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February 2012

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The Biggest Achiever Program is about improving ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally. In order to become happier and healthier on the outside, we have to work on the inside first. Although this week’s challenge is  bit different, it is equally important.

This week, your challenge is to give one compliment to yourself and one compliment to someone else, every single day. I urge you to step outside of your comfort zone on this, and give a complete stranger a compliment. When was the last time you remember getting a compliment from someone you’ve never met before and will likely never see again? Those compliments are very special, since the person giving them truly has nothing to gain in return. It always makes my day when I get a compliment like this, and with that knowledge, I try to do the same for others.

Now, you may give someone a compliment, and they may look at you as if you are from outer space. Forget about it. You are not giving this compliment for a sense of gratitude from them or anything in return. If they show appreciation, that’s just an added bonus. Also, try to give a compliment in regards to something about their personality, their body, their skill set, etc., instead of a material item. For example, telling someone they have beautiful eyes, a lovely smile, great muscles, a great personality, or that they are great at their job or are very well-spoken are better compliments than telling someone you like their shirt. Anyone can own that shirt, so although that is in fact a compliment, we’re seeking something a bit deeper here.

It is also important that you give yourself a compliment, every day. Find something you like about yourself, even if you think it’s tough. Maybe you did a good deed today, that is something worth complimenting. Perhaps you took the stairs instead of the elevator… that too, deserves a pat on the back. Find at least one thing that you can be proud of yourself for and say it out loud. Even better, leave it in the comments here! We want to draw attention to the positives in our lives. Doing that for ourselves and doing nice things for other people, make us feel good. When we feel good, life is better. Our worries don’t seem as big, goals seem more attainable, our stress levels decrease and the level of serotonin in our brains rises. Serotonin = good stuff.

I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. I was in yoga when this challenge came to me, and wouldn’t you know it, two minutes later, a complete stranger came up to me and gave me a compliment. 🙂

Exercise Challenge — Push Ups

Every night before you go to bed, do push ups. Even better, do them in the morning and the evening! I’m not going to tell you how many, you will be dictating your own goals. To find/set your goal, do as many push ups as you can in a row, then every night, add one more to it. For example, if you can currently do 5 push ups in a row, tomorrow night, do 6. The next night you will do 7 push ups, and so on. The most important thing here is that you do the push up correctly. It is perfectly acceptable to modify the push up so that you are pushing your body up from your knees. If that is too difficult, you can do push ups in a standing position, against the wall. Doing the push up with proper form while showing control will build a solid foundation with the proper muscles. From here, you will be able to advance to other exercises, while decreasing the risk of injury. Click here to see the Mayo Clinic’s video showcasing proper form for modified push ups.

 

Good luck!

Peace, love and kind hearts,

Melissa

Congratulations on finishing the first month of the Biggest Achiever Program and welcome to month #2 of our three month program! I am proud to announce that many of you have been extremely successful on this program so far, not only with weight loss, but with an increasingly positive outlook on life in general!

I’ve gotten a lot of wonderful feedback on the program thus far, and as expected, some folks would like the program to be tougher and some think it’s tough enough already. That’s the beauty of a program like this, everyone is different. Everyone will progress at different rates and hit plateaus at different times. Just remember, when you feel like quitting, that’s a plateau, not failure. We all hit plateaus, it is normal to feel frustrated an uncertain any time you try to make a change, regardless if it’s for the better. Stay focused.

Restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress. – Thomas Edison

As we enter the second month of the Biggest Achiever Program, I want you to continue to take it at your own speed, a speed at which you can be successful at, but one that also pushes your limits. If you don’t experience a sense of uneasiness, you will never see a change. So welcome that uncomfortable feeling you have, as it will make the feeling of accomplishment so much greater in the end.

This month, there will be more than one challenge at a time. You can choose to do one, two or three challenges. However, whatever you decide to do on Monday, you must stick with through the entire week. For instance, if you chose to participate in two challenges, you must finish both challenges. This teaches discipline. If you select one challenge, however, you CAN decide to add on more challenges as the week progresses. Since both a healthy diet and exercise are required for optimum health, some of these new challenges will involve exercise. Please check with your doctor to ensure you are healthy enough to participate in these exercises.

Week #5 Challenges

Main Challenge — 12 Hour Detox

This week’s challenge is to leave a 12 hour detox window between the last thing you eat at night and the first thing you eat in the morning. Yes, it requires a little planning, but mostly, it requires you to cut out unnecessary late night snacking!

