The truth behind fitness apps (and why you should still use them)

 

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Believe it or not, there was a time when most people’s daily accessories didn’t include some colorful band that tracked their every step, breath, movement and calorie. But there was also a time when humans weren’t so generally sedentary, and when maybe we didn’t need that feedback. But everywhere you go now, you’ll see fitness trackers of some kind, and new ones are constantly being released. I, for one, am a fan of this trend. In general, we don’t move enough. Technology, long commutes and even longer work days mean that we are moving a lot less than we used to.  “Sitting is the new smoking” has never rung truer.

I love my Fitbit Charge. I’m not saying I believe every single thing it tells me, but I’m grateful for the little buzz I get when I reach my 10,000 steps per day, and even more grateful for the consistent habits it has created for me. Instead of immediately sitting after dinner these days, I often take a quick walk around the block. Instead of driving to the post office, I put the baby in the stroller and walk there. Whether I log 8,000 or 10,000 or 18,000 (that was a good day!) per day, I’m enjoying the movement and fresh air that I’m getting each and every day.

If you’re thinking about purchasing an activity tracker, it’s always a good idea to do your research. There are so many options out there, and you want to make sure that your money is well spent and the tracker is tailored to your individual goals. Here’s a great review of many (87!) of the options out there…

http://www.reviews.com/fitness-tracker/

 

 

Combating Physical And Mental Health Challenges: Dietary Changes Can Bring Relief

**Special thanks to Paige from http://www.learnfit.org for this wonderful guest blog this week**
Fruits, Vegetables, Market, Nutrition, Fruit, Carrots

When it comes to feeling healthy and strong, the choices you make regarding your diet play a central role. Food affects not only your figure but your mental and physical health as well and if you are looking to feel better, making some adjustments to what you choose to eat can make a big difference. Whether you are looking to feel stronger and more alert, combat depression or chronic pain, or even set yourself up to succeed in battling a drug addiction, make adjusting your diet a top priority.

Focus on healthy food choices for improved health

Many people turn to unhealthy food choices when they aren’t feeling well, relying on sugary treats, caffeine, alcohol, or junk food to get them through difficult moments. However, experts detail that pushing those types of foods away and incorporating healthy foods into one’s diet can lead to big gains in one’s mental and physical health. Eating for energy by focusing on proper nutrition can have a significant impact on how you feel, helping to combat numerous health conditions.

When you are looking to improve your diet in order to improve your physical and mental health, focus on nutrient-dense foods that deliver quality vitamins and minerals. Look to food choices with iron in them, like spinach, lentils, and beans, and be sure to incorporate not only plenty of fruits and vegetables, but lean proteins and whole grains as well. Look for whole food choices and avoid processed choices as much as you can to increase your energy levels and feel better.

Combat issues like addiction and depression with power foods to build you up

It comes as no surprise that dietary choices can have a major impact on managing various health conditions. For example, people who are battling a drug addiction may find that they also are drawn to binge eating and craving junk food choices, explains Psychology Today. Cravings for sugary, salty, high-processed foods can become extreme and can impact one’s brain much like drugs and other addictions can. Changing your diet to incorporate whole, healthy foods can not only help to break the addiction cycle, but it can help to build stamina and improve one’s mood, both of which are key to lasting recovery.

Depression can be greatly impacted by one’s diet as well. Prevention breaks down how turning to comfort foods may provide some temporary relief, but there are better dietary choices to make that can go a long way toward reducing stress and depression. Foods like asparagus, avocados, berries, cashews, oranges, oatmeal, and walnuts are some of the choices that can help to reduce stress and provide antioxidants and other critical components that help your body deal with depression and other challenges.

Whole, unprocessed foods can help to combat chronic pain issues

When it comes to managing chronic pain, dietary changes can have a substantial impact on feeling better. AARP recommends incorporating foods such as red grapes, ginger, soy, tumeric, fish, and cherries to combat chronic pain. Oftentimes experts also suggest foods such as raw nuts, dark and leafy greens, and healthy fats like those that come from avocados as additional choices that can help to reduce chronic pain.

Dealing with ongoing physical or mental health issues can be frustrating and exhausting, and it is not uncommon for people to turn to unhealthy foods to cope with their issues. However, incorporating some simple dietary changes into one’s life can provide significant health improvements. Issues such as depression, drug addiction, and chronic pain can be greatly impacted by shifting one’s diet toward whole, nutrient-dense foods. Making these types of changes may take some dedicated effort, but they are worth the work in the long-run with improved health coming as a result.
[Image by domokus/Pixabay]

Halloween Hangover

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You know what I was thinking this morning as I was staring at all our leftover Halloween candy? How come candy never really loses it’s appeal, even after we’ve had too much of it. When I go out with friends and have a few too many drinks (a distant memory of mine these days, with a newborn and all…), I always want to swear off alcohol for a month. But, too many snickers on Monday night does not equal swearing off candy the rest of the week. Hence, the Halloween dilemma.

