Holiday Eating, What’s Your Mentality?

Sticking to your usual healthy lifestyle plan through the holidays doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun, nor is it realistic. On the flip side, eating whatever you encounter during the holiday festivities is not going to be great for your health or waistline either.

The real challenge with holiday eating is not the Christmas dinner with the family, but rather the fact that the holiday season, on average, spans over six weeks for most people.

With holiday parties and gatherings starting as early as November, it can feel like a marathon trying to keep yourself in check with all the temptations of eating and drinking. Christmas cookies and cakes loaded on the shelves of every bakery, coffee shop and grocery store. And we can’t forget the holiday drinks!

You can get warm around a cozy fire at Starbucks with an eggnog latte, but you must also recognize that you are sucking back 12 tsp of sugar at the same time.

So, what are we to do with all these work parties, gathering with friends, family dinner and coffee breaks ahead of us?

First, here are four mentalities you want to avoid….

  1. The avoidance mentality – I am going to eat whatever I want, ignore how awful I will feel and how much weight I will gain, and just worry about it in January.

  2. The go-getter mentality – I don't want to mess anything up, I’ll skip my parties, and I am not having any indulgences or experiences over the Christmas season.

  3. The people pleaser mentality – I really don’t want to eat cousin Tina’ Christmas cake, but I just feel like I should not to be rude. Reality is, cousin Kathy will probably not even notice, or even think twice about it.

  4. The guilty mentality – Wow that Christmas dinner at Auntie Kathy’ was amazing, but now I am not going to eat for the next two days because I feel so guilty about going off my plan.

And, below is a realistic way to ditch guilt, and indulge mindfully…

Ditch the Guilt and Mindfully Indulge

10 Ways to Beat the Holiday 10

Smells of fresh gingerbread cookies in the oven, getting together with loved ones or sipping on a rum and eggnog by the warm fire. The holidays bring with them so many warm memories and traditions, and lots of opportunities for extra indulgences. As we enter this six to eight week festive season and face all the temptations that come with it, it’s no surprise that the average Canadian will gain 10 lbs over the holidays, and many of which struggle to getting it off.

No one wants to pass up the pleasures of the Holidays, so mindfully enjoy your indulgences and bring in this New Year feeling healthy, satisfied and light with these 10 Tips!

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#1 – EXERCISE IS A MUST

Exercising 30 minutes per day during the holiday season will help you burn a few extra calories (250-300 calories) and offset the extra indulgences. Make exercise fun and embrace the winter season with some outdoor activities the entire family can join in on.

It takes an excess of 3500 calories to put on one pound of fat. While this may sound like a lot, consider the high calorie listed below:

  • Tall Starbucks Gingerbread Latte – 400 calories

  • Peppermint white chocolate mocha – 540 Calories

  • Eggnog Latte – 470 calories

  • Stuffing (100g) – 231 calories

  •  1 slice Christmas Cake – 350 calories

  • 1 glass wine – 90-245 calories

It adds up, especially with the Holiday Season lasting four to six weeks!

#2 – KNOW YOUR INTENTION BEFORE THE PARTY

Keep your holiday indulgences balanced by planning and knowing your intention before the party.

For example – at my work Christmas party I am going to have two glasses of wine and dessert, but I am going to keep away from the high fat high calorie appetizers at the beginning of the night and bread at dinner.

#3 – BRING SOMETHING HEALTHY TO THE PARTY

Dazzle your friends, family and coworker with a healthy and delicious new recipe. This will also give you some healthier options for the party. If you are pressed for time consider a fresh fruit or veggie tray, olives, pickles or mixed nuts form your local grocer of healthy options!

#4 – DON’T GO TO THE PARTY HUNGRY

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Set yourself up for success and have a healthy snack 45 minutes before you go to the party such as veggies and hummus, fruit and nut butter, protein shake, a handful of nuts and seeds or a bowl of soup. When we are hungry, we make irrational food choices, and tend to crave foods that are high in fats, refined carbs or sugars to get our blood sugars up.

A healthy snack will take the “edge” off so you can make good choices at your next party.

#5 – AVOID THE FOOD TABLE

It’s not uncommon for the action of the party to revolve around the food table or in the kitchen. To stay on top of your game and keep true to your intentions at the next party think of getting a plate, filling it up with up your top choices and find a comfortable seat elsewhere in the room to sit down and enjoy your food.

This will help you slow down and digest your food better. It will also help you keep track of how much you have eaten by using a plate instead of picking at the food as you stand by the food table.

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#6 – WHAT’S THE SIZE OF YOUR PLATE?

It’s understandable that the bigger your plate, the more you pile on and the more you end up eating.

If you have an option, choose a smaller plate as you will likely eat more reasonable portion sizes and this way if you choose to go back for seconds then you can do so without over eating.

#7 – CHOOSE YOUR GLASS WISELY

Size matters! Much like choosing the size of your plate, choosing the size of your glass can significantly impact how much you drink.

Consider drinking a glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage to keep you hydrated and reduce chances of a hangover the next day.

