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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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A Mind Full of Mindfulness

Mind your Mindfulness

When someone says “be mindful” what does that mean to you? It’s almost a buzzword these days as it’s been attached to everything from eating to parenting to exercise to beer (yes, beer)

It’s not a complicated concept. I think it’s a bit overused (see mindful beer above) and like any other trend, it’s often talked about without a lot context. For me, being mindful is simply being present in your current task/activity and being aware of what you are doing, saying, creating, being, etc. It means focusing on what I’m doing at any given moment and taking the time to slow down a bit to think, appreciate, and listen. Mindfulness is the ability to stop multi-tasking.

Demystifying Mindfulness

There are no shortage of mindfulness resources out there…apps, magazines, books, web sites, Facebook communities and more to help you get to that state of mindfulness. It can be overwhelming but it’s always good to know there is information to help you understand and embrace a concept.

Mindful in the context of your health and wellness means being aware of what your body is telling you and what it needs. From the food you eat to the exercise you do to the people and stress you allow into your life. It’s about slowing down and assessing your activities and actions to see if they are aligned with your real life goals.

My theme for March is going to be “cleaning up” your life and eliminating the toxic junk that’s keeping you from being your happiest and healthiest. We’ll be cleaning up our pantries and fridges, as well as our friends list and workspaces. But first, we get mindful about all the stuff we’re allowing to invade our minds, bodies and souls that doesn’t bring us joy. That’s right, we’re going to find all the crap and Marie Kondo it out of our lives.

Mindful Action

We start this week by being more mindful and taking inventory of what might need to be cleaned up to clear the way to better health. Grab a notebook or open a black note on your phone and try these 3 mindful tasks.

  1. Track What you Eat and Drink. I am proud to be a broken record on this one. I require all my coaching clients to not only track their food and drinks but give me real-time access to their food journals. You may believe you eat healthy…and maybe you do! But do you know how much you’re eating, when and why? Do you see the patterns of your eating that might not be about hunger but more about emotions? Your mindful task: If you consume it, track it. And, bonus points if you add a note about how you feel after each meal (that reveals a lot about triggers).
  2. Slow Down to Accelerate Results. In the race to check off things on our to-do list, we often just go through the motions, which can diminish results.  Take a moment to slow down in your daily routine to evaluate if you are doing things right – not just fast. This is especially important with exercise. Hurrying through a workout to just “get it done” can be as bad as not working out at all. Plus, you risk injury. Your mindful task: At the end of the week, note how you feel after exercising and ask yourself if it’s time to change things up.
  3. Reevaluate Relationships. I’m not suggesting you unfriend everyone or break it off with a partner. I’m encouraging you to reevaluate the relationships that consistently bring you stress or drama. You already know who these people are but really focus on identifying them this week. Take note of how you feel around certain people – especially at work, where we spend most of our waking hours. After a meeting, spend a few minutes to write down how you think it went, what caused you to be defensive or hurt, etc. Your mindful task: Be aware of the relationships that bring anxiety, stress and cause you more “work” than others. Then, set boundaries with people or devise strategies to manage them and your stress level.

The Mindful Advantage for Weight Loss

Three simple ways to be more mindful to protect your health and well-being. You don’t have to overthink it or spend hours meditating over it. Just practice being in the moment of any activity and allow yourself to feel all the feelings that come with it. Then, keep notes in a journal about the feelings and what you can do to change them, if needed.

When it comes to your nutrition and exercise – being mindful can be a game-changer for your weight loss or other goals. Small tweaks in what you eat or how you move based on your mindful observations or focus can help you break through a plateau.

Would love to hear how you are becoming more mindful in your everyday life. Join the conversation in my free Facebook group or shoot me a quick email with your thoughts, questions, comments!

Have a wonderful, mindful week!

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

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10 Days of Self Care For Christmas

The countdown is on to Christmas!

If you celebrate this holiday, it’s basically GO TIME! The malls are packed, gifts need to be wrapped and food needs to be planned. While time for yourself seems impossible in these days leading up to the holiday, I’m going to give you 10 ways to practice a little self-care to prepare you for the holiday (I’m writing this blog from a pedicure chair which is my way of practicing a little self-care during this busy season.)

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Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Do one each day from today until December 25. They take less than 30 minutes and cost little to nothing to do.

  1. Listen to an uplifting podcast or audiobook while wrapping gifts or as you run errands. Positivity is contagious and will leave you feeling happier. Check out some positive podcasts here.
  2. Soak your feet with Epsom salts and a few drops of essential oils. Learn more about the right oil blend for whatever ails you.
  3. Take your holiday cards to a quiet place to address and send (library, coffee shop, café). Write something personal in them if possible.
  4. Give yourself a mini-facial with a soothing/calming mask like these.
  5. Call (not text) a friend you miss and catch up for a half hour or talk to a stranger in line at the store. People crave personal connection these days. You may learn something interesting.
  6. Send letters of gratitude to troops or drop off extra holiday cards to a local nursing home for seniors who are spending the holidays alone.
  7. Stretch for 15 minutes. Here’s a good stretching workout.
  8. Watch a comedy special on Netflix, Hulu, etc. Laughing reduces stress.
  9. Buy $5 gift cards from your favorite coffee shop and give them to people who could use a break (nurses, first responders, a server at your favorite restaurant)
  10. Meditate for 20 minutes before the festivities of the day. Learn more about how to meditate if you’ve never done it.

Bonus tip: write down something you are grateful for each morning. As soon as you wake or while you drink your coffee – but don’t let the day get away from you without taking a moment to recognize your good fortune in this life.

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Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Pexels.com

It’s All About Finding Joy in Simplicity

The holidays don’t have to be stressful if you take a few minutes every day to center yourself and do something that refills your spirit. Try one thing from the list each day or more than one if you have the time. You shouldn’t be the last thing on your list of priorities.

Keep it simple and focus on what brings you a little bit of joy. The less complicated the better. Do these things on your own or invite a friend along to spread the holiday happiness.

And, if you are finding you are ready to focus fully on your wellness after the craziness of the holidays settles down, join other like-minded women in the Little Black Dress project that kicks off January 7 for 6-weeks. This whole-person wellness program is focused on nutrition, fitness, inner and outer confidence, empowerment and much more. It’s more than losing weight. It’s about feeling stronger and more confident. Learn more here: www.niki-campbell.com/littleblackdress. Take $100 off until December 24 with coupon code LBD100.