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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Journaling



Journaling is one of the steps on our Healthy Habits Challenge.  Why is journaling beneficial to your overall health?  

Personal Development consultant, Steve Pavlina, wrote:
Journaling is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to accelerate your personal development.  By getting your thoughts out of your head and putting them down in writing, you gain insights you’d otherwise never see.
I wholeheartedly agree with Pavlina's statement.  I started writing in a journal when I was in 8th grade.  I literally filled up volumes through high school and college.  I slowed down quite a bit in my adulthood, but have found journaling to be a great source for not only recording what happens in my life, but for evaluating how my life is going and where I want to go.  
I think my biggest success story with journaling came when I was 29 years old, had just had my 4th baby and was trying to get myself to exercise.  I had exercised in various forms through my adult years -- running, swimming, step classes, bike rides with kids, but I never really enjoyed it.   I knew I needed to change, but I wasn't sure how to.  I'd heard that with exercise you have to make yourself do it until you love it and eventually you will indeed love it.  

So I came up with a plan.  I would exercise each morning and if I came up with an excuse, I had to write that excuse in my journal so I could evaluate the validity.  Every single time, I'd write why I couldn't exercise, would look at it and would just think, "That's not a good excuse!"  and would get myself to go exercise after all.  It took a few weeks of pushing myself until I really started to look forward to my workouts.  My cardio capacity increased to where it wasn't a huff and puff struggle to exercise.  I learned to love strength training.  This opened the doors for me to explore various facets of fitness that I never would have tried otherwise.  

If any of you are having a hard time fitting in the journaling, I just wanted to give you a few ideas that may help. 
  • Keep a notebook by your bed that you can write in each night before you go to sleep.  Take it with you when you travel so you can continue the habit. 
  • Take a smaller notebook with you to work or wherever to write in spare moments (standing in line at the grocery store, waiting to pick kids up from school,  stuck in traffic, etc.)
  • If you blog, you don't have to write a full post like your normal blog posts each day for the world to see every single day.  You can add on another blog address that isn't accessed by the public and just click on that each day when you're online to either track your progress with this challenge or just to write whatever thoughts are on your mind.
  • If you don't blog, but get on the computer each day, just start a journal on a Word Document (or whichever word processing software your computer has) and add to it each day.   You can save your documents daily, weekly, or monthly and keep them in a special file folder for your journal entries. 
Hope you are able to enjoy the benefits of writing down your thoughts.  TTFN!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The idea of a Free Day

I have to tell you that I used to think the idea of a Free Day in an eating plan was not a good one.  First of all, if you're trying to improve your healthy, why take one day a week to bail on those goals that could help your body heal and improve?  Why give yourself the idea that you're in jail with your eating plan and can't wait to break out?  Secondly, if you're like me and have dieted for too many years with the black/white mentality, the free day can be dangerous because you are trying to (okay, just insert "I am trying to") eat all the sugar I can on that free day because I won't be able to have it tomorrow!  And third, if you take a free day and veer too far off course, you may never come back.  That's happened to me more times than I care to remember.


Let's look at these one at a time:

  • If you truly are seeking better health, then no, you don't want to do something unhealthy to your body once a week.  However, there may be benefits to letting loose of a few goals every once in awhile.  With exercise, it's actually better for your body to have one rest day a week.  Some may need more if they are have been training vigorously or are just starting out.  You don't want to overtrain.  You'll end up with a weaker immune system, you might get sick, and then you won't be able to exercise at all.  Your body needs the rest to rebuild and recover.  
  • With the eating, you don't have to completely let loose of your goals.  You're better off if you don't, actually. Because I've always had a sugar addiction, I used to work on not eating sugar at all when I was in college.  I would go without it for a whole month and would give myself one day at the end when I could eat sugar.  If someone would bake cookies, I'd put a few in the freezer for that day.  If a friend would bring me frozen yogurt, I'd put it in the freezer for that day.  By that day, you can guess it. I had a stockpile of sugary goods.  And I'd eat them all.  I'd end up with horrible indigestion and realized this wasn't the best way to go about it.  Your body will let you know when you've done something wrong once you've gotten away from the unhealthy food.  
  • You can, however, use the free day to take the pressure off for occasions like holidays or eating out when you might not be able to find as many whole grains, enough vegetables, or whatever is a part of your eating plan.  I know sometimes I've panicked if I'm eating really well and see a BBQ or luncheon coming up later that week.  I don't think I can do it.  I don't even want to go.  I wonder if I should just give up on my goals if they don't fit in with life.  But with a free day, if you attend a luncheon and there are foods there that aren't on your regular plan, you can have that sandwich or hors d'oeuvres and not fret about it.  If you think you just have to have a slice of the wedding cake, take 1/2 a slice and savor it.  I personally do better without the sugar.  But if you can handle a little and that will keep you going the next week, do that for now.  Maybe in a few weeks, you'll realize that you are just fine without the cake and will opt for a more nutrient dense food that will be equally as satisfying. 
  • We have many non-food/non-exercise goals in the Healthy Habits challenge that you may like to ease up on instead for just that day just to get a mental relief from keeping track of everything.  I do love journal writing, but that is one goal that I often skip on my free day.  Same with eating after 8:00.  I don't eat anything heavy, but I may go eat some fruit or something just because I can (yes, there's a little rebel in us all).  
  • What about the black/white mentality?  Do you have that "I need to eat it now because I won't get to later" mind-set?  If you do, then try relaxing a bit in that thought and tell yourself that you really can have it later.  There are free days every week.  You can have it the next week if you want to.  And you can have it on a regular day if you can live with having less points.  But the true mindset reversal will help if you start thinking during the week as you may crave this or that and think that you're deprived somehow (which is absurd that any of us in our affluent society can think we're deprived when we never go hungry and have an ample supply of clean water to drink), that there will always be another day that you can have it.  It's just not in your plans for now.  
  • Better yet, start celebrating the foods that are nutritious for your body, learn to want THEM and to appreciate their flavors, textures, and smells.  I've experienced as much joy and satiation with whole foods as I have with all the foods in our modern diet that aren't good for us.  But my brain has been patterned to think that the unhealthy foods are the most desirable.  Whether it's the addictive nature of the foods or just what we've told ourselves in our society, I'm not sure.  You can, however, get as much pleasure from healthy foods and that is the aim if we want to reach our optimum health.
  • When I did the last challenge, I did use my first few free days to eat sugar as I wished.  I found it extremely difficult (well, maybe not extremely, but difficult enough) to be happy with healthy eating again the next few days.  Once I get sugar in my system, that's all I can think about.  I guess that's the definition of a craving.  I realized it was not worth it to make 1/2 of my week difficult for that one free day. So I treated my free days differently after that.  I used them as a time to pause and reflect and possibly eat a few things I wouldn't eat during the week, but I didn't use it to dive into my addictions and make the rest of the week a trial.
Hope this helps you as you continue with your challenge.  Even if you're not joining the challenge (it's not too late if you just want to jump in and follow along -- let me know if you do), I hope you can see that resting or regrouping once a week can be healthy too.   If anything, the idea of a free day helps me during the week to know that I'm not locked in forever with anything.  I can choose as I wish that one day and more often than not, I continue to make healthy choices, which is wonderful. TTFN!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Drinking plenty of Water


One of the goals on our Healthy Habits Challenge is to drink plenty of water. "They say" to drink 8 glasses of water a day (64 oz, 1/2 gallon). On Plan A, that's the minimum goal. For Plan B, it's a little less -- 48 oz. My mom isn't as tall as I am and she said it was a real struggle for her to drink 64 oz. a day. It didn't make her feel good. She feels better with 48 oz. So we made that the goal for Plan B. But if you want more, by all means, drink more and enough to hydrate your body.

For me, if I'm not exercising, I probably drink somewhere in the 48-64 ounce range by the end of the day. When I exercise the morning, I've already downed one Nalgene water bottle (32 oz.) by the end of my workout. I fill it up right after my workout and usually have 1/2 of that gone within a few hours.  Most of the time, I've already met my 64 oz. requirement by noon.  If I don't exercise in the morning, I don't drink as much early in the day, but I still start my day with at least 16 oz. of water.  It just helps get me going.

If you have a big water bottle, I suggest you fill it early in the day and start drinking away.  Trying to drink from glasses all day long is harder to do.  Before I had water bottles (my husband says I buy too many of them -- I love the stainless steel water bottles too), I filled up a pint canning jar with water before my workouts.  Often I had 2 filled up so I wouldn't have to stop my workout to refill.

If you'd like to read another post I wrote a few years ago, click here.

Let me know how you're doing with your Healthy Habits Challenge!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Healthy Habits Challenge


I did so well on the 8 weeks to a Better You Challenge that I did last fall and my mom did so well on that one plus the challenge they did in January, that she's been asking me to start one of my own ever since.  So here I am.  Honestly, I wouldn't be doing it without her prodding because I'm still in the mode of wanting to do my own thing.  However without much soul searching, I can tell you that I'm not doing that great on my own myself, so I'm welcoming a challenge myself whether I'm admitting it to myself yet or not.

Anyone want to join me for the Healthy Habits Challenge?  I just added some tabs up above with the details and a Paypal Donation link in the right column to make us feel accountable in some small way.   Tomorrow I'll make up a paper for you to print out so you can keep track of your daily points.

There will be 2 options for accomplishing your 10 goals each day.  Click on the tabs up above to see Plan A and Plan B.  Choose the one that most fits your goals.  

Spread the word and get your friends or relatives to join the challenge, too.  E-mail me a photo and I'll post the pictures of everyone in the challenge on another tab.  It should be a lot of fun.   Let me know if you think you might be joining.  TTFN!