The detoxification process kicks in 8 hours after your last meal and needs 4 hours to function optimally. It is after that 8 hour mark that your body has finished processing the last meal you ate. Once digestion is completed, accumulated toxins from the tissues are released into the bloodstream so that they can eventually be neutralized and eliminated with the help of nutrients. If the toxins are not eliminated, not only can they be reabsorbed into the bloodstream, but the free radicals that they contain corrode tissues and damage cells on contact. This is one reason why late night eating is discouraged. If your body never finishes processing your food before you eat again, it doesn’t have the chance to release other accumulated toxins. The reason we call that first meal of the day “breakfast” is because that’s exactly what we’re doing, we’re breaking the fast that has occurred overnight.

Secondary Challenge — Get Moving!

It’s important that we train ourselves to move more often. So that whole taking the stairs for a week thing? Yeah… we’re going to try to make that more of a lifestyle instead of just a weekly challenge. Read here for ideas on how to incorporate more movement into your everyday life, burning more and more calories, leading to… you guessed it… weight loss!

For years, researchers have stated that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So, is it? Well, yes, it just might be. It is especially important if you are trying to lose weight. Eating breakfast helps kick-start your metabolism so that you can burn more calories during the day and stabilize your blood sugar levels, leaving you less likely to crave junk food. Studies show that those that ate a healthy breakfast every morning were more successful at losing weight and keeping it off than those that did not eat breakfast. It’s also true that making healthier decisions first thing in the morning makes you more prone to making healthier choices throughout the remainder of the day.

People who skip breakfast tend to eat more calories during the day than people who eat a morning meal, probably because hunger drives them to make unhealthy food choices and overeat at lunchtime, says MayoClinic.com. Furthermore, skipping breakfast has been associated with decreased daily levels of physical activity.

The National Weight Control Registry shows that among those who’ve lost 30 or more pounds and have kept it off more than a year, 90 percent report eating breakfast most days of the week.

Every day this week, the challenge is to eat a healthy breakfast. What constitutes a healthy breakfast? I’m glad you asked! Click here for some examples of items you can consume for breakfast, as well as some things to watch for that might make a seemingly healthy breakfast your new worst enemy. (Enter large amounts of sugar, sodium, saturated fats, chemicals, etc.). There’s no denying that eating breakfast in the morning fires up your metabolism. What you need to make sure of though, is that you do not eat something that is going to cause your blood sugar to spike. Refined sugars/carbs from donuts and other pastries are the culprits. The sugar rush only lasts a short while and by mid-morning you may feel sluggish, hungry, crave more sugar and have difficulty concentrating.

What you’re looking for in a healthy breakfast is whole grain carbohydrates, fiber and protein. Whole grain carbohydrates (oats, barley) release sugar more slowly than refined carbohydrates (sugary cereals and pastries), providing sustained energy (low glycemic index).  Fiber (fruits, veggies) will help fill you up, warding off hunger cravings until lunch, and keeps your digestive system healthy. Foods that are high in protein (eggs, nuts, yogurt) aid in maintaining stable blood sugar levels and may also help you feel fuller longer.

As far as what to avoid for breakfast… Bacon, sausage, high sugar content cereals, pastries (including low-fat muffins, croissants, donuts and kolaches), some breakfast bars, pretty much anything from a fast food restaurant (McDonalds, Whataburger, Chick-fil-A, Taco Bueno, etc.), also exercise caution at Starbucks and even smoothie places, it’s usually best to make your own!

Peace, love and healthy breakfasts!

Melissa

What do you eat for the most important meal of the day? Is it loaded with the fiber, protein and whole grain carbohydrates your body needs to start the day off on the right foot? You want to eat something first thing in the morning that will boost your metabolism, get your engines firing on all cylinders and yes, even help kick start weight loss! Below you’ll find the seven easiest healthy breakfast items you can eat that will properly fuel your body for a productive, happy day!

Oatmeal

Get real oatmeal… with 100% real oats. The ingredients should say “whole rolled oats” and possibly also contain barley, rye and flaxseeds. Oats and barley in particular contain beta-glucan, a type of fiber with antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities more potent than echinacea. They boost immunity, speed wound healing and may help antibiotics work better. Oatmeal is high in whole grain carbohydrates, which your body needs carbohydrates to function properly. If you have time to cook them, cook steel-cut oats, they are less processed than the rolled or quick-cooking oats.

