Pilates reduces chronic back pain

Do you need a compelling reason to get yourself to the Pilates studio this week?

I hope this is it: researchers found more evidence that Pilates can relieve lower back pain.  The study, published in Clinical Rehabilitation, found that patients who practiced Pilates twice a week for 50 minutes felt decreased pain and enhanced body function. Of course, this rewarded them with a better quality of life and a greater satisfaction with their treatment plans.

Less than two hours of exercise in exchange for less pain and a better disposition? I think that's a good trade-off, don't you?


Yikes! Stress Derails your Metabolism

Keep weight in check by managing stress

Here’s an unfortunate fact: women who experience stress burn fewer calories after eating meals than those who don’t.

I know. It’s not fair. But fairness and truth don’t always line up.

Researchers from Ohio State University, whose study was published in Biological Psychiatry, found that stress and depression affect your body on a cellular level, slowing down your metabolism.  The scientists showed that stressed out women burn 104 fewer calories after eating than their stress-free counterparts. With a low resting metabolic rate, these women will gain approximately 11 pounds a year.

Ouch. We all experience stress on some level every day. What can we do to avoid the bloat?

Here are a few tips for managing stress:
  1. Learn to say “no.” Manage your schedule carefully and be selfish with your time. You don’t have to work full time, manage the kids’ schedule, make every meal from scratch, organize date nights, clean the house, and volunteer at the PTO. You simply can’t do everything.
  2. Carve out time to decompress. If you have to, schedule baths, reading time, and an hour to sip a cup of tea.
  3. Get out with your friends. Book time to socialize and let loose.
  4. Pour yourself into your work to get things done, but try to compartmentalize as much as possible. Don’t be the stressed out mom texting, talking on the phone, and managing crises as you cook and help your kids with their homework.
  5. Go out with your significant other.
  6. Exercise.
  7. Whenever possible, take work breaks to walk around the block and drink up the fresh air.
  8.  Ask for help when you need it. Don’t be the one-woman warrior who’s going to “do it all.” I guarantee you can’t and then you’ll be the exhausted, cranky, stressed out woman who feels like a failure.
  9.  Breathe. This may sound funny, but many of us forget this. Deep breaths immediately relax the body and force us to pause and gather ourselves. It can help us refocus, make a plan, and move on with the day.

Stress is everywhere.  It’s difficult to manage, which is why we all suffer from it. Do your best and remember if you fail, tomorrow is another day.


What will you do in 2015?

It's 2015. It's a brand new, shiny year. The slate is clean. The map is up to you. What will you do to ensure a happy and healthy year?

  1. Will you learn how to cook some irresistible vegetable dishes?
  2. Will you vow to challenge your heart with cardio activity at least once a week?
  3. Will you make time to truly reconnect with your spouse every weekend?
  4. Will you try to quiet your mind with meditation and self reflection?
  5. Will you explore a mind-body exercise like Pilates or yoga?
  6. Will you get in touch with someone who can teach you how to enhance your body's own healing powers by rehydrating your fascial tissue and rebalancing your nervous system?
  7. Will you make an effort to hug and kiss your kids every day?
  8. Will you put down your cell phone and listen to the people around you?
  9. Will you walk or bike to work at least once a week?
  10. Will you carve out time in your busy schedule to take a vacation?
  11. Will you limit processed food in your diet?
  12. Will you support your local farmers, grocers, and restaurants by patronizing their businesses?
  13. Will you shower those you don't know with small kindnesses?
  14. Will you challenge yourself with aggressive business goals?
  15. Will you enter the world of others and expand your knowledge with good books?
The options are endless. What will you do?


Diet or exercise: what should you focus on to lose weight?

Set your kitchen up for weight loss success

If you want to lose weight, what should you focus on, your diet or your exercise plan?

According to Yoni Freedhof, MD, author of The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work, food choices are responsible for 70-80% of one's overall weight, whereas exercise is responsible for the remaining 20-30%.

What does this mean to you?

Continue to exercise in order to gain enormous health benefits, (improved mood, greater strength, healthy metabolism, cardiovascular fitness, better sleep, reduced risk of disease), but don't underestimate the importance of the food choices that you make every day.

Here are some healthy eating tips that will set you up for  success:
  1. Make healthy foods easy to eat. Wash and cut your favorite fruits and vegetables and store them in glass containers, at eye level, in your refrigerator
  2. Don't buy junk food that you know will be too much temptation for you
  3. When you do buy treats, put them in the back of your cabinets. People are more likely to eat the things they see first, not the things they have to dig for
  4. If you are pressed for time, buy bagged and washed produce to cut down on food prep time
  5. When you take the time to cook, make a double recipe and freeze the leftover for days when cooking isn't an option
  6. Skip sugary and caloric protein and sports drinks. Unless you exercise for over an hour each day at a high intensity, drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated
  7. Avoid rewarding yourself with food. When you've achieved an exercise or other goal, treat yourself to a manicure or a massage, not a calorie dense latte
  8. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store where whole, not processed foods, are displayed
  9. Surround yourself with like minded friends who are striving to eat well. Your friends can share tips and support you, making it easier to stay on track
  10. Ditch your oversized plates and bowls. Studies show that people fill their plates no matter what size they are: a smaller plate means a smaller portion


How to make simple, healthy soup

Healthy soups are simple to make

It's funny how some childhood memories are so clear and vivid. As a child, I remember watching my mother make soup. She began by hauling Thanksgiving's turkey carcass out of the freezer, throwing it in the largest pot she could find, and making broth. While the bones boiled and sizzled she peeled, chopped, pureed, and sautéed seemingly every vegetable in the house.

Her soup, full of savory broth and healthy vegetables, was the perfect antidote to numb toes, cold fingertips, and sniffly noses. I could eat it until my belly was swollen.

