Holiday Health Tips

It’s that time of year again – the holiday season! There is a festive feeling in the air, the lights make everything look so alive, and parties are well underway. With all of the chocolates, sweets, dinners, parties and drinking going on, it’s really easy to pack on a few extra pounds over the holidays. Now I am one to indulge and enjoy too, but have a few handy tricks of the trade to make sure I stay on track with my health goals throughout this time of year.

 

At the Office

I have worked in office spaces before where all of your clients want to send a sweet something to the team to say happy holidays. Next thing you know there are twenty different boxes of chocolates, candy canes galore, and enough shortbread cookies to feed an army. The temptations are endless. A chocolate here and a cookie there can really add up throughout the day. I find the easiest way to avoid this is to not see it. If your work area is close to the ‘snack table’ see if anyone minds if you move it. That way every time you get up you don’t grab a treat. Not possible? Give yourself a daily maximum. That might be three treats a day, and you can have them all together or throughout, but make sure you’re not grabbing for a goodie every time you leave your desk.

Potlucks at this time of year are also a big office favorite. Everyone likes to bring their favorite holiday dish which usually consists of something sweet, something rich, or something fattening. Make your dish something healthy. And if that turns you off, make one healthy and one not-so-much. I always like bringing a great vegetable dish. You might be surprised by how many others also crave something with some nutrition to add to the table. Pick and choose between the unhealthy items – try to pick only your favorites rather than one of everything.

 

At Home

Our family has always been one to get together around the holidays and enjoy each other’s company surrounded by delicious food and drinks. It is a time that everyone tends to have a bit of a break from work, school and life. Similar rules from the office potluck would apply to eating at your favorite cousin’s house. Yes – the food is delicious. But you don’t have to walk out of there feeling like you’re going to explode. Be mindful of your choices and be mindful of your eating. Eat until you are no longer hungry rather than until you are stuffed. Choose two types of desserts rather than one of each. And get up and move around. I find right after a big meal playing with the kids or dogs around the house takes your mind off of having another plate, and helps your body digest your food better rather than sitting motionless.

Around your own house, try to best maintain your nutritional routine. If this time of year brings more guests around, and perhaps in turn a few more alcoholic beverages, choose wisely. Try to keep it to a realistic number and don’t drink high calorie drinks. Everyone loves a Bailey’s and coffee or a Rum and Eggnog on Christmas morning but those are loaded with calories. One or two might be a great festive move, but drinking them like they are water will have your caloric intake through the roof.

 

Holiday Parties

Work holiday parties are always fun. It gives the team a chance to get together outside of the office and connect on things other than work. Whether you are a team of ten or 500, the camaraderie that can develop at these events is terrific. I always find that there is so much food to be had. Finger foods and appetizers while people are first arriving, followed by a soup and or salad, followed by the main course and then dessert. I definitely encourage everyone to indulge once in a while, but remember you are eating for one. The appetizers can really put things over the top. Eat the same amount of food that you would normally eat. At home, I don’t have six or seven appys before dinner. Try to make smart choices about the options you choose and the number of them that you choose.

Another great tip is that if you know you are going to be eating a large meal that night, be mindful of your meals throughout the day. Perhaps have a salad for lunch, and stick to fruit and eggs for the morning. Try your best to keep your caloric intake as it normally is.

 

The Gym

No, there are no holiday parties happening here but that doesn’t mean forget about your workouts for a couple of weeks. This time of year can be really busy with events, shopping and having fun. And because we are all eating a bit off of our usual program, sticking to your gym routine is really important. Find the time. Make it a priority throughout the holidays. It is as important in December as it is when you are making your New Years’ resolutions in January. Remember – summer bodies are made in the winter!

 

I hope this gives you a few things to consider when you are out and about this holiday season. I encourage you to eat well, be merry and enjoy your time with your family and friends.

 

 

Healthy Gift Ideas

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Well, it’s that time of year again. Time to rack your brain to come up with creative and thoughtful gift ideas for everyone on your list. There are so many options for gifts but for some reason finding the “right” gift is often a tedious and exhausting task.

So this year, why not gift a “healthy” gift? What is a healthy gift? Good question. I would say that a healthy gift is something that will benefit the overall wellbeing of the gift recipient. It could be improved fitness, emotional state, intelligence or a combination of these.