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#8 – SPEAKING OF ALCOHOL

 Increased consumption of alcohol over the holidays is certainly a big source of extra sugars and extra calories. All alcohol breaks down to sugar and our body is limited in the amount of sugar it can store and extra sugar consumption goes right to the waistline.

Specialty Christmas drinks such as spiked eggnog, Bailey’s and other liquors are particularly high in sugar. Also, be mindful of pop, juice or other mixes used in your drinks that contain a lot of extra sugar. Consider using water or soda for mix and limes or lemons for flavour.

#9 – INDULGE IN MODERATION

There in absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying all of the flavours that the Christmas season has to offer. When you are indulging, take your time, eat the food and really enjoy it and feel great about the choices you are making.

#10 – MAKING NEW FAMILY RITUALS

Create new healthier family traditions this holiday season! Consider visiting Waterloo Park after your big family dinner to see the lights or tour around your own neighborhood to see what’s sparkling.

Consider starting off Christmas day with a family walk/hike, tobogganing or snow showing. If there is an ice rink nearby, tie up the skates and get out for a leisure skate or family hockey game.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Boosting Your Immune System Naturally

We are bombarded with pathogens (bacteria, viruses and fungus) all year around, but are more susceptible to catching the flu during the months of November to April, and some of us seem to pick up every bug that crosses our path.

So why is it that some people are constantly fighting a flu while others seem to breeze through the season?

The integrity of the immune system is the main determinant of an individual’s susceptibility to the cold and flu. There is nothing more powerful than strengthening your body’s immune system as a way to protect yourself from the cold and flu season.

7 ACTION STEPS TO BUILD YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

If you want to avoid getting the flu this winter, follow these seven proven techniques for boosting your immune system, fighting off germs, and keeping your body healthy!

  1. Get enough sleep. Your immune system functions much better when you get enough sleep. Most people really need about eight hours per night for optimal health. If your body is fatigued, it simply won't be able to fight off the flu virus (or any other infection) very well.

  2. Exercise regularly. Exercise helps keep your immune system strong.

  3.  Avoid sugar. Even small amounts of sugar can significantly impair your immune function, making you more susceptible to a flu infection. A large amount of sugar, such as the amount found in a normal can of soda, hurts your immune function for hours.

  4. Drink lots of pure water/herbal tea. Keeping your mucous membranes well-hydrated is a key to helping them fight off viruses. Shoot for about eight-ounce glasses per day.

  5. Reduce stress with daily meditation or deep breathing. Too much stress has a highly negative impact on your overall health and, over time, it will make you much more susceptible to a flu infection. Studies show that prolonged stress is at least partially responsible for 90% of all illness and disease. Regular exercise and sufficient sleep both help reduce stress levels. Meditation and deep breathing is a proven stress-buster that is easy, enjoyable and can be used on a daily basis.

  6. Wash your hands often. Also, carry a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you and use it frequently, especially after you touch anything that others have touched recently (like doorknobs).

  7. Get fresh air every day. During the winter the dry heat from indoor heating systems dries out your mucous membranes and makes you more susceptible to viruses. Bundle up and get outside for a walk or crack open a window or two to give your body some relief.

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INCORPORATE IMMUNE BOOSTING FOODS IN YOUR DIET

Eat immune-boosting foods on a daily basis. A healthy diet, including a few proven immune-boosting foods, is one of the best ways to avoid catching the flu. The best flu-fighting foods are:

  • Fresh, organically grown fruits and vegetables - Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are packed with healthy phytonutrients that can strengthen your immune system, lowering your susceptibility to the flu virus.

  • Fresh raw or lightly-cooked garlic - Garlic has strong natural antiviral properties that can help to fight off a flu virus. Also, garlic provides a strong boost to your immune system, especially when eaten on a regular basis.

  • Green Tea - Like garlic, green tea has shown the ability to both kill viruses and to stimulate the immune system to fight off flu infections, especially when used daily. Try to drink three (3) to six (6) cups of strong green tea per day during the flu season.

  • Cayenne Pepper - Cayenne has a long list of health benefits and is believed to be a mild immune-booster. Also, cayenne contains large amounts of natural vitamin A, considered to be an important "anti- infection" nutrient.

SUPPLEMENTS TO SUPPORT THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Here are the basic supplements to support your immune system. These are recommended for all:

  1. Probiotics 10 billion or more bacteria per day. Take with meals. (The acidity in the stomach will kill the good bacteria if not taken with food). Always keep refrigerated. Use a professional brand as Genestra or SISU.

  2. Vitamin D 8000 IU daily (3000 IU for children). Try to find a liquid form for better absorption. You can also get your Vitamin D levels checked to see if you are deficient.

  3. Pascoleucym, the natural flu shot – homeopathic preparation. Use as directed. This is my all-time favourite acute remedy. I always have this stocked in my medicine cabinet and I never leave for vacation without it, even if it’s just a weekend away!

You may want to consider a little extra support if you’re the person that seems to be catching multiple colds and flu each season.

