Fitness & Nutrition Blog

Shift Your Mindset For Weight Loss

Shifting your mindset about how to lose weight is the biggest factor in losing weight.  We can't shift our weight from the outside without realizing the correct inner resolve and intention. Most people try to lose weight with the worst state of mind possible: wanting to "fix" themselves. They jump into diets and exercise plans out of self-deprecation, all the while pinching their "trouble" spots, calling themselves "fat" and feeling altogether less-than. They get obsessed with results, focus on quick fixes and lose sight of sustainability and even health.

This type of thinking can be destructive, rather than focusing on the good that can come of weight loss – such as better health, a longer life, more enjoyment in everyday activities and the prevention of diabetes and heart disease – these folks focus on negative thoughts. Ultimately, a negative mindset leads to failure.
Yes, shifting your attitude around weight loss isn't just about feel-goodery; it's about results. In fact, research from Syracuse University shows that the more dissatisfied women are with their bodies, the more likely they are to avoid exercise. And simply thinking that you're overweight predicts future weight gain, according to 2015 research published in the International Journal of Obesity.

While psychologists stress that how you see yourself and your core identity predicts your actions (see yourself as overweight, averse to exercise or unworthy, and you'll act accordingly), biology may also play a role. Research published in Psychosomatic Medicine even show that the stress hormone cortisol, which your adrenal glands secrete every time you get down on yourself or worry about how you measure up on the scale, increases distribution of fat around the abdomen. 

Fortunately, the mind is a flexible thing. Follow these 10 expert-approved tips to change your mindset and make your weight-loss approach healthier, happier and way more effective.

1. Change Your Goals
Losing weight might be a result, but it shouldn't be the goal. Rather, your goals should small, sustainable things over which you have full control.  Did you eat five servings of fruits and veggies today? There's one goal met. What about eight hours of sleep; did you get them in? If so, you can check another goal off of your list.

2. Gravitate to Positivity
Surround yourself with positive people. Doing so provides you an encouraging, emotionally healthy environment in which to invest in yourself. Don't be afraid to ask for help or support. 

3. Rethink Rewards and Punishments
Keep in mind that making healthy choices is a way of practicing self-care.  Food is not a reward, and exercise is not a punishment. They are both ways of caring for your body and helping you feel your best. You deserve both.

4. Take a Breath
Taking a few minutes at the beginning of your workout, or even at the beginning of your day, to slow down and simply focus on the act of breathing can help you set your intentions, connect with your body and even lower your body's stress response, Hutchins says. Lie on your back with your legs extended and place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold for two and then exhale through your mouth for six, she says. With each breath, the hand placed on your stomach should be the only one to rise or fall.

5. Throw Out the Calendar
Patience is also important when you are losing weight in a healthy and sustainable matter. Plus, if you focus on meeting truly actionable goals, like taking 10,000 steps each and every day, there's no need to get wrapped up in a timeline of goals ahead. Every 24 hours comes with new successes; focus on those.

6. Identify Your 'Trouble Thoughts'
Identify the thoughts that get you into trouble and work to stop and change them. Maybe it's your internal dialogue when you look into the mirror. Or cravings when you get stressed. Consciously make them stop by saying 'stop' out loud.  It might sound silly, but that simple action will break your chain of thought and allow yourself the opportunity to introduce a new, healthier one. The best way to do this is to count from one to 100 as many times as you need until the destructive thoughts subside.

7. Don't Step on the Scale
While the scale isn’t intrinsically bad, a lot of us have learned to associate it with self-destructive thoughts and actions. If that's you, don't even bother stepping on the scale until you get to a place in which the number on the scale doesn't define your worth.

8. Talk to Yourself Like You Would a Friend
When it comes to ideals of beauty and body image, we are incredibly hard on ourselves. The standards we adopt for ourselves are punishing. And we'd never hold our friends or loved ones to many of those standards. You deserve the same respect and compassion as anyone else; treat yourself like it.

9. Forget the Whole 'Foods Are Good or Bad' Mentality
Somewhere along the line, we've learned to feel either proud or guilty about every food choice we make. But it's just food, and you shouldn't have to feel guilty about wanting the occasional cookie. Give yourself permission to have a glass wine or a piece of chocolate cake. Remember, all foods fit.

