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Bemovelive.com Blog features the latest fitness and clean eating advice from John Holley, MS, CSCS. Blogs focus on exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress reduction and getting the most out of your workouts.

STRESS AND BELLY FAT

John Holley

You know what stress can do to your health. Stress raises your blood pressure, lowers your immunity and decreases your performance in every day tasks. Over time, chronic stress makes everything less enjoyable. Now don’t get stressed out, but stress can also make you fat.

When you are under stress, your body produces the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline “burns” quick and works with the sugar in your blood so you can fight or flee. Cortisol fuels the fire longer and tells your body to pump more sugar into your blood, so you have the energy needed to pull the deer back to camp or run away from the mountain lion. (Remember, our bodies are the same as they were thousands of years ago, when we did hunt and run to survive.) In contemporary terms, cortisol helps you click and drag the sales report before you run out of the office to take the kids to soccer practice. Of course, without the burst of physical activity, you don’t use the extra blood sugar. Guess what happens next.

A recent Yale University study found the more stress study participants experienced, the higher the levels of cortisol were in their body. Higher levels of cortisol correlated with higher body fat levels. To make matters worse, the fat was primarily stored in their bellies.

Want to lose that belly fat? Check out this great article from Mark Williams.

So, you’re stressed about work, you are playing chauffer to the kids, trying to find quality time with your spouse, and on top of that is your belly fat! Then you turn to rocky road or cheese fries to try to feel better. This is the natural response, according to a University of California, San Francisco study, which found a connection in rats between stress levels and pleasure seeking. In other words, you don’t want to feel bad, so you hit the drive thru.

Not so fast…Before you say, “supersize me,” in an attempt to temper the day’s angst, consider what happens when you gulp down another meal in a box. Fast food (really, restaurant food in general) increases the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes and heart disease and the list goes on…This is because these foods are loaded with fat, sugar, refined carbohydrates and mysterious additives you can’t pronounce with a doctorate in chemistry. Also, even a “normal” portion in a restaurant meal will be several servings, most of which goes straight to your belly.

In short, you’re exchanging short-term pleasure for long-term weight gain and the stress remains. The only real answer is to reduce the stress in your life. I’m not saying you need to quit your job, join an ashram and chant all day, but here are a few ideas you may incorporate in your life to improve your sense of peace and well-being:

1.     A good night’s sleep will not only change your outlook, but will give you the energy to face your challenges in a positive manner. As it pertains to fat loss, hormones released during deep sleep keep your metabolism higher.

2.     Deep breathing as part of a meditation or, maybe, during exercise provides your body with oxygen for your cells and has a calming effect. Simply sitting still for five minutes and focusing on your breath does the trick.

3.     Daily exercise provides a variety of benefits which are detailed in this article by Mark Williams, Fat Burning Workouts for Women: The Best Way to Lose Belly Fat.

4.     A spiritual practice of your choosing has been shown to significantly lower stress levels. The simple understanding there is something greater than yourself gives perspective to your challenges.

5.     Talking to a friend, counselor or advisor gives you the chance to see things from another perspective. Even if they do not say a word, sharing your burden with another can lighten your load. Maybe you can return the favor sometime.

In the end, your response to any situation is a choice. You can choose to engage in old ways of being, but that is what brought you to this point, isn’t it? Why not try something different this time and reduce the stress in your life. 

LET'S GO OLD SCHOOL THIS SUMMER

John Holley

I remember how the last day of school felt. My body was buzzing with excitement and I could barely stay in my desk as the teacher droned on and on. My eyes darted between the clock over her head and the window, as I waited for the final bell of the school year to ring. Then…freedom! Two whole months of bike riding, building tree houses and exploring the woods seemed like an endless paradise. A few years later ;), I know how short summer is and how overscheduled even our kids’ summers are, so if you share my happy summer memories, read on.

Here are a few suggestions to go old school this summer:

1.     Turn off the TV! I guarantee you that House of Cards and Game of Thrones will be there waiting for you after the summer. Take advantage of the long, warm days and spend more time outside working in your yard, running around with your kids or spending time with your friends. Maybe join a running or cycling group and work on your social and physical fitness. I bet you can’t recall one significant memory you’ve made on your couch.