Now, of course the ideal gift would be to have a genie come and grant you the wish to be well – healthy and fit! Seeing as that is not reality, here are some ideas. Now this is not including a few somewhat obvious gift ideas that include fitness passes, workout clothes (not fun to guess someone’s size), yoga mat or accessories, cool water bottles, gym bags, fitness magazine subscriptions etc…

 

For the swimmer…

I simply can’t workout without music. It motivates me to push harder and keep my energy up. An Underwater MP3 Player would be the perfect gift for your favorite water beetle – whether seriously competitive or just in it for a great way to stay fit.

 

For anyone remotely techy – from someone just beginning a road to become healthier to the “serious business” fitness guru:

Fitness Bracelets or Trackers – There are so many to choose from. Look here for a great comparison chart to help you choose what your recipient may need. like… This can be as basic as a pedometer – to use to count your steps each day. This would be great for someone who is looking to start incorporating exercise into their lives.

Two that caught my eye for 2016 are:

Fingertip Pulse Oximeter – This gadget plugs right into your smart phone and allows you to measure Oxygen Saturation, Pulse rate, perfusion index and pleth variability index. You can get results workout by workout and track data trends over time. Look for this on Amazon.

Amiigo Fitness Bracelet – This is super cool!  This bracelet allows you to track specific things like; exercise type, reps, sets, duration, speed, and intensity. It also tracks heart rate, blood oxygen levels, skin temperature, overall activity level, and calories burned. Amiigo can determine whether you’re using the elliptical, running, swimming, doing bicep curls, squats, etc. It can track & identify different activities and then correlate these activities with physiological information such as heart rate and blood oxygen saturation.

 

For a close friend, spouse, family member or sibling: a professional consultation…

If someone close to you has expressed interest in getting fit or feeling better, eating better or a need to get educated about what any of this means, book a single or multiple sessions with a professional consultant. This could be a personal trainer or a nutritionist or life coach. One I would totally recommend for any woman in your life is Natalie Reimer Anderson. She is amazing!

 

For a gym rat…

Umoro One – This is so smart! It is a water bottle that, with a push of a button, releases up to 1.5 scoops of whey protein mix. No need to carry multiple bottles or containers. They ship free to Canada and is less than $30.

Skipping Rope – This is a classic fitness essential that can kick your butt. It’s a gift under $30 so it won’t break the bank. A skipping rope is easy to throw in your luggage or keep at home for a quick workout. Not getting to a gym will not be an excuse any more to not get a great workout in. Check out skipping rope workouts on line for some fun and challenging ideas. Here is one example that looks good: http://www.shape.com/fitness/cardio/jump-rope-workout-blast-fat-20-minutes

One rope to check out is Sweaty Betty for $25.

 

For the traveller, the new Mom, the gym-phobic or anyone really…

So this one that I love that doesn’t cost a dime! Spend some time to do your research to find an array of resources. I’m talking specifically about things found on the web. You can provide your BFF or aunt a list of links to educational or inspiring blogs (like ours!) to free fitness classes on line (from everything from yoga to Pilates to running to boot camps to salsa fitness). All for free! If you have the internet, you can workout. Think of this as 2016 version of the “mix tape” or a homemade gift.

So there you have it! Consider your shopping done – at least for all of the teens and adults on your list! I would argue that the gift of health is the greatest of all. Happy holidays!

 

Three Flavors for your Health!

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The title doesn’t sound sexy – but I assure you these three additions to your day will make you feel terrific. This week’s blog is dedicated to three of my favorite things to cook with – Turmeric, Cayenne Pepper and Garlic. I will tell you why they are good for you and how you can easily incorporate them into your daily routine.

Turmeric – science has started to back up what India has been using for thousands of years as both a medicinal herb and a spice. Turmeric is what gives curry its yellow color. Personally I don’t find it has a strong taste at all so find it really easy to incorporate into almost everything I eat. This wonder spice is a natural anti-inflammatory and will do wonders for your joints. An anti-inflammatory diet is suggested for almost every ailment today from cancer to high blood pressure to Alzheimer’s to heart disease. Turmeric has been shown to not only help prevent these diseases but also help treat them once they attack.

