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Morning Health Mistakes You Might Be Making

It seems like every blogger, influencer, & self-help author has some morning habit that you simply MUST adopt to become the healthiest version of you. And that advice is put out there with the best intentions. But are these habits truly all they’re cracked up to be? Here are some popular morning habit mistakes that you could be making.

1. Going overboard with your smoothie

Smoothies can be a great option for breakfast on-the-go and for getting some added fruits and veggies in. But it is very easy for that smoothie to get out of control. Excessive fruit and fats and servings that are too large are very common pitfalls. Another issue is making your smoothie too thin to be satisfying so you become ravenous later and derail your healthy diet.

Instead: Keep your smoothies to just 1 cup of fruit, add some veggies, and keep your portions on the smaller end of things.

2. Skipping breakfast

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day because it provides you with the nutrients you need to get your day going at your best and can help keep your body’s cortisol levels (“stress hormone”) closer to their normal range. Studies have also shown that people who eat breakfast are more likely to weight less than people who skip it because it helps keep your hunger more manageable throughout the day.

Instead: If you’re not a breakfast person, try to just have something small but healthy to hold you over until you can have something more substantial. Some almonds or a slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter are good options.

3. Taking a something-is-better-than-nothing mentality towards breakfast

While whether or not you eat breakfast is important, WHAT you eat for breakfast is just as important. Starting your day with a sugary donut is going to spike your blood sugar levels and it won’t keep you feeling full for very long.

Instead: Focus on eating whole foods that are high in fiber and protein. This will keep you feeling full longer.

4. Reaching for some juice

It’s made from fruit, so it must be good for you, right? Not so fast. Juice is fruit without the fiber. So, yes, you’re getting some of those nutrients, but you’re also drinking a big glass of sugar with no fiber to buffer it. That can add up to blood sugar issues and weight gain over time.

Instead: Have some water and put some fruit in it to infuse it with the flavor, like lemon, lime, or berries.

5. Having a bowl of “healthy” cereal

Here’s the thing about cereal, most options have too much sugar and not enough fiber and protein in them to be worth it.

Instead: Try some oatmeal (unflavored) with plain yogurt and fruit instead.

Coping with an Injury

Back in February, I took a nasty fall down a flight of stairs. Being rather clumsy, I thought “wow, that really sucked,” made sure no one saw it, and tried to stand up, only to be met with the worst searing pain I’ve ever felt in my life. I truly thought that at the ripe old age of 31 I had broken my hip. I used the snow and slush I was stuck seated in as an ice pack while I waited for my fiance to come home from work (fortunately closeby) and pick me up off the ground and get me to the hospital (sorry, to stubborn to pay for an ambulance).

Long story short, I spent several days mostly immobile followed by almost 2 weeks out of work. I had a lot of time to sit and think…about how much this sucked, about how useless I felt, about how I didn’t know how long it would take to get better, about what the loss of my income would mean for us, about all the progress I had made in fitness that was being undone seemingly with every hour I laid on the couch. Your mind goes to some dark places when you’re laid up and home alone with a cat who runs away when she so much as thinks you’re about to cry.

This was a depressing time for me. For someone who relied so heavily on their fitness to make a living – to teach barre, to visit health coaching clients, to wait tables part time – I had to recognize how quickly and easily all of that could be taken away.  Not to mention that my major source of stress relief, exercise, was not an option.

Don’t get me wrong, I was very, very lucky because I could have been must worse off. Nonetheless, this was a challenge for me and I know there are others out there with even bigger obstacles. So I wanted to share some of my tips for getting through situation like this.

8 Tips for Coping with an Injury

1. Ask for help

I don’t mean just with your physical limitations. Have someone you can call when you’re wrapped up in those dark thoughts. Better yet, have a couple different people. Sometimes it helps to have someone outside your family give you the pep talk. I’m so happy that my mother was around that week and could come to my house to keep me company. And one night when I was really wallowing in self-pity and I didn’t want to trouble my fiance with it again, I had a great call with my best friend. Having a support network is key.

