How To Deal With Stress

Stress

Stress is your body’s response to a real or perceived threat.  It can actually be both good and bad.  Stress can be good for motivating you to focus and take action.  Problems start to occur when it causes you to feel completely overwhelmed.  This can cause you to try to avoid the problem that’s causing you stress and this can make the problem and the stress even worse.

How Your Body Responds To Stress

When you experience stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol.  In small amounts, cortisol isn’t a problem.  But when the stress is chronic, the concentration of cortisol in your body stays elevated causing all sorts of problems.

One of the things that elevated cortisol levels cause is it makes you crave unhealthy foods.  To add to this, when cortisol levels are high many of these extra calories get stored as abdominal fat which is the dangerous fat.

You may also find that you eat a lot more when you’re stressed.  This is because cortisol can interfere with the hormones in your body that control appetite.

What You Can Do To Combat Stress

There’s always going to be sources of stress in life but luckily there are things you can do to keep it under control.  Here are some tips to deal with stress so it doesn’t have a negative effect on you:

  • Identify your specific stress. Take the time to figure out exactly what’s causing you to feel stressed. Rather than saying, “My job is causing me so much stress,” figure out exactly what part of your job is causing you the most stress.  Maybe you’re stressed because you’ve taken on a project that is beyond your skill set.  Once you pinpoint exactly where the stress is coming from, you can take steps to take care of the problem.
  • Exercise. You can reduce cortisol levels in your body by exercising just thirty minutes each day.  I recommend interval training to get the most out of your time.  Interval training is where you alternate between lower and higher intensity periods of exertion and it actually allows you to achieve a more challenging workout in a shorter period of time than exercising at a consistent pace.
  • Eat well. You need to fuel your body smartly, especially when you’re stressed.  Eat healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats.
  • Get enough sleep. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night.  By doing this you can reduce your cortisol level by more than half of that of people who get less than six hours.  Don’t underestimate the importance of getting enough sleep.
  • Take time to relax everyday. Some people think relaxing is a waste of time and only meant for lazy people but it’s actually a necessity if you want to get your stress under control.  Your mind has a profound impact on your body so you need to take that time to relax so your mind has a chance to rest and reset.

Have A Plan

You know there’s always going to be stress in your life so start thinking of healthy ways you can deal with your future stress.  Maybe start a workout program and start stocking your kitchen with healthy foods.  Plan when you’ll have your relaxation time every day.  Have a sleep schedule that allows you to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Talk to friends and family and include them in your stress busting plans.  Stress will always be there but we get to decide how we deal with it and how much effect it has on us.

What do you do to relieve stress in your life?  Comment below so we can all help each other!

The Benefits of Practicing Gratitude

Practicing Gratitude Daily

Did you know that practicing gratitude and being thankful for what you have is good for your health and will enhance your well-being?

Have you ever caught yourself focusing on the negative and blaming people and things for certain things you don’t like in your life? I think we all do sometimes and it really doesn’t serve us in any way. Focusing on the negative puts you into a negative mindset and a negative mindset actually attracts more negativity. What if we all automatically focused on the positive?

Practicing Gratitude Improves Our Health

People who focus on the positive and practice gratitude in their life report feeling more alive, having a stronger immune system, sleeping better, and being able to handle stress better. People who write down what they’re grateful for before bed tend to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. When you go to bed feeling positive it’s much easier to relax and let the stress of the day disappear.

A study done by, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, showed that those individuals who practiced weekly gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives.

What Happens When We Practice Gratitude?

People who regularly practice gratitude experience:

·         More positive emotions

·         Lower levels of depression

·         Greater life satisfaction

·         Better health

·         Greater vitality

·         A more optimistic outlook on life

·         The ability to build stronger relationships

·         The ability to handle stress better

·         The capacity to empathetic and to be able to understand other’s perspectives

 Let’s Be Grateful!

Like any skill gratitude requires practice. Keep a gratitude journal and write down a new thing every day that you’re grateful for. Don’t just write that you’re grateful for the same stuff every day. Look for the small things in life to be grateful. I don’t love having to work super early, but I’m grateful for the lack of traffic on the mornings that I go in early.

