Some Advice on Motivation

Motivation can be a struggle on a good day, let alone living under quarantine. It’s OK not to feel motivated right now but there are ways to help you find your motivation again.

Picture this: you had a long day at home, doing paperwork, jumping on Zoom calls, trying to school your kids, managing your finances, cleaning the house, and, before you know it, it’s time for your at-home workout. Or maybe it’s time to prepare that new dinner recipe you had planned on making. (Maybe this WAS your day and you don’t have to try to picture it at all!) After a mentally & physically exhausting day, you just don’t feel like doing any of it. You want to throw in some Easy Mac and relax and watch Tiger King. We’ve all been there, and we’ve all felt ashamed for feeling this way.

We feel pressured to get certain things accomplished, to learn something new, to get on those home workouts because suddenly we supposedly “have nothing but time.” But time isn’t all we have. Time is still a finite resource and on top of that we still have responsibilities and stress and the emotionally taxing task of processing what is happening to us as a society under quarantine.

And yet, a quick scroll through your social media feed will turn up some message that if you don’t learn a new skill, start a new side hustle, or pick up a new hobby at this time, then you are somehow inferior and lazy. This mentality not only ignores the reality before us, it’s also harmful to our mental , emotional, and physical health. No one—and I mean NO ONE—is always motivated and that is OK and it is NORMAL.

So first and foremost, as the article linked above explains, we are processing a lot of big emotions right now, so be gentle with yourself and take what you need at this time. Instead of feeling down on yourself, please remember that not being motivated is okay. Likewise, feeling overly motivated is OK, too. We all process these things differently. Before anything else, you need to listen to your intuition and follow what feels right for you here and now.

If you do feel that you are ready to get moving on some goals now, there are things that you can do to get you started.

4 Ways to Find Motivation

  1. Reevaluate your goals 

If motivation has been a long-time struggle for you, it may be a good time to reevaluate your goals. Make sure you have solid goals, and, if not, change them. But how do I know if my goals are “solid”? Ask yourself the following questions: Is this goal feasible for me to accomplish? How will I know I have accomplished it? Does this goal still resonate with me? What will accomplishing this goal do for me/for my life?

  1. Ask yourself if you are happy with the way you are tackling your goals.

I often remind my clients to take into account their personal preference when it comes to working towards goals. If you don’t enjoy the process, you won’t adhere to it. I take a more agnostic approach to diet and exercise, because the best option is the one you’ll do. You do not exist simply to suffer now in order to be happy later. Choose a form of exercise that you enjoy enough that you don’t dread doing it every day.  Cook recipes that you find tasty as well as healthy. Allow yourself treats from time to time. Whatever you choose, it has to work for you or it won’t work at all.

  1. Look back at how far you have come and celebrate the goals you have already smashed.

We all love to look at how far we have yet to go to reach our goals, but how often do you look back at what you have already accomplished? Don’t be afraid to give yourself a pat on the back. You are doing amazing! Recognize that. When you feel good about what you are doing, you are more likely to see it through.  No matter what stage of change you are in, there’s always something positive to look back upon. If you are still at the very start of changing your lifestyle habits, realize that coming to that decision to make change is often the hardest part for people – so that’s a huge accomplishment in itself! Focus on working towards small goals and build on them over time. Then you can look back and remember that you never used to take time for self care. Or you never used to drink enough water. Or you just started enjoying veggies with every meal. Those are all HUGE wins to celebrate! Don’t deny yourself these victories.

  1. Remember the definitive reason “why” you started

Perhaps most importantly, remember your big “why”. If you don’t already have a definitive “why”, take some time to determine yours. Your “why” should be the deepest and most important reason for changing your habits. It goes beyond things like getting abs or fitting into an old outfit.  It must be specific and have an end result that is meaningful to you. Ask yourself why you want to accomplish your goal? Why does it matter? What impact will accomplishing that goal have on your life? Why is that impact important to you?

Understand that your definitive why should be specific to you. Some examples of powerful whys include: “I want to begin exercising and eating healthier so I can keep up with my kids”, “I want to improve my eating habits so I can help my daughter develop a healthier relationship with food than I had”, or “I’m tired of the way my chronic pain has impeded my daily life and I want to change that.”

