Water – Just Drink More

Benefits_of_WaterWhen someone asks what they can do to change their diet or start living a healthier lifestyle my first response is to DRINK MORE WATER!  This is by far the easiest change you can make that will have both immediate and long lasting effects.  I cannot express enough how important water is to your body.  Here are just some of the improvements you will see when you start increasing your water intake:

1 –  Assists with weight loss – Water is a natural appetite suppressant.  Drinking water will give you that “full” feeling and help eliminate the desire to snack.

2 – Eliminates toxins – Drinking water helps clean your system and flush toxins from your body by boosting kidney and liver functions which remove the waste products in your blood and fluids.

3 – Helps to prevent headaches – Often times headaches are caused by dehydration.  There’s a simple fix for that!

4 – Reduces the risk of heart attacks and stroke – Water helps make your blood less thick and more fluid in turn helping to maintain a healthy blood pressure.

5 – Saves money – With restaurants charging 2-3 buck per pop in most places just think about how much money (If you go out to lunch or dinner just 5 times a week that’s more than $1,500 a year!!)

6 – Helps Digestion – Water helps to break down the foods you eat.  In addition it helps keep your intestinal track functioning more efficiently and effectively when it’s well hydrated and not dried up and contracted.

7 – Improves skin quality – Water is better for your skin than any beauty product out there!  Increase your water intake and in a few weeks your skin will have better tone, more elasticity,  and be less dry and flaky

If you find the whole idea of drinking more water a daunting take here are 6 easy ways to start increasing your water intake:

1 – Instead of ordering a tea or soft drink with your meal, stick with water.  Or, if you MUST order that drink, before you get a refill drink a glass of water.

2 – Use a water tracking app to remind you to drink.

3 – Leave a water jug at your desk or carry a water bottle with you.

4 – If you find water to be bland, flavor it with lemon or other fruits.

5 – Make it a habit to drink a glass of water after every bathroom break.

6 – Drink a glass of water when you first wake up in the morning before you do anything else.

As with all changes, making small incremental changes are much more effective and easier to sustain than making a ton of drastic changes all at once.  It took a while, but these days I pretty much exclusively drink water in my day to day routine.  I will typically drink a cup of unsweetened green tea during the day at my desk, a 1/2 glass of red wine in the evening and the rest of my fluid intake is the water that I have near me at my desk or on the kitchen counter.

There are the occasions where I sweat more than usual because my workouts are extra challenging or I spend a while outside at the track.  These occasions I turn to my Rehydrate from Advocare.  In this hot Houston heat and humidity it’s wayyyyy too easy to get dehydrated.

Health Benefits of Turmeric

turmeric-2344157_960_720Lately, this pungent orange spice has been all the rage and touted as being some sort of super spice with a vast array of healing and medicinal properties.  As with most things I research lately, trying to lower and maintain my high cholesterol was what let me to look further into this turmeric craze and what’s making it so fashionable.

I once worked with a woman who told that as a child when she got sick with a cold or something similar, her grandmother would give them warm milk and turmeric and make them drink it.  If they were injured she would do something completely different with the spice.  Her grandmother was born and raised in India and at one point had a book of healing recipes she swore by that the village medicine man had given her.

There is such an abundance of information published on the web about this it can be absolutely overwhelming to have to sift through it all.  Here are the main points from pretty much all the sources that I’ve come across:

  • Turmeric DOES in fact contain certain compounds contain medicinal properties. The main/active ingredient being curcumin.
  • Myriads of studies of curcumin have shown it to not only have powerful anti-inflammatory effects but also to be a very strong antioxidant.
  • There is evidence in the studies that curcumin can led to changes on the molecular level as well as cross the blood-brain barrier.
  • As a result of these abilities some of the wide array of benefits that have resulted are:
    • Reduced arthritis symptoms
    • Improved cardiovascular health
      • Reduced cholesterol
      • Reduced risk or atherosclerosis
      • Inflammation reduction and cellular repair
    • Improvements in the pathological process of Alzheimer’s disease
    • Digestion improvement
    • Aids in depression

The list goes on and on about the benefits of this spice.  However, most of the studies are performed using extracts of turmeric that contain mostly curcumin itself, with dosages often exceeding 1 gram per day. It is highly unlikely that one would be able to achieve these levels just using the turmeric spice in your foods.

I have not yet purchased any turmeric supplements as of yet so I can’t give any advice as to which is my preferred brand.  And I’ve read that consuming a “pepper” supplement aids in the absorption of the herb.    So much so that one user claimed to “pop three peppercorns” with his supplement.  Although, many brands now actually include some sort of pepper or piperine extract in their formulas.

One should be aware that the presence of contaminants such as metals and arsenic in turmeric has been all over the news lately since the FDA has recalled some major brands.  Researching how to find pure forms free of contaminating agents is another daunting task in and of itself.

