Exercise, fitness, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Ready, Set, Goal

Today is the last day of 2018 (we made it, woo!), and tomorrow is the day. The day that you have decided will be the day that you become the person you want to be, and do the things you want to do. Goodbye you of yesteryear, and hello new and improved 2019 you!

I don’t know about you, but I have some HUGE goals for 2019, most that are too big to work towards right off the bat. Why do I say that? Because I like to feel like I’m accomplishing things, as I’m sure you do too. Only working towards my overall goal, and not accomplishing even close to all of it by the end of the month? That’s pretty discouraging. But it’s not my fault, and not yours either if that happens to you. The fault was in your goal, not in yourself. The first step to success, in any journey, is to make sure that your goals set you up for success. These goals need to be as helpful as possible, and they need to be SMART.

*Specific – Make sure your goal is actually specific. Losing weight is a good goal, but losing 15lbs of body fat is an even better goal. This sets us up for an actual number goal, to ensure we’re making progress towards it, and also includes that we want to lose body fat, not just any mass (including muscle).

*Measurable – We want to make sure we can actually measure our goal. A specific goal is usually one that can be measured and tracked. Seeing the physical evidence of progress towards an overall goal can help with both motivation and adherence to the goal.

*Attainable – Make sure your goal is something that can actually be achieved. A goal to lose 50lbs and 10% body fat is a great goal, it is both specific and measurable. However, if we decide the deadline is four weeks to achieve this goal goal, it now becomes unattainable. (Or if you can attain it, it won’t be sustainable). An unattainable goal sets you up for failure before you even start.

*Realistic – This also can be “results based”. Make sure your goal is realistic. This goes hand in hand with attainable. A goal that gives you no chance to reach from the beginning will not help you reach it. It is much better to make multiple, smaller milestone type goals. This will keep your motivation elevated, as you reach smaller goals more often, on your way to the overall goal.

*Time Sensitive – Give yourself a deadline! This goes along with each of the previous attributes of a successful goal, but give yourself a time table to reach your goal, as long as that deadline is realistic. This will again keep that motivation high, as you strive to hit the goal by your deadline. Again, smaller goals with deadlines that approach more quickly, with deadlines every couple of weeks or months, can help keep that drive. This allows you continuously hit goals, rather than feeling like you might never hit your overall goal.

If you write down your goals, and they don’t hit all of the SMART points, there’s no problem with reworking them a bit. The most common goal mistake I come across is too much too soon. This means that your goal is your overall goal, making it not so attainable. All you have to do is take a step back. Think about what steps you need to accomplish to hit that overall goal. What’s the first step? Boom. There’s your goal. I find it most helpful to take my overall goal and work backwards, in there I find my actual, SMART goals.

Set yourself up for success, make sure your 2019 goals are SMART.

Exercise, fitness, Nutrition, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Holiday Wellness

Wellness Tips for the Holiday Season:

1: Do what you want to do. If you love your family and want to spend the season with them, do so. If your family stresses you out, and being with them isn’t what’s best for you, don’t feel pressured to. Your mental health is more important, so do what’s best for you.

2: Enjoy your holiday. (Close to Tip One, but slightly different.) The holiday season is the end of your year, and you should enjoy it. Of course, keep your physical and mental health in mind, but feel free to indulge a bit. Go out for drinks with friends, share a dessert you’ve been meaning to try, blow off your friends and look at Christmas decorations, whatever you want to do, do it.

3: Don’t worry about your diet. Enjoy the food of the season! Don’t go nuts, but make sure that you aren’t neglecting your life in the name of “health”. Remember: veggies are full of vitamins and minerals, not just “low cal options” and exercise is there to enhance your health, not to punish you for eating and drinking too much the night before.

4: Try to stick to your routine. This can be a hard one, depending on your holiday plans, but do your best to stick to what you do daily. Just because you’re on vacation and relaxing doesn’t mean you should neglect all of the habits you’ve worked so hard to form! If your schedule allows, try to get the same amount of exercise in, even if it means three 20 minute walks around the neighborhood instead of three days in the gym. Staying active will only help translate into your new year.

5: Reflect on your year. This time of year can be hard for us, whether financially or emotionally. Make sure, even if you feel like you’re struggling, that you give yourself credit where credit is due. Reflect back on your year, and on your accomplishments and successes. Reflect on your not so big successes, but the lessons learned from them and not the negative feelings. No matter how your year went, let’s focus on the positives, and the lessons we can implement in the next year.

