Tips for Turkey Day

Tips for Turkey Day
The good news is that you don’t have to forgo your favorite holiday foods.  There is room for a little indulgence at a holiday feast!  The secret is to have a plan as we head into the holiday season.  By staying on top of both your calorie intake and your physical activity, you can enjoy your favorite foods in moderation and emerge on the other side just as fit as you are now.thin-thanksgiving
Plan your meals.  If you know that you are going to be having some heavy, celebratory meals in the upcoming days, limit your intake at other meals to help keep your diet balanced out.  Don’t skip meals, but make them lighter and be sure to include plenty of healthy, lower calorie foods.  For instance, if you are going to have a big lunch, eat a smaller breakfast and dinner.
Look at the big picture.  Keep up with how you eating during the several days surrounding Thanksgiving.  It’s not a good idea to indulge at every opportunity that presents itself.  If you splurge heavily one day, take it easy the next.
Keep moving.  The last thing you need this time of year is a slowed-down metabolism.  Staying active is a great way to give your body a fighting chance to negotiate the extra calories you will be consuming.  

To get the biggest bang for your exercise-buck, do regular strength training moves.  Even after your strength training session has ended, your metabolism and calorie-burn remains high when you do strength training!  

Here are some simple strengthening exercises you can do no matter where you are—whether in your office at work or at the in-laws:
1. Push-ups If you aren’t used to doing push-ups, start with your hands on a raised surface such as a desk.  As you gain strength, you can gradually move to doing them fully on the floor.
2.  Lunges For extra credit, hold dumbbells or other heavy objects in your hands while lunging.
3.  Squats To do a proper squat, lower yourself just as though you are about to sit into a chair, then raise back up.
4.  Step-ups Find the nearest step and with alternating legs, step onto the step with one leg then lower yourself back down.  Again, holding heavy objects in each hand will increase the effect.
There is no need to pack on the pounds this Thanksgiving.  Figure out your strategy now, and then when the festivities start, just work the plan!


Balancing Cortisol for Weight Loss and Health….. continued!

Reset Your Circadian Clockreduce-stress
If you suspect that your natural, circadian rhythm is disrupted, don’t despair.  There are several things you can do to reset your clock so you can start sleeping better at night and waking up more refreshed in the morning.
Try the following tips:
Reduce stress.  Easier said than done, I know.  But many times our stress levels are correlated to our response to stressful situations. Learning how to cope with stress more effectively may be all it takes to balance your cortisol.
Be consistent.  Going to bed and getting at the same time each day will help to regulate your circadian rhythm. Practice this habit to slowly coax your body into a schedule.
Use light wisely.  Since your circadian rhythm is partially controlled by light, darken your room well when you go to bed, and flood it with light when it is time to get up.  Try using a full spectrum light in the mornings.
Avoid naps.  If your circadian clock is off, you may find that you get very sleepy in the afternoon.  However, taking a nap may make it more difficult to fall asleep at night.  Try to resist naps.
Eat most of your calories early.  If you can eat the bulk of your daily calories earlier in the day as opposed to later in the day, you may find that you can recalibrate your circadian rhythms more easily.

Balancing Cortisol for Weight Loss and Health

How too Much Cortisol can lead to Decreased Health and Increased Belly Fat
Some have called it the “master” of all hormones.  Others curse it for its ability to wreak havoc on our body’s fragile endocrine balance.  In spite of the mixed opinions one thing is certain: cortisol is a powerful hormone necessary for life.  But if its level is not optimal in your body, your health could suffer.
What is Cortisol?
The hormone cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands and is primarily responsible for regulating blood sugar, helping to metabolize fats, protein and carbohydrates and assisting in managing our stress response. We all have times of stress in our lives, and cortisol helps us to function during these times.
When the stress goes up, cortisol kicks in and delivers help.  We get a quick burst of energy, our memory sharpens, our immunity increases, and our sensitivity to pain decreases.  These are all important and natural functions of cortisol and ensure that we are able to weather the curve balls that life throws at us.
However, if the stress doesn’t let up, neither does the cortisol.  Unfortunately, what is healthy in small bursts becomes dangerous over the long term.  If you have persistent stress in your life, then you have cortisol levels that are out of balance:  your body makes so much cortisol that it detrimentally affects your health. This leads to adrenal fatigue.
When you have prolonged, high levels of cortisol in your bloodstream
you will crave foods that are high in carbs (like cake and cookies),
you will gain weight in your abdominal area (which increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes), and
you will have trouble sleeping
Cortisol and the Circadian Rhythm AsianJPharm_2011_5_1_1_80057_f3

