Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

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License to Sin: How to Dodge a Devilish Self-Control Loophole

 You want another slice of cake or glass of wine, but you know you shouldn’t have one.

It’s the classic self-control dilemma.
But luckily there’s a loophole; sometimes we mentally give ourselves permission to indulge: “Well, I’ve worked hard today, so I’ll have another slice of cake or glass of wine.”
Now there’s a ‘license to sin’.
A recent study cleverly demonstrates this ‘license to sin’ and shows how dangerous it can be (de Witt Huberts et al., 2012).

A little snack

To investigate, the researchers tricked one group of people into thinking they’d worked twice as hard on a boring test as another group.
Both groups were then asked to do a ‘taste test’ of some rather tempting looking snacks.
The group that thought they’d worked harder now had more of a ‘license to sin’ as a reward to themselves.
And sure enough they ate, on average, 130 calories more in 10 minutes than the other group.
It’s fascinating that the participants did this without being told they’d worked harder or being given any other cues.
Also remember that, on average, both groups had their mental self-control muscles depleted the same amount as they’d both spent the same time doing the boring task.

Avoid the loophole

What this study is showing is that these well-worn mental thought processes can be insidious. The mind has all sorts of tricks it plays so that it can get what it wants.
The ‘license to sin’ is one of them. You want to over-indulge, so your mind creates this little story that says: I’ve worked hard, so I deserve it.
The clever thing is that it can completely bypass all those logical, rational things we’ve told ourselves about healthy eating (or whatever it is) and, non-coincidentally, we get what we want.
None of this is to say that we shouldn’t indulge ourselves from time-to-time, but the question is: how often is the license to sin being invoked?
It’s a way of allowing our misbehaviour that is like an exception we all know about, but somehow don’t pull ourselves up on.
Being more aware of, and watching out for this trick may be useful in bolstering our self-control.
source: PsyBlog

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15 Healthy Practices You Already Know (But Should Go Ahead & Start Doing)


Here are 15 things you already know that you should really just go ahead and start practicing now, because the older version of yourself will be eternally grateful if you do. For that matter, everyone will be glad you did.

1. Move your body.

You can’t underestimate the power of experiencing the strength of your physical body in healthy ways. Find healthy movement that you enjoy and try to participate in it at least 60 minutes daily. You’re establishing rhythms that will support you throughout your life, so get moving!

2. Eat more plants.

Your body craves nourishment in every calorie. Why do you think you can’t stop eating that junk food!? Save yourself the trouble of discovering your metabolism can no longer handle all the crap you eat, and fill your plate with greens and veggies.

3. Get your rest

You need it. Turn off the television and smartphone and light up a candle. Take a bath or some deep breaths. Starting the rhythm of peaceful quietude at the end of your day is something that will change your entire state of being. Trust me, if the older version of you with two young kids and a full time career can figure out how to make it happen, so can you. And doing it now will help her a lot.

4. Drink water

There are three main ways for toxins to leave your body: through urine, poop, and sweat. Drinking lots of water helps them on their way (and if you didn’t pick up on it yet, plants and moving daily will too). In addition having a hydrated body is a happy body, so fill up that water glass and throw away the soda.

5. Wear sunscreen

You’ll like the crow’s feet you have from all the smiles, but the scars from the “suspicious moles” removed? Not so much. Save yourself the trouble and slop on that sunscreen.

6. Brush and floss.

Your teeth (and gums) reflect your overall health, so take care of them! You probably have the brushing down, but get that flossing going too, every time! See your dentist every six months, and brush and floss after every meal! If you’re feeling extra adventurous, do some oil pulling too!

7. Make connections (in person!) with nature and people.

Life is amazing and beautiful, but you have to look up from your phone to see it. Please connect with nature and people in real life rather than through your technology. And when you are with them, keep your technology away. The filling of the heart and mind you’ll experience will surprise you.

