Changing Behaviors

Have you ever taken a moment to think about your bad habits? Or maybe someone has pointed them out to you? Have you told yourself a thousand times “I should quit that or stop doing this?” Most people can answer yes to the above questions, me included. No one is perfect or can be “perfect” all the time.

Now, take a moment and think about that one thing you really want to change. Whether it is to quit smoking once and for all or maybe you need to cut back on the sugar and give up candy or that daily Mountain Dew. Maybe it’s not something related to your physical health – maybe you need to stop being so hard on yourself, give yourself more acceptance and grace, maybe you need to stop saying “no” and try new things. Whatever the case may be I want you to think about your surroundings. Do they enable your current situation? What can you change in your environment that might help?

It’s important to understand the presence of a situation causes the behaviors! For example if you are trying to eat healthy but there are donuts on the counter you are setting yourself up to fail! Proximity effects the extent to which you engage in a specific behavior. Both visibility and convenience matter! So this means we need to fix our bad environments to help us change our negative behaviors and thus meet our goals. Think about how you can promote healthy environments – leave yourself notes or reminders, keep a journal of your progress, surround yourself with people who want similar things as you.

So now that you understand situational support let’s talk about actually breaking those habits. So you have a goal in mind – make sure it’s specific and attainable. Visualize yourself succeeding – think about the goal, see it, see the obstacles and know how you will overcome them. Knowing you obstacles is crucial in completing your goals. By knowing potential things that could and will get in the way you can create a plan for how you will overcome. This is called implementation intention – a strategy in the form of an “if then” plan that can lead to better goal attainment. For example, IF I’m trying to quit smoking and a friend starts smoking around me, THEN I can excuse myself to the restroom or another place away from that environment. Another example could be IF I’m trying to cut out pop and I stop at a gas station (where I’m known to purchase a fountain pop or two), THEN I will pay for my gas at the pump and not go inside.

By creating these plans and using this method we can break habits, create new habits, and change our behaviors and routines. We all want to do better, be better, but we all need tools to help us get there. Stay positive and commit these tools to memory. And remember, YOU are worth it, and you CAN do it!

Fish

unnamedFish … such a polarizing food, am I right?! To some seafood is the smelly, mealy texture of food they’ll never eat. So, some just don’t like it, others avoid fish and seafood due to allergies. Still others such as pregnant and lactating woman, have previously been told to avoid fish for fear of mercury toxicity.

With all of that, fish are really swimming up creek without a paddle (silent giggle to myself).

However, I want to tell you why you should be consuming fish (assuming you don’t have any allergies or intolerances).

NUTRITION Since fish live in water, they absorb, and consume many different nutrients than our land animal protein sources. And variety is a good thing!

  • Fish are some of your best sources of selenium, iodine, iron and Vitamin D.
  • Fish is also a great source of protein, and if the fish you’re consuming is skin-on and bone-in, you also get a dose of calcium and vitamin A.
  • If you’re selecting fatty fish, you’ll also get a dose of omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA which have anti-inflammatory properties (these nutrients affect pathways of inflammation and oxidation, maybe even helping one live longer)!

Did you know? Fish are the best source of DHA and EPA! Plant sources of omega 3’s (ALA) can convert to DHA and EPA, but the conversion rate is rather inefficient. There are many factors that play a role, but this conversion is anywhere from 5-10% in most populations. The exception is in younger women who have a much greater capacity (up to 35%) because of the importance of long chain fatty acids in child development. Those at particular risk of for omega 3 deficiencies are those populations whose ancestors ate a lot of fish, for example if someone from Asia were to move to the states and their offspring consume a diet with less fish.

SUPPLEMENTS

A number of studies aren’t able to substantiate the benefits of fish oil supplements long term. It seems the benefits really come from eating the fish itself.

With that said, for those who don’t consume fish, or who are vegan, a fish oil supplement may still be a good idea for you. Generally, a safe dose is 2 grams of fish oil per day, but you should always speak with your health care provider to see what’s right for you. A well sourced supplement is very important to ensure they aren’t adulterated or that they don’t contain metals and other toxicants. Due to fish oils high susceptibly to rancidity, high quality supplements that are properly stored is of utmost importance! I like Nordic Naturals, check out this link for 15% off: https://us.fullscript.com/welcome/cultivate-nutrition.

