Monthly Archives: July 2013

Healthy Habits for Small Crisis

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It is easy to say you just could not help yourself when you go for that chocolate cake slice after struggling to survive this latest disaster. Life is full of ups and downs, it is unavoidable. Splurging on that indulgence may help to ease the burden when you are in meltdown mode, but that help is temporary and will not endure long enough to see you through the rest of the disaster. Since we all face the worst of times, it is necessary to learn to cope with the little bumps in the road to help you develop the healthy habits for stress relief that will keep you away from guilty food indulgences when you have reached your breaking point.  Here are my top ten that is repeated regularly to my clients to help them stay on track with their health goals.

1. Take a walk. No better way to relieve tension then to walk it out of your system.

2. Meditate. It is a practice that should be completed daily to help move your focus beyond your limitations and bring your dreams and hopes into reality. There is no rule that states you cannot meditate more often to find your center when life throws you more hardships than you think you can bear.

3. Go for a drive. Driving can be very relaxing for most people, especially when you are able to do so in pleasing scenary and avoid bad traffic.

4. Listen to music. Watch out for the hard core hits with beats that pound in your heart. I am talking about the calmer tones in any genre that make you feel calmer.

5. Sit outside and just listen. The world outside is full of sounds that can attract the senses. Close your eyes, or watch with eyes while your mind wanders.

6. Visualize your goals. Like mediatation, you want to remind yourself regularly why indulging just this once is really not worth it. Your goals are.

7. Call a friend. I cannot tell you how many times I have forgotten to eat because I was too busy gabbing.

8. Occupy your hands. Knit, sew, garden, paint, draw, sculpt. Activities such as these and working with wood or folding paper focuses your attention to your task and off your taste buds.

9. Drink water. Yup, water. It cannot be repeated enough that drinking water curbs your appetite; especially when you are aware your body can survive far longer without food than it can water. In most cases we mistake thirst for hunger. So, drink 32oz of water then wait 15 minutes and drink another 32oz. If still hungry after another 15 minutes then grab the celery sticks or bell pepper slices.

10. Window shop. Remember the ones about meditating and visualizing? If your imaginationshop just isn’t cutting it, then reality certainly will. It can be easier to dream of what you want when you can see what you want.

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See IT Then Believe IT

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Working out, training, changing diet, measuring calories with activity, sleeping; all part of working your way to a healthier body. Last post we discussed Vision Boards…Your regular and unavoidable reminder of what you are working to accomplish. Now we are moving on to your not so unavoidable, but nevertheless important, reminder. Everyone needs a little quiet time. Ask any mother and they will tell you they look forward to any reason to put themselves in time out. It is not only essential to motherhood, but to everyone; male and female. We need to take regular breaks in our day to find control and peace. Without this alone time we are prone to anxiety, anger, emotional outbursts, illness, and depression. Since I have made it very obvious that this time to yourself is imperative to your sanity, you might as well put it to the best use!

This is your chance to see yourself healthier. Everyone is  blessed with an imagination. Take that gift and think of yourself as thinner and healthier. Is it something you can do at any time and in any position? Nope! It needs a little more effort than that. Step one- take a look in the mirror. I am serious, take a good long hard look. Memorize the shape of your face, the curve of your hips, the shape and length of your arms and torso. Memorize yourself. You need a good picture to call upon as a starting point to thinning and toning the body in your imagination.

Find a quiet place with the appropriate noise or lack thereof if needed. Some need complete silence before they can reach deep inside of themselves and forget everything else. Others find this brings on their brain’s ability to create noise so white noise is best (fan, low static). Others need some familiar noise that helps them to relax. The sound of the ocean, gentle and quiet traffic noises, soft instrumental or nature (zen) music. No one can tell you what you need except for yourself, whatever helps you to forget the world around you is perfect.

Next is to pick a place. You must be sitting up, not too relaxed and not in a public place. Remember the goal is to forget everything around you, which is easier if there is limited to no activity around you. Do not use a reclined or sleeping position. Trust me, you will fall asleep therefore defeating the purpose.  If you happen to be one of those able fall asleep in any position (my father) you will need to keep trying different background noises to help keep you in check.

