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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.

SLEEP TO FEEL BETTER

John Holley

One of the most effective actions you can take to feel Better Every Day is to do nothing. Give yourself the rest and sleep you need to recover and watch your performance improve.

FEEL BETTER

Sleep is an integral component to overall health. Most of us require 7-8 hours each night to be at our best. The REM cycles in particular are vital because this is when human growth hormone is released and muscle repair and growth occurs. Sleep is also important if you want to keep your metabolism burning at a high rate.

EAT BETTER

…something “healthy” other than salad. Think of the all the broiled, roasted and baked options you have so your new and improved diet doesn’t bore you. For instance, roasted vegetables are a tasty option any time of the year. Try frozen bananas or blueberries in a smoothie. And if you don’t like veggies, puree a few and cover the taste in that same smoothie.

MOVE BETTER

As your cardio intensity increases, form becomes more important. The knee is an amazing joint and handles enormous pressure with every foot strike, but it is also the place where overuse injuries can first occur. Remember to keep most of your weight in your heels on the elliptical machines or bicycles and try to keep your toes pointed forward, while landing on your mid-foot, when you walk or run.

TAKE CONTROL

John Holley

So many Christmas parties, so little time...One of the best things about this time of the year is spending time with family and friends, and that time is almost always spent with delicious food made by someone else. No problem, a little planning can go a long way.

FEEL BETTER

Eating at restaurants doesn’t have to sabotage your diet, if you know what to expect when you open the menu. So, the focus this week is on taking as much control of the situation as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how food is prepared. Also, remember to go with baked, broiled, grilled and steamed options with sauces on the side.

EAT BETTER

For a satisfying and nutritious afternoon snack, try a handful of almonds or walnuts. Besides being a great source of the good omega 3 fats, they possess protein and fiber to take the edge off your hunger until dinner. Remember, a serving of nuts is a small handful.

MOVE BETTER

Once you have lost a significant amount of weight, made big strength gains, or cut time off your personal best, your progress may plateau as your body seeks homeostasis. Shake things up by adding new exercises (like the ones below) to your cardio and strength-training routine. 

THE NEXT LEVEL

John Holley

FEEL BETTER

Eat every three to four hours. From the time you get up in the morning until 7pm, eating small meals every three hours will keep you feeling full all day long. This will keep your energy level up and reduce cravings. A bonus is your body will be burning more calories throughout the day as it digests the food.

EAT BETTER

You can eat great tasting and healthy food like that found in The Art of Clean Cooking. Read your food labels and look for these nutritionally superior substitutions for higher-calorie foods:

Turkey bacon

Skim or 1% milk products

Whole or unrefined grains

Spinach

Flank steak, roast beef or tenderloin (with the fat trimmed)

7% fat hamburger or ground turkey

Natural peanut butter (fatty, yes, but the good kind without the sugar)

All fruit jellies and spreads

Sherbert or frozen yogurt (just watch the sugar content)

Marinara sauce

Baked chips

Thin crust or whole wheat crust pizza (two slices max)

California or tuna rolls

MOVE BETTER

Continue with your cardio, but instead of only going for time, try taking your workout to the next level during a shorter cardio session. Aim for an 7 or 8 on a scale of 10, with 10 being all-out effort. You will burn more calories and make your body adjust to something new.

TRY SOMETHING NEW

John Holley

Our focus this week for part 3 of Better Every Day, is try something new. So, if you haven't read labels in the past, or tried a clean, simple recipe for dinner, or you have no idea how an interval workout can burn a lot of calories in a short time, give it a go this week.

FEEL BETTER

Remember to pay attention to serving sizes and portion control. In short, focus on eating the right amounts of quality food. Junk food, i.e. foods with added sugar or fat or made with refined grains, delivers little sustenance and leaves you craving more, which leads to eating too much.

EAT BETTER

If you want to fill up with a low-calorie, but nutritionally potent dinner, combine baby spinach with a broiled or microwaved chicken breast. Top this with fat-free balsamic vinaigrette and vegetables, such as cucumbers and tomatoes. If you’re still hungry, try a baked sweet potato topped with plain, non-fat yogurt. This is a great source of Vitamin A, protein and fiber. 

My first cookbook, Clean and Simple, is filled with even more delicious, nutritious recipes.

