These 4 steps guarantee better health today

best health habits photoDoes the thought of making healthier choices stress you out?

Seems counter-intuitive, but don’t worry, it’s not just you.  I’ve been there, and I talk with readers and clients every day that feel the same way, too. There is so much information out there, so many books, and opinions…everyone “knows” how you should optimize your life or live better now.

And because it’s essentially impossible to implement everyone’s advice at the same time, all of that information can be paralyzing.

 

The problem is not with your commitment to living healthier. You know that you want to eat better, move more, and feel less stressed, but where do you start? If you’re ready to start making healthier choices, but simply get overwhelmed just thinking about all the ways you can change your life for the better, here are some tips and tools you can use to get yourself on track to a healthier and happier day-to-day.

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Time to start meditating: How finding your personal style will help the habit stick

start meditating photo

Meditation gets a lot of buzz these days, and for good reason – a consistent meditation practice is associated with reduced anxiety and depression, improved creativity, better focus, and legitimately changes your brain.

 

But if you’re anything like me, you’ve resolved to start a meditation practice many times, and subsequently haven’t follow through with it, either because the actual practice of meditation is unfamiliar, or you begin and can’t seem to take the time every day to practice.

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Beat the winter blues

 

healthy during winter photo
Winter Sunrise photo by Ryan McGuire courtesy of imcreater.com

Hellllooooo Winter.

I spent all of last weekend huddled inside my house because of the freezing temps and some work deadlines. While I enjoyed and needed this break, after 2 days, I was ready to re-enter the world again. The only problem? Even though my brain was ready to get moving, my body was NOT having it. I felt tired and lazy in a way I haven’t felt in a long time…well actually…in a way I hadn’t felt since last winter! We all know it’s true….

It’s hard to be active and exercise during the winter.

No one wants to be out in the cold.  I learned the hard way this week that the winter wind is that much worse when you’re going 10 mph on the bike, and even more importantly, it can be downright dangerous to run or bike in icy conditions. Then there’s that whole daylight savings thing…it’s dark when many of us leave work, which puts a damper on post-work outdoor time.

But it’s not just the weather that’s holding us back. Our body’s seasonal clock and attitudes can dampen our motivation, too.

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Turn Distress into Eustress

 

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Photo by Wellington Sanipe via unsplash.com

Yes, yes, yes, stress is important, nay, necessary for survival. Despite being a biological system critical for our health and wellbeing, however, the human stress response is a rather blunt instrument. We have the same surge of adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine each time we encounter a stresser, whether it be an injury, a verbal attack, exercise, or anxiety about a future event. Even though these very different situations require different responses, our body’s chemistry treats them essentially equally.
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Stay motivated after the honeymoon phase: keeping with your healthy habits

bike health goals
Me and my new Torch bike helmet on a beautiful fall day

Day 1. Riding my bike to work this morning was a dream. Cool breeze, the rush of speeding down hills, and I made it to work in half the time of my usual commute. This just might be the new favorite part of my day. I found myself telling anyone who would listen – “This is the best thing ever…Couldn’t imagine my life without it.”

Day 60. Okay. A little less fun now. I’m sleepy, I’m wearing gloves, and I am now bargaining with myself: do I work harder so I go faster, or do I slow down so there is less wind resistance? I still love riding my bike to work, but it’s definitely lost that luster and shiny new feeling that caused a surge of adrenaline every time I rode.

Day 1 was totally the honeymoon phase. The new joy of riding sustained me through sore legs, sweltering afternoons, and car-dodging that is a part of any active commute. By Day 60, me and my bike have a comfortable routine. He’s good to me, and I to him. I still fill up my tires with care, give him an appreciative pat when we arrive at our destination safely, but I’m not energized and excited to get on the bike every morning.

This transition from the honeymoon phase of excitement to the normal day-to-day is the case with most things in life because our brains are wired to like new. New things are more stimulating for our brains and produce a bigger response – for good or bad. Over time, our body becomes used to what we are doing, and we lose some of that excitement and motivation to keep on going.

It’s so important to stick with health habits and routines through this lull in the relationship though, because after the lull comes the true signs of a sustainable and lasting relationship. After the lull, these habits become so ingrained that they become our default, and thus, take a lot less energy and motivation to actually do day after day, week after week. So how do you stay motivated to stick with your health routines and habits as you leave the honeymoon phase?
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The proof is in the peanut butter

Healthy LIfestyle Habits Photo
Image courtesy of picjumbo.com

How do you tell if a certain food or lifestyle habit is working for you? I am a scientist by training, so I love to run little experiments with myself when I’m thinking about switching up my diet or physical activity routines. I’ve previously talked about changing a lifestyle habit when I cut out my afternoon cup of coffee a few months ago, but I recently had an “a-ha” moment when I recently started to dig deeper into  my relationship with peanut butter …hopefully from this you can glean insight into how to run these little experiments with yourself and what to do with the results!

Steps for test driving a new lifestyle habit:

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Your best morning routine

Best morning routine workbook picture

Morning routines get a lot of press. Everyone has an opinion about how you should start your day.

We’re supposed to exercise, but also get our creative energy flowing by doing the most important work of the day! Or, it probably is best to separate ourselves from work by meditating, taking a walk, relaxing with a coffee, and…don’t forget that breakfast is the most important meal of the day!….I’m ready to go back to bed just reading that list.

The result of all these opinions about what we “should do” can turn into morning anxiety – we want to make the best use of our time, but instead, we end up thinking about all the things that we’re NOT doing but feel like we should. I hate morning anxiety, particularly because morning is my favorite time of day! I get a delicious cup of coffee, the world is a little quiet, it’s nice and cool even in the summer…there’s so much possibility. But I have decided: it’s time to take back our mornings! Because the best morning is not the morning where you do all of the things you “should” be doing.

The best morning is one in which you are doing whatever supports your priorities and goals. Same as your noon, afternoon, evening, and night.

In this post, first I discuss how to build your best morning routine. Then, I include a handy workbook you can download to keep you on track with your best morning routine. Even if you’re happy with your morning routine as it currently stands, I invite you to read through the article before you use the workbooks, so you can check in with your morning routine and ensure it is still fitting your needs. I’ve found that I sometimes hang on to routines that aren’t serving me anymore, so it’s a great idea to make sure your morning routine is still working best for you.

Ready to get your best morning routine? Let’s get started!
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Reasons to get vitamins from supplements versus food

Vitamins from food versus supplements pic
Image courtesy of thekitchn.com

Today we continue our conversation about a heavily debated topic: “Should I be getting my vitamins from food or from supplements?”

Last week, I discussed some reasons why getting your vitamins from food versus supplements could be beneficial. To recap, consuming your vitamins through food versus supplements may be best:
1. If you have a varied, whole foods diet without large dietary restrictions or special needs.

2. Because the combination of chemicals within food (versus isolated like in supplements) may be important for vitamin absorption and efficacy.

3. Because vitamin supplements are not well regulated, and there are contamination and labeling concerns for many supplements currently on the market.

However, there are a host of reasons why it would be better to get vitamins from supplements versus food:

1. Poor food combinations can actually hinder absorption of essential nutrients.

2. The vitamin composition of foods is far from consistent: it varies according to soil quality, plant source, food processing, and cooking method.

3. If you have a specific dietary restriction or deficiency that needs to be remedied, supplements may be a more efficient way to attain normal vitamin levels.

Let’s look at these reasons to consume vitamins from supplements versus food one at a time. Continue reading…