What Motivates You?

Mike Fohner, cross country running coach, tells this story about one of his students:

Last year, one of my young cross-country runners was fully content walking up the hills and avoiding physical exertion to the maximum extent possible. I tried all sorts of tactics and motivation techniques…to wits end. Even my “walkers club” (post practice sprints for those that walk during practice) had no effect. One meet, this runner unexpectedly knocked 3 minutes off her best time to which I gave a look of amazement to her parents. They smiled and said, “Well…she didn’t walk…so I guess we owe her ten bucks!!” So it appears that money is an effective motivator for all ages!

The statistics

Brace yourself.  According to Rod K. Dishman, Ph.D., director of the Behavioral Fitness Laboratory at the University of Georgia, nearly 50 percent of people who begin an exercise program drop out within the first 6 months.  The question is, “Why?”  What is it about sticking with a fitness routine that causes so many people abandon it?

The answer?  Motivation.  They don’t want health and fitness badly enough.  It is a simple fact of human psychology that if we want something badly enough, we’ll do everything we can to get it.

Your challenge is to find out what motivates you to get serious about fitness and stick with it.

Unlocking your motivation

Mike Fohner’s student found that money was the motivation she needed to push her out of her comfort zone and into a commitment that she previously hadn’t been interested in.

Bryan Reece found a different motivation.  Told by his doctors that he was minutes away from a heart attack, Bryan decided to fight back.  Even though he had not been in a gym in 30 years, he turned his life around and eventually became a finisher in the Arizona Ironman competition.  You can read his story in the book, You Are an Ironman: How Six Weekend Warriors Chased Their Dream of Finishing the World’s Toughest Triathlon by Jacques Steinberg.

You do not have to be part of that 50 percent who quit.  You can stay committed and finish strong.  It is all about finding what motivates you personally.

Here are some possible motivators for you.

  1. Do it for your health. Consistent exercise and healthy eating are the two very best things you can do for your health. You will develop a strong, healthy heart, reduce your chances of many cancers, prevent diabetes, keep a sharp mind and resist dementia and avoid many of the common ailments that come with aging.  It is possible to age without decay, and the key to this is exercise and eating well.
  2. Do it to look better. Appearance isn’t everything, but most of us care how we look. A strong and healthy person just looks good.  And it isn’t all physical.  Your demeanor will change as you develop the confidence that comes from the discipline of fitness.  You will appear more energetic and confident because you will be more energetic and confident!
  3. Do it to relieve stress. Really!  It isn’t a cliché.  Exercising really does cause physical changes in your brain and nervous system that results in feelings of calmness and well-being.  In fact, you may get so hooked on the mental benefits of exercise that you will crave it!
  4. Do it to be strong. If you have never done focused weight training, then you literally have no idea of the total transformation that you will feel after just a few weeks.  There is nothing like bending over to pick something up that normally results in discomfort, strain and even pain, only to find out that it is a piece of cake!  And by getting strong now, you reduce your risk of age-related falls and fractures because you have the core strength and balance to keep yourself stable.

It is worth taking the time to discover the powerful motivators in your life.  Don’t worry about ‘bribing’ yourself:  do what it takes to get yourself moving.  Find out what makes sweating worth it.  Find out what you want more than that brownie. Your health is at stake; in fact, your very life is at stake. It’s time to transform yourself.

How to Overcome Winter Weight Gain

Today, we’re taking a hard look at winter weight gain.  It’s a common problem—people tend to pack on a few pounds during the winter months.

But we want to fight back, and we hope you will join us.  Let’s get after this now, while winter is still in full force.  We’ll have less to deal with when the warm breezes start blowing!

The good, the bad…and the solution

Although winter weight gain varies from person to person, research shows the average gain to be five to seven pounds!  Some people gain this extra weight because they have Seasonal Affective Disorder—a type of winter depression.  But most of us can’t blame winter depression for our tendency to pick up extra weight during the winter months.