2. Focus on what you can do

It is literally too easy to focus on all of your limitations when you’re on the injured list. As corny as it sounds, try to refocus your thoughts on the things you CAN do. Even better, write them down so you have that concrete reminder. I couldn’t go to work, but I could hobble my butt to my desk and get it organized. And, later on, I couldn’t demo the exercises in my barre class, but I could do a damn good job describing every exercise to my students in detail so they could do them (PS thank you to all my students for being to supportive and bearing with me through that!).

3. Keep an eye on your progress

Celebrating the little victories was key for my motivation and spirit. I walked around the house without crutches! I didn’t take a muscle relaxer today! I figured out how to stand up without triggering an excruciating spasm! These were all mini victories that I proudly proclaimed to my fiance every night like a toddler who just went potty for the first time. Instead of dwelling on how down and out you are, look for those little victories and celebrate them.

4. Don’t be discouraged by ups and downs

At the same time, know that progress isn’t linear. You are going to have a couple great days and then one day that feels like a huge step back. It’s normal and it’s still part of your overall forward progression. Take it in stride, listen to your body, and stay focused on your goals.

5. Find some outlets for your stress

Got a hobby you’ve been wanting to pick back up? Or maybe a new one you’ve been wanting to try? Or maybe, like me, you realized you hate where all of your pictures and art work are hanging and want to completely rearrange them. Whatever it is, find something that you can do to keep your mind occupied release some stress.

6. Keep it in perspective

I don’t have a real statistic to back this up but I would say from my own experience that 9 times out of 10, there is some way that whatever is going on could be worse. And sometimes the only way to calm those voices in your head is to to remind yourself that you are grateful it wasn’t worse. There were many times when I had to say to myself “at least it wasn’t broken. Be grateful you still have both legs. You could have hit your head but you didn’t.” Kind of dark, yes, but it did help me realize that I had a shorter road to go than I felt like I did.

7. Feel the gratitude

For every little thing that someone does to be helpful or supportive, really take a moment to think about it and feel genuinely grateful for their help. You might be out of work and have no money coming in, but you’ll feel much richer just by taking 5 minutes to really feel thankful for that phone call from your best friend, or the dinner your neighbor dropped off, or that hug from your significant other when you were having an irrational meltdown… again.

8. Take care of yourself in the ways that you can

Exercising was out for several weeks, and I knew that. And as much as I wanted to smother my sorrows in a bottle of wine and a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips, I didn’t. Well, I had a little bit, but not the whole bottle or the whole bag. I knew my body needed my support to heal fast and I had every reason to want to heal faster, so I did all I could in my power to help it. I focused on good nutrition and hydration, I got plenty of rest, and, as soon as I was able to, I started with chiropractics and physical therapy.

When all was said and done, I “graduated” from physical therapy 7 weeks after my fall and I’m able to run and teach barre again. Still doing some strengthening exercises on that side and I need to be careful I don’t go too crazy, but I’m beyond happy to be back at it again.

The Truth about Juice Cleanses and Detoxes

Juice cleanses and detox programs are still all the rage – with nearly every holistic company pushing one and even local cafes creating their own. They claim they can help you lose weight, rid your body of toxins, restore your pH, give you more energy and help you sleep better, make you stop craving junk food – the list goes on and on. But are these (often really expensive) programs all they’re cracked up to be?

The short answer is “no.” Living off of juice for a week is not going to result in any lasting improvements to your help. On the contrary, it could actually do more harm than good.

The Problem with Cleanses and Detoxes

The first issue with juice cleanses is that they’re juice. When you juice a fruit or vegetable, you eliminate all of the fiber in that plant. That leaves you with very little if anything to buffer against all of the sugar in it. Essentially, you’re drinking straight sugar with some vitamins and minerals added to it. Subsisting off of this alone and not balancing it with food containing protein and fiber can result in unhealthy spikes in your blood sugar that stress your body out. Sustained high levels of your body’s stress hormone, cortisol, have been linked to a host of health problems, not to mention retention of abdominal fat. Add to this the fact that, since juice does not satisfy hunger,  you are likely to over consume it when you’re already taking in far more sugar in a glass of orange juice than is in one orange.