Enjoy your holidays, wherever you decide to and with whomever you decide to. This was all around a rough year for a lot of us, so be sure to give yourself a chance to relax, reflect, and get a game plan for next year. Happy holidays everyone!

Exercise, Nutrition, Opinion, Progress

Health Between the Holidays

We did it! We survived Thanksgiving, and we’re now officially in the holiday season. I already made a post about surviving the holidays (read it here), but here’s a new take on the topic. Before we go any further: one day of overindulgence will not ruin your progress. Your body is smart, and knows how to handle extra calories on a single day (and even a few days of overindulgence won’t ruin your hard work. Just don’t let all of your healthy habits go out the window.) I don’t know about you, but I enjoyed my vacation the past few days, and I do mean enjoyed (pretty sure I had pie for breakfast the past three days), but am I giving up for the rest of the year? Absolutely not.

The four-five weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas is incredibly tricky, especially when it comes to health and fitness. It’s in these five weeks that most people get the “all or nothing” mentality, feel like they failed, and throw in the towel on their fitness goals. They think “in just a few weeks, the holidays will be over, it’ll be a new year, and I’ll start then.” Now, really think about just how much time that is.

*It takes three weeks to form a new habit, so, in five weeks, you could be well into integrating your second healthy habit. I’ve talked about how a healthy lifestyle is nothing more than a combination of healthy habits implemented into your daily routine, making a healthy lifestyle. Take the next few weeks to get your water intake up and go for a walk a few days a week to make a huge difference in your health and fitness journey success, especially getting a jumpstart on January.

*Sustainable weight loss is between .5-2lbs per week, depending on your current status and goals. But, in five weeks, you could be 2.5-10lbs closer to your ultimate weight loss goal. I know you have that magic number in your mind, that magic weight (we all have it, no shame). Imagine starting in January, with your goals not so out of reach. And, even if you don’t have a goal weight in mind, implementing healthier habits over the unhealthiest of the holidays helps to offset those indulgences as the season goes on.

Five weeks doesn’t initially seem like a significant amount of time, until you list out what you can really accomplish in that timespan. Now, it becomes just another time period in which we can get closer to our goals.

Putting off your health goals until the “time is right” really sets the tone of those goals as well. Unfortunately, the tone those goals now have is that they aren’t a priority, and can be taken over by anything more pressing. This is why you make the resolution to lose the same ten pounds year after year, that goal isn’t a real priority to you. If it was, you would have hit that goal, and not let other priorities push it out of the way. It’s time to stop the resolution cycle! No more dieting for January, let’s get healthy for life! Believe me, I’m not saying to start a restrictive, regimented plan today. Starting a crazy, restrictive diet, especially during the season of holiday parties, will do nothing but set you up for failure. What I’m saying is now is the time to wake up and prioritize your health. Now is the time to write out your goals (and make sure to make them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely). Now is the time to pick a few steps, that you are confident that you can implement into your lifestyle, to help reach your goals.

I overindulged in the past week. I feel it today, I feel off. I don’t feel guilt for not following my routine on vacation, and I don’t feel like a failure in my goals. Today, I am back on my usual routine. Today, I am prioritizing eating lighter, with more vegetables at each meal, increasing my water intake to my usual levels, and going back to my usual exercise program. I’m not “making up” for anything, or going overboard in anticipation of Christmas, I’m just going back to my habits. I’m taking care of myself today, for life, not for January. Who’s with me?

Nutrition, Progress

Making Healthy Choices Easier

The above photo speaks the truth, “you can’t outtrain a bad diet.” How frustrating is it to spend time and effort on your workouts in the gym, only to see no progress? Your nutrition needs just as much effort, if not more, than your exercise program to see success. Weight loss (and gain) is a simple equation of energy balance. If you take in less energy than you expend (eat less than you need to maintain your weight), you will lose weight. Conversely, if you take in more energy than you expend (eat more than you need to maintain or lose weight), you will gain weight. This means that what you eat is the true determinant of the results of your program. The problem is, that proper nutrition is really tough. Nutrition is definitely the harder aspect to figure out, especially to figure out AND make it work for you and your life. This post is to show you that, though nutrition requires thought, it doesn’t have to require much time. No matter what your time constraints are, we can find a solution to make proper nutrition easier for you.