10. Focus on the Attainable
If you have never stepped into a gym before, your goal shouldn't be doing 30 minutes on the elliptical on day one. A better goal may be to go for a 20-minute walk.  If you want to cook more, but have little experience with healthy recipes or are strapped for time, don't expect yourself to craft new healthy recipes every night after work. Maybe consider using a delivery service such as HelloFresh or Blue Apron in which pre-portioned ingredients and recipes are sent to your door, helping you to get acquainted with new ingredients, try out new recipes and build fundamental cooking skills. Start where you are and build from there.

Healthier & Tasty Pumpkin Spice Latte Alternatives

It’s the start of fall, and we all know what that means: pumpkin spice lattes are back! And while the fans of the so-called “PSL” are everywhere, most people don’t know much about the ingredients or nutritional value of their beloved drink. Let’s take a closer look.

A medium, 16-ounce pumpkin spice latte made with reduced fat milk that’s topped with whipped cream is about 380 calories. While that might seem like a compromise — no whole milk, and not the largest size – it’s still the calorie equivalent of a meal! The medium PSL contains 14 grams of fat (half of it saturated) and 50 grams of sugar (12 teaspoons!).

It’s not all bad news, however. A PSL has a good protein boost with 14 grams (the amount in nearly two eggs or half a chicken breast).
The bottom line: If the PSL is part of your fall tradition, enjoy it – but in moderation. Look at it as a special indulgence, rather than a daily go-to drink.

Keep the same taste you know and love, but consider downsizing your portion. Going down a size saves 100 calories and cuts the fat and sugar by 25 percent. If you also swap out the reduced fat milk to skim milk (or unsweetened soy or almond milk) and skip the whipped cream, you’ll save about 140 calories, and wind up with a drink around 250 calories. And if you think 140 calories isn’t much — if you saved that every day, you’d lose a pound at the end of a month!

There are also a number of good alternatives to get the PSL experience, without the added calories, fat, and sugar.

1. Try a pumpkin pie spice ready-to-drink creamer. 
At a mere 35 calories per tablespoon, you can get the essence of the PSL with a tablespoon or two added to your coffee. Add a splash of the milk (or alternative) of your choice to boost the flavor.

2. Try this 60-calorie pumpkin spice coffee drink.
Take a large mug and add eight ounces hot coffee (regular or decaf), four ounces reduced fat milk (or unsweetened almond, soy or your choice), one teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, ½ teaspoon vanilla, one teaspoon sugar (or low calorie sweetener).

3. Consider this pumpkin spice chai.
Take a large mug and add one cup of oat milk (or milk of your choice), one chai tea bag, ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, ¼ teaspoon ginger, ½ teaspoon vanilla, and one teaspoon sugar (or low calorie sweetener). Heat in a small pan or the microwave. Stir and enjoy. (around 150 calories).

4. Go to town with this frappuccino-esque PSL.

Blend together one medium banana, 1/3 cup canned pumpkin puree, one cup unsweetened milk of your choice (non-fat or low fat milk, almond, soy, oatmeal), ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, one teaspoon sugar (or low calorie sweetener). Mix and enjoy — serves two and has just 125 calories per serving.

Eating For Optimal Brain Health

The brain is an energy-intensive organ, using around 20 percent of the body's calories, so it needs plenty of good fuel to maintain concentration throughout the day.
The brain also requires certain nutrients to stay healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, help build and repair brain cells, and antioxidants reduce cellular stress and inflammation, which are linked to brain aging and neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease. 

This article explores the scientific evidence behind the best brain foods.

1. Oily fish
Oily fish are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help build membranes around each cell in the body, including the brain cells. They can, therefore, improve the structure of brain cells called neurons.

A 2017 study found that people with high levels of omega-3s had increased blood flow in the brain. The researchers also identified a connection between omega-3 levels and better cognition, or thinking abilities.
These results suggest that eating foods rich in omega-3s, such as oily fish, may boost brain function.

Examples of oily fish that contain high levels of omega-3s include:

People can also get omega-3s from soybeans, nuts, flaxseed, and other seeds.

2. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate contains cocoa, also known as cacao. Cacao contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant.

Antioxidants are especially important for brain health, as the brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, which contributes to age-related cognitive decline and brain diseases.

Cacao flavonoids seem to be good for the brain. According to a 2013 review, they may encourage neuron and blood vessel growth in parts of the brain involved in memory and learning. They may also stimulate blood flow in the brain.

Some research also suggests that the flavonoid component of chocolate may reverse memory problems in snails. Scientists have yet to test this in humans.

However, a 2018 study in humans also supports the brain-boosting effects of dark chocolate. The researchers used imaging methods to look at activity in the brain after participants ate chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao.

