Don't Ask for a Light Load. Ask for a Strong Back"
You walk 3 miles a day, park in the furthest spot, take the stairs and achieve 10,000 steps a day on your tracker...but the scale is not budging! SERIOUSLY???
You could add more miles or increase your step goal, but a better strategy would be to pick things up and put them down...in other words, add some weight and resistance training to your routine.
Now ladies, before you get all "but I don't want to look all big and beefy", just know that you do not possess the hormones that would get you to this point. However, you do possess the ability to get chiseled arms. sexy shoulders and sleek calves.
Sound good? Keep reading!
Three Parts of a Workout Routine
To make the most of your time, and work as efficiently as possible, I recommend including cardio, strength and flexibility exercises to each workout.
My favorite type of strength training is Circuit Training. This type of workout keeps you from getting bored and can be done in 30 minutes (but feel free to add a few extra rounds if you need more!)
A circuit is made up of 5-10 exercises that target both upper and lower body worked back to back. Each exercise is done for one minute with no rest in between each exercise. You can aim to complete a fixed number of rounds or do as many rounds in a set amount of time.
Include a day of circuit training 3 days a week in your rotation with alternating days of steady state cardio such as walking or bike riding as well as a day of restorative recovery such as yoga or meditation.
Give your muscles a day of rest in between strength training days (hence the steady state every other day) to allow for your body to repair and build and reduce your risk of adrenal fatigue and overuse injury.
Check out my sample week here.
By including resistance and weight training into your weekly exercise regimen, you will begin to reap some pretty amazing benefits. Muscle has a much leaner appearance pound for pound than fat and it burns more calories while the body is at rest (boosts metabolism). Strengthening muscles also helps with functional, every day living including walking up and down stairs, bending and lifting and reaching overhead. With your muscles strong and flexible (because you ALWAYS stretch after your workouts) you will have less discomfort and pain when completing every day tasks and decrease your chance of injury as well.
No fancy equipment or pricey gym membership is necessary to get a killer strength workout. A couple of sets of dumbbells or resistance bands and a yoga mat are really all you need. I recommend three sets of dumbbells, a light set (3-5 pounds) medium set (8-10 pounds) and heavy set (12-15 pounds) to accommodate larger and smaller muscle groups. Resistance bands in varying thickness can also offer the same variety for less cost.
Check Your Form
Before embarking on any fitness or strength training journey, check with your doctor for any underlying conditions and injuries you may need to modify for. I highly recommend working with a personal trainer or fitness professional who can check and correct your form.
Whatever your health and fitness goals are, including strength and resistance training will make a huge impact on your success. Make your circuit training a priority and I promise you will see and feel a difference.
Got a great circuit you love?
Share it with my readers so they can love it too!!
My family welcomed a new member this week. Daisy is a rescue mini lab (we think) who is the absolute sweetest love. Yes, I confess! This momma who was the only one who did NOT want a dog is smitten.
However, she is an interruption to my comfortable morning routine:
That has all changed
Those puppy dog eyes (literally) have completely thrown a wrench into my whole morning. It is day 2 and I have already missed workouts, chased her sneaker stealing butt all over and picked up multiple accidents left behind. How does something so small poop so much! Not to mention these little "gifts" have destroyed the aroma of that first cup of coffee.
But that face....
Lessons from a Fur Baby
Day 2 of mothering a fur baby and she has already taught me a valuable lesson.
During our morning walk, she managed to get under my feet, dropping me like a ton of bricks to the ground, directly on my knee. Ouch is an understatement.
I'm frustrated and angry, but digging deeper I realize it is not with her. The emotions I am feeling come from deep within. While there is no doubt I have physically fallen, it is not the physical pain that hurts.
Taking the time to reflect on what is really going on, I realize the current pandemic has allowed an extra 15 pounds to creep back onto my body. Bringing this added weight down as it did from my trip, I also realize I hate this. I hate how I feel. I hate how I look. This tumble is a reminder that I have fallen in more ways than one.
I want to use this as an excuse.
"I can't because I fell..."
