Happy New Year, LifeVest friends! We’re excited to kick off 2015 with you, and want to take the time today to help you create some healthy goals for the year ahead. Goal-setting is important for driving motivation and focus so you can stay on the path towards a healthy, happy you. As they say, New Year, New You. Determine the “you” that you want to become, and then set the goal(s) that will take you there. A dream written down becomes a plan you can achieve.
While resolution-making is a common New Year tradition – 40% of Americans will set one this month – we know getting started can often feel like a challenge. We’ve got some ideas for you below to help get the wheels spinning. Choose one, or use it to inspire your own goal-making for finding health and happiness this year. Let’s see those dreams to reality, together!
Your 3-step plan:
- Choose a goal.
- Make it specific. Perhaps your over-arching goal is to “lose weight” or “get healthy” or “be happier”. To make that objective achievable, break it down into smaller goals. Consider setting a different goal to focus on for each month of the year that will take you towards your larger goal.
- Write it down. Putting pen to paper is proven to make you more successful in actually achieving your plan.
Healthy Ideas to Get You Started: Read the rest of this entry »
Sleep is a control freak.
Don’t give it enough attention, and it will show you who’s boss. From mood, to memory, to longevity, sleep dictates nearly all aspects of our health. So whether we like it or not, it begs us to befriend it, especially when taking efforts to lose weight.
Luckily, sleep can help make you feel your absolute best, so let it be one control freak you make an effort to keep happy. In doing this, you’ll need to remove its enemies from your life. Below, find 5 sneaky things that may be trying to sabotage your relationship with sleep, and get ready to bid them adieu. Then, say a happy goodbye to that flock of sheep you’ve been counting, or the twisted sheets you’ve been tossing and turning, and rest easy tonight.
Sleeplessness – it’s like sitting through a long, drawn out movie where you just can’t get comfortable. Two o’clock in the morning rolls around, and you’re tossing and turning, and counting one sheep after another, laying with eyes wide open in your bed. The worst!
It’s a scenario that takes place for many. In fact, roughly one third of the world suffers from insomnia. Women are hit the hardest, myself included in these numbers, and of course, it only gets worse as we age. Oh boy! At least we’re in good company.
After one too many nights with the sheep, I decided to do some research on how to help fix this problem. I know sleep is important to my health, and even more notably, I can’t stand walking around sleepy when I seem unable to rest well the night before.
The easy answer seemed like it would be to turn to sleeping aids, and although I’m generally not one to see “drugs” as the solution, I did end up testing out a few over-the-counter brands. What I found was that even those couldn’t do the trick. It was then that I knew it was time to see what natural remedies were out there, and so began my research. In doing so, what struck me as most interesting were the numerous studies on various foods and their relationship to sleep. Below are a few items research has shown may help the issue of insomnia, and ones I will be experimenting with on my own. If you too are having trouble sleeping, maybe you’ll want to try a few of them with me.
Take it from the Brits – adding some daily cup and saucer time with coffee’s little cousin is a worthy activity. As the #1 tea-drinking country, the UK averages a combined 165 million cups of tea per day (vs. 70 million cups of coffee).
The U.S.’s consumption isn’t quite as large, but when we do sit down for teatime, approximately 85% of it is iced. Here at LifeVest, we believe nothing’s more refreshing on a warm day than a tall, minty green jasmine over a few cool cubes, which makes us excited to announce today is National Iced Tea Day. We’re even more excited to participate given, all of the health benefits a cup can bring:
- Simmer down your blood pressure: More people visit doctors for high blood pressure than for any other condition, aside from the common cold. A recent study found that those who sipped 3 cups of a hibiscus tea daily lowered systolic blood pressure by 7 points in just over a handful of weeks, likely due to the phytochemicals in the flower. Many herbal teas contain hibiscus; look for blends that list it near the top of the ingredient makeup.
- A summer sunscreen backup: Green tea polyphenols protect against UV light-induced skin damage, a 2011 study shows. Don’t ditch your sunscreen, but since UV ray exposure is directly linked to skin cancer, why not do double duty with an iced green in your hands?
- Spike your taste buds (calorie-free), calm your blood sugar: Research shows Tea contains natural antioxidants that may slow the passage of glucose into the bloodstream and prevent blood sugar spikes, which is an important step in managing type 2 diabetes. Black tea had the highest effect, followed by white and oolong teas. Bonus: add a few dashes of cinnamon on top, a spice shown to also help control blood pressure levels., and steer clear of the sugar bowl.
Today (and all this week) we invite you to celebrate with us:
Soda comes with empty calories. Coffee with dubious and addicting caffeine. Juice with an abundance of sugar. Tea with an array of antioxidants and health benefits…Guess which one gets our vote?
Outside of H20, when you reach for a beverage this week, make it tea. From green to white to herbal, test out a variety to reap the most health benefits, since all bring their own power to the table. If you’re curious about the differences between each type, Real Simple‘s got the scoop, here.