HEALTH

For those with thyroid conditions, fish is excellent because it provides nearly all of the nutrients required to improve thyroid function. Namely, selenium, iodine, iron, Vitamin D, Vitamin A and omega 3 fatty acids. Each of these nutrients assists in the thyroid’s ability to produce the active form of thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine.

Omega 3 fatty acids alone may improve a host of mood conditions such as depression and anxiety. Although this one is not conclusive yet, studies look promising, and no doubt nutrition has a role in mood disorders. Therefore, there’s no harm in suggesting someone increase their fish intake to see how it works for that individual.

One of the omega 3 fatty acids in particular, DHA, is a well-known nutrient required for brain development of fetus and young children. New recommendations come from FDA for pregnant women; it is recommended that this population consume at least 8 – 12 ounces of fish weekly.

New research suggests that DHA is not only protective in young, but may be protective in neurological conditions that develop in adults, such as dementia and multiple sclerosis. These fats help to cushion and protect our nerves, myelin sheath and synapses. (Remember the phone cords that allow different body systems to “talk” to each other)? Those are better supported with omega 3’s.

Fish are some of the best sources of Vitamin D; cod, trout, salmon and sardines top the list! There is no lack of research when it comes to Vitamin D’s benefits. Having adequate vitamin D is shown to reduce your risk of cancer, including breast and colon, improve your body’s insulin sensitivity and improve our microbiome. Remember the microbiome is home to over 70% of your immune system!

HOW TO SHOP

Now I know you’re asking, what about mercury and PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls, highly toxic industrial compounds), right? Well two things. First, mercury is highest in the fish who live the longest, and who are the largest, so choose wisely.

Although diversity is always a good thing, you should opt for these five fish the most. These are the richest in omega 3 fatty acids with the least amount of toxins; Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines and Herring. More often larger fish, and bottom feeders have more PCB’s, opting for Wild Caught is best whenever possible. Which is also a more sustainable approach (did you know that if we continue at the rate we’re going with farmed fish that by 2050 we may be all fished out!). SEAFOOD WATCH is a great resource to use, you can go online, or load the app.

CULINARY A couple ways to try fish:

• An easy lunch option is tuna + sardine salad. Mixing these two boosts the omega 3’s with sardines but makes the taste more tolerable with the milder tuna. Just mash together with avocado, or mayonnaise, celery, onions, lots of dill, garlic and some salt & pepper!

• We love fish tacos- BONOS it’s a great way to introduce your kids to fish because tacos are a familiar food. Try this rendition: https://www.livingplate.org/recipes/white-fish-lime-tacos/

The Side-Effects and Solutions of Poor Posture

TechPosture RecoveredIn this modern world, we are seeing more and more jobs where the majority an employee’s work is done on the computer. Even people who don’t have a desk job might find themselves spending a lot of time at home looking like these figures to the right. You might have heard the term “tech neck” already.

Posture is more important to overall health than we may give it credit for. A couple years ago I noticed I was having some intense neck and back pain, as well as wrist pain. After some research and talks with my doctor, I learned it was 100% related to my posture at work, and that bad posture can even contribute to a lot of other bad side effects. Staring at screens is still a relatively new thing for humans, and we aren’t exactly built for it.

So even if you don’t have an office job, this can also be applied to you for whatever you do that could involve long term bad posture as well, such as sitting at home watching TV, playing on a computer, playing video games, or scrolling on your phone.

Some side effects of doing all that with bad posture include bad posture include:

BACK, NECK, AND SHOULDER PAIN

Bad posture can cause tension and pain in your neck, upper back, lower back, and shoulders.

CONSTRICTED NERVES

The long-term impact of poor posture can cause your spine and other bones to shift their position. Your skeletal system starts coming into contact with your surrounding nerves, “pinching” them. The “pinched” nerves can lead to back and neck pain, and in other parts of your body. It’s a can vary from very annoying to sometimes debilitating pain.