So, why does winter weight gain happen?  According to Lawrence J. Cheskin, MD, founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, it happens because we eat more and move less during the winter months1.

This is bad news and good news.  It is bad news because it would be kind of nice if we could blame our cold-weather corpulence on something exotic like the jet stream cycle and waddle off for another espresso.

But it is good news because we can do something about it.  We don’t have to greet spring with softer middles and tighter clothes.  So let’s celebrate leap year by tackling winter weight gain with our weapon of choice here at Fitness Revolution:  discipline.

Hour of decision

According to Merriam-Webster, discipline is a “rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity2.”  This is perfect.  In order to fight winter weight gain, we have to discipline ourselves to follow some rules.

Here we go…

  1. Banned language: For the next several weeks, do not allow yourself to say, “Just this once.” If you pay close attention, a ‘just this once’ situation comes up practically every day.  You go to a retirement party.  You take spouse out for a birthday dinner.  Someone brings a meal by your house because you’ve been sick.  Your co-worker brings in the leftover pizza from last night’s party.  Your child has leftover Valentine’s Day candy.  You have to say no every single time.  Otherwise, you will never get ahead.

Just grit your teeth, resist what others are having and make good food choices.  I’m not saying it is easy.  I am saying it is necessary.

2. Plan your occasional splurge, and do not deviate from the plan. Unending deprivation is never a good idea, but you have to be intentional about the time, place and food that you let yourself splurge on.

Love the hot wings at your favorite restaurant?  Then let’s make a deal.  Eat clean for ten days.  No cheating.  And then at the end of those ten days, go have the wings.  Guilt free.  Just enjoy them.  Then set the next goal.  But you are not allowed to deviate from your plan in the meantime.

If you do, you lose the wings.

Don’t waste your fun calories on something that doesn’t compare to those wings!

  1. Keep moving. Exercise is not an optional activity.  Now more than ever you have to get your body in motion.  Exercise is very effective at preventing weight gain—and that is what we’re after right now.  Don’t even worry so much about losing pounds; just work to keep the winter scale-creep from happening to you. Try to get some cardio in at least six days a week.

Remember:  spring is coming.  Let’s be ready for it, and leave winter weight gain behind.

Sources

1http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/5-tips-to-avoid-winter-weight-gain

2http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discipline

What Are You Aiming at?

Zig Ziglar once said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” And each of us knows from our own experience that he is right.  The general flow of human life tends to be toward ease and comfort.  One day flows into the next, and many of us never quite get around to turning our good intentions into reality.

Those ‘good intentions,’ while no doubt admirable, tend to remain unrealized mainly because they are too vague.  Vague ideas are impossible to focus on and aim for; they are moving targets.

Do you have moving targets in your life?  Perhaps you want to eat a more healthy diet or lose the winter weight that has crept upon you.  Maybe you just want to establish a regular workout routine and stick with it this time.

The keys to your success are two-fold:  steady the target and create momentum. 

How to stop a moving target

Imagine a target shooter trying to hit a small bull’s eye on a distant target.  He begins to aim, but then the target suddenly moves to the right, and before he can position himself to aim again, the target darts to the left.  Will he ever hit that target?  Not likely.

Without setting specific goals, your good intentions are exactly like that moving target.  You would like to lose some weight, feel a little better, make a change in your diet–but without clearly defined goals and methods, you can’t focus and make it happen.

The way to steady the target so you can finally hit the bull’s eye is to define your goals and write them down:

  • How much weight do you want to lose?
  • What kind of changes do you want to make in your diet?
  • How many days per week do you want to exercise?
  • Which article of clothing do you wish would fit your body again?
  • How much weight would you like to lift while strength training?

Once you know where you want to end up, you are much more likely to get there.

But you have to start moving toward your goals.  That is where momentum comes in.