Close your eyes. No matter how good your imagination is, unless you have learned how to sleep with your eyes wide open you will need to shut off your optical sensory to find the quiet place within your mind. Think of yourself and start melting off the fat, toning the muscle, trimming the facial features and smoothing out the buldges. Spend 15 minutes a day finding the healthy body hidden behind the weight and focus on having that body. Imagine the activities you will be able to participate in, the places you can go, the clothes you will wear, the hair style you will choose. Do not leave anything out and burn that image into your subconscience. If you want to accomplish something you have to see it already accomplished or you will never believe it can be done.

Lastly, attach an emotion to your mental image. These emotions would include, pleasure, happiness, joy, or excitement. Without the emotion is won’t last. You have to be emotionally as well as physically invested to your goal or you will lose your motivation and revert back to your starting point. Do not waste precious time in skipping over steps that are proven to help you reach your ideal body health.quiet

Visually Stimulating Your Health

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Vision Boards; unheard of or well known, common or abnormal, ridiculous or extraordinary. All terms brought to mind depending on whether or not you have any experience with them. When explained in droll tones with too common themes it turns into a generic, lifeless, and drab board constituting our culture’s idea of a happy life. We all know we are not drones with the same hopes, desires, ideals, and wants. We are individuals with common goals, true, but we each have a unique vision of how to reach these goals and how the results will make us happy.

You dream of a healthier body; many of us have the same desires.  We want to wake up in the morning and feel refreshed, be able to bike a favorite trail, chase after our children, or learn a swim stroke and have the energy for the activity. We want to walk into a store and find the clothes that are pleasing and not have our size be as much of a factor. To look in the mirror and be happy with what we see instead of critical, which then sends our self worth spiralling  into the abyss. We want our children to see us as role models instead of the perfect example of what not to become. We want to be happy inside our own skin. Though it may seem pointless to those of you unfamiliar with the technique the use of vision boards, in conjuntion with visualization, can be a great tool for setting your mind into a state of change. This becomes your visual motivation and is the steadfast reminder of why your goals are worth achieving.

Lets use something you can see now as an example. You may dream of living in a grand and spacious house that practically cleans itself. I see myself happy with two homes, neither too large, that reflect and soothe different moods. One on the beach overlooking the ocean with trees and lush grounds; an open floor plan,  hiding nothing. The other locked in a forest constructed with large, impressive logs and overlooking a lake; away from neighbors, but invitingly excessible when I wish for company. We both dream of a perfect and beautiful home, but our ideals of size, construction, location and beauty differ (the same as our opinions of a beautiful and healthy body). As should our vision boards. If it is not reflecting your personality, catching your breath when you glance at it, and invoking your most private dreams you have accomplished nothing.

Do not start with a grand gesture that is empty in substance. Take it slow, flip through magazines, go for a walk and open your eyes, scan through stock photos on your favorite search engine. Make note of anything that invokes only the best responses; a heart thump, a double take, a gasp. Not just any skinny body frame will do, not your average vigorous activity. Do not settle for just any well cut clothes or popular style. Do not settle for a magazines ideal for health. It is okay if you prefer starigh arrow while I prefer curvy. Who cares what everyone else wants? You will not get anywhere unless it is what you want.  Nor will you get what you want if you can’t actually see yourself trying on those clothes, shopping in that store, catching that wave.  You MUST see yourself as that ideal.

Next, is make it physical. Print up the pictures of what you want your life to be once you have accomplished your goals. Only print those pictures which elicit the best responses.  A web page will not suffice and neither will a flimsy page in a notebook or planner. This must be “visual” so it needs to be big, available, and eye catching. Go out and pick up foam or poster board and get creative. Bring out your creative flair and decorate it with the pictures you find stimulating. Simply pasting them in rows on your board may not be stimulating to you. Feel free to add borders, doodles, anything that will draw your eye, but not distract from your printed goals. These pictures are your focal point and should remain center stage, but they should be pleasing to your eye when you catch a glance. vision

Display is the next important factor for success. Once your board is pleasing to you it should be placed where it will be seen by you. This place should be private, but not secluded. You want it to been seen as you live your life, but it is still private. You created this masterpiece for your purposes and not for public display. It should be placed where it will be regularly passed without drawing unwanted attention for anyone who would not understand. This may be a bedroom, hallway, home office, private work space. Make it seen- by you.