When you actively practice gratitude, a neat thing happens. Over time you’ll notice that you start to naturally see the positive in every situation – you’ll actually start to seek out the positive spin even when situations seem negative.

Anytime we set out to form a new habit there’ll be a few obstacles along the way so set yourself up for success. Find a time during the day where you can really focus on what you’re grateful for. Maybe first thing in the morning before everyone gets up. Or maybe use your commute to think about what you’re grateful for. Even if you don’t write it down just thinking about what you’re grateful for is very beneficial for your health. Maybe start a ‘Gratitude’ Facebook group.

What Are You Grateful For?

Find something to be grateful for right now.  I’m grateful for spell check 😀

Bodyweight Training Vs. Weights

What’s better?  Bodyweight Training or Training With Weights?

 

The great debate: which is better? Bodyweight training or training with weights? The truth is both are great and both will result in strength gains and body composition improvement….as long as you do them correctly.

In order to make changes in your body you have to push beyond what you can do comfortably. With body weight training this could mean changing the way you do an exercise (ie once you can significantly increase the number of pushups you can do from your knees it’s time to start doing them from your toes).

With weight training this could mean increasing weights when appropriate (ie you can do 15 plus reps without feeling fatigued).

Let’s take a closer look at both:

Bodyweight Training:

Anytime, anywhere! All you need is your body so you can do bodyweight training anytime anywhere.

Clutter free: If you’re using bodyweight to train you don’t need to worry about finding room to store any equipment.

Great for all levels: Beginners are able to gently start strengthening their muscles without adding any extra load. Squats and kneeling pushups are a great way for a beginner to get started. For the more advanced person, bodyweight exercises can be made tougher by changing position slightly, adding plyometrics (think jump squats), adding holds and adding pulses.

Real life moves: Bodyweight exercises mimic real life moves so it basically strengthens your muscles to be able to move in ways they need to in real life situations. For instance, squatting down to pick something up or even just the act of sitting and then getting back up.

Training With Weights:

 

Faster results: If putting on a lot of muscle mass is your goal, heavy weights with fewer reps is key. Lifting weights that are heavy enough to cause your muscles to fail after 6-8 reps will build muscle faster. This is not ideal for a beginner though. The risk of injury increases as you start to lift heavier and if you don’t know proper form this is a recipe for disaster. If you’re a beginner and you want to start lifting heavy you need to work with a professional.

Easier to progress: To progress with weight training all you need to do is lift heavier weights. With body weight workouts you have to be a bit more creative. There are other more complicated weight training techniques for the more advanced lifter but by just progressively overloading your muscles you’ll keep them challenged and keep seeing results. Note: you have to keep challenging yourself. If you stay with the same weights even as you get stronger you will plateau.

HUGE variety: With weight training you have a much larger variety of exercises you can do for each muscle group. For instance you can work on your chest by doing a bench press, an incline chest press, a decline chest press, an incline chest fly and there are still others you can do for that one muscle group.

As you can see both options have great benefits and what you choose will depend on your preferences, goals and access (or no access) to equipment. Personally, I like to do a bit of both. I like to change up my routine regularly so I don’t get bored and I find by mixing it up my body feels more balanced. Whatever you choose to do make sure it’s safe and if you’re a beginner make sure you have someone who knows what they’re doing to teach you how to do things properly so you avoid injury and muscle imbalances.

Can You Out Train A Bad Diet?

You Can’t Out Train A Bad Diet

 

Have you ever used your workout to justify eating something that you know you shouldn’t?  If you’re doing this regularly you’ll soon realize you can’t out train a bad diet.

Don’t Fall For This Common Belief

A lot of people think that if they exercise it gives them a free pass on what they put into their body.  Unfortunately, this is not true.  Physical activity requires proper nutrition in order for it to be effective.  You could be training your butt off but if you’re not feeding yourself with high nutrient food your body doesn’t have what it needs to recover properly and get stronger.  Pizza, nachos, cookies and other processed high sugar foods will cause your performance to suffer and you’ll suffer too.

Exercise

Our body needs exercise.  Have you ever gotten up from your desk after hours of working and felt stiff and sore?  Sitting for long periods of time is not what the human body was meant to do.  In order to build strength and keep mobile without pain we need to move every single day.  Also, regular exercise reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and some cancers by at least 30%.

