Jump-start your Metabolism for the New Year

In our impatient society we live in, we want our coffee ready in minutes, our photos developed in less than an hour and grocery shopping to be as easy as the click of a button. So naturally, we all want a quick and simple fix for our metabolism too. The reality is that our metabolisms have been beaten to a pulp over the years from meal skipping, over-eating and poor food choices. Fear not. Your metabolism is not doomed; however, it will take some time and a little (okay a lot) of TLC to get it back to a beautiful fire it once was (or at least should be).

Before I continue, I want to remind you of a few small things.

  • You will make MISTAKES.
  • You will get OFF TRACK.
  • You will MISS THE MARK several times.

And, all that is perfectly OKAY. You are human. You will make mistakes but make sure you take the opportunity to learn from them. Take your focus off avoiding failure (perfection) and turn it towards chasing improvement.

Let us focus on one simple task. By accomplishing this behavior, over time, you will regenerate your metabolism, have more energy and feel better each and every day you achieve it.

Start every day by striking a match. No, not physically rather metaphorically speaking for your metabolism. To do this, you must eat breakfast every day and increase the protein content in it. The average American consumes most of their protein in the latter half of the day. Protein is pivotal to improving satiety, increasing energy levels and controlling hormones. These benefits can be further maximized if protein ingestion begins with the first feeding of the day.

Strive to get at least 15-20 grams of protein with breakfast. This can be easily accomplished by choosing high-protein foods such as eggs, cottage cheese, lean breakfast meats, cheese, Greek yogurt and beans. Protein supplements such as bars, shakes and powders can help create a high-protein smoothie, power-packed oatmeal or can serve as a quick grab-and-go menu item.

It’s okay if you eat the same breakfast every day. It helps build routine and conditions the mind and body to crave real food upon waking. The more consistent you are, the easier it is to incorporate a variety of protein sources and stick to your routine when you are traveling, stressed or just generally off-schedule.

Remember, consistency always trumps rigidity. Let this be the year you kick start yourself towards health!

Drinking for your Health (Spoiler: It’s Water)

Have you made a New Year’s resolution to drink more water? A healthy level of water in your body helps keep your temperature normal, lubricates and cushions your joints, protects your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues and gets rid of wastes. While most people know that the “recommended” amount of water per day is 8-10 cups, that is actually an arbitrary number not based on any science. As long as you are drinking water when you’re thirsty and with meals, you are drinking a healthy amount of water. However, if you think you’re not getting enough water each day, it’s a good idea to start getting into some healthy water-drinking habits.

While most people know that the “recommended” amount of water per day is 8-10 cups, that is actually an arbitrary number not based on any science.

Here are some tips from the CDC for drinking more water:

  • Carry a water bottle for easy access when you are at work or running errands.
  • Freeze some freezer safe water bottles. Take one with you for ice-cold water all day long.
  • Choose water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Choose water when eating out.
  • Add a wedge of lime or lemon to your water. This can help improve the taste and help you drink more water than you usually do.

If you’re one of those people who has committed to drinking more water this year but maybe doesn’t like the taste, try one of these water infusion recipes in the video below!


This New Year, Try a “Non-resolution”

It’s January, so that means maybe you are thinking about a new year with a clean slate. And to help make this clean slate, a New Year’s resolution. Just like I love to celebrate “Christmas in July” (all baking included!), I love to make New Year’s “non-resolutions.” Think about it: How many times have you set a resolution, only for it to last a week or two—a month at best? Plus, most resolutions don’t have anything to do with you, your willpower (I don’t believe in willpower) or capabilities. Instead, resolutions seem to focus on an unrealistic action, such as “I am going to lose 50 pounds this year.”

This New Year, make a “non-resolution.” Think about it: How many times have you set a resolution, only for it to last a week or two—a month at best?

Step 1: Come up with the defining word or phrase for your year.

I encourage you to come up with a 2018 goal for yourself—in a word or phrase—and break it into a 12-month SMART goal(s). This word or phrase should be geared to some form of your health and well-being. I find when you focus on one area, other areas seem to fall into line.

What does SMART stand for?

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Achievable 
R = Realistic
T = Time specific

Why break your word or saying into 12 months? Well, it customarily takes 21 days to make a behavior change, so you start small and build on these month-long habit formations. Then your 2018 goal should be much more realistic and achievable.