MISALIGNED SPINE

When if you perform most of your everyday activities with bad body mechanics or are stressed or injured in any way, you could end up with spinal misalignment and muscle spasm. Bad posture can distort these natural curves of your spine, affecting your whole body and causing an array of issues.

POOR CIRCULATION

By sitting with poor posture all day, you’re keeping your body from obtaining the necessary circulation it requires. Poor posture can also make you vulnerable to varicose veins. Crossing your legs can especially exacerbate this.

IMPAIRED LUNG FUNCTION

When you are slouching in in, you aren’t taking deep breath. When your lungs aren’t functioning as they should be, your brain, heart and other vital organs won’t get the oxygen they need.

This could lead to shortness of breath, poor cognitive function and even heart and vascular disease. It can also even affect your mood and energy level. You might notice you are a lot more motivated and relaxed when you are able to take deep breaths rather than short shallow ones.

POOR DIGESTION

When you slouch, you compress your abdominal organs, including your digestive tract. Doing this can over time, negatively impact your metabolism and your ability to process foods properly

HEADACHE AND JAW PAIN

When you have poor posture, you might spend a great deal of time leaning forward, possilby on your hand, making it more likely you’ll clench your jaw. By clenching your jaw, you’re causing your facial muscles to tighten, resulting in jaw pain and headaches.

TOO MUCH SITTING

A common problem we see now days with both tech at home and at work is too much sitting. I think we’ve all found ourselves at work composing a long assignment, or in a Pinterest or Facebook scroll, only to look up and realize several hours have passed and we haven’t moved.

Too much sitting alone can cause it’s own host of problems. Just a few of them include:

  • High blood pressure,
  • Heart disease,
  • Diabetes,
  • Stroke,
  • High cholesterol,
  • Dementia
  • Even cancer
  • There is a reason they call sitting the new smoking.

computer posture infographic 1024x1024

To help avoid these bad side effects, start adopting proper computer posture. 

  • The positioning of the computer should be such that the eyes are directly on the screen and you need not tilt your head up or down to maintain contact with the screen. Try putting a couple books under your monitor if you have to.
  • The next important thing is that the level of seat should be set at a level where your eyes can reach the screen of the computer as well as your hands comfortably access the keyboard almost parallel to the floor.
  • Feet should be in contact with the floor at all times. They should preferably be kept flat on the floor. The feet should not be kept hanging as it put stress on the lower back causing stress and eventually pain.

Other tips to avoid bad tech side effects:

  • Whether at work or at home on your devices, take a break from sitting every 30-60 minutes. Even a quick walk around the desk can help. Take a walk to the water cooler.
  • Stand while talking on the phone or watching television.
  • Do some stretching exercise throughout the day.
  • Try to get a cordless desk phone that can let you do this at work if you can. You can get a lot of steps while on the phone. 
  • If you work at a desk, try a adjustable standing desk — or improvise with a high table or counter.  There are certain places where this can be considered a work purchase. That may or may not apply to you, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
  • Get more walking done outside the office.
  • Try walking to work if you can.
  • Park further away at the store.
  • Take the dogs for more walk.
  • Eat and walk at lunch.
  • Use the stairs.

You’ve heard the tips before, so the real trick is to just try to be mindful on days you are sitting a lot and implement them.

Back to the gym post-quarantine!

3vbkwoThe good news is that it sounds like the gyms are going to be opening up soon!! I know some gyms have already begun to offer outdoor fitness classes, and others are developing strategies for safer, social-distanced workout indoors.

The bad news is that if you are anything like I am, you have not lifted a weight since the gyms closed!

As we go back to the gyms for the purpose of lifting weights, there are some consideration we should make. Most of us were not set up with a home gym to continue our strength training program. This means no matter how active you have been, you have deconditioned to some extent. This maybe evident by that giggly wiggly feeling you have. Therefore, there are some precautions we need to take:

  • Make sure you perform a thorough, longer than normal warm-up
  • Start with a lighter amount of weights; you may even consider doing fewer sets and using less weight.
  • Increase weight, reps, and sets slowly. Remember progression and adaptation. Depending on your history, you may be able to be a little more aggressive, but be careful. It’s better to take longer to get back to full workout strength than to get hurt and be off longer.
  • Take a longer warm-down and include some stretches, it will help with recovery.

