Power of Positivity

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I know it’s been a while since my last post–thanksgiving break got the best of me. But it was a great time filled with traveling, relaxing and family time so I can’t complain. During this time of year, many people get in the thankful mindset and I certainly was over this past week, which got me thinking about a great blog topic I wanted to write about. It goes right along with the thankful/cheerful/grateful/happy mood that seems to linger around the holiday season. It’s called positive thinking. Now, I know you may be thinking this is corny or cheesy; however, positive thinking really can a powerful tool in your life. Whatever comes your way, whether small or big, going at it with a positive mindset can be a great aspect of living a healthy, happy life that you love. There really is such thing as the power of positivity.

Positive thinking is a way of life, an attitude that we adopt. It can affect our whole being from bringing more happy feelings, cheer and energy to putting us in good health. Thinking positively can affect the way we behave, perform and tackle all of life’s situations. For example, when heading into an interview or other big event, feeling confident and thinking good thoughts can actually cause you to feel and be more prepared and ace the event better than if you had thought and believed negative ideas. Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher, has done studies on the affects on the brain of positive vs. negative thoughts. Negativity closes your brain off and focuses on the negative feeling while preventing your brain from seeing your other options and choices around you. Meanwhile positive thinking broadens your sense of possibilities and opens your mind, which allows you to build new skills and resources that can provide value in other areas of your life. It’s clear here that your thoughts can have a much bigger effect on your mind, brain, health, etc. than you may have thought.

So, now that you know just how important positive thinking can be, how do you make it happen? This can certainly look different in individual lives. I believe the one key area where people see negativity is towards themselves, their body, their ability, their own lives, etc. It’s really easy for us to be negative towards ourselves…thinking we cannot accomplish anything, we have no skills, we hate they way we look…the list can go on and on. However, if you asked someone to go and say these things to their friend or a stranger, most people who would be horrified to do so. So why is it that we would never be down on or negative towards another, but we can so easily do so to ourselves? It’s probably due to the fact that we set goals and expectations for ourselves and since we are not perfect, we will inevitably fail and make mistakes. In this area, the biggest thing is to try and think more positively about yourself and your life and to love yourself. Body positivity can be especially difficult in today’s time and it shouldn’t be! We should all love ourselves for who and what we are and yet that is such a difficult task for many (guilty!). I think the first main step towards being positive is to be mindful of your thoughts. Some people may be more negative than they realized or perhaps more positive than they thought. By paying attention to and trying to catch any negative thoughts, you can start implementing a more positive outlook.

The next thing that can really help is affirmations. Write down 3-4 affirmations and stick them somewhere that you’ll see every single day (hopefully even multiple times per day). This could be your fridge, your car dashboard, your mirror, your door, etc. Every morning start your day off by repeating these affirmations to yourself and then every time you pass by them, repeat them in your head. Example of this could include: I am smart, I can handle any task thrown my way, I am strong, I am capable, I am bigger than my thoughts, etc. One big thing to combat the area of negativity towards loving yourself and your body is to find things you like about yourself. Yes, much easier said than done I know. However, next time you look in the mirror really try to find 3-4 things you like about yourself and says those out loud–even write them down if that would help! Negative thoughts may creep in, but by repeating and thinking those positive thoughts, they soon will become a habit and part of your everyday life.

Lastly, I want to finish by saying that I know first-hand that being and staying positive is no easy task. There are those times when nothing seems to be going your way or it seems like you cannot do a single thing right–the future seems bleak and bare. I used to be really bad at viewing the world in that way and I was what some might call a “pessimist”. But, nowadays I am a lot more positive when thinking about my future and my life in general. Don’t get me wrong, I, nor anyone else I believe, can be fully 100% positive. Yes…not even those people who seem to have their whole life together on social media and in real life and whose smile never falters from their face. At some point or some time, perhaps in private, they too struggle with positivity. It’s human nature because we aren’t perfect and we do make mistakes. But, if you go about life with a positive mindset and think positive thoughts, then even when bad things do come your way you can help yourself be better off in those situations. There is a quote by Charles Swindoll that I really like: “Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” This isn’t to say you can never be negative or unhappy or upset; it’s simply saying that being mindful of your thoughts and mindset throughout the day and aiming them towards good ones can lead you to experiencing the power of positivity in your life. And that helps you love yourself–living a life that you enjoy and staying Beyoutifully Healthy!

