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Want to create eating habits you can stick with?

Nutrition isn’t just about what you eat or how much you eat. All too often, we punish ourselves for indulging in so-called bad foods and reward ourselves when we resist them. Find out how you can stick to your healthy eating habits long term and maintain a positive nutrition mindset.

Consider your current attitude toward food.

Work to accept your food-related thoughts and cravings for what they are instead of fighting or ignoring them. It’s a critical step to eating more intuitively and mindfully.

Slow down and listen to your body without judgment.

Practice accepting your cravings without feeling the need to change, avoid, or control them. By letting go of the control you actually gain more of it. 

Don’t punish yourself for imperfection.

Eating healthy requires a flexible, open mind. Try an 80/20 approach. That means you eat balanced, nutrient-dense meals 80% of the time. And the other 20% of the time, live a little.

Take your meal time at the table sans TV.

Ever eaten mindlessly while browsing Netflix? Instead, sit at your table, focus on your dinner, and listen to your body when it says, “I’m full” or “I’m hungry, keep eating.” 

Focus on one change at a time.

Start with just one thing to improve at each meal, like drinking water instead of soda, adjusting the portion size, or adding one vegetable. 

Keep your favorite foods around.

You can keep your favorite foods, but you need to stave off negative thoughts. Thinking “I shouldn’t have this” or “I’m so bad,” makes it a lot easier to think you’ve failed.

Manage your stress.

Stress may cause you to crave high-fat foods or to ignore your hunger cues and eat less. Stress will always exist, but you can combat it with meditation or mindfulness during eating. 

Eat with people you love.

Food brings people together, and that’s healthy. It establishes a feeling of community and connectedness, which research shows is good for your overall well-being.

4 steps to creating a schedule that balances to-do’s with self-care

If you often feel like your day goes by in a blur leaving you with an unfinished to-do list, a schedule can help. On the other hand, a jammed-packed schedule with no room to feel, think, or move isn’t good for your well-being. Use these four steps to set up a schedule that will help you feel accomplished without burning you out.

Step 1: Start with must-do items.

Block time to get your work done to ensure you’re working regular hours and not taking away from pre- and post-work personal time. And remember to leave time for doctor’s appointments and other to-do’s.

Step 2: Set aside time for yourself.

It’s important to schedule your “me time.” This means making time for yourself, your family, or your recovery, in whatever form that might take. Not meeting your basic needs, like pushing back lunch until you’re too hungry to focus, only increases stress. 

Step 3: Customize for your needs.

The best schedule is the one that works for you, and it may take some time to find it. Try different blocks of time to accomplish your tasks between breaks. Then use your breaks to refuel with a snack, stretch, or meditation.

Step 4: Test and adjust as needed.

Once you have your schedule, make adjustments as you see fit if it’s causing you stress. And be sure to leave some wiggle room for anything that might disrupt your schedule, or else you’ll get behind and feel more stressed out when something pops up.

RECOVERY: 6 ways to deal with everyday stress

Living a stress-free life isn’t practical, but it’s not all bad. The right amount of stress can challenge you to tackle your to-do list without burning you out. Your optimal stress zone is all about building resilience, finding ways to minimize the negative effects, and taking full advantage of the positive effects. If your stress level is too high, use these tips to center yourself.

Connect with yourself. 

Work on your self-awareness so you can better recognize times that you’re stressed, and, even more importantly, when you’re not stressed. That way you can maximize the things that reduce your stress. Try this body scan exercise to turn your focus internally.

Connect with others. 

One of the most powerful ways to reduce stress is to reach out to others who provide a positive impact in your life. Send someone a quick text, call a loved one on the phone, or do something for someone to bring a smile to their face (and yours).

Connect with nature. 

It’s been scientifically proven that putting your bare feet on the earth transfers surface electrons from the earth into the body, which helps to settle the nervous system, create better blood flow, and induce a parasympathetic response.

Reframe your thinking. 

Your stress response can be largely based on present context and past experiences. If you’re able to reframe your thinking and change your focus, you can change your stress response, too.

Be creative. 

Our brains are wonderful tools of creation. But that doesn’t mean you need to paint the next Mona Lisa to get the benefit. It can be as simple as taking a new route on your walk or trying a new recipe.

Take care of your body and brain. 

Responding better to stress can also be preventative. Eating right, hydrating often, exercising regularly, and sleeping well provide a healthy foundation for you to be in balance and better equipped to deal with stress.

MOVEMENT: Unlock your potential with performance breathing

How you breathe can be the difference between a mid-workout energy slump or crushing your personal record. If you’re breathing on autopilot during a workout, you’re less likely to get the oxygen you need for optimal results.

Instead try these methods of performance breathing, where you focus on your breathing mechanics and tempo in order to bring about a specific result. 

Start with the basics.

A first step to improving your performance breathing is to work on low, diaphragmatic breathing instead of chest breathing. You’ll get more oxygen and energy this way. Warmup activities are also the perfect place to start with gradual exposure to nasal breathing and controlled breathing. 

Customize your workout breathing.

