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.

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.

Tips to Help You Eat More Plants

We have a plant problem in the US today and I’m not talking about marijuana. By and large most Americans aren’t eating enough plants in their diets in spite of volumes of studies showing that eating plant-based diets is key for lasting health and weight management because they are loaded with so many vital nutrients our bodies depend on. Part of the issue is that we are a very meat-centric society and many of us just don’t know how to work more vegetables into our cooking routine because we are so used to meals consisting of a meat, a vegetable, and a starch. However, there are many plants that are great sources of protein and can easily stand in for that meat on your plate. Here are some tips to get you started on eating more plants.

Eat something green with every meal

This one is a great rule to live by and will instantly get more plants into your diet. Just add a green vegetable to every meal. This could mean adding spinach to your eggs in the morning, throwing some greens into your sandwich at lunch, and having some kale or green beans with dinner. Having green vegetables with your meals helps fill you up so you can cut down on the less healthy options.

Practice Meatless Mondays

Commit to eating vegetarian one day a week. This one will require some work on your part because it’s very easy to just resort to carbs, like pasta and bread, and you may need to search for some good recipes. But it’s worth it! Some great plant-based protein options are: tofu, tempeh, beans, and quinoa. Which brings me to…..

Eat more quinoa

Quinoa has become a wellness buzz food and for good reason. This little seed is a complete protein and is a good source of calcium, lysine, B vitamins, and iron. It’s also gluten free. Prepared like you would rice, quinoa can be flavored pretty much any way and is versatile for use in meals. I’ve used it like rice, made pizza crust with it, made meatless meatballs with it – lots of things!

Make friends with cauliflower

Cauliflower is another versatile plant food that can be used for a large number of things. For example, you can make pizza crust with it, puree it to make an alfredo sauce, or use it as a substitute for rice. These recipes are super easy and are a great way to eat more veggies!

Give vegetable noodles a try

Don’t have a spiralizer? That’s OK! Most grocery stores now carry a variety of vegetable noodles, from squash to zucchini to sweet potato to beets. And the internet is loaded with different recipes for every type of vegetable noodle. You could use spaghetti squash instead of regular noodles as well. For a store-bought option, check out my review of these edamame noodles.

Load your pasta sauce

Marinara and pasta sauces are a great place to hide vegetables, especially if you have picky eaters. You can load your sauces with bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, zucchini, squash – you name it. Keep it chunky or puree it for a smoother sauce. Either way, you just ate way more vegetables!

Drink more smoothies

Smoothies can be another good way to increase the amount of plants you’re consuming on a daily basis. Using fresh or frozen fruit and adding some vegetables like spinach, kale, or cucumber, you can make a powerhouse of a smoothie. Just be careful not to overload your smoothie so you end up with a high calorie treat rather than a healthy snack or meal.

Replace those chips and crackers

There are many healthy plant options you can choose for snacks on the go other than chips and crackers. Nuts, for example, are a great source of protein and fiber. Crunchy chickpeas are also a yummy plant snack on the go and can be bought or made in a variety of different flavors. Carrots, celery, and sugar snap peas are also taken on the go very easily and are great for dipping.

Treat yourself to the cut fruit plate

Many of us balk at the pre-cut fruit platters they sell at the grocery store because they really charge you for the convenience. But, in my opinion, it’s a worthwhile investment if it will make it easier for you to eat healthier.

Replace your bread with greens

Replace your wraps with collard leaves and your tortillas with lettuce cups. You could also use slices of sweet potato or cucumber instead of bread for your sandwiches.

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It may seem like a lot of work at first, but it is actually quite easy to get more plants into your daily diet. Once you find some recipes you like and work them into your routine with some minimal prep, you’ll be eating plants like you’ve been doing it all along.

Why Do I Get Sick When I Start a New Workout Routine?

Does it seem like every time you try to start a new exercise routine you get sick and end up having to start all over again? You’re not alone and this is an actual thing – it’s not just your body betraying you, though it may seem like it.

So let’s look at what’s going on when this happens and the steps you can take to stop it from happening to you next time.