Our bodies produce different chemicals during the day and night that control our sleep, energy and mood.  The natural rhythm of this cycle is known as the Circadian Rhythm, and cortisol is a key player.
Under normal circumstances, your body produces cortisol in amounts largely determined by the clock.  Levels tend to be higher in morning—triggered by the emerging daylight–giving you a boost of energy to jumpstart your day.
As the day wears on, cortisol levels should drop, helping to prepare you for a good night’s sleep. Likewise, Melatonin (another hormone that affects your energy and sleep habits) levels should be lower in the morning but as the daylight fades, they should increase, helping you to begin relaxing and preparing for sleep.
However, if you are under constant stress or if your adrenal glands are not functioning properly, your cortisol level may not drop off during the day. Instead, it may actually rise and stay at a dangerously high level.  By the time bedtime rolls around, you will not feel sleepy.  You will feel “tired but wired,” and be unable to relax and fall asleep.

Cold and Flu Season is Upon Us: How’s Your Gut Function?

Fall is here, and that means that cold and flu season has arrived.  Have you ever noticed that some people seldom get sick?  Or maybe you have wondered why after being exposed to the same virus, one person gets ill while the other remains well.
The reason lies in the strength of the immune system.  And the strength of your immune system is largely dependent upon the condition of your digestive system.
When you are exposed to bad bacteria or viruses, it is up to your immune system to protect you from being infected.  If your immune system is strong, your body will fight off the threat.  If your immune system is weak or compromised, you may end up sick.
Microbes:  the good, the bad, and the ugly
Inside your digestive system are many microbes.  Microbes are live organisms that affect your overall health.
Some of these organisms are beneficial and protect you from disease.  These good bacteria recognize when illness-producing intruders enter your body; they promptly attack the intruders so you do not get sick.  If you do not have enough good bacteria in your gut, you will be more susceptible not only to infections such as colds and stomach flu, but you will also be at risk for autoimmune diseases such as colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and Chron’s disease.
Ideally you have a large supply of these good microbes living in your gut.  But they can easily become depleted.  If you have recently taken antibiotics, you have had not only the bad bacteria wiped out, but also the good bacteria.  Antibiotics are not selective in their destruction.
Antibiotics are not the only way that good bacteria become depleted in your digestive system.  The chlorine in your drinking water can destroy them, as can the pesticide residue on the food that you eat.
Once the supply of beneficial microbes in your intestines dwindles, bad microbes such as yeast, fungi and disease-causing bacteria begin to take up residence.  When the scale tips in favor of the bad, your immune system becomes compromised.
Enter Probiotics
If you think you might be deficient in good microbes, it is not difficult to remedy the problem.  The solution is to take probiotics.  Probiotics are good microbes that you can consume in your diet.  They then settle in your digestive system and get to work protecting you from illness and destroying the bad bacteria that may be living there.
Probiotics are available in capsule form, but you can also replenish the good microbes by eating yogurt. Check the label on the yogurt that you buy to make sure it says that it contains active cultures—those are the good bacteria that you need to eat.
Take action now and get a head start on this year’s cold and flu season.  You can get ahead of the game by improving your gut function and fighting illness.

Fight Muscle Loss: Lift Weights

strongwomanWhen you think of a typical older person, one thing likely comes to mind:  frailty.  Even if you can’t really identify any obvious illness, there is something about most elderly people that communicates frailty and weakness.  They probably walk slowly, move carefully and let others do many things for them, rather than doing those things themselves.
What is it?
It’s muscle loss, otherwise known as sarcopenia.  And if you are 25 years old or older, it is happening to you already.
But you don’t have to take it sitting down (pun intended).
What is sarcopenia?
Sarcopenia refers to the process of losing skeletal muscle mass and strength.  “Sarco” is the Greek word referring to flesh, and “penia” means a reduction in amount.  Thus, the word describes a progressive weakening of the body caused by a “change in body compensation in favor of fat and at the expense of muscle.”1
Everyone, beginning around age 25, starts to lose muscle mass, though the actual symptoms of this loss do not usually begin showing up until around the age of 40 or so. The process begins really picking up speed after the age of 65.  In fact, around the age of 40, most women will lose almost a half-pound of muscle every year and replace it with fat.2
The result of this gradual loss of muscle is an insidious weakening of the body, loss of balance, loss of confidence upon walking, and a reduced ability to recover from near falls.  As we lose strength, we become more inactive.  This makes sense, because if we have less muscle, it takes much more effort to move, and we fatigue more easily.  But also, with loss of strength comes loss of balance and stability.  The fear of falling keeps many people sedentary.  And a sedentary lifestyle opens the door for chronic illness.
Take back your muscle
And now for great news:  you can delay sarcopenia and even reverse it.  How?  By lifting weights.  Even though you cannot grow new muscles cells to replace the ones you have already lost, you can develop the ones that you have left.  In fact, you can become stronger than you ever have in your life by simply beginning a strength training program.
No matter how old you are, it is not too late to start.  Even patients in nursing homes have seen transformation.  After strength training, bedridden patients were able to begin walking with walkers, walker-dependent patients graduated to canes, and so on.3
And no matter how young you are, it is not too early to start!  By starting early, you can significantly delay the effects of sarcopenia.
As you begin lifting weights, you will notice a transformation in your body.  You will have more energy, you will perform everyday tasks with noticeably more ease and your clothes will begin sagging on you, because you will be building muscle and burning up the fat deposits.  You will have greater balance and more confidence.
And perhaps best of all is the insurance policy you pay premiums on every time you choose to lift, because you are laying a strong, solid foundation for your later years.  You are laying up health, independence and the ability to live well, not just long.
Don’t let another day go by that you are losing muscle.  Take it back, and get ready to feel better than you ever have!