  1. Immu Core (Multi for cold and flue season) This is another great supplement we can’t keep on our shelves over the cold and flu season. It contains antioxidants such as zinc and selenium, and medicinal herbal mushrooms to support the immune system.

  2. Multi-B Vitamin complex 50 mg – 100 mg/day or use as directed.

  3. Vitamin C 500 mg- 1000 mg

 

Remember getting sick once in a while (one to two times per year, with healing in a reasonable time frame) is actually a necessary part of building and strengthening the immune system.

When the immune system gets activated during a cold or flu it’s able to build up antibodies (immune army) for future pathogenic invaders!

Download Your PDF Copy of our Immune-Boosting Recipes Below

This is what you need to consider for sustainable weight loss

Did you know that only 20% of dieters succeed in maintaining the weight loss they achieved during a diet?

Have you ever wondered why this is?

Too many people today focus their energy on the WRONG side of weight loss - restriction, extremes, and unnatural methods or supplements. It doesn’t have to be this way!

You can achieve sustainable weight loss naturally by becoming aware of your body’s needs and tending to them in a way that helps you reach a state of optimum health and balance.

Balance, Awareness, and Your Health

While we’re all accustomed to hearing about how important BALANCE is in cultivating a healthy lifestyle, it’s not often we can get a chance to break down exactly how you can achieve it for yourself.

I want to help you realize how to achieve balance for yourself. In my Metabolic Reset Program, I explore with you the elements of your lifestyle which do not compliment your health and where could you spend a little bit more energy.

Listen to Natascha Voll as she shares how she lost 20 lbs, regained her energy and healed from chronic digestive issues through working with me in the Metabolic Reset Program.

I am motivated to help people on their weight loss journey as I feel that personal awareness and optimum health is something that everyone deserves to cultivate in their life. I truly believe that by raising the overall health of the population we can help more people achieve their highest energetic and creative potential!

It’s not just about weight loss. It’s also about cultivating the AWARENESS that’s needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle and habits that lend themselves to weight loss. Balancing and understanding our bodies is the only way to help them return to their most natural, most healthy weight.

I really hope you’ll consider taking this opportunity to figure out what works for your unique lifestyle and body. I’ll be here to support you and guide you every step of the way - the key is to take that FIRST one and join me.

Book a free discovery call with me today to explore whether or not the Metabolic Reset Program is the right fit for you.

Shift your focus to achieving health, not losing weight

A Common Experience

While we’re all accustomed to hearing ways that claim to help you lose weight quickly, the reality is that the majority of these methods are either unhealthy, unnatural, or unsustainable. More often than not, they will be all three!

How many times have you felt like you were making progress in your weight loss goals, only to find your efforts go to waste as anything lost piles right back on once you take your mind away from it?

The issue here is not just the lose-weight, gain-weight cycle.

It’s the energy and effort you’re wasting each time it happens, and each time you’re stressing out about returning yourself from one of these extremes.

Finding a happy middle ground is key if you’re to achieve any kind of sustainable weight loss. Just as it’s not healthy to never exercise and never eat whole foods, it’s also damaging to over-exercise and obsess about eating well. I’m sure many of you have experience with one or other of these extremes.

Hear how Sharon lost 20lbs in six weeks by working with me in my Metabolic Reset Program below.

She now has more energy, less knee pain, and is breathing more easily. She achieved these results without fad dieting. Instead, she ate an abundance of the right foods at the right times.

Shifting our focus to achieving health

With such mixed messages in the media regarding what is healthy and what will ‘work’ to achieve sustainable weight loss, it’s easy to see how so many people have wound up misled and confused.

We need to shift the focus away from achieving numbers and sizes and start to focus more on achieving health. When you shift your focus towards achieving optimum health instead of lowering your weight to fit some idea of what you think it means to be healthy, you allow yourself the space to cultivate balance in your life.

Balance means to find a healthy, achievable, and sustainable lifestyle change that also supports and promotes weight loss where necessary.

You’ll find that the more you bring your body back into balance and incorporate healthy habits into everyday life, the less you need to focus on the actual process of ‘losing weight’. Your body will balance itself out and over time and settle at a natural weight. If you’re overweight or have a few extra pounds, this will appear like ‘losing weight’.

It’s not just a balance in the foods you eat, however. It’s a balance between activity, rest, food and other lifestyle factors that are part of your daily routine which successfully helps you achieve sustainable weight loss.

Being honest with yourself about negative eating-habits or non-existent exercise regimens and doing something to actively change this (not just once, but consistently over a period of time) is the best way to ensure lasting weight loss.

Ready to explore making a lasting change in your life?

Book a free discovery call with me to learn if the Metabolic Reset Program is right for you.

These are the five challenges to overcome on your weight loss journey

As you set out to achieve optimal health and bring your body back into a state of balance, there will be challenges along the way.

Read on to learn about the five big challenges to overcome.

1. Unwanted Sugar

This one goes without saying, but do we understand why?

Sugar is one of the founding pillars of unwanted weight-gain, and it has become increasingly deceptive at sneaking itself into the foods we consume.

It’s everywhere. It’s unavoidable. There are so many kinds of sugar that it can be difficult to know which kinds are considered ‘okay’ or even just slightly better than others to eat.