The researchers concluded that eating this type of dark chocolate may improve brain plasticity, which is crucial for learning, and may also provide other brain-related benefits.

3. Berries
Like dark chocolate, many berries contain flavonoid antioxidants. Research suggests that these may make the berries good food for the brain.

Antioxidants help by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. The antioxidants in berries include anthocyanin, caffeic acid, catechin, and quercetin.

A 2014 review notes that the antioxidant compounds in berries have many positive effects on the brain, including:
improving communication between brain cells
reducing inflammation throughout the body
increasing plasticity, which helps brain cells form new connections, boosting learning and memory
reducing or delaying age-related neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline

Antioxidant-rich berries that can boot brain health include:

4. Nuts and seeds
Eating more nuts and seeds may be good for the brain, as these foods contain omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.

A  2014 study found that a higher overall nut intake was linked to better brain function in older age.

Nuts and seeds are also rich sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, which protects cells from oxidative stress caused by free radicals.

As a person ages, their brain may be exposed to this form of oxidative stress, and vitamin E may therefore support brain health in older age.

A 2014 review found that vitamin E may also contribute to improved cognition and reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease.

The nuts and seeds with the highest amounts of vitamin E include:
sunflower seeds
Fully exploring vitamin E's effects on the brain will require further research.

5. Whole grains
Eating whole grains is another way to benefit from the effects of vitamin E, with these grains being a good source of the vitamin.
Whole-grain foods include:
brown rice
bulgur wheat
whole-grain bread
whole-grain pasta

6. Coffee
Coffee is a well-known concentration aid — many drink it to stay awake and encourage focus.

The caffeine in coffee blocks a substance in the brain called adenosine, which makes a person feel sleepy.

Beyond boosting alertness, a 2018 study suggests that caffeine may also increase the brain's capacity for processing information.

The researchers found that caffeine causes an increase in brain entropy, which refers to complex and variable brain activity. When entropy is high, the brain can process more information.

Coffee is also a source of antioxidants, which may support brain health as a person gets older. One study has linked lifelong coffee consumption with reduced risk of:
cognitive decline
Parkinson's disease
Alzheimer's disease

Caffeine can, however, affect a person's sleep and doctors do not recommend caffeine consumption for everyone.

7. Avocados
A source of healthful unsaturated fat, avocados may support the brain.
Eating monounsaturated fats may reduce blood pressure, and high blood pressure is linked with cognitive decline.

Thus, by reducing high blood pressure, the unsaturated fats in avocados may lower the risk of cognitive decline.

Other sources of healthful unsaturated fats include:
almonds, cashews, and peanuts
flaxseed and chia seeds
soybean, sunflower, and canola oils
walnuts and Brazil nuts

8. Peanuts
Peanuts are a legume with an excellent nutritional profile. They contain plenty of unsaturated fats and protein to keep a person's energy levels up throughout the day.
Peanuts also provide key vitamins and minerals to keep the brain healthy, including high levels of vitamin E and resveratrol.

Resveratrol is a natural non-flavonoid antioxidant found in peanuts, mulberries, and rhubarb. Evidence from a review article suggests that resveratrol can have protective effects, such as helping to prevent cancers, inflammation, and neurological diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

9. Eggs
Enjoyed by many for breakfast, eggs can be an effective brain food.

They are a good source of the following B vitamins:
vitamin B-6
vitamin B-12
folic acid
Recent study suggests that these vitamins may prevent brain
shrinkage and delay cognitive decline.

10. Broccoli
As well as being a low-calorie source of dietary fiber, broccoli may be good for the brain.

Broccoli is rich in compounds called glucosinolates. When the body breaks these down, they produce isothiocyanates.

Isothiocyanates may reduce oxidative stress and lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

Broccoli also contains vitamin C and flavonoids, and these antioxidants can further boost a person's brain health.

Other cruciferous vegetables that contain glucosinolates include: 
brussels sprouts
bok choy

11. Kale
Leafy greens, including kale, may support brain health.
Like broccoli, kale contains glucosinolates, and leafy greens also contain other key antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. This is why many consider kale to be a superfood.

Supplements for brain function
In addition to making dietary changes, some people consider taking supplements to improve their brain function. But do these supplements actually work?

Taking vitamins B, C, or E, beta-carotene, or magnesium may improve brain function if a person has a deficiency in any of them. If a person does not have a deficiency, these supplements are unlikely to improve mental performance.

Research suggests that taking ginseng may improve this performance. However, further studies are needed before doctors can recommend ginseng to enhance brain function.