Once you have accomplished this you must work. No dream was ever achieved with idleness. Your vision board is a reminder, not a genie in a magic lamp. Its purpose is to remind you to keep your sites on your end results, much like a cart horse wearing blinders. The vision board is a blinder that will help you refrain from forgetting or shelving your goals. It is that thought in the back of your mind, always in place without keeping you from living. Knowing that your goals are not realized overnight or even in a year, it will be the reactivation of your future when disturbances and setbacks bring disappointment and despair.  It is your friend telling you to never give up and never stop believing you are capable of greatness and what you desire can and will be yours one day.m

Become Motivated to Reach Your Goal

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Stories abound of individuals who lack the motivation to work towards weight loss and a healthier life style. There are so many pitfalls like the ease of eating poor foods (can you say McDonalds?), the sugar rush that you have come to know and love (Sometimes I really want a Snickers Ice Cream Bar), and let us not forget the taste factor. We have been trained from birth to prefer the taste of processed foods and sugars which make it tremendously hard to accept a diet. Good health always starts with food and can never include the types of chemical foods we have been raised to want. So, of course, motivation plays a large part. No one can make you chose to lose weight or change your diet. You have to find the desire within yourself or you will fall flat on your face.

So you may be asking where on earth that kind of desire could come from. Well let me tell you, it is there. You just have to open your eyes to it. Another blog I happened upon decided to start with the dictionary, quoting the definition of motivate. Of course the steps to finding motivation then stem from this definition, including my personal favorite. Having a goal. You will get no where without a goal and a want for something more, something better. You would not even be reading this article if you did not want something better for yourself. So what do you want? Is it a prettier body? better sleep? an easier time clothes shopping? improved personal hygene? energy? Maybe your are kept from a favorite hobby, or you are simply tired of the questions and stares. There is always my very favorite- and I could never fault the questioner- of how far along you are! Start with what you want and work from there. You may want to simply look slimmer or you may want to reach a certain weight or you just want to eat foods that will provide a better and lasting energy. Once you are sure of what you want you can move on from there to make a plan.motivate

The Independance Weight Slump

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July 4th, Independance Day; under the sweltering heat, friends and family gathered and enjoying the festivities. It is hard enough coming to work in the morning after celebrating late into the night, but to step on a scale the very next day is a painful reminder of just how much you may have indulged (maybe you thought the 100 degree temperature would help with the weight loss?). You can probably bet that is where those extra few pounds came from.

But staying healthy in the summer is very tough.  As you drag your feet to the gym after work and gaze in the nearby restaurants and bars flooded with the happy hour crowd eating, drinking, and being merry, you tell yourself  “I would rather be in the bar than at the Gold’s Gym spinning class!” Then there are the endless number of summer music festivals, events on the National Mall, Restaurant Week, cookouts, the list is endless.

You spend a lot of time outside in the summer and it’s so easy to be tempted by the scent of the freshly baked bread coming from Subway, or the glowing fluorescent light from Krispy Kreme indicating fresh doughnuts and knowing that if they are made on location there will be a free one offere to you upon enter. Don’t even start on the  frozen yogurt!

Okay, so  how do you stay healthy during the summer? What can restaurants and food chains do to help you stay healthy? The truth is that it is not the responsibility of others to make your changes. That lies solely within your power. Though the summer makes losing weight seem difficult, it can be easily said of other seasons and holidays as well. Do not let yourself be fooled by the habits of the past. No food “tradition” is worth the consequences.fourth

Stress to Impress? I Don’t Think So!