There are so many studies on the effects of sugar-intake on weight gain, on weight loss, on heart health, on mental health, and on pretty much every aspect of the word ‘health’ you can think of. The results are conclusive and have led to a general fear of the ‘s’ word among health professionals.

One interesting take on the sugar debate is to consider whether it is the sugar itself, or the quantity of the food consumed which is responsible for the weight gain. The word ‘excess’ is key to developing an understanding of this.

While it’s obvious that consuming excess of anything is generally considered to contribute to weight gain, the ‘empty’ calories which sugar contains (meaning they carry little to no nutritional or satiation value at all) mean that it is more often associated with weight gain than other foods.

2. Not Enough Water

Drinking water contributes to lasting weight loss and is a habit we can easily form, as the benefits can be felt almost immediately.

Not only does increasing water intake improve digestion, but it has also been known to reduce hunger cravings, shifting the focus away from needing food as a lot of the time our bodies just need more water!

By replacing other calorie-laden drinks with water, you can also reduce the amount of liquid calories you consume.

Many health professionals will recommend the standard ‘8 glasses a day’ as the ‘minimum’ requirements of water intake. However, this number is very general and optimum water intake varies from person to person. It is impossible to put a label on the amount you ‘should’ consume.

These variables range according to activity levels, food intake, climate, and environment, and other health issues or requirements (pregnant or breastfeeding mothers need more than those purely seeking to hydrate themselves through a busy day at the office).

In the end, as with many health and weight loss concerns, the key to establishing how much water you should be drinking is simply to become more aware of your own requirements and body-type.

Listening to your body and taking into account your activity levels on a given day (which fluctuate as frequently as your energy levels) will help you decipher when you need to hydrate and when you need to eat, etc, so you should be focusing on AWARENESS more than anything.

3. Not Enough Sleep

Getting enough sleep is an underrated feature of a healthy balanced lifestyle that is vital for anyone seeking to lose weight and balance out calorie consumption. When you think about it energetically, your body only has enough energy stored to last a certain amount of time. Where this energy goes is dependant on your daily activity rate, metabolism, and other external factors.

If you have more energy, it can be more generously distributed towards your metabolism, enabling it to properly digest your food and have some left over for daily tasks.

If you’ve suffered a lack of sleep and are feeling tired all the time, one of the first things the body naturally does is call on places where an increased supply of energy is available and those two things are sleep and food!

Studies have shown that it’s easier to overeat and engage in unconscious eating when you’re tired as it’s the body’s way of trying to make up for lost energy.

The bottom line here is that including SLEEP in your quest to improve your overall health and lose weight is almost as important a factor as the food you eat.

If you don’t want to be tempted to eat that little bit more at every meal to give you a boost, make sure you get it in the form of a good night’s sleep.

4. Too Much Stress

Another thing which can impact energy levels and weight loss in a similar manner to our sleep patterns are our stress levels.

No matter what your job is, chances are some element of work or daily life will cause you a certain level of stress. This is normal for us all. When it becomes significantly increased, however, we can begin to lose precious energy that could be used elsewhere (such as on our metabolism, or in our personal lives) to the excess stress.

Many people deal with this negatively by ‘stress-eating’, or emotionally abusing food to avoid having to deal with whatever stressor presents itself in the moment. Only by being honest with ourselves about the source of our stress or emotional pain, and dealing with it accordingly and sufficiently, can we hope to overcome tendencies to overindulge in food.

Food is a substance, just as much as anything - alcohol, caffeine, drugs. The only difference with food is that it’s a vital component for our bodies to stay alive and healthy. Therefore we must learn how to properly balance our relationship with it in a way that’s not only healthy, but sustainable as well.

Balancing out your weight and aiming to reset to a steady, healthy relationship with food is the best way to hope to obtain a lower weight naturally and sustain it for longer.

Listen in with Erin as she shares how she has gained more mental clarity, energy, and better stress resilience through my Metabolic Reset Program. She’s also lost 25 lbs!

5. Not Exercising

Many people get preoccupied with the exercise side of things (or the diet) and end up not being successful in their weight loss journey.

The key to sustainable, healthy weight loss is all about finding what works for YOU, and then creating balance within that. Too much exercise is unhealthy, as is too much dieting.

Try different kinds of exercise classes and styles until you find one that you genuinely enjoy - and even at that, you don’t need to stick to just one!

Just being aware of when your body needs exercise and heeding those cues can be the difference between a successful attempt at weight loss and an unsuccessful one. There are so many new emerging fitness classes and bootcamps now that you’re bound to find a style that suits your body, goals, and lifestyle, so DON’T GIVE UP!

Things like HIIT training (high intensity interval training) compliment weight loss as they focus on short periods of high-energy cardio activity, which gets metabolism moving and boost energy flow through the entire body.

You can overcome these challenges in your weight loss journey if you have the right mindset and support along the way. If you want to join a supportive community as you work on your weight loss journey, give me a call to find out more about the Metabolic Reset Program.