Another factor that makes these cleanses more of a problem than a solution is the impact they could have on your metabolism. While restricting calories in the very short term might make you drop a few pounds, over time severely restricting calories for a week or on and off again over time can slow down your metabolism, making it even harder to lose weight. Not to mention, many people will overcompensate by overeating once they are back on regular foods again, making them gain back what they may have lost and then some. I bet they didn’t advertise that on the box.

The final nail in the coffin for juice cleanses and detox programs should be that they are completely unnecessary and there is no scientific evidence to support their effectiveness. Your body already has a highly-efficient detoxification system built in. Your body is not a swamp full of toxins. You do not need to starve yourself for a week to help support your body’s detoxification system. On the contrary, doing so can deprive your body of the nutrition and energy it needs to do its cleanup job.

So What Should You Do?

If you truly want to support the health of your body and keep it as toxin-free as possible, eat an organic, plant-based, whole foods diet. Eat lots of plants, drink lots of water, avoid pre-packaged, processed foods, and, when you do eat meat, make sure it is clean, quality meat not treated with all kinds of antibiotics and hormones. Doing this will give your body the right kind of fuel it needs to support ongoing health.

 

 

What a health coach should NOT do

I went back and forth on writing this post because I really don’t want it to seem like I am putting any other health coaches down. However, I think this is really important for people to be aware of, as a health coach’s scope of practice is often unfamiliar to people and this is a safety issue. So here it goes…

I was just on a Facebook group and saw someone post that their very young child had just been diagnosed with the flu and their doctor prescribed the medication Tamiflu. This person was asking a group of health coaches to weight in on whether or not she should give the medication to her child. I was absolutely appalled (though, unfortunately, not shocked) to see a number of health coaches jumping right in and telling this person NOT to give her child this medication prescribed by her physician. I’m not talking about suggesting she get a second opinion; I’m talking about statements like “NEVER!!!” or “never ever take medications unless it’s the very last resort.”

I’m not going to mince words here, for a health coach to offer this advice is not only irresponsible, it is dangerous and it is completely outside of a health coach’s scope of practice. These are individuals who are much less concerned about the well-being of others and more interested in pushing their own agenda. Health coaches, unless they are also a trained, licensed medical professional, are not qualified, certified, trained or licensed to offer medical advice. We are not trained in medicine, medical treatment, or the prescription of medications. Beyond the scope of practice issue, these commenters also had no familiarity with the patient in question beyond the fact that they have the flu. They could have been recommending that a child with a compromised immune system not take medication. In all honesty, the admin of this group should have taken this post down and warned those who participated in it to watch their scope.

Regardless of how suspicious you are of the medical community’s motives for prescribing drugs or your thoughts on the pharmaceutical industry, the fact is that the flu is a very dangerous illness, moreso for young children like this individual’s child. To vehemently insist that this parent go against her family physician’s advice is reckless at best and dangerous at worst.

If you ever see a health coach making recommendations about medical treatment or a health coach makes such recommendations to you, this is not a health coach you should be working with (again, unless they are also a medical doctor, etc.).

 

Again, I am not writing this post in order to expose, deride, or discredit any other health coaches. I’ve seen situations like the one described before and I truly believe that it is critically important for people to be aware of a health coach’s scope of practice and credentials before working with them and heeding their advice. Unfortunately, good intentions often mask poor judgment and personal agendas.

Product Review: Simply Lite Sugar Free Dark Chocolate

A sweet tooth is one of the biggest struggles I see with people who are trying to lose weight or eat healthier. Dark chocolate carries several health benefits but many of them are lost or cancelled out when lots of sugar is added to the products. Now, I typically steer well clear of anything labeled “sugar-free” because I don’t do artificial chemical sweeteners, but I picked this up and saw that it contained none so I figured I would give it a try to see if it could be an alternative for chocolate lovers.

IMG_20181231_172101.jpg

How is it sugar-free?

