Yoga for the Body, Mind, and Soul!


Yoga is an ancient practice designed to unite the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of ourselves.  And along the way, the yogi (practitioner of yoga) gains a plethora of benefits!  So if you’re not sure if yoga is right for you, check out a few of the benefits that you will experience:

 

Physical Benefits

 

  • Increased flexibility – This is the most commonly known benefit of yoga.  And it’s true!  Many yoga poses are based on stretching the body, allowing for greater flexibility and range of motion.  This means that when you turn 70, you will still be able to tie your own shoes!
  • Increased strength – Many of the yoga poses also increase our muscular strength.  Try practicing sun salutations for 15 minutes, and you might start to feel the burn in your triceps!
  • Increased balance – Yoga also helps increase our balance physically.  Any pose where you are standing on one foot (tree pose, dancer pose, etc.) will help you find stability so you are less likely to fall over off of the mat.  This becomes more important as we age…
  • Better posture – In yoga, we are constantly guided to lengthen the spine.  If you see someone hunched over during a yoga class, hopefully the teacher is quickly guiding them to sit up straight!  With a straighter and stronger spine comes better posture.  And with better posture comes more oxygen to the brain, allowing for more coherent thinking.
  • Increased joint mobility – The physical yoga practice guides you to utilize your body’s full range of motion.  This helps your body build cartilage around the joints, preventing the onset of arthritis!  
  • Healthier spine – There are many spinal doctors that now prescribe yoga for patients with spinal disc problems.  This is because in yoga, we move the spine in all 6 directions: forward bend, backbend, left side bend, right side bend, left twist and right twist.  But you don’t have to wait for spinal degeneration to practice yoga!  Yoga can help prevent degradation in the spine, allowing for a healthy and pain-free back.
  • Healthier bones – Yoga is considered a weight bearing exercise, and weight bearing exercises encourage the bones to build up stronger infrastructure.  Stronger bones decreases the chance of osteoporosis allowing for a longer, healthier life!
  • Increase circulation – An inversion is a pose where the hips are higher than the heart (think about downward facing dog, standing forward fold, handstand, etc.)  These poses increase circulation throughout the body, but especially towards the head.  When you move from an inversion to an upright position, you often feel more relaxed.  This is because your blood pressure has decreased!  This is a powerful benefit for anyone with circulation or heart problems.
  • Increases immunity – Practicing yoga allows the lymphatic system to function more easily.  By stretching and contracting the various muscles of the body, the lymph nodes are able to drain naturally, and the lymphatic system experiences an increase in circulation, allowing your body to fight off infections and diseases more easily!
  • Regulate adrenal glands – Yoga helps us reduce cortisol, the stress causing hormone.  During yoga, we are focused on the breath and constantly working to deepen the breath.  The movements are linked with the breath, allowing the parasympathetic nervous system to engage and giving our adrenal system a little break.
  • Increase weight loss – For overweight yogis, yoga can help restore a healthier weight.  This is somewhat due to the fact that you burn some calories in yoga, but mostly due to the fact that you are becoming more mindful.  Yoga teaches us to focus on the present moment, which is especially important during mealtimes.  When we practice mindfulness when eating, we are more likely to stop when we feel full (not stuffed!) and to feel satisfaction after the meal is complete.

 

Mental Benefits

 

  • Increase happiness – Practicing yoga often leaves us with an increase in endorphins.  These endorphins literally make us feel happier, decreasing symptoms of depression. And we could all use a little more happiness in our lives!
  • Decrease stress – Similar to the physical benefit of “regulate adrenal glands”, yoga allows us to simply relax.  By spending time thinking about the breath and body, your thoughts naturally become less overwhelming, and you are left with a feeling of peace.
  • Clearer thoughts – during yoga, we practice good posture, especially with the spine.  When we have good posture, it’s easier for the blood to get to the brain, providing fresh oxygen to the brain.  This fresh oxygen allows us to think more clearly.

 

Spiritual Benefits

 

  • Less violence – In yoga, we practice ahimsa, which is non-violence or non-harm.  This is practiced by being gentle to ourselves on the mat and being gentle to the world us off of the mat.
  • Greater understanding of truth – Yoga teaches us satya, to live our truth.  By becoming in tune with our inner self, our voice of reason, we gain a greater understanding of the world around us and how to live our lives as our true self.
  • Greater integrity – Another yoga concept is asteya, or non-stealing.  This one seems obvious, yet we see people everyone taking what isn’t theirs.  Yoga helps us relearn this simple concept of not stealing.
  • Greater contentedness – Aparigraha, or non-possessiveness, is a powerful yoga concept.  It teaches us to accept what we have instead of always wanting what we lack.  This helps increase our level of contentment, increasing our overall satisfaction in life.

 

Hopefully a couple of these benefits appealed to you!  And this is just the beginning.  As you deepen your yoga practice, you will experience benefits above and beyond the basics that I have listed.  So have fun on your yoga journey!