Create momentum to reach your goals

In his book, Eat that Frog, Brian Tracy discusses the Momentum Principle of Success.  In Tracy’s words:

This principle says that although it may take tremendous amounts of energy to overcome inertia and get started initially, it then takes far less energy to keep going.”1

There is much wisdom in his words.  Sometimes, the hardest part of reaching a goal is just getting started.  That first day of doing things differently or the first experience of bypassing an unhealthy treat in favor of a food that will give you more energy can be daunting.  It isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t fun.

So how do you get that momentum?  How do you start moving?  Accountability is the answer.  Having someone else involved in your efforts can be the most important factor in your success.

It is hard to change lifelong habits on your own.  You need radical motivation that comes from involving others in your efforts.  Setting deadlines, making commitments and entering contests all provide an external motivation that will carry you through even the toughest temptations.

And once you get started, you will find that the momentum principle kicks in and it becomes easier and easier to keep going.

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Start NOW

You can make that moving target come to a screeching halt and blast the bull’s eye right out of it by taking a few minutes to write down what you want.  Don’t make it your goals too broad; be specific.  And then begin brainstorming ways to get others involved with you; that will provide your momentum.  Success is within your reach.  You can do this!

Oh, and remember, the Starport team is here to help you the entire way!

Source:

1Tracy, Brian (2007-01-01). Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time (p. 107). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

You are What You Eat:  You Can’t Out Exercise a Bad Diet

Ever heard someone give themselves permission to indulge their sweet tooth just because they just had a great workout?  It’s a common excuse. Many people believe that because they exercise, they’re in the black as far as their calorie input/output.  But in reality, this sort of thinking is a sure road to failure. Most people with a lean body and a 6 pack didn’t get that way by rationalizing their way to the desert buffet.

Many people have no idea how many calories they take in on an average day, often severely underestimating when asked to take a guess at it.  But they also overestimate the number of calories they burn.  The truth is, 30 minutes of the best boot camp in town will not cancel out that burger and fries!

Do the math

Let’s look at the hard numbers.  An average, moderately intensive workout will burn 300-400 calories in about an hour.  That’s an hour of hard work with plenty of sweat and hard breathing.

Now say on the way home from the gym, you decide to grab a couple of donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts.  After all, you’ve earned it!  In the 3 minutes it will take you to put away two chocolate frosted cake donuts, you’ve consumed 720 calories. All your hard work is wasted, plus you’ve provided your body with several hundred extra calories to store as fat!

Or maybe you just want to have some pizza and soda with friends.  You consider the 600 calories you burned running on the treadmill for an hour today (at 10 miles per hour—that’s a really fast run for a really long time!), so you eat 4 pieces of pizza and a coke.  No problem, right?

Wrong.  You just downed 900-1,000 calories in about 10 minutes!

Is it really worth it?

Face the facts

The bottom line is you simply can’t out train a bad diet.  If you try to spar a bad diet with exercise, the exercise will lose every single time.  The only way to lose weight and get that lean, sexy, healthy body that looks great in anything (or nothing) is to eat a healthy diet AND exercise.

Your weight loss is driven by diet and maintained by exercise.  The only way to get ahead in the calorie game is to eat fewer calories than you burn.  Only then will you begin to see the fat melt away.  Exercise builds muscle and can rev up your metabolism, but you won’t lose weight if you continually eat more than you can metabolize.

This is not to say that exercise is not important.  It is!  In fact, according to Barry Braun, associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst,

“When you look at the results in the National Weight Control Registry, you see over and over that exercise is one constant among people who’ve maintained their weight loss.” 1

Want to keep the pounds off?  Exercise!  Exercise is crucial.  And you must combine it with a balanced diet if you want to shed pounds.

Start smart

Have you been trying to out exercise your diet?  Don’t be discouraged; many of us have been guilty of this.  It’s time to rethink your weight loss strategy.  Try the following tips to start fresh and recreate your body!

