Wait wait…..stop making excuses and start forming new habits

I hate my alarm clock, it’s evil! But at the same time I have to admire the little thing, it’s not afraid to pipe up at the crack of dawn knowing full well how much I will detest the very sight of it because of its loud holler. I’m surprised I’m allowed to press snooze that many times. I’m sure you can relate. My nightly routine lately has been setting my alarm clock for 5am before I go to sleep telling myself “tomorrow Sarah, you are going to go to the gym BEFORE work and you will love it and have sooo much more energy!” Then 5am rolls around and I reset the alarm for 6, then 6:30 and before I know it I’m not on schedule at all and the rest of my day is compromised because of it.

We all do things to procrastinate, we even procrastinate WHILE we’re procrastinating. (Ever went to Facebook to avoid homework or something work related, realized you wanted to write a friend a message and then ended up on Pinterest? yeah, I know) The excuses for not eating healthy or exercising are ENDLESS:

“I don’t have time!”

“I can’t afford it”

“Not all of us have your motivation, Sarah”

The point is where ever you are now in your healthy (or not-so-healthy-quite-yet) lifestyle, you consciously or subconsciously made an effort to form habits for why and how you do the things you do today on a daily basis. There’s been research done to suggest that it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit, which may seem like a long time when you want to create a new one, but really, it isn’t that long when you think about how indefinite habits become.

Habits also seem to work very similarly to how our minds do, we want instant gratification. Therefore, if you wanted to start eating chocolate everyday at 2pm you’d find it a pretty easy goal to maintain since the reward would be instantaneous and delicious. The same applies to things like establishing an exercise routine. The first week or so may seem easy; suddenly you’re feeling great, you have more energy, life kicks ass, and then meh, you’re just maintaining. Why should we keep up this habit when it doesn’t feel like we’re gaining much anymore? There are great ways to start establishing habits that include:

  • Visualization – envision what you want your life to be and how this new habit will creat that for you
  • Get a buddy – if it’s something like exercising or reading everyday, keep each other accountable
  • Write down and define the habits you want to create
  • Form habits that link together – you won’t get anywhere if one habit is to lose weight and the other is to chug more lard
  • Track your habits!
  • Remind yourself – use sticky notes, set phone and outlook reminders, have your friends bug you (there’s nothing people love more than that “did you get to the gym fatty!?” ok my friends aren’t that mean)
  • Make it attainable. Realize that sometimes your habits will be in flux, if you can’t take your vitamin C at 8:05am one day then don’t beat yourself up when you do remember and end up taking it at 3pm
  • Try to stick to new habits daily for 30 days or a set time frame – I want to start working out before work every morning at 5am so Monday-Friday for the next month I am GOING to!
  • Replace, don’t deprive. If new habits require giving up old ones then find other ways to keep yourself happy. If you ate ice cream every night before bed consider reading or making hot tea every night before bed instead.

I truly believe it’s possible to make the time for the priorities in your life. I know that I could probably gain about 4 hours a day if I stopped Facebooking, seriously. If you’re too tired, get more sleep, if you have too much to do, stop putting so much on your plate. It’s ok to say “no” to yourself and start saying “yes” to the things that truly matter in your life, like your health.

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Why you should drink more water! And less diet soda…

Obviously we should all be drinking water, duh. But come on, man, I’m not about to carry around a gallon jug everywhere I go just because every “doctor” out there says I should be drinking X amount of cups of water a day. Yea yea, I get it. But let’s take a look at what water actually does for your body and you may be more inclined to make a healthy habit of getting more H2O. You are constantly losing water along with sodium and other factors contributing to how much you’ll retain. This is why it’s important to drink it constantly throughout the day. Yes – this does mean that at first, until your body gets used to this new routine, you’re going to develop a relationship with your toilet, but this won’t be permanent, your bladder will adjust and soon you’ll only be going a few times a day instead of feeling like an 8 month pregnant woman.