"I can't because I am injured..."
"I can't because it hurts..."
It would be so east to just stay down. Put my knee up with a bag of ice and wallow. Stay angry and blame someone or something external.
Or I could get up.
I cannot blame my weight gain on COVID or a new puppy or getting tripped.
As I reflect on the current situation, the new changes that have redirected my morning, the number on the scale, the range of emotions I feel, I begin to realize this fall may be exactly what I needed.
I am the one in control of how I feel, how I look and what direction I need to go to make things better. This is no ones responsibility but my own and no one is going to make it better for me. That reality stings, but sometimes it takes a little bit of pain and discomfort to push us out of our comfort zone and a stagnant, mundane lifestyle. This pain knocks us down and leaves us with a choice...
Stay down or get back up?
There is a Japanese Proverb that I have always loved. "Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight".. Never before have I understood the true meaning until today. I fell down physically and emotionally. Gaining weight that I have worked so hard to lose and maintain is truly discouraging. It brings me down and tries to hold me down.
But I also know it is within me to get back up.
It will be hard.
Temptation and excuses will forever try and pull me back.
But I am the ONLY ONE who can get myself back up.
Maybe you can relate. Have you tried every diet? Have you lost the weight only to regain it back? Feel like you were dying in an exercise class that you once crushed no problem?
You have fallen. Who or what tripped you? What hurts (physically and emotionally)? What is it that weighs you down, or pulls you to stay down? Acknowledge it! Name it!
You have fallen...and now you have a choice.
Will you stay down?
Or will you get back up?
I wish I could say I was one of those 20 somethings who could eat anything and not gain weight. Being overweight was an issue I dealt with my whole life, never benefiting from the fast metabolism that allowed me to binge and still wear skinny jeans. Now in my 40's it seems even harder to take it off and keep it off. WHY????
Here are 5 reasons why losing weight after 40 becomes more challenging (and ways to defeat Father Time)
I'm sure you saw that one coming from a mile away! It is no secret that a change in hormones is one of the top culprits in the 40+ weight loss struggle. Hormones are powerful little chemical messengers in your body that play a role in everything from puberty and reproduction to mood and metabolism. When unbalanced, one may begin to feel fatigued or depressed, experience mood swings, irregular menstrual cycles, infertility and, you guessed it...weight gain!
I wish I could go back to my stressed out 20 something me and tell myself to chill...it's only going to get harder! Not to downplay the stressors of those wonder years, I just realize now most of what stressed me out was temporary or fixable and not the end of the world. Now as a mom, stress compounds not only from the safety and well being of myself, but also little humans that depend on me. This "adulting" lifestyle has introduced the stress of work, home, family, bills, hobbies and all around life balance. Adrenal glands are working overtime, hormones like cortisol are toying with my hunger and satiety cues, all resulting in weight gain with am emphasis on relocating stored body fat to the belly. It's true..adulting IS hard!
3. Poor Sleep
1 (hormones) + 2 (stress) = 3 Poor Sleep. Whether it is a hot flash in the middle of the night or a racing mind as you lay your head down on the pillow, sleep quality decreases as age increases. Add to the mix our dependence on all things technology and our brains do not know the difference between night and day. Less sleep or less restful sleep disrupts the hormonal balance, confuses our hunger vs. satiety cues, gets us craving carbs, confuses the natural circadian sleep/wake rhythm and leads the needle on the scale in the wrong direction.
4. Less Physically Active
So now you are tired, and stressed.... perfect recipe for a Binge Watching session. Who wants to lace up for a walk or put on yoga pants to actually do yoga, right? In my 20's I was walking to and from classes, meeting up with friends to go out to clubs at night and having boundless energy to go, go go! I wish I could go back and bottle some of that up. These days life looks more like 8 hours at a computer that zaps any enthusiasm I might have had to lace up for a walk after work. All work and no play...you know the story.
