Hey friends, how are you feeling these days…with work, family or the holiday season upon us? If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, maybe it’s time to take a breather and add intentional steps to alleviate stress.

By now you probably know that meditation and other recommended stress reduction techniques previously considered “new age” really work. Many high performers incorporate various forms of meditation into their daily lives because it works (and are a heck of a lot better than drugs & those nasty side effects).  There are many forms meditation from walking in nature, guided meditations (especially good if you have an active monkey brain like me), breathing exercises (try inhaling completely for 4 seconds, hold 7 seconds, exhale completely for 8, repeat 9 more times), or simply enjoying the love & affection of a pet. Try them out and see what suits you best.

Why is it important to work on controlling/limiting or reducing stress? Because with chronic stress, the brain atrophies…which means it gets smaller and less effective. When you are stressed, you release cortisol. With elevated cortisol, your brain begins overload and …then begins to degenerate.  The parts most affected are the areas of the brain associated with dementia/long term memory. 

There are also vascular impacts of stress on our brains due to the flight or fight response. This response releases hormones that decrease blood flow to our brain. Chronic stress has long term effects on our brains. 

What else happens? Well, elevated cortisol can also decrease circulation. That’s why it makes sense then to engage in an activity that causes an increase in circulation. Exercise increases your heart rate and oxygen to the brain. On the opposite side of the spectrum, long term sedentary activity decreases blood circulation all over the body.  Then, if you add a stress response to being sedentary and possibly a thyroid issue, all these factors impact the health of our brains. 

Public service message: The more intense the exercise, the better the benefit because your heart has to pump harder. Try intervals  or short bursts of increased energy/effort for 10-30 seconds, 10-15 times.   

To recap, we have the impact of stress and a sedentary lifestyle impacting our brains.  Now, let’s talk diet.  “Type 3 diabetes” is now used to describe dementia because if we indulge in sugar or processed carbs, we get too much insulin. Seriously, our bodies were not made to consume the sugar we load into them daily. Chronic surges of insulin also cause damage to the brain. I’m saying this with a lot of love….so hear me when I say, “If you are tired after meals, it’s time to review what you are eating.”  A normal response after a meal should be your hunger is vanished – NOT an energy surge – or an energy drop.

Small changes in our diets can make a HUGE difference with our brain health (& overall health & weight)! 

When it comes to gluten…there is a high correlation between neurological symptoms and gluten antibodies – most specifically with wheat gluten.  So if you have an inflammatory diet, you are inflaming your brain. It WILL begin to degenerate.  As these various factors (stress, blood sugar instability and/or surges, sedentary lifestyles, lack of circulation, poor diet) add up, we will begin to feel foggy. That “fog” is brain degeneration. You have a thought but can’t get to it. 

What would a balanced brain focused diet consist of?  The key is to eat a diversity of vegetables/plant fibers along with healthy fats and LIMITED sugar/processed carbs. Proteins can also be inflammatory with most inflammatory proteins being milk protein, egg protein, and soy protein. Experts suggest a diet that is A.) gluten & dairy free, B.) one that includes flax seed & fish oils (healthy fats), and for sure, C.) a diet low in sugar and processed carbs to prevent sugar surges, and D.) a diet FULL of diverse vegetables.

The bottom line is that anything that causes inflammation to the body has an effect on the brain.

That would include stress, diet, sedentary lifestyle, arthritis, food allergies,  auto immunity diseases, etc.  What’s the best way to support our brains?Ultimately, what we should do for a healthy lifestyle and weight is what we should do for our brain: eat properly, exercise with intensity to increase our heart rates, and supplement with dietary flavonoids like turmeric, resveratrol, and polyphenols.   Last, try meditation or breathing techniques to lower stress. Laugh. Help others. Try inversion. Get a pet. And educate yourself because you are worth it.  Some of my favorite recent reads include:

The good news is EVERY little bit helps and most of what helps is in our control.  Isn’t it nice that the things we can do to remain healthy, fit and active will also serve our brains well?

I think today is a great day to take action.  A friend of mine likes to ask, “What have you got to lose?”  Well, my friends, taking no action WILL lead to Alzheimer’s and dementia. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when”.  I think a better question is, “What have you got to gain?”

A long, beautiful, and healthy life.

Today IS some day.

Carpe Diem.

I have a few questions for you…

How is your cholesterol? Your blood pressure? Your breathing? What about your ability to move without breaking into a sweat? Do you find you have no time to workout or prepare healthy meals? How much time do you spend going to the doctor? And how much money is spent on medicines that treat symptoms of disease?

My friends, today IS “some” day. The day you decide to commit to a fit lifestyle.  Just do it.  For yourself, your family, your children, your community.  Because if you live a life with too little sleep combined with continual over-indulgences, ill health WILL creep into your body.  There is simply no way to sugar coat the cost of not committing to making small healthy lifestyle changes.

