7 Ways to Get a Better Night's Sleep

 

get a better night's sleep

image thanks to Moyan_Brenn

Normally, I am pretty good about carrying healthy snacks and not feeling the urge to eat all day long. Today, however, I was constantly hungry and it was all I could do not to grab a giant bag of chips with my lunch “for later.”

It occurred to me about halfway through the day that this need to eat was in large part due to exhaustion. In truth, last night was one of those nights where I just didn’t get enough sleep.

Science (and all of my research) has told me that getting enough sleep (7-9 hours) is essential to controlling the hormones that stimulate hunger.

Too little sleep will make you feel more hungry and can get in the way of weight loss…http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=129.

Also, it is much more difficult to “just say no” to unhealthy cravings when you are tired.

So what can we do about it? Here are a few tips to get a better night’s sleep…

Establish a routine:

One of the most recommended tips for getting a good night’s sleep is to stick with a regular routine. Do your very best to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (yes, even on the weekends). A consistent schedule will reinforce your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.

Exercise:

One more reason to get some exercise; physical activity promotes better sleep. It can help you to fall asleep faster and to sleep more deeply.

Make your bed inviting:

Do whatever you can to create a space that is ideal for sleeping. Make sure that you bedroom is dark and quiet. Also, make comfort a priority. Why not indulge in some extra-soft sheets or great pillows?

Limit caffeine late in the day:

Everyone responds to caffeine differently, but for most us, caffeine should be avoided late in the day.

Don’t indulge late at night:

It’s best for your system not to have large, heavy, or super-spicy meals too close to bedtime. Make sure that you don’t go to bed hungry (as this can also disrupt sleep), but try to have a healthy dinner and then a light snack if you are hungry later and avoid pigging out before going to sleep.

Learn to relax:

This can be a hard one for some of us, but it is vital. If it is stress that is keeping you from falling asleep, try to find a way to let it go. Use relaxation techniques, try deep breathing, take a hot bath, or read a great book before you drift off to sleep.

Skip the second drink:

It may seem like alcohol helps you to fall asleep (and this can be true), but unfortunately it is known to disrupt normal sleep patterns and can leave you feeling extra tired the morning after.

No "Butts" About It: Exercises For Sitting Down

exercises for sitting down

picture thanks to Rene Mensen

For quite a few of us, it seems like most of the day is spent sitting.

Like, a lot. Like for hours at a time.

Even if you don’t have an office job that you that keeps you in a chair, there’s a good chance you have a commute to work. And then, by the time you get home at the end of the day (even though you just spent the day sitting) you really just want to sit down.

It’s as if the modern world has been designed to keep us on our butts. No wonder so many of us have weight issues.

However, there are ways to get a workout without getting on your feet:

In The Office

You may have to spend hours a day in front of a computer, but that’s no excuse to lose the battle of the bulge. Here’s a list of exercises specific for cubicle dwellers that don’t require much in the way of equipment, just commitment:

http://exercise.about.com/cs/exerciseworkouts/l/blofficeworkout.htm

In The Car

Traffic jams aren’t just for killing time. They’re for burning calories, too. Stop being stuck behind the wheel with nothing to do. Take the opportunity to get your work out on. But please, drivers, be responsible:

http://www.ehow.com/how_17780_exercise-car.html

Get On Your Feet

I know I said this was about working out without getting up, but I have to cheat here because it’s so important. Getting out of your chair is going to burn more calories than not getting out of your chair. You know that. I know that. Why avoid it?

The modern world is designed for our convenience, which isn’t necessarily the best thing for our shape.You can double the amount of calories you burn just by standing. So, stand! Pace. Walk down the hall instead of making a call or sending a text.

Every little bit helps.

6 Bizarre Fad Diets That Failed

fad diets that don't work

picture thanks to GiGi Eats Celebrities

Too often we seek out the “easiest” or “quickest” solution rather than the safest or most proven.

In the case of weight loss this may be even more prevalent.

It is important in your quest to lose weight that you not fall for any fad diet or pill that could be potentially harmful to your health. Chances are that if it sounds too good to be true, it actually is.

Here is a list of some of the most bizarre/unsafe diet ideas that have come and gone through the years…

The cabbage soup diet

This one still hangs around. On this diet you are allowed to eat as much as you want…as long as it is only cabbage soup. I think we can all see the problem with maintaining this for any period of time. Not to mention the smells induced by both the soup itself and its after effects on the body.

