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  • The Science of Sleep

    Posted on 25/11/2014 by | 0 comments

    Are you getting enough sleep? Sleep (or lack thereof) affects our lives in surprising and profound ways. I’ve always had issues with sleep — trouble falling asleep at night; trouble staying awake during the day. One thing that’s helped me immensely is getting a light therapy lamp. Sitting next to it in the morning gives me more energy during the day.

    If you’re having sleep trouble and haven’t gotten around to addressing it, here are some reasons why you should prioritize getting your sleep schedule down pat.

    • An interrupted sleep cycle can lead to weight gain. In a study, after two weeks of sleep restriction, subjects ate an average of 200 calories more per day. The reason is that your body releases a hormone that stimulates appetite when sleep is disturbed.
    • A regular sleep schedule results in lower cholesterol levels and reduced risk of heart disease.
    • There’s actually a kernel of truth to the “beauty sleep” concept. A study found that subjects, when looking at pictures of sleep deprived versus well-rested individuals, rated the former as less healthy and less attractive.
    • Getting appropriate amounts of sleep aids in information retention. It helps the brain commit new information to memory.
    • Watch your activities around bedtime! Study subjects who texted, surfed the Internet, or played video games at bedtime had higher rates of sleep problems during the night, like leg pain, movements, and insomnia, and even higher rates of anxiety and depression during the day.

    What’s the appropriate amount of sleep? It varies by person. I’ve found I need at least 8 hours. Generally, adults need 7-9 hours.

    Happy resting!

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    Posted on 12/11/2014 by | 0 comments

    For a long time, my diet totally revolved around carbs. Cereal or pancakes for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and cereal again for snacks (I love cereal). Dinner was the one time I’d really get the non-carb nutrients I needed, but even then I wasn’t eating very nutritious foods. Plus, I always followed it up with a treat like a cookie.

    I also have a longstanding problem with getting really tired throughout the day.

    Could the two be related? (Yes.)

    So recently, I decided to confront my problem diet and change my ways. I knew I needed to add more protein, take away refined carbs, and eat more vegetables and nutrient-rich foods.

    I devoured blogs like The Fitnessista, My New Roots, and Sprouted Kitchen. I even got a blender to make healthy smoothies with superfood powders (when I go in, I go all in).

    I’m two weeks in, and I’m feeling great. The post-lunch fatigue is nearly gone. I probably consume the same amount of calories as before, but I’m consuming them in more healthful ways. Here’s my new routine:

    1. I drink a glass of skim milk before I leave for work in the morning. The protein keeps me full, and I’m not ravenous for food after my walk to work.

    2. I eat a small bowl of plain oatmeal, with a pinch of salt and a packet of Truvia, mid-morning.

    3. I pack salads for lunch, with spinach, cucumber, peas, corn, goat cheese, and sunflower seeds. Yum. At work, I snack on apples.

    4. I make a healthy smoothie after work with lots of protein, superfood powder, and frozen fruits.

    5. Dinner varies, but I keep it healthy. My new favorite meal is a Whole Foods salmon burger on a bed of greens with a side of whole wheat pasta salad. I highly recommend those burgers, if you can get them!

    What do you do to eat more healthfully? Do you notice that eating less nutritious foods impacts your work? What do you indulge in?

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    Posted on 11/11/2014 by | 0 comments

    I’ve never been a get-up-and-go morning person. I’ve always slept until I absolutely have to get up for work, school, what have you. And then I sleep ten more minutes on top of that.

    So I’ve never been able to exercise in the morning. And finding time after work is difficult — especially because I prioritize meeting up with friends for drinks or dinner during the week. My gym membership is sitting unused.

    Recently I started doing  workouts at home. And I’ve got to say — it’s the solution I’ve been looking for. They’re short, only about 25 minutes, so easy to squeeze in. On the other hand, they’re really high intensity. The first one I did, I was sore for a full week after. The workouts definitely give you cardio — your heart rate is pumping the entire time — but the strength training is out of this world. You also don’t need much space (I do the workouts in my small studio).

    So what do you do to stay in shape? What time saving methods have you found work for you?

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    Posted on 04/11/2014 by | 0 comments

    It’s easy to convince yourself to skip a workout, especially when it’s just one. The thing is, usually that one will turn into another, until eventually you’ve missed a whole week or month of fitness.

    One of the number one reasons that people give me when they’re rationalizing their infidelity to health is their lack of time. I’m going to kill that excuse for you right now and give you a fast fat-burning workout to kick your results into high gear.

    The best thing you’re going to hear in this whole post is that to get a nicely toned body you don’t have to do any cardio at all. None. Without getting into the complicated bioenergetics too much, doing resistance training burns way more fat than cardio does.

    Now I know exactly what you’re thinking, “but I always bulk up when I do weights!” There are a few reasons that you’ve bulked up in the past, but the workout I’m going to show you at the end of this post won’t make you bulk up.*

    *Note: Everyone will “bulk up” for the first 2-4 weeks when starting a new resistance program; it’s your muscles defending themselves. That means stick with it past 2-4 weeks, and the swelling will go down.

