Stress Management

8 Apr

Stress.  We all experience it, no matter how old we are.  It seems the older we get the more stress we feel.  Just like everything, there are positives and negatives to stress as well as a good and bad amount of stress.  The Mayo Clinic explains the basics of stress.  It states, “Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the ever increasing demands of life.”  It also explains that the brain is meant to protect you and when it  perceives a threat, it signals your body to release a burst of hormones to fuel  the “fight-or-flight” response.  Once the threat is gone, the body is meant to return to a normal relaxed state.  The problem is the nonstop stress of  life means that the alarm system in the brain rarely shuts off.

That’s why stress management is so important.  We can’t wait until stress has a negative impact on your health, relationships or quality of life.  Stress influenced conditions include but are not limited to depression, diabetes, hair loss, heart disease, hypothyroidism, and obesity.

Some methods and activities to manage your stress include:

  • Exercise
  • Meditation techniques
  • Biofeedback
  • Imagery
  • Progressive muscle relaxation

When I get overwhelmed with stress, I try to exercise.  It helps me clear my mind and allows me to focus more clearly.  I also love  taking a yoga class to relax my body and refocus.  How do you manage your stress?

Gym Classes

4 Apr

I think Zumba classes are hilarious.  I went for my first time the other day and was a step (or five) behind and could not stop laughing at myself.  Yet, it was still such a good work out!

I love gym classes.  The only cons are they can be too crowded for comfort (no one likes to rub up against another, sweaty body or get random splashes of sweat flung at you), the times don’t always fit into my schedule, and gym memberships can be expensive.  I have only tried done yoga, Pilates, and turbo kick boxing (TKB), and now, Zumba.  TKB is a favorite.  Fun music, fun moves, and an amazing work out.  I also love yoga.  I especially love sitting in a steam room or sauna after yoga.  I feel loose, relaxed, and cleansed.  One of the best feelings ever.  I think Pilates is great too, but it was never the thing for me.

My opinion: Gym classes are a fun way to be healthy.  I also find them a little easier to go to because they have a set time and a leader to direct the workout.

Body pump and cycling are two other classes I would love to try soon.  How do you feel about gym classes?  What is your favorite way to exercise?

Proper Posture

3 Apr

Having good posture is an awesome way to look and feel good.  People with great posture look so confident and sure of themselves.  I always slouched and hunched my shoulders, and it was awful.  My mom was always telling me to sit and stand up straight.  I never listened.  I’m 5’7″, which isn’t that tall, but most of my friends were shorter and/or skinnier than me growing up so I never want to stand out.  Or I would see some “cook kids” slouching so I thought it was cool to slouch.  It just became habit to not sit and stand up straight.  But really, who wants a hunched back?

I finally changed my habits when my sister got this book, Look Better Naked, by editor-in-chief of Women’sHealth, Michele Promaulayko.  It encouraged me to work on my posture.  In her book, Michele Promaulayko explains that changing your posture is one of the fastest and easiest ways to to look and feel better.  It can make you look 5 pounds slimmer.  Awesome.

We spend so much of our time sitting.  Whether it is eating, in class, watching a movie, or typing and reading on a computer screen.  We spend hours of our time sitting.  This can result in rounded shoulders, or upper-cross syndrome.  Poor posture also allows your stomach muscles to relax, making it more of a challenge to have a firm tummy.

Oxygen magazine writer Lara McGlashan shares tips on posture here.  I like the tips about sitting in the car best:

  • Sit up in your seat with your best posture, imagining a balloon pulling your head toward the roof of the car.
  • Set the mirrors in the car so you can see perfectly when positioned in your best posture. As soon as you start to slouch, your views will change, reminding you to sit up tall.
  • Because your body was made to move, there is no “perfect” seating angle. Change the position of your seat frequently to avoid locking up in certain joints.
  • If you’re on a long road trip, change your seat adjustment once an hour. If you’ve got a programmable seat, enter two or three different options to keep your body from getting stiff and sore.”

What are your tips to keep good posture?

Quinoa

31 Mar

It is the best!  I am a huge fan.  Some people don’t like it because of the texture but  it is a texture worth getting used to.  Here’s why:

  • It’s healthy! Quinoa is packed with protein, fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, zinc, potassium, magnesium, selenium, and iron.  The best part is that it contains all the essential amino acids that your body needs and is gluten-free.  Perfect. (When I make a meal with no meat, the only way to get my husband to eat it is to explain that quinoa is full of protein.  And it works 🙂 )
  • It is so easy to cook.  You really can’t ruin it.  It is a 1:2 ratio of quinoa to liquid.  I usually use water and throw some salt in there.  You can also use any broth to add some flavor to it.  Although quinoa is a seed, it cooks up like a grain and absorbs all the liquid.

  • The variety of options is endless.  I buy the big bag at Costco so I always have some on hand.  I use it as a rice and pasta replacement (but I still use those things too).  It can be used as a side, to make cold  salads, or added to some hot soup.  My husband loves it with a can of cream of chicken soup, green beans, broccoli (you can add any vegetables you like), and some shredded chicken.  It is also frequently used with stir fries at our house.  There really are so many options.  And they are all so good.  Another idea is cooking it in milk with cinnamon and honey or brown sugar for a supposedly amazing hot breakfast cereal (I have yet to try this, but am so excited about it).   For recipes and ideas using quinoa, check out these sites: Healthy Eats, Cooking Quinoa, and AllRecipes.com.

