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Breaking Bad…Habits

At the risk of sounding cliché, we are creatures of habit. Physically, our bodies strive for homeostasis. Mentally, we like routines and processes that are done without much thought. In habits we find comfort, normalcy and familiarity. The problem is when our normal and familiar habits aren’t always healthy.

The 21 Day Myth

The adage is that it takes 21 days to create a habit. However, newer research has proven that theory wrong and it takes about three times that amount of time create a new habit. Research published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that it takes a person 66 days to create a new habit. In fact, it can take up to eight months for some people. So, throw out that notion that in three weeks you’ll be able to create new habits.

That’s a lot of time when the habit you are trying to break is something to which you’ve become physically, emotionally and/or mentally attached (smoking, drinking, over eating, stress, etc.).

As a health coach, I work with clients on behavior modification strategies with nutrition and fitness to support their new healthy goals. Every day I speak to people who are so entrenched in their habits that they can’t envision a way out.

If you are nodding your head in agreement, let’s dig into why it’s so difficult to get out of unhealthy habits and create new, sustainable behaviors.

What’s in a Habit?

First, we need to define a habit. It’s not the occasional indulgent dinner or afternoon latte and cookie. A habit is a regular tendency or practice that is difficult to stop. An obvious example of a habit is smoking a cigarette after each meal. It’s something your brain is wired to do, and your body expects, and to stop it would result in negative physical symptoms.

Now that we know what a habit is, it’s important to be aware of when, where and how we exhibit habits and what the triggers are that set them into motion. For example, if you head to the vending machine at work every day at 2 p.m. for a candy bar because you need a little “pick me up,” what are the triggers? Are you tired? Is it stress that leaves you feeling depleted by mid-afternoon? Take note of what prompts you to buy that candy bar. When you know what sets that habit into action, you’ll be able to start changing it.  

Next, identify the “reward” in your current behavior? What do you feel when you eat that candy bar? Do you feel comfort, energy, relaxation? Make note of how you feel after you’ve indulged in your habit. That will be important information when you are working reprogram your brain to get that same feeling from a different habit.

The Road to New, Healthy Habits

Now that you know what triggers your unhealthy habit and how you feel when you give into that behavior, you can create a plan to create new healthy routines. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Identify a good habit that will satisfy that craving/need. If you truly feel depleted around 2 p.m. every day, your body may need a little jumpstart. You can do that without eating a candy bar every afternoon. Energy comes from lots of sources. Replace the candy bar with a walk, a healthier sweet snack or a cup of green tea with a few drops of honey. Start looking for a replacement that can be done as easily as buying a candy bar at the same time, so you aren’t forcing yourself to just ignore the urge and keep working.
  • Start with a gradual change. Forget what the research says…21 days, 66 days, whatever. If you make one small change every day or every week, you’ll start to see the results in bigger ways. Maybe that means having a candy bar three days instead of five for the first week. Or, having half of it each day. Step down gradually to increase the chance of long-term success.
  • If it ain’t broke…don’t change it. When it comes to starting new, healthy habits, rely on what’s worked before. Think about a time when you’ve been successful at starting a good habit or routine (maybe it’s exercising or getting up earlier). What steps did you take to build that habit? How did you hold yourself accountable? What reminders and rewards did you use? Recall what’s worked and repeat that process!
  • Be comfortable with failure. Expect to stumble and be ready with restart strategies. We all fail when we are trying to start or stop something our bodies and minds are resistant to. Be prepared for the missteps and recover quickly. When end up at the vending machine with the candy bar, it doesn’t mean you should give up.  Acknowledge what went wrong (lack of preparedness, increased stress, etc.), enjoy the indulgence and start fresh as soon as possible.

Habits are difficult to break when our minds and bodies rely on them for relief of stress, fatigue or other problem. But it is possible to break poor habits and start new, healthy ones with a plan, some patience and accountability. Need some help getting started with creating new health, wellness or lifestyle changes, set up a free wellness chat and let’s discuss.

Have a healthy, happy week!

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No Time for Negativity

Dealing with the Naysayers and Negative Nellies

This month I’ve been talking about how to “spring clean” your health and wellness efforts by eating better and ensuring your workouts are safe and effective. The last of my spring-cleaning series is how to clear out the negativity and the unsupportive people in your life who don’t appreciate your decision to live your healthiest.

When you are ready to change for the better it’s an awesome feeling. You’ve taken control and you’re excited about eating better, exercising, destressing, etc.  You assume your spouse, best friend, colleagues and kids will be on board and excited for you. While most will be, some of those closest to you won’t be ready to support your efforts.

Figuring out why they are resistant to support you is a frustrating endeavor. Many times it’s simply because they might have to face (and own) their unhealthy habits and lifestyle. It forces them to see they may need to change too and, as we all know, change is difficult. Truth is, it doesn’t matter why they aren’t supportive. It’s more important to have a strategy to keep your thoughts positive and your plans moving forward.