Stress on Your Body

While exercise is really good for your body, it’s important to remember that it is also a stressor on your body, especially if it’s different or more vigorous than you’re used to. That stress on your body can temporarily run down your immune system, making you more susceptible to germs and viruses. It’s similar to how your immune system can get run down if you’re lacking in sleep for too long. One way of thinking of it is that your body only has so many resources to allocate. If it needs to move more of them to exertion and healing/recovery from a workout, there are less resources to allocate to your immune system. So if you combine a new, intense workout routine with lack of sleep or exposure to a lot of pathogens, then something has to give and sometimes it’s in the immune system department.

Gyms are a Germ Pit

I’m not being dramatic- they are a germ pit. Unfortunately, civilized human beings who actually thoroughly wipe down the equipment they use when they’re done are few and far between, so you’re sharing whatever they left on the treadmill before you. Free weights in particular are the dirtiest piece of gym equipment. In fact, one study found that free weights contain more than 300 times the germs found on a toilet seat. Sorry, but you needed to know. It makes sense when you think about it – how many times have you seen someone actually wipe down the weights before they re-rack them? Exactly. Never.

Your fitness classes are also guilty of being germy places. Yoga mats in particular are fantastic incubators for a number of infection-causing bacteria. And, just as at the gym, you can’t count on your neighbor wiping down her equipment as diligently as you do.

Add to this germy mix a rundown immune system and you have a perfect equation for a fitness de-railing illness.

Getting Enough Rest

For many of us, early mornings are the only times we can fit a workout into our busy schedules. Getting enough sleep is critical to all the basic functions of your body, including your immune system and healing. If you are just starting out with a 4 or 5 am alarm to get your workout in, that adjustment period can make you more vulnerable to getting sick if your body is accustomed to getting more sleep and, therefore, more time to recover and rebuild. Making sure that you are getting enough sleep each night when you begin cutting into that morning snooze, is important.

So what can you do to end the vicious exercise-sickness-exercise cycle?

Tips for Keeping Healthy

  • Wipe down your equipment BEFORE and after use.
  • Avoid touching your face until you’ve washed your hands thoroughly.
  • Bring your own towel – some gyms transport their dirty and clean towels in the same bin, thereby recontaminating the clean towels with bacteria.
  • Try to make sure you wipe your face with the side of the towel that hasn’t touched the equipment – you can do this by putting a mark on one side of your towel or using a towel that has a pattern on one side.
  • Ease into your new workouts instead of running headlong in so it’s less of a strain on your body. You can do this by taking more modifications in your first class or starting your runs shorter or at a slower pace, for example.
  • Do what you can to support your immune system – drink lots of water, take your vitamins, get enough rest, and eat lots of fruits and veggies for those phytonutrients.
  • Make sure you are fueling your body. Eat healthful, whole foods rather than overprocessed, prepackaged foods lacking in nutrition. I like to say “eat the rainbow” – the more different, vibrant colors you’re consuming in fresh fruit and vegetables, the greater the variety and concentration of nutrients you’re getting.

My Routine

I’m a fairly fit person, but I’ve dealt with the struggle of starting a new exercise regimen and getting sick immediately many times. Most recently, I tried a new HIIT class which is very different from what I’m used to and I got majorly sick within a couple days. So I have developed a new routine to avoid that.

Hydration. Not only do I make sure to drink water while I’m working out, I make sure to refill my water bottle before I leave and continue to drink it on my way home with the goal of replenishing fluids and then some.

Hand Washing. I try to be mindful about not touching my face during my workout and I wash my hands in the locker room before I leave. I also wash them again when I get home even if I’m going to shower right away (Confession: I usually eat before showering #priorities).

Immune System Support: I’m a dedicated vitamin-taker.

Rest. I’m an early to bed person. I have always needed a lot of sleep and that hasn’t changed with age so I listen to my body for bedtime.

Restore. I don’t go right back to it the next day. I give my body a break by doing something lighter that will still get my blood pumping, like a long walk or yoga. Then I’m giving my body some chance to recuperate while stimulating the lining of my blood vessels, the endothelium, which releases its own natural “medicine” to help me continue to recover.

Once you’ve gotten over this hurdle, be sure to check out my tips for keeping yourself motivated to workout so you can keep up the good work!