Book a free discovery call with me to learn if this program is the right fit for you.

What you put into your body matters for weight loss

The power of whole foods for weight loss

For a no-strings-attached healthy eating and weight loss experience, it is vital to increase your consumption of single-ingredient and whole foods.

By doing this, you automatically eliminate the added processed additives and preservatives of mystery-ingredient food which do not lend themselves to weight loss. Think of it this way: if you can barely pronounce them or list the components verbally, then how on earth is your body supposed to process them?

The simpler the compounds of our foods, the easier it is for the body to digest them. Not only this, but the benefits of said wholefoods will also be maximized as the positive nutrients will not have to extracted from the bad in order for the body to benefit from them.

Whole foods (such as brown rice, beans, legumes, most fruits and vegetables, and nuts) also tend to be very filling, reducing the risk of over-consumption and also providing us with many essential nutrients we need to thrive.

Whole foods are one of the things you can consume as part of or as a complete diet to experience the natural ‘side-effects’ of weight loss.

Placing your attention and energy towards ensuring the foods you eat are as whole as possible instead of as ‘low-carb’ or as ‘low calorie’ as possible is a more effective way of achieving lasting weight loss and feeling like an overall healthier version of you.

Read on to learn more or follow along with Gloria’s story on my Facebook page. Gloria (video at right) has been sharing her journey on the Metabolic Reset Program via Facebook, including many of the wholesome recipes and ingredients which have helped her!

What about fruit and vegetables?

This is a pretty obvious one, yet still people tend to neglect the nutritional power of fruit and vegetables to help fill you up and stop you craving the sugary, high-carb foods which won’t help the weight loss!

The benefits of consuming more fruit and vegetables are endless.

They are full of countless nutrients, minerals and also assist with digestion and gut health. They are full of water, which helps you reach that ever-elusive water need. Most fruit and vegetables are also low in fat, high in antioxidants, and high in density, meaning you feel fuller faster.

Research shows we tend to eat the same volume or weight of food every day, regardless of its calorie content. If we want to lose weight, it’s crucial to stick to lower calorie foods to make up this volume. And that’s where fruit and vegetables play an important part in a weight loss diet.

Many fruits and vegetables weigh a lot, which adds bulk to our diets. The difference here between other heavier foods is that veggies are much lower in calorie content.

This isn’t the case with dried fruit, however! The lower density with dried fruit means that it becomes easier to consume more than single portions, increasing the caloric intake and also the danger of over-eating.

What about snacks?

Snacking should not be seen as a negative thing.

Snacks help with portion control, slower, more mindful eating, and with digestion. Our bodies are on rotation to need and expect something to digest every three hours or so – depending on whether the portions we eat have been balanced and nourishing.

This means that having some healthy, wholefood snacks on hand to rely on can mean the difference between binging at dinner time or eating just enough to satiate you through until breakfast the next morning.

What about protein?

Adding more protein to your diet - alongside a good balance of other vital nutrients - has been proven to assist with weight loss.

The reason for this is that protein contains amino acids which are highly effective at breaking down food, increasing metabolism, and assisting with digestion. A diet high in protein will also help you feel fuller for longer, meaning that food cravings will be reduced and any tendency to overeat or binge-eat will be less likely to occur.

Breakfast Like a King

Eating a breakfast high in protein is the key to ensuring you’re set up for a productive, energized and nutrient-filled day, as it will keep you full for longer and give your body the kickstart it needs to start metabolizing.

This means digesting both the food you eat and whatever experiences your day has to offer you!

 

Good examples of high-protein breakfasts include:

Oatmeal - with nut milk (cashew or almond) for that extra protein-kick and topped with fresh fruits to add to the taste!

Chia seed pudding - a lighter option, and again making this with nut milk is a great way to add to your protein intake. Sprinkling chia seeds on anything really is a good way to increase protein!

Any dish including eggs, avocado, spinach, and other greens are guaranteed to satisfy your protein needs. Take care not to use too much oil in preparation as this can add unnecessary fat!

Do you want to start eating differently to help your body achieve an optimal level of health? Don’t quite know where to begin?

Take the first step and book a free discovery call with me to find out if the Metabolic Reset Program is the right fit for you.

This is the best way to practice mindfulness during your summer holidays

In our most recent blog post, we highlighted the importance of mindfulness to our bodies and health.

Over-stimulation is a common state of being in our modern world. This makes the practice of ‘being here, right now’ an experience which can reduce our anxiety and depression as well as enhance our cognitive flexibility.

To become more mindful during your summer holidays, we encourage you to slow down and breathe. Breath is a central piece of our lives and yet we are so often disconnected or unaware of how we are breathing. Read on for some easy-to-implement breathing techniques for your summer holidays!

 

First, Slow Down

 

A really easy way to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life is simply to slow things down.

Slow down eating your meals and really take the time to taste the food.

Slow down your walk to work/college and take the time to notice your surroundings.

Slow down your quick responses to interactions.

Whatever you’re doing, and wherever you’re going, challenge yourself to observe one new thing every day, and you’ll be amazed at how much calmer you feel.