So, how do you handle the naysayers? What do you do when people you thought would be cheering you on are turning their backs?

  1. You do you. Do not think for one millisecond that you can convince, cajole or coax someone into a healthy lifestyle. Control what you can. Set a good example, do your thing and just maybe they will come to see what a positive thing it is.
  2. Surround yourself with positivity. I’m not saying ditch the friends who don’t want to go to spin class with you but look for people in your life who share your desire to live healthier. There’s the theory that you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Think about that circle. Could it use some positive peeps who are motivated and inspired like you to get healthy?
  3. Stay relentlessly focused. Put reminders wherever you need them to keep your goal top of mind. Post it notes on your computer, mirror or fridge and alerts on your phone. Get an accountability partner to remind you of what you are working toward. When you ignore the noise from those who don’t support your new lifestyle and stay laser focused on your goal, you have no time for negativity.
  4. Don’t engage. I like a good debate. However, when you find yourself in a situation where your friends or family are being negative about your new lifestyle, rise above it. You don’t have to defend your choice to be healthy. Politely bow out of a conversation when you feel compelled to be defensive. Stay the course and keep your vibe high.
  5. Don’t make it weird. Treat fitness and eating right like it’s just what you do and who you are now. You don’t have to wear a sign that says “hey, I’m healthy now…want to hear more?” That’s weird. Just do the right things, set the example and live authentically and confidently. You will be surprised how many people will start to see this as a good thing and want to follow your example.

Finally, understand that people’s negativity usually comes from their own insecurities and has little to do with you. And, while you should be compassionate and kind, it’s not your responsibility to fix them or make them feel better about it.

Your decision to be healthier is about YOU. Be a little selfish and protect your mindset. When you do, and you stay focused on your goals, you’ll succeed. And, success in this case, is living longer, healthier and with a better quality of life.

Making the decision to change your lifestyle to lose weight, get healthy and regain your confidence and energy is sometimes overwhelming. I invite you to join my Wellness Tribe to get the support and positivity you need. And, if you are interested in jump-starting your clean eating efforts, get on the list to be part of my 10-Day Metabolism Reset program that kicks off April 22.

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Renew, Refresh, Recycle That Gear!

There’s nothing like a pair of well-loved tennis shoes or your favorite inspirational workout tee to get you in the mood for a great sweat sesh. But did you know that your exercise clothing and equipment have an expiration date?  And, it’s probably already passed! Clothes, weights, bands, mats, etc. are not meant to last forever, despite how much we love and take care of them.

Clean up and Clear out the Worn, Smelly and Dangerous

  1. Shoes. This is the one piece of workout gear that most people use far too long. The problem with wearing and training in shoes that have too many miles on them is that the support, tread and­­­­­ laces start to wear out. The general replacement rule is new shoes every 300-500 miles or 6 months (whichever comes first). Avid runners who literally pound the pavement several times a week may have to buy new shoes every two months. It’s easy to track miles worn with a fitness app or simply mark the purchase date on the shoe box when you get them. What should you do with your old shoes? Donate them, of course. While they aren’t good for supporting your daily run, they can provide footwear to someone in need. If they are beyond being useful or are damaged, you can recycle them. Just don’t throw them in the trash! Check out organizations and options here.
  2. Clothing. I know you love all those race shirts and inspirational tees you rotate through your workout wardrobe but, like shoes, clothing has an expiration date. Especially high-tech gear that promises support, moisture-wicking, antimicrobial, reflective detailing, and other features. First and foremost, toss it if it still stinks after washing. You know what I’m talking about. That ½ marathon shirt from 2010 should be retired from your rotation because it just stinks. Save it for the memories or give it to a clothing recycler. Most workout clothes have a lifespan of about a year. I’ll let you keep it if you wash and care for the clothing right but after about two years, it’s time to go!  Anything with spandex, Lycra, and other support material will breakdown over time. Same for sports bras. When they no longer keep you snugly supported, it’s time to go! Again, you can donate items that aren’t damaged or gross, or find a clothing recycler to give them a second life.
  3. Equipment. Do you remember the story about a senator’s resistance band snapping and hitting him in the face, which caused him to fall and break a few ribs? It happened, and it’s scary as hell. Those bands and other worn out equipment can be, at best, ineffective and, at worst, downright dangerous. Check your equipment quarterly to see if it’s still functioning as it’s intended. Yoga mats that are crumbling, neoprene peeling from dumbbells, strange noises coming from the belt of your treadmill, are all signs to tune up or replace your equipment. In general, items like resistance bands have a one- to two-year lifespan and should be immediately discarded if they are tearing, fraying, or losing their elasticity. Yoga and other mats could be used for up to 5 years depending on frequency of use, and proper storage and cleaning. Weights with a covering on them should be replaced when that covering peels or breaks down. Medicine and balance balls can last for several years if they are properly inflated before using.
  4. Use common sense with equipment. If something doesn’t look or feel right, don’t use it. Unlike stinky workout clothing, overused equipment can injure you! Read the manufacturers’ guidelines for maintenance, and clean regularly. Learn more here about safe and gentle ways to clean your home gym equipment.