Accomplishing Your New Year’s Resolutions

Did you know that 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail? And 80% of them fail by February? Those seem like pretty depressing odds, but you CAN make your healthy New Year’s resolutions a reality by avoiding some of the common pitfalls I often see people making. Whether you are looking to lose weight or to just get healthier, here are my tips for keeping your resolutions alive.

Pitfall 1: You Don’t Make It Official

It may seem silly, but there is a lot of power behind writing down a goal. It puts the energy out there for it and also helps you get more clear about what it is you want to accomplish. Better yet, if you write it down and place it somewhere prominent where you can see if often, it can serve as a daily reminder/motivation to keep working towards your goal.

Pitfall 2: You Don’t Know Your Why

Knowing why you want to accomplish a goal is just as important as having a goal. There are going to be times when working towards your resolution is challenging, you’re beating yourself up, and you just want to quit. In those instances, having a very strong reason why you want to accomplish your goal will keep you going. I don’t mean “I want to lose weight because I need to be healthier” – that’s very vague and not personal. You need to dig deep for your why: “I want to lose weight because I want to be able to chase my children around at the playground” or “I want to lose weight because I want to go on an international hiking trip to see some of the world’s most amazing natural sites.” These are powerful why’s that mean something personal to you. Once you know your why, take it a step further and write it down with your resolution.

Pitfall 3: Not Setting Specific Goals

Making your goals specific enough is critical and can be challenging. Without a specific goal, it can be impossible to track your progress or know when you’ve achieved your goal. Plus, if you don’t know exactly what you’re working towards, how will you stay motivated? Instead of making your resolution “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get healthier” make it “I want to lose 30 pounds” or “I want to be a size 6” or “I want to be able to run a 5k.” That way you can measure your efforts and your success.

Pitfall 4: You Don’t Plan Ahead

In a society where we are surrounded by sedentary entertainment and processed, unhealthy foods, it can be a challenge to stick to healthful goals. This is why planning ahead is crucial. Going to a party or gathering? Bring some healthy foods you can snack on. Taking a trip? Plan for some activity time in advance. Going out to dinner? Review the menu online ahead of time so you know what the healthy options are going into it.

Pitfall 5: You Go It Alone

Accountability is a very powerful motivating force. Tell someone you know will check in with you about your resolution and your plans for accomplishing it. Even better, find someone to work towards it with you. For example, if you know that you have a hard time getting yourself to the gym, find yourself a gym buddy. If you want to become a runner, sign up for a 5k with a friend so you have a deadline and an accountability partner.

Pitfall 6: You’re Too Focused

The major reason why most diets fail is that they are not sustainable. They are built on the premise of deprivation so they give you results fast, but you can’t stay on them in the long-term and you gain back the weight pretty quickly. If you are looking to lose weight or to just eat healthier, make sure that you build in a treat day. Balance is the key to success and having a designated time to indulge will help keep you on track – as long as you plan ahead for it so you don’t go overboard and get right back on track after. For example, if sweets are your thing, you could say that Fridays are your treat day and you can have dessert with dinner on Fridays. Likewise, if you are going to a party or some other function and know there will be treats there, make a deal with yourself ahead of time that you can have one slice of cake or some of your friend’s famous nacho dip. We are human. We eat for two reasons: to survive and for pleasure. You need both sides of the coin to be successful.

Pitfall 7: You Eat Too Much Salad

Many of us think that in order to lose weight and eat healthy, we need to just eat a lot of salads. Don’t get me wrong, salads are an awesome powerhouse of nutrients, but they can get old really fast. There are tons and tons of healthy meals you can have that are not salads. Check out my recipes or jump on Pinterest and there will be lots of healthy food inspiration for you. Variety is the spice of life, so make sure you change it up a bit!

Pitfall 8: You’re Not Tracking

No one wants to track what they eat but it is super important, especially in the beginning of any healthy eating routine. You would be shocked at how much you eat without even realizing it and also how much of it isn’t as healthy as you would think. My recommendation to you is to track your eating at least for the first 2 weeks of your resolution so you can really get a feel for what you’re putting into your body. Think about it, how can you change what you don’t know? It’s worth the tedium of tracking for a couple weeks.