Since I’ve been adding a little bit (about one and a half teaspoons or so) to my smoothies I’ve noticed a reduction in the following:

  • The pain in the main joint of my big toe that I SWEAR is from arthritis
  • My acid reflux doesn’t seem to be as bad or as pervasive
  • The effects of my allergies seem to have lessened a bit

Of course, there’s really no way for me to determine whether or not these improvements were related to the turmeric specifically or the overall general lifestyle improvements since I did not start adding the turmeric in isolation of all other changes.  But, it certainly couldn’t have hurt, right?  I’m also still waiting to have my cholesterol checked again in a few months…

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like…

It’s the season of savings and free goodies!  We’re no different here.

I was seeing Halloween decorations up in September. I was seeing Christmas decorations in the store in August. Which means…it’s almost time to stuff your face for 3 months straight! Before I do that I will definitely be doing another round of Advocare’s 24 day Challenge. Just to feel like I’m starting fresh and maybe help to deter me from a little bit of the bad eating that wouldn’t have said “no” to otherwise. If you have an interest in seeing what it’s all about, message me and I will absolutely get you a discount and a free gift!

24day

5 Reasons to Get More Sleep

time-is-money-1339781_640I haven’t been very focused lately. Probably because I haven’t been able to sleep very well for the last few weeks (I’m going to blame it on PTSD from Harvey). I love my sleep. Not going to lie, I go to bed way too early for a person under 40. But I miss having my own office so I could shut the door and catch a quick cat nap during lunch. Those days were uh-MAZ-ing and made all the difference in the world in so many aspects of my life. Aside from not feeling like your batsh*t crazy all the time, getting enough sleep can also

  1. Lessen the risk of heart disease and stroke
  2. Improve the body’s immune functions
  3. Reduce the risk for obesity and aid in weight loss
  4. Improve concentration and productivity
  5. Reduce risk of inflammation

sleepIt’s not only about the quantity of sleep, but the QUALITY of sleep is significant as well. Not getting enough GOOD sleep can be so incredibly detrimental to your health and yet I hear people boast all the time about being able to live on 3-4 hours of sleep a night. It makes me cry a little on the inside every time I hear this knowing the damage this could be doing to their body without even knowing it. Just because you can’t feel the damage being done doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

So now I just have to get back into my “good” bedtime practices. Since CSI Miami has been taken off Netflix as of this morning, maybe that will help. I don’t even know why, but I’m still SOOOOOOOO upset I didn’t get through the series before it happened. Although I made it to the last season, it was a challenge that I failed. I’ll just have to find another way. My daughter suggested that I go to the…gaspwait for it…LIBRARY…since they have all the seasons on DVD. Maybe I’ll think about doing that after our college tour visit to Austin this weekend…Wait…what? I have a daughter old enough to be looking at colleges? WTH?!?!? I guess for now I will just take solace in the fact that my biggest problem currently is that I don’t have enough time to binge watch an almost mildly entertaining series on Netflix.

Why I Love Yin Yoga

Yin_YogaA couple days ago I posted about all the benefits yoga has brought in just a few short weeks.  However, there are many different types of yoga.  If you’re just entering the world of yoga it can be intimidating as there are so many different variations.  That being said, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to yoga, which is the problem with most conventional yoga classes.  Depending on what you want from your yoga practice, a mix of multiple types of yoga could be beneficial.

Yin yoga is a form of yoga that focuses more on passive stretching of the joints and includes postures that are mainly on the floor.  While some of the postures are similar to other forms of yoga, Yin Yoga is unique in that it is not a forced stretch or pose as much as a relaxation into the posture so that your body softens the muscles, moves closer to the bone and deeper in the stretch.  As such, the longer you practice it is not uncommon to see postures held for three to five minutes, even 20 minutes at a time. As a result of these long, deep relaxing stretches, Yin Yoga targets the deep connective tissues, bones, joints, fascia and ligaments in the body.    If you gently stretch connective tissue by holding a yin pose for a long time, the body will respond by making them a little longer and stronger.  For healthy range of motion, layers of connective tissue must allow muscles to glide over each other.  However these connective tissues can become bound together by injury, habitual posture in daily life, and aging, and restrict that movement between the sliding surfaces of the muscles.  The more we work our fascial system and deep tissues, the less dense and tight our bodies become as we age.  Often times you aren’t really concerned with flexibility until it’s gone!

I started noticing how inflexible I was when I started dabbling in Olympic-Style Weightlifting.  I was so restricted on the amount of weight I could lift and progress I could make because my body was not flexible enough and my joints were not open enough to perform the lifts properly with increased weight.  It was then that my coach introduced me to ROMWOD (Range of Motion Workout of the Day), which is a different video routine every day designed to open up and work on those connective tissues, joints, ligaments, fascia, and all those areas that get tight.  While I’m still not as flexible as the video demonstrators, I know this process works because my coaches have made comments about how my form and movements during my lifts have improved!  So while I may not be lifting as much anymore, I’m definitely still trying to continue to incorporate the practice of Yin Yoga as often as possible.  Not only do I enjoy the stress and anxiety relief and the balancing of the mind and  body that results, but (since I’m getting old) I’m trying desperately to increase my range of motion and present stiffness as well!

