We’ve all heard the saying that health is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise, right? I don’t know if those numbers are right but I do know that nutrition and exercise work together and it’s difficult to have a well rounded healthy lifestyle if you only focus on one part. That’s not to say you have to do everything at once. For example, you can take a month or two to focus on establishing a good exercise routine before you worry about changing your eating habits. But eventually, to work towards your best health, you’ll need a combination of good exercise and good nutrition.
Once you’re ready to focus on nutrition, what do you do? I had a friend recently tell me she was standing in the grocery store just looking at the shelves and not knowing what to buy. So here are a few tips to get you started if you’re not sure what the heck to do.
- Make a list of fruits and vegetables you like. Don’t try to “force” yourself to eat things you don’t like just because you’ve heard they’re healthy. (I’m looking at you, kale!) You’ll be miserable and won’t stick to it. If you don’t like the texture of Lima beans, don’t put them on the list. If peeling oranges seems like a lot of work for a little piece of fruit, then don’t put them on the list. A healthy diet has lots of fruits and vegetables so make that the bulk of your list but you can also add things like nuts, seeds and beans. (Link to webpage)
- Find some recipes or prep techniques for the list you just made. Maybe you find some fruit smoothie recipes that look interesting. Or maybe a vegetable side dish recipe or a bean salad that looks good. Having a plan for what you buy will cut down on waste and help you feel better prepared for the week.
- Make a list of your favorite meals and think of ways to make them a bit healthier. Do you love toast with your eggs in the morning? Spread it with mashed avocado or natural peanut butter instead of butter. or make it with whole grain bread. Can you add some pureed or shredded vegetables to one of your favorite dishes? Can you cut down on a sauce or some cheese in a recipe?
- Some people do detailed meal planning and prep every week. If this works for you, especially at the beginning, then go for it. Write down all your meals and snacks for the week and build your shopping list from that. Personally, I plan my family’s dinners but breakfast, lunches and snacks are not usually planned out. I try to have a couple of options available. For example, my kids like cereal, fruit, bagels, oatmeal, yogurt and eggs so I have all of those available for them to choose from for breakfast.
- Think outside the box. You don’t have to have breakfast food for breakfast or sandwiches for lunch. A salad of baby spinach, chopped apples, walnuts and dried cranberries makes a great breakfast! And I eat oatmeal or cereal at any time of the day.
- It can be challenging to stay away from processed food but also keep things convenient. There’s nothing wrong with some prepackaged, processed foods as long as you pay attention to ingredients and as long as you’re not making these items your primary source of nutrition. Fruit and nut granola bars are easy to stash in your bag or desk for an afternoon snack or for your commute home. Whole-grain crackers and cheese slices or pretzels and hummus are good too. Precut vegetables make it easy to throw together a salad for lunch or dinner. Jarred marinara sauce makes an easy topping for chicken or pasta and you can add shredded vegetables to boost its nutritional value. Canned beans or soups or frozen vegetables are good to keep on hand as well.
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. The middle aisles are usually where all the pre-packaged junk food is. Stick to the perishable sections like produce, the meat and dairy case and the bakery department. Pre-cooked chicken or packaged, marinated meats can make putting a meal together quick and easy but stay away from processed meats like lunch meat and hotdogs. Choose low-fat dairy options or non-dairy like almond milk. If you like yogurt, choose brands with real fruit that provide some sweetness instead of added sugar. Whole grain or Ezekiel bread make quick, healthy sandwiches or toast.
Unless you’re an elite athlete training for a competition or under strict doctor’s orders, you don’t need to make yourself crazy over your food. Focus on fruits and vegetables and use common sense.
When you exercise regularly and eat healthy and are working hard to improve your fitness, it can be frustrating to have a partner or other family members that don’t do the same. Usually, our first instinct is to do whatever we can to get them on board, right? But there are good ways to do that and some not so good ways.
First of all, understand that it has to be your partner’s choice and decision. No matter what, you can’t force someone else’s behavior change but you can encourage and support it. Just be patient. I’ve worked in the fitness industry for almost 25 years and have been married for almost 23 and my husband just adopted a regular exercise routine in the last two years. Talk about patience!!
- The number 1 thing you can do is be an example. Continue your regular exercise routine and healthy eating habits. If your healthier lifestyle has you sleeping better, mention that. If you’re missing less work, mention it. If your back pain is gone, mention it. Hopefully, your spouse or partner notices these things on their own but if not, its ok to talk about the positive impact fitness has had on you. Don’t brag or be condescending, though, because that will backfire! See #2 below!