8. Accept that it’s OK to be bummed, but keep it in perspective.

Life can be very hard, and suffering can be overwhelming. So give yourself a break if you’re bummed by something that feels trivial compared to the suffering in our world. It doesn’t take away from your knowledge of how fortunate you are. If you’re overwhelmed by the larger picture, get smaller. Focus on those in your family or community you can impact daily in positive ways through your attitude and presence. Even though you can’t see it yet, it’s changing the world for the better. 

mirror mirror

9. Be you.

Make the best of your unique gifts and appreciate your opportunity on this earth. You are worthy of any good that comes your way. Embrace it, embrace yourself, and shine on. Life is not a competition, so just bring your best, most sincere self forward and experience the joy in being you.

10. Be kind.

When I say be kind, I don’t mean sugary fake sweetness. Be sincerely kind. When interacting with others, focus a whole lot more about how people feel in your presence than how they feel about you personally.

11. Remember that your beauty comes from the inside.

The most beautiful people are those who nourish and support their inner self, and care sincerely about others. Please take good care of your body; you want it to be a long-term home for you. Investing your energy in coming from a place of love and nourishment for your body will do more for you than any beauty cream or regimen!

12. Nurture your relationships.

Your friends will be there through all of your life. Pick ones who uplift your spirit, bring out the best in you, want the best for you, and ones with whom you can be vulnerable. Once you have them, make time for them! Get together at least once every month, or chat on the phone if they’re far away. Do not let time, distance, the love of your life, and the little loves to follow squeeze out the important time with them. They’re an important part of you, and will continue to be as you grow and change.

13. Be smart about your money!

Have a budget based on your income and expenses and stick to it. For “non-essentials” like meals out, or more things or experiences, set a budget if available and use cash for the expenditures.

14. Envision the life you want and go after it with passion.

The best way to get there? Hard work, thoughtfulness, patience and reflection. With each goal, ask yourself, “Does this decision help me get there?” If yes, go for it; if no, pass.

15. Give thanks.

Find the things you’re grateful for and give thanks; daily, if possible, in every breath when needed.

Bonus: Remember it’s never too late to change.

You can change. So if you’re reading this in your 30s wishing could actually give this to yourself in your 20s, picture your 50-year-old self saying the same thing to you now and get started! You’re worth it, you’re worthy of it, and you can do it! But you already knew these things anyway, so…

       Thanks and love you,

                     Your Older Self 

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Build a Better You, One Habit at a Time

by Susan Olding 

Susan Olding is an award-winning writer, poet, and storyteller. She also works as part of the curriculum development team at Precision Nutrition, the world’s largest online nutrition coaching company. The views expressed herein are hers.
Let’s say you want to get in better shape. Of course, you’re smart, informed, and know exactly what to do. So you’ve listed the changes you need to make, pinning them to the fridge next to the vision board and inspirational photos. Here’s the only problem: You haven’t actually done anything on the list. You’re struggling with the getting started part.
Or maybe that’s not you at all.

Maybe you’re the “fit one” among your friends. Maybe you’re even a trainer. Countless friends, family members, co-workers, or clients seek your advice. And you send them workout plans, links to the best websites and apps, meal plans, and lots of encouragement.

Yet it’s always the same story. They can’t seem to follow through. What’s going on here?

After all, it’s not that difficult to eat more veggies and lean protein. Not that impossible to cut out the diet soda and drink more water or green tea. Not that overwhelming to lift weights several times a week, add some high intensity interval training, and get more sleep. That’s because itisn’t difficult. Providing you’re already doing that stuff.

What is difficult is trying to do all those things at once. Especially if the practices are brand-new and none of them are daily habits. That’s because getting fit — or learning any new skill — is a bit like juggling. If you begin by randomly throwing a dozen balls in the air, what’s going to happen?


The solution to this problem? Start practicing with one ball. When you’ve got that one under control, add another. Get that one under control, and add another. And so on. Soon, you’ll be running off to join the circus.