Rather than sweetening this product with sugar, Simply Natural Foods sweetens the chocolate bar with sugar alcohols, maltitol specifically. Sugar alcohols provide fewer calories than sugar because they cannot be easily absorbed by your body. Maltitol in particular contains about half the calories of sugar but has a higher glycemic index than other sugar alternatives but a lower GI than sugar.  Therefore, it’s important not to overeat foods containing sugar alcohols and diabetics may want to consult with their physician on such products. Another factor that may persuade you to consume sugar alcohols in moderation is that they very often can have a laxative effect due to their poor absorption rate. In fact, the label on these chocolate bars contains an advisory to that effect.

How Do Simply Lite Bars Compare to Others?

I was curious about just how much of a difference there was between this and other comparable bars. So I put together a chart of other bars with similar cacao proportions and calculated each out to a 25 gram serving.

simply lite 100 cal 15g carbs 0g sugars

As you can see, Simply Lite indeed contains fewer calories (but not a lot fewer) but slightly more carbohydrates than other bars. The product label includes a net carb calculation that subtracts both the grams of fiber (3) and the carbs from the maltitol (11) from the total carb count, leaving 1 g of net carbs. It states that they subtract maltitol’s carbs from the total because “its conversion requires little or no insulin and does not cause an appreciable increase in serum glucose levels”. As stated above, it is true that maltitol bears a significantly lower glycemic index than sugar, but it is important for diabetics to take into account their total carbohydrate consumption. However, for those watching carbs as part of their diet (keto, South Beach, what-have-you), the net carb count is helpful.

Flavor and Texture

I didn’t dislike the flavor of the Simply Lite bar but it was obviously different from a sugar-sweetened bar. Ever so slightly less sweet perhaps? Hard to put my finger on but my thought was “meh”. It doesn’t have a chemically taste though, which is nice. The texture is on the drier, more crumbly side than other bars. It reminded me a little bit of the texture of Mexican stone ground chocolate. It lacks that creamy, satisfying mouth feel that other chocolates have but part of that is due to the cacao concentration – the more cacao, the less creamy and the more bitter.

Inulin

One of the ingredients listed on this product is inulin, a vegetable fiber that is commonly added to processed foods to increase their fiber content. This may be why Simply Lite’s fiber content was slightly higher than that of other chocolate bars. This higher fiber content also lowers the net carbs and glycemic impact of the food. One thing to note about this ingredient is that overeating it can also cause some gastrointestinal upset, including gas, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea.

In Conclusion

While this bar may be an alternative for those with a sweet tooth who are looking to cut down their sugar intake, there are several trade-offs made with Simply Lite’s chocolate bar. With two ingredients known to cause gastrointestinal upset when consumed too much, it’s important to limit your consumption of this product, unless you don’t mind some extra time in the bathroom. The taste and texture are definitely not the same as “the real thing” so some may not be big fans of this alternative. My final verdict on this is that I would rather buy regular dark chocolate and make sure that I’m enjoying it in small amounts.

A Health Coach’s Favorite Things

Today on the blog I wanted to share with you some of my favorite health-and-wellness-related things from 2018 that I will definitely be carrying over into 2019.

Skincare

Plum Island Soap Company: Almond Oatmeal Clay Mask

almond oatmealWhile pretty much every product they cook up in their adorable little shop on Plum Island is wonderful, I love their almond oatmeal clay mask. My skin gets very dry in the colder months, with trouble patches right under my eyes. This mask helps moisturize and my skin looks so much more vibrant and hydrated after every use. Plus, their products are made of all natural, chemical-free, good for you and the earth ingredients. They do have an online store, but I really suggest you stop in the next time you’re in Newburyport because the shop is just the cutest thing and they are such sweet people!

FRE Skincare for Women Who Sweat

FRE SkincareAs someone with sensitive skin who works out, the products I use on my face are super important to me. FRE came highly recommended by a number of my fitness instructor friends so I finally decided to give it a go and I’m really glad I did! I bought the cleanser and the daily moisturizer to start (because, honestly, I don’t even know what a “serum” is). Since I started using it, my skin is much clearer with no hormonal breakouts on my chin and it’s much more moisturized. The cleanser has these great little jojoba beads in it that gently exfoliate so I can feel my skin getting cleaner and more moisturized at the same time. And the daytime cream is SPF 30 so I am confident heading outside for the day. Click here to grab yours for 25% off!