Nutrition

Here’s something to consider: in the last 30 years, the percentage of people who exercise regularly hasn’t really changed that much.  BUT the percentage of people who are overweight and obese has skyrocketed!  The problem?  Poor nutrition!

Why has nutrition been so poor?  Over the past 30 years the number of processed foods have increased dramatically.  Processed foods are very low in nutrition and are filled with artificial ingredients, sugar, preservatives and chemicals.  A healthy body cannot be built with these ingredients.  Unfortunately, these processed foods are super convenient and super addictive.  No wonder a lot of us want to use exercise as a means to justify eating poorly.

If you are trying to lose weight, exercise alone will not be enough.  Exercise is what sustains weight loss, but without proper nutrition you won’t lose the weight you want to lose.  If you’re trying to be healthy exercise is not enough.  What you put into your body is what your body is going to use to recover and rebuild.  If your nutrition is substandard your body will be substandard.

Some Reasons You Can’t Out Train a Bad Diet

  1. Not all calories are created equal. If you’re thinking that in order to indulge in high calorie junk foods all you have to do is burn off that amount of calories, I’m sorry to tell you that it doesn’t actually work that way.  Also, most people highly underestimate the amount of calories they’re actually eating.  It’s not as simple as calories in vs. calories out because different types of calories affect our hormones and metabolism differently.  Of course over consuming calories whether healthy or not can lead to weight gain but you first want to focus on the quality of the food you are consuming.
  1.  You can’t fuel your body with junk and expect it to perform. What happens when you use low grade fuel to fill your gas tank?  Your car doesn’t run as well.  Same with your body!  Your body needs certain building blocks in order for it to be able to perform optimally.  If you want to see results and feel your best (at any age) you need to eat quality protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and the right amount of carbohydrates for your body and activity level.
  1. Lack of nutrients will backfire on you.  Don’t be tempted to cut our healthy macronutrients in order to lose weight.  Cutting out too many calories and/or carbohydrates will leave you without the energy your body needs to train consistently.  If your nutrition plan is super restrictive and you’re doing some hardcore training, you could be doing yourself some real harm and you won’t get stronger – you’ll get weaker.   When you don’t feed your hard working body enough high quality nutrients your body will start to use muscle mass for energy.  If this happens on an ongoing basis not only do you get weaker and are more prone to injuries, but your metabolism slows down making it harder and harder to keep weight off.
  1. Doing one without the other will leave you feeling unmotivated. Ever notice how when you eat well, you are more motivated to move, and when you move you are more motivated to eat wellEating junk leaves you feeling tired and bogged down.  The last thing you want to do when you’re feeling that way is exercise.  Nourish your body properly and enjoy your workouts.
  1. Injury and illness.  Poor nutrition can lead to a weakened immune system as well as micronutrient deficiencies and increased inflammation throughout your body.   These will result in you being more susceptible to illness and injury leaving you unable to train.  Studies have shown that not getting an adequate amount of healthy fats into your diet may raise your chances for overuse injuries (such as stress fractures and tendonitis).

You Gotta Eat to Support Your Training

I know nutrition can seem confusing so for now don’t get bogged down with all the numbers.  Start making small changes in your diet.  Try cutting out processed foods the majority of the time and adding more whole foods.  Start with small changes that you’re comfortable with and move on when you’re ready.  If you let yourself get overwhelmed you won’t stick with it.  And don’t make the mistake of telling yourself you’ll never eat your favourite, not so good for you foods ever again – this will only make you want them more.  I like the 80/20 rule – eat well 80% of the time and indulge in your favourite treats 20% of the time.

Things you can do to optimize your nutrition and support your training.