Water has a lot of benefits and regulates more bodily functions than you may realize:

  • Helps support and cushion your joints
  • Regulates your body temperature
  • Reduces and eliminates waste and toxins within your body (clearer skin, anyone?)
  • Protects sensitive tissues such as your spinal cord
  • Water can help reduce the risk of a sun stroke in the summer
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Suppresses appetite
  • As well as a variety of other things

So water is also in beer, soda, and other drinks, I’m totally covered! Wrong. Most people aren’t getting enough water. If your urine is yellow, that’s proof enough. The clearer it is, the better you’re doing. Calorie dense drinks are lame anyway, rarely providing any nutritional value, adding sodium to your diet – which can leave you feeling bloated and 5lbs heavier, and only preventing you from losing weight in the long run. Plus (warning: rant ahead) diet sodas may be calorie free but they are filled with sodium and have actually been shown to increase your appetite, how ironic. Not to mention the variety of other reasons why you’re drinking a hazardous chemical (why do diet soda cans float while regular ones don’t!?!)

Also – the popular go-to answer for how much water should I drink everyday seems to always be eight 8oz glasses, and not to discourage you, but it really depends on your body type, how active you are, and the climate you are in. Drink more water, I got this, buuut sometimes it’s a little easier said than done. Here are some great ways to start and to soon turn it into a habit:

  • Carry a water bottle with you or keep one at your desk, in your kitchen, next to your bed (I personally love Contigo water bottles because they are spill proof and I’m a clutz)
  • Set an hourly or daily goal. “I’m going to drink 24oz every 2-3 hours” or “Today I’m going to drink 85oz” anything is a start!
  • If you must improve the taste of your water try to use something natural like lemons or limes. If you’re a fan of drink mixes, try to find ones without aspartame and that include electrolytes and vitamin C.
  • Think about how good you feel when you’re hydrated – fewer headaches, clearer skin, improved attitude, less junk food cravings…

Thirsty yet? 😉

Colorful: A good rule for what should be on your plate

We all know that fruits and veggies come in all colors of the rainbow but many people don’t realize that making sure you get a variety of color in your diet can be an easy way to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need. Now that doesn’t mean you should have a plate of Cheetos, gummy bears, and twizzlers, although props to you for being semi-creative. I also want to stress that the term “diet” should be thought of in terms of what you DO eat and not what you DON’T or CAN’T eat. When we think of our diet in terms of restrictions alone that can make it a negative endeavour. Besides, your diet isn’t a fad, it should be your habit, your lifestyle 🙂

Can you really tell what you’re getting from a food based on its color? Actually, yes!

  • Reds  such as tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, red apples, and watermelon contain lycopene and contains great benefits for your skin, can actually help you against sunburns, and helps to fight off various forms of skin, lung, and prostate cancer.
  • Orange/Yellows such as carrots, apricots, mangos, yellow squash, and pumpkins contain beta-carotene (some of these more than others, like carrots) and vitamin A which have both been shown to lower the risk of vision issues and macular degeneration. So there is a reason why pilots were instructed to eat lots of carrots during WWII – although it doesn’t have any direct correlation with improving vision and definitely doesn’t give you night vision, looks like I’m still going to need my glasses.
  • Greens such as avocados, green beans, broccoli, green apples, cucumbers, spinach, and asparagus get their leafy color from chlorophyll and contain a high amount of Lutein. All of these create similar benefits to the ones mentioned above, including reducing risks for cancer, as well as skin and eye health.
  • Blue & Purples like plums, blackberries, blueberries, purple grapes, and raisins contain an abundance of antioxidants, including anthocyanins that work to fight cells from damage and destruction! They also work to prevent blood clots and prevent heart disease – more reason to make those blackberry pies this summer 😉
  • White fruits and veggies like garlic, cauliflower, potatoes, onions, and bananas (yea yea their peal is yellow but the banana itself is actually more white) serve as a great resource for potassium which helps your body maintain its fluid levels – which is why bananas are a great pre and post workout food! Potassium also can help prevent bruising, help cuts/scrapes heal faster (why didn’t I know this as a kid), and can help prevent migraines and headaches. These fruits and vegetables have also been proven to reduce the risk of stomach cancers and aid in reducing blood pressure issues. 