2.     Play! Unstructured play is an important component of a child’s development and I’d assert that adults need it just as much for stress relief, creativity and happiness. There are certain things you cannot quantify and I’d say some of the most successful businesses in the world agree. If you’re familiar with the corporate campuses of companies like Google and Nike, you know that “play rooms” are in the buildings. These companies know that productivity is enhanced by time away from work. So, get out there and ride your bike, play tag and chase fireflies until your mom makes you come inside.                                                               

3.     Grow your own garden. It’s not as hard as you might think. In fact, most nurseries offer kits, which include seeds and soil ready to go – just add water. You don’t have to spend days digging in the dirt, but who knows, once you’ve eaten your first fresh-picked tomato or once you sprinkle fresh cilantro from your garden on your fish taco, you might want to do more.

4.     Meet your neighbors. Isn’t it ironic that we are more “connected” than ever to the world, but don’t know our next-door neighbor’s name? Spend a little time outside and say hello to the good people around you. If they seemed locked in their air-conditioned boxes, knock on their door with a gift of vegetables from your garden and a hello. (I love the corny stuff J)

5.     Leave your phone at home.  Technology is a wonderful servant, but a horrible master. Until the robot overlords compel us to serve them, step out of your comfort zone and walk around the block, hike in the woods or have dinner on the patio without your phone by your side. Your social media accounts are not going anywhere and you may find some of the joy and peace you remember from summers past.

CLEAN & SIMPLE (and DELICIOUS) COOKING

John Holley

If you want to eat better, but think you don't have the time to select and prep the recipes, try my new book, CLEAN AND SIMPLE: Healthy Recipes for Your Busy Life. Inside you'll find delicious, easy-to-make recipes with a nutritional punch. Try the smoothies, soups, meat, fish and salad recipes and you'll discover how easy clean, nutritious eating can be! Here's a taste:

CLEAN RECIPES WITH FIVE OR FEWER INGREDIENTS
 SALSA LIME CHICKEN
Combine 1 lb of chicken with a jar of your favorite salsa and cook on low in a slow cooker for 4 hours. Squeeze fresh, lime juice on the chicken when your serve it.
Per 4 oz serving: 190 calories / 1 g fiber / 32 g protein / 4 g fat


PINEAPPLE CHICKEN
Marinate 4 chicken breasts in the juice of one cored pineapple for one hour. Cut 8 pineapple slices and place on the chicken as you grill or bake it until done. Serve with the remainder of the fresh pineapple. 
Per 4 oz serving: 270 calories / 2 g fiber / 33 g protein / 4 g fat


BBQ CHICKEN
Place 1 lb of chicken and 1 cup of BBQ sauce in a slow cooker on low for 4 hours. Serve with baked sweet potatoes for even more nutrition. 
Per 4 oz serving: 250 calories / 1 g fiber / 32 g protein / 4 g fat


LEMON PEPPER CHICKEN
Marinate 1 lb of chicken in a ¼ cup of lemon juice for one hour. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and grill or bake until done. Serve the chicken over a bed of romaine lettuce.
Per 4 oz serving: 190 calories / 1 g fiber / 32 g protein / 4 g fat


GRILLED TILAPIA WITH LIME
Squeeze the juice of one lime over a 4-6 oz piece of tilapia. Grill or bake for 20 minutes and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Per 4 oz serving: 110 calories / 0 g fiber / 23 g protein / 2 g fat

 

YOUR TRAVEL WORKOUT

John Holley

Summer vacation time is here, but being away from home is not a reason to miss your workouts. So, pack an exercise band or a couple of dumbbells with your bathing suit and sunscreen.