It’s all about the Routine Maintenance

Just because your gear looks good, doesn’t mean it’s still doing its job. So, it’s up to you to check it every once in a while before it breaks down.

Set a reminder on your calendar every few months to check out your equipment, sort through your clothes, and log the miles on your shoes. Your long-term health and fitness goals depend on having the right equipment and gear that is also safe to use.  

If you’re thinking of setting up a home gym and have questions or need some guidance, let’s chat. I help homeowners set up affordable and efficient home workout zones that will support them in their goals.

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Spring Clean Your Diet

Spring is Coming…I think!

There are technically 16 days until Spring is officially here on our calendars. However, March is a fickle month and depending on where you are, it may not look like spring will ever arrive. That said, the idea of warmer weather, open windows and fresh air brings with it the urge to do some spring cleaning for many people. Add to it the recent popularity of Marie Kondo and her approach to decluttering and reorganizing your life by only keeping what brings you joy, and everyone is on the cleaning up caravan. For me, spring cleaning also means cleaning up your diet. Coming out of a comfort-food coma in the winter months, it is the PERFECT time for a Spring checkup of your diet. Plus, March is National Nutrition Month so there are plenty of resources out there on healthy eating!

What we eat (and how much of it) is the biggest hurdle in losing weight and feeling healthy. Cleaning up our plate, pantry and fridge is the first step in leveling out the yo-yo effect of dieting and providing sustained results.

Getting Started with Clean Eating

Clean eating sounds good, right? But what is it and how does someone get started? To put it simply – clean eating is having an apple vs. apple sauce, eating steamed broccoli vs. frozen broccoli with cheese sauce added. Whole grains vs. white/refined grains. Organic, grass fed beef vs. pre-packaged, seasoned ground beef for tacos. It’s sometimes a little bit more work over convenience. Most importantly, it’s about reading labels, being informed and making better choices. Clean eating doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. It just takes planning.

Some critics will say that “clean eating” implies that some foods are dirty and that we shouldn’t be categorizing food that way. My response is…well, there are dirty foods – meaning foods that don’t provide a lot of nutritional value. And, that’s ok. They can still be a part of a balanced diet, but they can’t take center stage.  I’m suggesting that 80-90% of your diet be clean and leave a little wiggle room for occasional indulgences. Where the challenge lies, is in helping people understand that some of what they think is clean or healthy isn’t.

In looking at months and months of food diaries for my clients, I can confidently say the biggest problem when it comes to eating isn’t the quantity of calories but rather the quality of those calories. A calorie isn’t just a calorie despite what you’ve been told in the past. Some calories are better than others and will help you lose weight, have more energy and build lean muscle. And some calories will spike your blood sugar, make you sluggish and inhibit your fitness goals.

The human body is a sophisticated machine and requires fuel that is high quality.

Spring Cleaning Your Diet – 4 Tips for Success

So, this week, I’m challenging you to take a good look at what you’re eating and clean it up where needed. Try these few tips to clean up your plate, pantry and fridge:

  • Track your Food. You cannot improve upon what you are unaware of. Everyone has access to MyFitnessPal. Track everything for three days and look for patterns of non-clean eating like getting take out, eating pre-packaged convenience foods, etc. Identify where you can swap for healthier choices.  
  • Read Labels. My favorite app for food shopping is Fooducate. Scan a barcode; get a grade for that food. And, an explanation of that grade, definition of ingredients and healthy alternatives. If you cannot pronounce or you don’t recognize the first 2-3 ingredients (which are listed in order of their quantity) then you might want to toss it out.  Look for sneaky sugars (dextrose, maltodextrin, corn syrup). Note: not all preservatives are bad – some are needed to keep your food safe. Things like steric acid, sorbic acid and ascorbic acid are preservatives that can occur naturally in some foods and help prevent mold, and spoilage. Scan the label and Fooducate will tell you why those ingredients are in your food.
  • Don’t Believe (all) The Hype. Natural, organic and Heart Healthy are some of the most common “healthy marketing” terms used. Understand what these designations truly mean and the requirements for obtaining those labels. Research what it takes to get that claim put on a package and who’s behind it. Sometimes it is a food company donating to a non-profit in exchange for the label.
  • Stop Obsessing Over Organic. You don’t have to buy EVERYTHING organic. Some things are worth the investment while others are not. Check out “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” food lists for the top foods to buy organic. For me, it’s more important to buy local and fresh when possible (and they are usually organic as well). The closer the food is to you, the fresher it is and less processed it’s likely to be.