5. Decrease Lean Muscle
Less movement and no motivation to go to the gym means less resistance training. As we age, our lean muscle mass naturally declines (design flaw of the human body). Lean muscle burns more calories (aka metabolism) when the body is at rest. That roaring 20 something metabolism fire is a thing of the past. As lean muscle decreases, so does metabolism, fewer calories are burned throughout a day than once upon a time. Do the math. If you are burning fewer calories a day, but still eating the same amount of calories you did when in your 20's or 30's, where do the extra ones go? You guessed it...it is being stored right there in that lower belly bulge. Thanks again, hormones!!
Defend Yourself in your 40's
It's not like we can stop the clock on aging. What's a 40 something to do? Purchase shares in elastic waist bands? Hide under a cozy blanket with the top Netflix subscription? Cry???
Deep breath...there is a solution! (and it is not one of the above) There are many ways we can win the battle of the belly bulge. It will take change, commitment and consistency but it is possible. Here are some simple and realistic steps you can begin incorporating to battle the bulge:
The Bottom Line
Weight gain is sneaky and silent. A pound this year, two next year. By the time you have reached the next decade, you could be carrying an extra 10-20 pounds. The key is maintenance and prevention. Changing bodies requires changes in habits. Slowly incorporating these simple steps I have shared will have you moving in the right direction.
Need more support? Let's set up a time we can chat about your struggle. Together we can create a plan of action that will keep Father Time quiet!
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You've sweat it out in your kickboxing, spin or Pilates class, lifted ridiculously heavy weights, knocked out a few extra miles on the treadmill and done more burpees than you care to admit....but the weight is NOT coming off! (insert profanity rant here)
One of the biggest myths about weight loss is that it requires endless trips to the gym where you spend hours going nowhere on a machine or lifting weights to the point that walking up stairs becomes a workout in itself. As with overall Health and Wellness, weight loss requires a balance between multiple dimensions. Poor eating habits, lack of sleep and stress are some of the biggest culprits keeping you from your goal weight. So put down the dumbbells and keep reading for some helpful ways to battle the bulge without the sweat.
Weight Loss Happens in the Kitchen
The Standard American Diet (SAD for short) is primarily composed of highly processed, refined "food" that has no right calling itself food in the first place. The 80's brought us big hair, remarkable style and longer lists of unpronounceable ingredients that promised our beloved snacks would be fat free. Chemicals replaced flavors and sweeteners were magically derived from corn. Coming from a generation that invented the Fat Free potato chip, butter that, believe it or not, isn't butter and low sodium salt (??), I can personally confess to eating some strange foods all in the name of slimming my waistline.
Not weight loss! In fact, my weight constantly yo-yoed, I was tired all the time and symptoms of depression were prevalent while I was in denial. Can you relate? As more and more "diet" foods hit the shelves, more and more Americans became overweight. The 1 in 30 children who were obese became the 1 in 6 with a bonus risk of Type II diabetes. I was one of the SAD diets sad stories.
My ah-ha moment came when I checked out a little book with a whole lot of simple information. Food Rules by Michael Pollan is the must have beginner guide to healthy eating. Rules as simple as "Eat Food...Not Too Much...Mostly Plants", "Don't Eat Anything Your Great-Great Grandmother Wouldn't Recognize" and "Don't Eat Breakfast Cereals that Change the Color of the Milk" became my mantras. I learned to cook and hoarded recipes from magazines in waiting rooms (pre-Pinterest of course), I began reading and understanding the information on nutrition facts labels. I realized the cause of my weight issues did not come from calories or fat (a once deemed naughty F-word) but from the unrecognizable ingredients I was consuming.
Keeping track of portions and calories is important, but fueling the body with real food takes priority. Food delivers the vitamins and nutrients necessary for muscle growth, cell regeneration, and basic bodily functions. Real food can be digested to deliver these nutrients throughout. The proper balance of macro-nutrients can keep the body energized while balancing the calories that come in with the calories that are burned.
These rules take a while to adopt as habit, but with each small step, a healthier weight and lifestyle is within reach!
Get Your zzzzzz's
How long does it take for your phone or device to recharge to 100%? I bet your evening routine includes plugging it in every night to be sure it is fully charged for the busy day of texting, browsing, calling and streaming the next day, am I right?