WARMUP

Superman

Cobra

Mountain climbers (30 seconds)

Lunge with hands behind head

Squat with calf raises

EXERCISE BANDS

Place one end of the band in a door jam to hold it in place and do the following in 3 sets of 12 repetitions:

Chest press or pushups

One-arm row or band pull aparts

Core rotations or wood choppers

BODY WEIGHT EXERCISES

Plank (30 sec)

Lunge (3 sets of 12 reps)

Upper pushup position hold (30 sec)

Hip bridge (lie on your back, heels by your hips and raise your hips, hold for 30 sec)

DUMBBELLS OR EXERCISE BANDS

Curls

Front raises

Squats

YOU MUST DECIDE

John Holley

I want to sing with all my might a lifelong song,

Even if some notes come out right and some come out wrong,

‘Cause I can’t take none of that through the door,

I’m living for more than just a funeral,

I want to burn brighter than the dawn 

“Live It Well” by Switchfoot

I was driving home from taking my mom to a doctor’s office visit when the Switchfoot song quoted above started playing.  Maybe it was the disappointing health news we received from her doctor, or the fact that my sister and I are in the process of moving her to an assisted living facility, but the spirit of the song really struck me. As you can tell from the verse above, it is about living your life to the fullest. As I listened to it over and over one fact impressed itself upon me:

There is no time to waste.

Whether you look at it from a mystical, quantam physics or anecdotal perspective, you have no time to waste. The days may feel long, but the years are short and tomorrow and the day after are coming faster than you think. What do you want them to look like? Are you content to float along hoping for the magic lottery ticket, the perfect partner or the ideal time to learn to how to cook, or are you ready to decide right now what tomorrow will look like?

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Am I willing to decide, is a question you need to ask yourself. What is a decision you have been avoiding in the hope it will be made for you? Are you waiting to commit to daily exercise because work is too busy right now? Or will you start eating healthier when you spouse stops ordering pizza? Maybe you can’t decide because you’re afraid. If that’s the case, you’re on the right track. When you truly decide to move forward the stakes will be higher, you will feel a rush of energy (call it fear, call it excitement, call it whatever you want) and you will put action behind the decision.

It's clear we need to make conscious decisions. Start with one decision you have been putting off and write it out. Writing it out will make it tangible and will help you decide to do it, or not to do it. Just get the cursed indecision off your shoulders! This is not about adding an item to your to-do list, but it is about deciding what you desire in your life.

Got your decision? Next, feel the emotions, which emerge and take action anyway.

Don’t die with your music still in you.

Dr. Wayne Dyer

HOW GRATITUDE IMPROVES YOUR HEALTH

John Holley

Your commitment to lifelong health and wellness means you have a compelling why behind your plan to be eat better and exercise more often. However, practicing gratitude may be the best thing you can do in order to stick to your exercise plan, eat healthier, sleep better, improve your immune system and live longer. 

Scientists such as Sonja Lyubomirsky and Robert Emmons have found a direct relationship between the active expression of gratitude and health. Techniques like journaling, letter writing, keeping a gratitude jar and telling other people why you are thankful for them offer a variety of health benefits, not the least of which is that it feels good.

Here are the top, research-based reasons for practicing gratitude:

1.    Gratitude brings happiness and greater satisfaction with life.

2.    Gratitude reduces anxiety and depression.

3.    Gratitude strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure and reduces symptoms of illness.

4.    Gratitude improves the quality of sleep.

5.    Gratitude makes you more resilient to the challenges of life.

The best part is you can increase your wellness right now by answering this simple question: what are you grateful for?

BUILD CONSISTENCY FIRST

John Holley

Salvador Dali.jpg

How are all those resolutions going? If your plans to become a gluten-free vegan, workout 6 days a week and quit soda aren't working out so well, maybe it's time to take a new approach to change...such as making one change.

Making one change at a time may be new to you. If you’re like most of us, you have tried and failed to cement new habits in the past because you were too ambitious, you felt overwhelmed with everything you thought you needed to do, and you lacked consistency.

Creating lifelong wellness is your objective, so you need to find a way to incorporate simple and healthy actions into your day. For instance, making the choice to add 10 minutes of movement into your day, and then doing that consistently for a week or longer, will show you that you can.

It’s simple, people who make the goal to exercise twice a week are much more likely to achieve their goal than those who seek the “perfect” record of working out every day. This is not to suggest you can’t exercise every day, but if you haven’t seen the inside of a gym in a while, maybe you should be honest with yourself.

Life is complex and staying consistent with a new behavior will be a challenge. Start smart with one new activity, make it part of your life and build your lifetime of wellness.