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Stress is just a normal part of every work day, family and life right? Wrong. You may encounter stress on a regular basis, but our minds and bodies are designed to cope with a much smaller amount then we seem willing to bear. Our children have to be at that game, then that concert, then that play group. My boss expects that project on his desk by the start of the next day, send out that email newsletter to all my coworker, or pack for the coming trip. There is the long commute from work or regular activities to deal with and all the energetic drivers that share the road with me. The book group that meets right after my last class, but I also have to write that paper and submit my work before midnight tonight. Don’t get me started on the exam tomorrow morning that I have yet to study for.

 

Breathe. That is the second step to relieving some of that stress and the first is just as simple… realizing your stressed. Of course, this is only the beginning, but it is also far from the end. Most of our stress is self induced. Our children do not need to play every sport or attend every school event. Our neighbors won’t think less of us it is takes us a month to get to know them. The bake sale may still make money if you offer up oreos, or better yet, milano cookies. You have a choice and you do not need to run yourself ragged trying to fit less important activities into your day.

 

Though you cannot put off your boss, reschedule your exams or turn in a late paper, and you certainly cannot change the traffic- don’t we all wish!- you can control the extras in your life that make it harder to control and have time for the necessities. For those that seem to be in a cycle of uncontrollable madness, it will not last forever. Now, I am sure you are wondering just what I think you could possibly do to lessen the stress and I am happy to answer your silent question. These are just ideas and once you get reading you may have an “Ah Ha” moment that brings out a suggestion that is more tailored to your needs and interests.

 

Read. Yup, that favorite friend sitting on the shelf or the stranger whose spine you have yet to crack has the ability to transport you away from your troubles and into a world where you are only an observer. Watch a sad movie. Let me tell you, there is nothing like a good cry to wipe away the pain, fear, and worry that stress just insists upon inviting to the party. Call up your closest friend. Many a time I have taken advantage of the friend that is happy to help me see beyond my problems into the wonderful world of the future. Just remember to be as available when they need the same. Take a bath. Showers can be helpful in a pinch, especially if you have a really good massaging shower head, but it can never measure up to a good bath with low lighting, silence or quiet music, or bath salts if your are so inclined.  Stroke a dog or cat. There are no end of studies proving that loving an animal is the fastest way to lower your heart rate and calm your nerves.

 

Surf the blogs. Though forgetting the world beyond these four walls is best for some, others find their happy place in dreaming of projects, places, clothes, or electronics. Crochet, knit, embroidery, hand quilting. For those who cannot conceive why adding another project could possibly make anyone feel better, keep in mind there are many of us that find comfort and clarity in the weaving or clicking of needles. Meditate. This should be a no-brainer. You would have to live under a rock to not hear of the benefits of clearing your mind and perfecting focus. Play a game. Sometimes you just need to allow yourself to let loose and become hopelessly lost in a silly game. Do not understimate the power in laughter. Work out. For those of us who suffer from lack of sleep when stressed or who find it easier to think through their situation when pushing their body to the limit, you must make time for exercise. Essential oils. Thankfully no longer considered quack medicine, oils are proven to help your body do everything from relaxing and finding clarity to sleeping and- would you believe it?- relieving stress!

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10 Tips For De-Stressing Your Life

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ImageStress is like dark chocolate. A little of it won’t kill you. In fact, small blocks here and there can be good for you, or at least give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning. But chronic and severe stress will damage your body and mind, blocking the fluid communication to and from most organs–especially in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and in the limbic system, the brain’s emotional center. Believe me, you want these two systems running as smoothly as possible, with low levels of the delinquent stress hormones in your bloodstream.

The best way to combat chronic stress is to always keep some stress busters handy. Here are 10 of my favorites.

1. Simplify

Cut your to-do list in half. How? Ask yourself this question after every item: Will I die tomorrow if this doesn’t get accomplished? Believe me, even you A-type personalities will get a lot of no’s. I’m sure Franklin Covey has a more efficient and elaborate system. But here’s mine: Every morning I immediately jot down my to-do list. Once I experience the first heart palpitation, the list gets cut in half.