    Let’s get back to that whole cardio thing. Conventional wisdom is that 1 hour of cardio with a few hand weights and ab exercises will get you fit. While you may burn more calories during a workout like that, the benefits pretty much stop right after. With a workout that gets your heart rate up by incorporating resistance training you can increase your metabolism for up to 72 hours. Pretty sweet, right?

    On top of that it’s nearly impossible to keep up the intensity of these kinds of workouts for an hour, meaning that you can get everything done in a half hour (or even 10 minutes if that’s all you’ve got). No more “I don’t have time” excuse.

    No boring cardio. Awesome results.

    Without further ado here’s that workout I promised.

    Results-Oriented Workout in 30 Minutes or Less

    Perform each of these exercises back to back for as much time as you have, or up to 30 minutes. Take breaks when you have to, and do the first round of each exercise at an easy pace to allow your body to warm up.

    1.     Lunges – complete 10 on each leg

    2.     Push-ups (yes, knee push-ups are okay) – complete 10

    3.     Squats – complete 10

    4.     Plank (like a push-up, only you’re on your elbows and you don’t move) – hold for as long as you can. Here’s an example from YouTube, but hold it for longer than she counts.

    5.     Squat thrusts (squat down to the ground, jump your legs back to a push-up position, do a push-up, jump back to the low squat, jump in the air) – Complete 10. Here’s a good example with some progressions.

    A quick word of caution: Don’t go beyond your limits! This workout is for those who have consulted with their doctors.

    You can do this kind of workout on non consecutive days (Mondays and Wednesdays, for example), and you can also substitute or add other exercises — just make sure that they are big movements like squats or push-ups.

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  • Healthy Habits for Working Women

    Posted on 30/10/2014 by | 0 comments

    waterbottles.jpg (200×250)Women today are pulled in a hundred different directions. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do things for ourselves, like exercise and eat healthy. It is easy to let daily life get in the way, but it is possible to devote time to these aspects of your life and feel fantastic in the process.

    Get organized. With a full time career and all of the daily chores to complete and meetings to attend, it may seem like you have no time for anything else. Make a schedule with everything on it. Organize your schedule and eliminate time spent on unnecessary things. Knowing your schedule well will make you more efficient and reduce stress related to constant rushing.

    Get up early. Getting up early is a simple way to add time into your day. Use the time to exercise, eat breakfast, and go over your plan for the day. Early risers tend to have more energy and be more productive throughout the day. It takes a few days to adjust to getting up early, but it is well worth the initial effort.

    Make time for exercise and make exercise your time. Many working women feel they cannot find time to exercise but the reality is you have to make time. If you watch a 30 minute television program consider working out during the show. Or replace the show completely with time at the gym or outside walking, biking, or swimming. If you spend 10 minutes several times a day just browsing Facebook, cut out Facebook and use that time to work out. You will feel energized and refreshed. Make working out a treat for yourself and you will enjoy it even more.

    Do small things at work. If you are cramped for time some days, don’t sweat it. Doing small exercises throughout the day at work can help add some fitness to your day. Park your car further from the door and walk. Take the stairs if possible. If you sit at a desk, sit on an exercise ball instead of chair. Keep a gripper at your desk to work out your arms. Do crunches on your lunch break. Even small amounts of exercise are helpful and can give you energy throughout the day.

    Eat healthy. Resist the urge to eat out. With a hectic schedule and very little time it is tempting to grab take out or food on the go, but fast food is fatty and made from questionable ingredients. A good rule for eating healthy is to know all of the ingredients that go into your meal (and be able to pronounce them). Plan out your meals for the week, make a list, and go shopping for the list. Don’t buy pre-made meals and snacks. Make dinner time into an enjoyable experience with friends or family. Spend time with friends or family by making a meal and eating together.

    Drink lots of water. You may find yourself in the restroom more often but the benefits are huge. Drinking water is an easy way to lose weight and have a more productive workout. Water flushes toxins from your body, helps digestion, relieves headaches, and leaves you with more energy and mental clarity. Hydrated skin is also smoother and younger looking!

    Reduce stress. Stress is detrimental to your health and happiness. There will always be stress related to working and having a personal life, but there are ways you can reduce the amount of stress you feel each day. Be prepared. Get clothes and lunches ready for the next day ahead of time. Start the day relaxed and ready to go. At work make a list of tasks and complete them one by one. Getting too many projects going at once is a source of stress and frustration. After the hustle and bustle of each day, spend time with friends or family doing something fun, making a healthy meal, eating together, playing a game, taking a walk, or just enjoying the company.

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  • Having Children Will Make You Less Happy?

    Posted on 13/10/2014 by | 0 comments

    The Internet’s abuzz over an article  about why having children won’t make you happier, and might make you less happy. The article, “All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting,” is tackling weighty topics.