The foods listed above may help improve a person's memory and concentration. Some may also reduce the risk of stroke and age-related neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Some of the foods contain compounds such as healthful fatty acids, which can help improve the structure of brain cells called neurons. Other compounds, such as sugars and saturated fats, may damage brain cell structures.

Brain-boosting foods tend to contain one or more of the following:
antioxidants, such as flavonoids or vitamin E
B vitamins
healthful fats
omega fatty acids

Beyond adjusting the diet, a person can optimize their brain function by:
not eating too much or too little
getting enough sleep
keeping hydrated
exercising regularly
reducing stress through yoga mindfulness, or meditation
reducing alcohol intake

Eating a brain-boosting diet will also provide many benefits for the entire body.

Tips For Healthy and Safe Tailgating

Take a Tailgate Time Out
Before you dive into the buffet, follow these tips to curb your caloric intake: 
Earn a little splurge on Saturday afternoon by saving a few food items from your eating plan during the week.
Before the festivities begin, have a small snack that contains protein and fiber (like cereal and yogurt) so you'll be less tempted to overeat.
Survey all the offerings before you load your plate, then select plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean dairy and protein.
Eat from a plate instead of continually grazing from the buffet. This will help you keep track of how much you're eating.
Remember that alcohol has plenty of calories. One tactic is to alternate alcoholic drinks with zero-calorie beverages throughout the day. Remember that too much alcohol can lead to increased hunger. 

Score Points With Guests
If you're the party host, do your fellow fans a favor by making sure your buffet includes plenty of healthy offerings such as:
Fresh fruit, sliced or in salads or kabobs
Assorted vegetables with low-fat dips and salsas
Low-fat snacks such as popcorn, pretzels, and baked chips
Lean meats and seafood and low-fat cheeses
Whole-grain breads and crackers
Salads made with light dressings
Salsas, wraps, salads, or stews made with fiber-filled and high- protein beans

Touchdown Tips for Food Safety
According to the American Dietetic Association, the average sports fan partakes in tailgating five times during a football season. And according to a recent survey, most tailgaters take unnecessary food-poisoning risks. Food is often kept at temperatures that promote bacterial contamination. Many tailgaters also recycle pre-game picnic food to eat again after the game.

Follow these guidelines to keep your food out of the danger zone:
Make sure foods that will be served cold are cold before you put them in the cooler.
Don't use a cooler that's too large. A full cooler will keep foods cold longer.
Carefully package raw meat. Put it in the bottom of the cooler to avoid drips and cross-contamination
Pack coolers just before you leave for the game, and use ice packs to maintain temperatures.
Use a thermometer in your cooler to be sure foods stay at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep coolers out of the sun, perhaps under a tree.
Bring waterless hand sanitizer or moistened towelettes to keep hands clean.
Bring a meat thermometer to ensure that burgers and brats are cooked to 160 degrees and chicken breasts to 170 degrees.
Throw away any perishable foods that are left from your pre-game picnic so no one will be tempted to eat them after the game.
Do not leave food unrefrigerated for more than two hours. In hot weather (90 degrees or above), the time limit is one hour.

Why You Need To Stretch After Your Workout

Stretching after working out is a highly recommended practice. The benefits of stretching before a workout are often discussed, emphasizing its role in injury prevention. When you stretch after a workout, you benefit from both physiological and psychological effects.

Your muscles should be warm before you begin your stretching. Do a warmup before a workout that simulates the movements you’ll be doing in order to warm up and prepare your body. Stretch after the workout when your muscles are already warm.
Benefits of Post Workout Stretches:

Increased Flexibility
One of the foremost benefits of stretching is increased and enhanced flexibility of the different muscle groups. It helps constricted and contracted muscles release back to their more comfortable state and your body will eventually become more flexible, which can help prevent injuries
With consistent post -workout stretching, the body becomes more flexible. You will find it easier to bend, stand, squat and do a host of other flexibility related exercises, which would have otherwise not been possible. It has been seen that leg stretches done after a long run increases muscular power and endurance especially for runners.

Improved Blood circulation
When you indulge in an intense workout, the body pumps blood faster to the heart making it beat at a rapid rate. Stretching allows the body to cool down and also helps the heart beat to return to normalcy. The release of lactic acid during an intense workout is broken with stretching.
This allows muscle recovery and repair. The blood circulation to the muscles is once again resumed with stretching. This also allows the heart rate to come back to its original resting rate.

