoming beach vacation somewhere exotic with the "girls" or even better, a spouse. Doesn't everyone want to look their best? Of course they do!

So, start out making a list of why you want that particular goal and find a way to stick to it -- engage with friends and family that will support you, not sabotage you! Find a support group that will hold you accountable with frequent discussions, weigh-ins and triggers that may set you off on an uncontrollable path of eating!

(6) Lastly, Stay Committed! Find that inner motivation and remain constant. If you are headed to Hawaii in 3 months, find some beautiful pictures on line of where you will be staying. Imagine fitting into clothes that you wouldn't have thought possible to wear again. Once again, be realistic, but stay committed to your goal. Frequent check-ins with yourself to minimize stress from work or life in general may require some "soul-searching". How about a 5 or 10 minute meditation in the morning? How about starting small with committing to staying properly hydrated throughout the day or why not "gift yourself" a fitness tracker that can help you stick to your goals today, tomorrow and....indefinitely!

Monday, November 21, 2016

5 Misunderstandings about Your Metabolism

The human body is pretty amazing and it continues to elude us even when we believe we may be "outsmarting" it by skipping meals while losing weight, not sleeping enough because "sleeping is for the dead" or eating too many empty calories without initially seeing weight gain. The following 5 misunderstandings about metabolism can be read about more thoroughly here, but, I've listed them below as well.

Our first metabolism myth? Going back to our amazing human body, we have a hormone called leptin that sends our brains an indication when we have eaten enough calories. When someone is overweight, it is likely that they have higher levels of insulin. Hence, insulin blocks or prevents leptin from working properly and fails to send the brain a signal of our "being full", so we continue to eat because our body believes it is still hungry.

"In order to fix your metabolism then, you have to fix the leptin issue," says, Robert Lustig, Professor at UCSF and president of the Institute for Responsible Nutrition. "It's not just a matter of cutting your calories, in other words; you have to reset your hormones over time, In fact, calorie restriction is associated with slower metabolic rate, so extreme diets tend to move your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) in the other direction. With slower metabolic rates, you'd need to decrease your calorie count even more to continue to lose or even maintain weight loss".

Metabolism myth number two: Eating late at night "messes" with your metabolism. This myth is not necessarily true as there appears to be no concrete proof that this habit affects resting metabolic rate. Also, it's more than likely the amount of calories eaten after 7 or 8 pm that can be the problem. It is quite simply easier to eat more late at night because we are distracted by the TV or we are just plain tired and hungry and not paying attention to what we put in our mouths.

Metabolism myth number three: No, metabolism doesn't quit working after a certain age. There is so much we can do to keep healthy. While yes, metabolism does slow even at the age of 30 or late 20s, it doesn't mean we can't do something about it. We can actually work on increasing our RMR number by strength training and eating a "cleaner" diet. Cleaner diet? Minimizing processed foods and eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and drinking plenty of water for starters.

Metabolism myth number four: Supplements! Simply put, check the labels before purchasing. There are many supplements that are sold -- approximately $121 billion worth -- that may not even show their efficacy, especially since many aren't regulated by the FDA!

Lastly, Metabolism myth number five: The only way to affect your metabolism is by losing or gaining weight. Certainly there are plenty of "thin" people out there that are naturally slim -- while appearance-wise, it may be good, there is a complete down-side to not exercising at all! There is no doubt that doing enough cardio and strength training is good and it stimulates our metabolism nicely!

To learn more about resting metabolic rate and ways to measure it as well as raise it -- go here.

Additionally, our body has both white fat (bad) and brown fat (good). To learn more about both types of fat, read about it here.

Lastly, as Andrew Carnegie once said, "Anything in life worth having is worth working for". And, frankly, isn't our health worth having? Let's keep this statement in mind before we give in to breaking our own good intentions of keeping healthy during this holiday season.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Seasonal Gift of Health-Giving to Your Loved Ones and Yourself!

As I was preparing to start my day earlier today, a couple of "overlapping" thoughts came to mind as we are approaching the holiday season. Thanksgiving has a rich complex history of many mixed blessings and heartache as well. What we choose to celebrate and how we celebrate it can hopefully be a demonstration to how we'd like to move forward in our lives -- with endless gratitude -- even in our current state. Hence, I choose to take that road and hope you do as well. 

