I have an influx of stressed calls and emails this time of year, mostly from clients and students trying to manage health and holiday stress at the same time. I know how frustrating this time of year is, I struggle with the same problem! Don’t fret, there are simple solutions to help you have a healthy holiday season.
First, make a schedule and stick to it. I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it, if you schedule time for exercise, food preparation, and sleep and you follow the schedule, you’re better equipped to take care of yourself and manage stress. Second, eat before events and move away from the treat table! At my friends’ parties, we always stand around the food, chatting and snacking. This is such a hard habit to break, but if you eat ahead of time and pull your friends away from the table you’re less likely to overeat. Third, make time to decompress. Whether you enjoy stretching, reading, games or simply sitting quietly, allow yourself at least 10 minutes every day for quiet time and positive thoughts. Finally, and most importantly, be kind to yourself! Nobody is perfect and there is always tomorrow. Remember that the holidays are about celebrating family and friends, so allow yourself to splurge a little, then get back on track the next day. Happy Holidays!
With chilly weather sweeping the nation, it’s easy to stay inside and put exercise on the back burner. Although that’s certainly a good idea if it’s icy or the weather is too cold to exercise safely, after a few days it’s important to get moving again! To put this in perspective, consider these benefits of moving during cold weather.
Prevent weight gain. Especially with the holidays approaching and the abundance of winter comfort foods, moving more can counteract excess calories consumed.
Prevent seasonal depression. When I’m stuck inside for too long, I notice I get the blues (and cabin fever!). Getting out for a brisk walk, hike, or snowshoe helps clear the mind and increase endorphins that improve mood.
Reduce stress and sleep better! This time of year is rife with stress, but moving more can balance stress and reduce negative effects of stress on the body, such as increased risk for illness. And here’s another benefit to decreasing stress – more energy AND better sleep!
Improve immunity. The flu and cold season is upon us, and exercise boosts the body’s ability to fight illness by naturally cleansing itself and improving circulation of antibodies and nutrients.
Prevent health conditions and diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. ‘Nuff said!
So get moving! Bundle up in layers that wick sweat away from your skin, drink a glass of water, power up with a piece of fruit such as a pear, wear appropriate footwear, and have fun!
It’s warm, you’re outside more – maybe playing sand volleyball or enjoying a cocktail on the patio. Who doesn’t love summer? But beware: too much fun in the sun can lead to a serious problem. When it’s warm, we sweat to keep cool; excess sweat can lead to too much fluid and electrolyte loss. This means we need to consume more! But what the heck are electrolytes and where do I find them?
Electrolytes are charged minerals, specifically sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, phosphate, and calcium. Those of greatest import during warm weather or activity are sodium and potassium because they are lost through sweat. In the body they are kept in cells and blood and used to communicate; they carry impulses that stimulate nerve and muscle contractions. When you sweat too much or don’t consume enough, your body becomes deficient and this can lead to dire consequences, such as dehydration, cramping, shaking, and even death! So how do you protect yourself? Drink your fluids, eat your fruits and veggies – appropriate sources of electrolytes, and avoid excessive alcohol consumption that causes excess fluid and electrolyte loss. So what’s the perfect summertime snack? Try a glass of water and a sliced pear topped with one ounce of cheddar cheese. Yummy!
(Provides approximately 214 calories, 234mg potassium, 176mg sodium, and 204mg calcium.)
Mahan, L. Kathleen., Escott-Stump, Sylvia., Raymond, Janice L.Krause, Marie V. (Eds.) (2012) Krause’s food & the nutrition care process St. Louis, Mo. : Elsevier/Saunders.
Those of you who know me know I started my health journey 70 pounds heavier than I am now. I’ve completed seven half marathons, but never experienced the exhilaration of completing a full… until now. I ran my first full marathon this past weekend! Although the training was a chore (to be quite honest, it was sometimes boring), it was worth the toil when I ran across the finish line. If I can do it, anyone can! A goal is something to be accomplished, no matter what it is.
Looking back to when I was unhealthy, I think about how little I exercised, the processed junk I ate, and how horrible I felt. Life was different then: I slept a lot more, craved junk food, and didn’t even try fruits, vegetables, or exercise. Now, I have more energy, enjoy working out (…most of the time!), and take pride in my health. Plus, I love eating fresh food: Fruits and vegetables are the foundation of a healthy diet. I know the difference between watching life and living life! This life feels really, really good.
What is your goal? What’s your motivation? You can do it, too!
As I was walking across campus today I was struck by just how unique each human body is. As a dietitian, I’ve seen healthy people of all shapes and sizes. I was reminded of this today when a fit, but curvy jogger ran by me. She obviously exercises regularly, but didn’t have a traditional runner’s shape. She is a happy, healthy reminder that we can be fit no matter our genetics!
It is best to nix excess body fat because of its role in chronic diseases, but maybe even more importantly, it is vital that we each maintain a healthful diet and exercise regularly. Even if you are carrying a few extra pounds or don’t feel as fit as you used to, eating healthfully and exercising will help you feel your best and perform your best. Some of my school days are 12 hours on my (tired!) feet… If I don’t eat well and exercise, I’d be deathly tired by the end of the day! Since I take care of my health I have more energy, am more engaging with my students, and wake up feeling energized every day. So what is the recipe for living your best? Add more fruits and vegetables every day then blend in a little exercise. Fruit and vegetables work to clean our bodies by supplying nutrients and fiber; fiber and exercise help to clean out waste products. Not sure where to start? Take a walk for fifteen minutes today then follow lunch with a delicious pear. Each medium sized pear contains 6 grams of fiber – 24% of your daily needs. Happy munching, happy body!