 

Workouts

Boston Barre

This beautiful new studio in Saugus is a gem! Don’t be fooled by the name, barre isn’t all they offer! They also have great cardio classes, like Pound,  innovative classes like, Yogalates, and strength classes,  like Bunda Burn. With that variety, they make it easy to achieve your fitness resolutions!

Tread Tabata

HIIT has been all the rage lately and there is good reason for it – the afterburn is a real thing. Essentially, HIIT workout combine brief bursts of high intensity activity with even short periods of rest in between. This triggers your body to burn more calories. Treat has an Express location in Beverly and a regular location in Marblehead. Their classes are set to founder Kathy G’s Tabata app and they keeping you moving with fun music and encouraging, energetic instructors who really know their stuff. These classes combine cardio on a treadmill or bike with strength training exercises on the floor. It’s seriously my new favorite thing, especially being able to get in and out in 45 minutes and know I got a killer workout. And as for that afterburn? You can totally feel it.

Snacks!

Zing Bars

Zing BarsThese are my favorite go-to snack bar because not only are they dietician-developed, they are also actually delicious and have have they icky texture a lot of “healthy” snack bars have. I recommend these to my clients all the time and they also rave about them. You can pick up one or two at most grocery stores, and, if you like them, here is a coupon code to order them and stock up. 

 

 

 

 

 

Please note some of the above links are affiliate links.

 

Why #noexcuses is not healthy

Knowing that I’m opening myself up to criticism here, I’m going to share something with you. Back in August, I completely stopped working out and didn’t start back up again for about 3 months. At first, it just kind of happened, – I would skip a fitness class here or there. But then I made a conscious decision and said “I have too much going on right now. I’m going to stop working out for a bit.” At the time, to say that I had a lot going on would have been a massive understatement. I was barely keeping my head above water and I knew that what little time I had I needed for rest… at least for the time being. Long story short, I only started putting together a regular workout schedule again nearly 3 months later.

I’m not perfect (far from it) and I share many of the same struggles my clients work through. That gives me a very important perspective: I get it.

I hid this fact about me and I felt embarrassed about it and even ashamed of it. Who would want to work with a health coach who wasn’t even forcing herself to work out? The more I thought about it, though, I realized I would want to work with that coach because they’re a real person, too. I’m not perfect (far from it) and I share many of the same struggles my clients work through. That gives me a very important perspective: I get it. So I’m OK with my decision and with my struggle to get back into it.

One thing I noticed while I was making that decision not to work out is that I was literally being bombarded by an Instagram feed full of gym pics and #noexcuses. And if I logged into Pinterest, it would have been the same thing. I realized that I really freakin hate that hashtag and I’ll tell you why.

To say #noexcuses implies that there is never a reason not to workout. It then follows that, if there is never a reason not to work out and you come up with one, then you are somehow failing or being lazy. How is that healthy? Spoiler: it’s not.

#noexcuses is part of that fitness extremism known as fitspo or fitspiration – pictures of thigh gaps, gym selfies, and fad diet miracle before-and-afters. In general, this trend creates a constant striving for largely unattainable physical perfection characterized by extreme behaviors and unhealthy habits. The focus is entirely on looks. It engenders self-hatred and depression because it pushes constant comparison to others. What makes #noexcuses even more destructive as part of this paradigm is that it is based on blame and inferiority. To say #noexcuses implies that there is never a reason not to workout. It then follows that, if there is never a reason not to work out and you come up with one, then you are somehow failing or being lazy. #noexcuses also implies that whatever reason you have to skip your workout is unimportant, insignificant, so just get over it. How is that healthy? Spoiler: it’s not. #noexcuses is the stuff unhealthy body image and disordered eating and exercise habits are made out of.

Life is not all black and white. Fitness doesn’t have to be either/or. It’s not that either you work out every day or you’re lazy. That’s just not how it works, regardless of what the #noexcuses crowd would have you believe.