One Habit at a Time

To support this analogy, bestselling author Leo Babauta estimates that when people focus on changing a single behavior at a time, the likelihood that they’ll retain their new habit for a year or more is around 80 per cent.

But what about those who try to change two or more behaviors at once? In them, he asserts, success rates drop as low as 20 per cent.
Of course, there’s nothing new in the idea that focusing on less helps you achieve more. Experts in all walks of life have recognized it for years. As Guelph University psychology professor Ian Newby-Clark explains:
“Habits are highly ingrained behaviors. They are almost automatic. Changing one habit is hard enough. Trying to change more than one at a time is often a recipe for disaster. So, despite the occasional example to the contrary, my advice is to focus on one habit at a time.”
Here’s the only problem: In the world of fitness, we still haven’t caught on. So when people decide they want to get into shape, they feel as if they have to do everything at once. Join the gym, check. Buy some new running shoes, check. Set the alarm for 4:30am, check. Cut out all the junk food, check. Eat more broccoli, check.
They mentally prepare themselves for an all-out assault on fitness and, after a few short days or weeks… splat!
Maybe this is why so many people who lose weight put it all back on. Instead of making fitness and weight loss a long-term, sustainable practice, they made it a short-term, inconvenient project. But surely, if someone hires a fitness trainer, the trainer will help prevent this problem. Right?
Unfortunately, some fitness trainers aren’t too great at helping their clients prioritize and build from where they are. Rather, most of them focus on the top 10 percent of clients who, endowed with superhuman genetic gifts, can juggle dozens of habits right from the start.
The other 90 percent? They give up and head back home to their couches, all of them forgotten by the fitness industry.
“A high percentage of people stop exercising within six months,”* says Kris Berg, Ed.D., an exercise physiologist at the University of Nebraska. Overwhelmed by the task of trying to build new exercise and nutrition plans into their already overly busy lives, they give up.

Habits for Life

Fortunately, there’s a small segment of the fitness industry doing things differently. These fitness professionals (and their clients) realize that harnessing the power of less can be accomplished through something called “habit based coaching.” Instead of counting calories, trying to follow rigid meal plans, and trying to adopt the perfect exercise program from day one, habit based coaching starts with a simple daily practice.
Based on your starting point, that practice might be to go for a 15-minute walk every day. It might be to take fish oil and a multivitamin each day. It might be to start the day with breakfast. (Of course, these practices can be scaled up or down).
Then, every two weeks, once the previous practice has become a habit, you can add another one. Each habit builds on the last until 6 or 12 months later, you’ve been transformed. And not just physically.
By using the one habit at a time approach, you don’t just lose fat. You also internalize a new way of being and that lasts longer than willpower or discipline, which are both finite resources.
As just one example, at Precision Nutrition, we’ve put habit or practice-based coaching to work in our Lean Eating coaching program, which has been called the largest body transformation project in the world. To date, nearly 10,000 clients have lost over 200,000 pounds — one simple practice at a time.
What we’re proudest of is the fact that our clients do what we ask them to do a whopping 75 percent of the time. This high compliance rate is a testament to the effectiveness of simplifying the health and fitness process. Admittedly, at first this feels too slow to many clients. They come in expecting pain, misery, and impossible sacrifice. But none of that is necessary. In fact, this approach is untenable if you want to maintain life-long leanness, health, and fitness. And isn’t that what we all want?