    The foundation of the article is a litany of scientific research concluding that kids don’t make parents happy.
    There apparently is a lot of scientific material out there supporting the article. Here’s an excerpt:

    From the perspective of the species, it’s perfectly unmysterious why people have children. From the perspective of the individual, however, it’s more of a mystery than one might think. Most people assume that having children will make them happier. Yet a wide variety of academic research shows that parents are not happier than their childless peers, and in many cases are less so. This finding is surprisingly consistent, showing up across a range of disciplines. The economist, who compared tens of thousands of Britons with children to those without, is at least inclined to view his data in a more positive light: “The broad message is not that children make you less happy; it’s just that children don’t make you more happy.” That is, he tells me, unless you have more than one. “Then the studies show a more negative impact.” As a rule, most studies show that mothers are less happy than fathers, that single parents are less happy still, that babies and toddlers are the hardest, and that each successive child produces diminishing returns. But some of the studies are grimmer than others. A sociologist at Wake Forest University, says parents are more depressed than nonparents no matter what their circumstances—whether they’re single or married, whether they have one child or four.

    Species v. the individual is an interesting one — we always heard in biology that animals are born with an innate urge to “propagate the species.” But as humans, that consideration doesn’t play a conscious role in the decision to have kids. Yet given these studies, does the unconscious urge perhaps play a larger role than we think?

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    Posted on 08/10/2014 by | 0 comments

    There’s a growing movement these days for mindful eating. Basically, it’s about paying attention to preparing food and eating so that you get full enjoyment and satisfaction from the process. It’s also about awareness — not mindlessly popping things into our mouths without realizing we’re doing it.

    Makes sense. I love carbs of all kinds — donuts, cookies, hearty bread, and I could never cut them out. But I should probably be more aware of that donut I’m eating, to make it count.

    This app helps you take a look at your diet — much like helps you address your finances — and gives you information you can use. You can get a sense of how many calories you should take in to maintain a healthy weight, and you can track your calorie intake throughout the day. It has thousands of entries for foods we eat, so that you can type in “oatmeal” and figure out how many calories you’ve consumed. It also has calorie counts for popular snacks and restaurant foods.

    The app makes tracking your diet kind of… fun.

    You don’t have to use it to “diet” in the popular sense — watching food intake like a hawk and obsessing over weight loss. But, as in all things in life, knowledge is power. Why not know what you’re putting in your body?

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  • Guard Your Leisure Time, Ladies

    Posted on 26/09/2014 by | 0 comments

    There are two facts women everywhere should be aware of: Free time can have a profound beneficial impact on your health. And women experience less of it than men.

    Leisure has many positive effects on health. Studies show it helps people cope with negative events in their lives, increases happiness and life satisfaction, and is the principal time for creating the social connections that are vital to a full life.

    If you’re thinking — “But I don’t even pee without my Blackberry!” — don’t despair. There’s still hope.

    Leisure time is extremely important to a human’s well-being. Lots of sociologists, psychologists, and other really smart people tell us so. But here’s the rub: Men have more of it than women.

    Why is that? A variety of reasons, but the primary reason is that more often than not, women are the CEOs of the home. And whether this means caring for a family or a live-in boyfriend, women shoulder more of the domestic work. Studies show that even when on vacation, women don’t reap the full benefits — their domestic roles continue in less familiar, and sometimes more stressful, settings.

    This translates into men having, on average, half an hour more of leisure time a day than women, a study in Social Forces found. That’s 164 more hours of free time per year, or the equivalent of four weeks of vacation. And married women have less free time than their unmarried peers, while marriage has no effect on the amount of men’s free time.

    Study after study emphasizes the important of leisure on mental well-being. And that makes sense, of course. Aren’t you happier if you get “me” time, to relax, recharge, and enjoy life? After all, we don’t work as an end unto itself (or most of us don’t), we work to give ourselves the resources to enjoy life.

    So what can you do? Here are 3 tips to make sure you’re using your free time the right way, for maximum health benefits:

    1. Participate in a scheduled group activity. Joining a bridge club, running group, or book club that has scheduled meetings is great for two reasons. First, it encourages you to set aside time on a regular basis to escape work and have fun. Second, it creates social connections — which are important for mental well-being.

    2. Get rid of distractions during your time away. Turn off Blackberrys and iPhones, set aside a good chunk of time, and focus on the moment. You don’t get the health benefits from leisure time if your time is fragmented (broken up into small pieces throughout the day) or frequently interrupted, say the experts. Just like you get your best work done at your job when you can truly focus on it for a length of time, in that way you also get the fullest benefit from your free time.

    3. Don’t try to do too much. Yes, we’re preaching about the value of leisure time here, but don’t take this so seriously that you try to maximize your leisure time so much that it’s become another job. The point is not how much you get done during your leisure time (“I’ll feel better if I hit all my favorite stores!”), but again, the quality of the time. We’re talking escapism here. So if you try to pack too much into your free time, that’ll lead you to feeling rushed, which the experts say will actually impact your mental health negatively.

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