For added nutrients and flavor, add cinnamon and fruit to your oatmeal (bananas, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, etc.). If you MUST add sugar (which I recommend avoiding), try stevia, honey or agave nectar. Also try preparing your oatmeal with unsweetened almond milk instead of water for a creamier dish.

Warnings: Watch for high sugar content and artificial ingredients. Avoid flavored oatmeal, as these tend to have added sugar, sodium and other ingredients you don’t need.

Fruit

Fruit is good, quick and easy. If you’re not eating breakfast at all right now, having a banana is a great place to start. Even better than just a banana? Adding some protein… like peanut butter! Or my personal favorite, honeycrisp apples and almond butter. Other good fruits for breakfast include strawberries, blueberries and grapefruit (do not pile on the sugar or artificial sweeteners, just eat the darn thing in it’s natural beauty. If you’re dying for some sugar, try stevia).

Warnings: Buy organic to avoid dangerous pesticides that contaminate the entire fruit, not just the outside, and to avoid genetically modified products.

Smoothie

Smoothies are a great option for breakfast. They are easy on your digestive system since your body doesn’t have to work as hard to break down the foods incorporated in the smoothie, and you can get lots of vitamins and minerals in one shot. I usually do a few frozen peach slices, a banana, 1/4 c. apple juice, 1/4 c. unsweetened almond milk, and a scoop of superfood powder in order to ensure I’ve incorporated my greens! Instead of superfood powder, try kale, spinach, celery (delicious in smoothies) or parsley!

Yogurt

There are a myriad of options out there when it comes to yogurt. At the grocery store, if you stand back for a moment, and look at all the available options for yogurt, it can be a bit overwhelming. Here’s how to find a healthy yogurt: First, if you do not eat dairy, look for an almond, soy or coconut-based yogurt. I prefer almond, myself. (Healthiest, tastiest, least amount of sugar. Soy hurts my tummy.)

If you do eat dairy, you have quite a few choices ahead of you. Look at the sugar content before anything else. It doesn’t do your body any good to eat a fat free yogurt with 30g of sugar in it. Your body has to work incredibly hard to break down all that sugar. Healthy yogurt contains only two ingredients, live cultures and milk. The more ingredients listed, the less healthy the yogurt is. In general, the higher the protein and the lower the sugar content, the more nutritious and healthy the yogurt is. The major health benefits of yogurt are derived from the live cultures they contain.

Warnings: Be wary of fruit-flavored yogurts and yogurts with the fillings you mix in, as those tend to be the worst culprits. My suggestion is to buy plain yogurt, and add your own fresh fruit and granola to it. Plain yogurt is the most nutritious variety of yogurt, containing about half the calories, twice the amount of protein, fewer fillers, more calcium, and no added sugar compared to yogurt with fruit and other flavorings.

Eggs

There are lots of options when it comes to cooking and eating eggs. Hardboiled, scrambled, or over easy, eggs contain the protein you need to help get your day started properly. If you’re looking for a lower-calorie option, egg whites are a great option, especially with some added vegetables. Try sliced mushrooms and spinach, broccoli and tomatoes, green bell pepper and red onion or diced celery and parsley. The veggies provide fiber, vitamins A, K, C as well as antioxidants and phytonutrients to help fight disease-causing free radicals. If egg sandwiches are more your style, try your eggs on a slice of whole grain toast, with avocado slices instead of cheese for healthy fats.

Warnings: Be sure not to pile on the cheese and keep any addition of salt to a minimum. Try to avoid sides like bacon, but if you must, opt for low-sodium turkey bacon. Also, buy organic, cage-free eggs, they’re worth the extra cost.

Cereal

This is a tricky one, since most cereals claim to be “healthy”, “whole grain”, etc., but are really just processed crap. Keep in mind that marketing teams spend countless hours trying to make their product look as nutritious and healthy as possible. It doesn’t meant that it actually is. If you’re wondering what’s in your cereal, look at the nutrition facts and ingredients label.

Warnings: The ingredients should be things you can pronounce and the sugar content should be low (less than 5 g per serving). With your cereal, be cautious when adding milk, as it actually contains quite a bit of sugar. Try unsweetened almond milk for a nice change of pace. Choose regular cheerios instead of honey nut, corn flakes instead of frosted flakes and avoid anything with marshmallows or other “candy” in it. Avoid anything with high-fructose corn syrup.

