Exercise for Mental Health

We all have our own reasons for exercising. Most of us want to look better, feel better, boost energy, and become stronger. But what about our mental health? Exercise does wonders for mental health, and I don’t even need scientific studies to prove it.

I lived it.

In my early twenties, my I neglected my health. I went though a bad break up, moved in with my parents after a few years of living on my own, and took up a bar tending job to finish my Psychology degree. I wasn’t exercising or eating healthy. I was just going though the motions until one day I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the reflection.

I blamed everyone else for not telling me what I looked like, although I would have probably bitten their heads off. I started to realize how long it had been since I wore something besides sweat pants and work clothes. I started to realize how crappy I really felt inside. I went to the gym thinking I would jump right back into the same exercises that I did with ease during my high-school lacrosse days and left 5 minutes later with my tail between my legs.

What happens next is most important….

I walked. I put on my favorite music and walked out the front door. I didn’t feel like it and I had every excuse in the world not to, but I did it. It was only for 15 minutes but I did it. And then I went again the next day. And the next. I didn’t drop an ounce at first, but it motivated me to eat a little healthier. So I did. Before you know it, I had a little pep in my step and felt like there was a light at the end of the tunnel. It took time and I had to keep the motivation alive along the way, but the simple act of moving myself from the couch to the street was the beginning of a beautiful journey to health and happiness.

Your Brain On Exercise

Endorphins

Endorphin release creates a feeling of euphoria. Endorphins counteract pain receptors and trigger positive feelings, much in the same way as morphine.

I felt HAPPIER.   When I came home from my walks, I felt more positive. I went from being disappointed that I could only last 15 minutes to excited that I made it 1 mile.

 

Norepinephrine

 An increase in norepinephrine enhances the body’s ability to handle stress, which aids in anxiety and depression.

I felt more RELAXED. I stopped blaming others. I stopped eating or sleeping when I was overwhelmed. Instead, I walked out the door and didn’t look back.

 

Self confidence

I started to feel more COMFORTABLE in my own skin a little more each day. I stopped dodging pictures and family get togethers. I started becoming more social with each day, and it felt good.

 

Sound Sleep

When you exercise, your core temperature rises. As you continue to move around, you stay warm. When you wind down at the end of the day, your core temperature lowers signaling your body that its time to rest.

I didn’t realize how badly I slept until I woke up RESTED.

 

Inspiration

You start to realize that what you are doing is inspiring those around you and that is THE BEST FEELING IN THE WORLD!

I felt INSPIRED to share my healthy lifestyle with my loved ones which empowered me to keep going.

 

 

Regardless of what “moves” you, you will experience these wonderful things when you begin a healthy exercise regimen. So what are you waiting for? Get up and GO!

 

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Cheat Days

People couldn’t be more wrong when they say, “Well its easy for you, you’re in good shape.”
UM excuse you, it is not easy. I love junk food, wining and dining, and everything else that involves packing on the pounds. I am human, just the same as you.

When I was younger, I could eat pretty much anything I wanted and was able to stay slim. Food never made me feel bad either, I could eat a burger and go rollerblading 10 minutes later. Now I would feel sick.

When I hit my 20’s, my body changed and all of those calories stuck to me like glue. I could look at a donut and my butt grew a size. My flat tummy started to bloat and my upper body got “wide”. I needed to shape up because I no longer felt like myself. I eventually I figured out what worked for me and made it happen.

Don’t believe me?

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It took a while to get through that. And a lot of hard work. But even still…….

Every once in a while, I hit a couple of days (or even a week) where I fall off the wagon. Maybe I have a birthday party to go to, dinner plans back to back, holiday festivities, a vacation, or just pure laziness and binge eating. Hey, it happens to the best of us!

*No judgement zone.*

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The key is to realize what you are doing wrong sooner rather than later. You won’t see much of a difference while you are making the bad choices…it’s usually a few days after when your energy levels drop or you notice something a little different in the mirror. Unfortunately, the consequences aren’t worth the temporary satisfaction. It requires a lot more effort to take off a little extra around the waist than it does to put it on….and its not nearly as fun! Have your “cheat meals” and “date nights”. Go out with friends and live your life…you deserve it!! Just choose your days wisely, and “slack” in moderation. Don’t turn a cheat day into a cheat week!