Eliminates Lactic Acid
The moment you workout muscles, the body produces lactic acid which makes the muscles fatigued and sore. Hence, it is important to stretch as stretching eliminates the lactic acid that has accumulated inside the body and also relaxes the muscles.

Boost your energy
If you stretch properly, you’ll likely notice that your energy level is steady and consistent. When the body cools down, the brain releases endorphins, a natural and healthy feel-good chemical. After a good post-workout stretch, you’ll be energized and ready to meet any challenge.

Pain Prevention
Stretching properly after a workout will not dissipate the pain but will definitely minimize it to a large extent. On the other hand, if your muscles remain tight after a workout, it increases your risk of muscle injury. Stretching can actually minimize and reduce your predisposition to injuries.

Improved Range of Motion
Muscles that have not been stretched tend to remain constricted which prevents you from using them to their full capacity.
If you use your muscles and stretch them after a workout, you will be able to utilize the same muscles towards a greater range of motion. This will get your better results because you will have used your muscles to their maximum capacity.

Increased Muscular Coordination
Enhanced muscle coordination is a common benefit of stretching, especially for people participating in strength training. When you stretch tired muscles, you give them better functional mobility and allow them to synchronize properly.

Gradually slows down the body
When you go through an intense bout of exercise, your body can feel drained and fatigued, but stretching and breathing techniques will help you feel rested and relaxed. By gradually slowing down the body, as opposed to just stopping cold, you maximize the benefits of your workout.

Mental clarity and mind-body connection

Stretching isn’t just for the muscles. It also helps harmonize your mind, relax your mood, and relieve stress. Stretching also gives you a chance to tune into your body, taking notice of any sore muscles or joints that need extra attention or a break.

Time Management to Achieve Your Fitness Goals

1. Have a goal.
You’ve heard the saying: “If you don’t know where you are going, how will you ever get there?” It can be easy to lose track of time and direction if you don’t have an end goal in mind. It is important to get pretty clear on what exactly your goals are. Whether you want to lose weight, increase muscle, change your eating habits, manage your stress or change careers, deciding what your goals are is an important step to managing your time and being successful. Write your goals down and place them somewhere where you can see them every day. This will help serve as a reminder when life gets hectic, and will help you stick to your goals when it may seem easier to skip them.

2. Create a timeline.
Once you have determined what your goals are, spend some time creating a timeline. I like to start from the finish line and work backwards. For example, let’s say your goal is to run a particular, figure out how much time you will need to prepare. The same concept can be applied for other goals such as weight-loss, gaining mass or even getting more sleep. Start at the end and figure out how much time you will need to reach your goal.

3. Figure out what you need to do.
Now that you know where you are going and how much time you will need, it is time to write down exactly what you will need to do. If you want to lose weight, for example, you will likely engage in exercise, change your eating habits, drink enough water and get adequate sleep. Tackle each of these areas individually. What will you do for exercise? How many days a week? Will you take classes? Run outdoors? Get super specific and write these things down. Changing your eating habits requires you to make a grocery shopping list and plan your meals. If you eat out, set up some guidelines, such as choosing vegetables for side dishes, having a source of lean protein and drinking water or other calorie free beverages. Getting enough sleep requires you to make some healthy changes, too. Again write down these steps to help you get where you need to go. The clearer, more vivid you get, the better you will be in managing your time and reaching your goals.

4. Schedule your workouts.
Keep your workouts, trips to the grocery store and other healthy “to-dos” in your calendar, just as you would your work meetings or doctor’s appointments. Set reminders on your calendar to help you stay on track. Even better, arrange to exercise with a friend, which will increase your commitment and keep you accountable.

5. Plan your grocery trips.
Make it a point to schedule in time each week to go grocery shopping. Create a list and, if possible, keep it on your phone. By making it a point of going to the grocery store and taking a list with you every week, you will save yourself time and guess work, and reduce the temptation to fall off track with your eating habits.

6. Prepare your food in advance.
Now that you have gone to the store, build in time to prepare your meals. This can be done a few times a week (say Sundays and Wednesdays) or every morning for the day. Whatever your timeframe may be for preparing your food, it is important to build it into your day to make it easier to stay on track and work toward your goals. If you end up eating out often, spend some time reviewing the menus ahead of time so you have an idea of the healthy options available.

7. Take advantage of your “down” time.
When the kids are down for a nap or you have an extra few minutes at the office or on the weekends, take advantage of this time. What tasks have you been putting off? Use this time to get them done. If you are at work, take a walk. If the kids are asleep, get in a home workout. While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and feel like you just “don’t have the time,” the reality is we can create the time if we make our goals a priority.