The Basics

To improve your nutrition without much time or effort, let’s add. Water and vegetables are the two components of proper nutrition that many people tend to be lacking. Water is easiest. Some of my favorite easy tips to increase your water intake are to first get yourself a reusable water bottle. There are plenty of options out there, just be sure to get a BPA free plastic bottle, or a stainless steel or glass bottle. These bottles are easy to take with you, and can be refilled all day, with no adverse health effects to you (don’t reuse regular old plastic bottles of water, it’s not good for you!). Another easy tip to increase your water intake is to drink a glass of water before each meal. This helps with your hydration levels (obviously), but also helps to almost pre-fill your stomach, which will drastically reduce your risk of overeating. Don’t like plain water? Most people don’t. You have two options here: either suck it up and suck down that plain water or use some flavor. Infusing your water with fruit is the healthiest option, but Crystal Light packets, along with flavor drops, such as Mio, can help to jazz up plain old water. Moving on to veggies, modern technology makes that almost as easy as possible. There are plenty of options for plain veggies (and even some with some light flavoring) that involve nothing more than popping a bag into the microwave. Bird’s Eye Steamers are awesome microwaveable options, and the flavored varieties taste good (and are relatively healthy for you too!). Eating a cup of veggies before the rest of your meal can also ensure that you get your vitamins and minerals in, while also helping to reduce the risk of overeating for very few calories.

Set it and Forget it

Instant Pots have become all the rage in the past few years, and they can be incredibly useful in your journey to a healthier lifestyle. The instant pot makes pressure cooking easy and quick, and can help with meal prepping by making large quantities of (healthier) food, with very little effort. My mother uses hers to make her own Greek yogurt, and I’m a huge fan of using mine to make large quantities of rice and other starches. This helps to increase the ease of healthy nutrition by allowing me to put that rice or potatoes into the pot, setting it, and then prepping another aspect of the meal while it cooks.

Slow cookers are another handy dandy tool in your healthy eating arsenal. For most slow cookers, you get the meal ready in the morning, set the crockpot, and then you have dinner 6-8 hours later. You can’t really beat the ease of that. One of my favorite recipes for a slow cooker is Salsa Chicken. All you need for this recipe is a package of chicken breast and a jar of salsa, and maybe some corn and beans if you’d like. Combine the chicken and salsa in the slow cooker, set it for 8 hours on low, and boom: easy shredded chicken breast you can add to rice and veggies for a taco bowl, burritos, or to eat on it’s own with some veggies (hey, no judgement here!). There are plenty of healthy slow cooker recipes on the web, a quick google search will get thousands of recipes, right in front of you.

Bulk it up

This is the tip that requires the most effort, but it still makes your life much, much easier. There are plenty of recipes that you can make in bulk, and then freeze to keep the freshness. Pick whatever day is easiest for you (for many, it’s Sunday, but depending on your schedule, just pick a day that you have a few hours free), pick a few recipes, and spend a few hours getting stocked up on some food. Breakfasts tend to be the most freezer friendly, but there are a few dinners that freeze well too.

Breakfast:

Egg Sandwiches: Easy egg McMuffins at home? Yes please. Take a muffin tin and spray it with some cooking spray, and crack an egg in each spot. Bake the eggs for around 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees to cook all the way through. After they are baked, cool them completely, and assemble your sandwiches. Take an English muffin, place a slice of cheese, a slice of Canadian bacon (or whatever toppings you’d like) and an egg, and then wrap tightly with plastic wrap or tin foil and place in the freezer. Whenever you’re ready to eat, unwrap, place the Sammie on a plate, and microwave for around 60 seconds to heat.

Protein Pancakes: A simple recipe of 1 scoop of protein powder, 2 tbsp flour, 1 egg, 1 tsp baking powder, and a splash of water mixed to make into a batter (makes around 3 pancakes). Make multiple servings and cool completely, then place in a ziplock bag, squeezing all excess air out, and throw them in the freezer. Place in a single layer on a plate and microwave for 30-60 seconds to heat up whenever you’re ready to eat!

Lunch/Dinner:

Soups are the easiest to freeze, the just require airtight containers to store in the freezer. As well, lasagna and pasta can be frozen for a few weeks, as long as they are in an airtight container. For any frozen meal, make sure you keep it frozen. Don’t thaw and refreeze, as this can affect the quality of the food.

Though healthy eating requires more thought, and sometimes more effort, than workouts, it doesn’t have to take more time. As long as we are working smarter, not harder, we can make healthy meals quick and easy to make, and accessible to all, no matter your available time. Make room for some healthy food!

