That’s right, it’s my 27th birthday today and in celebration, I wanted to share with you 27 simple tips for overall wellness. Some of these are tips coming from the RD/personal trainer side of me, while others are just items I’ve come to learn along the way. Enjoy these feasible changes that anyone can incorporate into their life – and I hope you’ll choose to do so!
1) Carry a water bottle. It makes it easier to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day, and it’s cheaper and better for the environment than buying bottled water.
2) Visit local farmer’s markets. They’ll have fresh produce at great prices that hasn’t traveled thousands of miles to get to you.
3) Look at the glass half full. Optimism isn’t a false sense of reality; it’s choosing to make your reality a happier place.
4) Model healthy habits for your children, both for nutrition and fitness. They do look up to you as a role model, even though they might not always show it. The photo below is a good friend of mine and his daughter stretching together!
5) Keep your brain in tip-top shape by reading often.
6) Skip fad diets. If you see products that promise you’ll lose “x pounds in y days”, cure your chronic diseases, or eliminate hunger – they’re lying.
7) Move your body! Avoid sitting too much - get up during the day, even if it’s just for a few minutes, to move around. Schedule regular exercise into your days.
8) Choose a new fruit or vegetable each week to try. You’ll have fun looking at ways to prepare something and might discover a new favorite.
9) Get regular check-ups and have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked. These issues, when caught early, can often be addressed with simple lifestyle changes.
10) Cut down on sugar sweetened beverages. Most don’t provide any good nutrition for our bodies, and can easily be replaced with water.
11) Find a stress management technique that works for you. Try boxing, running, meditation, journaling, knitting, getting a massage, or any other activity that might help you calm down.
12) Choose natural whole foods over processed foods.
13) Travel often. Whether it’s day trips to new places around your home state or flying across the world, traveling opens your eyes to new things and makes you feel more fulfilled. That's Iceland, Maui, and Prague in the photos below.
14) Stop the negative self talk. Love your body and appreciate everything it does for you, regardless of your weight.
15) Wash your hands often.
16) Create a reasonable budget for yourself or your household. Incorporate a mix of saving and spending. Being able to save up for something and pay for it upfront makes it that much sweeter knowing there’s no debt to come home to.
17) Brown bag your lunches. It’ll allow you to create healthier meals and will save you a lot of money compared to eating out everyday.
18) Bike or walk to errands in a reasonable distance from your house. It saves money, reduces your carbon footprint, and increases your weekly physical activity.
19) Don’t worry needlessly about minor mistakes and other people’s opinons. In Bernard Baruch’s words, “those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter.”
20) Smile and laugh. A lot. As you can see below, I tend to have no trouble with this ;)
21) Get outside a lot. Fresh air and sunshine can always improve a bad day. Be sure to wear sunscreen.
22) Teach your kids about where food comes from. When I ask a child where we get milk, I love when they can answer “a cow” instead of “the store.” Visit a farm and let them see the animals or pick some produce (strawberry season is right upon us)!
23) Focus on experiences with your loved ones rather than materialistic pursuits. You’ll come away with many more memories and much less useless crap.
24) Make the switch from refined grains, like white bread and white rice, to whole grains like wheat bread and brown rice.
25) Make family fitness fun. Go on outdoor hikes, family bike rides, jump on a trampoline, or compete in a “Just Dance” competition on Wii.
26) Eat fish. It’s got lots of omega-3 fatty acids for heart and brain health.
27) Sign up for a race. It might be a 5K, marathon, triathlon, cycling event, swimming race – anything. You’ll be amazed at the sense of pride you feel when you complete it!
Cheers to happy, healthy living!
Today, we’ll continue our lead up to National Women’s Health Week. Yes, Women’s Health Week is May 13-19th, but we’ve decided to celebrate this week and next week – there’s just so much information we want to share with you! Today, we’ll address some common statements and misconceptions that I’ve heard from many women (both professionally and from friends)– and I’ll share some insight and solutions!
“I don’t want to get bulky, so I only do cardio at the gym.”
First, props on doing cardio, because many people don’t even get that far! But, strength training will not make you big and bulky. Women’s hormonal systems are designed differently than men, so a two or three times a week strength training regimen will help you look toned – not jacked. Of course there are female body builders out there (I know quite a few actually!) – but their training regimens are much more intense. And strength training does many beneficial things for your body! It maintains/increases your muscle mass, helps control your weight, develops stronger bones, and reduces the risk or symptoms of chronic health conditions.
As a side note, if you hate strength training, here are a few suggestions:
“It’s too hard to create healthy meals for my whole family. My kids hate (insert healthy food here).”
- If you’re overwhelmed by the gym machines and free weights, see if there is a circuit you can do. This typically involves a simple set of machine exercises that have fairly easy to follow directions. Many gyms will demonstrate the circuit routine for free if you need help.