Here are other links to great articles about positive thinking:

https://www.powerofpositivity.com/using-power-positivity-actually-changes-world-around/

http://www.successconsciousness.com/index_000009.htm

What are your thoughts on being positive? What are some ways you stay positive?

 

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-clear/positive-thinking_b_3512202.html

 

Sample Workouts: HIIT and Circuit

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With all of the data and information floating around out there about what workout program or exercise regime is best, it can be mind-boggling as to what you should do. Exercise comes in many forms, not just split between resistance training and cardio, but even further split into long-distance, HIIT, Circuit, Tabata, etc.  Jump around to different sites and they’ll all swear that “their” way is the way to go, and granted it may be…for some. See the thing about exercise is, just as in any other way of healthy living there is not a one size fits all approach. Best suited exercises can be based on body type, fitness goal, preference/taste, ability, etc. That said, in general it is recommended that people add both some sort of cardio and resistance training into their exercise routine. (More to come in a future blog about the important of weight training!) From there, the amount and types is all up to customizing the plan for the best results for YOU!

Personally speaking, I’m going to be honest: I’ve never been a fan of running. Trust me, I’ve tried to love running, to become one of those people who hop out of bed every morning excited to run 3-5 miles (or more), but I’m just not. I think part of this is due to the fact that I was a volleyball player 9 years and used to a fast paced game. Plus, all of my high school and college workouts were centered around jumping, plyometrics, sprints, and weights–more fast-paced workouts rather than longer runs and distances. This was the idea of workout I became accustomed to. And that’s okay! There is no rule saying everyone must run 3 miles a day, although yes the benefits of running are tremendous. And to be fair, I’m preparing for a 10k next Spring, so I do run a bit longer once a week (more to come on that later). The reason this was okay, was because I found another type of workout–other than weight lifting of course–that really suits me and that I actually enjoy: HIIT/Circuit training.

HIIT stands for high intensity interval training and the basic idea is that you give all-out effort through quick bursts of exercise and then rest for a short period of time and keep switching off either for time or number of reps/rounds. This type of workout is effective because it gets and keeps your heart rate up, burns more fat, increases your metabolism and it is quick and convenient. Circuit training is similar to HIIT; however, instead of switching off between bursts of intense exercise and rest, you do a series of exercises in a row for a longer period of time with short rest in between sets. I like both of these for a variety of reasons:

1). Variety of exercises. I never get bored because I am constantly switching up the exercise that I am doing.

2). Allows me to workout harder. When I know I only have to do an exercise (say bur-pees) for a short period of time before rest or before I move on, I am able to workout at a higher intensity.

3). Sculpt multiple areas. Doing HIIT/Circuit vs. just running allows me to work on many different parts of my body and different muscle groups rather than just a few.

These are just a few of the reasons I love and choose to do HIIT/Circuit workouts. If you have never attempted either one, I suggest you give them a try to see if they fit you. Even if you aren’t looking to switch up your routine, it can always be good to try different programs to find what really works best for you and your body. Below, I have given 2 sample workouts (1 Circuit and 1 HIIT). These are just starting points. Feel free to add or take away exercises, increase or decrease the time, etc. in order to better customize this workout to your ability and fitness level. I hope you give these a try and find an amazing new way to love working out!

               HIIT                                                 Circuit

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Part 3: How to Maintain a Healthy Eating Plan

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Okay, so now you’ve read all about how to eat and what to eat, but what about how you’re going to maintain that? This is often seen as the most challenging part–continued healthy eating in your life and integrating it into your lifestyle. But that’s the great thing about eating healthy, it can be easy, fun and delicious as well as adjusted to fit your unique lifestyle! Eating healthy certainly makes you feel more energized, your body feel physically better as well as leading you to live a healthier, happier, life!