MOVE BETTER

Cardio up to six days a week, and try new forms like trail hiking or dancing to add variety for your head and your muscles. Remember, the body adapts fairly quickly and will work more efficiently, thus fewer calories are burned. Now, click here that interval workout I teased.

 

BETTER EVERY DAY

John Holley

This is the second of the Better Every Day series, which will keep you progressing even through the busy and temptation-filled holidays. Let's start the New Year ahead!

FEEL BETTER

No food, especially carbs, after 7pm. Your metabolism naturally slows in the evening, which makes excess calories even more likely to be stored as fat. A bonus to not eating in the evenings is how much sounder you’ll sleep and how much better you’ll look and feel in the morning.

When it comes to carbohydrates in your diet, focus on whole, unrefined grains, fresh fruit, and vegetables. In other words, avoid the white stuff! White flour, bleached flour, enriched flour, and sugar are devoid of nutrition and may supply a quick rush of energy, but stimulate the appetite because the fiber and vitamins have been stripped from them, leaving you hungry soon after you eat.

My latest book, The Art of Clean Cooking, will give you all the ideas you need to eat better.

EAT BETTER

…and write it down. Numerous studies, including one in the August 2008 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found those who tracked what they ate lost more than twice as much weight as the non-diary keepers. Knowing you have to record everything you put in your mouth makes you stop before you pickup that cookie, or go back for seconds. Seeing what you’ve eaten in black and white also helps you understand the areas of your diet you need to change in order to lose weight more quickly. In short, knowledge is power.

MOVE BETTER

In your workouts continue to focus on high repetitions and lighter weights. Cardio on the days you don’t strength train is great, as long as you don’t feel lightheaded, burned out, or simply in need of a day off. You can push hard, but listen to your body. Rest is sometimes as important as the work.

ARE YOU BETTER EVERY DAY?

John Holley

The holidays are just around the corner and I know you wish to stay focused on your healthy lifestyle, while you enjoy time with friends and family.. This is why we begin a series of Better Every Day blogs designed to help you stay on track through the myriad of culinary temptations you are sure to face in the office and from your family this month. Remember, you can enjoy the holidays and stay on track toward your goals for your health.

FEEL BETTER

Your body craves water to simply maintain basic bodily functions related to metabolism and repair of tissue. This is why it is important to drink a minimum of 8 glasses (64 ounces) of water every day. Coffee, tea and juice are not substitutes for water because coffee and tea are diuretics and cause your body to lose fluids, while juice is loaded with sugar, which can spike your appetite and adds calories to your diet.

EAT BETTER

Clean foods are those you usually won’t find in a box or bag. Clean foods never wind up in the cookie aisle and certainly aren’t advertised during Saturday morning cartoons. Clean foods are nutritional superstars, which will make you feel better, get stronger and lose weight. Oh, and once you start eating clean on a regular basis, don’t be surprised if you begin to like the foods your mom always tried to get you to eat.

MOVE BETTER

Workout this week with higher strength reps (12-15 per set), with cardio intervals designed to keep your heart rate up, while burning extra calories. If you need workout ideas check this out:

 

 

 

HOW TO BE A CAVEMAN

Jessica Hill

A lot has changed in our diets over the last 10,000 years, so let me bring you up to speed. 8000 BC marked the approximate end of the Paleolithic Era and the beginning of the Neolithic Period. Homo sapien, which had become the dominant member of the homo genus, was a hunter gatherer of animals, birds, fish, fruits, nuts and berries. These homo sapiens planted the early roots of civilization by building permanent settlements, establishing agriculture, domesticating animals and opening the first Starbucks.

A few thousand years passed and man had domesticated more animals and developed specialized tools for hunting and agriculture. Then in what is known as the Mesolithic Period, many groups evolved into food producers rather than food gatherers. The first cultures known to produce grains developed during this time in the Tigris and Euphrates Valley. Of course, grain has to be ground, milled or processed to be edible so the process of producing cereals soon followed. The Romans expanded the scale of processing grain to meet the needs of their expanding empire and were the first to sift milled grains into flour. Shortly thereafter, the first Dunkin Donuts opened at the Colosseum. Fast forward 2000 years or so and flour has gone from a Roman symbol of wealth to a villain.