Your body needs rest just as much as it needs movement. Obviously, there is a difference between a reason and an excuse. That I’m mentally and physically exhausted and I don’t have the time are reasons. That I can’t find a hair elastic is an excuse. But on the days when you need a rest, take a rest and don’t feel guilty about it. When you don’t have time, don’t make yourself crazy trying to find time. Sometimes, it’s just that simple – there is no time.

Here is the truth. No one is perfect and even those #noexcuses people skip their workouts. They also drink beer and eat pizza. But they don’t tell you that because they need you to believe that they are perfect. Maybe some of them are good-intentioned and hope that their perfect image will somehow motivate someone. And I’m sure there are some folks out there who do find it motivating. But, in reality, it’s likely that it’s making more people feel like garbage.

There are excuses, there are reasons, there are needs. What is more important than hitting the gym without exception is listening to your body and what it needs. What’s important is that when you get out of your workout habit, you find a way to get back into it. That right there is often the hardest part. And that’s OK and that’s normal. You are not defective if you struggle to get back to the gym. You and your body are capable of amazing things. Listen to your body. Take what you need. Do what you need. And don’t let the Internet dictate your worth.

What to do with the Halloween candy scaries

If the thought of storing several jumbo bags of “fun-sized” candy in your house for the next couple weeks has your despairing, if you’re wondering how you’re going to resist eating your child’s candy loot, if you’re thinking of just skipping Halloween for the sake of your diet altogether, then read on. If not, power to you, but read on anyway in case you know someone this would be helpful to 🙂

Halloween is just the first of several upcoming holidays known to fill our homes with less-than-healthy temptations. From the giant bags of candy you buy to pass out to the trick-or-treaters to the orange bucket of candy your own child brings home, this can be a tough time for those of us looking to watch our waistlines, reduce our sugar intake, or just eat healthier in general. So here are my tips for having fun this spooky season without going off the rails completely.

1.Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Once you’ve bought your stock of candy to give out on Halloween night, don’t keep it out in the open or in an easily accessible location. Each of us probably knows all too well how easy it is to pop open one of those bags for “just a few” pieces of candy and have that turn into needing to go buy more candy. It’s not you and it’s not all just a lack of willpower. Our bodies are programmed to crave those caloric, sugary, fatty foods, especially this time of the year and junk food companies known exactly how to capitalize on that from the ingredients they use all the way down to the packaging.

Take those bags of candy and store them somewhere out of the way and out of your sight until Halloween night (make sure you remember where you put them, of course). It has been proven that when junk food is within our vision or easily accessible to us, we will choose that over healthy options most of the time (even if we don’t really want to). Putting those bags of candy away will help keep you on track and eliminate that extra temptation.

2. Participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project

If candy is your arch nemesis and you would prefer to just not have it in the house at all, then grab a teal pumpkin and hand out non-candy items (like glow sticks, bookmarks, funky erasers, etc.) on Halloween to help include children with food allergies in the spooky fun. This will keep your stress about overindulging at bay and will also benefit kids with food allergies who just want to trick or treat like their friends. Learn more about the Teal Pumpkin Project and register your address online here.  

3. Have some fun and then be done

Life is all about balance and you should absolutely get a chance to enjoy some sweets this Halloween season. The key is setting a stopping point and sticking to it. One of the best parts about Halloween as a kid was always bringing a piece or two of candy with you to school in your lunch box. So I suggest keeping the candy around for just one week after Halloween. Allow yourself and/or your kids, just one or two pieces a day (assuming they’re the “fun size”) and stick to that. Once that week is up, get rid of the candy. You can throw it out (I know, I know) or you can donate it, which is what I recommend because it’s also a great way to teach your kids about helping others and sharing. There are loads of veterans organizations that collect leftover candy to send to troops overseas in their care packages. A simple Google search should point you to one near you.

4. Hand out healthier snacks instead

I know that neighbor tends to get a bad rep, but you could hand out healthier options such as mini boxes of raisins, snack bags of pretzels, or clementines to toss out just a few ideas. Doing this will keep more sugar out of your house and you might actually be doing another parent or child a favor as well.