So now you’re thinking maybe all those leprechauns were onto something with rainbows… I can’t promise you a pot of gold at the end of your plate but you will be winning the gold metal when it comes to your health (geeze cheesy today much?) I thought I’d include some pictures of what I eat on a regular basis. You’ll notice that I LOVE fish, eggs, and veggies, those are regular occurrences in my diet. But everything is super healthy, the fact is that I try to keep my diet colorful and balanced. It’s important to enjoy food as well as use it for fuel and nutrition.

 ^Mango salsa sun snack

 

^ Grilled Panini club, goldfishies, and grapes over cottage cheese!

^ Lunch makings! Open-faced pita sandwiches with hummus, sprouts, mushrooms, and olives are bomb!

^ See! 😉

 

^ Breakfast of champions, eggs with chopped onions, fresh tomato, and BACON!!

^ Baked Tilapia with creole seasoning surrounded by garlic veggies

^ Scrambled eggies with mozzarella and veggies

^ Another open-faced hummus sandwich – perfect weekend lunch

^ Taking lunch to work is soo much cheaper and can be so delicious! Salad with cherry tomatoes, garbonzo beans, and cottage cheese for dressing. I don’t eat Yoplaits anymore – they are LOADED with unnecessary sugar

^ Steamed over easy eggs, super simple, inexpensive, and a great way to get protein!

^ Summer time is great for fresh cantaloupe. I’ll buy them in bulk at Costco, then cut them up and take containers into work!

^ My Mom showed me a fun way to cut pineapple for a party. Cut a large pineapple into 4 long hotdog sections. Take a knife and slide it into one section as close to the exterior as possible. Then make another slit at the top, making sure to not cut the top piece off. Then slide the knife in between the two cuts you made cutting the pieces in between. Then alternate pushing them in and out to form a “row-boat”

 Go colors!

Drop Pounds Almost Instantely! You just have to put down that wine glass first

For a couple of years now I raved about how you can totally keep drinking and still lose weight. I did! I was drinking beer every weekend, at happy hours, it was like college all over again (except without the beer pong and fear of the cops showing up). But lately, I must admit, especially with my new-found love of red wine, that continuing to drink alcohol on a regular basis isn’t getting me over this plateau any faster (it’s only getting me upset over the scale). When you’re considerably overweight and you start to change your eating habits and actually workout, the pounds melt off, fast. The heavier you are, the faster and more revved up your metabolism is. Well, once you start getting down to a weight you’d like to maintain where vanity pounds are more or less your only “issue” that’s when it gets tough.

I’m not saying you should never drink alcohol again or cut it out completely, but to start, try cutting it out during the week. Then when you do go out on the weekends, make an effort to only have a couple of drinks, avoiding tons of sugary martinis if you can, too. Still, it can be hard to adjust to a social life without beer, going out suddenly you’re “that guy” or “that chick” who seems so uptight, über religious maybe, or just annoying “so are you gonna judge US if WE drink?” NO! Not that! For me it’s always been out of habit to drink when I’m out. I even realized that just having something in my hand makes me feel more confident in a bar or public setting, who established that!? If that’s also the case for you, get something different to drink like  diet soda (although I’d prefer you chose water – with lemon if you want).

Alcohol is not only dense in empty calories but it also significantly slows down your metabolism. Since your body doesn’t have a way to store alcohol, it works to metabolize it immediately. This leaves other metabolic functions in the dust, so all that food you’ll end up eating because of the drunk munchies will only stick to your body that much easier and be harder to get rid of.

Even though cutting back on alcohol consumption can seem daunting at first (how am I gonna pick up people at the bar now!?) it’s reassuring to know that it works and fast! Without changing anything about my normal diet and exercise routine, I usually drop as much as 2-5 lbs in about 2 weeks when I cut out alcohol. That just from NOT drinking, for NOT doing something, pretty encouraging. Getting a buddy to keep you on track and join your efforts can help, too. That way when you might feel like declining a social outing that’s riddled with booze you’ll still have someone to hangout with. Sadly, when I googled “fun things to do without alcohol” I was presented with limited results with desperate 18 year olds asking for advice before they have friends old enough to buy beer for them. That, and “have sex” – thanks Google, you’re  a gem.