I hope to see you in the gym soon, and less giggly wiggly’s!!

Spring Clean Your Cooking Routine

Anyone else have spring cleaning on their mind? Or has that shipped sailed since we’ve been stuck in our homes for months now!? Just like it’s important to periodically deep clean and purge unnecessary clutter around the house, it’s helpful to reevaluate your meal planning, shopping and food prep routine also. Here are a few simple steps for spring cleaning your cooking routine as we head into this new season.

Step 1: Take inventory of your fridge, pantry & freezer Did you know that according to the United States Department of Agriculture, Americans waste more than $161 billion dollars of food annually? That’s $1,600 a year for a family of four! To avoid this you should routinely take inventory of your food supply.

Let’s begin with your refrigerator, this cleaning process should be done at least once a week. For those fresh foods that are nearing the end of their shelf life, consider putting them in a soup, stew or smoothie. Throw out foods that have been "hibernating" in the fridge too long.

Next let’s venture into the depths of the pantry to see exactly what you have, then strategize how to use it (or if needed, toss it!). You can save money as you work through shelf-stable items too. Before purchasing duplicates be sure to use those that are close to their sell by date, then restock. Also remember to re-stock those healthy staples that make fast and easy weeknight meals; like this spaghetti squash with turkey veggie sauce dish. Some of my family’s favorite pantry staples are canned tomatoes, coconut milk, vegetable broth and nutrient-rich whole grains like quinoa and buckwheat.

Next work through your freezer. We jam pack our freezer with the usual suspects including riced cauliflower, broccoli, shredded kale, green peas, frozen berries and cherries, and of course wild caught fish! I often make double batches of meals too and freeze the second batch for a “prepared freezer meal” one another week; it’s such a fun surprise (but be sure you label it, otherwise it could be a surprise)!

As you clean each of these areas, check expiration dates to help determine when to dispose of foods. But when in doubt, throw it out. Have you ever wondered what's the difference between "use by" and "expiration?"

• “Use by” or “best if used by” date is not a safety-related date (these are usually placed on shelf stable foods, like cereal). It’s the last date recommended for use of the product at optimal quality.

• "Expiration" date means don't consume the product after this date (think of your dairy foods).

Once you’ve finished each area of your kitchen try to get in the habit of using the First In, First Out method – which means put those closest to their end date in the front of your fridge/pantry (so they’re the first ones to be used). That way you never waste food, or money.

Step 2: Embrace seasonal produce One simple way to get out of a cooking rut is to switch up your go-to fruits and vegetables based on the season. Bonus: this also means fresher and less expensive finds! I love salads with seasonal fruits and vegetables like this one featuring strawberries and radishes which came back in season, beginning in March. Did you know that depending on the season, frozen produce may be more nutritious than fresh? That’s because if a fruit or veggie is out of season it is picked while it’s still green (meaning not yet ripe) and held under conditions during transport to ripen. That means less tasty, and less nutritious food. Be sure to print this Produce Availability Chart that shows you how to eat seasonally, for those of you who are Michiganders.

Step 3: Find a meal planning method that actually works. Remember that meal planning is key to staying on track with healthy living goals, so if you’re current setup isn’t working, it might be time to switch gears. Make it a goal to find an approach that feels doable -- and most importantly, sustainable. If this is something you struggle with, you might consider outsourcing. Try out my meal planning program to save time so you can focus on improving your culinary skills and enjoying home-cooked meals over endless recipe searching. The recipes are so tasty too, so even if you enjoy meal planning, trying my plans can offer nice variety for as little as $9/month!

Dedicating time to freshen up your cooking routine can produce results that last. A simple, well-planned menu and well-stocked pantry will reduce your stress in the kitchen and limit the need for takeout (saving your health and your wealth). Set yourself up for success…which step will you tackle first?