Pitfall 9: You’re Not Exercising

We often hear that maintaining a healthy weight is 80% diet and 20% exercise. But if you’re only eating healthy, then you’re only going to get yourself 80% of the way there. Remember that our bodies can acclimate to our calorie intake and just focusing on food will get you to that dreaded weight loss plateau. A varied exercise routine will help keep you working steadily towards your goal and you will get there more quickly as well. Plus, exercise is crucial to a healthy heart and circulatory system, a healthy respiratory system, healthy bones and muscles, and it’s even beneficial for your immune system.

Pitfall 10: You’re Not Hydrating

As an adult, you should be drinking 1/2 oz of water per pound of your body weight per day. Water keeps your joints and muscles working well, helps flush your body, helps you feel full, helps keep your skin healthy, and so much more. I bet that you have had someone say to you that there is a chance you’re thirsty when you think you’re hungry. Keeping yourself hydrated is critical to helping you get healthier and/or lose weight.

Pitfall 11: You’re Not Supplementing

Regardless of how healthy you eat, I can promise you that you are not getting all of the nutrients that your body needs. In fact, 90% of Americans aren’t getting the nutrition our bodies need. There are a number of reasons for this. Among them are that our produce isn’t as nutritious as it once was, that, biologically speaking, a 2000 calorie diet isn’t normal for humans so we are trying to get all of our nutrition is fewer calories, plus factors like antibiotic use, consumption of inorganic meats, and digestive issues. In order for your body to function at its best, it needs to be properly nourished and supplementing with quality supplements is the way to do that. Regularly taking supplements will also help you reach your health goals by properly fueling your body. With regular supplementation, you may even notice a change in your appetite!

Wishing you a very happy, healthy New Year and all the best with your resolutions!

Holiday Party Health Tips

We’ve all been there: walking out of a holiday get-together holding our bellies thinking “whyyyyy did I eat so much?!”. Overindulgence once in a while isn’t really a problem, but during the busy holiday season, those extra treats can really add up. So how can you enjoy your holiday parties without overdoing it? Here are my healthy holiday party tips.

Step 1: Eat normally before and after

Very often, I hear people saying that they compensate for big food events by eating very little or restricting what they eat beforehand. Here’s the thing about that, it doesn’t really work that way and it can slippery slope into disordered eating habits. Here are a couple facts that might shock you: 1. what we know as caloric values for certain foods are just approximations, not exact measures, 2. what a food’s calorie measures are outside the body aren’t necessarily the same as what they are once we consume them. So, first, your math is probably off. Second, if you go into the party starving, aren’t you just going to eat even more high-calorie food than you would have before?

My advice is, eat like you normally would before and after the party. This means you’ll be going into it with a normal appetite and not coming off of a day of deprivation and misery. Eat a balanced breakfast, drink enough water, eat a balanced lunch, have some small healthy snacks, go for walk or to the gym of whatever you usually do. If you don’t treat the gathering as a huge make-or-break to-do then it won’t feel like one and it will take a lot of pressure off of you.

Step 2: Plan Ahead

Set a goal for yourself going into it to help you stay on track. For example, “I’m going to have one glass of water for every glass of wine I have” or “I’m going to stick with just one dessert treat.” Note that this isn’t bargaining with yourself – the tactic isn’t to say “if I don’t eat this, then I can eat that.” That strategy can backfire quite quickly. What this strategy is is setting limits for yourself but making them reasonable and providing enough room for enjoyment.

Step 3: Know Yourself and Strategize

Are you a mindless eater or a grazer? Do you need external accountability? It’s really important that you know yourself and how you function at events like these.

If you know that you like to pick at foods or are a mindless eater, then choose a place away from the food table to station yourself to socialize. When you get food, portion out what you want onto a plate, even if it’s chips and dip, and walk away. Give yourself some time before returning for the table for more. Removing yourself from the source will decrease the odds that you will eat out of compulsion and will make it easier for you to tune into your hunger and satiety cues.

Maybe you really need accountability. If you’re working with a health coach, tell them what your goals are for the party so the next time you see them, they can check in on how it went. Or you could tell your partner or best friend. Just make sure that it is someone who can help you hold yourself accountable without shaming you.