Once you’re warmed up, it’s time to kick it into high gear. Your breathing can strongly impact your workout, so experiment with forceful exhales during efforts. Try to nasal breathe as long as you can before switching to mouth breathing. 

Perk up your performance.

During strength training, try to get into a rhythm that allows you to exhale when you’re lifting a weight and inhale when you’re lowering a weight. For cardio, try to stay nasal breathing as long as possible, even if you have to slow down your pace. It may feel awkward at first, but your body should quickly adapt to the nasal breathing and you’ll soon notice the benefits.

Take your recovery up a notch.

During cooldown and regeneration, go back to nasal breathing to calm your body. Relaxation breathing at the end of a workout should focus on longer exhales to activate the parasympathetic system. For example, inhaling for four seconds, holding for two seconds, and then exhaling for six seconds.

Go beyond your workout.

Performance breathing doesn’t have to stay in the gym. There are so many times that it can help you in your general life. Try it during a stressful parenting situation, like when your child is throwing a tantrum. Or try it before large presentations at work, after a hard day, right when you wake up, or during any other high-pressure situation. 

NUTRITION: Power up your gut health with omega-3s

Already adding probiotics to your diet? Good! Now it’s time to think about omega-3-rich foods like fish, seeds, and avocados. New evidence from clinical trials shows that combining omega-3 fatty acids with probiotics may be even more beneficial to overall gut health.

How it works

Your gut is filled with billions of bacteria. Controlling the diversity of this bacteria has been linked to minimizing chronic inflammation — a condition that can be the start of various diseases like obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and neurodegeneration.

One study published in the journal Nutrients focused on two strains of probiotics, lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, which are responsible for preventing gut permeability, making it harder for bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Researchers found that when omega-3s were combined with these probiotic strains, the omega-3s acted as nutrition, or prebiotics, for the probiotic strains and enhanced their effectiveness. So omega-3s feed the good bacteria that you need to stay healthy and fight bad bacteria.

Because the combination of these three supplements had a positive response in microbiota diversity, it means they most likely can help boost the immune system and reduce low-grade inflammation.

Omega-3 sources

Our bodies don’t produce omega-3 fatty acids, so the only way to get them is from foods or supplements. Generally you should get 2 to 3 grams of essential fatty acids each day.

Good sources of omega-3s include:

  • Salmon – 1.5 grams per 3.5 ounces
  • Fresh tuna – 2.6 grams per 3.5 ounces
  • Mackerel – 2.6 grams per 3.5 ounces
  • Walnuts – 2.5 grams per 1 ounce
  • Flaxseed – 2.4 grams per 1 tablespoon
  • Chia seeds – 5 grams per 1 ounce

If you can’t get the above-mentioned foods for any particular reason, try supplements. 

MINDSET: Recharge your mental health at home

Many people feel drained when working at home, but looking after the fundamentals of mental and physical health can help buffer you against the impact of loneliness and isolation. Here are a few tools you can deploy to recharge your physical and mental health.

1. Meet yourself where you’re at.

Some days are going to be harder than others. So what can you do? Give yourself some grace and adjust your goals when necessary. On days when you don’t feel up to it, figure out what’s the minimum you can do to keep yourself moving in the right direction. 

2. Prep for tough days. 

Make tough days a little easier with some prep work. If you want to get a workout in, set your gear out the night before. Or prep veggies on the weekends, so they’re easy to grab for a quick lunch break. Removing barriers to whatever you want to accomplish paves the way for success. 

3. Tap into your support system.

Teamwork makes the dream work. Sounds cheesy, but it’s so true. Connecting with others right now might require more effort, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Be intentional about connecting with others, whether it’s picking up the phone, writing a letter, or interacting face-to-face. 

4. Move any way you can.

Go outside for a walk, hike, or bike ride. When your brain senses that you’re moving through space because objects are flashing through your visual field, it triggers optic flow — a phenomenon that enhances the relaxation response. 

5. Build breakout sessions into your day.

Trying to grind all day is a quick recipe for burnout. Instead of spending seven hours trying to stay focused, set aside blocks of time throughout your day to take a break. And it doesn’t have to be a huge stretch of time. Even five minutes of breathwork can make a difference. 

RECOVERY: 3 strategies pro athletes use to recover well

Whether it’s the World Series or Wimbledon, pro athletes seem to have superhuman abilities. This success comes from their habits — the little things they do to consistently recover. Here are pro-athlete habits that you can adopt to recover successfully.

1. They reduce their injury risk.
At the top of any pro’s training priority list is reducing their risk of injury. After all, their career depends on their ability to stay off the bench. They do this by establishing a network of people who can guide them in strength, conditioning, recovery, and nutrition. It’s all about being in tune with what their body is telling them.

Your game plan: Next time you feel a tweak in your knee, don’t try to push through it without assessing what’s really going on. And take ownership of your health by building your own network of supporters and constantly asking questions, whether it’s about movement correction, nutrition, or anything else that can help you.