- Making snarky or sarcastic comments (even if they come across funny) doesn’t send a good message. Embarrassment, shame or nagging usually has the opposite effect and your partner will dig his heels in and go in the opposite direction. And lets be honest, do you really want to embarrass your significant other? Even if this tactic works in the short term, your partner will be doing it begrudgingly so it won’t last.
- Send the right message. Make sure your partner knows that you want them to exercise and eat well because its good for them and will improve and enhance their life and their family’s life. If you talk about setting future goals together such as being available for your kids and grandkids, that can be very motivating. Having personal goals is an important step but setting goals together as a couple or a family helps too.
- Don’t make choices for them. It’s not your place to tell them they should lose 20 pounds or they should stop eating McDonald’s. Leave that to the doctors! “Should” statements are very judgy! Your partners first priority might be to work on their flexibility so they can tie their shoes. Don’t assume that you know what they should or want to improve.
- Remember that your way is not the only way. Maybe you love Crossfit but your spouse wants to go running. Or you go to Pilates and your partner wants to learn martial arts. Let them figure out what works for them. My husband is a meticulous food tracker and I don’t track food at all. We each have our own way of doing things and it works for each of us. Be supportive even if its not something you like to do.
- Stock the kitchen with healthy foods you both like. This goes along with tip number 5 about not expecting your partner to do exactly what you do. Instead of trying to force them to eat what you eat, find out what healthier options they might be open to even if it’s something you don’t like.
- Lastly, always stay positive. Always. Recognize the smallest of steps even if your partner only makes 1 positive choice out of 15 negative choices. Don’t attack your partner if they skip a workout or decide to have a handful of cookies or an order of cheesy fries. Encourage the positive, ignore the negative.
Be patient. Be positive. Be supportive. They’ll get there eventually!
Working out at home allows me a lot of flexibility with my schedule but can sometimes be limiting since I only have a certain amount of equipment. I get creative with things around the house, such as a step or fireplace hearth. This is a simple but very effective workout. It left we wiped out with my legs feeling like Jell-O!
Make sure you have a sturdy step and that you plant your feet solidly on the step when you’re working out.
1 minute of walking step-ups.
1 minute of running step-ups.
30 reps of alternating lunges.
30 reps of angled push-ups.
Another 1 minute of running step-ups.
30 reps of side squats. Switch sides halfway through.
30 reps of tricep dips.
Another 1 minute of running step-ups.
Another 1 minute of walking step-ups.
I repeat this circuit 2-3 times depending on how much time I have and how I feel.
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The month of March is National Nutrition Month so here are a few resources to help you if you’re looking for healthy nutrition information.
Eatright.org is the website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics who sponsor National Nutrition Month. This website has a number of resources including a search feature to find a qualified nutrition expert near you.
The T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies is an excellent resource for whole food, plant based eating. The website includes lots of articles, recipes and a guide to help you know exactly what types of foods fit into a plant based diet.
Simple Green Smoothies is a great book for getting started with healthy smoothies as a meal replacement or addition to your healthy eating habits. It even includes recipes geared towards kids!
Forks Over Knives is another great resource for plant based diets. The website has lots of recipes and a meal planner feature.
Rouxbe.com offers on-line cooking courses such as Culinary Rx and Plant-Based Cooking. These courses can be taken anywhere at anytime and several courses are self-paced.
Let me know if you have any other great nutrition resources.
A recent study determined 3 major reasons women don’t exercise…
- Concerns about appearance. Women don’t want to look foolish or look like they don’t know what they’re doing.
- Concerns about ability. Many women feel like they have to be “in shape” to work out in a gym. (“I join the gym AFTER I lose some weight.”)
- Concerns about being judged. This one encompasses the previous two concerns. Most women fear judgement of their appearance, their ability and worst of all…being judged for putting themselves first.
In my opinion, these are all terrible but this last one really breaks my heart. Women are seriously judged unfavorably for TAKING CARE of themselves!! Shaming of any kind, fit or fat is unacceptable. I’m not totally sure how to change things and I know I can’t do it alone but something needs to change.
In my experience, people who judge others or make negative comments about others lifestyle choices are really trying to make themselves feel better about their own choices. For example, if I’m “selfish” for taking personal time for exercise then their lack of exercise makes them seem “normal”.
THIS MAKES NO SENSE TO ME AT ALL.
I’m not going to spout a bunch of motivational sayings or “girl power” crap because that’s not my style. These are real, valid fears and one thing I CAN do is help find ways to overcome them and help you reach your health goals.