8. Check in weekly.
Once a week, take the time to evaluate your progress, your time and the plans for the upcoming week. Do things need to shift a bit? What were your barriers? This step is important as it will help keep you balanced and present. It allows you to shift things around and refocus for the next week.

Yoga, Benefits Beyond The Mat

Yoga, an ancient practice and meditation, has become increasingly popular in today's busy society. For many people, yoga provides a retreat from their chaotic and busy lives. This is true whether you're practicing downward facing dog posture on a mat in your bedroom, in an ashram in India or even in New York City's Times Square. Yoga provides many other mental and physical benefits. Some of these extend to the kitchen table.

Types of Yoga
There are many types of yoga. Hatha (a combination of many styles) is one of the most popular styles. It is a more physical type of yoga rather than a still, meditative form. Hatha yoga focuses on pranayamas (breath-controlled exercises). These are followed by a series of asanas (yoga postures), which end with savasana (a resting period).
The goal during yoga practice is to challenge yourself physically, but not to feel overwhelmed. At this "edge," the focus is on your breath while your mind is accepting and calm.

A Better Body Image
Yoga develops inner awareness. It focuses your attention on your body's abilities at the present moment. It helps develop breath and strength of mind and body. It's not about physical appearance.
Yoga studios typically don't have mirrors. This is so people can focus their awareness inward rather than how a pose — or the people around them — looks. Surveys have found that those who practiced yoga were more aware of their bodies than people who didn't practice yoga. They were also more satisfied with and less critical of their bodies. For these reasons, yoga has become an integral part in the treatment of eating disorders and programs that promote positive body image and self-esteem.

Becoming a Mindful Eater
Mindfulness refers to focusing your attention on what you are experiencing in the present moment without judging yourself.
Practicing yoga has been shown to increase mindfulness not just in class, but in other areas of a person's life.
Researchers describe mindful eating as a nonjudgmental awareness of the physical and emotional sensations associated with eating. They developed a questionnaire to measure mindful eating using these behaviors:
Eating even when full (disinhibition)
Being aware of how food looks, tastes and smells
Eating in response to environmental cues, such as the sight or smell of food
Eating when sad or stressed (emotional eating)
Eating when distracted by other things
The researchers found that people who practiced yoga were more mindful eaters according to their scores. Both years of yoga practice and number of minutes of practice per week were associated with better mindful eating scores. Practicing yoga helps you be more aware how your body feels. This heightened awareness can carry over to mealtime as you savor each bite or sip, and note how food smells, tastes and feels in you mouth.

A Boost to Weight Loss and Maintenance
People who practice yoga and are mindful eaters are more in tune with their bodies. They may be more sensitive to hunger cues and feelings of fullness.
Researchers found that people who practiced yoga for at least 30 minutes once a week for at least four years, gained less weight during middle adulthood. People who were overweight actually lost weight. Overall, those who practiced yoga had lower body mass indexes (BMIs) compared with those who did not practice yoga. Researchers attributed this to mindfulness. Mindful eating can lead to a more positive relationship with food and eating.

Enhancing Fitness
Yoga is known for its ability to soothe tension and anxiety in the mind and body. But it can also have an impact on a person's exercise capacity.
Researchers studied a small group of sedentary individuals who had not practiced yoga before. After eight weeks of practicing yoga at least twice a week for a total of 180 minutes, participants had greater muscle strength and endurance, flexibility and cardio-respiratory fitness.

Cardiovascular Benefits
Several small studies have found yoga to have a positive effect on cardiovascular risk factors: It helped lower blood pressure in people who have hypertension. It's likely that the yoga restores "baroreceptor sensitivity." This helps the body senses imbalances in blood pressure and maintain balance.
Another study found that practicing yoga improved lipid profiles in healthy patients as well as patients with known coronary artery disease. It also lowered excessive blood sugar levels in people with non-insulin dependent diabetes and reduced their need for medications. Yoga is now being included in many cardiac rehabilitation programs due to its cardiovascular and stress-relieving benefits.
Before you start a new exercise program, be sure to check with your doctor.
Researchers are also studying if yoga can help people with depression and arthritis, and improve survival from cancer.

Yoga may help bring calm and mindfulness to your busy life. 

Learn about Access Bars & Reiki

What is Reiki?
Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by "laying on hands" and is based on the idea that an unseen "life force energy" flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one's "life force energy" is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.