My last piece of advice is to make small changes. A complete overhaul can be overwhelming. All packaged food isn’t the enemy. We have lives to lead and families to raise – sometimes ordering take out is what we need to get it all done! Remember the 80/20 rule and indulge occasionally. Everything can be incorporated into your diet in the right way to allow you to enjoy eating while doing what’s best for your body. Besides – life is too short to give up Oreos.

Working with a health coach to provide recommendations and keep you accountable gives you the support you need to make positive changes. Message me to chat, and if you haven’t picked up my free Meal Planning & Prep Guide, get it here! It will get you started on the clean eating path and help you plan your meals each week.

Happy Nutrition Month and let’s get to cleaning up our plates, pantries and fridges!

fitness, Personal wellness

Finding Time for Fitness

Most people don’t avoid exercise because they hate it or even because it’s difficult. In fact, most want to move more and feel healthy. The biggest barrier to getting in a few sweat sessions is the perceived lack of time.

It’s what I hear most from my clients as the reason they can’t exercise. When I really dig in and find out what’s going in their life and with their schedule, I’ve found a few common reasons for the time struggle. And, thankfully, there are a few simple strategies to free up some white space on your calendar.  

We Make Time for What We Like

As humans, we gravitate to what makes us happy or is enjoyable. When I speak with people about their fitness goals and find out what they’ve tried to make time for, I find many of those who weren’t successful were doing exercises they didn’t like. And, they didn’t really know why they were doing it. Somewhere along the way they heard from a friend or co-worker that spinning/running/rowing/kickboxing (insert any exercise!) was the best workout. Wanting to emulate someone’s results or try something new, people jump on the bandwagon. While it’s great to try new things and challenge your body, if you find running to be something you despise or spinning hurts your butt every time you go, you aren’t going to make time to do it. You’ll skip the treadmill, blow off class, and find other things to fill that time slot.

The fix: Do more of what you like. It’s okay to do simple exercise like walking, swimming, cycling. Any exercise can be intensified/modified to give you the cardio and fat burning benefit you’re seeking. When you do something you like (or can at least tolerate) you will find the time for it on your calendar and you will stick with it.

You’re an “All or Nothing” Kind of Person

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve told someone they DO NOT need to workout an hour a day, 7 days a week to get in good shape. I have had clients say to me, “Well…If I don’t have an hour…why bother?” It’s this kind of thinking that keeps you from getting in consistent workouts. Let me repeat it for the folks in the back…you don’t need 60 minutes a day, 7 days a week to get the benefits from exercise.

The fix: Take what you have and make it work. Ideally, you have at least 30 minutes a day/5 days a week, but that’s not always the case. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently revised their exercise recommendations for Americans and one of the key changes is this…“Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none. Read that again. Move more, sit less. Some activity is better than none. In addition, their overall recommendations for adults is 150 minutes a week. Divvy that up however you’d like over the week – taking every 15, 20, or 30 minute opportunity to work up a sweat. When you think in those terms, those shorter bouts of exercise become “worth it.”

You’re riding the Commitment Struggle Bus

It’s easy for someone to say, “you just have to commit.” Yeah, no kidding. But what many people fail to realize is that commitment is strengthened by a compelling reason why. When you know why something is important, you will find a way to get it done.

The fix: Do a little soul-searching to find out why you set the goal in the first place and then remind yourself of that “why” every single day. If it’s to be healthier for your kids, or improve a health condition, find ways to visually remind yourself of these reasons. Pictures, post-it notes, whatever it takes to keep those reasons top of mind! If you can’t come up with a good why, then reconsider the goal.

You’re a Yes Woman/Man

When I talk to clients who claim to have “no time” available on their calendar, I challenge them to take a good look at where they devote their precious time and energy. I ask them to consider if they could set better boundaries with those who request so much of their time. Your physical, emotional and mental health improve when you set healthy boundaries in all aspects of your life. Easier said than done, right? Work, family, friends…they’re all priorities. How do we decide what stays and what we say no to?

The fix: We all have the same 24 hours and I treat my time like I treat my money – I spend it on quality activities rather than just “stuff”. Ask yourself…what can I delegate? What commitments can I reassess? Who is taking advantage of my willingness and goodwill? Tough questions but necessary ones to get to the heart of why you don’t have time to exercise and take care of yourself. My other strategy is to always reflect on whether a request or commitment is aligned with my goals, values or something I’m passionate about. It might be a good cause or a worthy event, but if it doesn’t line up with what brings me joy or gets me closer to my goals, I don’t do it.

While saying no seems tough, look for ways to turn the no into an opportunity for someone else. For example, instead of taking on more at work, empower a junior staffer to step up and take on the responsibility. Delegate chores around the house to your kids and reward them for their help. And, when you can’t do those things, a polite “no thank you” is a sufficient response.