Step 4: Stay Hydrated

Making sure you drink plenty of water throughout the gathering is key. Not only will it help pace your drinking, it will also help you control your eating as water can make you feel more full. Drinking water between drinks or plates or even bites can also help slow you down so you can check in with yourself and see if you really want/need more of whatever treat you’re thinking of.

Step 5: Bring Something Healthy

If it’s a gathering where people are pitching in by bringing different dishes, why not bring something healthy you will want to eat? You will be guaranteeing yourself a healthy option that you enjoy that can buffer against all those treats.  (Click here to download my favorite healthy holiday appetizer recipes).

Step 6: Take it Easy on Yourself

Going back to step 1 in a way here, if you do overindulge, you can’t compensate for it by restricting your food intake or overexercising the next day. All you can do is simply do better. Go back to your normal healthy eating habits, exercise like you normally would, drink plenty of water. And, most importantly, don’t beat yourself up about it. You are human and you had fun, like you’re supposed to.

How to Handle the Holiday Leftovers

Let’s be honest, our big holiday dinners aren’t a one-time event – we end up with refrigerators full of leftovers for days. While it’s great to enjoy that food a little longer, sometimes we wish we hadn’t saved so much. For most of us, if it’s there, then we are going to eat it whether we really want to or not. So what should to do with those holiday leftovers?

What it really comes down to is balance.

Set Deadlines

Like I said, if it’s in your house, you’re probably going to eat it. And you absolutely SHOULD eat those delicious holiday foods. But it’s all about the balance. Gravy and pie 3-4 days in a row is getting to be a bit much and will be displacing healthier foods from your daily diet.

I recommend setting a deadline of 2 days. After those 2 days are up, sort through what you have and part ways with the foods you don’t want to overindulge in – like gravy, candied yams, green bean casserole, pies, white bread rolls, cranberry sauce, etc. Keep the good things – the veggies, the turkey, whole grains, you get it.

Moderation and Mindfulness

Just because you have the foods from the big holiday meal, doesn’t mean you have to replicate that big holiday meal every time you have some leftovers. Before you toss those unhealthy options out, you should absolutely enjoy some – but do so with moderation and mindfulness. What does that mean?

Start with smaller portions. Using a smaller plate is helpful for this. I also recommend dishing out your small portion and then putting everything back in the fridge even before you warm up what’s on your plate – this will help curb that temptation to pile more on your plate or go back for seconds.

Finally, eat that delicious, indulgent food slowly, chew it completely, really enjoy it. Eating slowly and mindfully allows you to get more enjoyment out of your food and you will feel more satisfied by it. Don’t forget that digestion begins in your mouth with the process of chewing and salivation and your stomach doesn’t register the food you put in it right away – eating slowly will help you absorb more nutrients from your food and help prevent overeating.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

If you have some less perishable holiday leftovers – maybe some candy that never got opened or alcohol that wasn’t drunk – and you want to use them at your next get together, remember the old refrain “out of sight, out of mind.”

It seems simple and almost silly, but it’s been proven that if you aren’t able to see those temptation foods, you will forget about them and they won’t tempt you. With this in mind, put those treats in the back of the cupboard with lots of healthful foods in front of them, or put them on a bottom shelf with healthful foods at eye level. You could also put them in an opaque container so you can’t see them. It’s been shown that having healthful foods fully visible and unhealthful foods not visible or out of reach prevents people from opting for the unhealthy foods and getting off track.

Now, what if throwing out food makes you uncomfortable? I get it. I also hate throwing away food and we all have heard that food waste is a big problem. In that case, what I have to say is this: if that food isn’t providing you with vital nutrients, nourishing you, and doing good things for your body and mind, then there isn’t much value in keeping it around. It has served its purpose and is no longer doing that. Thinking of it this way can make it feel less “icky” to toss it.

Following these three pieces of advice will help you enjoy the holiday fun without getting completely off track. Wishing you good health this holiday season!