Alcohol in general, but especially wine, can also greatly decrease the functionality of your hippocampus, responsible for memory and other functions. There are obvious reasons why our body is not a fan of alcohol and these reasons can aid in your decision to cut back and further your weight loss.

Whatever you decide to do – whether its cutting out drinking during the week or embarking on a no-alcohol journey for a month or more you will notice some awesome things:

  • Improved sleep quality
  • Clearer skin
  • Feeling more alert and less sluggish
  • Better mood (less depression)
  • Improved memory

Let me know how it goes and feel free to leave tips that you’ve discovered! (and when you do decide to let yourself drink again – in moderation of course – there’s a lot of bomb ideas out there for drinking games and outings)

How to Survive a Desk Job: Tips and tricks to staying healthy at work

If you’re like the majority of Americans, you might spend close to 8 hours a day in a chair in front of a Facebook machine (I mean, a work-related computer, of course). The truth is that sitting all day can be hazardous to your health. That doesn’t mean you should be standing all day, either though. So before you start researching standing desks, there are many things you can do on a regular and even hourly basis to help keep your body and mind feeling healthy and alert.

  • Set reminders to take a break every hour to stand up, stretch, and walk around (too lazy, think about blood clots)
  • Stretch at your desk
  • Keep water at hand and drink it throughout the day, a lot of it
  • Bring in a healthy lunch
  • Listen to music to keep your mind alert. Most local radio stations now stream online or you can use Spotify, Iheartradio, Pandora, etc.

Making sure to maintain a good posture throughout the day is also important, especially when trying to avoid getting the infamous Microsoft Neck. If your company allows flexible lunch breaks and you have a fitness center or a gym nearby, try to workout during lunch and eat at your desk later. Even going for a walk can be great. Plus – who says you have to be a smoker to go outside and take breaks!? Just sayin’ 🙂

“I’m Feeling Unmotivated” The best time to get pumped!

There are always times when we just don’t feel like trying, like working out, or like taking the time to make a healthy meal instead of just reaching for the Doritos. Instead of beating down on yourself for even feeling this way, look at it as an opportunity to examine what is making you feel so unmotivated and how to ramp up your determination in general. There are great ways to increase your motivation.

Things that often lead us to a lack of motivation:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor eating – bad food definitely affects my mood
  • Low self-esteem
  • Making excuses

When we’re tired we flake on plans, on friends, dates, and even things we were really looking forward to, so it’s no surprise that we will also flake on our healthy eating habits and workout routines. This is NORMAL. But if you are aware of this and make the effort to get enough sleep, especially when you know you’re going to have a stressful day, you can begin to beat the system. I also feel like lack of motivation can become a vicious cycle. The more junk food I eat, the more I don’t feel like moving, the more sick I feel, then the more junk food I crave. Yikes! Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t have junk food every now and again. I’m not the abstinence-only teacher of junk food where one french fry is going to lead to a food baby pregnancy. But the longer you stay off the wagon the harder it’s going to be to catch back up to it.

Motivation is defined as “The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.” and/or “The general desire or willingness of someone to do something”  The same can be applied to all of the reasons why you aren’t feeling motivated. When you are on top of the world, when you jump off the couch and lace up your running shoes to hit the gym or go for a job even when it’s raining, that is motivation. But why do you feel that way? Think about what makes you relentless in your determination for better health. And on that same parallel, think about how you feel when you’re unmotivated – what keeps you feeling that way? Is it a choice? Is it because of something that happened that day? How much control do you want to give that feeling? Do you want to embrace it, is it a fact (probably not), can you step back and just observe it before you let it consume you?

You need a theme song. You need a song that gets you totally pumped up to get off your booty and go workout. Sometimes I’ll just find songs on YouTube I absolutely LOVE, blast them and have random solo dance parties (they usually look something like this). By the end of that, I want to hit the gym. 🙂

Most of the times that I don’t feel like running are the most important times I should go running or workout in general. Excercise releases endorphins, it makes us feel better. Even when I’m hung over, I try to go running, it just works. Motivation isn’t something that is just going to be handed to you, you have to work to get it and maintain it, just like anything else in life. The biggest part of continual health is keeping our efforts alive to get there. So stop making excuses, this is your life, your body, your mind, and your mentality you’re thinking about. How do YOU want to feel?