MAKE ONE CHANGE

John Holley

Change .png

If you know why you will accomplish your big, health goals, then it's time to train for the marathon, become a vegan and learn Spanish for your volunteer trip to Guatemala.  The only problem is you haven’t run since high school, you don’t know an artichoke from an aardvark and you can’t even find Univision on your cable package. You have a lot to do and want to do it right now!

The truth is, change takes time and only happens one step at a time.

Research confirms our brains can only handle one task at a time. Multitask all you want, in reality you are only focused on one of the myriad of things in front of you.

The same is true for changes in your health habits. Your mental energy is finite and every decision you make depletes it. This is especially true if you are exerting “willpower” toward a new endeavor or one in which you’ve failed in the past. The key to successful change is giving yourself permission to master one change at a time, even if it takes weeks, months or a lifetime. 

 

BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND

John Holley

Once you have a compelling reason (your why) to lose weight or eat better or exercise more consistently, you have the fuel you need to succeed. The next step is to make a plan to reach your goals, but I can hear you saying, “been there, done that and I have a closet full of those dirty t-shirts. What else ya got?” Have you ever tried to begin from the place you want to be rather than from where you are?

The brilliance of beginning with your ultimate vision in mind is that your success (or setbacks) along the way won’t feel like a reason to quit. When your goal is a lifetime of physical movement so you can hike Machu Picchu, outrun your grandkids or live without meds, losing 10 pounds is simply a happy part of the process.  

So, envision a healthy future and work your way backwards to the present with short-term goals. Taking the long-view means every step you take, every class and every healthy meal is a positive step forward.

DO YOU KNOW YOUR WHY?

John Holley

The truth is, you know what to do. You know you should eat better, exercise more consistently, go to sleep earlier and hug your kids more. So why don’t you? The fact is, unless you have a clear and compelling (emotion stirring) reason to do something, you probably won’t do it or your efforts will be inconsistent. Your why directs your efforts toward the goals you set. However, if you have a goal to lose weight or go to sleep before Jimmy Fallon so you can get up early and exercise, but don’t have a strong enough why…the what’s not gonna happen. So, it is better to ask yourself why when you set your wellness goals: Why do I want to lose weight? Why do I want to eat healthy? Why do I want to eat breakfast? Why do I want to get up early and exercise? When you dig deep and write out the specific reasons for your goals and desires, you will know why, or maybe, you will discover why not. The point is, when you pair a compelling why with what you want to do, your chance for success dramatically rises.   

The truth is, you know what to do. You know you should eat better, exercise more consistently, go to sleep earlier and hug your kids more. So why don’t you? The fact is, unless you have a clear and compelling (emotion stirring) reason to do something, you probably won’t do it or your efforts will be inconsistent.

Your why directs your efforts toward the goals you set. However, if you have a goal to lose weight or go to sleep before Jimmy Fallon so you can get up early and exercise, but don’t have a strong enough why…the what’s not gonna happen.

So, it is better to ask yourself why when you set your wellness goals:

Why do I want to lose weight?

Why do I want to eat healthy?

Why do I want to eat breakfast?

Why do I want to get up early and exercise?

When you dig deep and write out the specific reasons for your goals and desires, you will know why, or maybe, you will discover why not. The point is, when you pair a compelling why with what you want to do, your chance for success dramatically rises. 

 

OLD AND SLOW AND...FIT

Jessica Hill

You’re not quite as young as you used to be. A sleepless night used to be nothing after a double expresso, but now you need to skip Fallon the next night. Pepperoni pizza still looks good on the menu, but you better have the grilled chicken. And the shoulder pain, tight IT band and knee pain which won’t go away? Well, with a little planning you can address these issues and feel (almost) as good as you did at 18…here’s how:

GET WARM. This isn’t middle school PE. So, donning a pair of coach’s shorts, a couple of toe touches and a few windmills aren’t enough to get ready for a workout. The problem is static stretching doesn’t increase blood flow to the muscles you are preparing to work. Additionally, the old way of stretching has been shown to decrease strength when it is done prior to exercise. You’ll get better results if you get warm with dynamic moves involving a full range-of-motion in your major muscle groups.