- If you need more motivation, you can invest in a personal trainer or check out Koko Fit Club. I think Koko is awesome, because you receive a little usb card that plugs into the computers on the machine and walks you through your workout! It tells you the weight to use, the number of reps, and even paces you.
- Hate the gym? There are plenty of strength training activities that you can do at home with just your body weight. Pushups, chair dips, crunches, squats, lunges, planks, and bridges are just a few.
There are plenty of healthy options out there that your family will love. I’ve worked with hundreds of children and it’s amazing what they’ll taste when healthy food is presented in a fun and encouraging environment. And remember, it can take a child up to 13 times of seeing something new before they’re willing to try it – so keep trying (but don’t force).
A great way to get your children more excited about healthy eating is to involve them in any part of the shopping, preparation, cooking, or serving process. For example:
- Take children to the farmers market and let them choose one new fruit or vegetable to try this week.
- Consider age-friendly tasks that children can be involved in. Children as young as 2 or 3 can help tear lettuce for salads, while older children can help with tasks like measuring or even chopping.
- Need to make a quick dinner and just don’t have the patience for having your kids in the kitchen? Don’t worry, I know it can be tough! How about serving a healthy meal that still gives them some choice in the presentation and serving? Try a DIY baked potato bar with toppings like cheese, broccoli, salsa, beans, corn, okra, and more.
Also, keep in mind that there are always ways to make healthier versions of your family favorites! Love spaghetti and meatballs? Use lean ground beef or turkey for the meatballs and bake them in the oven, and use whole wheat pasta rather than white. Are your kids huge fans of mac and cheese? Try mixing in some veggies like broccoli and greens, or you could try pureeing in squash or cauliflower. “I need to lose weight, so I should go on this new diet.”
We don’t need fad diets ladies. What we need are healthy, sustainable choices that can last a lifetime. Paleo, fruititarian, the cabbage soup diet – why focus on restriction? While you may lose a few pounds on any of these, you risk not getting essential nutrients, not to mention feeling miserable and deprived. These are not choices that most people can make for life, which leads to a pattern of diet/off diet and lose weight/gain weight. Life is about balance and moderation for good health. If you want chocolate, eat a square of dark chocolate or make a cup of homemade hot chocolate – but don’t eat half a chocolate cake. “I read online that this supplement helps you lose weight/sleep better/gain muscle/live to be 100!”
With the internet comes the need to be a great detective. Anyone out there can post information about supplements and their “magical” health benefits. I’ll be honest with you – I’m not a fan of supplements, with the exception of a handful. There’s just not much research out there in my opinion. To each their own, but if you are looking at supplement information online, be sure to use reputable sources and always talk to your doctor before you begin taking anything. Mayo Clinic, Center for Disease Control, National Institute of Health, American Heart Association, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and American Diabetes Association are good websites to start with. And if you’re a science nerd like me, you can take it to pub med to see what the peer-reviewed research says!
Today, March 2nd, is Dr. Seuss’s birthday! As a kid, I loved his books so much – their unique stories and rhymes were always fun to read. But did you know that so much of Dr. Seuss’s written words extend to nutrition, fitness, and health? Today, as we celebrate the 108th birthday of Dr. Seuss, let’s take a look at how we can learn some wellness lessons from one of the greatest children’s writers ever.
Lesson 1: Try new foods.
“You do not like them so you say.
Try them, try them, and you may!
Try them and you may, I say.”
Sam, if you would let me be,
I will try them, and you will see.
I like green eggs and ham!
I do!! I like them, Sam-I-am!”
- Green Eggs and Ham
Ah, the classic case of picky eaters. I like to read this story to some of my younger elementary school students, because it helps reinforce the lesson that we don’t know if we like something until we try it! But this applies to both kids and adults alike. If you didn’t like a food as a child, don’t be afraid to give it a try now – our preferences and taste often change as we age. I hated peanut butter and yogurt as a child, but like both of these foods now. It’s funny how that happens. And if you have kids, encourage your children to be adventurous eaters as well. It can take a young child up to 10-13 times of seeing a new food before they are willing to try it. Keep supplying new healthy choices and they’ll likely start to try them.
Lesson 2: Fad diets and unqualified professionals never go away.
“From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!”
-One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
Fad diets will always be out there. The grapefruit diet, the Atkins diet, the cookie diet, the cabbage soup diet – the list is endless. Avoid these funny diets and focus on eating a balanced meal plan that is sustainable for life! If you need help figuring out what a balanced diet looks like for you, contact a Registered Dietitian (whether it’s myself or someone else). Remember, anyone can call themselves a “nutritionist” with no training – but a dietitian goes through a 4 year degree program, an accredited internship with tons of training, passes a national exam, and maintains continuing education requirements.
Lesson 3: Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes, and get back on track quickly.
“Today is gone.
Today was fun.
Tomorrow is another one.”