You Have no Accountability

Accountability is the glue that binds commitment to results. Without it, there is a higher failure rate when it comes to health and fitness. But it’s not as easy as asking your mom to check in on you once a week to see if you are going to the gym. Accountability must be provided by someone who understands your goals completely, supports you in those goals and is willing to dish out a little tough love when they see you slipping. It’s not an easy role to play but the accountability partner is an essential piece to your success.

The fix: Pick the right partner to help you achieve your goals. To ensure they’re a good fit for your personality, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do they support my goals? If the person doesn’t see the value in your fitness goal, they are less likely to hold you accountable.
  • Can they commit? You need consistent check-ins with your accountability coach. Ideally, once per week. Don’t choose someone who cancels on plans or is more booked than you! Find someone who can set and keep a regular check-in appointment with you.
  • Are they comfortable calling you out? When picking a partner to help you, look for a friend, co-worker or family member who is okay with challenging you when you’re making excuses, skipping workouts or giving up on your goals.
  • Are they a good problem solver? An accountability partner should be someone willing to help you solve the challenges you face with your goals. They don’t have to have all the answers, but they should be willing to brainstorm with you to figure out how to bust through the barriers you encounter. That’s why hiring a trainer, or a health coach may be a good option as they are paid to be your accountability partner and fitness expert!

Finding time for fitness doesn’t need to be overwhelming or complicated. You simply have to get honest with yourself about what is truly a priority and if you are chasing the right goals. Add in a little bit of boundary setting and accountability and you’ll be on a path to better physical and mental well-being.

If you still can’t see a way to get fit, let’s chat. Set up a free wellness consult here. Or, fill out my wellness assessment and I’ll be in touch with a time to talk. Don’t get frustrated and give up. Ask for the help you need!

Niki Campbell

Health Coach, Personal Trainer and Workplace Wellness Consultant

412.310.6882 | info@niki-campbell.com

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Resolution Reboot

It’s officially mid-January – how’s that New Year’s Resolution (NYR) working out for ya? If you are still sticking with your resolutions…great job! Believe it or not, a lot of people don’t last more than 10 days and most give up by February 1.

But let’s say (hypothetically, of course) that you are oneof the 80% who are veering off the path and struggling to stick to your goals.Or, worse yet, you’ve found you hate the goal you set or have no clue how  you are going to accomplish it. This is verycommon with health and fitness NYRs. Everyone has great intentions, but they setthe bar high without having the tools to achieve those big dreams.

If that’s you or someone you know…don’t worry. There aresome simple steps that can help you refocus to start achieving those healthyresolutions before too much time passes and you (or your friend) give up.

  • Reassess your goal. It’s ok to say, “this isn’t the right goal” and move on. Sometimes we high-achievers don’t like to admit when we don’t make the right choices and heaven forbid we admit failure (gasp!). To keep doing something you hate or aren’t capable of sustaining with the hope that it will somehow work out, is the definition of insanity. So…swallow that pride and get real with yourself. Maybe running a marathon seemed like a good idea but you’ve come to realize you hate running. Time for a gut check and recalibration.
  • Reset your goal. If you’ve determined that you had an unrealistic goal or one you just don’t like, it’s easy to rework it into one that motivates you. You just have to be S.M.A.R.T about it. S.M.A.R.T goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timebound. It doesn’t mean you have to give up that big goal…it may mean just breaking it down into smaller, more achievable ones. I always recommend shorter goals because there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and something to complete. Let’s say your ultimate goal is to lose 40 lbs. this year. Your SMART goal may look something like this. “In 90-days I will lose 10-15 lbs. by exercising 30-45 minutes per day, 5 days a week and eating no more than 1500 calories per day of a balanced, whole-foods diet.” Then, at the end of that 90-days, you re-evaluate and set another goal for the next 10-15 lbs. until the end of the year when we have hit the 40 lb. weight loss mark. The original goal of losing 40 lbs. is still the end game but setting smaller goals makes it less overwhelming and very action-oriented.
  • Get some accountability. Some people are amazing at holding themselves accountable (we hate them, right??). For most of us, given the opportunity to slack on something that is difficult or not something we enjoy, we are likely to choose the easy way out (i.e. sleep in instead of going to the gym at 5:30 a.m.). Accountability is the glue that holds your goals together. Find a friend or family member willing to be honest with you and push you to stick to your goals. If you can’t find someone who’s good with dishing out the tough love, hire a coach. A personal trainer or health coach is someone you pay to keep you on track. You’re automatically more accountable when you have some money in the game, and they have no problem calling you out to help you achieve your goals (we love it, actually!).
  • Finally – celebrate your wins. Every day, every week, every month – find something to feel good about in this journey. We are often quick to think about all the things we didn’t do on a daily basis and miss the opportunity to boost our confidence and commitment by celebrating what we DID accomplish. Women, in particular, are great at playing the “not good enough” game. When we get in a habit of reminding ourselves of what we failed to do, we create a mindset that nothing is every enough. Ok, I know it sounds silly but I challenge you to say out loud something you’re proud of before you go to bed each night. Or, write it down if you don’t feel like making proclamations of self-love before going to sleep. Then, look back at it at the end of a week or month and see all the great shit you’ve accomplished.