 

Namaste

 

References

https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/count-yoga-38-ways-yoga-keeps-fit

https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/yamas-ahimsa-non-harming-yoga-practice

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/yoga-101/yama-satya-truthfulness-yoga-practice/

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/yoga-101/yama-asteya-non-stealing-yoga-practice/

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/yoga-101/yama-aparigraha-non-possessiveness-yoga-practice/

 

Getting Back on the Fitness Train


Remember back in January, when you set a rush of good intentions for eating healthy and working out? How are those intentions doing now?… Now that summer is almost over, have you given up hope on your swimsuit-ready body? (by the way, every body is swimsuit ready – what may not be ready for it is your mind)

Well, have no fear! It is never too late to get back into a healthy routine! Let’s take a moment to think back to our aspiring January selves… what did we want our lives to be like by mid-summer? Maybe you even wrote down your goals – if so, go find them! Let’s check them out and see if any of them match with the descriptions below:

  • Exercise Moreokay, this one is very generic, but also a very common resolution. If this was one of yours, think about whether or not you made a change to your exercise routine. If not, let’s start now! Go ahead and sign up for that fun fitness class. Or lace up your shoes and go on a run. This resolution has a lot of room for interpretation, so use that freedom to make your exercise routine fun!
  • Run a marathon now we’re getting specific… but don’t worry, it’s not too late to start! You only need 8-16 weeks of dedicated training (depending on how much you’ve been running) in order to complete a marathon. And there is a plethora of resources available online with training plans for new runners. Simply Google “marathon training plan” and pick one that works for you! After that is the hard part… 8-16 weeks of commitment to running, followed by 26.2 miles of blood, seat, and tears. It is not easy, but believe me, it’s worth it!
  • Lose Weight so this one is partly related to exercise, the other part is nutrition. So, have you lost the weight you had expected to last January? If not, let’s start now! One of the best exercise routines for weight loss is HIIT (high intensity interval training). If you are unfamiliar with HIIT, check out your local gym, fitness center, or cardio club to find some heart-pumping classes to boost your metabolism and burn some calories! After 4 weeks of 5 HIIT workouts per week, you should feel a dramatic difference in the way you feel about your body.

These tend to be the most common fitness-related goals/resolutions, but if you had a fitness goal that was not listed, feel free to comment below and we can offer some advice to guide get you back on the fitness train and conquer your goals!

Sugar: tastes sweet, feels bitter

Sugar can be our best friend and our worst enemy… it can make our food taste irresistible and add inches to our waist.

Sugar is like that “friend” that always wants to go grab a bite, a drink, and then sit on the couch watching mindless television.  They seem fun, but they’re really no good for you.  As you mature, you realize more and more that this friend only depletes your energy, leaving you feeling more tired and sad than before.  Overtime, you gain the strength to let go of this friend and find people that increase your overall vitality.

It’s time to let go of sugar – it is not your friend.  Dr. Thomas M. Campbell states that the consumption of sugar can even lead to mental conditions like depression.  Sugar literally makes us sad.  We’ve all experienced, or seen, the effects of sugar.  You feel happy and energetic for a short amount of time, ultimately leading to a hard crash where you feel sadder and more tired than before you ate the sugar.  Which leads you to want to eat more sugar – making you stuck in the endless cycle.  You constantly search for that next “high” only to find yourself lower than ever before.  Given enough time, this inevitably leads to depression.

So why not take sugar out of the equation completely?  This would eliminate the sugar high to sugar crash cycle!  You would feel happier, more energetic, and more vibrant!  I know… easier said than done.

The truth of the matter is that with sugar consumption, we are dealing with an addiction, similar to a drug addiction.  So there are two approaches to tackle this addiction:  the cold-turkey approach or the gradual approach.

Cold Turkey

If you prefer to rip off the band aid as quick as possible, or dive into the cold pool head first, then cold turkey is for you.  It’s simple, effective, fast, but takes great discipline.  You simply cut sugar out of your diet: no sweets, honey, added sugars, sweetened drinks, pastries.  None.  The draw-back with this approach is it can lead to withdrawals.  The withdrawals won’t be as severe as what a drug addict experiences – most likely, you’ll just be irritable and might get a headache.  But they are very temporary.  As long as you have the discipline, you will get through the withdrawals, break the sugar addiction, and live your most fulfilling life!

Gradual

Do you prefer to peel the band aid off slowly?  To get into the pool one inch at a time, allowing your body to acclimate?  Then the gradual approach is for you.  With this approach, you will decrease your sugar intake slowly – adjusting your intake on a weekly basis until it is down to zero.  This approach will require great patience.  The first week, you will eat normally and simply record each time you eat sugar.  The next week, take away 10% of the sugar sources and continue taking 10% away until you no longer eat any sugar sources.  For instance, if you drink a Frappuccino each morning and a bowl of ice cream every day – that’s 14 sources a week.  10% would be 1.4, so the next week take away 2 of these sources (always round up!).  So, have a sugarless Sunday.  Continue decreasing week by week until you no longer need the sugar.  While this approach takes significantly longer, you will not go through the withdrawals of the cold turkey approach because your body is adjusting gradually over time to reach a sugarless state of utter bliss!

Food and Feelings

As much as we all like to keep food and feelings separate – they are often intimately intertwined in more ways than we may realize.  We all have at one point or another reached for food to suppress or enhance an emotion.  When you come home after a stressful day of work, do you like to sit on the couch with a bowl of popcorn or tub of ice cream?  When you have a fun night out with friends, do you often order extra appetizers or dessert, even when you’re not hungry?  There’s nothing wrong with you if you connect food and feelings – it’s a natural part of being human.  But in order to be our most vibrant selves, we must learn to keep the two separate.  When it’s time to eat, our minds must be focused on the pleasure of eating balanced with satisfying hunger and nutrient needs.  When your mind is filled with emotions, you must find the proper, not food related, outlets for those emotions.