Go lace up! 😉

Why Having a Cheat Meal is Good for You and Your Diet

Weight loss is definitely about consistency and making smart choices but it’s just as important to establish habits and lifestyle changes that are realistic and attainable. This of it this way: you and your friends are embarking on a long road trip from Seattle to Disney World, obviously you want to get there sooner than later but you’ve realized you’re going to have to pace out the journey to get there safely and make sure no one falls asleep at the wheel. You’re going to need to take rest stops and probably get a hotel every couple of nights at least. You may even get off course a little bit because your cousins girlfriend insists that you see the largest known toad mating habitat south of where they filmed Days of Our Lives. The point is, just because you do take these stops and may go the wrong direction for a while, you know your overall goal and you’re going to get there.

Giving yourself a meal a week or a day every now and then (scheduled or not) will make you less likely to cheat uncontrollably. I’ve found for myself that it also keeps me more motivated to stay on track. For example, back in 2010 when I started my ultimate weight loss journey there would be days where I just “had” to have a McDonald’s cheeseburger, so I’d get one. More likely than not, after I indulged in one, I’d feel kind of gross, not guilty because I knew I was only human, but I started paying more attention to how certain foods (especially real vs. fake or highly processed foods) truly made me feel. The next time you really want Oreo’s give yourself some time and think about it, if you still want them hours, days later, go for it. But when you do indulge, take the time to think about how the food is effecting your body. I often find now that I’m more health conscious that super sugary or processed foods really make me feel sick within minutes of eating them.

There are lots of good reasons to have cheat days in general; some of the biggest reasons being that it helps your mind maintain a level of understanding with your body. Sure, the mind is a powerful thing, I’m pretty sure I will the light to turn green every morning on my way to work, but at some point depriving the pleasure centers of your brain from chocolate or something you really enjoy will only make you and your body go crazy. I typically try to keep chocolate in my house – what? that’s crazy speak, why would you keep evil food at your fingertips!? – well actually, having it readily available tends to calm my nerves. Knowing that I CAN choose to eat whatever I want, whenever I want, gives me more self-control. When I do want chocolate, I’ll often have a piece of Dove dark chocolate, slowly savoring it and ending up completely satisfied. Otherwise, if I kept restricting myself I’d end up eating an entire tray of homemade brownies within a matter of weeks (yes, I’ve actually done that before….on numerous occasions but I won’t judge myself harshly for that because I know WHY it happened).

Also, it would be pretty hard to gain back the majority of your weight loss in one day (or one meal). We know that we have to eat an excess of 3,500 calories to gain back a pound of fat. Often times, too, weight gain can be caused more by sodium intake than actual calories/fat. Sodium helps us retain water weight, so if you head home and eat 5 packets of Top Ramen (please don’t by the way) you will most likely feel bloated and retain water weight, not that you should be basing your progress by the scale alone anyway though.

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Homemade Pizzas! On the left: Thai style with chicken and peanut sauce. On the right: good ol’ pepperoni and canadian bacon @_@

Cheat meals have also been shown to help boost your metabolism from time to time. This is because when we reach plateaus our body begins to conserve energy and adapt or adjust to our new eating and fitness habits. This is one of the reasons again, why interval training is so great. The same is true for your eating habits. When you allow your body to eat some of the foods it “wants” or more what your mind wants, the Leptin hormone levels in your body increase back to a normal level. Thus, telling your body “hey it’s ok, we can rev up the metabolism again, Joe just ate a hot dog!”

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Brownie Waffles – so bad but so good. I should do some posts about cheat meals and put this on there.

Bottom line: instead of trying to deprive yourself for the long haul until you reach that dream body, take breaks every now and then, pull over for those rest stops and have a bowl of ice cream. As long as you’re doing it smart and still making a conscious effort to not fall completely off the wagon then you’re doing an amazing job. Food is more than fuel, it’s also one of the many pleasures of being alive, so enjoy it and realize that it’s just as much a part of weight loss and fitness as anything else!