The post-NYR slump is real. It’s common. It’s normal. It happens to just about everyone. What you choose to do when faced with this reality is what makes the difference. Use these tips to get back on the right track.

And, if you are about to dump the resolutions for a pizza and a Netflix binge, let’s chat. You can still enjoy life (and pizza and Netflix) but you can also get healthy and achieve those goals.

Have a kick-ass week!

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Think Small This Year – How to Really Get Healthy in 2019

Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

Every January 1 you are inundated with ads, emails, social media posts about how to completely change your life by setting some crazy resolution.  The whole “New Year, New You” mantra is insulting. It says you’re not good enough as the current you. It tells you that you have to completely remake yourself to live up to some kind of unrealistic standard. And, it’s total bullshit.

I despise the New Year’s resolution hype because when I work with people who want to make true improvements in their health, the thought of a complete overhaul of their lives is overwhelming. And, when people are overwhelmed, they often give up.

Among all the memes and inspirational posts you’ll see today, this week and this month will be lots of encouragement to think big. Dream big. Set big goals. And, while there’s nothing wrong with that, I am going to challenge that thinking to help you be more successful.

Today, January 1, 2019, I want you to think small. Make small changes. Set short-term goals. Take daily action – even if it’s not perfect.

Setting goals always seems daunting because we all think in big picture terms. Consider setting a process goal vs. an outcome goal that has a shorter time frame. For example, you may want to lose 20 lbs. this year but what if you stepped away from the number and focused on the behaviors and processes that will help you lose weight – one day/week/month at a time? For example, can you eliminate one take out meal a week? Or, commit to exercise three times a week? When you break down the bigger goal into bite sized pieces, you re-establish healthy habits that will get you to that 20 lb. weight loss.

So, how do you start today?

Here are my 3 Tips to A Healthy New Year:

  1. Take Action. Do something today. It doesn’t have to be an hour workout or throwing out all the food you love from the fridge. Take a walk. Make a healthy dinner. Take deliberate action to be healthier. Do just one thing each day.
  2. Find Accountability. Tell someone. Make a point to have a weekly check in with a friend, spouse, coworker who knows you are trying to improve and can help you stay on track. If you invest in a personal trainer or health coach, they should be setting up check in points with you at least weekly. I use texting and online tools to support my clients with accountability.
  3. Always reassess. Check in with yourself once a month to see how you are doing with your short-term goals and new lifestyle changes. If you’ve been consistent with a goal, add a new goal or amp up the current one. For example, if you’ve hit the gym three times a week for the whole month, add a day and shoot for four days in the new month. If you never change-up your goals or challenge yourself in new ways, you’ll get stuck, bored and worse yet, revert back to old habits.

 

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

Creating a healthier lifestyle doesn’t have to be a complete “do over” every January. It should be a process of continual improvement. Ditch the stress of New Year, New You and think in terms of New Year, Healthier You.

In the category of taking action…There’s still time to join my January lifestyle program – The Little Black Dress Project. 6 Weeks of total wellness coaching (all online!). Fitness, nutrition, mindset, financial, career, beauty and more! You will learn how to make small, sustainable lifestyle changes to be your healthiest, happiest and most confident self. We start January 7. Take $100 until January 4 with code LBD100.


food, nutrition, Personal wellness, Uncategorized

Last Minute Holiday Health Tips

The Holidays are Here…

Cue the Sleigh Bells and Stress Eating!

Three days until Christmas; 10 to the New Year! If you’re not feeling the pressure and stress, you might be superhuman. Even the most prepared and organized person will be experiencing some level of stress and overwhelm as they try to get it all done.

As you make those last-minute shopping trips, bake those final batches of cookies and wrap the gifts, I want to remind you not to forget about YOU.  A stressed, distracted, worrisome YOU is going to miss out on the fun and joy of the holidays. So, read on for my best tips for beating stress, finding time for fitness and focusing on good nutrition over the next week.

Stress and Overwhelm!

Let’s start here because if you get stress and overwhelm under control, you can focus on eating well and finding time for exercise.

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Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

A recent study found that 88 percent of people feel stressed when celebrating the holidays and the average couple will have seven arguments throughout the season. Um…only 88 percent? Only seven arguments? Maybe it’s just me but I could see those numbers climbing a bit higher as the holidays get closer.

While I’m not a mental health expert or life coach, I am trained in the science of behavior modification and how to break unhealthy habits. And, stress can be the result of negative, unhealthy habits like procrastination, over commitment and lack of delegation.

