How to Stick to Your Healthy Lifestyle Plan

Congratulations, you have made some healthy choices. You have put away the old and embraced the new for the better. Perhaps you have noticed a marked increase in energy, a decrease in physical ailments, a better outlook on life and an overall sense of empowerment. It all started with a decision that you made to be the best you can be, to strive for health and to be well.

Now the big question is, how do you make this change last? How do you stay healthy and continue to move forward? After all, you have put so much effort into embracing a healthy life that it would be sorrowful to slip back into your old ways.

Believe it or not, the tricky part is not adapting new behaviors and attitudes; it is making them stick. So many times people reach a level of health that they have never known only to fall back into their old ways and lose all that they have gained.  To keep yourself moving forward consider these tips:

Understand balance

It is next to impossible to make the right choice 100% of the time. You will have days when it is harder to exercise, harder to make great food choices and just more difficult to stay motivated. Being realistic about the curve balls that life will pitch you will help to keep you balanced. Balance means staying in touch with what is important always, striving to do your best and picking yourself up and moving forward when you have a bad moment or even a bad day. Balance is about being real and understanding that it is ok to slip as long as you get up and continue forward progression.

Do what you love

When it comes to exercise, there is no way that you are going to stick to your routine if you are doing something that you don’t love. The key to adopting healthy regime is to find a few things that bring you joy and do them as often as you can. Keep in mind that the key to an active lifestyle is not to feel like exercise is your enemy. Embrace activities that you love like walking, biking, swimming, dancing or even playing with your kids as often as you can. You will soon become unaware that you are even exercising because you are enjoying yourself so much.

Keep learning

As Leonardo da Vinci said, ” Learning never exhausts the mind.” A hunger for new information will keep you on top of a healthy life. Find good sources and plug in often. The more you learn about food, nutrition, and exercise, the better choices you will make. Don’t ever let a lack of knowledge propel you towards inaction or inadequate action. There is so much good, solid information available that learning is easy.. Keep a record of all of the things you learn and make it a habit to try new things weekly.

Take it one step at a time

When making changes in your life, always remember that you can never get where you are going without taking the first step. Sometimes the first move is the hardest, but it is also the most important. Furthermore, you always have to walk before you can walk faster… if you put one foot in front of the other and continue moving, you will always be gaining and improving your health. Discouragement often comes when we try to do too much too quickly.

Be ok with where you are

Know that where you are is where you should be. This will help you keep perspective on your health journey. Be kind to yourself and don’t forget to forgive yourself if you slip up a bit. Worrying constantly about where you are going will take away from enjoying where you are at the moment. Look back down your path and see how far you have come rather than be concerned with how far you have to go. You will be amazed at how much influence you can have on yourself – you can be your best cheerleader or your worst critic. It is always best to be the cheerleader.

Surround yourself with like-minded family and friends

Social pressure can be both beneficial and also devastating. Your long term success with your healthy life will be challenged by social pressure along the way. To make it easier, surround yourself with family and friends who love and support you. People who feel the same way about health as you do will make your journey much easier. Even if they don’t agree 100% with all that you are doing, if they are respectful and supportive it will be much easier for you to remain focused. Some people even find it easier to join a support group with people who are on the same track. This gives you a safe place to talk about your concerns, share ideas and motivate each other.

Have a plan for traveling

Of course adopting a healthy lifestyle does not mean that you put all areas of your life on hold, including travel. With the general population becoming more and more aware of the necessity of healthy choices, there are more options to stay healthy while you travel. However, don’t ignore the benefit that a little planning along the way can have. While you are still in the planning stages, be sure that you will have access to healthy food and places to exercise while you travel.

This may even mean bringing along a workout tape or arranging a vacation where you can be active. If you plan on eating out a lot, know the in’s and out’s of dining out and what is acceptable for your meal plan. Some people find it easier to rent a place where they can do their shopping and cooking most of the time. This way you can be in control of what you are eating. If you are planning a road trip – pack your food and make ample time to stop, get out and walk around.

Be mindful

No matter what, always be mindful. Be aware of what you are eating, what you are doing and even what you are speaking and thinking. Take time to enjoy life, enjoy food, enjoy an active lifestyle and you will find that health is no longer a pursuit as much as it is a way of life that you embrace.

-Be Well

Inexpensive Ways to Boost Your Health

Being fit, happy and healthy doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag. These low-budget items have big payoffs when it comes to your well-being.

Let’s be honest: add up the cost of fresh produce, gym memberships, and prescriptions, and you’re easily dropping hundreds of dollars on improving your health each year. But it turns out that some of the best things for your well-being are free—or really inexpensive. Invest in the following budget-friendly mind and body boosters, and you’ll cash in big-time.