10 Tips for Keeping Yourself Motivated to Work Out

We all lead very busy lives and it can be all too easy to find a reason to skip the gym for the day. I think we have all been in the place, though, where one excuse becomes many and before you know it, you haven’t exercised in weeks and have 0 motivation to get back into it. Taking that first step to get to the gym or hit the road for a run can be the hardest part, but if you can get that momentum started and keep it going, it gets loads easier from there. So how can you get yourself started and keep yourself motivated? Here are some tips that have worked for me and for my clients.

1. Find a workout you enjoy.

When it comes to fitness and weight loss, everyone has an opinion or story to tell. “Oh well, I ran 5 mi a day 5 days a week and I lost 30 lbs without changing how I ate!” “My cousin started doing Zumba twice a week and she has had amazing results.” It’s wonderful to try to share your success tips with others, but, here’s the thing, every body is different so what works for one person may not work for another. This isn’t just a physiological fact – it’s a psychological fact as well. If you hate running, then you are not going to get the same results as your friend who loves running and does it religiously. Why? Because you’re going to be miserable doing it, you’re unlikely to push yourself as much through it, and, chances are, you’re going to find any excuse not to do it because you hate it. If you find a workout that you have fun doing, then you are far more likely to stick to it and you’ll see better results.

2. Like your fitness clothes.

Fact: if you are uncomfortable with your body, you are not going to want to work out. Period. However, if you can invest in fitness clothing that you are comfortable in – that cover the spots you want covered, that fit the way you like, that breathe and allow flexibility – then you will be much more comfortable working out. Plus, I don’t know about you, but, if I have a fun new workout outfit I just bought, I’m way more excited to workout in it.

3. Track your progress and praise yourself.

It can be really easy to get discouraged and want to give up for a number of reasons. My advice, then, is find something about your workout that you can be proud of or makes you feel good and focus on that. For example, maybe you didn’t run as far as you wanted to or you struggled through your workout the whole time. Instead of focusing on the things you wish were different, high five yourself for getting out there when you weren’t even feeling it in the first place or for sticking it out even though you were struggling. Hold onto that self-praise and set a new goal for you to meet the next time.

4. Reward yourself.

Now, I don’t mean go out for a burger or ice cream here – not only will that defeat the purpose of your workout, it will also start you on a very unhealthy cycle. What I mean here is set a goal for yourself that you will continuously be working towards – maybe it’s running 5 miles or dropping a pant size – and pick something that you will reward yourself with once you reach that goal. It can be a pair of shoes you’ve been wanting or a new Fit Bit or a massage. Having something that you are working towards will help keep you motivated. The trick here, though, is that you can’t give in to the temptation to say “good enough” and treat yourself before you reach your goal.

5. Once you get that momentum going, don’t stop.

I think we can all agree that once you take a couple days off from working out, it is really hard to get back into it. To make sure that doesn’t happen, try to stay active regularly to keep that momentum going. You don’t have to keep at your regular workout routine every day, but commit to taking a 30-minute walk or doing some yoga while you watch TV. The goal is just to have something that keeps you moving so you don’t lose that momentum.

6. Find a workout buddy.

Accountability makes a huge difference when it comes to motivation. Find a reliable workout buddy and set a regular schedule to work out together. Make sure they are reliable though! I often see people declare themselves gym buddies and they just make excuses for each other to skip the workout.

7. Don’t make it a project.

If you have to drive 30 minutes to your gym or rush to and from commitments to get your workout in, you aren’t going to do it. Maybe you’ll do it a couple times, but it will fall off. Your workout doesn’t have to be a huge to-do. Take a run around your neighborhood or do a fitness video in your living room. Working out doesn’t have to include a gym membership and a commute.

8. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Comparison isn’t just the thief of joy; it can also be the thief of motivation. Constantly comparing yourself to others can make you feel self-conscious and defeated. Too much of those comparisons and negative self-talk can quickly slide into thoughts of “I will never be like that so why should I bother trying?”. Who are you exercising for? Yourself or them? I hope the answer is for yourself so you can live longer and healthier. If that’s the case, then who cares about anyone else at the gym or on Instagram? You’re in this for you, so focus on you. Confession: I get really self-conscious when I’m out running. My solution is to wear my sunglasses and listen to good music so I can drown out the rest of the world (but still hear traffic. safety first, after all) and focus on myself.

