Thursday, January 19, 2017

Random Thoughts from the Other Night

Hi, guys! How’s it going?!

I just wanted to pop in real quick with a blog post. I actually thought of most of these things while laying in bed the other night when my mind was racing a zillion miles per minute. Wow, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks. I feel like such a scatterbrain lately, so that’s kind of how this post came together… just a bunch of random thoughts from the other night. Ok, here we go!

I really need to get a jumpstart on my taxes this year. Mal and I always wait until the last-minute and then we’re scrambling like maniacs trying to get everything together. We’re actually switching from our current CPA to one in our financial adviser’s practice, so, hopefully, that will help make things a bit more seamless. (I honestly don’t know why we waited so long?!)

I’ve literally made a batch of these Banana Coconut Cookies every single day this week. I am totally obsessed. I actually switched to unsweetened coconut flakes for a lower sugar version since I eat all three cookies every time.

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I’m on the fence about registering for this year’s CrossFit Open—mostly because I’ve made practically zero improvements since last year’s Open. T2B? Eh. HSPUs? Nope. Muscle-Ups of any sort? NOPE. I love CrossFit, but I don’t spend extra time working on anything anymore. I just do it for fun and to socialize and get a good sweat. I dunno. I guess my priorities have changed. I’ll probably end up registering. I know I’ll be bummed if I don’t. And, hey, maybe I’ll surprise myself!

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Remember that weird eczema that I had above my eye a few weeks ago? Well, it’s back sort of. It’s itchy, but not flaky, and I’m pretty sure it’s related to stress. Stress does CRAZY stuff to your body, huh!?

These leggings are everything. I want them in my life.

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Qman’s annual evaluation for Early Intervention is coming up in a few weeks, and I’m pretty sure he’s not going to qualify for services, which means he’s all caught up with his speech delays! 🙂 The kid is talking NONSTOP!!!

Speaking of the little dude, he’s recently taken an interest in photography. He frickin’ LOVES taking pictures. He literally giggles to himself when he takes a cool photo. It’s so sweet.

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I really need to see a chiropractor. Or something. My back is so messssssed up. Has anyone had success with treatment for their scoliosis? I feel like in my old age things are getting worse.

I just bought these dark spot corrector patch things, and I’m excited to give them a try!

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In November, I weighed myself, and I was surprised to see that I had gained a solid 10 pounds since the summer. Maybe my clothes felt a little tighter, and I knew I was probably drinking too much wine at the time (hey, we had a FUN summer and fall), but I didn’t think I had put on that much weight. I know the scale is just a number, but, whoa, it jumped up a lot. After that, I started to pay attention to my diet, and I’ve since lost 4-5 pounds. I’m still not back at my “feel great weight,” and I’ve felt kind of blah about myself because it’s taking longer than usual for the weight to come off. But then, just recently, I realized that I’ve been in remission since the end of the summer, and this extra weight might just be healthy (I’m-not-sick-anymore) weight. Since then, my thinking has done a complete 180, and I’m in such a better place now. I just wanted to share this because the scale does not tell the whole story! 🙂

Question of the Day

Your turn! What’s on your mind today?

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4 Ways to Harness Mindfulness for Health Goals—and a CONTEST

Inline_MIndfulnessIt’s hard to believe we’re already midway through the 21-Day Challenge. How is everyone faring? What effects are you noticing? Where have you found your successes and your stumbling blocks?

What’s motivating you right now? How do you feel yourself settling into the practices you’ve adopted since the first day? Even if you’ve experienced some wavering (that’s no reason to abandon the venture, you know), what brings you back to the center of your intention? How do you reclaim the moment?

Reclaim the moment. A rather powerful concept… It reminds us that—at any time—we can realign ourselves with the now. Moving our attention from the past (regret) or the future (pessimism, anxiety), we claim the potential of the present. We apply ourselves mindfully. In possessing the moment, we achieve self-possession.