Following Through

So, how can you use the principles of habit-based coaching to get in shape yourself? Or to help friends, family or clients?  Here are a few examples:
  • Start small. First, when it comes to making any kind of lifestyle change, it’s best to start small and build. Begin by choosing one practice to follow. It could be drinking 8 cups of water each day. Sleeping 8 hours each night. Or exercise 30 minutes each day. Just be sure to choose only one and follow it for 2 weeks before adding any new habits.
  • Make things clear and measurable. Next, make sure the practice is clear and measurable. “Eat more veggies” isn’t that useful. “Eat 1 fist-sized portion of vegetables with each meal” is much better. At the end of each day you can know for sure if you did it or not.
  • Gain confidence first. Finally, make the practice something you (or your client) feels confident they can do every day. Even if the habit sounds small, if it’s not something that inspires confidence, it’s not a great practice to begin with.
One recommended practice could be “Eat five fist-sized servings of vegetables each day.”  This practice is clear and easy to measure. Either you ate your five servings (or more) or you didn’t. Yet is it truly a small habit? That depends.
For some people, the ones who can’t wait for their weekly organic produce delivery, it is almost laughably small. For others, it’s a just-right challenge, the kick in the pants they need to make an improvement that’s not too hard for them to make.
But for others, those who have trouble identifying a fresh vegetable much less preparing it, the habit may be too difficult. And that presents the perfect opportunity to shrink the task.
If five servings of vegetables a day is too ambitious a goal, you might aim for two servings a day until that feels like a do-able challenge. We can stretch the practice to five servings later.
Of course, you’ll sometimes have to scale it back until the habit seems ridiculously small. You might even wonder how it could ever produce any meaningful change.
The answer is it might not, at least today. But build on the small change, and you’ll be amazed at what can be accomplished over a few months. Even more, you’ll be surprised at how sustainable these new practices become.
In the end, treat your new health and fitness program like you might approach learning to juggle.  Sure, you might not run off to join the circus.  But you’ll end up with the strength, energy, and balance of a circus performer. And that’s an achievement most of us can get behind.
source: greatist.com

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Health Nuts

I’ve suspected it for sometime now … the evolution over the past few years – leading me in a direction I’ve never been on …

For most of my life I’d been an average member of the masses. Like most people … eating and drinking like most others … being a good little consumer … accepting, trusting … living like most. Occasionally hearing rumblings of health news, but overwhelmed and paralyzed by information overload – conflicting data left me confused, so I simply kept doing what I’d always been doing.

I’m not the same person I was 10 or 20 years ago. I read labels, research diet and health related information, and I am more selective about what I consume. I try to eat smarter, stay active and get enough sleep. I have made better health more of a priority in my life.

I am a health nut.

Recently, someone said it out loud … and while I’d kind of known it for a while, to actully hear it knid of solidifies it.

OK … it could be worse – if I have to be some kind of nut, a health nut is not so bad.

I tend to overcompinsate. So, at some point a while back, I changed my evil ways and saw the light – haliluah.

The whole health thing can be a kind of religion. There are those that beieve organics is a waste of money and a big scam. Us health nuts believe that traditional processed foods most often contribute to many of our health problems. Whatever you believe, you can count on yourself to find ways to justify your beliefs and actions … it helps to reassure ourselves that we are on the right path.

Now remember – it’s all relative … in comparison to many elite athletes, I am probably just another average Joe … if you were to compare my diet to someone who loves their pepsi, french fries and fast food every week, I might look like a health nut.

I know I’m not alone. There is a quiet revolution gaining momentum. The wheels are turning slowly, but they are turning. There are more organics in the supermarkets these days. Social media helps expose deceitful, greedy companies. More and more people are making healthier choices.

Our perceptions of one another are limited to the little slices of ourselves we share with others. The labels we attach are based on little snippets of who we are … but people are usually more than just one thing.

I was having a conversation with a student the other day about this. One person can be many things. I am, or have been, a driver, a network lab administrator, a DJ, an extra … a roadie, a husband, a stage manager, a web designer, a patient, a salesman, a father, a waiter, an actor, a student, an educator, a brother, a student council president, a cyclist, a clerk at a video store, a blogger …

We can be anything we want in life. I may not be famous or rich, but I like where I am. All the things I’ve done and all the people I’ve know have brought me to where I am today and I am happy to be here.

I have a wonderful loving, supportive spouse, I work at a wonderful school with terrific kids and caring staff, and I am on a path to better health.