Think about the last time you overindulged in your favorite comfort food (think pizza, mac and cheese – for me, bean burritos).  You were probably very happy leading up to and during the act of eating.  Your brain was probably flooded with dopamine as you bit into the comfort food.  But think about what happened 10-30 minutes after you finished.  Did you feel sluggish, bloated, slow, low… depressed?  You’re not alone.  And yet, we still go back to these “comfort” foods, even though they leave us feeling terrible.  Why is that?  Well, why does an alcoholic drink every night, even when they are left with a hangover?  It’s an addiction.  We’re addicted to the high we get when eating so much that we forget the low that occurs afterwards.

Have no fear!  You can overcome this cycle!  It simply takes determination and patience.  This addiction can be overcome using mindfulness.  Mindfulness simply means being aware of your physical and mental reactions, rather than the outside influences.  For instance, next time you are face to face with that jelly-filled donut (or pick your favorite sweet), rather than being influenced by external factors and thoughts regarding the donut, dive inside and do a physical scan.  Begin with your stomach, ask yourself “am I hungry?  Is my stomach truly empty?”  If your stomach is not asking for food, then you are experiencing mental “hunger”, which will diminish over time if it is ignored.  Next, think back to the last time you ate a similar piece of food, and think about how it made you feel – not just in the moment, but afterwards.  Did the food hurt your stomach?  Did the food make you bloated?  Did you end up with an energy crash?  Next, evaluate your emotional state.  Are you stressed and looking for food to comfort you?  Are you sad and needing an emotional boost?  If you’re reaching for food to comfort you, then put your hand down and seek a more appropriate outlet.  Find a friend to chat with, soak up some Vitamin D outside in the sun – find whatever works for you.

So, next time you find yourself reaching for “comfort” food, use that as a trigger to turn up your mindfulness meter.  Overtime, you will find that your feelings will be associated less and less with food.  Your emotional needs will finally be met, and you may even notice a bit of weight loss!  With enough patience and determination, you will have a more meaningful and vibrant life.

Meal Prep Ideas

Everyone these days seems to be so crazy busy that they don’t seem to have time for anything.  This seems to be especially true for Moms.  They often put everyone else’s needs first and forget to take care of themselves.  They often tend to neglect their health and do not get the proper nutrition that they need to maintain their health.  As a result, they tend to put on weight and can’t seem to get it off.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Simply planning ahead can actually save you a lot of time and stress.  And, you will be eating healthy nutritious meals all week long.  It will also save you money from eating out.

The benefits are seemingly endless: all your meals are organized for the week ahead, there’s no last-minute fussing about what to cook, and you’re less tempted to reach for chips or takeout when you have a nutritious option ready to go. When you’re prepared, you are going to make getting out of the door every morning a stress-free breeze.  

I find that I have the most success when I prepare all of my meals the night before and go shopping once per week.  I just get all of the cooking out of the way so that I can spend the next day or two reaping the benefits.  Try doubling a recipe so that it will last for more than one day.  And have fun looking for new, healthy recipes to try!

Breakfast

  • Frittata

From www.foodnetwork.com: Ingredients: 1 small zucchini, 1-inch-diced, 1 red bell pepper, seeded and 1 1/2-inch-diced, 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and 1 1/2-inch-diced, 1 red onion, 1 1/2-inch-diced, 1/3 cup good olive oil, Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves), 12 extra-large eggs, 1 cup half-and-half, 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, 1/3 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (3 scallions), 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese.  Directions: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Place the zucchini, peppers, and onion on a sheet pan. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and toss well. Bake for 15 minutes. Add the garlic, toss again, and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the oven to 350 degrees.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  In a 10-inch ovenproof saute pan, melt the butter and saute the scallions over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Add the roasted vegetables to the pan and toss with the scallions. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and cook for 2 minutes over medium-low heat without stirring. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake the frittata for 20 to 30 minutes, until puffed and set in the middle. Sprinkle with the Gruyere and bake for another 3 minutes, until the cheese is just melted. Cut into 6 or 8 wedges and serve hot.

  • Strawberry Oatmeal Smoothie

From www.allrecipes.com.  Ingredients: 1 cup soy milk, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 banana, 14 frozen strawberries 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Directions: In a blender, combine soy milk, oats, banana and strawberries. Add vanilla if desired. Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve.

  • Overnight Oats

From www.minimalistbaker.com.  Ingredients: 1/2 cup (120 ml) unsweetened plain almond milk, 3/4 Tbsp (9 g) chia seeds, 2 Tbsp (32 g) natural salted peanut butter or almond butter (creamy or crunchy), 1 Tbsp (15 ml) maple syrup (or sub coconut sugar, organic brown sugar, or stevia to taste), 1/2 cup (45 g) gluten free rolled oats.  Directions: To a mason jar or small bowl add almond milk, chia seeds, peanut butter, and maple syrup (or other sweetener) and stir with a spoon to combine. The peanut butter doesn’t need to be completely mixed with the almond milk (doing so leaves swirls of peanut butter to enjoy the next day).  Add oats and stir a few more times, then press down with a spoon to ensure all oats have been moistened and are immersed in almond milk.  Cover securely with a lid or plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 6 hours).  The next day, open and enjoy as is, or garnish with desired toppings (see options above).  Overnight oats will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, though best within the first 12-24 hours.