  • Plan, plan, plan. The only way you are going to get control of your diet is to plan ahead.  Do not let yourself get hungry with nothing healthy prepared to eat; your will power will plummet and you will reach for a snack that will set you back.  Keep food ready in your refrigerator that you can grab and heat quickly.  And don’t leave the house without cool water, nuts, fruit, whole grain crackers and cheese.  Make things really easy by using a service like Lean Eats.
  • Lift weights. When you start losing weight, you must protect your muscle. If you begin to lose pounds without adding in weight lifting, you will likely lose up to 25% of your muscle mass.  Also, after an intense weight lifting workout targeting at least 3 big muscles, your metabolism increases for up to 39 hours after you are finished.  And repairing that muscle tissue after lifting requires energy!  Energy=calories burned.
  • Get some accountability. We’ll strike this note again and again:  you need a partner.  Remember, the single biggest determiner of your fitness success is whether or not you have an accountability partner.  Find someone to trade food journals with and report on how you are doing with your will power.

You need both exercise and a healthy diet to be lean, strong and healthy.  Don’t neglect either one!

1http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/18/magazine/18exercise-t.html?pagewanted=1

Your Strategy for Success on Thanksgiving

Tomorrow, families all over America will be sitting down to a meal which looks back to that first Thanksgiving in which the Pilgrims commemorated the harvest after a harsh winter.  The year was 1621, and Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving, which the colonists celebrated as a traditional English harvest feast.

George Washington declared Thanksgiving a holiday in 1789, and in 1941 Congress passed a resolution which decreed that the holiday should fall on the fourth Thursday of November.

Feasting together is as old as the human race.  It is a way of celebrating and enjoying time with family and friends.  But if we are not careful, we can overdo the festivities and end up setting ourselves back over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Just how big is your meal?

It’s hard to believe, but the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat.  And most of us don’t limit ourselves to one indulgent meal.  It’s typical to snack and celebrate all day long!

The trouble comes when we have to deal with those extra calories that we have packed into our bodies:

A 160 lb. person would have to run at a moderate pace for four hours, swim for five hours or walk 30 miles to burn off a 3,000-calorie Thanksgiving Day meal,” said Dr. Cedric Bryant, ACE chief exercise physiologist.  Many people start by snacking throughout the day and that combined with the meal can lead to a total caloric intake of 4,500.”1

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.

  • 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!

1 http://www.acefitness.org/pressroom/392/hard-to-believe-average-thanksgiving-meal-equals-3

Holiday Survival Guide:  How to Get Through the Holidays With No Regrets

Let’s face it:  it is hard to stick to a healthy eating and exercise plan during the holidays.  Everywhere we turn there are tempting foods and drinks—from treats at office parties to our own traditional family favorites.  When you add in a busy schedule filled with shopping and get-togethers that make it tough to squeeze in exercise, you have a recipe for disaster as far as our scales are concerned.

The good news is that you really can get through the holidays without gaining weight.  It will take some effort, but you will thank yourself a thousand times when January 1st rolls around and you have no regrets!

Your Goal:  Maintenance

In order to greet the New Year without tipping the scale, it is wise to try to maintain your weight during the next few weeks instead of trying to lose.   Remember:  you want to enjoy the holidays, not be miserable from deprivation.  This means that you will allow yourself occasional treats and splurges and keep the scale where it is rather than trying to actually decrease your weight.

There are several ways to accomplish this:

  • Don’t skip your workouts. Even moderate intensity workouts can burn 300-400 calories per hour.  You need this calorie-burn to keep up with the richer food that you will be eating.  You will also be less likely to overeat if you have just sweated through a hard workout!
  • Eat breakfast. People who eat breakfast consume fewer calories throughout the day than those who skip this important meal.
  • Keep a food diary. Write down every single thing you eat—even if it is only one bite of shrimp cocktail.  It is a proven fact that keeping a food journal results in better weight control than not keeping one.
  • Monitor your hunger. Never show up at a party or buffet ravenous—you will most certainly overeat.  Drink water and have a protein-filled snack (such as nuts or cheese) before arriving. This will help you to have more self-control around the temptations.
  • Weigh yourself twice each week. Normally it is not a good idea to step on the scale too often, but during the holidays it’s a great way to stay on track with your goals. If you see the scale start to creep, you can immediately take steps to correct it, such as backing off your calories for a day or two, drinking more water and adding in a little more exercise.
  • Watch your portion size. If you have an idea of how much food you are putting on your plate, you will be less likely to overdo it.  Take a look at the chart to familiarize yourself with portion sizes as they compare to your hand.
  • Deal quickly with leftovers. If you have unhealthy leftovers in your home, you are likely to indulge. Don’t leave them sitting around.  Freeze them, give them away or toss them.  It’s not worth the temptation!
  • Check in with your future self. Every day, speak to yourself from the future—say, from January 1.  Thank yourself for doing the tough work of self-discipline during these holiday weeks.  You might say something like this:

“Thank you!  I feel great!  I’m no heavier than I was in November, I’ve stayed on track with my exercise, my energy is incredible and I’ve got the momentum to spend the rest of the winter getting in even better shape before spring gets here!”

  • Go public. Sound scary?  It’s supposed to!  Let others know what your current weight is and check in with them each time you weigh yourself.  That kind of intense accountability will give you will power when the cheesecake and fudge starts showing up at the office!

You can survive the holidays with no added weight gain.  Remember these tips and keep a vision of what you want to feel like on January 1 in mind.  It’s going to be a great holiday season!

 

November is American Diabetes Month

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Did you know that 1 in 11 Americans today has diabetes? Despite its prevalence, diabetes is an invisible disease. It affects men and women, people young and old, and people of all races, shapes and sizes. Often there are no outward signs from the 29 million Americans who fight this chronic illness every day. That’s why there is a critical need to foster awareness and education while breaking down stereotypes, myths and misunderstandings about this growing public health crisis that affects so many of us.

diabetes-list

This is exactly why the American Diabetes Association marks each November as American Diabetes Month: to bring extra attention to the disease and the tens of millions of people affected by it.

This November, the organization will showcase real-life stories of friends, families and neighbors managing the day-to-day triumphs and challenges of diabetes. The 2016 campaign, sponsored by Colgate Total® (National Oral Care Strategic Partner) and Medtronic Diabetes®, invites us to use #ThisIsDiabetes to share our personal stories and to start a dialogue about what it really means to live with diabetes.

Diabetes is more than the medications and devices used to manage it. For many, diabetes dictates how they organize their day, what they eat at every meal, how they choose to be physically active and how they spend their money. People with diabetes can have health care costs that are 2.3 times higher than someone without diabetes, as type 1 and type 2 require very specific forms of treatment.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and there is no known way to prevent it. Approximately 5 percent of people with diabetes have type 1, which means their body does not produce any insulin. Insulin is critical in order for the body to transport glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into cells for energy. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day to live.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for 90 to 95 percent of cases in the United States, and is caused when the body does not produce or use insulin properly. Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include being overweight, having a family history of diabetes and having diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes). Some people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood glucose (sugar) with healthy eating and being active; other may require oral medications or insulin, especially as the disease progresses. Type 2 diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, as well as older adults.

Some women develop gestational diabetes, high blood glucose (sugar) levels during pregnancy, which requires treatment to protect the health of the mother and the baby. Gestational diabetes affects approximately 9.2 percent of pregnant women.

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There’s a way for everybody to participate during American Diabetes Month in November. Share your story, or encourage a friend or family member to share theirs using #ThisIsDiabetes. Be sure to also follow the American Diabetes Association on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

You can also update your Facebook profile picture to help raise awareness, sign up to become an advocate and donate to help the American Diabetes Association continue their critical work. To learn more and view #ThisIsDiabetes stories from around the country, check out diabetes.org/adm.

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.

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?

The result

Over one-third of all adults in our country are obese.  We live in a society in which we are surrounded by highly-palatable foods (think restaurant foods and processed foods).  The deeply ingrained habit of eating unhealthy food and too much of it is widespread. Everywhere we turn we are bombarded not only with unhealthy food, but also with a neural circuitry that drives us to pursue that unhealthy food.