What do I do when I find myself straying from my healthy lifestyle? I would be happy to share some advice:

*Drink tons of water.

*Eat a very healthy breakfast to start each day off right; take your daily vitamins.

*Start logging your calories in a journal, or on an app. One app that I have recently found to be extremely user friendly is “My Fitness Pal”. Logging your food intake for a few weeks just helps you stay aware of what you are actually eating. You will be surprised what a pointless bite here and there does to your calorie intake.

Here are some other useful health apps.

*Eat “backwards”. Have a nice, healthy breakfast each morning. For the remainder of the day, try to eat “backwards” or “European-ish”. What I mean by this is eat a hearty lunch, a few snacks in between, and a light dinner. I try not to carb load before bed! Opt for protein and veggies.

*Have your last meal 12 hours before breakfast the following day. Allow your body time to reset. For example: If eat breakfast at 8 am, have your last meal before 8 pm the evening before.

These are just a few tricks that work for me to quickly get myself back on track! I love living my healthy lifestyle, but I am far from perfect. I hope you can find something useful here, and please share you own tips! Always looking to add to the list. 🙂

Body Scanning: Are you in tune?

Your body. YOUR body. It’s all yours!

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We were all born with something unique: this little, personal capsule to live in. Only you know how it feels. No one can dive inside and know what it’s like to live in your skin. You can talk about it and even describe how you feel using the most creative adjectives that Webster ever defined….but in reality, it’s up to you to be in check with what is going on in there.

To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear. ~Buddha

Body scanning. I often teach runners how to perform a full body scan every few miles to be sure that they are in proper form. Body scanning also applies to everyone else…everyday. When you wake up in the morning, give yourself a nice, big stretch. Then, take an extra moment to scan your body from top to bottom. I think some of us definitely know our bodies enough to realize when we are getting sick or need a rest. Sometimes, the problem is admitting it. As we pack our agendas full of activities and tasks, we are constantly wishing for more hours in the day! 24 measly hours just doesn’t feel like enough most of the time to complete everything…which leaves errands undone and overflowing into the next day. This is a recipe for stress and restlessness. Don’t ever overwhelm yourself to the point that you start shaving off hours of sleep, or neglect your health. I have noticed that even when people can tell something is wrong, they ignore their symptoms because they simply do not have time to be sick.

Well guess what? If you fix the problem at an early stage, you are better off in the end! Taking a day or two now to recover may save you from becoming ill and being out for the count for a very LONG time. Think ahead. Be smart when it comes to caring for yourself. If you are not in good health and ignore your body signs, how can you do all of those wonderful things that you do everyday? If you don’t take care of yourself, WHO WILL?

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What is included in YOUR morning body scan?

  • How is your head feeling? Jaw? Did you get a restful sleep or clench a little too tightly?
  • Is your neck loose or stiff?
  • How are your shoulders feeling? Do you have any knots?
  • Are your arms asleep?
  • Is your spine in alignment? Lower back sore?
  • How about your legs? Do you have pins and needles in your feet?

Take a complete rundown of your body to ensure that you are waking up revitalized. If you have any negative feedback, brainstorm for an answer of why and how you can change it.

A few examples:

  • Neck soreness? Maybe you need a new pillow.
  • Clenched Jaw? You could be falling asleep stressed out. One remedy could be as simple as writing out and planning your next days tasks so you don’t stress and worry about them all night long. Maybe you even have TMJ and should seek medical advice.
  • Lower back pain? Evaluating your posture throughout the day could help. You could even add in a few back strengthening exercises or stretching.
  • Pins and needles? Your circulation may need improvement. A different sleeping position or elevation might help.

You should know what to expect. If you worked out a day or two before, of course you would experience soreness. Overdoing it is a different story. Don’t be out of tune with yourself. I have actually seen a program on the Learning Channel about women not knowing they were pregnant until giving birth. Horrifying!