But let me be clear. This isn’t some mental game. This is how success happens. Now…and now. Applying mindful observation to our sensations, to the environment’s feedback, to our own string of thoughts—without getting sucked into side stories about what we should think about them—this is where self-empowerment resides. Health research concurs.

Mindfulness targets binge eating.

We all have those moments where our basic (or skewed) survival instincts override conscious reason. A binge at the neighbor’s playoff party or an evening raid on the chocolate stash can leave your kickstart challenge or health aspirations in the dust, setting you back woefully far. It’s a common enough situation, and there’s no point dwelling in regret. But what if you could rewire your consciousness to fend off a replay?

Research suggests that the solution may be simpler than you think. One study evaluated the efficacy of mindfulness-based eating training (MB-EAT) in addressing the core issues contributing to binge eating disorders. According to the study proponents, MB-EAT “involves training in mindfulness meditation and guided mindfulness”, including controlling responses to emotional states, making conscious food choices, and developing an awareness of hunger and satiety cues. In essence, making you more consciously aware of the mechanisms behind the uncontrollable drive for certain foods.

And apparently it works. Following a review of several MB-EAT clinical studies, “evidence to date supports the value of MB-EAT in decreasing binge episodes, improving one’s sense of self-control with regard to eating, and diminishing depressive symptoms.” Another study published in the same year came to a similar conclusion, finding “initial evidence supporting the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions to the treatment of eating disorders.”

Yet another, which evaluated the effect of mindfulness-based meditation on the binge-eating habits of obese women, found that these women were able to decrease their binge eating frequency from around 4 times per week to 1.5 times per week. Those binges were also shown to diminish in severity.

I certainly believe that if you’re serious about kicking any undesirable eating habits, you must first address all of the underlying causes…and state of mind most certainly slots into this category. Mindfulness meditation or training can help you to recognize problem areas in your eating practices and consciously overhaul any habits you’re ready to leave behind.

But beyond simple binge aversion, mindful eating can help us not only enjoy our food more, but actually can get us thinking about the quality and contribution of that food—i.e. consciously examining and critiquing the food we put in our bodies before we shovel it in.

Some Take-Home Action Items:

  • Download a mindfulness-based meditation app on your smartphone or tablet. It doesn’t need to be something fancy or expensive, just provide someone or something that can guide your mind to becoming more consciously present. Performing this meditation for 5-10 minutes in the morning or evening will provide the building blocks for your mindful eating approach.
  • Apply mindful awareness before you even bring a food home. As you stand there in the grocery aisle, really think about whether you’re buying it because you want it, or buying it because you need it. If it’s a Primal food, need will almost always align with want.
  • Before you sit down for a meal or even a snack, enter into a consciously alert state. To do this, remove any potential distractions from your immediate surroundings – TVs, radios, magazines, phones, computers, maybe even the odd person, if they’re edging into the chatterbox category.
  • Next, think about each spoonful, forkful or handful. Deliberately slow yourself down. Savor the flavor and consistency. You’ll find your taste will sharpen, you’ll reach satiety sooner, and you’ll be more in tune with how your body reacts to what you eat.

Not only will this help you to avoid overeating or partaking in the “wrong” foods, it’ll elevate your enjoyment factor exponentially. What’s the point in eating if you don’t pay attention to what you eat, anyway?

Mindfulness dissolves stress.

You could resolve all other anti-health stumbling blocks and still trip over if stress has you firmly in its talons. And a proven way to target stress, anxiety and depression is to practice mindfulness.

Of course, mindfulness meditation is a great start. It allows us to become acquainted with the sensation of quieting focus, which can feel so antithetical to what drives the modern world. The key, however, is to then extend that lightness into daily living. I’ve talked previously about how dispositional mindfulness is the way to go. This takes mindfulness beyond the realm of ad-hoc meditation and plants it firmly in everyday life—moment by moment.