When it comes down to it, motivation is a deeply personal force and it requires a lot of introspection to develop it. It also is important to recognize where it’s coming from and why it’s not happening. Listen to your inner voice to do what is best for you.

3 Self-Care Tips for Social Distancing

We’ve all heard about how self-care is important for our health, but it’s particularly critical right now in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. This is a particularly stressful time for many of us and chronically high levels of stress can decrease our immune system function, increase inflammation in our bodies, disrupt our sleep, and more. Self-care is an essential step in mitigating the effects of chronic stress on our bodies.

First, it’s a misconception that self-care is just about relaxing and spa days. Yes, self-care can be about recharging and doing things you enjoy, but it’s also about protecting yourself and setting boundaries. In a time when a 1 minute scroll through your Facebook feed is enough to incite panic over toilet paper supplies, protective boundaries now are critical.

Self-Care Tip 1: Limit your news (and fake news) exposure

Now is a great time to either take a break from social media or limit how much time you spend on it. Likewise, limiting how much time you spend reading or watching the news is also a good idea. All of these headlines circulating and posts from your neighbors are draining, stressful, and depressing. While you need to stay informed, you also need to balance that with your mental and emotional health. Some options short of full-out cold turkey: Give yourself 30 minutes on social media a day, watch the morning or evening news and avoid reading news sites during the day, choose just one outlet to follow for news, or for every news article you read about coronavirus, read one fun thing (here are the Google Search results for funny kitten videos – you’re welcome).

Self-Care Tip 2: Re-focus on you

During this time of social distancing, we can become hyper-focused on the feelings of isolation…or on feelings of stress over having your children home from school for 2 weeks. Try to instead focus on finding ways to use this time to your benefit. Maybe it means sleeping in, taking advantage of the time to get outside and get some fresh air and Vitamin D, or working on a fun project you never have time for. This is a really stressful time and we can’t ignore the very real impacts that this is having on us, mentally, physically, financially. It’s important to carve out what turf we can for our well-being at this time.

Self-Care Tip 3: Energy flows where attention goes

Pay careful attention to how much energy you are giving to this pandemic situation. Is it the topic of all your conversations? Are your thoughts being taken over by worries? What is your motivation for the things you are doing daily – is it fear? We only have so much energy to go around and it has to come from somewhere, so ask yourself: where is it being drained from if you’re dedicating most of it to this stressful situation?

I suggest setting limits on how much you talk about this situation. Honestly, saying “I’d rather talk about something else” will probably be a relief to your conversation partner as well! If your thoughts are being overrun by worries, then taking a break or setting time limits on social media/the news will definitely be helpful. Practicing mindfulness activities will also help bring more awareness to those thought patterns and help you redirect.

 

We want to hear from you! How are you practicing self-care these days? Leave it in the comments! 

What to do when you don’t have time to workout

Even the most dedicated gym junkies can have days where they are just flat out and can’t make it to the gym. That’s OK! No one is ever going to get their routine perfect 100% of the time. Period. However, even on those days where you’re stuck in the car or in back-to-back meetings, there is a lot to be said for getting a little movement in. So what can you do on those days where your calendar simply doesn’t allow for your 3 mile run?

1. Stretch it out

If you’re spending a lot of time behind the wheel or at your desk, some stretching will go a long way to help you feel better, keep your muscles limber, and get you a little more energized. Try opening up your chest to counter hunching by clasping your hands behind your back and pressing them away from you. Stretch out those hamstrings by extending your legs and reaching for your toes (you’ll get a little lower back release as well!). Or try a seated twist to give your spine some lovin’. Here are a few more examples of exercises you can do at your desk. 

2. Find the opportunities for movement that you can

Every little bit helps, so find those opportunities to get your blood flowing when you can, even if it’s just little things. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Try parking a little further than usual to get a little bit of a walk in. Or set a reminder to get up and take a quick spin around your office every hour or so. This will give you a few extra moments to recharge and re-energize.

