Three Easy Ways To Drink More Water

Want to drink more water? We all have the best intentions when it comes to staying hydrated, but for such a simple task, it can still be tough to keep up with. It doesn’t have to be though. Try one of two of these simple options and keep your body happy.

Start The Day Right

Are you a coffee or tea drinker? (I am a coffee drinker. A lot of coffee.) While you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or the coffee to brew, get yourself a glass of water. Drink at least some of it while you wait. Make it interesting if you want: I drink mine warm, sometimes with lemon. I hear I’m weird like that.

Use A Straw

For whatever reason, it’s way easier and faster to drink a lot of water (or anything) through a straw. Invest in a plastic tumbler with a straw and keep it full and nearby. You’ll be amazing how often you’ll need to fill it up. Bonus: Most of those cups are double walled, so your cold drinks stay cold.

Stick With Small Glasses

Think a bigger glass will help you drink more? Well, it might, but it also might not. One of the biggest truths in the health and fitness industry: Success breeds success. Drink one small glass and it’s easier to drink another. Drink several glasses today, and you’ll be more likely to tomorrow. String together a few days and you’re well on your way to a great habit.

Looking for practical ways to improve your health and fitness? Four weeks can change your next forty years. Spend some time with a HealthFit health coach and find out just how healthy you can get. Find out more.


Middle age woman raising her eyebrows in surprise

The Secret Life Of A Health Coach

Want to know the biggest secret about my life as a health coach/exercise physiologist/personal trainer?

I’m just a normal person.

I like all types of fried potatoes, working out is sometimes more effort than it seems like it’s worth, and I definitely do not have a six-pack. I’ve been through periods of being super active and fit, and periods of being super lazy, and while I much prefer feeling and being super fit and healthy, I frequently struggle to make the time for it.

It’s called real life – as least, it is for most of us. There are great trainers out there who are able to juggle big workouts, prepping and eating routine meals, making their body their whole focus – Awesome for them. I’ll even admit that I’ve more than a little jealous. I had that for a few years and it was great, but it was also when I was in college with the luxury of plenty of time to spend on it.

In the years since, I’ve stopped beating myself up over NOT doing all those things. I’ve found my balance between eating healthy and really enjoying my meals, between being fit and being out of shape (though I often sit slightly below my ideal fitness level). These days, my ultimate goal is to strike that balance between making my entire life about my body, fitness and health, and being able to enjoy what life has to offer.

So, my big secrets?

My fitness levels fluctuate A LOT and I have to really work for what I have. My biggest challenge is balancing my time between every life demand in a way that I’m happy with (or at least can live with). Sometimes workouts lose out.

I love eating. LOVE IT. I love movie popcorn and giant salads and everything in between. Portion control is my nemesis.

I struggle to make myself a priority. I spend all day every day talking to people about taking care of themselves. I’m the worst at taking my own advice!

Stress-eating: Ugh, yes, that’s me.

I would much rather watch Netflix than go to the gym. (Though as with most people, I get a lot more satisfaction from going to the gym, once it’s all said and done.)

I may or may not read on my phone every night in bed, even though I know all the science says it’s bad for your sleep. Oops.

The point is, this is real life. We can have all the education and experience in the world – I’m not short on either and definitely know better – and making the best choices is still challenging. I live those choices day in and day out, just like everyone else. But these days I’m ok with those challenges. They are a lot easier now that I’ve learned to make life about habits and choices I enjoy, rather than choices that feel like chores that I should or have to do. I’ve found my balance between the effort I’m happy to make, and the results I’m happy to have. I’m launching this new section, The Secret Life Of A Health Coach: Food and Fitness in Real Life, to share what those choices look like for me, and to give you some ideas and support in finding your own balance.


Recommended Reading: What We Know (and Don’t Know) About How to Lose Weight

This excellent, quick read from the New York Times and Dr.  Aaron E. Carroll provides a great starting point if you’re thinking about jumping on the low-carb or low-fat diet bandwagon. 

In brief, this article covers the results of a very rigorous study – rigorous meaning that the results are more likely to hold true across a wide variety of people. The crux of the results to the Low Cabs vs Low Fat question: It most likely doesn’t actually matter. The best diet is most likely to be the one that you can stick with – or, as we’re always saying to, it’s about finding what works for you.

Read the NY Times article here: What We Know (and Don’t Know) About How to Lose Weight

 


Dog sleeping soundly on a bed

Quick tips for a good night’s sleep

It’s easy to just fall into bed at the end of the evening, but a few simple tips can take you from dozing to dreaming.