Absurd? Perhaps, yet while the foods we eat and our daily level of activity has changed radically our genes have remained largely the same over the past 10,000 plus years. Does it follow that the dramatic rise of obesity and degenerative disease may stem from mankind’s recent adaptation of processed foods, many of which contain grains or products, such as gluten, which come from processing grains? This is a contention behind what I like to call the Caveman diet.

Supporters of this diet, such as Colorado State University professor, Loren Cordain, PhD contend the modern diet is responsible for the obesity epidemic and the rise in heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions.
“Clinical trials have shown that the Caveman [sic] Diet is the optimum diet that can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, markers of inflammation, help with weight loss, reduce acne, promote optimum health and athletic performance,” said Cordain.

Not everyone is so quick to recommend this approach to eating. American Dietetic Association spokesperson Heather Mangieri, MS, RD said, “This diet has some great aspects, but the limitations make it another diet that people go on but can’t sustain for a number of reasons, including a lack of variety, [cost], and potential nutritional inadequacies” because certain food groups are eliminated.

Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, assistant professor at New York’s Albert Einstein School of Medicine, added, “People who eat diets high in whole grains, beans, and low-fat dairy tend to be healthier because these foods are nutrient-rich and there are mountains of research about the health benefits of diets that include, not exclude these foods.”

Even if you don’t eat like a caveman all of the time, limiting your intake of processed foods, refined flour and dairy products may offer health benefits. Cordain suggests trying the diet for two weeks to see if you find it beneficial.
Intrigued? Here are a few caveman-inspired ideas you can include in your diet and lifestyle:

Eat like a caveman. No, you don’t have to spear an antelope and cook it over a fire pit, but that’s the spirit! Paleo enthusiasts argue that it’s not calories alone that cause weight gain, but sugar and refined carbohydrates, which spike our blood sugar and trigger the insulin, which signals our body to store energy as fat. A simple strategy to avoid refined carbs is to eliminate fast and convenience foods from your diet.

Move like a caveman. Just because you’re hairy and you sweat at the gym, doesn’t mean you’re caveman fit. Change up your routine often and get outside to reap the benefits of adapting to unstable terrain (build your stabilizing muscles), running on grass (easier on your knees and plantar fascia), and breathing fresh air (a stress reliever). Oh yeah, leave the iPod home once in a while for even greater benefits.

Rest like a caveman. Our ancient brethren may have had some stress between hunting for food, surviving the elements and running from wolves, but it doesn’t compare to the constant level of stress we face today. Our constant exposure to electronic devices, our sedentary jobs and the addiction many of us have to Facebook, texting and our phones, leave little unplanned, stress-free downtime. What about real, deep sleep? How many of us sleep with our phone next to the bed or leave the tv on or bring a tablet to bed?

Think like a caveman. First of all, turn off the damn tv and put your phone in the other room, so you can think. Constant attention to the media, incessant worries about money, stress from work and concerns about your son’s grades won’t be alleviated by this season of The Walking Dead. Maybe not thinking so much will allow the frontal lobe of your brain to calm down and your body will follow…seriously, try 5 minutes of silence or sit outside and listen to the breeze or take a warm bath or a walk in the rain.

Be a caveman. We have much in common biologically with our friends from 10,000 years ago. We have to eat. We need rest. Movement is good for us. Adopting a cleaner, caveman-style diet will benefit our health. Is that enough? The next step is to get back to the important basics, which include strengthening our closest relationships, reconnecting with nature and spending time in silence.

5 MOVES FOR OFFICE ATHLETES

John Holley

Listen up office athletes! I know you are grinding every day shaking hands, making deals and building your vision, but are you in shape for the game? Just like any athlete, you will develop aches and pains, which can be become chronic and debilitating if you don't pay attention to your form. This video gives you five, easy moves to help you stay game ready:

3 KEYS FOR LIFELONG FITNESS

John Holley

Change is coming and there’s something you can do about it. No, you can’t avoid the changes to your body, which will come over the course of your life. You can’t stop time and be forever 21 (if you are, enjoy…) but you can accept changes as they arise, adapt your thoughts and actions to maintain your health and allow yourself to look at your fitness in a different way.

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.