Just make sure when you opt for black tea to limit yourself to 2 cups, since this is the most caffeinated variety. (Two cups of black tea is equivalent to the caffeine in approximately one cup of coffee). Try to limit added honey and sugar, too, to keep your glass relatively calorie-free. See above for a simple, low-sugar recipe with which we’ll be celebrating.
By Emma Fogt, MBA, MS, RD, LDN, FAND
Recent studies suggest just like catching a cold, stress is contagious. It can travel in social circles, from one person to another, like a germ that floats from one coworker to the next. Personal stress not only affects ourselves, but can also infect our friends, our families, and even strangers nearby.
Here’s an example from my own life: I remember being on a BOLT bus getting ready to depart to NYC. Suddenly the driver went A-wall on a poor passenger who placed his bag on an empty seat. The driver was flailing his arms, swearing at the passenger and screaming at the top of his lungs for the passenger to get off the bus. The inadvertent result? I was so stressed out that I felt sick to my stomach! As the passenger got off the bus – so did I. I had absorbed that secondhand stress of the driver and passenger, and it had infected my body and mind.
Now let’s take a look at a research-backed example: Researchers from NYU and the Emotion Health and Physiology Laboratory at the University of San Francisco have studied how mother’s stress levels affect their babies. In their study, mother’s stress levels were measured with an EKG to see if their babies absorbed their personal stress signals. As it turned out, the baby’s sympathetic responses did match their mother’s stress levels. If mothers were more stressed, their own heart rates went up, as did the rates of their baby’s.
Stress can be hard to avoid, which is why it’s important to be mindful of both how you let it affect you and of others around you. On the bright side, there are lots of strategies and mechanisms you can utilize to minimize its impact in your life. By controlling your stress levels, you can boost your own health and energy, and simultaneously reduce the secondhand stress you may transfer onto others.
Here are three ways to handle the contagious stress that might be thrown your way:
- Avoid stressful situations. Yes, this is obviously easier said than done, but if you know a certain situation or environment places a repeated negative tension on your life, seek alternatives. Don’t needlessly walk into a pressurized situation if there are better options out there.
- Determine how you will react to stress. Instead of letting stress stick to you like Velcro, just imagine, you are made of Teflon. The stress just slides off. You don’t absorb it, but instead block it from your mind so that you can fill yourself with positive energy. What you don’t let get to you can’t control your life (or health!).
- Use coping mechanisms like meditation and deep breathing to refocus your energy and move away from the tension that stress can bring. When you feel your palms start to get sweaty, your head start to throb, or perhaps your anxiety levels start to skyrocket, stop for a moment and evaluate from where these symptoms are coming. Take a deep breath. Take two deep breaths. If you can, take 3 minutes of deep breaths, and feel how this simple act can center and refuel you. Then, remind yourself, you can take charge of the situation, and that anything can be accomplished when you slow down and take one step at a time.
Emma Fogt, MBA, MS, RD, LDN, FAND is a Wellness Expert, Speaker & Author. She is seen as a Nutrition Expert in the local media and enjoys cooking up a storm with corporations via Culinary Team Building. Her programs offer leaders and emerging leaders talks, webinars and workshops on wellness, wellbeing and work-life fit. Emma is an active member of Nutrition Entrepreneurs (Chair 2012-13), The National Speaker’s Association and a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. Emma’s first book published by ewomenwellness is entitled: Having YOUR All, How Self-Care Leads to an Energized, Empowered and Effective Life!
By Theresa Berenato
Have you ever fell victim to the afternoon slump? Do you feel sluggish around 2 or 3 o’clock, maybe even a little hungry? You had lunch around 12, and now you feel the need for a pick-me-up. The next time you want to reach for a soda, energy drink, or your third cup of coffee, stop and think about this. There are plenty of foods that contribute to a more productive and energetic workday, and that won’t pack on too many excess calories. If you’re truly hungery – and aren’t eating out of boredom or stress – a healthy snack becomes a much better mid-afternoon tool than another caffeinated beverage to fuel you through the rest of your day.
Start with these simple suggestions to plan out how you can snack smart. Then, consider devoting just 30 minutes each Sunday to pack ahead so you can stay on track all week, and stay energized, too.
Easy grab-and-go items for snacking smart and planning ahead:
Vegetables: Everyone knows vegetables are a great low-cal source of nutrients and fiber. They also aid in maintaining a healthy lifestyle by reducing the risk of heart disease and protecting against certain types of cancers due to all of the antioxidants they contain. However, we know sometimes it’s hard to reach for a salad when a sleepy-eyed craving for cookies is calling your name.
Our pick: The next time that happens, don’t turn into the cookie monster. Instead, try kale chips. Did you know that one cup of kale contains a mere 33 calories and provides over 200% of the daily-recommended intake of vitamin A. If that isn’t eye-opening, I don’t know what is! (Please bare with our Vitamin A induced jokes. We’re just trying to wake you up.) Kale chips are a great substitute for potato chips and are fun and easy to make. You’d be surprised at how equally addicting they can be. Check out this spiced up rendition via A Spicy Perspective for a snack that’ll kick your potato chip cravings to the curb.