So how many hours do YOU recharge each night? Do you get the full 7-8 hours of sleep necessary to recharge your body to 100% for the following busy day?
If you are like most overworked and multitasking Americans, you likely sacrifice sleep to "get everything done" rather than sacrifice one more season of your favorite Netflix binge.
Growing evidence from both laboratory and epidemiological studies points to short sleep duration and poor sleep quality as new risk factors for the development of obesity. NCBI:
In Simpler terms, lack of sleep causes disruption of the hormones that regulate hunger and satiety and increased weight gain by 32% in women who averaged 5 hours of sleep a night. So plug the devices in, diffuse your favorite sleep inducing essential oils, turn out the lights and tuck yourself in for a solid 7-8 hours of recharging. You will feel more energized and boost your weight loss efforts.
You are out for your morning walk when suddenly a large dog lunges towards you. You immediately jump and either defend yourself or hightail it out of there. A quick dose of adrenaline and cortisol gets your heart racing and provides you with a surge of energy and strength that will help you fight off the threat or escape. This is referred to as the Fight or Flight Response, a built in defense mechanism to keep us alive in a dangerous situation.
When you realize the lunging dog is securely leashed and safely behind a fence, the Stress Response deactivates and the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to bring you back to equilibrium.
Sounds great, right?
Only problem is, the Stress Response does not know the difference between a viscous dog, a looming deadline, traffic or a screaming toddler...each of these situations elicits the stress response and the corresponding impact on the body with one big difference....the latter situations tend to last a lot longer, putting continuous strain on the Adrenal glands and cause hormonal imbalance. Translation: the adrenal glands continuously pump adrenaline and cortisol resulting in adrenal fatigue and weight gain.
This process truly highlights the need for strategies to manage and reduce stress. Yoga, hobbies, nature and mindfulness are all great ways to reduce stress. Check out my blog on Mindful Practice for the Beginner to get started on one of the easiest and fastest way to bring on the Relaxation Response, Mindfulness. There are also a variety of apps and podcasts that will help guide you through meditations while the use of certain essential oils such as lavender or this set De-Stress Essential Oil Set have been shown to help reduce stress.
The Bottom Line
So, does this all mean that you should ditch your exercise? NO!! Weight loss and a Healthy Lifestyle are a balance of healthy eating, sleep, stress reduction AND exercise., You do not need to spend hours in the gym, 30 minutes a day should suffice along with a healthy diet, time to rest and recharge and identifying triggers for stress and the strategies that help keep it in control.
My 12 Week Spring Weight Loss Challenge, starting March 7th, provides support and accountability. Through this group coaching program, you will visualize optimal health and set realistic goals that will get you closer to your healthiest you, learn how to crowd out unhealthy habits as you make room for healthier behaviors and practice stress reducing activities specific to your needs and interests.
If you are ready to take this journey and incorporate these practices to lose weight into your life, be sure to check out the Spring Weight Loss Challenge.
Health and Happiness!
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links to product I personally use and recommend to achieve balance in health and wellness. I receive compensation from the sales of any linked items which helps me continue with my business providing clients with the skills and tools to reach their wellness goals. Thank you for your support
Spring is my most favorite season. It is like the world is awakening from a long winter slumber, opening her eyes through blooming flowers and chirping birds. It is also a time where I can realign my goals and get back into a healthy routine. This especially trying winter with the pandemic has certainly left its mark on physical ad mental health. A few extra pounds and binged Netflix series have me feeling a little sluggish. Can anyone relate?
Bring on the motivation
Seems like the perfect time to challenge you to get off the couch, cancel the pity party and get back on track...summer is coming!!
I have designed a 12 week weight loss challenge that has time and again proven successful in helping my clients lose weight. I know what you are thinking. "Ugh! Another weight loss program". I get it. I have been through my far share of shakes, bars, fasts, and food logs to know the struggle.
This is different!