Remap your brain with mindset

And now the good news:  you can start right now to change the trajectory that you are on.  You can rewire your brain and begin reducing the power that those opioid-producing foods have over you.  You can draw a new map in your mind that will have you passing by the doughnuts on your way to better pleasures.

The secret is mindset.  You must want something else more than you want those fleeting moments of pleasure that the doughnuts bring you.  What is it?  What do want?  Maybe you want to drop a couple of jeans sizes.  Maybe you want to be off your blood pressure medication.  Maybe you want to be known as an ‘athletic’ type person.  Maybe you want to keep disease at bay.  Or maybe you just want the immense satisfaction of being in control of yourself!  People who can’t resist a doughnut have given away power over their own lives!

Once you know what you want, go after it with the following strategies:

  1. Stop. There is no other way to say this: you must stop eating foods that are not in your plan.  In the beginning, this will be difficult.  When everyone around you is tossing back pizza and soft drinks, you will struggle.  You will smell the pizza, you will be in the emotionally charged atmosphere and dopamine will be flowing in your bloodstream.  Think about what you want more than that doughnut; think about what you can only have by resisting the doughnut.  Sheer will-power is what you have to use at this point.
  2. Savor the victory. Once you come out on the other side having successfully won the battle within your own mind, you will have accomplished much more than just saying no to a piece of pizza.  You will have begun ‘cooling’ the stimulus, as Dr. Kessler puts it.  You have taken the first step toward weakening the circuitry in your brain that drives you to habitual patterns of behavior.  The next time, it will be easier.  And after that, even easier.
  3. Focus on new rewards. As you remap your brain, you are creating new neural pathways that in time will be stronger than the weakening, “doughnut-centered” pathways.  Make sure these new rewards are life-giving and energy-producing, such as the thrill you get when you can run a 5K or set a PR in your weight-lifting.

You can have power over habits:  it’s all about mindset.  You can do this!

 

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.

 

Relax and Lose Weight

Want to get healthy and lose weight?  Then relax.  It’s true.  Relaxing is good for you, and what better day to brush up on relaxation facts than on Relaxation Day!  So relax and read on for tips!

The role of cortisol

One of the most important reasons that relaxation is good for you is because it prevents the release of excess cortisol.  Cortisol is a hormone that your body releases when it is stressed.  If you only have small amounts of cortisol, there is no problem.  But when stress is persistent, as it is in many of our lives, the amount of cortisol in your bloodstream rises and stays elevated.  The result?  Weight gain.

When cortisol is released, you begin craving foods that deliver quick energy, such as potato chips, candy bars, pastries, etc.  If this were not bad enough, cortisol goes on to store those extra calories as fat, mainly around your abdominal area.

Cortisol also interferes with the hormones that control your appetite; you will find that you are hungry more often and have a hard time staying satiated.

And if that were not enough, cortisol can also cause decreased muscle mass because it lowers testosterone levels.  The less muscle you have, the less fat you will burn.

The science of relaxation

The good news is that intentional relaxation can combat stress and combat cortisol.  Scientists have discovered what they call “the relaxation effect.”  Specifically, Harvard researchers have learned that deep relaxation causes bodily changes all the way down to our genetic level.  For those people who practiced yoga long term, their disease fighting genes were active, as opposed to people who did not make relaxation a part of their lives.1

The participants in the study who practiced yoga had ‘switched on’ genes that protect them from high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, pain and even infertility.

But wait!  There’s more…

When the researchers in the study asked the non-relaxation practicing participants to start using relaxation methods, it only took two months for their bodies to begin changing.  Genes that fight inflammation and help prevent cancer began turning on! And the more they practiced relaxation, the more improved were the benefits.

The take away message?  You can’t afford not to relax. Too much is riding on this. Start now and in just a couple short months, you can be enjoying the genetic benefits of robust health.

Source:

1 http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/relax–its-good-for-you-20090819-eqlo.html