When we slow down, we automatically become more mindful and our attention gets more focused on the task at hand. This not only optimizes our levels of productivity, but also our enjoyment levels!

There are several methods which are effective in helping us to slow down and boost mindfulness, some of which include:

  • Breath control
  • Getting sufficient sleep
  • Minimising distractions

Let’s dive into the first method, breath control, to better understand its value to calming our bodies and minds.

 

Breath Control

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For many people, breathwork (or pranayama as it’s called in yoga) is a vital tool which helps them to slow down and become more mindful. I’m going to talk you through some very easy techniques you can practice whenever and wherever you find yourself getting anxious, stressed, and disconnecting from your present moment.

 

Mindful breath technique 1: Sama Vrittior or “Equal Breathing”

This technique uses equal inhales and exhale lengths to balance out breathing.

How it’s done: Balance can do a body good, beginning with the breath. To start, inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four all through the nose, which adds a natural resistance to the breath. Got the basic pranayama down? More advanced yogis can aim for six to eight counts per breath with the same goal in mind: calm the nervous system, increase focus, and reduce stress.

When it works best: Anytime, anyplace… but this is one technique that’s especially effective before bed. If you have trouble sleeping, this technique can help take your mind off the racing thoughts or whatever might be distracting you from sleep.

 

Mindful Breathing Technique 2: Abdominal Breathing Technique

This technique is great for opening the airwaves and expanding the lungs as increased oxygen flow to the brain has been proven to also affect alertness!

How it’s done: With one hand on the chest and the other on the belly, take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the diaphragm (not the chest) inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. The goal is to take six to ten deep, slow breaths per minute for ten minutes each day to experience immediate reductions to heart rate and blood pressure. Keep at it for six to eight weeks, and those benefits might stick around even longer.

When it works best: Before an exam, or any stressful event. But keep in mind, those who operate in a stressed state all the time might be a little shocked how hard it is to control the breath when they finally turn attention to it!

 

Mindful Breathing Technique 3: Nadi Shodhanaor “Alternate Nostril Breathing”

Another yogic breathing technique, this one uses alternate nostril breathing to equalize the amount of oxygen received by both sides of the brain.

How it’s done: A yogi’s best friend, this breath is said to bring calm and balance, and unite the right and left sides of the brain. Starting in a comfortable meditative pose, hold the right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it off with the right thumb and exhaling through the left nostril.

When it works best: Crunch time, or whenever it’s time to focus or energize. Just don’t try this one before bed: Nadi Shodhanais is said to “clear the channels” and make people feel more awake.

 

We hope that you enjoy practising these breathing techniques over the summer holidays. Cultivating a practice of slowing down and breathing during the more relaxed summer months will help you thrive when the busy fall season strikes!

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These are the top two reasons to cultivate mindfulness during your summer holidays

 ‘The practice of mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now

Mindfulness in theory is extremely straightforward. Simply put, it’s the practice of being fully present, fully aware, and fully able to engage with one’s current situation or environment.

Why then, does it seem so elusive?

So many of us are accustomed to over-stimulation from the outside world. Even during our summer holidays, when the warm temperatures and more relaxed pace of life encourages us to let go, our attention is continually directed away from what is happening to us in the present moment.

The more time we spend in our heads thinking about things that aren’t happening right in front of us – things that have already happened or have yet to happen – the less time we spend being mindful.

Let’s learn a little more about mindfulness and the top two reasons you should cultivate mindfulness this summer.

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What does it mean to be mindful?

Ever heard the phrase ‘be here now’ in relation to mindfulness and meditation?

That’s because encouraging our minds to ‘be here, right now’, is essentially what mindfulness promotes.

Think about it. If you’re constantly preoccupied with worry about something that happened in the past – keep in mind that ‘the past’ in this sense can mean anything up to several minutes ago –  are you truly focusing all your attention in the here and now?

The same goes for the future. Over-anticipation of an event, day, or any time which is separate from what is happening RIGHT NOW is ultimately irrelevant to the present moment. It will not, (and cannot) affect your present situation.

Research has found that mindfulness meditation can decrease our brain’s level of distraction and over-stimulation, however, offering us a foundation upon which to combat our constantly distracted lives.

 

Top two reasons to cultivate mindfulness

 

Helps to reduce anxiety and depression

Instances of anxiety, depression, and various other forms of mental illness have been brought to the forefront of our awareness in recent years. This, and the fact that mindfulness seems to work effectively against them, is a huge reason people are expressing more and more interest in it.

 So how does it help?

Mindfulness calls our attention back into the NOW, while symptoms of anxiety include preoccupation with potential future events or past occurrences. It makes sense that mindfulness works. But mindfulness is not something that can simply be achieved once and then will be available for good.

Engaging with a regular mindfulness and meditation practice is the only way to build up stamina and awareness about the onset of anxiety or other symptoms of poor mental health. The more we familiarize ourselves with our personal ‘now’, our personal state of being present, and become comfortable with it, the more accessible it becomes.