  1. Eat protein with each meal. We need protein!  Protein is made up of amino acids that are the building blocks for muscle.  Women want to aim for 1 palm size portion (20-30 grams) and males 2 palm size portions (40-60 grams) with each meal.
  1. Have 1-2 servings of non-starchy vegetables with each meal.  Non-starchy vegetables are high in fiber and packed with phytonutrients.  Eat them raw or only lightly steamed to get the most nutrient value out of them.
  1. Eat starchy carbohydrates after your strength training sessions. If weight loss is a goal of yours have your starchy carbohydrates (yams, sweet potatoes, potatoes, etc.) in the meal that follows your training session.  If optimized performance is your goal, you may want to add in starchy carbs at each meal.  Play around with it a bit to see what your body reacts best to.  A starting point for women would be approximately ½ – ¾ cup and for men 1-1 ½ cups.  You will likely need to adjust based on how you are looking, feeling, and performing so I’d suggest keeping a journal.  You don’t hear this a lot but when it comes to carbohydrates LESS IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER!
  1. Invest in a nutrient dense shake.  Shakes have come a long way over the years!  They can be a great post workout meal if you don’t have time to make a whole food meal.  Because it’s liquid your body is able to absorb it more easily since it doesn’t need to break it down as much.  Shakes can also be a great breakfast idea if you don’t like eating solid food first thing in the morning or if you’re having one of those days where you don’t have time to sit down to lunch and need to take it with you on the road.  Not just any shake though.  Make sure your shake has all the nutrients you need with no artificial flavours or colours.  Even though shakes have come a long way there are still some really junky ones out there.  Price is a good clue.  If it’s cheap it’s because the quality of the nutrients is low.  This is why the manufacturers can afford to sell it so cheap.  Don’t cheap out when it comes to nourishing your body because in the end it’s not worth it.

Eat Well, Train Well, Live Well

 

Being fit and healthy isn’t complicated but it does require balance.  You need to eat right, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, manage stress and have the support of friends and family.  It takes a bit of effort but isn’t it worth it to have a body that moves with ease and energy to keep up with life?

Health Benefits of Essential Oils

Essential Oils

 

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about essential oils. I’ve used essential oils in the past. When I was going through the worst of my depression and anxiety and was having more frequent panic attacks I had decided to look into aromatherapy. I didn’t study it extensively but I did start using essential oils to help lift my mood and I did find it very calming.

Hearing more about it lately piqued my interest so, as I do with everything that I’m curious about, I decided to do a bit of research to learn a bit more. First of all, I wanted to know exactly how scent affects our brain.

How Scent Affects Our Brain

 

Here’s the super simple explanation: When you smell something the scent gets routed through your olfactory bulb which is closely connected with the area of the brain that handles memory and emotion  This is why a certain smell can transport you back in time or just make you feel a certain emotion for no particular reason. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious certain scents can help calm you and give you a feeling of well-being. This could be because your brain associates it with a time and place where you felt calm and safe although there are certain scents such as lavender that naturally have this calming effect. Scientists have discovered that scents can actually influence the biochemistry of your nervous system.

The Amazing Essential Oil

 

Essential oils are naturally occurring volatile aromatic compounds found in plants. (volatile just means they turn quickly from a solid or liquid to a gas at room temperature). Research shows that they can be particularly beneficial in such things as improving mood, alleviating stress, improving sleep, relieving nausea, relieving pain, improving your memory and increasing your energy. At the start of my spin classes I always ask how people are feeling and pretty much always at least one person says ‘tired’. By the end of the class everyone feels energized and great. Imagine if they could get that feeling of energy as they walked into my studio due to a few drops of some essential oils on a diffuser!

How To Use Essential Oils

 

Here are a few ways you can use essential oils:

 

  • Put some drops on a diffuser.
  • Massage into your skin. Massage onto pulse points for an alternative to perfume.
  • Put a few drops in your bath water.
  • Dietary supplement NOTE***only consume essential oils that are of clinical grade. Most are therapeutic grade and should not be ingested ***

Some Other Creative Uses For Essential Oils:

 

There are many other uses for essential oils that are worth looking at. Here are a few:

  • Cleaning spray.
  • Room deodorizer.
  • Home-made soaps and lotions.
  • Skin care – tea tree oil is great for pimples.
  • Insect repellants – bugs hate citrus 😉

Worth Looking Into!

 

Essential oils have the power to enhance your physical and mental health in a natural, chemical-free way and are a great addition to your other healthy habits. Make sure you use high quality essential oils otherwise you could be using something that might be toxic. Look for a statement of purity – you want 100% essential oil meaning it hasn’t been diluted or mixed with anything. Price can be the big clue – if it’s cheap it’s most likely of poor quality.

If you want more information leave a comment below.