3. Work your legs

If you have a little bit of time for a workout but aren’t sure what to do, working your legs will help you get maximum burn for what little time you have. Your legs contain one of the biggest muscle groups in your body and bigger muscles mean more calories burned because it takes more to move them. Working some squats, lunges, and resistance band exercises will get those legs moving and those calories burning.

Getting even a little bit of movement in will help you de-stress, feel better, and have better energy. It will also help counteract some of what sitting all day can do to our bodies. So move when you can and don’t stress about your missed workout.

Don’t Do These Things

Don’t – Try to compensate by eating too little

Skipping a meal or two to compensate for a missed workout is not going to achieve any good. If anything, it will leave you cranky, tired, and less able to recover from your regular workouts. Yes, you do not need to consume as many calories on days when you’re not working out. So be mindful and pay attention to your hunger cues instead of trying to overcompensate. Eat healthful foods when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re satisfied. I can promise you that the impact of one skipped workout is not as drastic as you may worry it is.

Don’t – Try to make up for it with an excessive workout the next day

This just isn’t how our bodies work. You can’t make up for a missed workout by pushing yourself too hard the next day. All that’s likely to get you is injured or too sore to workout the next time. Just pick back up where you left off.

Don’t – Beat yourself up about it

Like I said before, no one will ever get their routine perfect 100% of the time. We are human and life happens. Be gentle with yourself and don’t let this missed workout derail your efforts. Just assure yourself that you’re getting a break today and you will get back into your routine tomorrow. The wonderful thing is, you can always start back on your routine. 

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.

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.

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.

 

 

Deskercise!

This week, I’m happy to bring you a guest post from Concept Seating. We are a very sedentary society and that lifestyle takes its toll on our bodies and our health. Health risks of sitting too much include neck and spinal issues, muscle tightness, obesity, and metabolic syndrome, which includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol levels, and excess body fat around the waist. These translate into conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Many of us think that our half hour on the treadmill in the morning means that sitting at work for the rest of the day doesn’t matter, but that simply isn’t enough.

For many of us, the modern work environment leaves us little option than to sit most of the day, so it’s important to try to counteract those effects as much as possible throughout the day. How? Well, getting up and taking regular walking breaks is one way – try setting a reminder to get up and walk around your floor or the building every half hour or hour (some fitness trackers do this for you by buzzing every so often). As an added bonus, taking these breaks can improve your focus and thinking when you get back to your desk. Stretching is also critical to counteracting the muscle contractions that happens from hunching in front of a computer screen for hours on end.  The following exercises from Concept Seating give you a great combination of stretching and strengthening that you can do at your desk at any time of the day.  They help improve your posture, loosen up those shrunken muscles from hunching, and get you moving. Give them a try and let us know what you think!

Deskercise

Infographic courtesy of Concept Seating

 

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

You’ve started hitting the gym regularly. You get 3-4 good workouts in a row in and then you get sick. Why does it seem like you get sick when you start a new fitness routine? 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 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. Think of it this way: your body only has so many resources to allocate. If it needs to move more resources to exercise and recovery, it has fewer resources to allocate to your immune system. So if you’re already sleep-deprived or exposed to a lot of pathogens, then you could get sick when you start a new intense fitness routine.

Gyms are a Germ Pit

I’m not being dramatic- they are a germ pit. Unfortunately, most people do not thoroughly wipe down their equipment after use. This means 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 very germy places. Yoga mats in particular are fantastic incubators for a number of infection-causing bacteria. And 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. Your body needs enough sleep to maintain all of its critical functions, 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. Make sure that you are getting enough sleep each night when you begin cutting into that morning snooze to help prevent yourself from getting sick when you start your new fitness routine.

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.
  • Make sure you are fueling your body. Eat healthful, whole foods rather than overprocessed, prepackaged foods lacking in nutrition.
  • Make sure you clean off your own personal yoga mat regularly as well. It could be carrying germs from the last time your were sick and all that sweat on it can breed bacteria. Plus, it goes on the floor where people’s dirty shoes have been as well.
  • Listen to your body – rest when you feel tired, give yourself enough time between workouts, don’t push it if you feel like you’re overdoing it.

