Exercise, Nutrition, Opinion, Other, wellness

The Holy Trinity

Health is defined by Miriam Webster as “the condition of being sound in body, mind, and spirit.”

Notice that there is nothing in that definition that relates to your weight, body fat percentage, or the amount that you exercise. Health is so much more than your physical body.

I was discussing this with a good friend of mine, telling him that once I let go of my body hang ups, my body fell into line. He then brought up this concept of the “holy trinity of health.” This is the idea that your physical, mental, and spiritual health are all interconnected, so when they are all being nourished, they all thrive. However, when one aspect of the trinity is off, any of them, this throws you off, and makes it that much harder to nourish the other two. This is a concept I’ve seen to be true, and one I can get behind.

It seemed that when my mind was right, when I was stress free (or as close to that as I can be) and happy, I was much more inclined to take care of myself physically. When you actually want to take care of your physical health, meaning exercising for health and eating more fruits and vegetables, it becomes much easier and more enjoyable to do so. On the other side of the spectrum, when I was very stressed a few weeks ago, the last thing I wanted to do was go to the gym and eat veggies. My body wanted it, but boy did my mind want a Netflix marathon and some cookies. Since my mental aspect was off, it basically gave me permission to neglect my physical health.

Mental and spiritual health are not things that are usually discussed in the realm of health and fitness, but they are just as important as your physical health. Your mental state dictates your physical journey. I’ve discussed the power of positivity before, meaning if you start your journey from a place of love and wanting to improve your health and wellness, this will be a fun and fulfilling journey, with the difficulties being worth it because you want this. If you begin from a place of hatred and wanting to change only the parts of you you hate, this will be a hard journey. It will be a chore, and lead to a temporary fix, rather than a long term lifestyle change.

Think about your why for this journey. If there are inherently negative reasons (“I hate my chubby tummy” or “I want to get rid of these thunder thighs”), flip the script. Change those reasons to “I want to eat more Whole Foods to nourish my body and power through my workouts” or “I want to strengthen my leg muscles”. These reasons say the same thing, but in entirely different ways. Rewriting some of the script in your head is step one to improving your mental and spiritual health, and step one in improving your physical health.

Nutrition, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Keep Calm and Drink Ya Water

As Derek Zoolander says, “Water is the essence of wetness. Wetness is the essence of beauty.”

Drinking enough water is probably the easiest, and single most important, thing you can do to improve your health. Why? Well just to begin:

1. Your body is up to 65% water.

2. Your blood is around 90% water.

3. Your brain is around 75% water.

4. Your lungs are around 85% water.

When you see just how much of your body consists of water, it’s much easier to understand why proper hydration is that important. That water keeps everything running smoothly in your body, from dissolving vitamins in your blood for easier absorption to lubrication joints to aiding in muscle recovery. If that’s not enough to convince you to up your water intake, there’s more.

Proper hydration can also be crucial to weight loss and management.

First, keeping yourself properly hydrated means that your body is running at it’s best, allowing you to have the best performance in workouts that you can. It also means that your brain is functioning well, keeping irrational thoughts at bay (hello, “i had one cookie so this means I’ve failed and I’m going to eat the whole package and be a failure forever.” That’s much harder to think when you aren’t dehydrated.) Even dehydration of just 2% leads to decrease in physical and mental performance, leading to you feeling lethargic and a bit irrational.

Second, the cue for thirst is most often mistaken for hunger. This means that when you are actually thirsty, you may be reaching for snacks that you don’t actually need. Staying hydrated means you most likely get that thirst signal in the first place, so if you get a hunger pang, you’re most likely in need of some calories.

Third, water keeps you full! You can’t abuse this one, but when you have a belly full of water, it’s hard to overeat. I tell clients to start each meal with a big glass of water. Not only does this help them reach their hydration goals, but it helps to prevent overeating.

Last, water has zero calories. Replacing a soda or juice with a water of the same size can save a ton of sugar and between 100-200 calories. Add all of those calories up throughout the day, and water can be the difference between you hitting your goal or not.