Lunch

  • Protein-Packed Salad

From theveggieindian.com.  Ingredients: 1 can chickpeas, 1 can red kidney beans, 1 piece small of ginger grated or shredded, 1 medium onion diced, 2- 3 cloves garlic, 1   tbsp olive oil, A pinch of red chili flakes, 3-4 spring onions green part only, chopped, scallions
1 cup chopped parsley OR coriander I used cilantro, Juice of one lemon, 150 g  feta cheese – almost half cup size, Salt and Black pepper  Instructions:  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook the red onion till lightly golden. Do not overdo it and the onions should still be crunchy.  Add garlic and chili and cook till the garlic is fragrant. Set aside to cool so it doesn’t melt the feta when you mix it in.  Drain the chickpeas and red kidney beans, rinse and place in the salad bowl. Add crumbled feta, spring onion, parsley ( or coriander )  and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper.  Add the cooled onion and garlic mixture and remaining oil and mix well.

  • Hummus and veggie wrap

From www.foodnetwork.com.  2 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, Pinch freshly ground black pepper, 1 cup store-bought hummus, 4 pieces whole-wheat wrap bread (about 9 inches in diameter), 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted, 1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced, 2 ounces baby spinach leaves (2 cups lightly packed), 1/2 cup red onion thinly sliced into half moons.  Directions: Preheat the grill or grill pan over medium heat. Brush both sides of the zucchini slices with the oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Grill until tender and slightly browned, about 4 minutes per side.  Spread 1/4 cup of the hummus over each piece of bread. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of pine nuts on top. Top with 3 slices of zucchini, 2 pieces of red pepper, 1/2 cup of the spinach, a few sliced onions, and 1 tablespoon of the mint. Roll each of them up and cut in half on a diagonal.

  • Lentil Soup

From ohsheglows.com.  Ingredients: 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 cups (280 grams) diced onion (1 medium/large), 2 large garlic cloves, minced, 2 teaspoons ground turmeric, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1 (15-ounce/398 mL) can diced tomatoes, with juices, 1 (15-ounce/398 mL) can full-fat coconut milk*, 3/4 cup (140 grams) uncooked red lentils, rinsed and drained, 3 1/2 cups (875 mL) low-sodium vegetable broth, 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste, Freshly ground black pepper, to taste, Red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, to taste (for a kick of heat!), 1 (5-ounce/140-gram) package baby spinach, 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, or more to taste.  Directions: In a large pot, add the oil, onion, and garlic. Add a pinch of salt, stir, and sauté over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes until the onion softens.  Stir in the turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and cardamom until combined. Continue cooking for about 1 minute, until fragrant.  Add the diced tomatoes (with juices), entire can of coconut milk, red lentils, broth, salt, and plenty of pepper. Add red pepper flakes or cayenne, if desired, to taste. Stir to combine. Increase heat to high and bring to a low boil.  Once it boils, reduce the heat to medium-high, and simmer, uncovered, for about 18 to 22 minutes, until the lentils are fluffy and tender.  Turn off the heat and stir in the spinach until wilted. Add the lime juice to taste. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if desired. Ladle into bowls and serve with toasted bread and lime wedges.

Dinner

  • Rice and Beans with your favorite veggies

From nomeatathlete.com.  Ingredients: 1 cup dry brown rice, 1 can drained and rinsed beans, or 2 cups cooked, 1 onion, chopped, 1 clove garlic, minced, 1 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 tbsp curry powder, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies a thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, minced, 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro.  Directions: Cook the brown rice in a rice steamer or follow the directions here.  Heat up the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and fry the onion for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and fry for an additional 5 minutes.  Stir in the beans and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste.   Serve with rice.  Stir the curry powder and cinnamon into the chickpea and onion mixture.  Fry for a minute, than add the ginger and tomatoes and their juices.  Cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes, until the tomatoes no longer taste raw.  Stir the cilantro into the rice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

  • Baked Tofu with veggies

From epicurious.com.  Ingredients: , 1 block (14 ounces) extra firm tofu, 4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, 2 tablespoons canola or sesame oil, 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced, 8 stalks fresh asparagus, hot pepper oil.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Drain the tofu of excess water. Cut the block of tofu in half horizontally, and in half again to make four “steaks.” Place between paper towels and press to get any remaining water out. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce and oil. Place the tofu on the baking sheet and brush with the marinade. Let sit for at least twenty minutes or up to two hours in the fridge, letting the juices soak in. Toss the asparagus and red pepper in 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and arrange on the baking sheet next to the tofu slices. Season everything with a generous sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake in the oven for about one hour, turning once, until tofu is golden and crispy. The edges should look crispy and glazed and the vegetables should be caramelized. Brush any extra sauce over top if necessary. Remove from the oven and plate the tofu slices with the vegetables. Serve with a drizzling of hot pepper oil. *** Make your own hot pepper oil by heating 5 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper in a small saucepan until the oil starts to bubble and brown. Place in a lidded container and set aside for a few days so the infusion has time to really come alive and age. Use sparingly to add flavor and spice to any dish. But be careful, this is going to be spicy!