2. Prioritize

Let’s say you’ve got five huge work projects due next week, two Cub Scout commitments you promised your son, your mom’s overdue taxes on your desk, your wife’s 50th birthday celebration to plan, and your daughter’s computer to fix. What do you do? You record all the tasks on a sheet of paper or on your computer and you give each one a number between 1 and 10: 10 being the most important (life threatening) to one (stupid thing I signed up for). Start with the 10s. If you never get beyond the 8s, that’s okay! Don’t beat yourself up about it. It can go on tomorrow’s list.

3. Use Pencil, Not Pen

If you rely on your to-do list as much as I do, then you’ll want to start using pencil instead of pen because one important stress buster is to try to stay as flexible as possible. Things change! And change is not the enemy, even though our brain categorizes it as such. You want to be able to erase a task or reminder at any time, because who the heck knows what your day will be like.

4. Give Away Your Cape

If you haven’t already guessed by now, you are not a superhero and don’t possess supernatural qualities and capabilities. And if you do, you should be advertizing the fact so we can call on you when we get stressed. Seriously, I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to join the race … the human race. Which means surrendering to limitations and conditions–like the number of hours in a day (24) and the amount of time it takes to get from point A to point B. In your car. Not in your Batmobile.

Embrace your humanity and your limitations.  You’ll be a lot happier with yourself.

5. Collaborate and Cooperate

There are lots of people out there with to-do lists that look very similar to yours. Why not let them do some of your tasks so that you all don’t have to do them? The moms around me have mastered this concept, as they have set up a babysitting co-op: one mom volunteers to watches a neighbor’s kid and by doing so earns babysitting points that she can redeem when a neighbor watches her kids. Think co-op. It’s an effective system.

6. Laugh

Just as chronic and severe stress can damage organic systems in our body, humor can heal. When people laugh, the autonomic nervous system mellows out and the heart is allowed to relax. Laughter can also boost the immune system, as it has been found to increase a person’s ability to fight viruses and foreign cells, and reduces the levels of three stress hormones: cortisol, epinephrine, and dopac. Plus it’s just fun to laugh. And having fun is its own stress buster. Not to mention, the opposite sex finds it laughter a very sexy trait.

7. Exercise

Exercise relieves stress in several ways. First, cardiovascular workouts stimulate brain chemicals that foster growth of nerve cells. Second, exercise increases the activity of serotonin and norepinephrine. Third, a raised heart rate releases endorphins and a hormone known as ANP, which reduces pain, induces euphoria, and helps control the brain’s response to stress and anxiety. You need not run a marathon or complete an Ironman triathlon to experience the runner’s high. A quick stroll in the morning or in the evening might be just enough to tell the stress hormones in your blood to scatter and to let those endorphins out to play.

8. Stop Juggling

I realize some multi-tasking is inevitable in our rushed culture, but do we really have to simultaneously cook dinner, talk to Mom, help with homework, and check e-mail? If you were an excellent waiter or waitress in your past or present, then skip this one. However, if you have trouble chewing gum and walking at the same time like I do, you might try your best to concentrate on one activity at a time. That way you know it will get done well the first time.

9. Build Boundaries

Speaking of activities, set some boundaries, ASAP–meaning designate a place and time for certain things so that your brain doesn’t have to wear so many hats at the same time. I thought this was impossible as a mom who works from home until I made myself abide by some rules: computer is off when I’m not working, and computer stays off in the evening and on weekends. My brain adjusted nicely and appreciated the notice of when and where each hat was required, and it actually started to relax a tad.

10. Think Globally

I don’t say this to induce a guilt trip. No, no, no. Guilt trips compound stress. What I mean here is a simple reminder that compared to other problems in our world today–abject poverty in Somalia or Cambodia–the things that we stress about are pretty minor. In other words, if we shift our perspective a little, we can see that there are far worse dilemmas than maybe your unfinished report or my poor royalty figures on a few books. Put another way: Don’t sweat the small stuff, doing so only makes the small stuff bigger than it truly is.