While much of the HealthFit focus is on exercise, movement, and healthy eating, you can make all the right choices when you’re awake and still not make great progress if you aren’t getting quality sleep. Poor sleep has been definitively linked to hormonal and metabolic disturbances, and is associated with a number of cardiovascular, metabolic, and psychiatric disease states. Also (not surprisingly), poor quality sleep can lead to a next-day impact on levels of sleepiness, mental performance, mood, patience, and general wellbeing. If you’re finding that you aren’t waking up well-rested, or that you have high levels of fatigue day after day, try the tips below to boost your sleep quality literally overnight!

Black out your bedroom. While it might not be possible to completely black out your bedroom, minimizing light sources can make a big difference to your sleep quality. Close the blinds or curtains as much as possible, and minimize electronics in the room. Even though they are small, the blinking lights on your phone, TV, clock, or other electronics can still disrupt your sleep. If you can’t move your devices, try covering their lights with a bit of tape, or throwing a towel over them at night. An eyemask is also a good option for keeping out the light.

“Goldilocks” it: Keep your room temperature just right. Not too cold, not too hot. Research has shown that the best temperatures to sleep at range between 60° to 67° F, or about 16° to 19° C. Keep an extra blanket nearby as well, as you may find that you cool off substantially in the middle of the night.

Keep your bedroom quiet. You may feel like you can sleep well regardless of noise levels. Your brain doesn’t handle noise very well though! Even relatively quiet noises at night can lift the brain out of deeper sleep levels, in turn decreasing REM. Some research has shown sound-reducing tools like earplugs, and sound masking tools like white noise, can improve sleep quality in noisy environments, though there is also evidence that even white noise can be disruptive to sleep. As always, stick with what works for you.

Stick with a sleep pattern. From a biochemical perspective, your body likes a routine. Production of the hormones and biochemicals that prepare your body to sleep can adapt to long-term changes in sleeping patterns, but if there’s no pattern at all, your body won’t be preparing for sleep at its best. (To start your day well, try the same wake-up time as well, as your body also prepares for waking with biochemical fluctuations.)

If you try any of these tips, or have another that helps you get restful, satisfying sleep, please share in the comments! Sleep tight!


fit middle age woman standing with good posture at a standing desk in a blue office

Are Standing Desks Better Than Sitting?

Short answer: probably, but actually not by much! But there’s a third – and much better – option.

Ever since standing desks became widely available several years ago, people have been asking: are they really worth it?

Spending hours every day sitting is definitely not great for your health, and society is moving more and more towards jobs that keep us at a desk and computer the majority of our working hours. You’re probably aware that prolonged sitting can leave you feeling stiff and sore. Muscle fatigue can actually build up from holding a single position for an extended time, and seated positions allow the abdominal muscles in particular to slacken and weaken. This leads to increased pressure on the vertebral discs of the lower back, and can increase the risk of significant lower back injury over time, especially coupled with changes in muscle tension that occur in this position.

If sitting for so long is so bad for you, should you rush out and get yourself a standing desk? Actually, no. Though it might be a better option than sitting for hours per day, going cold turkey and standing for the same period has its own set of problems. A standing desk is by no means a guaranteed cure for a tight neck and shoulders stemming from computer use, as it’s just as easy to slouch with these desks – sometimes easier, since you may end up leaning on it to a greater extent. Standing for hours on end can create muscle fatigue in the lower body, as your legs may not be used to supporting your body weight for long periods. As a result, most people tend to shift on their feet and can end up in awkward standing positions, putting more stress on joints of the lower body, hips, and lower back. Prolonged standing is also more challenging to the circulatory system than sitting is, so it may not be a healthy option for people with circulatory conditions, and it can contribute to varicose veins.

So if sitting for hours is bad and standing for hours not much better, are you doomed to discomfort for the rest of your working days? Not necessarily. Your best bet is to invest in a sit-stand combination desk. These desks allow you to vary the height of your desk to allow for both optimal sitting and standing heights, so you can choose your working posture as you see fit. Studies have shown that the body doesn’t handle being in any posture for long periods of time, and responds well to this mix of movement as shown by decreased aches and pains (and subsequent days off work and/or medical treatment) and increased feelings of comfort and productivity while desk-bound. Physically, frequently changing positions also helps maintain normal nerve function and maintains good blood supply for the muscles.

If you don’t have access to a variable height desk, there are a few options. Desktop additions are available that allow you to raise or lower the height of your monitor, keyboard, and mouse, effectively turning any desk into a sit-stand desk. And no matter what kind of desk you have, frequently getting up for a walk around the office is one of the nicest things you can do for your body. Put a reminder in your phone or email to get up for a walk or a stretch and get yourself moving!