~ Pete “Health Nut” Szekely

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Time and energy

I used to believe the weekend was for socializing and/or relaxing – an opportunity to recharge your batteries after the work week. These days it seems that the weekends are a chance just to catch up … to take care of chores and other responsibilities not attended to during the week.

Compared to many others I am actually quite lucky in some ways. I have no kids, no pets, no plants … I have a wonderful supportive, intelligent, loving partner … My only major formal locked-in time commitment is my Educational Assistant job weekday afternoons; my other job as a Web Designer is pretty flexible time wise. I play volleyball 3 or 4 times during the week.

What happens when we don’t get enough rest? We burn out. Our bodies need opportunities to recover from activity … we can become vulnerable to more problems – our immune systems can become compromised.

It’s important to be active, but it’s just as important to get enough sleep every night, and pace yourself. If you overwork yourself, you may become sick. It is important to listen to our bodies … You may have a lot on your plate, but it’s in your best interest to find a way of not over doing it.

My weekend to-do list often involves vacuuming, laundry, grocery shopping and a few computer related duties. If you are a working single mother, you likely have a much fuller to-do list than I … and at the same time it may be even more important that you need to take care of your health, so that you are not missing work and able to take care of all your responsibilities.

It can be a challenging balancing act, but without appropriate rest, the stress will take it’s toll. It may take the form of a cut that won’t heal, the common cold or maybe lay the ground work for something more serious.

When I find myself feeling run down, I know it’s time to slow down. I will postpone or rearrange things, delegate … I know that becoming run down could just lead to illness. I might examine my diet … perhaps it’s too much carbs, or not enough iron.

Our bodies will tell us when we are overdoing it … and if we don’t listen to it, we can often be forced to take a break- the next thing you know you are phoning in sick, missing work, not feeling well and not taking care of things around the house.

Rest and relaxation are an important part of health. It’s as crucial as exercise and diet. If you are not sleeping well or feeling stressed to the point of burn out, do yourself a favour and find a way of getting the rest you need to be at your best. Make it happen … if you can’t seem to find a way on your own, talk with your doctor. You’ll be no good to anyone if you run yourself ragged and end up getting sick : )

~ Pete Szekely ~

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Start with one hour a week of exercise: Doctor and author of ‘Antiaging 101’

By Ellen Warren, Chicago Tribune November 3, 2011

You’ve got to love a fitness expert whose exercise mantra is “make it short and sweet.”

How short? Twenty minutes, three times a week. But even less at first.

For those of us who are, shall we say, exercise averse, this is magical.

Federal guidelines advise Americans age 18 to 64 to get 2 1/2 hours a week of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.

Frank Comstock, Tucson, Ariz., doctor and author of the book “Antiaging 101,” specializes in wellness and anti-aging. He insists that all it takes to truly be fit is an hour a week. So why not start there? Anything is better than nothing!

You’ll also be happy to hear Comstock say, “If I’m out of shape, the last place I would go is a gym. You see all these machines, and you see these guys walking around. You don’t know what you’re doing. The key is to find something you like.”

So, how does this 20-minute workout do the job? It’s all about “interval training,” he says, which means short bursts of higher intensity aerobics, then returning to shorter periods of lower intensity. For instance, walk at a normal pace for two minutes than as fast as you can for 20 or 30 seconds. Then repeat. Gradually increase the fast bursts and decrease the slow ones.

Comstock recommends:

Find the exercise that is least objectionable, like walking, swimming, jump rope, jumping jacks, doing squats.

If you’re just beginning, pick a shorter time — even 5 minutes twice a week — then build up slowly.

Don’t give up. If you’re at the 20 minute/three times a week level and just don’t feel like exercising, employ the 10-minute rule. “Start your exercise session and plan on working out for only 10 minutes” that day, he recommends.

If that doesn’t work, “look in the mirror.” Sometimes, says Comstock. That’ll probably be enough to get you back off the couch and into your interval zone again.