Often we create our own self sabotage by setting unrealistic goals.  However, you don’t need to run marathons.  I’m a big fan of “every little bit counts” and the “10 minute difference”.   Small steps in a healthy direction, made consistently over time, WILL make a huge difference in your health. These 31 steps (from Bulletproof) are an EXCELLENT place to start. Set small, simple goals and BE KIND to yourself along the way.

And please, go moderately. Walking is a great way to start. Find an activity you enjoy so you are likely to continue doing it. (That is one of my most often asked questions, “Which type of exercise is best?” My reply is, “Whatever workout you are most likely to stick to!”) And if you hate lettuce, don’t eat it!  But don’t set a “10 pound weight loss in two weeks” goal.  Healthy living is a journey that’s about doing your best—and forgetting the rest, one step and one day at a time. 

Here are some things I’ve learned..

Bodyweight involves more than willpower and biology plays a big role. And, when it comes to willpower, environment matters! (I cannot stress that enough.) Low fat diets blame people when they don’t lose weight—but “fat-free” is not the way to go; it’s damaging and the very nature of that path contributes to failure! Society treats people with a weight problem with more stigma than anything else, sadly.   In a nutshell, a healthy “diet” is one that has REAL food, limits processed foods, and limits sugars.

When it comes to fat, we NEED fat in our diets!  When we leave it out, our bodies goes into starvation mode.  Yes, we can lose weight.. but the body fights back, hunger goes up, metabolism goes down, and the stress hormones secreted erode lean tissue.  The best way is to reverse this recipe for failure is to focus on eliminating processed carbs (which raise insulin and drive fat cells into a feeding frenzy- ugh).  Once fat cells calm down, the calories you eat stay in the blood stream longer, so they are able to nourish your brain, muscles and organs. What happens then? “Health” happens, that’s what.  Hunger decreases, metabolism increases, and…we lose weight.  I wish I could shout this from mountain tops and get the message out—there are so many misconceptions around fat and carbs!

The government quietly lifted the dietary limitations on fats in 2015, but who heard?  That’s because their prior recommendations for “low fat” were erroneous and directed us to look at fat vs sugar. Quite frankly, this direction contributed to the obesity epidemic… along with processed food product quality and convenience–but that’s a blog for another day!  Regardless, those earlier low fat “recommendations” were wrong.

Note: In all fairness, Trans fats (partially hydrogenated soybean oil, for example) are AWFUL & should be avoided at all costs, but fat in general is needed and necessary.   Let’s help get the word out that the low fat message was wrong.

Now back to our healthy living journey!  Starting a new year is a great time to develop a plan, but honestly, I find short term goals work best. I create new lists, look over old lists regularly, and adjust them continually to suit life’s desires.

Here are a couple of ideas for you– but you can create your own “Get Healthy in 2017” list:

  • Pay attention to your sleep and create better bedtime habits 
  • Drink less soda, drink more water
  • Learn something new 
  • Identify a couple accountability partners (the closer in proximity, the better, but virtual works too)
  • Consider incorporating coconut oil into your diet (and research why it’s a good idea)
  • Find a good healthy living/eating/exercise site/book and READ it regularly
  • Eat dark chocolate
  • Find your inner child
  • Learn how intermittent fasting may benefit you
  • Get/play outside
  • De-clutter your life

So make your list, check it regularly, share it with those around you—and make a point to surround yourself with a good supportive network.   #EnvironmentMatters

In the end, we have ONE body. Take care of it so you can live your life more fully. 

Until next time, I wish you the best of HEALTH, happiness & dreams fulfilled.

 

~Lisa

 

CNN’s 2016 Article

http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/06/health/fat-is-back-eat-like-a-mediterranean/index.html

 

NY Times 2014 Article

 

“I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.”     –Henry David Thoreau

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There are soooo many positive benefits from engaging with nature! Study after study reveal that people who are more connected to nature feel less anxious. And, you don’t even have to move to reap benefits. Being  still OR being active outside  are both reprieves from everyday life. Some psychologists believe the busyness of our lives can overwhelm our attention spans while nature does not. Some experts suggest that we have an innate pull to the outdoors and are wired to seek connections to nature and other living things. All I cimg_4997an say is being outside soothes my soul and I absolutely love exploring trails, riding hills, sitting on a rock, or putting my toes in the sand while listening to the sounds of waves and seagulls. Quite simply, nature’s song and beauty nourishes our souls in a multitude of ways.

  
For my Cliff Notes readers, here’s short list of benefits from being outside:

  • Reduced anxiety & muscle tension
  • Renewed energy levels
  • Increased immunity & decreased stress hormones
  • Decreased blood pressure and lower heart rate
  • Mood elevation
  • Your vitamin D levels rise.

See, sunlight hitting the skin begins a process that leads to the creation and activation of vitamin D.  Studies suggest that this vitamin helps fight certain conditions, from osteoporosis and cancer to depression and heart attacks. Also, you’ll get more exercise since being outside should mean less time in front of the TV/computer and more time spent walking and doing other things that put the body in motion.