Turmeric is also great as an anti-oxidant, which is also suggested to be an anti-cancer agent. It has been shown to lower risk of brain disease and boosts brain function in the meantime. Not enough for you yet? It has been shown to lower depression, help delay aging and fight age-related diseases.

So this is definitely one to add to your spice rack right? Because of its mellow taste I truly put it on or in everything. My morning eggs, on toast, in salad dressings, when cooking chicken or other meats, or in milk. Honestly it is the easiest item to add to your daily routine.

Cayenne Pepper – hot peppers have been known to boost metabolism and in turn, help you lose weight. It also helps to boost circulation and neutralize acidity. It’s great for keeping a cold or fungus at bay, on headaches, allergies, for joint pain and inflammation, good for digestion and heart health, and possibly anti-cancer. This hot puppy is great for you and if you like spice and tastes terrific too. Be sure to go easy with it – it’s hot!

In terms of how to use it, if you are shy on spice you can buy cayenne pepper pills at your local pharmacy. If you’re like me and like a little spice in your life, add it to everything and anything. I sprinkle it on my morning eggs, use it in salad dressings, in wraps or sandwiches and of course on chicken or other meat products. I once did a cleanse that called for water with cayenne pepper, lemon and maple syrup, but I wouldn’t suggest that drink nor that cleanse to anyone. Each to their own of course!

Garlic – nicknamed the ‘world’s healthiest food’, this one packs a punch! It is definitely a flavor that not everyone loves, but just like cayenne pepper, you can purchase garlic pills from your pharmacy. Be careful with those as well as they might give you an after taste or garlic burp.

As for what it is good for? Garlic has been used for centuries to treat colds and infections. Raw, crushed garlic is the best way for it to be absorbed by your body. Garlic is also really good for those looking to reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol, both great when looking to reduce your risk of heart disease. It is also said to be good for your brain while warding off dementia and Alzheimer’s. It has been found to be good for your overall bone health and help you live longer, and recently studies have shown it can help with erectile dysfunction.

When eating garlic remember it definitely has a taste and smell on your breath that can linger. I prefer it at dinner when cooking vegetables or chicken. I also use it religiously in salad dressings and soups. If you’re getting sick, I would suggest taking 1-2 crushed garlic cloves before bed. It really does help!

Science has not proven any of the above statements 100%, and as a result, this blog is of course my opinion, research I have done and testimonials from both myself and friends and colleagues. Adding these three items to your diet will be great for you, but no promises to cure ailments! Please be mindful of this and talk to your doctor about your health regularly.

Food Rules…What’s Your List?

rsz_relationship_with_foodI have been doing a lot of thinking on the concept of one’s relationship with food. I personally think everyone should have the 80/20 Rule when it comes to food – 80% of what you eat and drink should be healthy, while 20% ‘not so much’. I also feel everyone should strive for 85/15 then 90/10 then 95/5. And under the category ‘not so much’ that doesn’t mean absolute horrid junk – a medium place.

Secondly I think that many of us, myself included, think WAY too much about food. What are we going to have for dinner? I shouldn’t have eaten that second cookie. How many calories/grams of fat/carbs have I eaten today? I have a craving for X, Y and Z. And so much of our social world revolves around food – we have celebratory dinners, depression induced binging – all emotional ends of the spectrum. And because food is something that we MUST have to survive, it is impossible to not think about it.

Then there are the ‘food rules’. I think that to best understand your personal relationship with food – is it healthy or a disaster or somewhere in the middle – you must have a clear idea of how many rules you have and perhaps how much you obsess over them. And even though your personal list of rules might be keeping you healthy, the lists can be exhaustive. I personally have food guilt. Something I wish I didn’t, but I do. So in hopes of one day not, I have decided I need to better understand my personal relationship with food in order to think of it always in a positive light. I know WHY I have the guilt – pressure from society, family, the opposite sex, myself – to look a certain way. And eating bonbons and chips doesn’t adhere to that standard. So even if I only indulge in junk food once in a while, I still have a negative space in my head that obsesses over it.