You may have seen, heard of, or experienced a “failed diet”. That’s the issue with so-called dieting; when you restrict foods or certain food groups (unless for medical health reasons of course), it can be difficult to maintain. You crave those foods that you have set as off-limits, and then eventually you give in to those temptations, binge/overindulge, feel guilty and continue into a downward spiral. But, there’s no reason to give up eating healthy if you think of it as a lifestyle change that you are making to improve yourself. Making simple switches and swap-outs gradually can help ensure that you maintain this eating plan. So the biggest thing to remember here is  not to call it or approach healthy eating as a restrictive diet, but rather a wholesome, good-for-you and well-rounded eating/nutrition plan.

What I believe to be the easiest and best way to ensure healthy eating, is to stock your kitchen with healthy foods and not with unhealthier options. Like that old proverb: out of sight, out of mind. Now, while it doesn’t work perfectly this way (you will likely think about it at the beginning), if it isn’t available to reach for than you won’t be tempted to eat it. A big tip here is to not go to the grocery store hungry. When your body is in that state of hunger, your mind begins telling yourself to grab more snacky, processed and less nutritional foods. A good plan is to make a list of everything you need beforehand, and buy only those things (on a full stomach!) at the store.  Also, as you begin to eat healthier, it will get easier to forget the junk you left behind and start to crave healthier foods.

A second thing that is important in maintaining your nutrition plan is to eat foods that taste good/that you enjoy and avoid ones that you dislike. Now, if you say you hate every single vegetable and therefore cannot and will not eat any veggies…that’s an issue where this idea does not apply. However, if you hate spinach, find a new dark leafy green to eat such as kale or bok choy. Not a big salad fan? Try different varieties to make sure or add all those cut up veggies to a veggie bowl or to your sandwich. Don’t eat eggs? Get your protein in other sources such as yogurt, nuts and lean meats. The point is that if you are constantly shoving food down that tastes gross or that you dislike, you take the pleasure out of food. And it is likely that your new eating healthy eating habits won’t last long. Instead, find foods that taste good, are healthy and that you enjoy to fill up your plate–still leaving room for a small amount of treats.

Lastly, make food enjoyable/pleasurable. Often times when on restrictive diets, people tend to view food just as fuel and who cares about what it tastes like, right? WRONG! While YES it is important to view food as fuel so that we are filling our bodies with the best options we can, but viewing it only as fuel and not as an enjoyable experience is where it goes wrong. Play around with new flavors or recipes. Enjoy food in a social setting such as going out or gathering friends. *Now, it is important if you will be at a more social event or eating out, to watch the amounts you eat. Oftentimes, portions at restaurants are actually 2-3 servings, not just one! While, yes, you should treat yourself, if you are eating 2-3 portions 2-3 times a week…the results will not be good. Make smart choices for yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions on the menu in order to eat what’s healthy and still enjoy the experience. When you do treat yourself, enjoy and savor every bite so that it will feel satisfying and not leave you needing that huge treat all the time. There are plenty of ways to eat good-for-you, healthy foods while still finding time to eat less nutritious foods and enjoy the experience of it all!

Eating healthy and maintaining that type of lifestyle doesn’t have to be challenging, painful or just plain awful. Beginning to pay attention to your body’s hunger cues and filling it with healthful foods, while still finding time to have an occasional treat, is a great start to turning your diet around. Healthy eating is both meant to be enjoyed as an experience and a great way to fuel your body to live that healthy life! And the best part is that each person can tailor it to your unique lifestyle!

Part 2: What to Eat

part-2-what-to-eatPart 2 of this series is going to be on the topic of what to eat. With all the new fad diets and trends popping up, sometimes knowing what is good and what is bad can be tricky.  First thing is that I want to get rid of food being categorized as “good” or “bad” and just think nutritious food and less nutritious. Although there may be some foods that just are plain bad for you, when food is categorized as bad or rejected, it makes the mind think itself is bad for wanting it, craving it or even enjoying it. Food is meant to be enjoyed, but it is also meant to be fuel. By focusing on filling your diet with nutritional, whole-foods and then indulging in less nutritional foods every once in a while, you will eat much better and it’ll be healthier for yourself especially in the long run.