1 Biomarkers by William Evans Ph.D. and Irwin Rosenberg M.D.  Page 23.
2 Strong Women Stay Young by Miriam E. Nelson Ph.D. Page 22.
3 Younger Next Year for Women by Chris Crowley and Harry S. Lodge M.D. Page 178

Power Over Habit: Why Mindset Matters

Power Over Habit: Why Mindset Matters
If you have ever tried to ignore a box of doughnuts at work, you know how hard it is to keep your hands to yourself and walk on by. And once you walk on by, the battle isn’t over. Even if you are in a different room and down the hall, you can’t stop thinking about those doughnuts.
Why is it so hard to resist something as small and seemingly innocent as a doughnut? It has to do with habit—and mind set.
Hardwired habits
The draw you feel from that doughnut goes way beyond just a mild interest: you are wired to want it, and resistance is hard. In his book, The End of Overeating, Dr. David Kessler MD explains the breakdown:
When you taste foods that are highly palatable (such as foods containing excess sugar, fat and salt), your brain releases opioids into your blood stream. Opioids are brain chemicals that cause you to have intense feelings of reward and pleasure, as well as relieving pain and stress. The pleasurable effect is similar to the feelings that morphine and heroin users experience. The desire may be so intense that you keep taking one bite after another: it can be hard to stop.mindset-icon
That explains why you keep eating. But why do you give in and approach that doughnut box in the first place? Why not just refuse to take that first bite?
The answer is another brain chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for motivating you to seek out the doughnut so you can get the opioid release. You remember how good it tasted and how great it made you feel. Dopamine energizes you to work for that doughnut. It causes you to concentrate on it and drives you to seek it out.
Once this process happens a few times, the whole cycle becomes a habit that is very reward focused, very ingrained and very hard to break. Your brain’s circuitry has become mapped and wired to want the doughnut. And you don’t even have to be near the doughnut for this process to start–the dopamine can kick in even when there are no doughnuts in site: ever made a run to the store for a treat that you just had to have right then?

Fueling your Body for Optimal Performance

From weekend warriors to Ironman finishers, performance is directly tied to diet.  If you want to train at the peak of your ability and recover quickly, you must be intentional about what you eat, taking care to feed your body what it needs.  Trying to work out with a body that is starving for essential nutrients will end only in frustration; and frustration eats your momentum and resolve with a voracious appetite.
Make the most of every minute you work out by fueling your body sensibly.  Let’s look at the basics.Traning-Nutrition-101_medium

Nutrition 101:  the foundation
The big three nutrients that you need to be concerned with are carbohydrates, protein and fat.  An eating strategy that balances these three macro-nutrients will skyrocket your fitness results.
Carbohydrates:  Some have argued that carbohydrates are the most important nutrient that an athlete consumes, because carbs fuel muscle.  Every time you move one of your muscles, you are using carbohydrates.  Your body breaks down carbs into sugars and then stores them in your muscles and livers.  If you eat more than can be stored in either of these two places, the excess is stored as fat in your body.

Good sources of carbohydrates include whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans.

Protein: In order to build muscle, you must have protein.  Muscle is the foundation of every athlete:  without a solid muscle base, you will be ineffective any fitness pursuit.  Muscle also plays an important role in protecting you from diabetes.  The more muscle you have, the more efficiently your body can uptake glucose from your bloodstream.
It is important to eat protein daily, because your body cannot store protein very easily.  Protein from animal sources is the easiest way to get complete protein, but plant-based proteins can be combined to provide complete protein as well.