Step 2: Translate your word or phrase into action.

Based upon your word or phrase, write down as many healthy actions you can think of to help reach this goal. Keep in mind things you can actually DO and not the end results. The SMART acronym can then help you to break these DOs down to make more realistic and achievable outcomes. Don’t be afraid to break your monthly DO into weekly DOs. For example, a goal for the month could be to eat more vegetables. The monthly SMART goal would be to eat a minimum of 30 servings of vegetables. And broken down even more, a week goal could be: “I will eat a non-starchy vegetable every day at dinner.”

Step 3: Evaluate your goal each month.

Once the week or month is over, look back at your goal and see how well it did or did not work. Did you achieve this goal? And since you set a weekly or monthly SMART goal then you can see how well or well not the specific goal worked for you. Here’s the key, if you struggled at achieving or didn’t achieve your first month’s goal, that’s ok. Troubleshoot with it and either work on it again the next month or put off for another month later in the year.

Step 4: Start at a time that’s right for you.

So when should you start? You want to make sure you have a fresh mind and are more rejuvenated than you may be on January 1st. So if you don’t sit down to work on these until the middle of January, so be it. But make sure you have plenty of tools in your toolbox to help you complete this new thought process.

What does a “non-resolution” really look like?

Here’s my personal goal for 2018, along with a few of my monthly SMART goals with the tools I have in my toolbox to accomplish it.

My word for 2018 is PEACE.

It feels like I have had disorder and mayhem in my life for about the last 6 months. I have found this is starting to affect aspects of my health, so I want to focus on trying to be more peaceful this year. This may not be what you expected, but I’m trying to show you how this can be outside-of-the box thinking on becoming healthier.

Some of the areas I am focusing on to have more PEACE are:

  • Meal planning
  • Reducing stress
  • Rest
  • Exercise

I’m kicking the New Year off with my first SMART goal to be about MEAL PLANNING. The first week of January, I will plan three dinners for the days of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (the days I work). These, of course, will be planned around the plate method (one starch, one protein, unlimited non-starchy vegetables). The second week goal is to plan four dinners, Monday through Thursday. The third week goal is to plan five dinners, Monday through Friday. Finally, the last week goal is to plan again for 5 weeks. There’s flexibility in this: If I find moving from three to four meals a week is too much, then I’ll go back to the three meals a week and establish this goal. There is flexibility with the goals, but the ultimate achievement is to set specific and realistic parts of your goal.

For February, my SMART goal will be about REST. Believe it or not, I’m setting a bedtime goal. There have been too many nights where I’ve stayed up until midnight or later because I’m doing dishes, doing laundry or cleaning after the kids are bed. So for the month of February, my goal is to go to bed at 10:30 p.m. four nights out of each week. This would allow for a minimum of seven-ish hours of sleep for myself, as my alarm goes off at 6 a.m.

Hopefully this gives you some ideas to help you get more focused on the simplicity of achieving a healthier you in 2018. What about you? Share your non-resolutions below—I’d love to hear what your personal word or saying is for 2018!

Grocery Store Gimmicks

Green coffee extract pills, veggie straws, Slimfast shakes, protein bars … the list goes on. This time of year, you’ll find items like these lining entrance ways of grocery stores and displayed on every aisle endcap. To the untrained eye, all of these products look like the keys to successful weight loss. But sadly, most of these products are just promotions that will be wasting your time and money. Remember, your diet is not made healthier by the addition of one single superfood or supplement, rather health is derived from a synergy of nutrients from a variety of sources and food groups. This time of year, I strive to provide helpful reminders of what is actually healthy for you and what is just a big gimmick.

Woman with Shopping Basket

Veggie Straws, Vegetable Thins, Vegetable Crisps. These crunchy substitutions may sound healthier because of the word “vegetable” in their title; but, in reality, they are simply glorified chips and crackers. They are still processed, still contain a bunch of added chemicals and still do not count as a serving of vegetables.

Fat-Free or Sugar-Free Anything. I know it’s incredibly tempting to think that something without fat or added sugar would be a shoe-in health product. The problem is that removing the fat and sugar from a recipe often requires the addition of several fillers, starch modifiers and other chemical substitutes. Basically, you are now consuming a more processed, less-natural food product.