 

Image By Kennyrhoads (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Woman in christmas sweater enjoying a cup of hot cocoa at a table

Overindulged Over The Holidays?

Christmas and the New Year can be a tough period for a lot of people. Even in the best of situations, there is no shortage of delicious food and drink (and more food, and more drink), less exercise or physical activity than many of us intend to have, and likely a late night or two.

It’s definitely not the daily routine!

If you’re feeling a little guilty about how much you enjoyed the holidays, reconsider. There are silver linings that go along with a great holiday season, especially the great memories are yours for a lifetime.

Think back to what you did over the holidays. What were your favorite dishes, meals, festive beverages? Did you get to sleep in? Do some fun outdoor activity instead of cramming in a gym session or home workout before rushing off to work?

Rather than wincing at the memories, enjoy them. Don’t stress about what’s done – it can’t be changed now, and even it shouldn’t be changed, either! Fun and downtime are important, and stress and worry can actually do more damage than anything that you might have enjoyed in the last several weeks. Good memories are always worth making – for me, escaping sticky Brisbane for the beach, and daily early morning beach runs and swims more than makes up for slacking off on strength training and eating more cake than strictly necessary!

Ask yourself: Were the holiday choices I made worth the memories that go along with them?

The goal is to turn an enjoyable holiday season into a guilt free experience. You can use your above answer to make the next round of holidays even more enjoyable, with even less potential guilt around health and fitness choices.

Food and drink indulgence is a huge source of post-holiday stress. Eating is a mainstay of celebrations worldwide, and is often the chance to go all-out with treats. When your once-in-a-while treat foods are readily available, it’s very easy to have “just a little” here or there (there’s nothing wrong with enjoying this, either – see above). The key to enjoying the good stuff is to really enjoy the good stuff and leave the stuff you don’t really love alone. I’ve eaten so much low-quality chocolate in the last several weeks, and every time I do, I think about how much I don’t really like it. Why do I keep doing that? It’s one of life’s mysteries that we solved yesterday when we threw the rest of the Christmas chocolate out.

Ask yourself: What did I eat or drink that I didn’t really like, and how can I choose less of that next time?

Non-food-related: It’s also easy to let the sleep-ins and company keep us from other healthy choices we normally enjoy, whether that’s your favorite gym class or a long early morning walk. This can also lead to post-holiday guilt, and sometimes to the hassle of getting back in the habit. But catching up on sleep has its own benefits, as does reconnecting with family and friends – there is significant research showing that these are key elements in overall good health. The change of routine can also provide an opportunity to evaluate what you do enjoy in your daily routine.

Ask yourself: Were the extra hours of sleep/family connections/holiday parties worth it? What are you looking forward to getting back to?

Take a few minutes to think on these questions, and you’ll set yourself up for a good holiday season the next time around. As a bonus, you can open up your calendar or diary to 11 months from now, and pop in some reminders to help you get the most out of the holiday season, without the extras you don’t need or even want.

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Small Win Saturday: Finding Friends Leads To Success!

Small wins are the little things that give us a (big) boost, and lots of small wins add up to big changes and powerful breakthroughs. Small Win Saturdays are where we share a tiny-but-awesome thing that happened to a HealthFitter or a HealthFit coach in the last week. Try it out for your a mental or physical boost, or share own your small win in the comments!

Finding Friends

A HealthFit Coaching client who has been working hard at making a morning walk part of her daily routine had a great boost this week. She was on her usual route along the Coronation Drive section of Brisbane’s Bicentennial Bikeway when she ran into some friends who were finishing a similar walk. She joined them a few days later and said that she’s now walking with them a two to three times per week. She looks forward to it so much more now that she’s walking with them regularly, and has noted that she’s even going farther than she thought she could handle – and is handling it really well! Small wins are big wins!

Support in healthy choices makes them so much easier to make. If you’re struggling to cement a healthy habit, ask a friend to join you to make the going a little less tough.


seared scallops and boiled eggs on green salad for a healthy fast lunch

Perfect Portions Made Easy

Calorie counting to manage meals and portion sizes? We’ve got a handy trick for you!

Counting calories or points, keeping a food diary, or otherwise painstakingly tracking food intake is a chore, at least for most. While it can certainly be effective in bringing awareness to your portion sizes and meals, the time and effort it takes most people often leads to frustration and loss of motivation. Efforts at healthy eating can quickly be derailed.

Sometimes keeping a precise count of calories, carbs, or fats can be important, as in the case of some health conditions. If this is you, please continue to follow your doctors instructions! If this isn’t you though, and you are trying to track food, calories, carbs, or fats for the sake of general health or weight loss, good news: there’s an easier way to manage your meals.