Now that the reasons for drinking water are laid out, the question is now “How Much?” There is actually no universal standard for how much water to consume. It used to be 8 8oz glasses, which is still better than nothing, but water intake is also based on your size, how active you are, how much you sweat, etc. The best rule of thumb there is right now is to drink .5-1 ounce of water for each pound of bodyweight. This means that the intake for a 150lb person would be between 75 and 150oz.

The best tips i can give you for water consumption, especially if you haven’t been drinking nearly enough is just to start.

• Drink an extra glass of water daily

• Buy a refillable (BPA Free!) water bottle to refill all day long

• Drink a glass of water before each meal

• Drink a glass right after you wake up

• Replace one sugary drink with a glass of water

• Use crystal light or MIO drops to flavor water if you need to

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

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.

Exercise, Opinion, Other

Ladies, Don’t Be Afraid to Lift Your Weights

Year after year, female client after female client, it’s always the same. “I want to tone,” “I don’t want to get big and bulky,” and all sorts of variations. This blog is going to discuss the reasons why women won’t get bulk by accident, and it’s going to be short and sweet.

To get started, let’s look into how you even get “bulky.” Muscle bulk is simply muscle hypertrophy, or the tissue getting larger from increased stress and volume placed on the tissues. As well, testosterone in the body plays a big part in muscle tissue increase, in both and men and women. Testosterone is the main anabolic hormone in the body, assisting to build muscle size and strength, along with human growth hormone (HGH). However, women have between 15-20% less testosterone in their body than men, and that testosterone is much less respondent to training stimulus. Estrogen and progesterone levels in women are also much higher than in men, with these hormones being catabolic, or contributing to tissue breakdown, they keep muscle at bay. With our body’s build and hormone makeup, it is actually physically impossible for women’s muscle size to get to be as large as a man’s.

I know what you’re thinking, “Molly, what about those crazy looking women bodybuilders?” (Also, those body builders have worked hard on their physique, and whether you agree with it or not, it should be admired.) As well, those bodybuilders can not achieve the size or definition that they have without artificial help. Anabolic steroids are artificial sources of hormones, such as testosterone or HGH, that push muscle growth further than the body could achieve alone. Even so, those female bodybuilders work incredibly hard to build that size, so even with anabolic steroids, being big and bulky doesn’t just happen.

So now, how do I get toned? Easy. We increase our muscle mass (naturally, by lifting weights and keeping our volume within 3-5 sets of 8-12 repetitions), and decrease our body fat. Being toned is nothing more than having a low enough body fat to see the muscle tone underneath. If you feel that you are getting too large of muscles from lifting, either decrease the repetitions to a strength range (1-6 repetitions) or increase them to an endurance range (12-20 repetitions). However you want to do it, lifting weights and increasing muscle size and strength has incredible health benefits. Resistance training has been shown to increase lean body mass, leading to better body composition, increase bone density and decrease the risk of osteoporosis, and also help increase stability and decrease the risk of injury. Don’t stray away from resistance training simply because you are afraid of getting big. It takes more energy and effort to get bulky than you realize, and I promise it won’t happen by accident.

Opinion, Other

Mental Health Matters

Talk to anyone you meet in a day and I guarantee, at some point, they’ll mention how stressed they are. And I don’t doubt that they are in the least. It seems like everyone, whether in person or on social media, is incredibly stressed these days. It affects so many people that it almost seems like stress is trendy. It could be because of work, finances, personal relationships, or something health or fitness related, but one way or another, we’re all stressed. A big part of health (and yes, health AND fitness) that is rarely talked about is mental health. I try to be very open in all aspects of my health and wellness, including the parts that I personally lack. Taking care of your mind will do nothing but allow you to take care of your physical being, and help to increase your quality of life.