Of course, I bought way too much candy this year…again. For some reason, I always expect about 50 more trick-or-treaters than we get, apparently.  And I’ll admit it, I’m not devastated when Halloween ends and there are a few peanut butter cups left in the house! But it’s just downright dangerous to have so many treats sitting around, especially when other holidays are right around the corner. So, this year, I’ve looked into some other ways to get rid of the leftover candy in our house, and you might consider doing the same with your kids’ (our your) candy:

*drop off the leftovers at a local soup kitchen, food pantry, shelter or children’s hospital.
*use candy to fill up goodie bags or pinatas for an upcoming party you might be hosting.
*with the winter holidays around the corner, why not put some aside to decorate a gingerbread house?
*there are a few great organizations that ship gift boxes to soldiers overseas, and they accept some candy: Operation Gratitude and Operation Shoebox are two that I know of.
* look up local buyback programs in your area. I know my niece’s orthodontist offers $1 for every pound of candy exchanged in his office, and I’ve heard of other dentists doing similar programs.

Whatever you do, don’t let one time Halloween hangover turn into a month long binge. Grab one more of your favorites and get those extra candies out the door stat!

I hope those who celebrated had a wonderful Halloween. I can’t wait til my little pumpkin is old enough to celebrate next year!

 

Lessons from the postpartum life 

It’s 7:30 on a chilly Thursday morning, and I’m sitting here watching two of the most beautiful things: the early morning sun and my 3.5 week old baby peacefully sleeping (he’s been sleeping for over four hours. This is a very big deal, guys!). Anyway, I’m too awake to fall asleep again, so what I am doing is thinking back on the last three weeks of my life. For those of you with children, you might understand how time can pass, and we can seem to be oblivious to it. Having a newborn brings with it a type of reality I have never known. But it’s just as amazing as they say.
I wrote last time about feeling good in your pregnancy, and I’m happy and grateful to report that I had a great remainder of my pregnancy. But now, of course, I’m learning all over again. The post partum world is so unbelievable, so special, and yet overwhelming. I’m learning to take care of myself in many different ways, be kinder to myself, and shift the expectations I have for myself. I’m not going to accomplish all I set out to each day, and some days I will accomplish none of it. But I’m taking care of my boy and taking care of myself the best way I know how, and that’s plenty for now.

That being said, I’ve learned a bit these last few weeks about what I can do to feel my best, which for me, means feeling most like my former self. Here are my “must dos”:
1. Walk. Walk every. Single. Day. I’ve been taking the little guy on walks around our neighborhood every day. The fresh air does us both good, it’s fun to introduce him to new neighbors, and I love seeing the steps accumulate on my Fitbit. If it’s cold out, my hubby watches him so I can still get a quick walk in, and if it’s raining, I get on the treadmill for a few minutes. But I can’t miss that walk…the few times I have, I notice I definitely feel more lethargic and cabin fever sets in pretty quickly.
2. If cleared by your doctor, I suggest some post partum exercises. As a fitness enthusiast, it’s hard for me to go several days without any exercise. But I was cleared for light activity, and I notice that even short, light workouts have brightened my whole perspective. And remember how I mentioned shifting my expectations? I’m learning that I may not be able to get in a 30 minute routine at once (will that ever be possible again?). So, I break it up. Even 5-10 minutes is enough to brighten my mood, get the blood flowing and activate some muscles.

3. Eat often, and eat well. While nursing, we need a lot more calories. And even if you’re not nursing, you are working really hard 24/7 to take care of this adorable little human. So eat often. In order to supply my body with the right type of energy, I keep some of my favorite snacks nearby all the time (Larabars, nuts, fruit, dried fruit, precut veggies, Greek yogurt) along with lots of water. When I do manage to cook, I make lots of extras for leftover meals. I cook quinoa or brown rice in large batches, and use easy ingredients like beans and frozen veggies.

4. Plan on completing only part of a task, or one small task, and allow yourself to feel productive from that. I’m the type of person that gets disappointed if I don’t accomplish my goals to a T. Even with things like housework. But I’m learning that anything is better than nothing. If I can’t get the whole kitchen clean the way I like it, but I wiped the counters and the stove, that’s a win. Washing the floor or cleaning the microwave: total bonus points.