9. Find some music you like.

Music is an amazing motivator. It shifts your energy and affects your mood. Put on some music that makes you feel happy and energized and get out there!

10. Change it up.

If you do the same workout or run the same route every day, not only will you stop getting the same benefits from it, you’ll get really bored with it, too. Keep yourself interested in your workouts by switching it up and trying something new every once in a while, whether it’s running somewhere new or trying out a new fitness class like Zumba or kickboxing.

Your health is simply too important to let excuses get in your way. Follow these tips and get yourself moving so you can feel your best and live your best life!

Boost Your Immune System Naturally

I’m sure you’ve all heard the refrain “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Well, there is good reason why that saying exists! The foods we eat can help boost our immune systems to we get sick less frequently and, when we do get sick, it is less severe and we recover faster. There are also other healthful habits we can adopt that can maximize our immune systems to get through the Fall and Winter. So, now that Fall is here, the kids are back to school, and flu season is fast approaching, how can you support your immune system without relying on all kinds of medications?

Phytonutrients

Fresh produce is loaded with immune system-supporting compounds call phytonutrients (“phyto” means “plant”). These nutrients give plants their vibrant colors and distinct flavors. Phytonutrients include antioxidants which have been linked to a decrease in cancer risk by binding to the damaging free radicals in your body. They also include anti-inflammatory compounds as well. Inflammation continues to be linked to more and more illnesses and chronic diseases. Thus, phytonutrients protect your health on a number of different levels. To experience the benefits of phytonutrients, eat foods like berries, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and eggplant. An easy way to think of this is eating the rainbow – the more different colors you can eat, the more phytonutrients you’re eating as well!

Add Some Flavor with Honey and Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a powerhouse of a spice. It has both anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. It has also been shown to be antimicrobial and antibacterial as well. Once the cooler weather gets here, I start sprinkling cinnamon on top of my coffee grounds every morning – it’s delicious and I can enjoy the immune system boost from it as well. We are fortunate in that most traditional Fall recipes contain cinnamon, so eating seasonally will help get more cinnamon into your diet as well.

Similar to cinnamon, honey has proven antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Adding some honey to your tea, to plain yogurt, or to smoothies is a great way to consume more of this immunity boosting sweet.

Move!

Our blood vessels are lined with special cells called the endothelium. The endothelium is like your body’s own pharmacy in that it releases a number of different medicinal compounds into your bloodstream as is needed. When you exercise, it increases the blood flow through your blood vessels and over the endothelium, thereby prompting it to release more of those medicines. This is why sometimes when you feel a cold coming on, you feel better after going for a brisk walk. Additionally, regular exercise can help produce new blood vessels further improving your circulation and your health.

Rest Up

In the simplest sense, our bodies need just 4 things: nutrition, movement, water, and rest. The last of those is the one that we seem to value least in American society today. Sometimes it seems like there are competitions at work to see who is the most exhausted or the busiest. But sleep deprivation actually depresses your immune system, so the more exhausted you are, the more likely you are at to get sick. Sleep is the best opportunity your body gets each day to repair itself and flush out the toxins you take in during the day. It’s not just about the quantity of sleep you get, however, it’s about the quality, too. To make sure you are getting sufficient and quality sleep, avoid simple carbohydrates and big meals in the evening. Having a glass of wine before bed might help you fall asleep, but it will disrupt your sleep later in the night, so skip out on the alcohol as well. It’s also important that you sleep in a dark room and keep all devices out of the bedroom – just looking at your cell phone screen in the middle of the night will disrupt production of your sleep hormones.

Some other quick tips:

  • Practice good habits like washing your hands regularly (avoid using hand sanitizer – it’s loaded with chemicals and contributes to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacterias).
  • Avoid eating processed foods as they contain many ingredients that contribute to inflammation in your body and don’t contribute anything in the way of nutrition.
  • Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum.
  • Keep well-hydrated – this means 1/2 oz of water per pound of your body weight per day (for adults).
  • Not necessarily “natural” in the strictest sense, but get your flu shot if you are part of the flu vaccine priority population.