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This means that our ability to rationalize a situation and draw ourselves back into balance is increased with practice, and so mindfulness simply becomes a tool we can access easily and use to our advantage.  Starting your mindfulness practice during the slower, relaxed summer months can help you to build a year-round practice. This will better equip you for stressful schedules and busy days during the fall and winter months.

Read this study to learn more about the benefits of mindfulness meditation for anxiety. There are SO many other studies like this one out there!

 

Helps to build cognitive flexibility

Decreasing your reactivity to external events and triggers is another benefit of a regular mindfulness practice.

People who regularly meditate have been found to possess higher levels of self-awareness and self-observation. These are vital skills and tools which help us become less reactive and more mindful of ourselves.

Cognitive flexibility also refers to the ability to more effectively switch between thought concepts and ideas – that is, to multi-task! Improving our ability to multi-task allows us to process more information more effectively, and ultimately to increase our productivity.

While multi-tasking also has its drawbacks, the overall improved brain capacity required to successfully do so is where the benefits of regular meditation can be observed. Think of it as being better able to handle overreactive thoughts and irrational responses. (I’m pretty sure we all know at least one person who could benefit from this skill.)

If you develop a practice of mindfulness during your summer holidays, you are more likely to return to work, school, and other pursuits with a deeper level of focus and engagement.

 

Developing your mindfulness – or awareness of ‘be here, right now’ – over the summer months will help you to prepare and refresh for the typically busy fall and winter months.

Stay tuned for our forthcoming article on ways to practice mindfulness during your holidays.

Support your brain health this summer with these fun tips

The summer season is upon us. This often means we have a little bit of added energy from the beautiful weather, offering up the opportunity to build healthy habits to support our bodies year-round.

What healthy habits might we build during this energizing season to help our brain? Today, we are going to take a high-level look at our brains and how to create positive habits for our brain health.

 

Our brain is a complex organ

The brain is an organ that acts as the main control center of our bodies. It weighs approximately 3 pounds, making up about 2% of our body weight.

This complex organ controls:

  • Intelligence
  • Our senses
  • Body movement
  • Behaviour

Within the last 10 years, we have begun to understand more and more about our brain and its functioning. We know that a healthy brain will function quickly and automatically.

One in 5 people in the US suffers from a neurological disorder, however. These are diseases of the brain, spine, and nerves connecting them. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders report the following as common disorders:

  • Degenerative diseases of adult life (such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Neurogenetic diseases (such as Huntington’s disease and muscular dystrophy)
  • Developmental disorders (such as cerebral palsy)
  • Metabolic diseases (such as Gaucher’s disease)

While we will not do a deep dive into any one of these disorders, let’s look at building your brain health as an adult.

 

Tips to support your brain health this summer

There are several key lifestyle habits you can adopt to build and maintain brain health.

Lifestyle habits to support your brain can be broken down into four categories:

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  • Physical health and exercise
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Cognitive activity
  • Social engagement

These categories have been shown to reliably help keep your body and brain healthy to potentially reduce your risk of cognitive decline. Additionally, research has found that combining activities of each category has a greater impact on our brain health.

This summer season try to participate in one or two regular physical activities which are also mentally or socially engaging. Here are a few inspirations:

  • Walking with a friend
  • Taking a dance class
  • Joining an exercise group
  • Go golfing
  • Take a tennis lesson
  • Join a community pool
  • Walk your dog
  • Go for a bike ride

Many studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline. Engaging in regular physical activity and cardiovascular exercise will help to elevate your heart rate, as well as the blood flow and oxygen to the brain.

The World Health Organization recommends adults 18-16 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week.

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If you are looking to incorporate physical activity into your regular daily schedule, consider walking and cycling on your errands, turning television watching time into leisure activities such as gardening, or doing more regular household chores such as vacuuming and dusting.

When you learn a new physical activity, you are also helping to bolster your brain health and reduce your risk of cognitive decline. Take advantage of the summer season to try out new kinds of physical activities which may be new to you, such as playing Ultimate Frisbee, beach volleyball, mini golf, or perhaps a water-based activity such as kayaking.

Building these healthy habits during the summer months is a great way to benefit all year round. Hope you have a fantastic start to your summer!

Build your best mood this summer season

It’s almost July, and that means warm temperatures, holiday travels, and hopefully more time spent with family and friends! Although we hope that you’re feeling a sense of joy and positivity as this season approaches – you may instead be feeling irritated or sad. 

Let’s dig into what 'mood' means, and the three ways you can build your most positive, buoyant mood this summer season.   

Understanding your Mood

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Mood is a temporary state of mind or feeling. We usually associate mood with emotions and use descriptive words to define our mood. 

Positive Mood descriptors:

  • Blissful
  • Cheery
  • Joyful
  • Mellow
  • Silly

Negative Mood descriptors:

  • Annoyed
  • Cranky
  • Grumpy
  • Irritated
  • Sad

Happiness researcher, Sonja Lyubomirsky, has identified 3 influences of mood. She reports that personality traits predispose our particular moods, which account for 50% of our "set point" of happiness. 40% is influenced by what we do deliberately to make ourselves happy while the remaining 10% is attributed to life circumstances.