 

  • Veggie burger on whole grain bun

 

Ingredients: 1 cup (155 g) cooked brown rice*, 1 cup (120 g) raw walnuts (or sub bread crumbs), 1/2 Tbsp grape seed or avocado oil, plus more for cooking, 1/2 white onion (~55 g | 3/4 cup), finely diced, 1 Tbsp (~8 g) each chili powder, cumin powder, and smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp each sea salt and black pepper, plus more for coating burgers, 1 Tbsp (12 g) coconut sugar (or sub organic brown or muscovado sugar), 1 1/2 cups (227 g) cooked black beans*, well rinsed, drained and patted dry, 1/3 cup (22 g) panko bread crumbs (if gluten free, use gluten free bread crumbs), 3-4 Tbsp (51-68 g) vegan BBQ sauce.  If your brown rice isn’t cooked yet, start there by following this method for the best results. Otherwise, move onto the next step.  Heat skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add raw walnuts and toast for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant and golden brown. Let cool and move onto the next step.  In the meantime, heat the same skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add 1/2 Tbsp oil and onion.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper and sauté for 3-4 minutes, or until onion is fragrant, soft, and translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.  Once walnuts are cooled, add to blender or food processor with chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, pepper and coconut sugar and blend until a fine meal (see photo) is achieved. Set aside.  To a large mixing bowl, add drained, dried black beans and mash well with a fork, leaving only a few whole beans (see photo).  Next add cooked rice, spice-walnut mixture, sautéed onion, panko bread crumbs, BBQ sauce, and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon for 1-2 minutes, or until a moldable dough forms. If dry, add extra 1-2 Tbsp BBQ sauce. If too wet, add more panko bread crumbs. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  For larger burgers, divide into 5 patties (1/2 cup in size), or form 10 smaller burgers (1/4 cup in size). To help form the patties, line your 1/2 or 1/4 measuring cup with plastic wrap and pack with burger mixture. Press down to pack firmly, then lift out by the plastic wrap’s edge, and slightly flatten with hands to form a 3/4-inch thick patty. Set on a baking sheet or plate for grilling.  If grilling, heat the grill at this time and brush the grill surface with oil to ease cooking. Otherwise, heat the same skillet you used earlier to medium heat.
Once skillet is hot, add just enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of your skillet, then add your burgers – only as as many as will comfortably fit in the pan. Otherwise, add burgers to the grill and close lid.  Cook for 3-4 minutes or until well browned on the underside, then flip gently. They aren’t as firm as meat burgers, but will definitely hold their shape. Reduce heat if cooking/browning too quickly. Cook for 3-4 minutes on other side.  Remove burgers from heat to let cool slightly, and prepare any other toppings/sides at this time (such as grilling/toasting your buns).  Serve burgers as is, or on toasted buns with desired toppings. Leftovers keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. See notes for freezing/reheating instructions.

Snacks

  • Hard Boiled Egg with salt and/or pepper

78 calories for one large egg. Keeps in fridge for up to one week, store in lunch cooler or fridge. Consider writing the date on each egg to keep track of how long it will be good for.   Food Network Directions: “Place your eggs in a pot and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover, remove from the heat and set aside 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, cool in ice water and peel.”

  • Homemade Trail Mix

In-Shell Pistachios (extra work shelling nuts reduces mindless snacking), almonds, mixed nuts, add fruit for added boost of vitamins. Look for no sugar added dried fruits, apricots, raisins, cranberries, and lychee are all good choices for vitamin bonus. You can also add 1 ounce of extra dark chocolate for an indulgent snack.

  • Kale Chips

Allrecipes says: “Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a non insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper. With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt. Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes.”

  • Apple Cookies

Taken from the recipe found at OneLittleProject blog: Take your favorite kind of apple. Core apple using an apple corer. Then slice the apple width-wise (side to side). Take of excess moisture with a paper towel. Spread your favorite all-natural nut butter spread on each slice. Top with chocolate chips, chopped nuts, and coconut flakes. Place in small tupperware container. Refrigerate. Enjoy!

 

  • Frozen Grapes

A semi-indulgent snack to curb a sugar craving. Bodybuilding.com says to freeze them on a foil-lined baking sheet and then store in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Red grapes are preferred because they have more antioxidants than green grapes.

  • 8 oz. Plain Skyr or Plain greek yogurt.

Siggi’s Skyr has 150 calories per 8 oz, Chobani Plain Greek Yogurt has 200 Calories per 8 oz. Keep in the fridge for a quick and satisfying yummy snack.