On a "lighter note",  now that Thanksgiving Day is about a week away, instead of "dreading it" for throwing us off our health-giving plan, let's embrace it and not be derailed -- that is the challenge! Could we possibly just prepare ourselves to enjoy the upcoming holiday with our loved ones and be grateful and "give back" at the same time? Absolutely! Let's start out by focusing on things we can do to honor our "health-giving" and make the most of the upcoming day.

Here are some good tips to follow from how "healthy eaters" approach Thanksgiving. As you read the article here, take notice of the wise tips that follow:

(1) Go Ahead and yes, Splurge: So, if you have a favorite of something -- go ahead. Appetizers? Yes, please. But, just attempt to add more healthy veggies to the turkey plate at dinner.

(2) Have a typical eating day -- like sticking to breakfast, lunch and dinner. It may be that eating small but healthy meals at breakfast and lunch means that the turkey dinner plate need not be over- -the-top piled on high with food.

(3) Make every delicious calorie count. What do I mean by that? Work for it! Like any other regular day, do everything you can to work out or go for a power walk in the morning. At least you'll feel more positive about approaching the Thanksgiving Meal with reasonable eating expectations rather than really overeating and feeling sluggish after the meal.

(4) Have a delicious taste of a favorite food without going overboard. Example? Having extra helpings of stuffing or extra potatoes only creates a sense of "just giving in to it all" without really having to do so. Why not have a bit of everything, but in smaller amounts.

(5) Make a smart swap for a more "fattening food". Attempt having more veggies mixed in with a small amount of potatoes or having "mock" mashed potatoes with cauliflower instead of the potatoes.

(6) Go ahead and have seconds, but fill your plate with veggies first on that second go-around the table.

(7) Eat with emotions. Yes, well said. How many of us have family traditions that involve favorite recipes? Just about everyone! So eat your Aunt's famous apple pie, just keep an eye on the portion size and even fill up a bit before with a glass of water.

Thanksgiving is definitely about traditions, family and yes, giving thanks as well.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Science of Sleep: Understanding What Happens When You Sleep

To fully comprehend how important sleep is for regulating our metabolism and making a strong impact on our brain function, read the article here.
"Sleep is vital. When people don’t get enough sleep, their health risks rise. Symptoms of depression, seizures, high blood pressure and migraines worsen. Immunity is compromised, increasing the likelihood of illness and infection".
"Sleep also plays a role in metabolism: Even one night of missed sleep can create a prediabetic state in an otherwise healthy person. “There are many important connections between health and sleep,” says Wu. (Johns Hopkins sleep expert and neurologist Mark Wu, M.D., Ph.D.)

Additionally, think about the correlation between sleep and eating. Our bodies do indeed crave sleep, very similar to how we also crave food. We can eat pretty much eat anytime we are hungry (or not) although our bodies don't "force" us to eat when we are hungry. It is different with sleep. Our desire and need to sleep gets stronger throughout the day, until we absolutely need it. Even missing one night of sleep can prove to be detrimental to our health.

Lastly, as the article points out -- there is a strong connection with how well (or not) we sleep and our overall health. Sleep is only one very vital and important part of making the "wheel of health" run smoothly. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

6 Eating Rules for Healthy Weight Loss

The rules for weight loss are endless and they may not even make total sense to us. I mean really -- is there only one rule that exists? No way! But, there are a few scientifically proven ways to keep the weight off. Of course, the following 6 rules are good to follow in general as they lead to creating and keeping better healthy food habits.

(1) Drink Water. The Stanford Prevention Research Center has found that drinking water promotes weight loss in 2 ways. First, begin to track the amount of water you drink in a day. As the research has shown, 4 to 5 cups in a day has been correlated with a 5-pound weight loss seen in a year.

Even replacing water with other beverages -- like soda or coffee drinks -- has proven to result in more weight loss. It's also been found that there is a tendency to have something else to eat if accompanied by a soda or coffee drink. The bottom line, its just best to avoid those tempting drinks when possible and substitute them with water -- there is less danger of overeating.