Harnessing an awareness of your thoughts and and sensations throughout the course of each day, can enable you to overhaul the physiological effects of psychological stress. In short, dispositional mindfulness buffers against real and perceived stress, improves self-esteem, and minimizes the subsequent negative hormonal responses that can lead to weight gain, disordered eating, and general health issues.

For more on a Primal perspective on dispositional mindfulness (and how to integrate it into your life), check out this post I did a while back. As I mention there, it’s more about tuning into the subtleties of your mind and body, to the point that it becomes second nature. Taking up daily conscious behaviors, performing meditative activities as much as possible, and focusing on your breathing whenever you feel your emotions getting the better of you, are easy ways to develop dispositional mindfulness.

Mindfulness promotes a “whole-body” approach to health.

I’ve written before about how our bodies actually play a role in steering our emotions. The physical act of doing something, such as dancing, singing or touching can and does impact the way we think, and the way we interact with the world. Grok worked through emotional trauma or underlying mental instabilities by partaking in dances and physical rituals that encouraged feelings of stability, safety, and belonging.

For this reason, consider extending mindfulness to encompass your whole body. It seems a little redundant, on account of the fact that you’re now treating your whole physical being as a “mind,” but if recent research into our gut aka second brain is anything to go by, there’s more truth to that than we might initially realize.

Think of the postures you embody when preparing for your day, a good meal or an evening’s workout. Are they empowered or disempowered? Even if you’re not feeling the same degree of enthusiasm after a long day or short night’s sleep, assume stances that summon power—and you’ll feel stronger and resilient.

Another example: are you tuned into what movements your body might enjoy in a workout, or do you slog through the same routine regardless of what you’re picking up on? While a certain degree of structure keeps us aligned with our goals, performing a range of motions and exercise variants fitting to your preferences in the moment may both challenge different muscles and abilities and perhaps enhance your mood to boot. You’ll walk away feeling more energized in both regards.

This is exactly what the 21-Day Challenge advocates. Your body responds to this mindful movement by correcting imbalances and upgrading muscle and bone networks, and that’s good news for everyone.

Mindfulness supports a regular exercise regime.

We so often think that adherence to our goals necessitates pushing, manipulating even reprimanding ourselves. I’ve always believed in integrity rather than discipline. Sure enough, adopting a more mindful attitude can help us stay in that space where integrity meets intention.

A study published in the Journal of Behavior Research and Therapy  performed an interesting trial whereby they examined the relationship between exercise maintenance and mindfulness on 266 YMCA gym members. According to the study designers, “those who were successful at maintaining exercise tended to score higher on measures of mindfulness and acceptance…exercisers having greater mindfulness and acceptance are less reactive; responding with more balanced appraisals to threats to their exercise regimen which in turn promotes increased exercise maintenance.”

Another study of 62 women over 6 months found that those who applied mindfulness meditation practices to their daily or weekly routine had a much higher level of physical activity (i.e. exercise) than those who didn’t use mindfulness. And wouldn’t you know, they also showed greater reductions in BMI, most likely due to their concurrent reduction in binge eating.

Personally, I incorporate mindfulness meditation every day as does my wife, Carrie. My approach doesn’t look the same as hers, but we both reap major benefit from our practices. I even work with more active meditation styles for “rest day” workouts when I can tell my body needs some extra recovery time between more intensive days. The result? I simultaneously get to relax, enjoy some low level movement, and attune to my body’s cues with more precision. The advantages carry over, believe me.

Thanks for reading today, everyone. And now check out the contest below for a fun way to share your own experience of mindful living.

win9Contest:

Can you think of one way you practiced mindfulness during the last week? Even if you didn’t identify it as such in the moment, when did you bring a quieting focus to a choice or an hour of your day? If one doesn’t come to mind, how would you like to incorporate more mindful living in the coming week of the Challenge? Share your answer below, and I’ll give you the opportunity to share something special with family or friends. I’ll be giving away three 21-Day Total Body Transformation Essentials Packages to one lucky person who leaves a comment below. The winner will be chosen at random.