Top 5 Ways Yoga Has Impacted My Life

Benefits_of_YogaYoga is a 5000 year old Indian body of knowledge about harmonizing the body with the mind and breath through the means of various breathing techniques, yoga postures and meditation.  The benefits can be physical, emotional or mental, or even all of them combined.  Today most people practicing yoga are engaged Hatha Yoga which is a program of physical postures designed to purify the body and provide the physical strength and stamina required for long periods of meditation.

I was interested to see what benefits such an ancient and deep rooted practice might bring.  First I started with a couple of yoga sessions at my gym.  But the schedule didn’t really accommodate people who worked full time during the week as much as it did the stay at home moms and housewives.  Rather than pay an arm and a leg to join a yoga studio across town, I bought a yoga subscription to The Yoga Collective and started practicing at home.   Here are some of the benefits I began to see after only a few weeks:

1.    Increased Strength, Agility and Flexibility – Very few sports or practices will increase strength, agility, and flexibility all at once.  The practice of yoga tones our body muscles and also makes them strong.   Stronger muscles help prevent injuries due to overexertion.  Studies have shown that people can their flexibility up to 35% after only 8 weeks of yoga.  Results will vary with each individual of course, so while I may not be at the 35% mark, there is a marked difference in my flexibility and strength.

2.  Stress relief – Just a few minutes of yoga can be an effective method to get rid of stress that accumulates daily – in both the body and mind.   It can also enhance your mood and overall sense of well-being.  With regular yoga practice, your chronic daytime stress hormone levels drop and your heart rate variability (a measure of your ability to tolerate stress) increases . This has been shown to improve after just a few sessions of yoga.

3.  Decreased Blood Pressure – Yoga has been shown to be as effective as dietary changes for improving blood pressure in some instances.  The deep breathing yoga exercises help slow the breathing rate, which reduces blood pressure and soothes the nervous system that generates stress hormones.  Two studies of people with hypertension compared the effects of Savasana (Corpse Pose) with simply lying on a couch. After three months, Savasana was associated with a 26-point drop in systolic blood pressure (the top number) and a 15-point drop in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number).  It was mentioned that the higher the blood pressure was to start with, the greater the improvement was.  While my improvement wasn’t nearly that great, my blood pressure wasn’t too far out of the normal range to begin with.  Nevertheless, the improvement was there.

4.  Improved Posture –  Yoga has made me much more aware of my posture.  Throughout the sessions you’re constantly being asked to lengthen the spine and to focus on your shoulder, neck and head position.  It was exhausting at first because muscles weren’t used to having me force them to straighten and align everything.  It was something I had to constantly correct and pay attention to.  The more I practiced the more I became aware of all of times outside of my yoga practice where my posture was poor.  Poor posture can cause back, neck, and other muscle and joint problems.  Just picture your head like a big round heavy bowling ball sitting on top of your neck.   When it’s balanced directly over an erect spine, it doesn’t take as much effort for your neck and back muscles to support it.  However, since most of us don’t hold our head up directly over our spine, that’s a constant strain that can cause you to slump.  As you slump, your body may compensate by flattening the normal inward curves in your neck and lower back which can cause pain and degenerative arthritis of the spine.

5.  Improved Sleep –  According to my sleep monitor, one of the byproducts of reduced stress appears to be better sleep.    Practicing relaxing asanas such as forward fold (uttanasana) or lying on your back with your feet up the wall are helpful poses that calm both your mind and body and lead to a deeper and more intense sleep.  Researchers from Harvard found that eight weeks of daily yoga significantly improved sleep quality for people with insomnia.

You don’t need to be an expert at yoga (or in my case, even good at at) for the benefits to take effect. People keep telling me it will get easier with time, but I’m truly SO. SO. SO. BAD. AT. YOGA.  While I haven’t been particularly consistent or dedicated, I do like the results I’ve seen thus far.  I can only imagine the benefits I would see if I actually committed myself to some kind of consistency.

Ch.Ch.Ch.Changes

People spend more than 1/3 of their day either at work or getting to and from work.  And in some cases it’s more than 1/2 of their day!  That is way too much time to spend doing something that you don’t enjoy or that makes you miserable.  Not to mention how bad the stress and aggravation can be for your health (high blood pressure, anxiety, sleep disorders, heart disease, the list goes on and on).  I’ve already talked about how riding the bus has made a huge difference, but sometimes people don’t have as much control over their jobs/careers/means of support.

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I am one of the more fortunate ones.  I didn’t like what I was doing or the environment that I was doing it in…So after eight years of waiting until I vested in my retirement benefits I made a change, effective Monday.  I am lucky enough to not only have an abundance of opportunities available as a result of my skill-set, but to be able to stay with my current company and continue to work towards retirement.  Knowing that I don’t have to go back to that situation again makes me feel like I can breathe again.

I did take a pay cut, and people called me crazy.  But it was worth it to me.  I made the choice that my sanity and well-being of not only myself, but my family, were more important than the income that I would lose.  I can honestly say that I have not once looked back and/or regretted my decision.  I’m doing something that I love and doing it in a stress-free environment that has completely helped me alter my lifestyle back to a healthy and happy one.  And people have taken notice.