5. Don’t beat yourself up

Most importantly, if you do overindulge, don’t beat yourself up about it. Getting down on yourself is a recipe for a downward spiral and kicking your own butt at the gym isn’t going to undo it. The best thing you can do for yourself in situations like that is to own that you didn’t do what you had hoped you would and resolve to do better going forward. This is important not just for yourself but for your kids who, whether you know it or not, watch your every move and hear your every word. This is a chance to teach them how to love themselves and have a healthy relationship with food.

 

Bonus advice:

While we’re on the topic of setting an example for our kids, watching the language that you use around food is also really important. Dubbing some foods “bad” or saying they’ll make you fat can very adversely affect your child’s relationship with food going forward and can create feelings of shame around it. So when you’re talking to children about why you’re giving away the leftover candy or limiting how much you eat, I suggest using language along the lines of: this isn’t everyday food so we are only going to have a little and then share with some other people. Foods like fruits and vegetables help keep us from getting sick and help us do better in school, but candy doesn’t do any of those things for us so we don’t need to eat a lot of it. Instead we have a little and we focus on eating more of the foods that help us grow bigger and smarter.

 

Have a Healthy Freshman Year

The first year in college is a very exciting time, but it is also an enormous adjustment for many college students. The lack of parental/caregiver oversight, freedom to set your own schedules, competition, stress, and having the ability to choose when and what you eat can often mean that health takes a backseat to other priorities, particularly during that first year of college. I can tell you based on my own personal experience that the dreaded “Freshman 15” is just the tip of the iceberg since eating habits are strongly linked to other factors, such as stress. So here are my tips for keeping healthy when you head out to college.

Eating Healthy

1. Keep healthy snacks in your dorm room

In college, I lived next door to the Mediterranean-themed dining hall, which, for me, meant bringing back tupperware containers full of baklava to snack on when I was studying later on at night during my first semester. That went as well for my waistline as you would think it did. When we are stressed out or up late, we are particularly susceptible to binging on unhealthy foods. Those foods actually increase the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies. So it is super important to make sure that these foods are an occasional treat and not a study-time staple. Keeping healthy snacks handy in your dorm room and back pack will help make sure you avoid this too-common pitfall.

2. Plan ahead

At most schools these days, you can check what the dining hall is serving online before you walk over for dinner. This is awesome because it allows you to plan your meals ahead of time and strategize around those temptations.

3. Hit the salad bar

A healthy plate should be at least 1/2 vegetables and hitting the salad bar can make sure you hit this benchmark. Starting your meal with a salad is also a great way to make sure that you don’t overeat more caloric or unhealthier foods later on in your meal. It has also been shown to buffer against the blood sugar spike we experience from simple carbohydrates and could mitigate some of the effects of fatty meats on our circulatory system as well.

4. Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is critical for your health in so many ways. Drinking enough water keeps your skin healthy, keeps your joints working properly, helps cleanse out your body, promotes cardiovascular health, helps you absorb nutrients from food, and can keep you from overeating.

5. Be present at meal time

It is so easy to eat a whole meal and hardly even notice it when you’re super distracted my homework, friends, etc. You will enjoy your meals more and feel more satisfied as well as diminish your likelihood of overeating if you pay attention to your eating.

6. Don’t wait until you’re starving to eat

When you’re really cramming or trying to meet a deadline, it can be easy to skip eating until you can’t ignore those hunger pangs any more, but you’re not doing yourself any favors this way. You will work better and more efficiently if you eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re starving. When you wait that long, you often end up opting for something unhealthy or inhaling way too much food. You’re better off having a snack or taking a meal break – chances are you weren’t getting as much done as you could anyway because you were being distracted by hunger and your brain was starving for the nutrients it needs to function properly.