5. And lastly, be social. It’s too easy to get caught up in baby world or sucked into hours of tv binging. I’ve made it a point to call at least one friend or family member a day, at least on days that we don’t have any visitors or aren’t leaving the house. It’s really an easy step, but an important part of feeling normal.
I know I have TONS to learn with this parenting thing. Every day beings new lessons, and my perspective will change along with them. But I’ve made it this far, and thanks to some of the above tips, I actually feel pretty darn good most days. Congrats to any other new mommies out there…you truly are rock stars!!
Now, go take a nap 💤

Summer Slimdown!!

Happy July!! Kicking off this month with an awesome bootcamp style workout and nutrition program…bigger and better than last year AND at a discount! Contact me soon to secure a spot in one of our August groups!!

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How to stay fit while pregnant…yes you can!

I just hit week 23 of this pregnancy, and while I still can’t believe how soon our little boy will be joining our family, I can definitely feel it…and see it. The growing belly, the frequent kicks and jabs, and increasing back pain. Yep, this baby is growing and time is marching right along.

I’m lucky to have alot of friends who are in the same phase of life as me (which is always good for anxious mamas-to-be like me!). So there’s lots of people to share stories, worries, complaints…and tips with. And, as a trainer who has worked with pre-and post-par tum clients, it’s my turn to share some with you.

My number one tip for pregnancy is to keep moving. Of course, not if you have any medical conditions that indicate that you shouldn’t, and not until your doctor gives you the ok. But, for most pregnancies, doctors recommend getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Basically, it’s what you were aiming for pre-pregnancy, and what you should aim for afterwards too.

I’ve managed to follow my own advice so far, and I’m so glad I have. Exercise during pregnancy helps to decrease joint pain, increase energy, improve mood and often leads to a quicker recovery after birth. After taking my own advice these last 23 weeks, I can absolutely confirm these benefits. The days I work out are my best days, physically and emotionally. Here’s a list of my favorite pregnancy workouts:

  1. Walking, walking, walking. My Fitbit is my new best friend…seriously. I aim for 10-15,000 steps per day, and I definitely feel better and sleep better on the days that I get that amount. This was my exercise of choice in the first trimester, when nausea and fatigue were almost constant…walking helped to distract me and give me a boost of energy…and getting some fresh air always made me happy, mood swings or not. fitbit
  2. Running. Now, I’ve never been a great runner, but I’ve been pretty consistent with it over the years. And somehow, during pregnancy, I’ve grown to love it more. I feel like my old self when I’m outside (or even on the treadmill), running and watching the distance accumulate. So far, it’s been comfortable for me and the best mood booster I’ve found so far. Also, I definitely sleep better on the days I run. Note: You do want to be careful when running during pregnancy – don’t aim to beat any prior records or increase your speed. In fact, plan on going slower, stopping if your heart rate gets to high and being careful about not overheating.                babymoon running                                A pic from our recent “babymoon”, where we did a beautiful family run in the Outerbanks of NC. 
  3. Hiking. This is a favorite activity for my husband and I, and something I like to do with friends and clients too. Being in nature is a natural way to get energy and improve your mood…works every time! I’m just paying a little more attention to my surroundings these days, and not trying any hikes that are too crazy. If you’re going to hike when pregnant (with the ok from your doctor), make sure you have good shoes and go slow so you don’t trip or lose your balance. 
  4. Weight lifting. You don’t want those arms and legs to get weak over these next 9 months. In fact, you’re going to need the strength to lift that infant car seat a over and over. After checking with your doctor, aim for 2-3 days of moderate resistance training per week. Lower weight and higher reps are often best…and aim to alternate between the legs and the arms to get a total body workout without straining any muscle or raising your blood pressure. 
  5. Stationary biking. I’m not gonna lie, I do miss biking outside. But that’s nothing a good music playlist and 30 minutes on the indoor bike can’t fix. I love seeing the miles rack up, I love feeling like I can go pretty fast without hurting my knees or back, and I love the improved cardiovascular endurance I feel after a few good rides. (Again, keep your heart rate at a reasonable level when biking…working large muscle groups, like the legs, can raise your heart rate quite a bit, so be mindful of that).
  6. Prenatal yoga. And lastly, some relaxation. I occasionally find myself with random worries that probably plague most moms-to-be. Is the baby ok? Am I doing everything right? What if I don’t have the nursery done on time? Valid concerns, mostly, with some random and useless ones thrown in. But when these thoughts start circling, that’s when I roll out my yoga mat and tune everything else out. I aim to do prenatal yoga 1-2x per week. In addition to helping with stress, it has helped me manage back and hip pain, strengthen muscles, reduce headaches and learn to focus and breathe. I’m hoping these benefits help on delivery day, but if not, the 9 months of benefits leading up to it are certainly reason enough to seek out a yoga class.