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!

Decluttering

Today I want to share a post from a good friend of mine, Cheryl Russo of Organizing by Cheryl. I met Cheryl a few months ago and she quickly became on of my favorite people. She is such a positive, genuine person and really walks the walk when it comes to organization.

“A post about personal organizing?” you say? Yes, let me explain. Our surrounding physical environment has a massive impact on our inner mental and emotional environment. If you are surrounded by clutter and disarray, odds are you feel stressed out and discombobulated much of the time. Likewise, if your kitchen is a mess, you are more likely to order takeout rather than cook a healthy meal. Are your junk food snacks more visible/accessible than your healthy snack? Chances are you’re going to opt for the indulgence over the healthy choice most often. We know that our emotional state and our stress levels impact how we care for ourselves- from how we eat to how we sleep to how much we move. So making your living and working environments work for you is super important to your health.

I know, as well as anyone else, that once things get to a certain point, starting the process of decluttering and cleaning out can feel hopeless, even impossible. But Cheryl has some great tips to keep you from getting overwhelmed:

  1. Start small – like your junk drawer or a cabinet
  2. Start with just 5 minutes a day
  3. For big projects, use the Pomodoro Method: 25 min working on it, 5 min break, repeat

Once you get started, here are her Top 10 Tips for Decluttering and Organizing:

Decluttering

If the following statements are true, then donate or ditch it:

  1. Something doesn’t fit (e.g., jeans that you had hoped to fit into, but it’s been 15 years now)
  2. You own two of the same thing (e.g., two blenders)
  3. It’s tattered or a dust-magnet (e.g., that high school hockey team t-shirt; that eucalyptus wreath you’ve had on the wall for 19 years)
  4. You just don’t love it (i.e., it doesn’t “spark joy” to quote Marie Kondo or it doesn’t “add value” to quote Joshua Fields Millburn)
  5. It’s expired (e.g., medicine, food, batteries) or outlived its purpose

Organizing

  1. Store like items together (i.e., have a system for storing things) like camera stuff with the camera and hiking boots with hiking gear
  2. Label boxes and bins clearly and store the bins with the labeled side facing out
  3. Don’t overstuff drawers; to paraphrase Marie Kondo: to keep clutter from accumulating, items must be just as easily put back as they are taken out
  4. Daily-use items should be stored within reach (but not out in the open cluttering a counter)
  5. When in doubt, keep multi-use items (e.g., a large knife: it can chop and the side of it can be used to crush garlic) and get rid of gadgets that have only one purpose; you probably never use that melon baller anyway

Other things to keep in mind…

20/20 rule

For those “just in case” items, if the thing is less than $20 to replace and you could rebuy it within 20 minutes of your home, then donate it (20/20 rule courtesy of theminimalists.com).

Sharing apps and other “sharing” ideas

There are lots of music and other online sharing apps and sites where you can “borrow” music, articles, etc. without actually owning the physical items. There are also car sharing companies (e.g., Zipcar) where you can reserve a car for a few hours or days; this is good if you live in a city where parking is expensive and/or difficult.

Paper (e.g., receipts, documents, forms, etc.) accumulation ideas

Buy a scanner app (e.g., Scanbot about $6) for your Smartphone; many of these apps scan documents beautifully, then you can email them to yourself or send them to a computer folder.

Sentimental items

Take a picture of them, then donate to those who could use them now; keep only a few of the things you have, ditch or donate the rest; find a new purpose for the item (e.g., an old blanket; turn it into a scarf, a cleaning cloth, or a handkerchief); or just get rid of them and be ok with it.

 

For some more great advice on organizing and de-cluttering your life, make sure you visit Organizing by Cheryl’s website and like her Facebook page!

Meet Cheryl:

23-Cheryl-200x300I love organizing. I was that kid who always had an organized bedroom. But it wasn’t until early 2016 that I decided that this was my true calling. I love the challenge of using space effectively. I live what I say; I have lived in more than a few apartments that were under 500 square feet. Therefore, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the use of space, and now I can use what I’ve learned to help others with their space. I look forward to working with you to create the space in your home or office that will allow you to focus on what matters to you in life. We will declutter and create space that will be organized, peaceful, and efficient. I’ll work at a pace that is comfortable for you and offer advice on developing systems so that you’ll be able to easily continue to maintain the space we’ve created. Let’s work together!