Naturally, I'd love to recreate this delicious meal, but who has the time? This soup isn't for the novice or the lazy. It is soup for the professional with time to invest in the kitchen. It is soup that is delicious precisely because it requires attention.

I always assumed, then, that soup making was out of my culinary repertoire. Despite my love of the steaming spoonfuls, despite the welcome aroma of simmering turkey and vegetables, this lazy cook could not commit the time and energy to make such a production out of just one meal.

But then my sister sent me a recipe for an easy soup. I took her base recipe and started to throw all kinds of things into my soup pot. It was fun, easy, and tasty. What else could a busy mom ask for?

I won't lie. My creations aren't as good as my mom's, but I'm finally making healthy and delicious soups. AND, they are easy. That'll work.

Here's my latest recipe. Recreate or use it as a jumping off point for your own amazing soup. It's that simple.

Chicken Soup:

In a pot, combine:

  1. 32 oz. chicken broth
  2. 1/3 cup of pesto
  3. 1/2 cup of shredded, cooked chicken
  4. 1/2 cup chopped turkey sausage
  5. 1 can of cannellini beans
  6. 3 handfuls of spinach or kale
  7. 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
Serve hot, with homemade biscuits or muffins. Enjoy!


Gift Ideas for Female Fitness Enthusiasts

A gift guide for female fitness enthusiasts

It's that time of year again. The air is chilled, the turkey has been devoured, and it's time to begin preparing for Christmas. I love everything that comes with this season. I love searching for trees, decorating the house, reading books by the fire, and hunkering down for a movie while snuggling under warm blankets. AND, I love picking out the perfect gift for the special people on my list.

I understand that not everyone relishes the opportunity to shop, and some even find it stressful, so I thought I'd share my annual list of gift ideas for female fitness enthusiasts:
  1. Vitamix: Juicers are all the rage among health minded individuals, and if your special gal doesn't have one, she is probably wishing she did. The Vitamix is an investment, but it blends wonderfully and she won't be limited to kale and apple smoothies. This machine can be used to make everything from soups to ice cream, too.
  2. Nutribullet: Vitamix a bit too pricey for you? Buy her the NutriBullet. This blender comes with cups for blending. After she mixes her favorite juice she can pop it off the mixer and go. This makes it the perfect gift for the busy woman who struggles to sit down for breakfast.
  3. Cooking classes: If she likes to cook, scour the community education classes to find some healthy cooking classes she can take. Enroll both of you to double the fun!
  4. Cookbooks: Health minded women are always looking for healthy, environmentally sound, and delicious ways to prepare food. Inspire her with The Pollan Family Table: The Best Recipes and Kitchen Wisdom for Delicious, Healthy Family Meals.
  5. Books: Healthy living is a conscious choice that involves answering many questions about eating within just one day. Set her up for success with Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life. Written by bestselling author and researcher, Brian Wansinck, she'll find each page packed with easy tips for healthy living, all the time.
  6. Yog Mats: Is her yoga mat beginning to look a bit grimy? Get her one of the gorgeous Magic Carpet Yoga Mats from Anthropologie.
  7. Footwear: Women who work out barefoot and live in chilly climes need footwear. Buy her some Toesox, which have grip on the bottom. If she finds these uncomfortable, consider leg warmers from Lululemon. They cover the ankle and forefoot but have cutouts for grip and traction just where she needs it.
  8. Fitness Trackers: Is she a statistic junky? Elevate her Fitbit so she can wear it anywhere in style. Tory Burch has a collection of bracelets and pendants she'll love.
  9. Pilates Mats: A yoga mat just will not do in a Pilates studio. Give her a soft mat to cushion her spine as she works out. This one, from STOTT, is a winner.
  10. Scents: Active women tend to like fresh, crisp scents. Fill her stocking with a bottle of CK One, Acqua Di Gio, or Calyx.
  11. Personal Care: This is the season of dry skin. Get her a body paste that smells light and clean and whisks away scaly, dry skin. I love the Rodan + Fields Body Microdermabrasion paste. 
  12. Pedicures: I've never met a woman who didn't love a good pedicure. For those that exercise barefoot, a gift certificate to a favorite salon is the perfect gift.
  13. Massage: Massage is a luxury, making it a wonderful gift for an active woman. 
  14. Self-healing treatments: Is your loved one feeling a few aches and pains? Get her a Hand and Foot Treatment Kit from Melt. This bag of small, differently sized balls, which also comes with an instructional DVD, will teach her how to treat herself for pain-free living.
  15. Workout gear: There are lots of options for fitness clothing. Athleta and Lululemon produce the most coveted among the people I work with. Get her some skinny pants, a form fitting jacket to show off her defined curves, or a stylish top.
  16. Accessories: Stuff her stocking with small accessories she'll love. Think cotton scarves, gloves and slouchy hats that won't ruin her workout updo, stylish hair bands, fingerless gloves, fun leg warmers.
  17. Exercise classes: There is no better gift than the gift of health. Delight her with a series of personal training sessions or a punch card valid at her favorite studio.


How to train your brain to crave healthy food

You can train yourself to crave healthy foods

Imagine yourself hanging out on the couch with your family watching football. When you begin to get hungry you crave chopped carrots, not potato chips and Doritos.

Is it a pipe dream?

Researchers say no. According to a study published in Nutrition & Diabetes, cravings for unhealthy, processed foods can be reversed. They found you can condition yourself to seek out healthy foods over months, in response to what you eat.

What does this mean to you? Stay the course. Make a commitment to preparing and eating healthy foods. Over time your body will ask you for more, and those pastries and sweets will begin to taste too rich, too sweet, even yucky.

Wouldn't that be nice?

Make it happen.
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