The word Reiki is made of two Japanese words - Rei which means "God's Wisdom or the Higher Power" and Ki which is "life force energy". So Reiki is actually "spiritually guided life force energy."

A treatment feels like a wonderful glowing radiance that flows through and around you. Reiki treats the whole person including body, emotions, mind and spirit creating many beneficial effects that include relaxation and feelings of peace, security and wellbeing. Many have reported miraculous results.

Reiki is a simple, natural and safe method of spiritual healing and self-improvement that everyone can use. It has been effective in helping virtually every known illness and malady and always creates a beneficial effect. It also works in conjunction with all other medical or therapeutic techniques to relieve side effects and promote recovery.
An amazingly simple technique to learn, the ability to use Reiki is not taught in the usual sense, but is transferred to the student during a Reiki class. This ability is passed on during an "attunement" given by a Reiki master and allows the student to tap into an unlimited supply of "life force energy" to improve one's health and enhance the quality of life.

What is Access Bars?
The Access Bars® is an amazing treatment that involves gently touching 32 points on your head.  This supposedly releases anything that doesn't allow you to receive. These points (aka bars) contain all the thoughts, ideas, beliefs, emotions, and considerations that you have stored in any lifetime. This is an opportunity for you to let go of everything!

Each Access Bars® session can release limitations in the area of your life that corresponds with the specific bar being touched. This is an incredibly nurturing and relaxing process, undoing limitation in all aspects of your life that you are willing to change.

How much of your life do you spend doing rather than receiving?
Have you noticed that your life is not yet what you would like it to be? You could have everything you desire (and even greater!) if you are willing to receive lots more and maybe do a little less! Receiving The Bars® will allow this to begin to show up for you.

How does it work?
Access Bars® has assisted thousands of people to change many aspects of their body and their life including sleep, health and weight, money, sex and relationships, anxiety, stress and so much more.

Some compare the brain to a computer and The Bars® treatment to a disk defragmenter.  The bars (points on the head) correspond to different areas of the brain (the computer files) that relate to aspects of everyday life, such as joy, creativity, money, control, creating connections,  calmness or experiencing gratitude etc.  We carry our own limiting thoughts, beliefs, emotions and patterns in these areas (like junk files, or spam) based on judgements absorbed from society, culture family, friends and personal experience.  Ideas about right and wrong, good and bad, interfere with accepting life as it is and making changes that empower us.  We may even be well aware of how these judgements draw us off-centre, away from our inherent connection to wholeness and oneness.

When an Access Bars® practitioner touches the bars on a person’s head, the electrical charge in the brain which holds these fabricated judgements is dispersed (i.e. the junk files deleted!).  Patterns and ‘programs’ we’ve taken on cause us to react to life on autopilot, with unconscious resistance to the very experiences we most long for.  Once cleared, we become free to function again with clarity and awareness, receiving who we truly are without fear and obstruction, and open to entirely new vistas of possibility.

Studies have shown that The Bars® treatment slows brainwaves down to a theta state allowing behavioral patterns and childhood perspectives to surface and be released, and a greater state of presence, allowance, and openness to arise.  Limiting thoughts, beliefs and feelings can be lifted, including fears about money, blocks to creativity, difficulty receiving, residual grief, or any other habits that no longer work for you.

The Bars® are a tool that facilitate a different way of functioning on the planet.  For trillions of years, human beings have functioned from the density of their thoughts, feelings and emotions. This is what people have identified with, this is what people have made valuable.  The more you get your bars run, the more you begin to perceive how much effort it actually takes to function from thoughts, feelings and emotions. You also start to perceive the possibility of functioning from perceiving, knowing, being and receiving.  For most people, getting their bars run is the first time that they actually allow themselves to receive without obligation and consideration. It's like activating a computer virus of consciousness!

Bars can be used to facilitate change in all areas of your life.  When you are willing to function from more consciousness, you begin to open the doors to all healing.  Science tells us that the shape of your cells actually becomes more elliptical when they are influenced by thoughts, feelings and emotions, which is the first step to dis-ease.  When you get your bars run, it unlocks this impact on the cells allowing the cells to return to their more spherical shape facilitating more ease in the body.
Access Consciousness® tools including The Bars® are used by Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Physiotherapists, Family Play Therapists, Massage Therapists, Acupuncturists, Chiropractors, Business Coaches and Trainers and everyday people to create simple fast change.