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Regardless of what you may be feeling, it’s up to YOU to take charge. Make sure that you know yourself well enough and assess often. You would be surprised how this could negatively or positively effect the outcome of your whole entire day!

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Forks Over Knives: A documentary worth watching.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to watch a few documentaries that were recommended to me by a physician. I have never really watched many documentaries other the E! True Hollywood Stories, so I had been putting them off. But I am SO glad that I came around!! I learned a world of new information.

If you ever have the chance, take the time to watch Forks Over Knives. For a documentary, it is pretty entertaining. You will walk away having learned many scary health statistics that will make you think twice about what you eat. It isn’t disgustingly scary, just factual. They show a lot of studies and graphs that compare our diet to those of other countries…and how they run parallel with the amount of people who have cancer and other diseases. The results are shocking! In a nut shell, when the Western Diet  was introduced to other countries such as China and Japan, the cancer rates increased RAPIDLY. The diet was the only changing factor; it was a no brainer. The American way of eating, which includes tons of fast food and convenience foods, is a sure way to make an entire population get sick.

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They also teach you about the downside of animal proteins. For the most part, animal proteins are very bad for you. They, too, can cause cancer and disease. The proof is in the scientific studies. Plant based proteins are the way to go!

This is usually a touchy subject for people. I’m not saying the world should convert into the vegan lifestyle. I’m not going all P.E.T.A. on you either!! I am just talking from a health perspective. If you want to live to be 110 with me, you have to learn to be healthy with me too!

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Check it out. It will take 2 hours of your time. I promise you won’t be sorry.

Again, its Forks over Knives…get it? Choose salads (forks) over meat (knives) ! HAHA 🙂

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PS.  It can be found on Netflix if you are a subscriber!

Label Reading

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How good are you at reading labels?
Sometimes it can be really confusing. Most things on the shelves these days claim to be “the best” for you in one way or another. Certain foods advertise high fiber, low fat, no fat, dairy free, low calorie, high protein, low carb, sugar free…..HELP! Where do I begin?

Well my rule of thumb would be to shop around the edges of the store. If you notice, most things you find around the perimeter of any grocery store are fresh. You will pass by the produce, deli, fish/meat, and dairy sections. When you start to enter the aisles and the center of the store, you will find more preserved foods such as canned, boxed, and jarred goods.

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The fresher, less preserved…the better. Scan the ingredients. You shouldn’t have to be a scientist to read what is in your food. If you can’t read it, it’s probably not that great for you. Chemicals are bad, and those are probably the words you are having a hard time decoding.

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The less ingredients, the better! One perfect example would be a jar of Jiff or other commonly known peanut butter versus natural peanut butter (the kind you find ground fresh at the deli or labeled organic/natural). The Jiff ingredients are: Roasted peanuts, sugar, molasses, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed and soybean), mono and diglycerides, and salt. WHOA! Where is my dictionary…actually you better stick with Google because Webster probably can’t tell you exactly what it is or why you need it. Guess what’s in the natural peanut butter? Organic roasted peanuts. Yep. That’s it.

There is a short article from the American Heart Association the could be helpful if you are just learning to read labels. Click here to check it out.

So what would you rather fuel yourself with? A bunch of unknown ingredients or some fresh, natural foods that we are all familiar with? No brainer. It’s easier said than done, but you can start small. Switch up your peanut butter, that is a simple step in the right direction. Do a little label reading and research on more brands that can keep your body clean and free of additives.

When you get into eating whole and organic foods, there are a few stamps to help you through your journey. More and more companies are evaluating the brands on our shelves for quality. I found this great chart in Women’s Health Magazine that explains a few things we might look for when shopping for healthy choices.

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So, good luck on your label reading journey! And ALWAYS….Eat to live. Don”t live to eat.

Hydrate with H2O.

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It’s gettin’ hot in here!

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Regardless of the season, it is so important to stay hydrated. Everyone knows that water is mandatory. Being that our bodies are made up of 60-70% of water, it is critical to keep it flowing for survival.

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How much water should you be drinking?