  • Green tea, Blueberry, and Banana Smoothie

Ingredients: 3 Tbsp water, 1 green tea bag, 2 tsp honey, 1½ c frozen blueberries, ½ med banana ¾ c calcium fortified light vanilla soy milk.  Prevention.com says: Microwave water on high until steaming hot in a small bowl. Add tea bag and allow to steep for about 3 minutes. Remove tea bag. Stir honey into tea until it dissolves. Combine tea, berries, banana, tea and milk in a blender and blend ingredients on ice crush or highest setting until smooth. (Some blenders may require additional water to process the mixture.) Pour smoothie into tall glass and serve. (269 cals, 2.5 g fat, 0.2 g sat fat, 52 mg sodium, 63 g carbs, 38.5 g sugars, 8 g fiber, 3.5 g protein)

  • Orange Dream Creamsicle Smoothie

Prevention.com says: Combine 1 peeled navel orange, ¼ c. fat-free half-and-half or fat-free yogurt, 2 Tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate, ¼ tsp vanilla extract, and 4 ice cubes in a food processor and blend until smooth. (160 cal, 3 g pro, 36 g carb, 3 g fiber, 28 g sugars, 1 g fat, 0.5 g sat fat, 60 mg sodium)

  • Oatmeal Raisin Energy Bites

From getcreativejuice.com: Ingredients: 1 cup rolled oats, ½ cup steel cut oats, ¼ cup ground flax seed, 1 cup raisins, 1 tsp cinnamon, dash nutmeg, dash salt, 2 tsp vanilla, 1½ Tbsp honey, ½ cup almond butter.  Instructions: Add dry ingredients into a bowl and mix to combine evenly.  Add the remaining vanilla, honey, and almond butter and mix to form a sticky dough.  If the dough is too sticky, add more rolled oats. If the dough is a bit too dry, add more almond butter to get just the right consistency.  Roll the mixture into 1 inch balls.  Enjoy! Keep in refrigerator and enjoy for up to a week!

 

  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Protein Balls

 

From dailyburn.com: 2 scoops Vanilla Protein Powder, 1 cup almond meal, 1/2 cup nut butter (ie: almond butter), 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup dairy-free mini chocolate chips.  Preparation:  Place protein powder and almond meal in a medium-size bowl and mix.  Then, add in nut butter and maple syrup and mix again. At this point the batter should be just like cookie dough.  Finally, add in chocolate chip and mix one last time. Using a tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop out dough into your palms and roll into balls. Repeat.

Tips to Reduce Cravings

We’ve all had them… those uncontrollable urges that lead you to the snack cabinet.  When a craving hits, it can seem like the most important thing in the world to satisfy that craving – but have no fear!  You can overcome these cravings.  And you can take preventative measures in order to reduce the frequency of these cravings.  Just imagine… it’s 3 p.m. and you notice a homemade plate of cookies, but you have no desire to eat them!  Wouldn’t that be nice?

So use the tips below to help prevent cravings in general and to stop a craving in its tracks!

Preventing Cravings

 

  • Drink Water: we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again.  Stay Hydrated!  Bring your water bottle with you wherever you go.  Whenever you feel a slight thirst, take a gulp.  Just make sure the water your drinking is clean, purified water.  No need to add toxins to your body!
  • Exercise Daily: exercise boosts endorphins and serotonin levels – these boosts make you feel good!  They make you feel calm and happy.  Oftentimes, we reach for sugary snacks when we feel down or stressed, but exercise reducing these symptoms MUCH better than a sugary snack!
  • Sleep Well: it is recommended for a healthy person to spend 6-8 hours per night in a restful sleep.  Sleeping well will change your overall health, including reducing your cravings.  You will feel less tired throughout the day, allowing your body to use its natural internal energy rather than grabbing every piece of food you can get ahold of.
  • Avoid Sugar: when someone eats sugar, there is a rush in the pleasure centers of the brain.  When we feel this rush, we naturally reach for more in hopes of feeling more pleasure.  Unfortunately, the effects of this sugar rush are short-lived in the brain (but last a long time on the hips!).  The brain signals from ingesting sugar have been found to be similar to those produced when taking drugs.  Bottom line: sugar is addictive.  To steer clear of this addiction, it is best to simply abstain.
  • Get your Vitamin D: make time for daily sun exposure.  You’ll increase your Vitamin D levels, boost your mood, and get a breath of fresh air.  All of these reduce your cortisol (stress) levels, thereby reducing cravings.

 

Stopping a Craving

  • Distract yourself: when you notice that your mind is stuck on a food, but you’re not actually hungry, distract your mind.  Find an activity that you enjoy and is mentally stimulating.  If it uses both of your hands, even better!  You could solve a puzzle, read a great book, create art, the sky is the limit!
  • Exercise: yes, I am repeating myself… but exercise is both preventative AND useful in the moment the craving strikes.  If your craving is due to low energy, you may just need to get out and get your sweat on!  This may be your body asking for a physical boost.  And by the time you’ve finished working out, your craving will probably have vanished!
  • Journal: grab your pen and notebook.  Let yourself write freely and notice what comes up.  If you need a prompt, you can start with “why am I craving (fill-in-the-blank) right now?” and see where you go.  Allow this to be a learning experience – you are literally learning about how your mind works when you journal!  Try not to judge yourself in the process and instead approach it with a healthy dose of curiosity.

Okay, I think you’re ready to get back out there and tackle these cravings head-on!  Always remember that you are more powerful than your cravings.  A craving is simply a thought, and thoughts come and go like the wind.  They do not control you, your behavior, or your future.  You are in total control!