Yes you will be tracking numbers on a scale, but this is only a fraction of what you will be gaining (or losing) during these 12 weeks. With a focus on what you CAN have or CAN do instead of what you have to give up, along with a community of peers for support, you can join others who have participated in losing up to 12% of your body weight through healthy behavior change that is sustainable and realistic! Through clean and healthy eating, exercise, stress management and mindfulness, you will be on your way to finally losing those extra pounds you have been carrying.
A Vision and the Journey
The program starts with your vision, imagining yourself at your healthiest and happiest. Over 12 weeks, you will learn to set realistic goals and action steps to get you closer to the ideal you. You will learn healthy eating strategies, workouts for every level, stress management techniques and mindful tools to balance all areas of your health and wellness. The road that lies ahead may not be an easy one, but you will be supported the whole way through Health Coaching. a caring and supportive community and a plan that will hold you accountable.
The real incentive here is good health. Losing just 5% of your body weight can:
The top three losers with the highest percentage of weight lost will receive:
Ready to get started?
Learn more about my 12 week weight loss challenge here. I would be honored to support you through your personal journey to weight loss, health and happiness.
Questions? You can ask in the comments or find me on Facebook.
Would you like to save $25 off the Challenge Registration?
Join my email list and receive a coupon code you can use at checkout.
I can't wait to see where your journey takes you!
Health and Happiness
Just after Thanksgiving, I began recognizing the telltale signs of a COVID infection. Headache, fatigue, coughing, I just felt miserable. After trudging my way to the walk-in for the dreaded nasal swab, my results "lit up like a Christmas tree". I was positive. Mask in hand, I returned home to my bedroom where I would quarantine for 14 days to prevent spreading this to my more vulnerable family.
Admittedly, I had it easy. I am a healthy person, my symptoms were mild and I got out of making dinner and doing the dishes for 14 days as I could not risk exposing my family. Hey, gotta find the silver lining, right? Undoubtedly, my worst symptom appeared around day four of quarantine. As I prepared to work from home, I embarked on my morning routine of sitting quietly as I plan my day over a fresh brewed cup of coffee...but something was different...
I could not smell the awakening aroma of the beans as they infused with the hot water!
I could not taste the hazelnut flavoring that tantalize my taste buds!
COVID had stolen my sense of taste and smell!
A panicked google search entailed..how long will this last? Will I ever taste and smell again?
As with any google search, I began focusing on the small percentage whose taste and smell may take months to return while in rare cases some may never have the luxury of these senses ever again.
Cue the deep breath!
After a few tasteless dinners, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. Spicy foods to reawaken my taste buds and essential oil inhalers for my tired nostrils. I had no idea if it would work but it was worth a try.
Two weeks (and it was a long two weeks) my taste and smell slowly began to return. A hint of smell as the beans were grinding in the coffee maker, a tingle on my tongue as the spicy red pepper flakes warned them.
Did the essential oils and spicy foods really work?
Almost three months later as I am cleaning out my email inbox, I come across a blog from my favorite essential oil provider, Eden's Garden. They had evidence from multiple studies that the use of essential oils could, in fact, help bring back the sense of taste and smell.
Olfactory training with essential oils first took off with a study performed by German doctors in 2009. The study involved four different scent types–floral, fruity, spicy and resinous–represented by Rose, Lemon, Clove and Eucalyptus oil. Anosmic participants were instructed to smell each oil for ten second intervals, twice daily for 12 weeks. The results were very positive, prompting others to further study olfactory training with essential oils.
Could my personal experiment be the reason my taste and smell returned? I will never know. While essential oils are not recognized by the FDA, they can be a powerful tool in your medicine cabinet. Whether diffusing, applying topically or using to clean with, these little brown bottles pack a punch. That said, though they may seem harmless as they are part of nature, some essential oils do have contraindications when it comes to medicines, pets, children, elderly and underlying conditions. It is important to so your research and consult a professional aromatherapist if you are prone to side effects.