Deadline:

This contest expires today, Jan. 19, at 11:59 pm PST.

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Order This, Not That: Wendy’s

Out of all the fast food restaurants in the country, Wendy’s was recently rated the top fast food joint in a poll by Ranker. With many folks frequenting this popular restaurant, be prepared with these better-for-you choices.

Burgers

Order: Jr. Cheeseburger

This 100% beef patty is topped with cheese, pickles, onions, and mustard on a bun—just in a much smaller portion then many of Wendy’s other options. The nutrition numbers are pretty reasonable: only sodium is a touch high with 36-percent of the daily recommended amount.

Nutrition info: Calories 280; Fat 13g (Saturated  6g); Sodium  820mg; Carbohydrate 25g; Protein  16g

Not: Dave’s Triple

This cheeseburger is made with three burger patties equaling three-quarters of a pound of 100% North American ground beef, three slices of cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, mayo, and ketchup on a warm, toasted bun.  That’s 110-percent of the maximum recommended fat, 150-percent the maximum recommended saturated fat, and 84-percent the daily recommended sodium.

Nutrition info: Calories 1090; Fat 72g (Saturated 30g); Sodium  1930mg; Carbohydrate 36g; Protein  70g

 

Chicken, Wraps, and More

Order: Grilled Chicken Wrap

Made with grilled chicken, lettuce, cheddar cheese, and smoky honey mustard wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla, this choice provides four food groups including lean protein, dairy, whole grains, and vegetables all with a reasonable amount of calories, fat, and sodium.

Nutrition info: Calories 270; Fat 11g (Saturated 2.5g); Sodium  620mg; Carbohydrate  24g; Protein  20g

Not: Asiago Ranch Chicken Club

All white meat chicken can be part of a healthy sandwich, but topped with thick-cut Applewood Smoked Bacon, Asiago cheese, and a creamy ranch sauce you have high calorie, fat, and sodium coming at you from all directions. If you’re watching your waistline, skip this sandwich.

Nutrition info: Calories 670; Fat 33g (Saturated 9g); Sodium 1610mg; Carbohydrate 54g; Protein  38g

Salads

Order: Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad, Full Size

Grilled chicken is teamed up with feta cheese, hummus, and a quinoa blend to provide a well-balanced, varied dish (only available at participating locations).

Nutrition info: Calories 450; Fat 15g (Saturated 4g); Sodium 1070mg; Carbohydrate 42g; Protein 40g

Not: Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad, Full Size

Wendy’s has expanded their salad selection, but the full size Caesar is one to steer clear of. Made with romaine, chicken breast, three cheeses, tomatoes, croutons and topped with a Caesar’s dressing, the calories are higher than necessary for one meal. Plus, with 66-percent of the daily recommended amount of fat, 65-percent saturated fat, and 77-percent sodium, there are better options on the menu to choose from.

Nutrition info: Calories 720; Fat 43g (Saturated 13g); Sodium 1760mg; Carbohydrate 41g; Protein 43g

Sides

Order: Side salad

You can customize many dishes, including the side salad. Ask for light balsamic and skip the croutons for a calorie-friendly way to add vegetables to your meal.

Nutrition info (side salad with light balsamic vinaigrette and no crouton): Calories 70; Fat 2g (Saturated  0g); Sodium 150mg; Carbohydrate 11g; Protein 1g

Not: Natural-Cut Fries, Large

Burger and fries go hand-in-hand, but ordering a large and downing them on your own can cost you over 25-percent the daily recommended calories and a boatload of fat. If you do choose a large fries, make sure to share it among two or three friends.

Nutrition info: Calories 530; Fat 24g (Saturated 4.5g); Sodium 520mg; Carbohydrate 70g; Protein 7g

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.