Here are my tips for rewiring  habits to be more productive and healthy and avoid the mental and physical exhaustion:

  1. Get it all out of your head and onto paper. Real paper. Not your phone notepad. The very act of writing helps you focus on what needs to be done. Write down EVERY LAST THING that you need to do from now until New Year’s Day. Every task, meeting, event, etc.
  2. Highlight the THREE things that only you can do and must be done by you. That’s your to-do list.
  3. Review the rest of the list and either ELIMINATE OR DELEGATE. Stop being superwoman. Once you’ve eliminated or delegated, cross off the items and focus on your top three.

Fitting in Fitness

If you don’t have a plan for exercise for the next few days, listen up! I’m going to make this super easy.

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  1. Take out your calendar…on your phone, in your planner, etc. Open it up and see where you have 30 minutes each day over the next 4 days. You have it – you may just have to look hard for it. This may mean getting up 30 minutes earlier or bowing out of something you didn’t really want to attend (remember my eliminate tip above?).
  2. Now that you’ve found that space, use time blocking to make it happen. Time blocking is simply scheduling your to-do list on your calendar. You block off the time you’ll be working on a specific task ahead of time, and then during that time, that’s all you focus on. A digital calendar works best because you will get reminders when it’s time to start and when you have a new task coming up.
  3. Finally think through what will stop you from exercising and create a plan. Undoubtedly, something will come up over the next few days. What are the barriers you might face? Think them through and create a plan. Enlist your significant other or kids to help if it’s something they can do.
  4. Once you’ve thought through all the pitfalls, you should have a pretty ironclad plan. Now, tell someone. A spouse, friend, colleague. Accountability is key to accomplishing any goal.

Food for Thought

This is the big one! Food contributes to 80% of our overall health. You really are what you eat.

So, first things first. You need to think through your food events. Where are you going to be? What might the menu consist of? You know these things…your family and friends are pretty predictable. If grandma has always made her famous jello pretzel dessert (it’s a thing, Google it!) then you can assume you’ll be faced with jello pretzel dessert. Here’s how to navigate the day:

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  1. Determine what you can control by bringing food or offering to help in some other way. Bring a healthy side or appetizer. Offer a healthy recipe if your mom is stumped on how to make sweet potatoes for the 900th time.
  2. Go prepared for the worst. Assume it will be a delicious storm of sugary carbs and heavy sauces. If it’s not, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If it is, you will be prepared.
  3. Eat ahead of time. Do not SAVE YOUR CALORIES for one big meal. You will be starving and self-control will be tough. Eat a good protein packed breakfast or lunch with healthy fats. Both protein and fat keep you fuller longer than carbs.
  4. Drink a ton of water before, during, after…water keeps your digestive tract moving and keeps you full.
  5. Tips for eating healthy-ish
    • Steer clear of the crackers and chips on the appetizer table. Go for veggies and dip/guac, shrimp, cheese and smoked meats, deviled eggs, nuts.
    • For dinner, start with half your plate filled with veggies and fruit (but not the sugary and processed kind). Think: Salads, veggie trays, roasted veggies, fresh fruit salad, etc.
    • Make the rest of it protein and healthy fats. Ham, turkey, prime rib, seafood. Make sure it’s not covered in breading and fried.
    • Save your carbs for the good stuff…wine, desserts. Not bland dinner rolls and crackers!
  6. When it comes to cocktails, beer and wine…go slow. For every alcoholic drink, have a glass of water in between. Clear liquors with club soda are the lowest in calories and carbs. Light beer is best. Wine is fine but watch the pour (4-6 oz. is a standard pour) but most glasses are much larger.

You’ve Got This!

So there you have it. My tips and strategies for a healthy and stress free holiday. And, I know you can do this!

One last tip: if you find yourself caught up in stress or other drama, just step away, refocus, breathe and remember what’s important. Family. Friends. Laughter. Being together. If you eat too much, forget to buy Aunt Susie a gift or use the treadmill for just hanging up clothing this next week, it’s ok. The world will keep on spinning and you will be fine.

Finally…it wouldn’t be the holidays without a few gifts from me!

First…my Healthy Holiday Cocktail Guide is online and ready for you to download. Grab it here!

Next, if you need that extra wellness support in the new year, jump into my free Facebook group  for professional women.

Finally – If you are ready to really kick all the unhealthy habits to the curb in 2019, I invite you to check out my Little Black Dress Project that kicks off January 7! It is a 6-week online program that includes: nutrition, fitness, and confidence building work! Read more on my Little Black Dress page. And, save $100 with coupon code LBD100 at check out.

Wishing you all the best this holiday season and looking forward to all good stuff the new year has in store for my friends, family and followers!

xoxo

Niki

Uncategorized

Putting the Power Back into Willpower

Willpower is a Limited but Renewable Resource

 

Someone in my Facebook group asked a great question the other day…how do I gain more willpower to make the right food choices?