If you do plan to embark on your own experiment to get back your senses, I recommend the Eden's garden brand. They are sustainably sources, non-toxic, vegan and animal friendly. Most importantly, they are 100% essential oils with no synthetics or added fragrance. I have also created a 4-pack of Essential Oil Inhalers that include the oils mentioned in the original 2009 study::
Essential oils can be potentially dangerous. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication or have an underlying medical condition, please seek the guidance of a licensed Aromatherapist.
So... what have you missed most about your loss of smell or taste? What personal tricks have you tried and found success?
Share in the comments!
Living in New England, one thing is guaranteed this time of year...
My skin will be screaming for moisture!
I can predict during the coldest months the pain of cracked knuckles and flaky arms and legs. Throughout my life I have been burdened with dry skin. While this was a blessing in disguise when my siblings and peers were dealing with the oily acne stages of puberty, (I can count the number of pimples I had in middle school on one hand) I was never able to outgrow my dry skin.
Drug store lotions proved ineffective, Vaseline filled cotton gloves at night were uncomfortable and the OTC creams were too greasy, too stinky or too chemically to use.
Enter Shea Butter!
After some deep and heavy research (read: Pinterest scrolling) I learned about Shea butter. This thick, rich, nutty scented butter originates in Eastern and Western Africa. It is hard when cold but melts easily when rubbed between the hands to create a protective layer on skin. When mixed with beeswax and jojoba oil (another nourishing oil), an amazing salve is created that moisturizes and protects, without the harmful chemical of medicinal or drug store products.
Make your own!
I have since started making my own hand salve and stock up this time of year. Interested in making your own? It really is quick and simple. You will need a double boiler (a glass pyrex or mason jar placed in pan of 1" of boiling water will do the trick) and a glass or wood stirring rod. Add 1 ounce of jojoba oil and 1/2 ounce beeswax pellets to the top of your double boiler and allow to fully melt. Remove from heat and add 1.5 ounces of shea butter. Ensure accurate measurements with a food scale. Stir until melted. Pour into a 4 ounce container such as a mason or metal tin. Allow to cool slightly then add 20 drops of Lavender Essential Oil. Cover and allow to harden.
A little of this body butter goes a long way. To use, scoop a dime sized amount out and rub between your palms to melt. Apply the warmed butter to your dry skin until absorbed. This butter will leave a protective layer that may at first feel greasy but it will absorb and leave behind a soft smooth layer.
If you suffer from dry skin or are looking for a hydration boost during the cold winter months, give this butter a try. Experiment with other scents by switching up your essential oils. These also make great gifts!! Not ready to invest in the ingredients and materials? This product is now available for purchase.
What are your secrets to keeping your skin hydrated during the cold dry winter?
Please share your tricks in the comments...I am always looking for new ideas!
Your body is a complex machine made up of systems working together to function at its best. Just like any machine, your body needs fuel or energy to run. Choosing the best fuel for your body is important. What is good for someone else, may not help your body achieve optimal functioning. One thing rings true, however, everyone should avoid fuel that is loaded with chemicals. The human body is not capable of recognizing and using them. They become toxic and cause illness and disease. Choosing the proper fuel and avoiding toxic options can help prevent illness, give you lasting energy and promote good health and longevity.
In a culture where processed foods outnumber the healthy options, how do you know what to choose? Fancy labels and marketing make many processed foods appear healthy, but the truth in these foods lies in the beyond the marketing on the front of package in the ingredients label. Turn to the side of the package and get to know what was put into the food and do your best to avoid the following ingredients as a start to cleaner eating:
High Fructose Corn Syrup
This cheaper version of naturally occurring sugars found in fruits is derived from cornstarch. It has grown in popularity as a less expensive alternative to making food sweet and can now be found not only in candy or cookies, but also sauces, ketchup, soups and salad dressings.
Why should you avoid it?
HFCS has been linked to obesity, inflammation, cancer and diabetes.
Reach for foods with naturally occurring sugars like fruit. When your sweet tooth strikes, chose sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup.