Vision-dieter glasses

This wacky fad was based on some research showing that the color blue seems to make food less appealing. Unfortunately, wearing weird blue-tinted glasses at every meal will also make the wearer look less appealing.

Slimming diet soap

Why not lose weight in the shower? The idea was first advertised in 1920’s and there are a few companies still marketing so-called “diet” soaps. They contain seaweed and other ingredients that are supposed to break down fat. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no evidence that these products work.

Breatharianism

The followers of this plan believe that food (and possibly even water) is unnecessary. Although the versions vary slightly, the core belief is that with practice a person can live on the energy of light. Even more bizarre is that the leader of breatharianism in the U.S. has been caught more than once eating fast food and now insists that hamburgers and Diet Coke are an integral part of the system.

The tapeworm diet

This may sound too strange to be true, but there was a time when people were consuming capsules containing tapeworms in order to “naturally” lose weight. When people had reached their goal weight (if it didn’t kill them), they would then have to take an anti-parasite drug in order to kill the tapeworm and pass it.

Fruitarianism

This is a classic case of too much of a good thing. As a rule, almost all of us should be eating more fruit than we do, but not only fruits. Strict fruitarians believe in a diet consisting of pretty much nothing but fruit (with a few nuts and seeds mixed in).

Metabolism: Fire Up Your Fat Burning

picture thanks to Billy Beck III

We all have this wonderful organic engine inside us: metabolism.

It works on complicated chemistry stuff, but in brief, catabolic metabolism is for breaking stuff down, and anabolic metabolism is for building stuff up. It’s what burns calories. Everybody has this going on inside them, but not necessarily at the rate we’d like.

While some of this is genetic, there are still things we can do to help our metabolism along…

Eat more often

It’s almost like a trick you can play on your own body.

With every meal, your body decides whether to burn that food as fuel, or store it for later as fat. If you only eat a few times a day, your body may tend to store away calories for later. It can even go into starvation mode if taken to the extreme. With an infrequent meal plan, your cells want to hold on to what you provide it, for those times ahead when it will need fuel. Your body is thinking long term.

Throw in a healthy snack between each of your three major meals. Then your body gets the idea that there’s plenty of food to burn through. It won’t horde those calories as it would when deprived. Instead, it will keep running at a more even keel, and not with those peaks and valleys of energy that make us feel unhealthy and exhausted.  Snacking will also help reduce the size of your meals, as a consistent caloric intake will make a person less likely to gorge.

Drink more often

It’s good to keep hydrated. Almost 90% of the chemical reactions that need to happen in your body require water, as your body is mostly made of the stuff. As with food, you want your body to have plenty of fresh, cool water, which your body wants to warm it up, using calories to do so. This helps keep your metabolism in motion.

Stay in motion

You don’t want your body to stock up on the calories you give it, so keep occupied.  Raising your heart rate for thirty minutes is often recommended for a healthy lifestyle.

Of course, the amount of calories burned will vary according to the activity performed. Aerobic exercise is a great temporary boost to your metabolism, but for a long term lift, —pardon the pun—, you should try weight training. As previously mentioned, the cells in muscle tissue love to burn through calories, but this is true even when the body is at rest. Some even consider exercise to be more important than diet when it comes to weight loss, but in the combination of the two lay the best results.

These Are the Days of Our Grills…Episode 2

 

image thanks to woodleywonderworks

As spring continues to bring out the sun and the warmer, longer days (at least for those of us in the U.S.), I continue to love any recipes that will encourage me to fire up the grill.

Here are two easy and healthy grilling recipes that go great together…

Citrus Grilled Chicken

A simple and healthy version of grilled chicken. It’s bright, delicious, and great with a side of grilled veggies.

½ cup frozen orange juice concentrate (thawed)
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground cracked pepper

Combine orange juice concentrate, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic into a large resealable plastic bag. Add in the chicken breasts and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, turning occasionally.

Preheat grill to medium heat.

Remove the chicken from the bag and discard the marinade. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper.

Place chicken onto the grill and close cover. Grill about 6 to 8 minutes on each side, or until done (170ºF).

Grilled Asparagus

Grilling asparagus brings out a whole new flavor that is hard to resist. Good and good for you.

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed (look for firm, thick stalks)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

Preheat the grill to medium-high to high heat.

In a pan lay out the asparagus and drizzle evenly with oil then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss until evenly coated.

Grill the asparagus for about 5 minutes, turning it slightly every minute or so. Finished asparagus should be browned in spots, but not charred.