- Select a workout location that makes you comfortable. If you want to join a gym, check out several before making a decision. Gyms have a unique atmosphere and subculture that can be motivating or intimidating, depending on what you’re in to. Check out the Body Positive Fitness Alliance to find facilities and trainers that promote an inclusive atmosphere. If you don’t want to join a gym or it’s not an option that’s ok. But don’t let that keep you from exercising. Your living room or back yard is an excellent place to start your fitness journey.
- If you’re not sure what to do or don’t want to look clueless at the gym, consider hiring a personal trainer or fitness coach. I know this is an additional expense but its well worth it if it makes you more comfortable and more likely to exercise. Some trainers are available for individual sessions (rather than buying a pack of sessions) to help get you started. Fitness trainers are not exclusive to elite athletes or the very rich. We work with everyone! A good trainer will help you learn and work at your pace to make sure you’re comfortable and confident. Just like with gyms, shop around until you find a trainer you feel good with.
- I know this may be easier said than done, but try to remember that most people are not fit their entire lives. Anybody in your gym who is very fit didn’t start out that way and if they pay you any attention at all, they’re most likely thinking “I’ve been there. Good for you!”. Try to focus on the task at hand and complete YOUR workout to the best of your ability. If you focus on how exercise makes you feel and the progress you’re making, everything else just becomes background noise.
- If you’re family or friends are not on board with supporting your choices, have a frank conversation with them. Explain WHY you’re making these choices and explain how their comments or actions affect you. They may not realize that their off-hand comments have a negative impact. The more people in your circle that you can educate about why your choices are important to you, the better you’ll feel.
- Remind yourself that your healthy habits make you healthier so you are better able to care for your kids, spouse, parents, or whoever. Taking one hour for yourself so you can have the energy and confidence to juggle the other 23 hours of the day seems like a pretty good trade-off to me.
- Lastly, we live in a social media world but that doesn’t mean that everything you do has to be public. If you’re concerned about other moms judging you for taking time for yourself, well, why do they need to know? You can keep your habits private if you choose. I don’t mean you should keep it a secret but random people on Facebook don’t need to know everything!
I’ll continue to promote the importance of health and wellness and the impact it has on every aspect your life. And I’ll continue to combat the feelings of fear with my clients any way I can. Please comment or message me if you have additional ideas for combating this trend.
Yes, I know Valentine’s Day is in two days but, if you need a last minute gift idea, here are a few for the fit-minded person in your life. Or if you just want to treat yourself!
- Edible Arrangements. Flowers and chocolates are so overrated but a fresh fruit arrangement is unique and a bit healthier than that heart-shaped box of candy!
- Beeline Bike Compass. This little device is so simple to use. Just clip it to your bike and follow the arrow! It makes your trip safer by being less distracting then trying to follow a map on your phone. It has two different modes depending on how you want to use it. It also has a built-in clock, speedometer and odometer to track the stats of your ride.
- Soundsport Free Wireless Headphones by Bose. For a truly wireless workout experience, these in-ear headphones are perfect. You can keep your phone in your pocket or strapped to your arm or in the cup holder of the stair climber. It doesn’t matter because there are no wires to organize or move out of the way. These headphones will keep the beat no matter what type of workout your loved one is doing.
- Simple Green Smoothies. This book is the perfect gift for anyone who likes making their own healthy smoothies. Or for someone who wants to make their own but isn’t sure where or how to start. The book includes a wide variety of recipes, including kid-friendly ones (always a plus!) and information on useful equipment, shopping lists and much more.
The month of February for me includes several close family members birthdays so it got me thinking about eating out and attending parties. I thought these tips might be helpful for you guys as well!
- Check the menu in advance. Many restaurants now list their menus, including ingredients and nutrition information, online. Having a good idea of what you want before you go makes things less stressful. Of course, you might not be able to get an advance peak at the menu for a party, especially if its pot luck but if you know the host very well you could ask a few strategic questions.
- If you are attending a pot luck party, make sure your contribution is something that fits with your nutrition plan and something you like. Then you know there will be at lease one thing for you!
- Think about your drinks. Certainly indulge in a good glass of wine or a fancy drink if its a celebration but make sure you drink some water too. You want to be able to enjoy the great food so don’t fill up on liquid calories.
- Get your veggies. Start your restaurant meal with a salad and if you can choose the sides for your meal, make sure to pick a vegetable, and no, french fries don’t count! If you’re at a party, hit the vegetable tray first.
- Enjoy yourself! This is the most important tip. There are lots of additional little tips I could tell you, like…dressing on the side, have the server remove the bread, packs doggie bag right away, blah, blah, blah…but honestly, if you’re at a party or out to dinner, just relax and enjoy yourself. One meal is not going to make or break your overall fitness plan. One caveat: If you eat out A LOT then don’t celebrate every time!