Pick four or five of these exercises and do each of them for 30 to 60 seconds. Begin with easy leg swings both front to back and side to side. Then move into a wide-stance squat and touch by positioning your feet wider than hips-distance apart and sinking your hips until you can touch the ground with your hands. Next, raise your heart rate with side shufflesjumping jacksrunning in place or body-weight lunges. Finish with arm circlesmountain climbers, sun salutations or inch worms to target the upper body and core.

FIND YOUR BALANCE. Muscle imbalances, joint dysfunction, neuromuscular deficits and bad postural habits develop over time and are often felt where you are weakest. For instance, sitting at a desk all day can lead to a forward stooped posture. This allows the muscles in the front of the shoulders and across the chest to shorten and tighten, while the muscles of the back are lengthened and weakened. This muscular imbalance predisposes you to pain in the rotator cuff muscles. These four small muscles stabilize the top of the arm (the humeral head) in the shoulder socket during movement and dysfunction here can lead to chronic pain if it is not corrected.

In this example, your best defense against developing shoulder pain may be to balance the muscles of the anterior and posterior sides of the body. Try stretching the chest and shoulders, strengthening the back and rotator cuff musculature and working to maintain a good posture throughout the work day. My disclaimer is (as always): I am not a doctor and you should address pain issues with a board-certified physician.

Of course, most doctors would agree an important component of good posture and injury prevention is…(you guessed it) a strong, balanced core. Planks, side planks andbridges are a good place to begin because they engage the muscles around the entire core. Add single-leg balance reaches and supine marches to improve your balance and proprioception (your muscles communicating and working together).

BE STRONG. Getting older isn’t for the weak, but you can make it a little easier by getting strong. Strength training can improve balance, your kinesthetic awareness (bodily sense of space and movement) and will improve your muscle mass and bone density. This makes your everyday activities easier and a week at the beach less frightening. Compliment your cardiovascular exercise with a three-day-a-week strength training regimen focusing on the major muscle groups. Vary your routines and lift heavy on the first day with few repetitions, light on the second day and go for 10-12 reps of your sets on the third strength training day. Remember to wait a minimum of 48 hours before training a specific muscle group (even abs!) in order for proper recovery to occur.

ROLL WITH IT. Finding peace and rolling with the changes in your life is crucial for good health, but I’m referring to stretching and foam rolling after your workout. Time spent stretching after your workout will pay off with reduced soreness, faster recovery and greater mobility. Stretching is most effective post-workout because your muscles are warm and more pliable. Target your major muscle groups and spend a little longer than 30 seconds on your tightest areas.

Add a few minutes on a foam roller for even more benefit as you release the adhesions, which can cover the myofascial tissue around your muscle. Injury, overexertion, even extended inactivity can cause “tender spots” to appear. Regular foam rolling provides many of the benefits of a good massage. Light a candle if you need the massage room atmosphere.

REST. That’s right. Run a little slower. Do some easy yoga. Take a stroll. Respect your body by listening to the warning signs, which tell you it is time to slow down. Time spent in recovery is as important to your health as consistent exercise and a proper diet. Workouts breakdown your body and many injuries occur because of overuse and repetitive motion. Aching joints, persistent pain, unusual muscular soreness and an elevated heart rate upon rising from bed all indicate you need rest. While I encourage an active life and exercise most days of the week, alternating intense or long workouts with easy recovery days is more beneficial. The payoff is you’ll perform even better in your next workout.

LET GO OF EXPECTATIONS

John Holley

I closed on a new house about a month ago and have been moving in ever since. A week of painting and hanging blinds has been followed by three weeks of unpacking, organizing and trying to remember where I left my tape measure. Today I hoped to spend my first, full day enjoying the new digs - after I hung a screen door. Easy enough, I thought, you put the top of the door in the track and align the wheels on the bottom and you’re done. Yeah…

As with too many DIY projects, the 5 minutes I expected to spend on the job became 45 minutes of searching for instructions in English and making height adjustments before I realized the door was too narrow. Tomorrow, I’ll return it for the one the giant lumberyard employee told me was too wide. Frustrating? Sure, for a moment I burned when I thought about how I had “wasted” my time, but will it matter in a week or a month?