Mood disorders affect over 20 million Americans, with major depression and bipolar disorder being among the most common types of mood disorders. Genetics are known to play a major role in influencing susceptibility to mood disorders. While we can’t influence our genetic predisposition, there are medical and natural methods for boosting mood.

Once diagnosed with a mood disorder, please keep in mind to always follow your doctor’s advice, and only use alternative therapies if they are appropriate for you.

 

Ways to build your best mood

If 50% of our happiness is determined by genetics, that means the other 50% is something we can influence!

Lifestyle choices are the biggest influencer we have control over.

#1. Food

Surprisingly, what we eat can affect our mental and emotional health. Certain foods can bring about changes in our brain structure (both chemically and physiologically), which can lead to altered behaviour.

What we eat impacts us in both a positive and negative way. We need food as fuel, however different nutrients have different effects on mood!

NUTRIENTS TO GET MORE OF:

  • Omega-3
  • Tryptophan
  • Vitamin D
  • Selenium

FOODS TO AVOID:

  • Caffeine
  • Sugar
  • Unhealthy fats

 

#2. Sleep

The amount of sleep we get each night also impacts our mood. There’s nothing worse than being sleep-deprived while trying to maintain a positive outlook during difficult times.

Sleep and mood are inherently connected as poor sleep can cause irritability and stress, and stress can cause sleeplessness. Adopting regular sleep habits is crucial to getting the proper amount of sleep your body needs, and the following are a few steps you can take starting today:

  • Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule
  • Avoid caffeine too late in the day
  • Start a calming pre-sleep routine
  • Exercising regularly and early on in the day

 

#3. Physical activity

Physical activity and its mood-boosting effects have been the subject of numerous studies. The results of these studies indicate that exercise can:

  • Trigger positive emotional processing
  • Reduce negativity
  • Resist stress
  • Reduce anxiety by increasing serotonin levels
  •  Improves body satisfaction, leading to overall satisfaction

There is strong evidence that physical activity improves both short-term and long-term mood. Studies further show people who exercise regularly exhibit general overall happiness.

As such, physical activity is especially important for those vulnerable to depression or seasonal affective disorder.

Since this is a beautiful time of year, try walking outdoors each day. This activity is two-fold! You get the benefits of released endorphins by walking while enjoying nature which is also a natural mood booster. If you’re not sure what local parks or nature preserves are around, ask locals or look on the internet.

Other places to look for include botanical gardens, beaches, historical neighbourhoods, and walking trails. There are more places to explore on foot than you’d think!

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5 Ways to Increase Water Intake

Water intake is a struggle for so many.  I constantly have to remind myself to drink my water. Thirst naturally decreases with age, and this means it is easier to become dehydrated as we age.  

To combat this, here are my favourite tips to help keep your body well hydrated:  

  1. Drink the biggest glass of water first thing in the morning: This is my best tool for hydration.  I find it helps to initial my thirst response and it feels good getting so much of my water goal into me before my day begins.  Often, I will pour it the night before and put it on my night stand so it's right there and ready to drink first thing in the morning! This is a simple habit to incorporate into your daily routine beyond the cleanse.  Getting a good start on hydration is always beneficial.  
  2. Keep track of your water intake: purchase a reusable stainless steel bottle (1 - 1.5L) and fill it up in the morning and challenge yourself to finish it before the work day is over at 6pm.
  3. Add flavour: squeeze some lemon, lime, orange or cucumbers to your water for extra flavour (avoid Crystal light and other aspartame based sweeteners).
  4. Add ice: cooler water seems to go down easier for some people.
  5. Include herbal tea, freshly squeezed juices or bone broth to keep your hydration strong: check out  Distinctly Tea for amazing tea and their very own Detox Tea; Goodvibes Juice & PURE Juice Bar + Kitchen delicious freshly squeezed juices and Bone Broth can be found at better health food stores and grocers. 

Support Your Cleanse with Water, Water, and More Water

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Optimal water intake is essential during a cleanse!  It's one of those habits you want to exercise and plan to keep up beyond the cleanse.  So many unhealthy symptoms can be improved simply by increasing water: better skin, less constipation, reduction in headaches, and increased clarity.  

Water helps to move toxins out of our body either through our skin, bowel, urinary, or respiratory organs.  Since cleansing increases the mobilization of toxins, it's important that we do everything possible to support the elimination of toxins.  When toxins are not being eliminated properly they just stay in our system.  So drink water - lots of water.

You maybe wonder how much your body needs?  Well, it all depends on your size and level of activity and how much you’re sweating.  A general guideline is approximately 2L or 8 glasses of water, herbal tea, or broth per day. 
 
If you are exercising or sweating a lot you will need an additional cup of water for each 15 minutes of exercise/sweat.

Always listen to your body.  When I am dehydrated I start to bite my lips.  Others may experience increased headaches.  The easy way to assess if you're hydrated is to look in the toilet bowl!  If your urine is quite clear and odourless, you are well hydrated!

CLICK HERE for your Toilet Bowl Hydration Chart.