Your hand is the perfect portion control guide. It’s proportionally sized to your body, stays consistent, and you’ve always got it with you. Estimating portion sizes based on your hand means there are no fiddly measurements to make (you can easily make a visual comparison – it doesn’t have to be exact!) and no math involved in building a healthy plate of food. While this method has been gaining in popularity in recent years, it’s actually been recommended in numerous nutrition textbooks for years as well as being widely recommended by non-profit health and nutrition organizations and government agencies.

Like this infographic? CLICK HERE it to download it with get bonus meal-management tips!


wooden stairs that are good for running or walking for fitness

Healthy Made Easy: Avoiding Effort Overload

I’ve been in the health and fitness industry for over 10 years, and in that time I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. I’ve had the opportunity to chat with a lot of these people. Most start off excited and enthusiastic – this is their third time starting, and this time they’re really gonna do it! They tell me about going to the gym and going on a diet. And a large number of them end up going nowhere with it. It’s heartbreaking, since they’re all up against the same challenge.

I call it Effort Overload.

It’s the wide-spread idea that healthy living is all water bottles, gym time, and meals in Tupperware, with no nights off or pizza with a glass of wine in sight.  This sort of “healthy” lifestyle isn’t so (mentally) healthy for most of us, since it usually means a LOT of change in a short period of time. Coupled with a lot of “I don’t really know what I’m doing…” and “Is my body supposed to be this sore or am I injured?” and “No thanks, I’m just going to have this lettuce for lunch”, healthy living all of a sudden seems hard and unappealing. It’s totally understandable that people decide that they’ll take the long-term health risks in order to put an end to their Effort Overload. It’s just too stressful.

In truth, taking much smaller steps towards a healthy lifestyle actually has a much greater rate of long term success. This is way easier on our brains, and in the HealthFit Coaching process, is actually designed to be NOT stressful. We help you break healthy choices down into steps so small that you might feel almost silly not taking them. Not to make you feel silly, but to help you feel like you’re actually getting somewhere!

Since there are many potential changes most of us could make to improve our health and fitness, we work to have a deep understanding of what will suit you best. Some of the questions we ask to help determine your steps:

  • What kind of things do you like to do in your spare time?
  • What are the healthiest choices you are making for yourself, right now?
  • What might you need to do to prepare to take the next step towards better health and fitness?
  • What are your biggest challenges in making healthy choices for yourself and your family?
  • Who are your strongest supporters in making healthy choices?

It’s always easier to keep moving forward when you have some momentum behind you, so we make sure to look at what’s already going well for you and build on that. Effort Overload is avoided by keeping the focus on one step at a time – the easiest step you can make, until that step has been mastered and it’s time for the next. Enough small steps, after all, lead to great progress.


Small Win Saturday: I’m A Quitter!

Small wins are the little things that give us a (big) boost, and lots of small wins add up to big changes and powerful breakthroughs. Small Win Saturdays are where we share a tiny-but-awesome thing that happened to a HealthFitter or a HealthFit coach in the last week. Try it out for your a mental or physical boost, or share own your small win in the comments!

I Quit My Gym Membership!

Waaaait a minute. Isn’t HealthFit supposed to be about more movement, not less? Well, yes. But we’re also all about stress management. Paying for a gym membership that I wasn’t using was making me feel guilty as heck, in equal parts for spending the money on nothing, and for actually not going.  And guilt is a sure path to more stress.

I’ve actually been thinking a lot about dropping my membership for a few months now, but I felt like I shouldn’t. I felt like I should go, even though I have really been struggling to find the extra time that a gym workout would take. Keeping the membership was part of the “I’ll get there next week” lie I was telling myself. To be clear, I am still exercising, but I’m finding it way more convenient these days to sneak in a workout at home or go for a quick run than to add another half-hour of gym-commute time into an already packed day.

Once I gave some thought to where the go-to-the-gym pressure was coming from, I realized I was trying to meet some expectation that I had formed for myself: That if I didn’t do this, I was giving up on healthy and that would make me a total loser – and that’s much nicer than what my brain actually says.  As an aside, I had a great reminder from my psychologist recently: it’s mind-boggling how we speak to ourselves, and recognizing it when it happens can actually make a big difference. 

All this guilt and self-disappointment, despite the fact that I’m still practicing what I preach. I’m often slow to act on the opportunities to decrease stress in my own life, but I finally figured out that I could reframe “I should go to the gym” to “I prefer to work out at home”. I’m guilt-free (at least about this!) and have $60 bucks a month to spend on yoga classes that I will enjoy way more!

Small wins can be big wins! What was your small win this week?