1. Resistance tubing 

Forget shelling out $100 an hour on a personal trainer—all you need to spend for a total-body strength session is $5-$15 for a resistance tube or band. These stretchy strips of rubber can tone and strengthen your muscles from multiple angles, says New York City-based trainer and fitness consultant Amie Hoff. “They can also provide cardio, which burns calories and improves your heart health,” she says. Plus, they’re super lightweight and easy to pack, so you can sneak in a workout anywhere.

2. A potted plant 

A little greenery can do a whole lot more than spruce up your workplace: Scientists at Washington State University discovered that employees who had plants in their offices were more productive and less stressed than those who didn’t. “Plus, they can reduce airborne dust and add moisture to dry air, which makes for a more comfortable environment,” says Virginia Lohr, Ph.D., a professor in the department of horticulture at Washington State University. Consider Gerbera daisies, ficus and ivy, or plants that don’t need much light—peace lily, Chinese evergreen or pothos. Research shows they can filter out harmful pollutants, such as benzene (a chemical found in car exhaust). All in all, there’s no prettier way to clear the air.

3. Gardening tools 

My, how your garden grows—and your anxiety melts away. “Spending time outside in a green space can renew your capacity to focus and be productive. Research also suggests that it can lower your levels of the stress hormone cortisol,” says Andrea Faber Taylor, Ph.D., a horticulture instructor and researcher in the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In fact, one Norwegian study revealed that gardening for half an hour was better at relieving stress than reading for the same amount of time.

Another bonus: Gardening burns around 250 calories an hour, and that adds up. One study observed that people who participated in a community garden weighed significantly less than those who didn’t. “Growing your own produce encourages you to move more and eat more fruits and vegetables,” says study author Cathleen Zick, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Utah.

4. A vacation picture 

Been meaning to frame that snapshot of your family at the lake or of last year’s anniversary trip? Here’s incentive: Gazing at a happy moment from the past can improve your present outlook. “If you reflect on good memories, like an amazing vacation with your friends, you might actually be able to experience the same sensation you felt in that moment—a sense of well-being and vitality,” says Ryan Howell, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at San Francisco State University. Research also shows that people with stronger relationships to friends and family live longer, bounce back from illness easier and have a better quality of life. Surrounding yourself with pictures of your loved ones can remind you of this bond, Howell says, and make you feel more upbeat and optimistic about the future.

5. A reusable water bottle 

To shrug off a midday slump, keep sipping water. “All it takes is being 1 or 2 percent dehydrated—right at the point you start feeling thirsty—to experience side effects like fatigue and headaches,” says Brenda Davy, Ph.D., R.D., an associate professor at Virginia Tech. Another potential perk? Davy’s research found that people who drank two cups of water before eating consumed 75-90 fewer calories during the following meal than those who didn’t drink up. To stay hydrated, keep a water bottle on hand.

6. A broom 

Sweeping the floor not only tidies your home, but also benefits your body. Research shows that incorporating short bouts of activity throughout your day can be an effective way of meeting physical activity goals. “Cleaning the house, walking your dog, taking the stairs—all of these things help you burn extra calories and keep your muscles moving,” says Los Angeles-based trainer Ashley Borden. Plus making yourself do household chores on days you talk yourself out of the gym may just make that treadmill seem more appealing.

7. A new pillow 

Catching enough z’s keeps you from turning into a total cranky-pants, but it’s also critical to your health: “Getting an insufficient amount of sleep can lead to or worsen a number of illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer,” says Kenneth Wright Jr., Ph.D., director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In one study, people who clocked five hours of shut-eye or less each night were more likely to put on pounds. “When you’re tired, your brain sends a message that you need to replace that lost energy, so you wind up overeating,” Wright says.

To help log seven to nine hours of rest each night, make sleep a priority and invest in a few low-budget bedroom improvements, such as a replacement for that too-old pillow, which might not properly support your neck and spine, causing you to toss and turn. And consider installing heavy drapes to quiet and darken the room: even small amounts of noise and light can interrupt sleep.

8. Dental floss 

Despite repeated warnings from moms and dentists alike, nearly 50 percent of Americans don’t floss regularly—even though flossing might be more important than brushing when it comes to staving off gum disease. That’s worrisome, because poor oral health has been linked to a variety of other chronic problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and pneumonia. To keep your gums in tip-top shape, clean between your teeth at least once a day, unless otherwise instructed by your dental hygienist. At your next visit, ask the dentist or dental hygienist to show you how to floss right—most people could use a little refresher.

9. A pair of walking shoes 

Good news: You don’t have to sprint through your workout to see big health benefits. Walking at a steady clip may be just as effective as running at lowering your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, reports a study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Ready to get walking? “All you need to get started is a pair of shoes with arch support, plenty of room for your toes and no slipping at the heel,” says Janet Hamilton, an exercise physiologist and a coach with Running Strong in Atlanta.