Recently there has been a large movement in health that regards the quality of our food more so than the actual amount of fat, calories or sugar in a product. In fact, America’s obesity trends show that obesity rates began to sky rocket when the low-fat guidelines were implemented back in the 1970s. This stimulates the theory that low-fat or fat-free products are not as healthy as we once thought they were.


Obese Graph

CLICK HERE for graph source

100-calorie packs. While these items are great for their convenience factor and controlling portions, the downfall is that you really are only consuming 100 calories worth of simple carbs and sugars. The lack of protein, healthy fats and other filling nutrients in these items will leave you hungry and dissatisfied. Another point to consider is that these 100-calorie snack packs are the more expensive form of you purchasing the regular-sized version of the food product and separating the package into individual servings yourself.

Pre-Made Super Juices. While I agree that juicing at home is a great way to incorporate extra servings of fruit and veggies into your day, you want to stay away from the commercial, pre-made kinds. Naked Juice and Bolthouse juices seem to be the more popular varieties sold in stores these days. The phrases “100% juice” or “all natural” is quite enticing to most people, but really these sayings do not hold much value. Naked Juice, which is owned by PepsiCo, was sued last year for having “all natural” on their label when in fact, they contained synthetic ingredients. All you are really paying for in these juices is liquid sugar with a squirt of vitamins, not to mention a nice blood sugar spike in persons with pre-diabetes and diabetes.

Weight Loss Supplements. The bottom line is that they are not safe. Every year, dozens are pulled from store shelves due to lawsuits and fraudulent claims; I know this because I worked at Walgreens and would have to do this from time to time. Even though they have a label that looks similar to the nutrition facts label on food products, these items are not regulated by the FDA. This means that the actual amount of the ingredients in each pill could be drastically different than what’s listed on the label. Weight loss pills are often the most dangerous in their side effects, especially when combined with other prescription drugs such as those for blood pressure or heart disease. These supplements may temporarily alter your body’s chemical balance and metabolism which may result in weight loss; however, the results will be short-lived and your body will most likely regain all the weight back once normal eating habits are resumed. Remember, the best recipe for weight loss is the good, old-fashioned habits of eating healthy and exercise.

Weight Loss Wardrobe. Do you remember the Sketchers Shape Ups? I thought that this would be a quick fad, but they keep producing them because people keep buying them! It’s not the shape-ups that help you lose weight; walking and exercise help you get a fitter physique. The same goes for any tight-fitting clothing that gives the promises of burning extra calories during your workout. You may sweat more because your body basically cannot breathe through the material, but keep in mind that sweat loss is not the same as weight loss.

Cleansing Diets. I’ve seen fruit juice cleanses, vegan cleanses and of course the all-star of the group, the lemon water + cayenne pepper and maple syrup cleanse. There is no need to put yourself through the torture of a 10-day “detox cleanse.” Your kidneys and liver do this every day for you. The primary reason you may feel better after participating in one of these cleanses is the fact that you cut the junk out of your diet for the past 10 days. I’ll admit that I have not been eating as clean the past month as I normally do. My skin looks awful, I’m not sleeping well and my energy level is much lower. Do I need a cleanse? No. All I need is more water, less sugar and less processed foods and I’ll be “cleansed” and back to my old self in no time!

Set SMART goals

Set SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound.smart goal setting concept

Specific– A good goal is clear and unambiguous. Instead of stating, “I will eat healthier” try setting a goal of “eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day”.

Measurable– Set a goal that allows you to monitor your progress.

Attainable– Sometimes we set goals that are unrealistic. Do not confuse the term unrealistic with impossible. Everyday people are making the once impossible, possible.

Relevant– Connecting an internal meaning with your goal makes it all that more important and can help you keep focused on the finish line. Setting goals that have little to no value to you typically will not be achieved.

Time Bound– Setting a time-frame to achieve your goal can help fuel motivation and keep you on track towards your healthier habit. Goals without time limits often get brushed aside and swept underneath the carpet.

Ask yourself, “Are your daily habits reflective of your healthy goals?” Often our actions are communicating the opposite of what our goals are. If your goal is to become more active (which is too broad of a goal to begin with), yet you come home and sit on the couch and watch TV all evening; how are your actions helping you achieve your goal? Remember, there are several dimensions of health, such as emotional, social and the more well-known, physical dimension. Try to set goals that encompass more than one dimension to improve your overall wellness.