Exercise, Nutrition, Opinion, Progress

Surviving the Holidays

Here we are! It’s the most wonderful time of the year! From October to January, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the various December holidays in between, there are parties and celebrations galore. Each celebration may be unique in it’s traditions, but they all share a common characteristics: lots of food and drinks. Before we go any further into this topic: Enjoy the holidays! Do NOT let your diet get in the way of family time or enjoying your time over the holidays. Each holiday (minus Hanukkah and Kwanza) is one single day. Just like one day of eating salads won’t make you skinny, one day of indulgence won’t break your progress. The point of this post is to make you aware of the choices you are making, especially when holiday parties start popping up like zits.

The Food

Halloween has millions of pieces of candy by the bagful, Thanksgiving brings multiple dinners, and the December guys brings work parties, family gatherings, and celebrations out the wazoo. How is someone supposed to stay on track during a time like this? Simple: we do our best. If we just gave up from October-December, then we need to start over in January (holla resolutioners), and then the cycle begins again. Let’s break the cycle. The biggest thing to remember with Holiday food is moderation. Snag an appetizer as it’s passed around the office party, snack on a fun size candy bar from the community bowl, and have a slice of pumpkin pie. All of these snacks can be part of a healthy lifestyle (and they should be, nothing is off limits with a healthy life), as long as we practice moderation. The problem comes when we can’t stop at one piece, one slice, one drink etc. Again: one day won’t ruin you. However, if you decide to indulge, keep it to one day. Multiple days of going over calories and macros will add up come January.

One of the best tips that I can give you to deal with the Holidays is to keep your routine. Maybe lighten up your earlier meals a bit (one egg and two egg whites instead of three whole eggs or 1/3 cup oatmeal instead of 1/2 cup, etc), but mostly just stick to what you know. If you decide to starve yourself all day in hopes of “saving up” for a big meal or party, guess what’s going to happen? You’re going to go way overboard because you’re, you guessed it, starving. It’s much better to go into a big food situation satisfied and blood sugar on track, than ravenous and cranky. Except for your occasional all out day (plan that one in advance, make sure that’s the day you want), keep tracking your food. You’ll be surprised what you can eat, while still staying within your goal ranges.

The Alcohol

Even more dangerous to a healthy lifestyle than party food, is alcohol. Not because alcohol can’t be in a healthy life (moderationnn), but because the calories in alcohol don’t fill you up, are devoid of any nutrients, and can cause you to eat foods you usually wouldn’t after you indulge. One gram of alcohol contains 7 calories (as compared to 1g/4cals for carbs/protein and 1g/9cals for fats), but contains no nutritional value. To track alcohol itself in a food tracker, either take from your carbs (alcohol cals divided by 4) or fats (alcohol cals divided by 9), depending on which works best for your preferences. The other tricky part about is alcohol is, unless you’re sticking to beer and wine, the alcohol is usually mixed with something to make it more appetizing. Those mixers add sugar and calories, making that 140 calorie shot of vodka into a 350 calorie vodka cranberry. The lowest calorie mixers include soda water/seltzer, diet soda, and fresh fruit juice. I would say to tweak your drink order itself if 1) you know you’ll be indulging a lot tonight or 2) you know you have a lot of alcohol based events coming up. Otherwise, enjoy what you enjoy (and fully enjoy it) and move on.

As well, be sure to keep your stomach full before a night of drinking. You need to make sure your body is able to metabolize the alcohol, and slowly enough (due to food) so it’s not too much too fast. Another issue with drinking is the after drinks snacking. I don’t know about you, but pizza after happy hour is my jam, even if I planned on eating a healthier snack when I get home. Try to keep yourself full and happy before drinking, so hopefully you don’t feel the need to get snackage on the way home. Have some satisfying, yet healthy, snacks waiting for you when you get home too, and hide the not so good for us snacks. The easier it is to access, the more likely you are to eat it.

What do we do?

Halloween is known for it’s candy obviously, and Thanksgiving has the feast to end all feasts, and Christmas is a time of overindulgence with a rich family meal on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and they are only a month apart (if you celebrate Hanukkah, as I do along with Christmas, it is celebrated by frying foods in oil, not any better health wise). If we do nothing, and just overindulge until the cows come home, January is going to be a rude awakening. The biggest thing to remember: consistency is key. Even with your parties and events and meals, stay on your normal workout routine and nutrition. Do not try to “make up” for the extra calories with less food or excessive exercise. That won’t do anything but make you miserable when you aren’t partying. This season is all about fun and enjoyment, so don’t let you fitness goals stop you from enjoying your life. Health is an all around state of mental and physical well being, so being obsessive over calories during the holidays impedes on the mental health aspect. Take a deep breath, plan out the next few months, and continue to smash your goals. Holiday goal: maintain your routine and enjoy the season.