Fruits: Like vegetables, basic knowledge tells us fruit is a stellar snack choice. In general, fruits are low in fat, sodium and calories. Plus, they serve as a naturally sweet alternative to dessert and the array of calorie-loaded candy taunting you from your local vending machine.
Our pick: Speaking of dessert, check out this one-ingredient ice cream recipe from The Kitchn. This is the kind of ice cream we’ll fully endorse as a snack option. Add some nuts for a 2-ingredient, LifeVest-approved ice cream or some cinnamon for a spicy twist. Bananas have been shown to aid in fighting depression because of their high levels of tryptophan, which is then converted into serotonin in your body. Serotonin is the chemical in your brain that makes you happy. Take it from us, banana ice cream always puts a smile on our face.
Nuts: Nuts may be small but they are packed with protein. Proteins are the building blocks for enzymes, hormones, and vitamins – all things your body needs in order to function (and not fall asleep after lunch). Numerous studies have shown that people who eat nuts are less likely to have heart attacks or die from heart disease, and are less likely to overeat as a whole. Much of this is due to the fat they contain. You might be thinking, “Wait a minute, but fat isn’t healthy?” Nuts contain some fat but in most cases it is the healthy fat (monounsaturated), which helps to lower LDL or the “bad” cholesterol. This fat also keeps you feeling fuller for longer, preventing you from overeating at subsequent meals.
Our pick: Portion control is still key when it comes to nuts. Though they are largely made up of the healthy kind of fats, they are still considered energy-dense. This is why packing ahead and creating pre-portioned bags is a good way to ensure you don’t over do it when a snack attack comes on. Stick to a small handful, or one ounce, when preparing ahead. This is considered one serving of nuts. If you’re looking to jazz it up a bit, try these no-sugar-added Curry Sunflower Oat Energy Bars. Filled with Vitamin E packed sunflower seeds (good for maintaining healthy skin) and fiber-filled oats, these bars will bring an abundance of energy to your afternoon desk. Just like with nuts, make sure to pre-portion these ahead of time and stick to a square the size of your palm.
Wash it down – H2O first, healthy snacks second.
As you start yawning, reach for your water bottle before anything else. Your body needs water to in order help hydrate your cells. Hydrated cells are happier cells, which brings about a happier you! Dehydration can cause fatigue, so if you start dragging, make a mental note of whether or not you’ve been rehydrating throughout the day. Then take a swig of water, and let out a nice refreshing AHHH. Whether your co-workers find that annoying or not, it beats a yawn for sure.
By Trish Ryan, founder of Time for Dinner, a service to help you simplify the meal planning process and enjoy healthy meals with your family.
When it comes to your health, music hits the right note.
Music can instantly help calm you. After a long, stressful day, hit the play button and you may immediately start to feel some tension release in your body.
It’s a personal tool. You choose the music that makes you feel good. Only you can know what type will positively affect your mood and benefit your body best. It has been proven, however, that even small notes like chirping from birds and the sound rushing from waterfalls can help you unwind.
- Research proves that music with a strong beat can stimulate brainwaves to resonate in sync with the beat. With faster beats bringing sharper concentration and more alert thinking, while a slower tempo promotes a calm, meditative state.
- When music affects the brains waves, it also changes body functions. It causes slower breathing, slower heart rate and an activation of the relaxation response.
- Music has also shown to increase creativity and optimism levels, which can help keep depression and anxiety at bay.
- Varies studies have shown, in part from all of the reasons above, music can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke and heart problems, boost immunity and eases muscle tension.
The takeaway? It’s time to power on the tunes. Consider:
When exercising: Listen to your favorite music when working out and you’ll get double the benefits. Choose an up-tempo playlist, which is more likely to power you through a tough stretch on the treadmill or an upcoming hill and help you burn extra calories.
At the Office: Choose something more mellow when hammering away at your desk. Research shows that this can help to increase focus and concentration, thus increasing productivity.
While Cooking: Cooking in itself can be a de-stressing activity. The rhythmic chopping of onions and garlic can help the anxiety fade away. But on days when you find yourself too tired to cook, music can come to your rescue. Try putting on your favorite track and notice how it can transform cooking into an enjoyable, re-energizing activity. This will elevate your mood and, in turn, help you enjoy the evening with your family.
Preparing healthy meals for your family is important, as it may be the one time a day when you can all sit down and share time together. A meal planning service like Time for Dinner can help make preparing healthy and delicious meals easier for your family.
Time for Dinner members are provided recipes for five simple, healthy meals including side dishes each week. Meal plans are created to be efficient and eliminate waste. Ingredients are maximized to create balanced dinners that play off each other. Members are also provided with an organized shopping list, cost estimates to help keep you on budget, a list of pantry items you will need, and guides to meal preparation. Time for Dinner is a great tool to help you avoid pitfalls and stay on track with healthy eating.
As a LifeVest Health reader, enjoy a special rate ($14 off an annual membership). To join visit: http://timefordinnerplanning.com/get-started/annual-offer/.