To make the most of your mileage, aim for four to five walks a week, including one long walk that makes up about a third of your total weekly distance, one that takes you up and down hills and one with speed bursts (every three to four minutes, pick up your pace for about one minute). Switching your routine will keep you on your toes—and add an extra challenge for your muscles and endurance.

Special guest author: Lindsey Emery
With permission by Better Homes & Gardens

10 Habits for a Healthy Life

Visiting your doctor is just one part of staying healthy. Here are 10 other things you can do on a regular basis to optimize your health.

1. Go Mediterranean

In the way that you eat, that is. Following a Mediterranean-style diet has been found to lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Focus your foods around whole grains, fruits and veggies, legumes and nuts; have fish or seafood at least twice a week; and limit red meat to once a week. When possible, choose heart-healthy fats such as olive oil over saturated fats such as butter. One Harvard study found that people who followed a Mediterranean diet had a 43 percent lower risk of weight gain and a 35 percent lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome (a condition that ups the risk of both type 2 diabetes and heart disease).

2. Get moving every day

Picking up the habit of physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your mood, your memory and your health. Regular exercise can help you manage your weight; lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers; and improve your mood. It can also prepare you for good health as you age: it can strengthen bones, lower your risk of falls, improve your memory and even make it more likely that you will live longer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, but if you’re not at that level, you can build up to it slowly. No time for exercise? Try to work more physical activity into your day by scheduling walking meetings, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking your car at the far end of parking lots. And be sure to talk with your doctor before you start or change your exercise routine, especially if you have a health condition.

3. Snack on dark chocolate, tea and berries

This trio is particularly rich in flavonoids, and a large European study recently showed that people with the highest flavonoid intake had a significantly reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. What’s more, flavonoids may help reduce inflammation, which is associated with a host of diseases, including cancer. Tea and berries won’t wreak havoc on your healthy eating efforts, but keep the chocolate in check. Look for bars that are at least 70 percent cacao, and aim to eat no more than one ounce (usually a small square) a day.

4. Don’t sit on your duff

The more you sit, the greater your health risks—even if you regularly hit the gym. Case in point: one study out of Kansas State University found that men who sat more than four hours a day were much more likely to report having a chronic disease such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure. Get up and walk around at least every half hour if you’re at a desk all day. Also, consider using an exercise ball or backless stool as a desk chair—you’ll work your core muscles, which will keep circulation moving—or set a timer and stand at your workstation for at least five minutes every hour.

5. Eat some dark green, leafy veggies every day

Spinach, kale and other leafy greens have high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that studies show protect your eyes against diseases such as cataracts or macular degeneration. Other good sources include egg yolks, corn, orange peppers, kiwi, grapes and zucchini. Make it easier to load up on these fresh vegetables by joining a CSA or visiting your local farmers’ market regularly.

6. Take a technology time-out

Research shows that being plugged in 24/7 stresses us out. Compulsive smartphone use has been linked to higher levels of depression and anxiety and lower levels of sleep quality. Being hooked to your computer or phone in the evening can be particularly troublesome: studies show that surfing the Web or reading on a computer or tablet screen just before bed can promote wakefulness and affect sleep.

Try shutting off your computer in the evenings and limiting phone use. You can also use web-blocking software that limits your screen time. When the weather permits, try leaving the tech inside and heading outside, even if it’s just sitting on your porch, patio or deck. And make the time to connect face-to-face with family and friends—even if you also keep in touch online.

7. Grab a tape measure and check your waist

Carrying too much fat around your waist (visceral fat) can raise your risk of several health conditions. To keep disease risk low, experts say a measurement of under 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men is best—check yours by wrapping a tape measure around your stomach, just above your hip bones. Research has found that women who have a waist circumference over 37 inches have an 80 percent higher risk of various conditions, including heart disease and cancer. The best way to keep your number in check: regular exercise—ideally, 45 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three times a week, and three 15- to 20-minute sessions of resistance training.

8. Reconsider the multivitamin

Multivitamins can be helpful in some cases, but they aren’t necessarily right for everyone. And some research has suggested there may be drawbacks: for example, the Iowa Women’s Health Study showed that older women who took multivitamins faced a slightly higher risk of death than those who didn’t. If you’re generally healthy and eat a well-balanced diet that includes at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, you may not need a multivitamin. If you can’t swing the five, or are concerned about your vitamin intake, talk with your doctor about which supplements are right for you.