Simple! Half your body weight in ounces.

Example: 150 lbs = 75 ounces daily. Sound like a lot? Don’t be fooled! You hardly EVER drink an 8 oz glass of water these days. Most standard water bottles are between 16 and 32 ounces. Be green: buy a nice, reusable jug and fill up a few times a day! This can also be an easy way to keep track on your H2O consumption.

There are SO MANY REASONS to drink up!! This is just the tip of the iceberg:

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Working Out

Don’t ever leave your H20 behind! Besides being the ultimate thirst quencher during a grueling workout, water benefits your body in MANY ways. Water carries oxygen to your muscles which helps with fatigue which helps stay strong during your session. Nutrients are also pumped to your cells via H2O giving you more energy to last longer. It also regulates your body temperature and replenishs the fluids your are secreting by sweating.

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Metabolism

Just as drinking water regulates your body temperature, you can control your body BY water temperature. Drinking ice cold water makes your body work harder! As your body works stay warm, you can raise your resting metabolism by 80+ calories daily!

Also, drinking a tall glass or two before a meal can help you to stay fuller longer (and become fuller faster). You can help kick cravings and eat smaller portions by guzzling 15-20 minutes prior to your meals.

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What are you waiting for? Have a sip 🙂

Practice what you PREACH!

Easier said than done!

i.e. Handing out advice that we don’t necessarily follow. We all know it; we all do it.

Phew! Some things are just hard to admit. So why do we feel the need to dish out tips on things that we slack on?

Well, it’s not ALL bad. Sometimes it’s for the mere fact that we care about the other person and know better…wanting them to follow something that we know is good for them even if we can’t live up to it ourselves.

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This way of thinking can backfire, so watch out! The last thing you want to do is seem hypocritical. Although you may be trying to help out, people may very well look at your life and wonder why you have the nerve to suggest something that you obviously aren’t partaking in. Choose your advice carefully.

So why the heck is it so difficult to take you own advice on certain things? It just is. Knowing that is the first step.

Sometimes we have our own little ways of avoiding things that need attention by focusing on something else. When I had a paper due for college, I used to clean the entire house instead. When my laundry needs put away, I will do ANYTHING else in the world before conquering that mountain.

What are you “allergic” to? What kind of advice are you dishing out? Chances are that if you are so passionate to help others with the subject, deep down you want it for yourself!

When it comes to health, eating right and exercising are two major things that people love to preach about and not BE about. Let’s figure out how to get around that!

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Here are some ideas:

-Are you guilty of pinning TONS of healthy recipes on Pinterest, but haven’t yet tried one? Take the plunge and print on out!! You are showing everyone else cook healthy meals… but do you know for sure that these are recipes worth sharing? Plan your next dinner and make it a healthy one! Planning ahead is key. Waiting until the last minute is a disaster. Hunger = Bad Decisions.

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-If you are giving advice on how to eat clean and cleanse, don’t check in at an Irish Pub! I understand that we all let loose once in a while, but when people are listening to your advice they are watching you…and most likely judging what you are doing. They may  start taking what you say with a grain of salt if you are publicizing the opposite. If you DO check in at a not so healthy place, let us know how you were able to make the necessary changes in order to stick to your plan. Make it into a learning experience, and share your knowledge!

For example: Make a note that you ate grilled fish instead of fried.

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-Do you have all of the workout knowledge in the world from flipping through health and fitness magazines, but can’t exactly log a workout within the last 6 months? This may be one of the hardest, yet most common. Why is it SO darn hard to just get up and start? Once you do, we all know how much better we will feel in the long run. Since your inner voice is against you, find someone else to hold you accountable. Set a date with a friend to exercise. Make it public! Don’t be that person with all the tips and tricks unless you can truly stand behind your own advice.

Click to read more about holding yourself accountable!

(But not to this extent! :))

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Now write down all of the healthy things that you know, and even the things that you wish you knew! Expand your knowledge. Be walking proof that your words are legit.

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Learn it.

Get excited about it.

Share it.

Practice it.

Prove it.

Live it.

Aspire Total Wellness.