Wednesday, January 18, 2012

5 Health Tips for 2012

Yesterday, my place of employment kicked off a new wellness initiative for the 2012. Basically, there's a new emphasis being placed on health and fitness and all staff are being encouraged to sign up for a "Biggest Loser" type competition! We had a guest speaker talk about some basic health and nutrition tips and learned about the prizes that can be had if you win the competition. I'm really glad that they emphasized that skinny does not equal healthy. There are a lot of ways to harm your body and starving it is just as bad as overfeeding it.

Anyways! Yesterday's presentation at work got me thinking about some of my favorite health tips. My husband has lost about 20 lbs since I first met him (about 3 years ago), and I've recently lost 5 lbs within the last two and a half weeks (goodbye holiday weight gain!!)

I'm by no means an expert on health and fitness. But I have learned some valuable tips and tricks along the way! So, here some of my favorite health tips - both old and new:

1. Utilize a calorie counter. I've had so much success with these things. In the past I used a web-based program called FitDay. Currently, I like to use the MyFitnessPal app for my iPhone. I love it because it's got an extensive library of foods (including most restaurant menu items), a bar code scanner, and the ability to add my own foods and recipes. Plus I can calculate my calorie expenditure through fitness. Why use a calorie counter? Well, it will give you a really good idea of just how much you are eating. I recommend using one for a month or two until your eating habits have changed. Then, you can wean yourself off so you don't build a dependency on it. Weigh yourself every week or two and if you notice you've put on some weight then go back to the calorie counter until you're back to your goal!   
2. Quit your sugary drink addiction already! I can't emphasize this enough. Soda, energy drinks, coffee drinks, even juice.... It's all laden with unnecessary calories and sugar! Sugary drinks put you at greater risk of obesity, kidney damage, heart disease, and higher blood pressure.  Plus, these drinks don't fill you up, so using them as part of your daily caloric allotment will only leave your body feeling hungry and malnourished! Part of the reason my husband dropped 20 lbs within a year and a half was because he quit his Mountain Dew addiction. (Note: if ever trying to challenge your LOTR addicted husband to stick with a major health change then just feed him this line... "Well, if there were a ring of absolute power that needed to be destroyed... I don't think I'd trust you with the job." Needless to say, he hasn't touched Mountain Dew in nearly 3 years...) 
3. Reinvent your breakfasts. It's probably the most important meal of the day! Some of my favorite breakfast meals are: Berry-Banana-Spinach Smoothies - rich in vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. (Just combine almond milk, some frozen berries, 1 banana, and a handful of spinach in a blender! I promise you can't taste the spinach!!) "Reese's" Oatmeal - rich in protein and antioxidants. (Add some peanut butter, honey, and unsweetened coco-powder to plain oatmeal. Add some flaked coconut if you're an Almond Joy lover!) Cliff/Luna bars - these are a staple in my household. When we don't have time to make breakfast we just grab one of these bars. They are PACKED with nutritional gold!!!
4. Try coconut oil! I just picked up a little jar of Trader Joe's coconut oil on a whim (I LOVE all things coconut). After buying it I read up on the stuff... It's amazing! Good for hair, skin, heart, liver, stress relief, digestion, weight loss, immunity, bones... The list goes on and on! You can cook with it, add it to your smoothies, or just eat it it plain! I have between a teaspoon and a tablespoon daily. It just tastes like coconut paste... Slightly sweet and coconutt-y... Yum! (NOTE: Coconut oil is a natural laxative. Therefore, I do NOT recommend eating coconut oil and then going on a 3 hour hike... Or going anywhere without... "facilities"!)
5. Do whatever it takes for YOU to work out. For me, there are plenty of days that I do NOT feel like going to the gym. I just want to curl up under blankets and read. So, I compromise and tell myself that I CAN read... If I just go to the gym and walk on the treadmill while I'm at it. Sure, it's not as challenging of a workout as running 5 miles or making it through a spinning class. But it gets me to work out. And any work out is better than none! So don't feel like you have to become a triathlon athlete in 5 months or log an hour and a half of gym time 6 days a week! Figure out what personally works for you. Are you a social butterfly? Join a fitness class with your friends. Does the idea of working out publicly fill you with anxiety? Hide in your basement and do 20 minutes of a YouTube workout! Whatever it takes for YOU to make exercise a habit!
Don't forget - your body is an amazing, fantastic creation!!! Take care of it. Give it the proper fuel and strengthen it. You won't be sorry!

For a little more on my food/fitness philosophy, read here.