So there you have it: my go-to’s for pregnancy workouts. Other ones that clients and friends have found helpful include swimming, dance and aerobics. No matter what it is you choose to do, try to stay as active as possible during this time in your life. During these 9 months of serious changes (to both our bodies and our lives), exercise is one constant that can and will make you feel better…and pass the time while you wait for that beautiful baby to join your world.

A happy and fit pregnancy to you!

~Jess

Meal Delivery Service…Is this right for me?

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I wish I could say that I’m a person who loves to cook. That I enjoy shopping, prepping, and serving beautiful, healthy and delicious meals seven nights a week. But that is SO not me… In fact, I’m ashamed to say that I rely on my husband to make sure we eat at least five nights a week. I mean, he’s a great cook, but maybe I should be a little more involved?

Somewhere in the winter of 2015, a good friend of ours introduced us to a meal/recipe delivery service. I was reluctant to try it…it seemed expensive, and I wasn’t sure the meals were going to be healthy or easy to make. But we gave it a try. And got hooked. Now we get our delivery about once a month, and spend the other three weeks recreating recipes or digging through our cookbooks. But I’m not gonna lie…I sure do look forward to the weeks that we are getting our delivery.

Many of my clients have asked me about my experience since we started using this service. And my answers (as usual) are long-winded and complex. So I decided to sum up a few key pros and cons about some of the popular recipe delivery services out there now:

Pros:

  • First of all, cooking at home trumps eating out…always, always, always. You will eat less, consume less sugar, salt and fat and save money.
  • My husband and I have actually both learned to enjoy cooking more. We’ve learned different techniques that make meal prep much quicker and we’ve learned ways to cook foods that I’d never considered before.
  • I’ve tried vegetables and healthy, whole grains that I had never eaten before. And some of these have become a regular part of our diets. Healthy points: ALOT
  • These meals are good. I mean, really good. At least 90% of them. Restaurant quality, but healthier and served in the comfort of your own home.

Cons:

  • Though it’s healthier than eating out, some of the meals use a lot of salt and butter. This can be fixed (see suggestions below)
  • The price can be a bit high, depending on which company you use, though you’ll still spend MUCH less than if you ate out a few times a week.
  • In the beginning, we were definitely frustrated with the amount of time some of the meals took to make. But, as I mentioned…as you learn how to more efficiently prep and cook foods, buy the right tools, and get used to some of the cooking methods, the cook time definitely goes down. And plus, I’ve found it’s a nice way for the hubby and I to spend time together, and catch up on our days. Add a good glass of wine, and the time becomes even less of an issue J
  • Nutrition information: this isn’t always completely revealed in all of the recipes. They may list the calorie count, but for those of us who care about macronutrients, fiber, sugar content, etc…this can be very hard to track.

 

All in all, I think these delivery services can be a great idea for many people, and I have recommended the one we use to many clients, friends and family. If you do choose to give it a try, heed these suggestions:

  1. If a recipe is 8 steps, and 5 of the steps list adding salt to the food, be smart. Maybe add it to the chicken before you sear it, but skip adding it in any of the other steps. We quickly made this adjustment, and didn’t miss the salt at all.
  2. Same with butter. Some of the recipes we’ve gotten come with up to two tablespoons of butter. Yikes! I’m all about using real butter in my cooking, but two tablespoons? So we cut it in half. And again, haven’t missed it a bit.
  3. The meals often say they serve two people, but can contain anywhere from 500-800 calories per portion. That’s a lot for some people, especially at dinner. Of course, this is completely dependent on your calorie needs (according to your size, activity level and goals), but be smart here. If you’re tracking calories and the dinner is going to bring you way above a healthy calorie range, do what I do: immediately divide the meal into three servings before you sit down to eat. Save the leftovers for work tomorrow. Trust me, you’ll look forward to lunch much more than usual (and save calories and money by not buying from the work cafeteria!)

 

So there are my thoughts. For many of us, time and money are valuable, but so is knowing that what we’re putting in our bodies is good. If you’re someone who doesn’t cook healthy meals for yourself or eats out regularly, you might just find a service like this is worth every dime…

Happy cooking!

 

~Jess