9. Be sure to get your vitamin D and omega-3s

Many Americans have too-low levels of vitamin D, and that’s been linked to a higher risk of many diseases. At your next checkup, have your levels tested so you can figure out how much D you need to take. While you can get some D from foods, it’s usually not enough: Three ounces of salmon has 447 IU, a cup of fortified OJ about 137 and a cup of nonfat milk about 115. The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin D for adults is 600 IU per day.

Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, experts advise taking it with a meal containing fat, ideally the largest meal of the day. If you live in a sunny climate, ask your doctor whether you should decrease your vitamin D supplementation in the sunny months—vitamin D can be synthesized from sun exposure. Omega-3 fatty acids are another supplement worth considering—research has linked them to lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer as well as promoting a better mood. Ask your doctor if omega-3 supplements could benefit you.

10. Don’t sweat your water intake

While water is crucial for your overall health, you don’t necessarily have to schlep a water bottle everywhere. While guidelines generally recommend about six to eight glasses per day, the right amount of water for you will depend on your body size, how active you are and the climate you live in. A good guide is to drink liquids with most meals and rely on your thirst to tell you when you need more water. Not getting enough water can affect your energy levels, bring on headaches or even make it harder to think. When you’re aiming to meet your water needs, remember that fruits and veggies, soups and most beverages, including coffee and tea, can all help you hydrate. (Studies show that the fluid in caffeinated beverages compensates for their diuretic effect.)

Special guest author: Hallie Levine
With permission by Better Homes & Gardens

 

Ready, Set, Recharge!

 

Feeling a little down in the dumps? Use these tips to help you unwind, lift your mood or have a little fun.

Hang with happy people

Living within a mile of an upbeat friend may increase the chances that you’ll be happy, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego. Researchers suspect that happiness is contagious: glass-half-full types tend to be nicer to everyone around them, which makes those people more pleasant—and so on. Catch the smiley vibe by regularly joining your most cheerful friends for a run or brisk walk.

Burst into action

Don’t just stand there waiting for the microwave to beep: launch into a set of jumping jacks. Or put the phone on speaker when you’re holding for customer service and de-agitate with a few stretches. Short bursts of exercise throughout the day can improve blood flow and help perk you up.

Unplug

If you’re on your third hour of binge-watching that show or browsing the internet, take a break already! Turn off your electronic devices and enjoy other, more fulfilling activities, such reading a novel, taking a yoga class or going on a walk or a picnic with friends.

Eat for energy

Keeping yourself fueled before and after your workouts can help keep your energy levels up. A few hours before your next jog, grab a snack that contains protein and carbs, like a banana yogurt, smoothie or trail mix with dark chocolate, dried blueberries, raisins, and almonds.

Laugh a lot

Who knew that your dad’s dorky jokes served a health purpose? Studies suggest that laughter may help to decrease stress hormones and increase endorphins, and may even benefit your heart by reducing inflammation in your blood vessels. So go ahead, try thinking of something funny the next time you’re stuck in traffic. The absurdity of laughing to yourself just might be enough to give you the giggles for real.

Bring the outdoors in

Nothing energizes like nature. Hang a large wall mirror opposite a window to expand your view of sky, grass and trees. Or bring an easy-to-care-for houseplant into your bedroom, office or living room. Studies have shown that indoor plants can help improve air quality, boost your mood and even reduce stress.

Rev up your playlist

Keep your music selection packed with motivational tunes to keep your mood upbeat and your energy levels high throughout the day. Make an energetic playlist to get you through your workouts, and turn to a more restful mix to get you through your commute or block out background noise at the office.

Stretch your limits

Overwhelmed at work? Take a moment to stretch your shoulders and your back for an instant mood lift.

Capture your winning moments

Keep reminders of your successes where you can see them, like on the fridge or your desk. A snapshot featuring you with a big smile reaching the finish line or hiking a tough mountain trail may improve your mood and keep you on track with your goals.

Sip smart

To beat an afternoon slump, back away from the office vending machine and pour yourself a rejuvenating cup of green or black tea instead. The caffeine in the brew can give you a boost and the amino acid L-theanine may help your attention, according to a review of several studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Plus, choosing tea over that can of soda will help you avoid the inevitable crash that comes after drinking too much sugar.

See the light

A quick get-happy solution? Sunshine. Going for a brisk walk in the sun can lift your mood and help you get a little physical activity in. Enjoying a few rays also helps your body make vitamin D. And stepping outside into the sun (or even opening a window) first thing in the morning can help your body adjust to being awake. Just be sure to put on sunscreen if you’ll be outside for more than a few minutes.

Breathe energy into your day

Use a yoga breathing technique called “breath of fire” to re-energize. Simply inhale and exhale rapidly through the nose, with each breath equal in length to the one before. After two to three minutes, you’ll feel refreshed, renewed and ready to tackle the next item on your to-do list.

Special guest author: Joanne Chen
With permission by Fitness