The annoyance I experienced with the screen door project will be forgotten, but will I remember how pointless my reaction was? Probably not, but it did make me think of how we place unreasonable expectations on ourselves and lose the enjoyment of the present moment. Here are 4 stress-inducing demands I hope to remember to forget:

1.     It should be perfect. This is a personal favorite. I expected the screen door to be the perfect size and to install in a flash. The reality is, the job still isn’t done and I wasted time and emotional energy being upset that my project did not go as expected. I could have had a peaceful morning. How do you do the same thing?

2.     I need to know exactly what I’m doing. This is another bugaboo. Have you put off trying something new because you’re not sure what to do? Is there a person you’d like to approach about partnering in business with, but you don’t know how to do it? Would you like to write a screenplay or landscape your yard or get in shape, but you don’t begin because you don’t know how? You’re not alone, but the only what to find out how is to begin. Now.

3.     I need to get it all done now. Slow and steady wins the race is a cliché, which seems outdated, but don’t be deceived. I just watched a documentary about the rock band, Rush, and their mainstream success story took over 10 years. Even something as simple as my cookbook, Clean and Simple, took almost 2 years to get to market. It will get done if you keep moving forward.

4.     I will be happy when... As we age, there are fewer tomorrows upon which to place our hope and dreams. Time begins to feel more constrained and each day more important. What are you waiting for? Are you watching the clock every day until 5pm? Is this next lottery ticket going to be the one, which will free you to open your yoga studio? Will you finally talk to her tomorrow? I call B.S. on tomorrow and tell you the secret to happiness is living this moment to the fullest instead of hoping some distant time will be better.

Screen door update: Once I bought the right size, it did take 5 minutes to install J.

WHY YOU NEED TO SLEEP MORE

John Holley

When was the last time you felt truly rested? Was it after a week of vacation last summer? Or, maybe when a snow day gave you the chance to sleep until you awoke without the alarm. Perhaps it was last Saturday when your spouse took the kids to a movie and you stole a long, afternoon nap…Wait, that’s not you. You checked email and caught up on laundry instead.

If you’re like too many of us, you may not be able to remember the last time you weren’t tired.

Of course, the fatigue you probably feel right now (hopefully not because of this article) is a result of ignoring your need for seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Four hours most nights and a drowsy weekend on the couch don’t cut it. Sleep is one of the most basic needs for all animals and those of us with opposable thumbs are no exception. A lack of sleep, just like a lack of water and food, will kill you (or make you want to die).

The sleep cycle consists of five stages, which culminate in REM (rapid eye movement). Once you reach REM sleep you drift up and down the stages of sleep throughout the night. During REM you dream about flying, Halle Berry or playing on stage with Bruce Springsteen. Fun, yes, but it is during the third and fourth stages that human growth hormone (keeps you young), melatonin (may protect against cancer) and other hormones essential to bodily repair and function are released. However, if your sleep is frequently interrupted or too brief, you may not experience these stages enough to reap the benefits.

Obviously, the main benefit of getting enough sleep is fewer visits to your favorite caffeine pusher, er…barista. You will also reduce your risk factors for heart disease, stroke and overeating. While in sleep stages three and four, leptin and gherlin, which regulate appetite are balanced. Consequently, there’s less chance of you mistaking your need for 40 winks with a desire for chocolate.

When you eat better you are healthier, and this works in concert with a reduction in your stress levels, blood pressure and cholesterol, which drastically reduces your risk for disease of all sorts, even cancer. A good night’s sleep will also raise your serotonin levels, reducing your chances of becoming depressed.

In short, a good night's sleep is as important to your health and fitness as clean eating and regular workouts. Now, get some sleep.

CLEAN UP YOUR GROCERY LIST

Jessica Hill

If you walk into the grocery store with good intentions, but no idea what you’re doing, you’re likely to walk out with the same-old boxes and bags of processed food. As we talked about in Grocery Store Confidential there are strategies to safely navigate the food marketing matrix known as the grocery store. The best way is to walk in with a list of what you’re going to buy, based on the meals you are going to make.