Blog about it. No, it does not need to be a formal blog, but research shows that people who share their goals and health journey with others tend to stay more on track . This could be achieved simply by telling a friend or a co-worker about your goals and then providing them with updates along the way. You could keep a personal journal to reflect when you feel you are losing motivation. The social media network has created a perfect foundation for sharing your health journey with others. And since I have a blog myself, I am going to do just that.

My SMART Goals:

Diet Coke

1) Consume less diet soda.-I will cut back the amount of diet soda I drink to only a couple during the week and eventually will work on weaning it completely out of my diet.

2) Read more and watch less TV. Any competition that involves food, dancing, sewing or singing typically calls my name, but I have a stack of amazing nutrition books I’ve been meaning to read. I plan on reading 1 new book every 4-8 weeks.

3) Complete a muscle-up, body weight power clean and squat 185 lbs before the end of the year. My current max squat clean is 118 lbs and I can squat 155 lbs. These exercises are a shear test of upper and lower body strength as well as coordination and core stability. My habits to help attain this goal will be going to Crossfit regularly, fueling my body with proper nutrition and hydration and scheduling appropriate rest/recovery phases to allow for muscle growth and hypertrophy.

Check in here on my blog throughout the year as I update my progress with achieving my healthy living goals.

Summary of goal setting.

1) Don’t give up too quickly. Sometimes new habits need as long as a couple of months to become routine-like in our lives.

2) Grab a buddy to help you stay on track with your goal.

3) Set SMART goals, the more specific the goal, the easier it is to monitor and achieve.

4) Document your progress whether it’s a personal journal, telling a friend or family member or using a social media network.

5) Observe your actions and habits and see how they are helping you get closer to achieving your goal.

6) Any day is a great day to start making healthier habits, not just Monday, New Year’s Day or your birthday.

Turning New Year’s Resolutions into Habits

photo  (c) simon battensbyWhen cleaning out my Mom’s basement, I came across some old arts and crafts that I had made over the years. One particular project caught my eye and immediately brought back some humorous memories of myself. It was my 6th grade New Year’s resolution project. It was a picture of a top hat that read: Amanda Novy, Age 12. New Year’s Resolution: I want a six-pack.

My dedication to my goal lasted about 6 weeks. Three times a week, I would do Denise Austin’s Hit the Spot Abs. Frustrated with my hard work and less than desirable results, I put the videos away where they most likely haven’t been viewed since.

There were several reasons why my resolution did not stick:

1) One cannot spot treat a specific muscle group and expect dramatic results. I used to teach a 30 minute abs class 2x/week in college and even then, did not achieve the desired six-pack. A stronger core is developed by performing a variety of core stabilization and strength exercises that require core activation such as the plank, push-up and squat varieties. Your stomach region is also greatly influenced by diet.

2) My goal was not specific enough. Having too broad of a goal or setting a goal too far away can lead to a quick burnout. For example, it is much better to set a goal of losing 4 pounds every month versus a goal of losing 50 pounds in one year.

3) I threw in the towel too soon. Sometimes, our first method to achieve our goal may not have been the best. One’s current habits can also influence the time frame it takes to achieve a goal. For example, it is much easier for someone who has been sedentary for the past year to lose 5 pounds than it is for the avid 5-day-a-week gym goer.

And I’ll also point out that this was a pretty ridiculous goal for a 12-year-old to have in the first place.

Year 4~Day 216 +187/365 AND Day 1312: Working ...In order to form a good habit or break a bad one, you need to allow enough time to adjust to your new routine. Most habits can stick as a lifestyle when it has been repeated for 21-28 days.

When my husband and I decided that we were going to go to the 6am Crossfit class, it took a little while to get use to that early alarm clock. There were many mornings where I wanted to just snooze my alarm and fall back asleep, but I had my husband there to help me hold myself accountable. After two-three weeks of our early morning routine, my sleep schedule had adjusted quite nicely. Never in a million years did I see both my husband and myself working out side by side before sunrise.

We cheer each other on, witness one another achieve strength gains and personal records and have formed a great health habit that we can do together. Having a partner or a “buddy system” is another great tool one can have when needing help sticking to a healthier lifestyle habit.