Joseph Campbell

It happened without warning when I was getting out of bed one morning. My left shoulder was seized by a sharp pain, which made lifting my arm over my head almost impossible. I tried massage, ice and rest, but the pain prevented me from lifting weights for almost a month. As a college student I had neither the insurance nor the means to see a doctor. This was also during my pre-exercise science/trainer era, so I didn’t possess the know-how to address what was a rotator cuff injury. Yet, I wanted to keep exercising, so I had to accept the fact it was time to discover new ways of staying fit.

I don’t remember much about my first yoga class in Charlotte, North Carolina, except I was the only guy there. No problem, let’s find out what yoga is…More than 20 years later, I still practice yoga several times a week and I can attest to it’s benefits for strength, mobility and stress reduction. I eventually returned to lifting weights, but my willingness to accept a new approach to fitness has paid lifelong dividends.

To hell with circumstances, I create opportunities.

Bruce Lee

Remember the barefoot running craze? There were books, clinics, races and “toe shoes” created to accommodate the barefoot runner. The theory was that eliminating the support of shoes would force a more natural running motion and allow the barefoot runner to remain injury-free. I dunno…maybe I did too much too soon or I didn’t warm up properly or Mercury was retrograde, but I injured my foot flexors (the muscles on the bottom of the foot, which curl the toes).  Basically, it felt like I was walking around with a tack in my foot. So, if I wanted to run again, I had to adapt my approach to preparation and recovery while my foot healed.

The first step was to invest in a pair of shoes fitted by a professional and experienced shoe expert. Yes, it cost a little more, but since I learned the best shoe for my movement pattern I’ve been able to go online or walk into any shoe store and select the best shoe without guesswork. Second, as my flexor hallucis longus ;) healed I also learned about the benefits of topical magnesium gel. This is a near-miracle cure for injured, fatigued muscles and I use it on my feet after every run or if I’ve been standing all day. The third change to my routine was the addition of moves such as banded walks to activate my hips, revolved triangles to stretch the hips and ankle mobility work. These adaptations to my workout have allowed me to continue running injury free.

I allow myself to fail. I allow myself to break. I’m not afraid of my flaws.

Lady Gaga

My biggest challenge to staying active and fit was an inguinal hernia, which was “repaired” over a year ago. Repaired is in quotes because the related pain returned several times in the year after the surgery. The discomfort was sometimes almost as severe as before the surgery, but after a negative test for a new hernia, I decided to approach the situation from a new angle: allow for a possible movement patterns, which caused the hernia, and do what I could to workout until I discovered the best way to correct the problem.

This is an ongoing story for me. Through trial and error, I have discovered a combination of back and hip flexors stretches, core work and shoulder flexion exercises, which seem to be working. Sometimes a lot of heavy lifting leads to some pain in the abdomen, but most of the time I feel great. Allowing this to be a bump and not a road block, has been a chance for me to learn more.

This is written for you if you’ve ever thought you couldn’t workout like you used to so you might as well give up. Keep moving! Accept where you are, adapt your approach and allow yourself to learn and grow.

 

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF HERBS AND SPICES

John Holley

The following is an excerpt from my latest book, The Art of Clean Cooking, which is all about enjoying the benefits of herbs and spices in your healthy diet.

The art of clean cooking may be in how you use herbs and spices to make your healthy food delicious, but there’s a lot more to know. The seasonings you use may also provide important health benefits. Here is a breakdown of 12 common herbs and spices and the therapeutic benefits they may provide:

Basil is a versatile herb that can be added to practically anything. It has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties and can help prevent osteoarthritis. Basil is also being examined for its anti-cancer properties. Fresh basil is amazing (use twice as much as the dried variety in recipes) and can be sprinkled on omelets, meat vegetables and salads or included in soups.

Cayenne pepper is type of chili pepper you may avoid if you don’t like spicy foods. However, don’t shy away from cayenne completely if you are trying to lose weight. The active ingredient in this pepper is capsaicin, which has been shown in numerous studies to reduce appetite and increase fat burning. One gram a day sprinkled on food or added to a smoothie has been shown to aid weight loss in people who normally don’t eat cayenne peppers.