Read More

ONE SIMPLE CHANGE

John Holley

How are those New Year’s resolutions working out for you? If you’re like most of us, they have been forgotten or tossed aside in frustration. I mean, you’re too busy to workout and it takes too much time to plan your meals for the week…besides, a new season of Homeland just started and The Bachelor looks really good this year. I understand. It’s human nature, I guess.

Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.

Robert C. Gallagher

Why don’t we look at this another way? Do you agree that it is a good idea to take care of yourself? (I assume your answer is yes.) Honestly, this is not a zero-sum game and the next 5 pounds to lose will always be there, just like your tv habit and supersizing. What if, instead of trying to stop a “bad” habit, you added a positive behavior to your life?

The sign said, “eight items or less,” so I changed my name to Les.

Steven Wright

May I suggest that you focus on your favorite healthy foods and include them in your diet on a regular basis. A handful of almonds for an afternoon snack, one glass of wine with dinner or a coffee with skim milk can be an enjoyable part of your day. Do you like cereal and milk in the morning? Great, then don’t have the oatmeal or omelet. You have my permission to enjoy your food.

If you are trying to be more active, remember three is too many days of exercise to miss. Even if you don’t enjoy workouts – but you know it is important to move on a regular basis – make sure no more than two days pass without some kind of movement. The latest recommendations are for 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times a week, or, 2 hours and 30 minutes a week. If you like intense exercise, the recommendations call for 75 minutes each week. Of course, you can mix moderate and intense workouts to hit your goal.

Finally, if you can’t stomach the idea of not getting takeout or going to the latest restaurant, think like a chef.  Cooking one meal a week (or more) at home will not only reduce the number of calories you consume, but if you understand what goes into your favorite recipes it will help you make better choices when you do eat out.

Don’t hate the player, change the game.

Steve Harvey

A little self-improvement won’t hurt you, unless you beat yourself up over not being perfect. This year change the rules and play a game you can win.

BE HERE NOW

John Holley

…is the title of a book published in the West by spiritual leader, Ram Dass. He gained permission from Indian guru Maharaji to publish the book in 1971, but the sentiment is more pertinent now than ever. The opportunity for distraction is omnipresent at work, home and (gulp) even when driving. Ubiquitous options have made us unable to choose and incapable of being content with who we are and what we have.  In yoga it is referred to as “monkey mind” and I know I am swinging through the trees, cell phone in hand, with everyone else.

What are you thinking about right now? If I look up from the computer screen, my thoughts quickly drift to the Spanish class I want to take, my son’s graduation dinner and how I’m going to landscape the backyard in the Spring. Are your thoughts scattered in several directions?

Can you sit still and be? I have a friend who takes an annual silent retreat at a monastery in order to renew her heart and mind. She literally leaves town because she knows a change of location makes this “mental cleanse” possible. When she returns she can see how things are. She knows when we are so consumed with what happened yesterday, what might happen tomorrow and what we hope to do next week that the here and now has no room in our minds (or hearts).  Can you still your body and mind for even a moment?

The challenge is to give yourself permission to sit still and be for a minimum of five minutes each day. “Wait a minute,” I can hear you say. “I don’t have time to sit still for five minutes!” There’s the rub, my friend. An overactive, stressed-out psyche moving in 101 directions at once is never as sharp or effective as a focused and calm mind. Try this for a week and see if you don’t accomplish more with less effort.

There is no certain way you need to do this other than to prioritize yourself, just like you do when you care for your body with a good workout or healthy food. Some people find the act of allowing themselves five uninterrupted minutes away from their phone, computer and other people is sufficient. Others need a silent or audible mantra to remain focused. (“Om” or “Peace” are my suggestions.) Many use a simple focus on their breathing in order to calm and clear their minds. The key is to simply observe the thoughts and feelings, which will invariably arise, and allow them to pass without judgment. The only thing you need to do is be here now.

HOW WOULD TODAY BE DIFFERENT IF

John Holley

On October 31, 2003 I made a decision, which changed my life. I was living in Los Angeles acting in independent movies, working as an extra in feature films and getting the occasional small, television role.  I wasn’t living the dream, but I was living my dream…sort of. I was separated from my two sons most of the time and I knew that had to change, but I also knew I didn’t want to move them to Los Angeles. I would write letters to them every week, talk to them on a regular basis and even visit several times a year, but I knew it wasn’t enough. I had to make a decision.