February is American Heart Month, and not just because Valentine’s Day is right in the middle of the month. Now that our New Year’s resolutions have worn off, we need a reminder that health should be a focus every day of the year. According to the CDC, 715,000 Americans have a heart attack and 600,000 people die from heart disease every year. Indeed, heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in the US. But, studies suggest that simple changes leading to a drop in excess body fat can dramatically reduce risk of a heart attack.
So how can you live healthier? Simple: Eat well and exercise. That’s it. There is no magic pill, drink, or cream. You need ten minutes of planning and ten minutes of doing. When you visit the grocery store, instead of heading down the candy, chip or soda aisle, head to the produce section. Grab some pears, lettuce, carrots, and anything else you like, then, fill your lunch and your fruit bowl. This simple change can save you hundreds of calories over a week. Next, take ten minutes to be more active. Getting off the couch burns calories, and studies show us that if we get active for ten minutes, those ten minutes often turn into twenty. So what are you waiting for? Love your heart!
Halloween is here and so is the candy… I’ve devised some tricks, not treats, to keep the candy calories at bay. Start the holiday by filling a bowl full of yummy, healthful snacks that include pears, apples, and your other favorite fruits and nutrient-dense grab-and-go items. Snack on these instead of the bowl of candy while the ghosts and goblins ring your doorbell. Speaking of that bowl of candy, leave it by the door, on the porch, or somewhere where you can’t easily grab a treat. Even better, get out of the house and walk with your kids or your friends’ kids as they collect treats – you get the benefit of spending time with friends AND getting in your steps!
Now that all of that collected candy is in the house, put it out of sight – maybe in a cabinet or pantry. Small amounts are fine now and then for you and the little ones, but studies suggest that if you put temptations out of sight you are less likely to snack! Also, take the candy out of the Halloween-themed bag or pumpkin and put it into a plain bag. This allows storage that doesn’t call out for you to grab a treat every time you see it. Happy Halloween!
Halloween fun fact: Did you know that pears don’t float? Pears are denser than apples; that’s why we bob for apples on Halloween!
When we talk about nutrition, we usually focus on foods. But, exercise is an important half of the wellness equation, and we all need to exercise more. Studies show, again and again, that being active improves all body systems, especially cardiovascular, respiratory, and gastrointestinal functions, and helps to manage weight. But there are less obvious benefits, too! Exercise also boosts energy, enhances concentration, aids sleep, improves mood, and staves off the winter blues. And now that it’s getting cooler out, it’s even more important for us to stay active.
So you eat your fruits and veggies, you focus on lean proteins, but can’t bring yourself to hit the gym? Find an activity you love! There are so many activities available that everyone can have fun. I recently completed a color run 5k; I was doused in color across the course and crossed the finish line tie-dyed and grinning from ear to ear. It was so much fun – strangers were spraying each other, people were laughing – that it didn’t feel like exercise at all. So whether you like to walk, run, cycle, dance, snowshoe, play kickball or dodge ball, find your fun. You eat well, now move well!
I used to weigh 75 pounds more than I now weigh. This weight loss was no easy feat, sometimes involving less than healthful behaviors, and indeed, I bounced up and down in pounds many times before settling at a healthy weight for me. I understand the struggles of weight loss and the sometimes even greater hurdles of weight maintenance; I still have days when I overindulge or skip the gym to watch TV. The difference is that most of the time, I feel too great to give up eating well and exercising!
A mountain of personal and professional stress snuck up on me at the end of this school year. In the past, I would have blown off the gym and eaten whatever I wanted to satiate my anxiety – feeling worse than when the stress started! But instead of making excuses and not taking care of myself, this time I continued to exercise and make healthful choices most of the time. In fact, I ran my sixth half marathon the day after graduation! When I was obese, I never could have imagined running a half marathon, let alone six. I exercise regularly, eat well (like the pear and peanut butter sandwich I always enjoy after a long run, yum!), and appropriately manage triggers that lead to overeating. This sort of behavior is what nutrition professionals call lifestyle change; it takes time, patience, and determination, but the reward is a richer, fuller life!
I finally did it, I ran my first half marathon! I completed 5k and 10k races in the past, but always wanted to run a half marathon. Well, last weekend, months of training culminated in the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon on a beautiful day in the heart of Denver. The course featured lush parks, mountain and skyline views, and plenty of music to keep the runners on their toes. I even had my own personal cheering section; dear friends and my husband met me at several places along the course to give me a much needed boost! The first 8 miles felt really comfortable, and despite some foot discomfort between miles 8 and 9, I got my second wind and finished the race strong. The training and cheering certainly paid off – I exceeded my personal goals. But I noticed after about 12 of the 13.1 miles, and what seemed like gallons of water and sports drinks along the course, my body was aching for some real food.
In addition to staying hydrated and consuming electrolytes lost through sweat, the body requires carbohydrates to fuel through performance. But after months of long runs and trying a variety of quick energy sources, all sorts of bars, goops, and elixirs, I was ready for a real post-run meal. In my gear bag, safely tucked away near the finish line, was a homemade peanut butter sandwich and a ripe, fresh pear. Not only was I salivating thinking about it, but it was an ideal combination or carbohydrates, protein, and a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals to recover and repair. Plus, it was simple, natural, and delicious!
I felt amazing as I ran through the finish line, elated by my accomplishment. Pounding the pavement and achieving my hard-earned goal, could anything taste sweeter than this?