Hydrogenated Oils (Trans Fats)
This chemically enhanced fat was created to increase the shelf life of foods and enhance flavor and texture. It has since been banned but companies are allowed to include trace amounts. Learn to read INGREDIENTS and look for terms such as "Partially Hydrogenated" or "Hydrogenated" and place them back on the market shelf to live a long long life there!
Why should you avoid it?
Trans Fats have been proven to increase LDL or "bad" cholesterol which could lead to heart disease or stroke.
Choose foods high in healthy fats such as avocados and nuts. Opt for extra virgin olive oil vs. vegetable oil when cooking.
In his book Food Rules, Michael Pollan writes, "Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the color of your milk". Artificial color found in popular sugary cereals, sodas and rainbow colored candies as well as condiments, baked goods and even foods like pickles and beverages.
Why should you avoid it?
Artificial color, usually listed in the ingredients as Red, Yellow or Blue followed by a number, have been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, thyroid cancer and allergies
Focus on whole foods that do not add artificial dyes.
Mindfulness...What is it? How does it work? Is it just a passing trend?
Undoubtedly you have heard the term mindfulness. Perhaps it was a course promoted through social media to "sign up for 8 weeks of meditation", a reference in your favorit podcast or your employer looking to add Self Care to your list of To Do. It seems as though everyone from accountants to zen yoga instructors are all jumping on this bandwagon...but what is it really all about?
What is Mindfulness
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the UMASS Medical Stress Reduction Clinic, defines mindfulness as
“the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”.
In simpler terms, it is noticing how you feel in the present moment by focusing your awareness and quieting the busy mind. Mindful practice (and yes, it is a practice that needs to be done consistently to master) comes in many forms such as meditation, guided visualization and yoga. Instead of thinking of it as a way to get rid of all negative racing thoughts, consider it more learning how to live with thoughts and emotions and have control over your response to them.
How does Mindfulness help?
The benefits of Mindfulness reach into many dimensions of health. A consistent practice can decrease blood pressure, decreases feelings of depression and anxiety, increases cognitive function and memory and can boost immunity.
The best thing about mindfulness is you do not need any equipment, just your breath and seat. Find a quiet spot where you will not be interrupted and can sit for 10 minutes. No need for fancy mats or pillows, the chair you are sitting in now, the floor or even your bed will do just fine. I actually take a few minutes when I get to the gym to sit in my car...there really are no rules!
Eyes closed or open? That is up to you. If your mind is constantly wondering what is going on past your closed eyes, keep them open and rest your gaze gently a few inches in front of you. Keep an active spine. If lying in bed as you prepare for sleep. lie on your back or in a comfortable position.
The thought of sitting still for 10 straight minutes may seem intimidating. Start slow. Aim for a 2-3 minute meditation. Take advantage of the many free meditations available through apps or online. A few of my favorite include Calm, FitOn, and Yoga with Adriene.
As you practice, you will learn to acknowledge your wandering mind and allow forgiveness when your find your thoughts drifting. As with any skill, the more you practice the better you will get. You may find yourself sitting for longer sessions and using it to cope with different situations and emotions. Be sure to find a time where you can practice consistently each day. It should be as important as bushing your teeth or taking your vitamins.
Do you have a mindful practice?
What is your favorite mindfulness practice?
Leave me a comment and tell me how you incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine.
CONFESSION! I LOVE MEAL PLANNING!!!
I schedule time on Saturday or Sunday (depending on my plans for the weekend), pour myself a cup of coffee, spread out my recipe printouts, open my calendar and make sure I will not be interrupted and begin strategically planning what my family will be willing to consume and what I will be willing to make for dinner during the upcoming week.
I am a total meal planning geek, but I also know that not many follow in my passion for pre-planning and prepping. However, taking a quiet hour one day a week can free up time later, save money and reduce waste. My meal planning start came from wanting to lose weight and track portions but I now enjoy the benefits of fewer leftovers being tossed in the garbage and quick grocery store runs. Sound good? Check out my 4 steps to successful meal planning and maybe you will join my meal prep tribe!
Grab a pen and notebook and let's get started...