Nutrition No-nos

18 Mar

The Food Network Health Eats blog writer, Dana Angelo, shares the top “don’ts” from nutrition experts across the country.  The “don’ts” are the things we should STOP doing to get healthy.

1. Don’t Stock Your Pantry With Junk

In particular, don’t leave junk on the counter.  Me?  Guilty.  When I make cookies or brownies, they always end up sitting on the counter for easy access.  Try to leave some fresh fruit in a bowl on the counter (like some apples or bananas) instead.  Also send some of those treats over to your neighbors.  They’ll love it and you don’t feel obligated to eat the entire batch.

2. Don’t Ignore Hunger Cues

Simple.  If you start feeling full, stop eating.

3. Don’t Go Overboard at Restaurants

The portions at restaurants are typically bigger than you need.  Try saving the extra food for another meal.  Save the splurging for the celebrations.

4. Don’t Guzzle Your Calories

“Even seemingly healthy enhanced waters and beverages are usually loaded with sugar. Get nutrients from food, and hydration from water.”  Maybe the Vitamin Water isn’t worth it?

5. Don’t Buy Into the Latest Diet Craze

This one is pretty nice.  Avoid the strict, planned diets.  I have found these hard to keep up and the meals don’t leave me satisfied.  “Instead resolve to make a few healthier choices each day within your normal routine.”  Make every meal and snack a positive part of your day.

6. Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

Get the facts.  There are some crazy ideas out there on what is healthiest and will make you lose weight.  It is important to get information from credible sources.  Check out www.eatright.org

7. Don’t Throw in the Towel

“Mistakes are part of the learning process.”  Make a few adjustments and keep on going!

8. Don’t Skip Meals

Especially breakfast.  It keeps your metabolism up and keeps you from splurging later.  So keep eating!

9. Don’t Weigh-In Daily

I definitely check my weight daily when I am trying to lose weight.  It can be frustrating!  Daily weights don’t really measure your success and you can’t get hung up on the numbers.  Try to keep it to once a week, first thing in the morning if you have to monitor your weight.

Read more on what the experts have to say about these tips here.  What are your favorite tips to achieving a healthy lifestyle?

Over the Counter Birth Control Pills?

17 Mar

Should the Pill be available without a prescription?  A study at the University of Texas suggests that another way of ensuring women take their pills is by making oral contraceptives available over the counter.  This may help protect from unintended pregnancies, but is it best?  Healthland.com posts An Argument for Making Birth-Control Pills Available Over the Counter.

A big question addressed in the article is “Will a lot of people end up using the Pill who shouldn’t be using the Pill?”  Women need to make sure they’re choosing the most appropriate pill for their particular needs so they are not at risk for serious complications.  The article mentions that some see that even if the Pill is not the best method for them, using it is a lot better than getting pregnant.

Although over the counter birth control pills would be convenient, I do not believe it is a good idea.  Many doctors give one year prescriptions to their patients.  Some of these prescriptions allow three months of birth control pills to be received each visit to the pharmacy.  Others need to visit the pharmacy for a new pack every month.  It can be tedious refilling a prescription so often.  Calling in, waiting, and picking it up.  Some clinics have found it effective to give one year’s supply at a time. (More on the benefits of a year supply)

I worry that people will use birth control that is not appropriate for their lifestyle as suggested in the article.  They risk experiencing a stroke and blood clots.  I think my biggest worry of over the counter birth control is women would not get checkups.  A trip to the Gyno is not typically a good time.  I know I would be less inclined to go to the doctor if I did not have to.  I say a year prescription, whether all at once or a little at a time, and a checkup to renew it is ideal.

“The Most Important Meal of the Day”

16 Mar

Breakfast.  We have all heard it is important to have a healthy, nutritious breakfast.  I typically have about 5 minutes for breakfast in the morning.  I usually wake up late, rush to get ready, and stuff some cold cereal or oatmeal down my throat on my way out the door.  Then I am hungry again within an hour.  Diet and Fitness Expert, Dr. Melina Jampolis, gives us some details and some great, quick breakfast ideas.  She suggests eating “at least one serving of whole grains or fruit along with lean protein.”  Umm, that sounds like a lot of work… right?  Wrong!  You can simply buy cereals that are low in added sugar and low in fat and it is a great source of whole grains and fiber.  They keep you full longer and they still taste good!  Adding milk for protein makes a balanced breakfast!

Still feel hungry in an hour or two?    When still short on time, top some fat-free Greek yogurt with some cereal and berries.  When you have more time, egg whites and toast is another great option full of protein.  You can also add protein powder to your oatmeal to protein fortify it!  Even add some chopped nuts to add a little more nutritional value.  Read more on Dr. Melina Jampolis’ great, easy, healthy breakfast options here.

I have added Greek yogurt topped with Honey Bunches with Almonds and strawberries to my breakfast options.  It is amazing!  I even eat it for dessert!  And because the Greek yogurt is thicker and has more protein, it keeps me nice and full.  What do you eat for breakfast?