Healthy Movement

1. Find a fitness routine that you actually like

It’s no secret that if you hate something, you won’t do it. Once you have your schedule down, finding some type of physical activity that you like – whether it’s playing a sport or going to the gym or taking a fitness class – is key to keeping physically active, especially when student life is often so sedentary. It’s also important to know yourself and what it takes for you to make something habit. Are you easily self-motivated so setting your own schedule works for you? Do you need external accountability so registering for a class or being part of a team is a must for you to stick to something? Asking yourself these kinds of questions will help you find what works for you.

2. Find a fitness buddy

Having a fitness buddy is a great way to keep yourself motivated and active. It’s also a great way to build a good new friendship.

Feel Healthy

1. Get enough sleep

College students are incredibly sleep-deprived. This can negatively impact academic performance, can increase stress levels, has been linked to higher body weight, can increase inflammation, and can contribute to depression. Practicing good sleep hygiene and getting a good night’s sleep (8 hours) is critical to overall health. Make sure that you have enough time to sleep for 8 hours. Keep electronics and their blue light out of your bedroom. Use sleep masks and ear plugs if you need to – even a little light can disrupt our sleep.

2. Find your stress relief tricks and make time for them

College is stressful. Period. And stress can have some very negative effects on our health, including weight gain, decreased immune system function, sleeplessness, and hypertension. It is so, so important to have healthy ways to manage your stress at your disposal, especially when it can be very easy to turn to unhealthy ways of coping. When I was in college, exercise and coloring were my go-tos when the stress got to be too much. I also had a great group of friends to turn to when I needed them. Try to have a variety of stress relief techniques you can use depending on what your situation is.

3. Use the school’s resources

From one-on-one therapy sessions to support groups to student mentors, there are a number of resources available to college students these days to support your mental and emotional health. If you are struggling – no matter what with – these resources are there for you to use and I guarantee you are not the only one to use them.

 

 

My 5 Favorite Food Shows

I decided to write fun blog post! Food and cooking shows are super popular right now and everyone’s got their thing. So I thought it would be fun to share my top 5 and I would love to hear from you what yours are in the comments! So check these out and then let me know what I’m missing out on!

1. A Chef’s Life

This show is on PBS (WGBX44 in Boston) and it follows Chef Vivian Howard, who owns the Chef and the Farmer and the Boiler Room in North Carolina. First off, NC has a special place in my heart as my boyfriend (or do you become a manfriend after the age of 30?) is originally from there and my father currently lives there – so that was my initial hook. What kept me hooked is that I absolutely LOVE traditional Southern cooking – not just the food, but the stories behind it, the traditions. I think that’s what makes southern cuisine unique. This show really gets to that. Each episode focuses on either a specific ingredient or a specific dish and Chef Vivian takes you through her childhood experiences with it, then she takes you to the farm she sources it from, and then she makes it with her own spin on it. I just love her appreciation for and connection with the food and I love that her prep really just lets the ingredients speak for themselves.

2. The French Chef with Julia Child

Disclosure: I share an alma mater with Julia Child, so I’m a little biased. But really, Julia Child is timeless. You can catch episodes of The French Chef in syndication on PBS from time to time and I always try to watch it when it’s on. My favorite part about this show is the way that Julia was so authentic and anything but perfect. She had no issues being silly on camera, mistakes were kept in the final episode, and sometimes her dishes were just not pretty but all of that is what makes this show so great. She made French cooking accessible and I think that watching reruns of this show is really refreshing in this TV era where everything is fabricated perfection.

3. Mind of a Chef

This one is on Netflix so you can watch it any time. Mind of a Chef introduces you to some of the most successful, highly respected, and/or innovative chefs from all over. I like this for the same reason as A Chef’s Life – the stories. I just really like getting a glimpse into their lives and learning about the stories behind their creativity.

4. The Great British Baking Show

I don’t think I know anyone who hates this show. It’s just fun and British.

5. Lidia’s Kitchen

Lidia Bastianich is the adorable Italian grandmother you wish you had. There’s just something really wonderful and comforting about watching her make classic Italian dishes in her kitchen with a big pot of herbs growing behind her. What I like best is that she actually DIGS IN to the food she makes once it’s done. In a world of TV chefs who don’t touch their food or who just taste a crumb, we need more Lidia Bastianich.