There were some great answers from other members about the importance of accountability, taking small steps to improve versus trying to “fix” everything you’ve done wrong in the past, and giving yourself a break sometimes because, none of us is perfect.

But it got me thinking even more about the question. What is willpower? And can we really create more of it? So my writer instincts said…go research it. First, I went back to my health coaching textbook and looked up how my field describes willpower.

“Willpower is the ability to ignore temporary pleasure or discomfort to pursue a bigger goal.”

Busting the Willpower Myths

More digging into the subject busted some long-standing myths that I had about willpower. Such as:

  • You just need more information. Knowledge is not power when it comes to willpower. Apparently, even if we know a sleeve of Girl Scout Cookies are high in calories and generally not a good choice for breakfast (oh no!), that does not increase our willpower to resist them.
  • Using the willpower “muscle” makes it/you stronger. Ugh. You know how people say practice makes perfect. Not always with willpower. The cognitive function that controls your ability to have willpower can become fatigued, like an overworked bicep.
  • Willpower is a long-term strategy. Willpower is an “in the moment” response to the cookies, a second glass of wine, or whatever you’re trying to consume less of. To truly change your behavior long-term, willpower is only one part of the equation.

So, knowing all these fun facts, what can we do to not only increase our ability to make snap decisions that are healthy but also increase our overall ability to reach our long-term goals.

Let’s Get GRITty

According to the experts it comes down to GRIT. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania coined the acronym and it is defined as “the ability to “work strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity and plateaus in progress.”

Wow. That’s motivating.

Dr. Angela Duckworth distinguishes self-control (willpower) as a shorter-term behavior—not eating the cookie right in front of you. While GRIT is about pushing toward goals over a longer period.

Here’s an overview of GRIT and how I use these techniques to help my clients gain better long-term control over their lifestyle habits and behaviors.

  • Goals Get You There. If you’ve read my blog for the last year or two or if you’ve worked with me, I am a big proponent of setting SMART goals (specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-bound). When you lay out your goals in a way that has all those elements it helps to focus your efforts on ONE thing and strengthen that willpower muscle for endurance, not just spurts of heavy lifting.
  • Relax and Reward. Again, something I teach my clients. First – I help them find ways to reduce stress and increase energy. Yoga, long walks, silent meditation for 15 minutes a day – whatever it takes to quiet your brain and refocus on your goals. When you’re tired or stressed out you don’t make good choices. Your guard is down, and you reach for comfort, and convenience. Also – I’m a big fan of rewarding yourself and celebrating the little accomplishments. If you never allow yourself to eat that cookie or order the second glass of wine, you’ll eventually overindulge and end up on a path back to old behaviors.
  • Intention and Implementation.  Ahhhh…it all comes down to planning and preparing. When you plan what you’ll eat and drink at a cocktail party or map out when you’ll workout on a business trip, you are in CONTROL and when you’re in control you are ready for the temptations and roadblocks. One way researchers suggest to prepare for something that will be tempting is using the “if-then” strategy. Let’s say you’re going to a client dinner where there will be lots of alcohol flowing. “IF someone tries to pour me a drink, THEN I’ll thank them and carry a glass of club soda with a few olives in it.”
  • Thinking Truthfully.  Kelly McGonigal the author of The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It says there are three different aspects of willpower:

-“I won’t” power—the ability to resist temptations
-“I will” power—the ability to do what needs to be done
-“I want” power—the awareness of one’s long-term goals and desires

Using these mantras to deal when temptation pops up will give you the ability to respond to whatever the world puts in front of you (cookies, wine, the couch and remote).

Let Your Willpower Renew

Finally, even with all the good intentions and planning and goals, it’s important to remember that we are human. We are flawed. We will give in to temptation sometimes. The most important thing I teach my clients is self-forgiveness and self-compassion.

Remember what I said about willpower ‘muscle fatigue’? Some days that muscle will have had all it can lift and will give out. When it does, acknowledge the slip, remind yourself of the long-term goal, and refocus on you and what you need to do next time to avoid the pitfall. Give the muscle a break; let it renew a bit. It’s when we never use the muscle that poor “in the moment” choices then become habits and then deeply-ingrained behaviors. That’s when we need to bulk up that willpower muscle and use a little GRIT to overcome the challenges and make the positive changes needed to be healthy.

Want more help finding your GRIT and strengthening your plans to be healthy? Let’s chat. Fill out my FREE Wellness Assessment and you’ll get a 30-minute call with me. We’ll discuss your goals and what I’d recommend to strengthen your willpower and GRIT.

Have a happy and healthy day and watch out for those willpower-busting, yet adorable, Girl Scouts and their addictive cookies!

Xoxo

Niki