-One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
Every day is a new start, a full day to enjoy our life to the fullest. Along the same lines, if you have a bad day and are beating yourself up over not eating right, not getting your workout in, having a bad training session….just remember, tomorrow is another day. There’s no use harping on mistakes that were made, and even worse, throwing in the towel for the week with the dreaded “Forget it, I’ll start ______ (insert healthy behavior here) next week.” Let today be done, and focus on the positive changes you can make tomorrow.
Lesson 4: Try a new exercise challenge.
“If you never did
These things are fun.
and Fun is good.”
Too scared to try a new fitness class? Scared to sign up for that 5K? Think you can never do a triathlon? Sign up and you’ll prove yourself wrong – and have fun in the meantime!
Lesson 5: Keep your family active, even on rainy days!
“Too wet to go out and too cold to play ball.
So we sat in the house. We did nothing at all.
So all we could do was to Sit! Sit! Sit! Sit!
And we did not like it. Not one little bit.”
-The Cat in the Hat
Being sedentary all day, for kids or adults, is not what our bodies need. We need to move, play, be active, exercise! If you’re stuck inside for the day because of the weather, think about exercises you can do in the house. For adults, you can definitely do a circuit of body weight exercises or cardiovascular exercises like jumping jacks. For kids, consider playing games like freeze dance, indoor hopscotch (use masking tape on the floor!), games like twister, or do some kid friendly yoga.
Lesson 6: You will kick butt in your race/sport/event, despite the challenges!
“But on you will go
though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike
and I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.”
-Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
For all my athletes out there…. There will be times when you feel like you’re training is not progressing fast enough. Or the mental game gets to you. Or you might start doubting your ability to race. Or you’re in the race, getting overwhelmed by competitors or conditions. There are more hills than you expected! The course ran out of gels! It’s too hot/cold/snowy/rainy! Why are all these people so fast!
But you can do it! You’ll go on, despite the weather, competition, training snafus, and hard times, and you will succeed! Keep your head in the right place, and focus on accomplishing your goal – not the distractions around you. And just for some extra inspiration, from the same book:
“And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.)”
Lesson 7: You have the power to make healthy choices.
“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.”
-Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
Eating right, exercising, staying healthy – many of these are choices we make. Granted, we can’t control every health problem or injury that comes our way, or the greater environmental and socioeconomic problems that interfere with healthy eating and exercising. But regardless, there are still choices we can make each day to improve our health. Most of us know that an apple is a healthier snack than cookies, but many people choose the cookies anyway. This week, I challenge you to think about your food choices before you go ahead and start eating. Pause for a second and decide what is best for your body. If you follow a nutritious diet and get enough physical activity, you’ll move in the direction of improving your health!
Lesson 8: Respect everyone.
“A person's a person, no matter how small.”
-Horton Hears a Who
…And no matter how big. In light of National Eating Disorders week also falling this week, let’s teach children and adults to be kind and respectful to all people, regardless of body weight.
I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane! Share with us: What's your favorite lesson from above?
Take a look at this quick PSA from the National Eating Disorders Association, and ask yourself – is this what you want your child thinking?
Continuing with National Eating Disorder Awareness week, this video begs the question – how do we set up a healthy lifestyle for our children without leading them down a path of disordered eating? Here are some tips for all you parents out there:
- Don’t restrict your child from eating when they are hungry. Children actually have a relatively good radar for understanding hunger and satiety cues when not distracted by things like television. This doesn’t mean supplying them with a bag of cookies as a snack, or letting them have a free for all in the kitchen 5 minutes before dinner. But there’s no reason a child shouldn't be allowed to choose a healthy snack (like an apple with peanut butter) if they’re hungry an hour or two before dinner.
- Discuss the media and their perception of what it means to be “beautiful.” Be critical of media messages that say you have to be a certain size or shape to be pretty. Encourage your children to be critical thinkers and assess whether media messages are accurate.
- Compliment your child and build their self-esteem. Be sure to point out aspects of their personality, knowledge, and skills that you are proud of – items outside of appearance.
- Don’t use food as a reward or punishment. We often do this without even realizing it – “If you clean your room, you can have a piece of candy.” Or “You’re in trouble. You can’t have any dessert tonight.” This can create unhealthy relationships with food and eating – use other forms of rewards and punishment instead.
- Model healthy behaviors and positive self-talk. Eat foods that nourish your body, exercise because it keeps you fit, and don’t make negative statements about your body - like “Ugh, I look so fat” - in front of your child (better yet, don’t make those kind of statements period!).
- Create healthy meals for your whole family and encourage positive conversation at meal time. Turn off the television, sit at the table, and make eating a good experience.
- Make exercise a fun family or friend activity. Ride bikes, go hiking, go swimming, play games like tag and capture the flag. Avoid making exercise seem like a chore or dreaded activity.
- Don’t make jokes, rude comments, or other such remarks about overweight people – children catch on very easily and begin to associate weight with value.
- Teach your children to respect people of all colors, shapes, and sizes.
Here's to having happy and healthy families!