The first topic I’d like to brush on is disordered eating and diagnosed eating disorders. A good amount of fitness influencers, professionals, and competitors either come from a place of disordered eating, whether it be over or under eating, or have developed one in the process. This is a big problem in the fitness industry, where you don’t have the balance of “fit life” and real life, almost diminishing what you do to take care of yourself if you aren’t going to an extreme. I’ve talked about my previous issues with eating, with developing binge eating disorder and having extreme guilt associated with food, and I understand those feelings and where you feel like food is the enemy and hindering your dream “fit” life. This isn’t normal, and it isn’t healthy. If you are struggling with these feelings, try to reach out and talk to someone about it. I know it seems like you’re the only one dealing with this, especially in the fitness world, but you aren’t. You shouldn’t be afraid of calories, but grateful to them for powering you through your daily activities. It is more than possible to hit your goals without developing, or exasperating these thoughts, so don’t let that discourage you. Yes, eating disorders, and those similar disordered eating habits, are a big part of mental illness, especially in the health and fitness industry, but there are other issues you can have that affect either your fitness journey or your life.

Stress is defined as “a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension.” Stress is a real thing. It can not only fluster you, but it can seemingly overwhelm your entire day. When you feel stressed, it activates the “fight or flight” response in your body, whether you’re actually under attack or not. That’s right, mental stress releases the same response to a physical threat (and who says mental illness isn’t a real thing, am I right?) Basically, in the fight or flight response, your nervous system releases a whole bunch of hormones to prepare you for this huge stressor. The main two hormones are adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline is what causes your heart rate to increase and your mental awareness to peak. We’ve seen cortisol before, it is the stress hormone I’ve mentioned in previous posts that can wreak havoc on your waistline. Excessive cortisol can have adverse affects on your body besides weight gain, including fatigue and anxiety. Having so much stress in your life can actually increase your chances for more stress, such as feeling tired all the time or increasing anxiety. The best way I’ve learned to prevent this mental health snowball is to actively perform stress relieving techniques daily.

My favorite ways to relieve stress:

1. Workout (duh). Working out releases endorphins in your brain, and as Elle Woods says, “Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you happy, and happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” She’s right.

2. Get enough sleep. Having enough good quality sleep allows your body the time it needs to recover from the day, both physically and mentally. Even slight sleep deprivation can have adverse effects, including impaired memory and mood, and contributes to weight gain.

3. Journal. This one I can’t stress enough (see what I did there?). I discovered journaling in my junior year of college, when I took a course called “Writing for the Means of Self Discovery.” I learned so much about myself, and I was truly able to let go of some deep stressors. Now, it’s been a bit since college, and I got out of the habit. A very smart friend of mine, and possibly someone who is the most in tune I’ve ever seen with their mental health, re-introduced me to journaling. When I feel stressed or anxious, I just write whatever comes to mind. Usually by the time I’m done writing, I’ve either solved my problem myself, or I’ve calmed myself down enough to carry on.

Sometimes, you can prevent and prevent all you want, but there’s just nothing you can do. Anxiety is a whole different monster than just stress. Anxiety is being overwhelmed by worrying and fear until you honestly can’t do anything but worry. I have experienced, and still do experience, anxiety attacks in my life. I don’t say that I suffer from them because I don’t feel like it’s a suffering, but more so a part of my life that I go through and learn from. That doesn’t mean that others do not suffer from their mental illnesses, that is just my personal take on my own situation. When I experience an anxiety attack, nothing else matters. I can’t think straight, I start to go hysterical and it takes quite a bit to calm me down. I try to implement my stress relief techniques, but sometimes you just have to let it pass. That’s something I have learned in my experiences, sometimes you can’t do anything about what’s happening. It’s a scary feeling, but sometimes once you let go against the attack, you can actually allow it to pass, calm down, and move forward.

The biggest lesson I have learned in my experiences with all mental disorders is that it’s not my fault. I’ve always felt weird, or that something about me is abnormal, because of the way my mind works and the feelings I have. However, I’m not. I’ve come to realize that so many people experience stress, panic/anxiety attacks, or suffer from depression or another mental illness, but no one really talks about it. It’s not weird and you shouldn’t be ashamed of anything you are feeling. Yes, it can affect your health and fitness journey, as eating disorders wreak havoc on your body and mind, excessive stress can lead to weight gain, and anxiety can keep you out of the gym, but health and fitness is not just about your physical body. You cannot be healthy if your mind isn’t. However, just because you have a mental disorder doesn’t mean you aren’t healthy! Just remember: mental health and mental health care is just as important, if not more so, than physical health care.