Remove from grill and serve immediately. Also great with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Enjoy!

Tea: It's Not Just For Drinking

tea can be used for many different things

picture thanks to Rego – d4u.hu

When something has been around as long as tea has, someone will find a different way to look at it.

In the very early 1900’s, a very clever guy from New York by the name of Thomas Sullivan started putting samples of his tea in small pouches for his patrons. He intended that the tea be removed from the little silk bags and brewed up the way any loose-leaf tea would in those days. But those patrons, being a little on the lazy side, would make their tea by steeping the samples, bag and all. And from then on, tea drinkers had a more convenient way to enjoy their favorite beverage.

If you get a little creative (like Mr. Sullivan) then drinking the tea is just the tip of the iceberg. It can do so much more…

HEALTH AND BEAUTY

Puffy eyes? It’s what any good supermodel knows. Put a couple warm, wet teabags on those tired peepers for 15 to 20 minutes and let the tannins refresh, rejuvenate, and reduce the size of those weary lids. This can also be helpful with cases of pinkeye and even poison ivy. Sunburn? The tannic acid in tea will soothe this, or any first-degree burn. Place a few cool bags on the affected area to relieve the sting of solar rays. Foot odor? A tea-based foot bath can freshen up the fragrance of your feet, as well as give you some much needed R&R.

HOME AND GARDEN

Instead of some harmful chemical cleanser, try tea for your wood surfaces like furniture and floors. A soft cloth dampened with a little brewed tea on can improve the shine and color. It can cut the grease on glass, like mirrors and windows, while naturally filling the air with its rich aroma. Speaking of fresh air, you can also use some dry tea for a great potpourri.

But what about outside? Many gardeners swear by a concoction of used tea leaves, water, and mulch to fertilize their failing roses. Occasionally using some brewed tea instead of H2O to water your acid-loving household plants will give the soil some nutrients it may be lacking, while a used teabag in the bottom of a planter can help with moisture retention.

ARTISTRY TEA

Say you want to give your art project a more antique feel. Just add tea! Depending on the strength of the brew, it can be used in a like a watercolor paint, or blotted on with a cloth or sponge to add years and mystique to the look of paper. And as any hippie can tell you, tea is good for tie-dying fabric.

For other interesting uses for tea follow this link:
http://www.examiner.com/article/unusual-uses-for-tea-bags

Weight Loss Prep Work

 

work out prep work

picture thanks to Method Fitness

Have you ever painted a room?

To do it right, there’s a lot that needs to happen before the actual painting part. There’s getting the brushes, the rollers, the paint, and other accessories. There’s moving everything out and cleaning up. Then putting down all that masking tape and covering the bits that don’t need to be painted.

While it may seem daunting, doing it right is a simple matter of scratching things off a check list as they’re done. Then getting that paint on the walls is surprisingly easy. A whole new room is a breeze.

Why can’t weight loss be the same way?

We’re more likely to mess up if we go into a task without some idea of how to accomplish it. We can have a clear idea of the desired end result, but if we don’t know the steps to get there, we’re just asking for trouble on the way.

Here are some tips for weight loss preparation…

Pre-Plan

If you want to lose a few pounds, what will that mean for you day to day? Are you going to have to pack snacks? Are you going to have to get up a little earlier to make your brown bag full of healthiness? Should you park a little farther from where you’re going to get some exercise into your day? Should you join a gym?

Think about how you can squeeze in some good habits, and blow off some bad ones. What will work for you? Make your checklist for how you’re going to make change. Think about the new you that you want to be.

Clean Up!

A fresh start is a good start. Look at your fridge or pantry. Are there cookies, soda, snacks of any kind that would hinder the loss of weight? Get rid of them. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you can resist temptation or reward yourself later with them. They do not make a good reward for the goal in mind, and the best way to avoid their lure is to get them out of convenient reach.

Get Supplies

Now that you’ve thrown out the garbage, you’ll need new stuff. When you get to the grocery store, choose wisely. Most advice on the subject states that a good approach to losing weight is having five or six mini meals a day in order to keep your metabolism engaged and working. So what will you be eating? Stick to healthy, whole foods. Get a list together! Here’s a good place to start:
http://www.livestrong.com/article/232178-balanced-diet-checklist/

You should come up with an action plan for exercise, too. Do you need weights?  Better sneakers? A bike? A yoga DVD? A basketball? We all know healthy living has two parts; diet and exercise. Don’t count solely on one and neglect the other.