People who ate high-fiber whole grain cereal for breakfast every day had nearly a 30% lower risk of heart failure than those who chose other foods, found the ongoing Physicians’ Health Study.

Breakfast/Granola Bars

Although convenient, you really  have to know what you’re eating when consuming a breakfast/granola bar as your first source of fuel for the day. These bars concern me since they are typically just loaded with sugar. Most of them should be labeled as candy bars instead. However, if you are like two-thirds of the American population and eat these for breakfast here’s a few things to keep in mind:

Be sure to find a bar with less than 6g sugar, with at least 5g of protein and 5g of fiber. The fiber content of breakfast bars made with whole grains will be higher than multi-grain bars. Read the ingredients too. Rolled oats, wheat or barley should be listed as one of the first ingredients. Kashi typically has some good options.

Warnings: Avoid products that contain any trans fat, partially hydrogenated oils, shortening or high-fructose corn syrup, and again, watch that sugar content!

Finally! The holidays are over, you’re full swing into your new year’s resolution… and then it arrives… Superbowl Sunday. The first “holiday” of the year, synonymous with laziness and an overindulgence in food and alcohol, here to test your willpower. Maybe for you, it’s no big deal, but for the majority of Americans, this is the biggest day of the year. After all, the Monday following the Superbowl has the highest number of people call in sick, more than any other day of the year!

So what is your plan for the big game? Lots of chips and queso? Wings and beer? If you’re wondering how you are going to get through this game without falling off the wagon entirely, hep is here! You can absolutely stay on track with your healthy resolutions without depriving yourself of a good time. And let’s be honest, avoiding the guilt and bloating that accompanies overindulgence isn’t half bad either!

The Playbook:

  • Get some exercise in before the big game. If you are not currently exercising, a nice walk will do just fine. If you are engaged in a regular workout program, go get in a killer workout! Keep in mind, however, just because you exercise does not mean you can eat whatever you want. Nutrition is a bigger piece of the weight loss/health puzzle than any of us realize. If you work out every day, and eat shit… you will not lose weight. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Okay, you might lose a little, but you’re definitely not on a path to a healthy lifestyle.
  • Eat in moderation. What?! Moderation?! On Superbowl Sunday?! Yes. You’ll feel better afterwards, I assure you.
  • Moderation applies to alcohol as well as food. If you’re going to drink beer, choose a light beer instead of a dark, heavy beer. After each beer, have a full glass of water. Before you go to bed, drink another.
  • Bring your own snacks to the party. If you’re going to be the guest at a party, offer to bring some snacks. Chances are good they will have plenty of snacks already, but chances are better that they will involve chips and salsa, queso, pizza rolls, and other processed crap. So bring some carrots, some hummus, apple slices and peanut/almond/cashew butter, cucumbers, zucchini (are you catching on to the raw veggie trend?), raw nuts (almonds, cashews, etc.), even pretzels are better than pizza rolls!
  • Cook a healthier version of your favorite recipes. Instead of ordering pizza, try making your own, and load it with veggies! Possibly even leave off the cheese. Yes, I’m serious, and yes, it’s still considered “pizza.” You’re just living outside the box, that’s all! Here are some ideas.
  • For heaven’s sake, say no to soda. ‘Nuff said.
  • Before you eat anything, ask yourself if you’re even hungry, or if you’re eating “just to eat”. Humans need food to survive, but we’ve made it so much more than that. The Superbowl party should be about the game, friends, family and good times, which doesn’t mean leaving the party 7 lbs. heavier than you arrived.

Remember, you are the only one in control of what you do or don’t eat. Every decision you make regarding your health, wellness and happiness are yours, no one can take that away from you. So enjoy yourself on Sunday, but don’t use the Superbowl as an excuse. If you decide you’re going to indulge, decide what you’re going to indulge in before you get there and how much you are going to have, then stick to it! Don’t ever let your hunger make the decision for you, since when you’re hungry, you’re likely to settle for less than nutritional food. And worst case scenario, if you do overindulge, all is not lost. Don’t beat yourself up over it, guilt is a stressor, which leads to increased cortisol levels, which leads to belly fat, so that’s not going to help at all. Just move on from it, and get right back into your healthy routine the next day. If you slip up, realize that you are human, and fix it. Now if you’re “slipping up” frequently… that’s another issue.

Peace, love and football,

Melissa