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Home Neat Home: Decluttering

Tips For Decluttering

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a Home Neat Home post! On this page you’ll find tours of my previous houses along with posts on organizing and cleaning. Decluttering is one of my favorite pastimes. I actually love the moving process because it forces you to really consider everything in your house. (But I don’t love moving breakable things like artwork and dishes…) Even though I have no intention of moving anytime soon, I often ask myself: “If I were to move next week, would I be ready?” I want to know that everything in my home is there for a reason: because I love and use it.

Step One: Categorize

Before you can organize, you must reduce the number of things in your home. Rather than tackling trouble zones one at a time, I’ve been approaching decluttering another way: by tier of least important to most important. Break down your things into the following tiers in your mind:

  1. Couldn’t live without it
  2. Use it all the time
  3. Use it sometimes
  4. Like it but never use it
  5. Useful but rarely use it
  6. Don’t like it but use it
  7. Don’t like it, don’t use it.

Something in level 1 might be your very favorite clothes or your everyday dinner plates. You wouldn’t know what to do if you gave them away. You couldn’t dress or eat.

Level 3 things are still keeps because you need them. Examples are flashlights or a play-doh set for your son that he enjoys and plays with every other week.

Level 4 items might be spare pillows or shoes that you think are cute but are not practical for your lifestyle or have been replaced by ones you like more.

Something in level 5 might be your third set of guest room sheets that you haven’t used in years (but continue to store) because you have newer ones.

Something in level 7 might be a candle someone gave you that you don’t like the smell of so you never burn it but haven’t had the heart to give away.

When I feel like my house is starting to feel cluttered, I walk around like a realtor giving a tour opening closets and peeking in cabinets and collect things that I either don’t like or don’t use. I ask myself: “Would I miss this if it were gone?” Once you have a big box to donate you’ll already feel better. #snowballeffect

Step Two: Get rid of the worst things in each category

Sheets and towels are a good example. When you buy new ones, you probably keep the old ones “just in case!” you need a towel for something messy. After owning towels for over 10 years I have accumulated a lot – the good master showering towels, the nice guest room towels, the extra towels that are still nice, the extra towels that are just OK, the extra towels that are for cleaning up spills, and the extra towels that are really gross and I might use and then toss. That’s a lot of towels!! So my point is, you probably don’t need all those tiers. Before a towel gets to the bottom levels, go ahead and give it to someone in need. Generally when it comes to sheets and towels, I like to have one in use and one for the wash. If I buy something new, I give away the one I like the least. I don’t buy new sheets all that often, but over the years I have learned that I really do need to embrace out with the old and in with the new. The same rule goes for tablecloths, scarves, shoes, handbags, etc.

Step Three: Admit you have favorites

Similarly, how often do you have a variety of something all on the same level of niceness yet you always choose certain favorites to actually use? I definitely have favorites – serving platters, clothes, bathing suits, and tablecloths – that always get first dibs. If you use one platter 10 times during the year and another just once, you probably won’t miss the latter. If you have room to store it, great! But if your things are feeling tight, free yourself of the second and third placers. They just might be first place to someone else!

Step Four: Repurpose

And finally, if you have things with sentimental value that you just don’t want to give away, ask yourself if you can repurpose them for another use. For example, I have a bowl with the KERF logo on it that I can’t bear to give away, but my bowl collection needed thinning out and I never chose it to use for breakfast (because it’s technically a dog bowl! Lol.) So instead of donating something sentimental to me that I never used, I repurposed the bowl as a bracelet holder in my closet and now it brings personality to a bland closet space. I’m sure you can find many different uses for those second-tier serving platters I mentioned above!

Once you’ve tackled all the bigger stuff, the little stuff like sorting through your child’s book collection or finally getting some dividers for your junk drawer (hey, bowls are great for this!) will be a more manageable project.

Happy organizing!

PS. Would you guys like to see an updated kitchen organization post, or is that overkill since I already did one in a previous house?

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