How would today be different if I decided to stay in Southern California and not be the father I wanted to be? I probably wouldn’t have the close and loving relationship I now have with my two adult sons. In other words, I wouldn’t have the two of the most important relationships in my life and I would be the lesser for it. I made the best choice for myself and I am happy I did.

We all have past decisions in our life in which hindsight makes us think, “that would have turned out differently if…” Maybe it involves the college sweetheart you left behind in order to take a job or the move you decided against in order to marry someone. Perhaps it was a less momentous and more recent decision, like the one to order a pizza, when you knew you wouldn’t eat just one slice. Then again, maybe it was the decision to plan, prepare and enjoy a week of healthy meals. Clearly, whether the choice is large or small, your decision makes all the difference.

100% is easy. 99% is a b#@ch. 

Implementing this into your life is simple. Get a sheet of paper and write out three choices for today and follow through with the actions needed. Begin writing out each choice with the phrase, “How would today be different if…,” and then add 2 or 3 ways in which your choice will make today different.

Here are two examples:

How would today be different if I get 7-8 hours of quality sleep?

1. I will feel refreshed and energized and be able to make breakfast for my kids, rather than rushing out the door frazzled and hungry.

2. I will be better able to concentrate at work and skip my 3pm trip to the coffee shop.

3. I will have plenty of energy to nail my workout. 

How would today be different if I pack my lunch and snacks today?

1.     I will feel more secure in my healthy food choices for the day, knowing I won’t be tempted to go to a restaurant for lunch.

2.     I know I won’t be starving and grumpy when I get home and overeat.

3.     I know I will feel proud of myself and will be fully present with my family.

You get the idea. Now, how will today be different for you?

HEALTH MYTHS THAT MUST END

John Holley

Happy New Year and welcome to get-fit-quick season! Advertisers are working as hard they can to pitch you everything from ab crunching widgets to weight loss pills to miracle diet plans and you’re buying. I predict it’ll be another multi-billion dollar year in the diet and fitness industry. The fact that most of the widgets, pills and diets will not be the answer you’ve been looking for won’t be remembered in a year. My aim with this article is to dispel a few myths before you start making your 3 easy payments.

Crunches, situps or (insert the device here) will give you a 6 pack. Enough already! You can do crunches all day long and not have visible abs if your body fat is not low enough. Besides, situps and crunches with bad form, can lead to back pain for people who do not follow a sensible workout program. You can’t spot reduce!

More exercise is better. Sure, if you want to get hurt and have to deal with cravings and lose your friends because you have no time for them anymore. Look, we are made to move, but let’s use some common sense about intensity and frequency. Your body needs time to recover and this becomes more and more important as you age. Insomnia, an elevated heart rate upon rising, general aches and pains, irritability and headaches are all symptoms of overtraining.

Want to find a balanced and effective workout plan?

5 ESSENTIAL WORKOUTS

available on Amazon.

All fats are bad. First of all, this is basically marketing hype leftover from the 80’s when the low-fat/no-fat movement was in full force. You need fat as part of a healthy diet and to live. It is important for normal bodily repair, energy, absorption of certain vitamins, and protection of your organs. The key is to get as many healthy fats as possible from sources like grain products, fish, beans, fish oil and nuts. While saturated fats from animal sources should be kept to a minimum, the only truly “bad” fats are trans fats, which you’ll find masquerading as hydrogenated oils in boxed and convenience foods.

Carbohydrates are bad. This is another marketing misnomer, which has just enough truth to it, to give it legs. Refined (white) carbohydrates are best avoided because they are stripped of all nutrition and will spike your insulin levels. Sugar also should be kept to a minimum because of the affect it has on your cravings and your waistline if over-consumed. What are important are complex, unrefined carbohydrates such as oatmeal, brown rice, vegetables and moderate amounts of fruit.

The point I’m making is the only “secret” to weight loss and long-term vitality are moving every day, eating quality foods, getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night and living your life with purpose. Everything else is hype to sell you something.