 

Planning for Success

The #1 tip I have for achieving your health goals is simple:

 

Plan Ahead

 

After a long day of work in a sedentary job, even those of us with bountiful motivation have a hard time going to the gym, then buying healthy groceries, then cooking a wholesome dinner.  So don’t beat yourself up if you have trouble with this, too!  But don’t fret, I have a solution!  A bit of planning can make a world of difference.

 

Start by planning your meals.  Figure out everything you want to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the week.  Next, think about what healthy snacks you can have on hand.  Make sure you’ve planned to eat enough calories to keep yourself from being hungry.  Eating too few calories can decrease your metabolism and lead to overeating.  Have your calendar handy when planning your meals (you won’t need to cook dinner on Friday if your friend invite you to their birthday celebration!).  Once you’ve planned your meals, write all the ingredients on your grocery list.  Try to do the bulk of your shopping (if not all of it) on the weekend.  If you need fresh produce in the middle of the week, you can plan for a short grocery run.  Use the weekend to prep your food and to cook any labor-intensive recipes.  Remember, leftovers are your friend!  So try to cook double batches in order to minimize your time in the kitchen.  If you plan ahead, you’ll know exactly how much time you have to cook, so you can figure out what days are best for cooking your wholesome meals!

 

Next, plan your workouts.  Figure out what time of the day is best for you to workout.  Do you have time in the evening before dinner?  Or maybe you like to use your lunch break to workout.  I find that the best time to workout is in the morning, before work.  This way, there is no way to skip your workout, no matter what happens throughout the day! It does require an earlier wake-up time, but the body is quick to adapt.  Once you’ve figured out when, start planning the what.  What do you want to do during your workout?  You’ll want to plan several cardio and several strength training workouts during the week to ensure a complete fitness regime.  Get your workout equipment (shoes, clothes, water bottle, yoga mat) ready the night before you need it.  Working out is hard enough without making it a chore – so plan ahead by settling all of the logistics of your workout ahead of time.  You will be much more likely to complete that 6 a.m. run if your shoes are waiting for you at the side of the bed.  You won’t even have time to think before you find yourself in the middle of your workout!  

 

So when it comes to nutrition and fitness, the best results come to those who plan ahead.  Use the tips above, or modify for whatever fits your lifestyle.  The more thought you put into your health, the more success you will find.

Getting the Motivation Back

Have you recently lost motivation for some goals you set earlier this year/month/week?  Well don’t fret!  We all lose sight of our goals every once in a while because we are all human.  So don’t waste your time worrying about everything you have done wrong; instead, change your mindset to focus on a positive path forward!  This article will offer various solutions for getting back on track to achieving your goals by asking key questions – it may be helpful to have a journal handy so that you can answer these questions in written form. (journaling helps unlock trapped thoughts and bring them into your consciousness)  So let’s begin!

 

What is your #1 priority in life right now?

 

Are you prioritizing a certain relationship, an aspect of your health, your finances, or something else entirely?  You need to know what is #1 because no matter what goals you set, this priority will come first.  Maybe your #1 goal is your #1 priority!  If so, even better, because then we can work on focus.  When you have good focus, you have a clear view of the road ahead – this is sometimes manifested as determination.  Your #1 priority is the aspect of your life that you are always thinking and talking about.  It’s what you care about most!  And to achieve a lofty goal, you need to care about it deeply.  Your #1 goal needs to be your #1 priority.  So take some time to put those two in the same box in your mind.  You can try to change your #1 priority (but the mind will want to shift it back!).  What’s best to do is shift your #1 goal to have it in line with your #1 priority – this way your heart and mind will be in line with each other and you will be unstoppable!

 

What are little actions you can take towards your goal?

 

This is important to write down – so if you haven’t grabbed a pen and paper yet, do it now!  And start to think what you can physically do each and every day to achieve your goal.  Do you want to improve your health?  Make a list of things you must do every day to get healthier (for some inspiration, check out our Top 5 Healthy Habits).  Are you trying to improve your financial situation?  Think about superfluous things you buy every day (coffee, gum, new clothes), and when you get the urge to buy those things, put the money you would have spent in a special fund.  Later, you can spend that money on your financial goals: house, school, plane tickets, etc.  Are you trying to save the world?  Think about what you can do each and every day.  Maybe you write daily articles on the topic that you feel strongly about to share with the world.  No matter what your goal, try to keep your daily actions small, because we all have those days that the world seems to be working against us… And when the world is working in your favor, when the planets align, when the moon is shining brightly, then reach for the stars to propel yourself further towards your goals!

 

How can I do better?

 

Always take time to reflect – either on a daily or weekly basis (I find Sundays work best!).  Ask yourself how you can improve.  The actions that you decided to take today may work for a while, but eventually your mind will find ways to improve them.  When we take time to reflect on our goals, we allow ourselves the flexibility to change our daily habits for the better.  Remember: we are all human!  So the solutions you implemented today may not work the next week or the next month.  The world is constantly changing, so we must too.  Just try to make these changes as minimal as possible.  Too much change creates chaos and will lead us further from our goals.  That is why it is important to reflect on your goals frequently – to minimize the amount of changes you implement!
rocket

So now you have a clear path on the way forward – time to go forth and conquer!  Feel happy and confident knowing that you are on the right path towards a successful future.  Believe in yourself (because I sure do believe in you!).  And if you want to share the daily actions that you are taking towards your goal, feel free to comment below!