The first step in what to eat is figuring out the amount, aka calories. There are always the arguments of whether calories actually matter and whether or not quantity vs. quality matters, and here’s the truth. Yes, calories matter because over or under eating them leads to weight gain/loss. Yes calorie quality matters for the most part because we want to eat healthy foods. BUT, you shouldn’t get hung up on calories. As mentioned in part one, listening to your body and its cues is usually the best way to go. Now, sure it is good to get an idea of the number of calories you are allowed in a day and keep a distant eye on it, but unless you are having major weight gain or weight loss issues, meticulous calorie counting is not the way to go. I cannot stress this enough because counting calories gets you on a long road that is not healthy, fun or easy to quit–so please, trust me, just don’t start. And if you already are stuck in that mindset, realize it takes time to get over it and there are resources out there to help you. To get a basic idea of calories, there are calorie calculators out there. Or you can find your basic metabolic rate (BMR) which is the calories you burn just by living and breathing, and increase the number for exercise or depending on your daily activity level. This will give you a rough estimate; however, what types of foods you are putting into your body is ultimately key.

Proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats are key components of a well-balanced and healthy diet. This will consist of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. Of course, if you choose to follow a certain way of eating such as vegetarianism or paleo, this will look a little different for you (I won’t go into them because I am definitely no expert at those types of eating habits), but you should still be getting the 3 key components mentioned above. But wait! Aren’t carbs bad and fattening? Won’t protein make me bulk up like the Hulk? The basic answer to these are no. Whole grain and fiber-rich carbohydrates are not bad in the right amount, and same goes for lean protein. The key to remember here is the amount. Yes, there is such a thing as too many carbs, BUT there is also such a thing as too little carbs that can hurt your workout performance and your everyday life as well as drain your energy levels among other things.  These 3 components, carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats, are your macro-nutrients. If you ever heard someone ask or say “what are your macro levels” this is what they are talking about. The 3 categories should each take up certain amounts in your diet, which will be different for everybody. For example, because I am active in lifting and cardio, I aim for 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat. If you are a super active athlete, that could be 50% carbs or if you are sedentary and at a desk job all day with no exercise, that could be 30% carbs. There are calculators and many suggestions on the internet as to what each person should eat. Ultimately, everyone will be different and even day-to-day could be slightly different just depending on your daily activity. But no matter what your lifestyle looks like, everyone should be getting good sources of proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats in their daily diet.

So, what are good sources of these? Good protein sources consist of eggs, Greek yogurt, milk, nuts, seafood and other lean meats such as chicken, turkey, and lean cuts of beef and pork. Many people think red meat is unhealthy, and it can be due to its high fat levels. However, a diet filled with just chicken or turkey (or just beef and pork) is not actually healthy. A better idea would be to have a good balance of these lean meats and to choose the leanest cuts such as pork tenderloin, pork boneless top loin chop, sirloin, round top roast or tenderloin. Look for high percentages of lean such as 90-97% lean. Whole grains such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, whole-wheat breads, barley and whole-grain oats are your best option for carbohydrates. This doesn’t mean that white breads and rice have to be completely eliminated. The reason people say white foods are bad is due to their lack of fiber and whole grain. This means that it may not fill you up as much and keep you full which can lead to eating more and overeating later on in the day. Plus, fiber and other nutrients from whole wheat are good for your body and your nutrient needs. However, with the 80/20 (or whatever percentage you are using) there is room for getting most of your grain requirements from whole-wheat (at least half) and adding in other sources such as white bread and rice. Lastly, healthy fat options are things such as nut and nut butters, avocado, salmon, olive oil (or coconut/avocado oil), and seeds. Good fats will be rich in polysaturated and mono-saturated fats. Trans-fats and saturated fats are the fats you want to stay away from! There is no need to fear healthy fats for your healthy lifestyle!

All of this information may seem too complicated or overwhelming for you and your life. But, it’s really not–just take it a little bit at a time. Don’t expect yourself to completely change your lifestyle and eating habits all in one week, especially if you’ve been eating a certain way for a long time. Start reading nutrient label and ingredient lists for food items to look for healthy finds. Aim to have a serving of fruits or veggies, lean proteins, whole-grains and healthy fats at every meal and snacks. Then, still be okay with consuming less nutritious items here and there. Build an eating plan filled with good nutrients, that is both healthy and works best for you, and makes your body feel the best–the results will be worth it!