Fat:  It is unfortunate that fat came under such fire during the last decade or so.  Fat is essential and you need a lot of it.  The key is to know what kind of fat to eat.  Avoid anything that is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated.  These fats are also called trans-fats and are very unhealthy.  Instead try to get the majority of your fat from olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, wild-caught fish and free-range animal products such as butter, cheese, yogurt, beef and poultry

Visualize to Actualize

Remember, all things are created twice – first in the imagination and then second in the physical world.  Study this excerpt from Napoleon Hill’s famous book, Think & Grow Rich:
The law of autosuggestion, through which any person may rise to altitudes of achievement which stagger the imagination, is well described in the following verse:
“If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don’t
If you like to win, but you think you can’t,
It is almost certain you won’t.
“If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost
For out of the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will—
It’s all in the state of mind.
“If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
“Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But soon or late the man who wins
Is the man WHO THINKS HE CAN!”visualization1-300x300

Observe the words which have been emphasized, and you will catch the deep meaning which the poet had in mind.  Somewhere in your makeup there lies, sleeping, the seed of achievement which, if aroused and put into action, would carry you to heights such as you may never have hoped to attain.
Just as a master musician may cause the most beautiful strains of music to pour forth from the strings of a violin, so may you arouse the genius who lies asleep in your brain, and cause it to drive you upward to whatever goal you may wish to achieve.

Visualization Leads to Actualization

Visualization, done right, can be extremely powerful in achieving any goal.  As you think about your goals for the New Year, take into consideration the following…

Using your intellectual factor of imagination see yourself already in possession of your goal.  Picture yourself with the healthy and fit body you desire, and literally feel what it is like to have it.  You cannot achieve anything in your “outer world” until you first see it in your “inner world.”

Is Visualization for Real?
In one of the most well known studies on Creative Visualization in sports, Russian scientists compared four groups of Olympic athletes in terms of their training schedules:
Group 1 had 100% physical training
Group 2 had 75% physical training with 25% mental training
Group 3 had 50% physical training with 50% mental training
Group 4 had 25% physical training with 75% mental training.  LADDER_OF_ACHIEVEMENT_sports_psychology


The results showed that Group 4, with 75% of their time devoted to mental training, performed the best.  “The Soviets had discovered that mental images can act as a prelude to muscular impulses.”
Creative Visualization is distinguished from normal daydreaming in that Creative Visualization is done in the first person and the present tense – as if the visualized scene were unfolding all around you; whereas normal daydreaming is done in the third person and the future tense.  Using affirmations that begin with “I am so happy and grateful now that…” is an excellent way to begin programming your subconscious mind to move towards your goal.

Visualization is another tool that Olympic athletes use to get their minds in shape for competition.  In this technique, athletes mentally rehearse exactly what they have to do to win. Sports psychologists say that visualization boosts athletes’ confidence by forcing them to picture themselves winning.  It also helps them concentrate on their physical moves, rather than on distractions around them.

Deadlines and Contests: Your Keys to Fitness Victory

Have you ever told yourself that you are going to lose weight and get fit in time for spring, only to be frustrated when warm weather rolls around?
It’s easy to hide behind heavy winter clothes, but when the mercury starts climbing, the clothes get lighter and we can’t hide any more.  “Why didn’t I start working out weeks ago?” we ask ourselves.  “If only I had started sooner!”

Regret-proof your spring: Set a deadline
The best way to protect yourself from a regret-filled spring is to set a deadline and start NOW.  Deadlines are powerful motivators.  Without a deadline, you really have no set-point toward which to work.  You have nothing pushing you.
We need to be pushed.
Deadlines create a sense of urgency.  They help you position yourself to succeed, because that final date is always staring back at you.  It forces you to prioritize and strategize.  Otherwise, you will let things slide…you will keep putting off the workout, and insisting that tomorrow you will start eating better.
Without a deadline, tomorrow never comes.

Prevent deadline-creep:  Gcompetitive-analysis-250x250et competitive
But a deadline may not be enough.  Why?  Because you may be tempted to move it.  Deadlines are not supposed to be moving targets!  The best way to prevent deadline-creep is to get competitive.
Entering into a competition or contest is a sure way to give you the edge you need to keep yourself on track and finish strong.
There is something very motivating about competing with others.  Just knowing that your effort and results are going to be measured alongside others really will give you an extra boost in motivation.
This is a time when a little peer pressure is useful!  And you will find that those with whom you are in competition will also be your biggest cheerleaders:  they know exactly what you are going through and will be there to encourage you to keep moving.
Deadlines and contests form the perfect combination to guarantee your fitness success: put them to work for you!  Spring is close enough to give you a push, but still far enough away to ensure that you have enough time to get some serious work done.  Plan now to greet spring and warmer weather with no regrets!

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