Cinnamon is a spice most of us have shoved to the back of the spice cabinet, but it is time to bring it back into your diet. Cinnamon has the highest antioxidant value of any spice and has been show to reduce inflammation, control blood sugar and lower triglyceride levels. If you are trying to lose weight, it aids in fat burning. The minerals manganese, calcium and iron are found in this spice, which is a great add to everything from curry to coffee to homemade granola.

Cumin is the second most used herb in the world after black pepper. You may be familiar with it as an ingredient in Mexican dishes, but it is also an important addition to dishes with curry powder. Cumin has antimicrobial properties and helps reduce flatulence. Use cumin in chili, Mexican and Middle Eastern recipes.

Fenugreek is most often used in Ayurveda for the enhancement of testosterone levels. While the evidence for this is inconclusive, the science is more promising in regards to its effects on blood sugar. Fenugreek contains the plant protein, 4-hydroxyisoleucine, which can improve the function of the hormone insulin, thereby reducing blood sugar levels. Fenugreek can be added to the curry recipe in this guide.

Garlic is another very common seasoning and you may already know how much flavor it adds to your favorite recipes. Fresh cloves of garlic are best for flavor and for garlic’s anti-cancer benefits, but you can find it in powdered, granulated and powdered forms.

Ginger has way more to offer than a cookie recipe. Studies consistently find 1 gram of ginger successfully treats nausea, including that caused by morning sickness, chemotherapy and motion sickness. Ginger also possesses strong anti-inflammatory properties and can help with pain management in a manner similar to aspirin or ibuprofen. For greatest benefit, you can boil ginger root to make tea or grate it onto food.

Mint is easy to grow and thrives all over the world. You are probably most familiar with its use in toothpastes, gums and teas, but it can be used in meat dishes, on salads and in dessert recipes. Mint helps alleviate nausea and calm digestive troubles.

Oregano is part of the mint family, but stands on its own as a versatile herb. Common to Italian and Greek cuisine, oregano has antiviral, antibacterial, anticancer and antibiotic properties. It is very high in antioxidants and has antimicrobial properties against food-borne pathogens. Use oregano liberally and in combination with basil, garlic, marjoram, thyme and rosemary for the greatest benefits.

Rosemary is often included in spices blends, but its benefits make it a stand out by itself. It has a high concentration of antioxidants and may have value in cancer treatment, as a digestive aid and in how the body utilizes cholesterol. Rosemary boiled in water can be used as antiseptic. Add it to meat, vegetables and soup recipes.

Thyme is a member of the mint family and contains antioxidant and wound-healing properties. Tea made with thyme can be used to treat athlete’s foot and yeast infections topically, or ingested to speed recovery from illness. Thyme is often used in French and Italian cooking.

Tumeric is gaining renown for its natural anti-inflammatory properties, but is also a staple of Indian cooking. Tumeric contains several compounds with medicinal properties, the most important of which is curcumin. This powerful antioxidant helps fight oxidative damage and boosts the body’s antioxidant enzymes. Morevoer, curcumin has such a strong anti-inflammatory properties it may match the effectiveness of some drugs. Other studies indicate turmeric may improve brain function, relieve arthritis and reduce the risk of heart disease. Add it to eggs, soups, meat recipes, sauces and baked foods.

 

CRUSH YOUR WEIGHT LOSS PLATEAU

Jessica Hill

It is inevitable. Your magic number might be 15 or 20 or 37. Others reach 42 or even 55 before it happens. Then, despite the fact you can rattle off eight different ways to cook chicken breasts and you feel naked without your Fitbit, you can’t lose another pound. Desperate to carve off the next 10 pounds, you eat less or you throw your hands up and eat more while cursing your mom’s genetics and your thighs. What can you do to break on through your weight loss wall?

One of the most important things you can do is to begin your day with breakfast.Everyday. No exceptions. Ever. After 8 or more hours (read: a good night’s sleep) without food your body is ready to go into so-called starvation mode, if you don’t eat. This means your metabolism slows down to conserve energy and you burn fewer calories. Of course, a pop tart in your car doesn’t really count. You need the quality calories found in such breakfast staples as eggs, oatmeal, whole grain cereals and low-fat milk. The fiber and protein will keep you feeling full longer and provide your body with a metabolic jump start.