Habits – Creating Healthy Habits

Healthy Habits
Healthy Habits

It’s never too late to start healthy habits! So why not start today?

Below is a list of healthy habits that you can practice for a healthier life. When adding or changing a habit, it is best to focus on one at a time. I suggest picking the habit that sounds the most appealing to you, and practicing it whole-heartedly for one week. If after that week it has become part of your daily routine, pick a new habit to add to your daily routine! If not, use another week to incorporate the original habit. Either way, once the habit becomes routine, it is time to pick a new one to bring your life up to the next level!

  1. Drink Water: start the day with water, end the day with water, and fill your day with water! There is no better beverage on this planet – it is the ultimate fuel for your body. To make this a true habit, invest in a large BPA-free water bottle and take it everywhere. With water within hands reach, you will definitely drink more, which will only increase your health.
  2. Sweat Daily: exercise has soooooo many health benefits! You will start looking and feeling amazing in a multitude of ways. There are two general types of exercise: aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic exercise includes cardiovascular activities like running, biking, or swimming. Anaerobic exercise includes muscle-building activities like lifting weights, jumping, and sprinting. Do you want to multitask? You can accomplish anaerobic and aerobic exercise at the same time at gym classes like Zumba, BODYPUMP, CXWORKS, and R.I.P.P.E.D.! To learn more about these classes, you can read about them here. If you’re new to exercising, start by sweating for 15 minutes a day, and gradually increase to at least a full hour of exercise daily – you won’t regret it!
  3. Stretch Daily: your body is going to need some stretching after all that exercise! Stretching releases lactic acid, so your body doesn’t feel sore after working out. It is best to stretch when your muscles are warm, preferably after your workout. If you need more guidance while you stretch, try practicing yoga! Not only will you increase your flexibility, you will gain bountiful mental and physical benefits. Curious about yoga? Read about a basic yoga class here.
  4. Journal: now we have 3 solid physical habits, so it’s time to work on the mind. Journaling is recommended by nearly every mental health professional as an everyday practice to increase emotional well-being. People that journal feel happier, more at peace with the world, and less stressed. To make this a daily habit, try journaling at the end of the day before you go to sleep. You can recount the day’s activities: what went well and what went wrong. Try to journal without judgement; simply reflect on what happened and think about what you could do better next time. Journaling is a powerful activity that will truly increase your mental health.
  5. Enjoy Nature: don’t forget about Mother Earth – she is everyone’s friend! Who doesn’t enjoy sunshine and fresh air after being stuck inside all day? And spending just a half hour in the sun can give you your daily dose of Vitamin D which helps increase happiness among other benefits. If you are able, try to use your lunch break to spend some time with Mother Nature. Maybe you can even take your lunch outside so that you take in Vitamin D as you digest all the nutrients in your wholesome meal.

Habits – Tips for Breaking a bad habit

breaking bad habit

breaking bad habit

Have you been struggling with a bad habit? Maybe you have a habit of mindlessly snacking while watching shows, drinking soda instead of water, or spending money on frivolous items. It’s time to say goodbye to your bad habits and live the life you want to have! Simply follow the process below to break an unhealthy habit.

  1.  Find your Focus

To begin, you need to think about the one habit that is most degrading your life – your focus will be on this single bad habit. It is best to devote some time to meditate on what your focus will be. Sit quietly and either think or write as you answer the following questions:

  • What is something wrong with my life?
  • What causes this aspect of my life to go wrong?
  • What can I do to improve this aspect of my life?

For instance, if the “something wrong” is your weight, you could look at what causes your weight to go wrong. Are you eating too much or too little? Then decide how you could improve this aspect. Maybe you could resolve to eat mindfully and stop eating once you are full. No matter what your bad habit is, these questions can help guide you towards a healthier life.

  1. Replace the Bad Habit with a Healthy Habit

It is so difficult to tell yourself “don’t do this.” Think about a time when your parent told you “don’t eat this candy”, then as soon as they left the room, you suddenly wanted to eat the candy! This characteristic of you probably hasn’t changed as an adult. So instead of telling yourself to simply stop the bad habit, think about what you could do instead of that bad habit. For instance, instead of grabbing a soda as you sit down to a show, you could grab a glass of water! Or instead of habitually turning on the T.V. once you get home from work, you could habitually put on your running shoes and head to the gym to get your sweat-on! For more healthy habit ideas, check out this article [insert link to first blog post under “article”].

  1. Make Your Resolution

This is your Anytime Resolution (because it doesn’t have to be January 1st in order to improve your life!). Once you know the habit you want to break and what you are replacing the habit with, you need to make a resolution to truly end the habit. Make this your #1 priority over the next three weeks. This is a big commitment, so make sure that there are life-changing reasons for replacing this habit. It also helps to post reminders throughout your house, car, and workspace so that you don’t lose your focus. Friends and family can be great tools as well – build yourself a support group by letting your loved ones know about your new resolution. But remember, life is a journey and we are bound to stray from the path now and then, but our reminders and relationships help to bring us back on track!

So if you are struggling with a bad habit, it’s time to take the first step in the right direction! Say goodbye to that bad habit and say hello to a wonderful life. If you want to strengthen your resolve to end your bad habit, simply comment below with your resolution to a beautiful new you!