Stand By Your Plan (Avoiding Diet Derailers)

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone went on a diet at the same time?

Then all of the people in your life could be going through the same thing as you, and they would understand just how hard and important this journey can be. No one would tempt you with sugary goodness and everyone would know where everyone else was coming from.

Unfortunately, that isn’t usually how it works.

In the real world dieters have to interact with non-dieters, and this can sometimes be a challenge.

Here are a few examples of these folks (recognize any of them?) and some ideas for how to handle them…

Good Time Charlie (or Charlotte)

“You know what would be really good right now?” they may tell you, and whatever it is would be even better with sour cream. It’s really problematic if you live with them, and they spontaneously order that carb-ridden, extra-large, meat lovers pizza. A ringing doorbell has never been so tempting…

These folks don’t do discipline. They live in the moment, and think the same should go for you. They do not delay pleasure, and can justify any choice with three words: You deserve it.

The Solution:

Timing is everything. Do your best to beat them to the punch by having your smart and sensible meals before they have a chance to derail you with frivolous fun food. Also, strive towards activities with these folks that don’t involve eating. You can still enjoy their company, and not feel guilty about how that time is being spent.

Doctor Know-It-All

Really, they just want to help. They come at you with all kinds of knowledge from so many sources. They watched a clip from that talk show, or read a chapter from that book, or know someone who lost so much weight doing that plan.

All this information is being filtered through this person who sincerely wants to save you from your own bad habits. They want to be the hero, which isn’t a bad thing; it can just be a lot to take in.

The Solution:

Have them write it all down. They can’t expect you to remember all those “facts” on the fly. If they can give you written information, then you can do the follow up research, and figure out what is useful, and how much of it is just some trend. Also, if they make the effort to give you a list, thank them for the support, and assure them you’ll see if it will work for your goal.

The Candy Granny

We all have an emotional connection with food. There is probably a family member who shows their affection with confections, or their lovin’ from the oven. It’s traditional. We gather for holiday meals or Sunday dinners.

So you may feel a wave of guilt as Gramma tries to slide some apple pie on your plate, or insists you have seconds even though round one was a bit much. How can you say no to Gramma? She’s Gramma!

The Solution:

Let them know your dos and don’ts. If you’re going at this with an enthusiasm they can see and with knowledge about what you’re doing, it will make it easier for them to support you. You can’t blame them for doing what the have always done if they don’t know any better. Be sure to let them know your goals and your boundaries. Chances are they will do their best to help. They do love you, after all.

Are You Losing Weight on the Wrong Side of the Bed?

 

losing weight

image thanks to CarbonNYC

You know that old saying about getting up on the wrong side of the bed in the morning?

It’s often what people say when you are having a really bad day.

Well, this is how I feel – and I assume you probably do too – about the constant influx of information that we are bombarded with about fad diets, celebrity weight loss secrets, and an endless supply of “magic” diet pills and potions.

Unfortunately, a lot of this information is bad information (if not downright dangerous), and if you fall for it you may be “losing weight on the wrong side of the bed.”

  • Fad diets are fads for a reason, and some of them may work in the short-term but are impossible to maintain.
  • Most celebrities are able to look great not because of some miracle diet, but because they can afford to hire personal trainers, chefs, and a team of stylists (not to mention airbrushing).
  • And those “magic” weight loss pills? They are made with ingredients that are often untested and potentially unsafe.

The truth is that there is no magic formula for weight loss. It is really about arming yourself with the best information and making a plan that can work for you.

Here are a few weight loss secrets to help you out…

Get informed:

Do exactly what you are doing now. Read articles from trusted sources, learn about healthy eating, and educate yourself about the importance of fitness and the right amount for you. Find tips and tricks that can work for your life, and start using them.

Find support:

Realize that you don’t have to go it alone. Get your family members involved in your weight loss planning. Find friends who will take walks or go to the gym with you. There is also a massive community of people online who are there to share stories and support, search for a group that makes sense to you and get connected.

Get natural:

I love our oolong tea. I think it beats any drugstore diet pill hands down. You know why? Because it’s tea. I have seen the research that shows that it boosts metabolism and I know that it has helped countless people to lose weight. But the most important thing is that it is completely natural. Avoid the fads or scary diet drugs. I truly believe that if you do what is good for your body and it will do the same for you. This is the greatest of all weight loss secrets.

To your health!

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Results may vary.