Are Condiments Freebies?

We pay so much attention to the big things that we’re eating that very often we don’t even think about what we are putting on that food. Condiments are a really wonderful thing. They can add a new dimension to a food, complete the flavor profile, or cover up an otherwise unpalatable dish…like that time I forgot I was cooking chicken. Just like they add so much to our food, these sauces and dips can add to our waistlines as well. So what should you look out for when it comes to condiments?

Sugar

Many of our favorite sauces and toppings in the Standard American Diet contain a lot of sugar. Well, let me rephrase that – it might not seem like a lot in one serving as listed on the label, but, let’s face it, no one is sticking to that small serving size (new regulations yet to be enacted by the FDA will require serving sizes to be based on what people actually eat). Major sugar offenders include ketchup, barbecue sauce, and reduced and low fat salad dressings. Salad dressings in particular are sneaky because most taste savory; remember, when they take the fat out, they take out some flavor and texture that they have to make up for and they do that most frequently with sugar. Other more obvious offenders include sweet and sour sauce, duck sauce, and honey mustard sauce.

Sodium

Sodium is another concerning factor in many of our favorite condiments. Soy sauce is a fairly obvious one with it’s very salty taste. Ketchup is another big offender in this category. In general, Americans greatly overconsume sodium. It’s added into almost everything and then we top it with more. One tbsp of ketchup has 6% of your Daily Value of sodium in it. That may not seem like much, but, chances are, you’re eating more than one tbsp and that will be on top of salted french fries or a burger with salty cheese or salt mixed into the meat and before you know it you’ve reached your Daily Value quota in one meal.

Trans Fats

Trans fats are the unhealthiest fats in our diet and they have horrible effects on our health. Trans fats do not occur naturally – they are manmade and our bodies do not process them like other fats. Because of this, they contribute to decreased cognitive function, increased LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels, decreased HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels, increased abdominal fat, and an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Type II diabetes.  Salad dressings are the major culprits for containing these harmful additives.

Under current FDA regulations, if a food contains less than 1/2 a gram of trans fat per serving, food manufacturers can put a label on it that says “0 G Trans Fat” so you can’t make an assessment based on that. In order to ensure you are not consuming trans fats, make sure that you read the ingredients label carefully – if you see the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated,” then you will know the food contains trans fats and you should find an alternative.

So Then What Should I Eat?

My food philosophy is all about balance so I’m not going to tell you that you should never eat ketchup again – that would be impractical and…well, cruel. The only exception to this would be the condiments containing trans fats – just go out and find an alternative to those.

What I am going to recommend to you is to monitor your serving size. Literally, pull out a measuring spoon and measure out a tbsp of ketchup. If you eyeball it you will over serve yourself (obviously if there is no measuring spoon on hand then eyeball it).

Also, keep in mind that you have no control over or insight into what is in the dressings or sauces they serve you in a restaurant and those meals are frequently overdressed. To avoid an overload, always order your salad dressings and sauces on the side. You will be shocked at how much less you use and yet you’ll still get the flavor you’re looking for.

Substitutions

  • Salad dressing replace with Olive Oil and Vinegar
    • Avoid all of the sugar and trans fats by just making your own dressing with olive oil and vinegar – it is literally the healthiest thing you can put on your salad
  • Ketchup/Mayonnaise replace with Mustard
  • Store-bought mayonnaise replace with homemade
    • Store bought mayonnaise is almost always loaded with processed oils and preservatives. You can avoid all of this by making your own. Mayonnaise is super easy to make, all you need is eggs, dijon, lemon, vinegar, olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a blender or whisk. Boom. Mayo.
  • Soy sauce/Sweet and sour sauce replace with a drizzle of sesame oil
    • It’s a different flavor but sesame oil is delicious and is a very healthy fat. Because of the high levels of unsaturated fats in it, though, it should be used as a finishing oil rather than being cooked or heated.