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 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?

 

Are you a little concerned that your good work to date will get derailed this holiday season? Don’t despair, healthy living does not mean total deprivation. It does, however, require a few strategies to keep you on the right track.  Here are a few ways you can limit temptations over the holidays:
  1. Drink up. (Water…that is!) You’d be surprised at the difference dehydration can make. It’s often mistaken for hunger. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
  2. Out of sight, out of mind.  You know how there’s a reason for product placement at the grocery store? Do your own “marketing” at home by removing food or snacks not healthy for your family. Out of sight, out of mind.
  3. Keep a log so you can identify triggers and are realistic about input/output. Most folks overestimate calories burned and underestimate calories consumed. Keep it real.
  4. Know your limit. Can you indulge a little? Or does one bit turn into the entire bag/box? If the latter is the case, then that means no sugar should pass your lips. So be it. Is it difficult to eat out if you see or smell dessert or French fries? If so, skip it for now. Honor thyself. If you CAN indulge a little, go for it. Enjoy it, savor it, and then add some extra workout time. It’s all good.
  5. Good fats help resist the sugar urge. As does protein. Eat up.
  6. Create a bit of crazy. Visualization, that is. If sugar is still tempting you, imagine your sugar free life and the healthy/energetic/lean self you’ll be sporting! SEE it, claim it, then make the choice that aligns with that vision.
  7. Change your habits…or people around you. We talked about this one before. If you eat mindlessly while watching TV, don’t let yourself watch TV unless you are on the elliptical. Or, avoid that “friend” who eats junk food in front of you daily while you nurture your self goals.
  8. Lead the way. Influence your friends and be the change you want to be. Cook healthy, commit to exercise. Healthy habits beget other healthy habits.
  9. Commit publically. With your friends, family, online. Ask to be held accountable. It works!
  10. Take a nap! This is a goal every weekend (for me). It doesn’t always occur, but when it does, it’s soooo sweet! I find I want sugar when I’m tired. Not to mention I get a little bit grumpy when I’m in need of more zzzz’s.
Last, it’s not about being perfect, but choosing to make better decisions, more frequently, and more consistently over time. Becoming healthier is a journey.  And tomorrow always brings a new day.    That’s awesome.  So next time you are faced with that fork in the road, ask yourself, “What have I got to gain?”
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Until next time, choose fit, be strong. And, laugh often.
~Lisa
 

What if working out just 10 minutes a day was enough to improve your health, cheer you up, and help you maintain your weight? Often, I hear that well-intentioned friends say they don’t have the time to fit in workouts. Most of us, however, can fit in 10 minutes–at least once a day, if not several times during the day. That’s the effort I am encouraging. Just take 10.

I’m not saying trade the 30-60 minute sessions for 10 minutes. What I am saying is that just 10 minutes has tremendous health benefits, so if 10 is all you have, take it and your body will thank you. Multiple studies have come up with the same conclusion: Ten minutes makes a difference. A big difference. So, if you don’t have an hour to train today, that’s ok. But, do take 10 minutes so you can reap these benefits:

  • Build muscle
  • Boost your mood
  • Protect your joints
  • Reduce stress, and
  • Maintain weight

Muscle building is a big one if you are over 25 (more on that in a later blog) and more exercise IS usually better, especially for weight loss efforts. BUT, every little bit DOES make a difference. Just remember consistent effort is the key. And, take 10. Today!

Live strong. Be fit. Laugh often. And smile.

 

Want to read more?

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/weightloss/2010-06-01-exercise-metabolism_N.htm

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/07/30/running-just-5-minutes-a-day-has-long-lasting-benefits/?_r=0

http://www.oprah.com/health/Even-10-Minutes-of-Exercise-a-Day-Can-Improve-Health#ixzz3Nh9vJVmA

http://www.timesonline.com/healthandwellness/shapeupwithjo/the-benefits-of-minutes-of-exercise/article_ef19357c-863d-11e4-8aee-3b40f4684f4e.html