2. They don’t skimp on sleep.
Sleep is one of the most undervalued aspects of recovery. And it’s something that serious professional athletes don’t skimp on. Top performers like LeBron James, Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, Steve Nash, and Venus Williams reportedly get over 10 hours of sleep each night.

Your game plan: The average person should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Create the best sleep environment by buying blackout curtains, using a fan for ambient noise, setting the temperature between 67-71 degrees, and removing pets and illuminated clocks from your room. You’ll notice the difference in your alertness and mood when you’re rested.

3. They use physical therapy, even if they’re healthy.
For pros, physical therapy isn’t just a six-week, 12-visit regimen; it’s part of ongoing maintenance to keep their bodies in top condition. This proactive approach helps them stay ahead of problems and extend the length of their careers.

Your game plan: Use your downtime to balance out any repetitive movements you make, and talk to a physical therapist or coach about strategies to combat the aches and pains of daily life. This might include passive or active recovery, like stretching, foam rolling, or corrective exercises designed for getting a small muscle group stronger and helping the body move more efficiently.

NUTRITION: 5 unexpected hurdles to better eating habits

You likely know a lot about managing your nutrition, but that doesn’t mean you’re perfect all the time. And in fact, your good intentions might just lead to some common nutrition mistakes.

Here’s how to avoid these missteps and get the biggest benefits from what you eat and drink.

1. Never eating late.

Eating before bedtime can actually help if you’re strength training, working out later in the day, or want a little help falling asleep. So while you still shouldn’t save the majority of your calories for late at night, don’t be afraid to get helpful nutrients closer to bedtime.

2. Not balancing your breakfast.

Eating breakfast is good, but a balanced breakfast is best. An abundance of carbs in the morning spikes blood sugar, which can affect your energy and mood, cause headaches, fatigue, and hunger, and lead to weight gain. Including a source of protein and fat, which can be as simple as adding a half cup of Greek yogurt or a couple eggs, will stabilize your blood sugar.

3. Sugar-bombing in pursuit of antioxidants.

Antioxidants can do a lot for your health, and including them in your diet is a smart thing to do. But sweetened juices and other sugary products offset the benefits. Choose anti-inflammatory and disease-fighting whole foods like berries, dark green veggies, and nuts.

4. Avoiding food groups.

If you‘re thinking about a gluten-free, dairy-free, or low-carb diet, there should be a scientific reason for it. Only eliminate what you have a known allergy to. Trial and error can get you on the right track, but if you’re still having issues, see a registered dietitian or medical professional.

5. Believing marketing claims.

Reading food labels on the packaging before gobbling up the contents is a healthy first step. But don’t get bamboozled by all the claims you see. Remind yourself it’s all marketing, and don’t be misled by the bright food labels yelling “natural,” “low fat,” and “detox.”

MOVEMENT: Start your day off right with this quick movement routine

Life can get hectic. Before your day takes off, fit in this morning movement routine. You’ll need a towel or a foam pad.

Glute bridge | 5 reps

Squeeze your glutes to lift your hips off the ground.

Leg cradle – supine alternating | 5 REPS EACH

Point the foot on the ground toward the ceiling and keep your belly button drawn in.

90/90 stretch – with arm sweep | 5 REPS EACH

Exhale as you stretch and rotate without separating your knees or lifting them off the ground.

Lumbar extension – quadruped | 5 REPS

Always start with proper alignment and return to that position with each repetition.

Quadruped opposites | 5 REPS EACH

Reach long with both your arm and leg during each repetition.

MINDSET: 5 ways to build a resilient mindset to weather tough times

It’s one thing to have a positive mindset when there’s no turmoil and life is chugging along at status quo. But it’s a lot harder when times are tough. And guess what? That’s OK. Give yourself some grace and use these strategies to turn stress into strength.

1. Schedule both social time and alone time.

You should make a strong effort to connect with people. That being said, if you’re overscheduling yourself, you might be avoiding the feelings that you need to work through to grow. So take some time to yourself. And not with your phone. Meditate or journal instead.

2. Find activities that make you feel optimistic.

While it’s OK to worry (remember we’re facing our feelings, not avoiding them), the idea is to not feel trapped by worry. When you catch yourself worrying, acknowledge it’s there, and then choose to focus on something you’re grateful for — fun, laughter, a specific activity.

3. Think twice before you keep scrolling.

Social media is a great resource of information, entertainment, and connection. But you know the saying you are what you eat? In a lot of ways, you’re also what you consume on social media. What are you feeding yourself? Are you feeding yourself negative stuff or positive stuff?

4. Journal about the positive moments in your life.

Engaging in negative self-talk? If you can recognize it, you can choose to shift. Take five or 10 minutes to journal and reflect on all the positive moments in your life. Think of this as creating a mental trophy room that you can go back to whenever you need to feel uplifted or empowered.

5. Practice gratitude and exercise kindness.

Research shows that practicing gratitude can increase optimism, make you more forgiving, and improve immunity and sleep. So if you’re down, go out and do something good for somebody — a stranger, a neighbor, or write down what you’re grateful when you’re feeling negative.