STEP #1: Check Your Calendar
There is nothing worse than getting home a little later than usual, pulling out the ingredients for tonight's dinner and realizing your recipe takes one hour to marinate and another hour to roast. Prior preparation could have prevented this frustration that may result in an unhealthier food delivery fix.
Step one of meal prepping is to know how much time you will have to cook a healthy meal each night. Some days you will have time to try that new recipe you printed from your favorite foodie while other nights it will be a crock pot dump and go so dinner is ready when you get home.
Start with a notebook or print my Meal Plan Worksheet, and write down the days of the week. Under each day, list appointments and their times so as you plug in your meals, you will choose meals you can create given your time and stick to healthy eating.
STEP #2: Browse Your Recipe Stash
In addition to being a meal planning geek, I am also a recipe hoarder. I have Pinterest pages, printouts and have been known to quietly tear a recipe or two from the magazine in a waiting room now and then. I have a nifty little system to categorize them too, but that is a whole other blog! I am sure you, too, have a library of recipes including family favorites and recipes you are dying to try.
It is time to pull out your stash. Open your Pinterest and grab your cookbooks. Start browsing. Begin plugging in meals each day that will fit your schedule also keeping in mind the energy necessary to create the meal. Will you be too tired for all those steps? Maybe hold it off for the weekend. Include all your side dishes as you plan entrees. Remember what the purpose of dinner is, to fuel your body and provide it the nutrients it needs for good health. Don't skimp on the veggies and whole grains as you create your weekly menu.
Once your list is complete, I suggest posting it somewhere visible. This step will help hold you accountable to healthy meals and quiet that voice that tries to influence you to just call for a pizza. Check out my Dry Erase Menu Board displayed in my kitchen pictured here. (Total geekiness!!) If you are looking for something similar, try this framed menu board or maybe something a bit more discreet like this magnet menu board for the refrigerator. You can also print a copy of my meal plan worksheet or use a simple notebook and pen. Just make sure you post it where you will see it and be reminded of the game plan!
BONUS: Having your meals for the week visibly posted keeps your kids from constantly asking "What's for dinner?"
STEP #3: Make a List
As you plug in each meal, create your grocery list including the ingredients you will need to make each meal. This is also a good time to take inventory of staples like herbs and spices, pantry items and sauces you already have on hand. Knowing what you already have avoids spending money mindlessly and prevents waste. Keeping an organized pantry is a great strategy to healthier eating, but alas, it is another topic for another day. You can obviously jot this down on another page in your notebook or use my printable grocery list that helps organize your list by department, saving you from traveling aimlessly through the grocery store (and yes... I do have strategies for grocery shopping too. I did mention I am a geek, right?)
When you head out to the store, go with a mindset of sticking to your list. You have taken time to plan healthy meals, do not sabotage your efforts by falling victim of marketing strategies that hope you will throw those temptations into your cart. Plan your visit accordingly during non-peak hours, don't go hungry and remember your reusable bags (environmental health is part of your wellness journey)
STEP #4: Prep
OK, so this step isn't really part of the meal planning, but I recommend you do this extra credit step. Upon your return home as you unpack, consider what items you can pre-prep to save time during your week. Wash and chop fruits and veggies, throw together the ingredients for the slow cooker, separate meats into portions to marinate and seal and store ingredients by meal in your pantry and refrigerator. Yes, this step does take a little more time but it I promise it will save time, energy, frustration and falling off the healthy eating wagon later in the week.
Remember to store your foods in glass or BPA free plastic, label meats with the date you packaged them and refrigerate opened goods that require refrigeration after opening (beans, sauces, etc).
Got a Strategy of Your Own?
Listen...meal planning takes practice, but once you get the hang of it, you too will geek out with your own special dry erase board, favorite pen and notebook and secret stash of stolen magazine recipes. Need a little extra support? Let's chat and talk prep! Drop me an email and let me know where your struggles are when it comes to planning meals.
Got your own personal strategy to planning your week and staying on the healthy eating band wagon?
Want to share a picture of your meal plan board?
Have a go to recipe that every week should include?
Comment below and share your ideas!
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