There’s no doubt about it. Nature is God’s “battery charger” for our minds, bodies and souls. I mentioned the benefit of taking short meditative breaks throughout the day in an earlier blog. Make it a priority to step outside, feel the sun on your face (vitamin D), listen for birds, walk through trees—or simply sit. You will serve your body and soul a big plate of restoration.

So my friends, what are you waiting for?

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“There is pleasure in the pathless woods. There is rapture on the lonely shore. There is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea and music in its roar. I love not man the less, but Nature more.”     –Lord Byron

 

 

Until next time, choose fit, be happy, and get outside!

~Lisa

More reading:

5 Health Benefits of Playing Outside

Why Getting Outside is Good for You

The Science Behind Exercising Outdoors

Spending Time in Nature

Health Benefits of Working Out Outside

Not Convinced & Need to Read More?

 

There are two questions I ask about when people inquire about getting in shape or losing weight.
“Are you drinking enough water and staying hydrated?”
“Are you getting enough quality sleep?”
Sleep is vital in so many ways (see blog on sleep), but as we get older, we tend to assume we can get by on less– while at the same time falling asleep and staying asleep become challenges.  Those blue screens from our TVs, iPads, electronic readers and phones are wreaking havoc with falling asleep for young and old. To help you look good, feel good, and maintain good weight and hormone levels, try these steps to increase the likelihood of getting a good night’s sleep, EVERY night.
1. Try to keep a consistent sleep routine. This means going to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Keeping the “status quo” routine will train you to fall asleep more easily and wake up more refreshed.
2. No TV or electronic media use in bed! Use the bed only for sleep and sex.  Try to keep the bed for sleep ‘n sex! Also, improve your sleep surroundings so electronics are OFF and the environment is quiet, dark and free of clutter.
3. Watch the timing on caffeine intake, especially after 2:00 PM. Even a single cup of coffee or tea in the morning means a sleepless night for some folks.
4. MOVE!  Getting physical especially with walking, running, or swimming provides three important sleep benefits like falling asleep faster, achieving a higher % of restorative deep sleep, and staying asleep during the night. Watch the time you work out, however, because exercising too late causes physiological changes that might interfere with your sleep.
5. Avoid excessive napping. Plain and simple, long naps can disrupt your natural sleep cycle. A short nap can be wonderful, but sleeping an hour or longer during the day might keep you up at night.
6. If you smoke or chew, now is a good time to STOP. Tobacco & nicotine speed up your heart rate, raise blood pressure, and stimulate fast brainwave activity that keeps you awake.
Along those lines, use alcohol cautiously. I agree a glass of pinot can be relaxing…but, the effects disappear after a few hours and might cause frequent awakenings.
7. Give in. If you are tossing still after 20 minutes in bed, get out of bed and read awhile to help you relax.
8. Check the temp. Keep the bedroom at a constant, comfortable temperature, and avoid getting over heated.
Want to optimize your life? Improve the quality and quantity of your sleep at night. Your sleep schedule, bedtime habits, and day-to-day lifestyle choices can make an enormous difference to your nightly rest. And THAT will help you be more productive, mentally sharp, emotionally balanced, and full of energy all day long.
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Until next time, choose fit. Be happy.  
What have you got to gain?
~Lisa    
 

 

I started drinking green tea 15 years ago shortly after my leukemia diagnosis. It was in my “combat phase” and I started researching anything and everything that was in my control so I could positively impact the outcome. Green tea came up repeatedly as something I should add to my arsenal, so I started drinking it, and I have been drinking 2-5 cups a day ever since. If you haven’t jumped on the green tea wagon, here are a few reasons why you should join me in this habit.

  1. It may prevent several types of cancers. Oral, prostate, breast…the list goes on. This is why I added it to my arsenal to begin with.
  2. It fights FAT. Green tea contains a powerful antioxidant called “EGCG” which inhibits metabolic syndrome. Here’s another thought: if you sub 1-2 cups of green tea for one soda each day, in a year you’d save > 50,000 calories. Lions and tigers and bears…OH MY! That’s 14 pounds…
  3. It prevents the build-up of cholesterol in the arteries and improves blood flow which means it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  4. What’s good for the heart is good for the brain. More recently, green tea has been shown to help block the formation of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
  5. What’s good for the heart and brain is also good for the eyes. Turns out the catechins in green tea can penetrate the tissues of the eyes boosting eyesight.
  6. It improves insulin use by the body and stabilizes energy. Drinking green tea helps prevent sugar crashes leading to fimageatigue and irritability.
  7. It provides anti-allergy and immune system support by reducing the allergy antibody immunoglobulin.
  8. Green tea is anti-aging. GIVE ME ANOTHER CUP! The ECGCs in it are 200X more powerful than Vitamin E in fighting free radicals causing skin damage and wrinkles.

Are you ready to join me?  If so, consider adding a little freshly squeezed lemon as that enhances the absorption. If not, read more about additional benefits and come on over to the GREEN side of life!

What have you got to gain?

Choose fit, live strong, laugh often.