So what are my food rules? My list, although quite healthy ideologies, is exhaustive. And to be quite honest, some are borderline concerning to me once I wrote them out. I won’t get into the ‘why’s’ of each for now, although in the spirit of sharing and becoming a healthier woman every day, here goes:

  1. When it comes to meat, I only eat chicken and fish/seafood. No red meat, pork, game, etc…
  2. I do not eat dairy
  3. I do not eat processed cereal
  4. If I buy anything processed I read labels and ensure there are no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving, no more than 500 mgs of sodium per serving, and pay close attention to the calories per serving
  5. I have a healthy and substantial breakfast every morning that includes a carbohydrate (wrap or toast), protein (usually eggs), vegetables, fruit and coffee
  6. I have a salad every day and make homemade dressing when possible
  7. I pay attention to the ‘dirty dozen’ when it comes to grocery shopping and buying organic when I can
  8. I have turmeric, cayenne pepper and aloe (to eat) every single day one way or another
  9. I take a handful of vitamins and minerals every single day
  10. If I eat ‘too much’ one day, I try to make up for it the next
  11. I weigh myself almost every day
  12. I do not eat white starches
  13. I avoid pop and sugar-filled ‘fruit’ juices as well as alcoholic beverages that are full of sugar (I mostly stick with wine and vodka)
  14. I cook only with raw, organic coconut oil or cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
  15. If I have a heavier carb in the morning (i.e. bread) I do not eat any other starch-carbs that day (i.e. no more rice, bread, potatoes, etc)
  16. I have flax, chia and/or hemp seeds every single day
  17. I try not to eat three hours before bed

I do feel that the majority of these ‘rules’ I have made for myself are for the most part healthy (with the exception of numbers 10 and 11). That said, having so many rules also has it’s own drawbacks. Does having such a regimented way of eating affect my ability to have a healthy relationship with food? I do feel that food is something that should be consumed to maximize your health and longevity. But am I over thinking it all? Is this list of ‘rules’ contributing to my overall food guilt when I go off the rails? Absolutely it is. But it is also absolutely keeping me healthy. My internal investigation on this subject will continue. I think making this list has helped me understand that even though I have my own fair share number of rules, for the most part they are all centered around healthy habits.

So what about you? What does your list look like?

De-stress Advice for Parents

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So the kids are back in school. Mothers and fathers are breathing a sigh of relief while at the same time undergoing associated stress. There are a slew of things to take care of during the school year: organizing and packing lunches, driving and picking up, homework monitoring and after-school program maintenance and scheduling.

Part of the stress on parents is spurred by the much-needed, but often busy, after school programs. Not only is it a question of what activities to have your children sign up for but also the cost, the driving, planning dinners around it, carpools, equipment, uniforms etc…

So what do parents do to stay calm and level-headed?

My suggestion is to enroll yourself in an activity. I believe that this is possible for anyone. Although easier for some more than others, it is hugely important for parents to take time for themselves in order to relax and recharge for the following reasons:

1 – Improve or maintain health good health: registering in a leisure activity can include a form of physical fitness – whether it is going to the gym, signing up for a kickboxing class or a masters swim team, they all will benefit you in some way physically – as a part of a healthy lifestyle

2 – Reduce stress: whether it is a spin class, cooking class or a yoga class, there are aspects of any of these activities that help to reduce stress. Even stepping away from the house and the kids and doing something on your own, for YOU, helps to slow your breathing and gain perspective. Yoga has meditative qualities and breathing exercises that make you stop to focus on yourself.

3 – Lead by example: children learn how to relax and spend leisure time by watching their parents. Do you read? Do you have a hobby? Do you exercise? Do you know how to relax? Do you take time for yourself? By doing these things teaches children the importance of balance and making “you” a priority.

4 – Perspective: I know that when I return from a walk or a yoga class, I am much more “level-headed” than before the activity began. These activities force one to step away from the current, sometimes crazy, situation and just breathe. Simply breathing and not “thinking” per se allows you to relax, focus and gain perspective. Is the puzzle spread over the flood a tragedy? Is the sink full of dishes going to be the end of the world? If the floor doesn’t get vacuumed today will anyone be worse off in life?

So my advice to parents during “back to school” time is to get “back to you”. Put yourself on the ever growing “to-do” list. Ask for help when you need it. Make yourself a priority. Do not feel guilty or make excuses why you can’t. You and your family will be better off for it.