To keep your body burning calories consistently, have a snack mid-morning. Once your body processes the morning’s meal, you’ll start to feel hungry. Usually this happens about 3 hours after eating. This is the perfect time for a calcium-rich snack such as yogurt (watch the sugar!), low fat cheese or soy milk, if you don’t eat dairy. Calcium helps your body metabolize fat more efficiently and the calcium found in food, not supplements, works best.

You can add another fat burner at lunch by topping your salad, chicken or baked potato with salsa. A delicious and low-fat alternative to dressings and condiments, the chilies in medium and hot salsa aid in a temporary metabolism spike. Another benefit is the calorie savings you achieve with this simple substitution.

Another great substitute, for the mid-afternoon blahs in this case, is a 15-minute exercise break. You were going to take a break anyway to walk to the vending machine for a sugary pick-me-up, but keep walking this time. Short bursts of exercise throughout the day keep your metabolism up and will give you a no-crash energy boost no amount of sugar can match. If you’re really motivated, try dips or knee ups at your desk, or shut the door and go through a quick series of yoga poses.

If you’re not going straight to the gym after work, you may be tempted to have a drink or three to relax. If you are serious about losing weight, you may want to stop at one drink. Everyone has heard about the heart benefits from moderate drinking, but the key word is moderate. A glass of merlot may be good for your heart, but another one is not good for your waistline. This is because the moment you put alcohol into your body, your liver converts it into fuel for the body, instead of using your fat stores or whatever you may be noshing on.

Finally, get some sleep. When you don’t sleep enough, you don’t give your body enough time to repair itself from your workouts, which means you do not receive the full benefit. Specifically, you need a full night’s sleep to allow the growth hormone and appetite regulating hormones, leptin and ghrelin, to be released. When you don’t get enough sleep, you will experience more cravings and your body will more readily store the food you eat as fat. Your body interprets lack of sleep as stressful and stress slows your metabolism. Besides, you have another appointment at the gym tomorrow and you want to be well rested.

STABILITY AND FITNESS

John Holley

The following is an excerpt from my book 5 ESSENTIAL WORKOUTS (available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1CaG9om)

Stability is the ability to remain at homeostasis under forces which are trying to promote a change.

What does that have to do with your workouts?

The first phase of any effective training program will include stabilization work. Static holds and slow, controlled movements build awareness of how your body moves when it is aligned and stable. The goal is to ingrain in your movement the optimal engagement patterns so as to eliminate muscle imbalances, which may lead to injury. In other words, when you deadlift, run or bend over to pick up a piece of paper (sometimes a dangerous, unconscious act) you are safe.

Stability begins with a strong core - but don’t roll your eyes because you’ve heard that before…The core is much more than the 8-pack, which is nice, but only useful at the beach. The core consists of muscles surrounding the spine and abdomen, including the glutes, paraspinals and hip girdle. True core stability is essential for proper load balance within the spine, pelvis and kinetic chain.

Why is stability important?

You might think of the core as everything from just above your knees up to your shoulders. When working properly, these muscles fire before your limbs move in order to support proper posture, balance and stability. This means your spine is held in its natural, curved position (neutral), your scapulas are rotated back and down (think chest up, shoulders back) and your pelvis is neutral, which gives you a slight curve in your lower back.

This correct, stable position enables the optimal transmission of force through your body because the core is your center of gravity and the area where all movement begins.  It also allows for better weight distribution, which reduces wear on your joints and bones even during dynamic movement. So, your body will move in a more efficient manner while producing more power whether you are going for a rebound in basketball or tossing a suitcase in the trunk of your car. In short, an exercise program which promotes stability may help prevent injury and it will make you stronger.

FIRST THING FIRST

Jessica Hill

When you awaken in the morning, you have not eaten for eight hours or more and your body is in need of energy. Skipping breakfast leaves you famished and your body responds by burning fewer calories in order to save energy. So if you are trying to lose weight or maintain your weight loss, you must eat breakfast. You’ll burn more calories and will be less likely to overeat later in the day.Then again, I know how hard it is for some of you to eat breakfast and that means you have a decision to make. What do you really want? Smaller pants, more energy and an omelete, or an elastic waistband, the third cup of coffee and ravenous urges at 9pm?  At least give breakfast a chance. Here are a few healthy and easy-to-make options.

Read More

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.