(2) Attempt to eat foods with more fiber (at least 20 grams) -- that is, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fiber just keeps you feeling fuller so you won't be thinking about what the next snack will be. It makes perfect sense that those ingesting higher fiber in their diets have a decrease in their calories as well.

(3) Eat healthy fats! Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids are recommended 3 to 4 times a day. The foods in this category are pretty delicious too -- nuts, oils, fish, avocados, and a small amount of dark chocolate.

The foods mentioned above are not only good for your heart, but they also keep you feeling fuller for a longer period of time.

(4) Calcium and Vitamin D (dairy foods) work together, not only to keep our bones strong, but may also promote weight loss. Vitamin D alone plays an important part in weight control. Once again, this vitamin is great for weight loss efforts because it "holds" on extra body fat that our bodies can't process. By so doing this "holding" process, it interferes with the hormone leptin. Leptin tells our brains that we are full.

"Vitamin D deficiency has been linked obesity. Vitamin D has recently been shown to lower leptin secretion. Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells and is involved in weight regulation. It is thought that the hormone signals the brain when fat cells are "full" but exactly how the hormone controls weight is not entirely clear".

Recommended Calcium Intake below:

1000 mg -- males and females (19-50)
1200 mg -- males and females age 51 and older.

Recommended Vitamin D Intake:

200 IU - males and females (19-50)
400 IU - males and females age 51 to 70
600 IU - males and females age 71 and older.

(5) Protein is a macronutrient that we most definitely need. In fact, it is recommended that we eat 3-4 servings of lean protein a day ( pork loin chops, turkey, white meat chicken, lean beef sirloin and fish).

(6) Green Tea is pretty amazing. Give it a chance if you don't care for the taste, but it does grow on you. Once you know the benefits of green tea, you will make the effort to add it into your daily life.
As a coffee drinker myself, I usually switch over after one good cup of coffee and have the tea throughout the rest of my morning.

3 cups a day is pretty easy to add to your day and the benefits will astound you. Green tea contains catechins -- antioxidants -- that actually promote weight loss with a focus on belly fat. Once again, studies have shown that those drinking green tea as opposed to those that didn't drink it lost more weight over time.

Imagine how good you will feel if you open yourself up to following those 6 simple rules...

Friday, October 28, 2016

Harvard Public Health Review: The Key to Changing Individual Health Behavior

What is health behavior and how are we influenced by it? According to Wikipedia, "health behavior refers to a person's beliefs and actions regarding their health and well-being". In knowing that our health behaviors are directly linked to how we lead our lives and what lifestyles we choose, how healthy are we anyway? It may matter to some -- but not everyone -- this is where education, motivation and social support come in to play.

Simply put, positive health behaviors assist with the promotion of disease prevention, and certainly that means the promotion of healthier lifestyle behavior choices. It has been found by further research into health behavior that additional influencers are right in front of us -- our physical and social environment. This research which can be found by reading the article, also suggests that by modifying our environment, a great determinant to making effective, healthy behavior change is more likely to happen. How can a promotion of "redesigning" our environment to better accommodate healthy behaviors in order to minimize unhealthy lifestyle behavior change not be a good thing?

Here is an example of how our environment can influence choice:

"A person's actions can be dramatically influenced by related contextual features. For instance, research show that kitchenware size significantly influences serving and eating behavior". There are a few other examples that can be found in the article".

Positive change can begin with having government food programs (like SNAP - Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and school lunch programs begin to make healthier food selections more accessible to everyone. While it may not be easily accessible to many who struggle with affordability now, it can eventually become affordable for everyone with unified continued efforts and government support. 

Health behavior can be positively influenced by simplifying nutrition labels to make them more understandable to everyone also. To take the nutrition label reading one step further, there is a program called NuVal, which is an independently designed system that provides a score for a foods' particular nutrient value. Another model for further consideration is a traffic-light food rating system that identifies foods by green, yellow and red. All of these systems mentioned provide the consumer good awareness with regard to their food choices.

To learn more about ways to avoid further damage to our society's overall health (and beyond) by encouraging the prevention of chronic lifestyle diseases, our focus needs to encompass more than individual behaviors, but also our surrounding environment that actually enables unhealthy behaviors as seen through marketing, ubiquitous fast food and the media. Thoughts?