Why You Should Incorporate Planks Into Your Workout

With exercise, sometimes the simplest of movements result in the greatest gains to your fitness, and this is certainly the case with planks. To do a plank, you hold your body (the trunk portion) off the ground, making sure to hold it in a straight line.

If you’ve never tried one, a plank may look easy, almost too easy to be beneficial, but this is deceiving. While getting into the proper form is straightforward, holding the position takes strength and endurance in your abs, back, and core.

The plank is one of the best exercises for core conditioning but it also works your glutes and hamstrings, supports proper posture, and improves balance. There are many variations you can try to add intensity and work different areas of your body. 

5 Benefits of Doing Planks
Planking has become increasingly popular for core strengthening, and for good reason: it works – in large part because it engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously. What are some of the benefits you can expect from adding this exercise to your regular routine?

1.A Toned Belly
Planking will help build your deep inner core muscles that lay the groundwork for that six-pack look. As your abdominal muscles become stronger, your mid-section will tighten.
Keep in mind, however, that in order to really get "six-pack" abs, you have to shed fat. For men that would be a body fat of about 6 percent, and women around 9 percent, in order to achieve that classic six-pack. This is not necessarily healthy.

2.Reduce Back Pain
Planks work for back pain because they strengthen your core, which has the pleasant “side effect” of reducing back pain. They also strengthen your back muscles, especially those in your upper back. Because the plank exercise requires minimal movement while contracting all layers of the abdominal fascia, it is an excellent way to strengthen the core, which, in turn, helps reduce low-back pain.

While building strength, planks also increase flexibility in your posterior muscle groups. The muscles around your shoulders, collarbone, and shoulder blades will expand and stretch (an area that often receives little attention), as will your hamstrings and even the arches of your feet and your toes.
If you do a side plank, you can also stretch out your sides (especially if you extend your arm up over your head in line with your body). To increase the stretching benefits, try a rocking plank – once in basic plank form, rock your body back and forth by moving your toes a few inches either way.

4.Improve Your Mood
Virtually every exercise has the potential to give you a mood boost,   and planks are no exception. Planks are unique, however, in that they help stretch and ultimately relax muscles groups that often become stiff and tense from prolonged sitting. The tension release that planks provide is uplifting for your spirit.

5.Improve Your Balance and Posture
To do a plank correctly, you must engage your abs to stay upright. Side planks or planks with extensions are particularly beneficial for building balance, as are planks performed on a stability ball. To test and strengthen your balance, try a side plank with a leg raise – get into side plank position, then lift your top leg and hold for one count. Lower it and repeat, then switch sides.4 In addition, planks work all the muscles you need to maintain proper posture, like your back, chest, shoulders, abs, and neck. If you do planks regularly, you’ll find you’re able to sit or stand up straighter with ease.

Health Benefits of Grilling

There are health benefits to cooking your food on the grill versus on the stove or oven. We’ll go over some of the health benefits and give you some tips to serve up some tasty and healthy meals. Let’s start with the five health benefits.

1. You Eat Less Fat
When you grill, you eat less fat because the excess drips off the grates. Think about cooking a burger on the grill versus in a pan on your stove-top. On the grill, the fat cooks off. In a pan on the cooktop, the fat has nowhere to go, so it pools and is eventually re-absorbed by the meat.

2. Vegetables on the Grill are Better for You
Most people don’t realize that vegetables retain more of their vitamins and minerals when they’re grilled. This is especially true with veggies that have a low water content.
Plus, vegetables that you toss on the grill are usually fresh and in season, which are a step above the canned versions. Wrapping in tin foil or just placing on top of your grill, cooking your veggies in this manner is nutritionally advantageous than boiling or frying.

3. Meat Retains Nutrients
When you toss a slab of meat over the fire, it actually preserves more riboflavin and thiamine. Both of these nutrients play a vital role in a healthy diet, as well as have many health benefits associated with each of them.

4. You Use Less Butter
If you’re a master with the grill, and not overcooking your food, you’ll have juicy cuts of meat and tasty veggies. Because the grill locks in more moisture, you’ll be less inclined to reach for the butter or other condiments to jazz up your food. Not only does that means you eat fewer calories, but you put less unhealthy stuff in your body.

5. Grilling Goes With Outside Activities
The act of grilling gets you outdoors. A lot of parents toss around a Frisbee or kick a ball around the grass with their kids while grilling dinner. The act of cooking and eating outdoors encourages more activity, which we all know is just an added health bonus to go along with your delicious dinner.

5 Tips for Healthy Grilling
Before you fire up the grill for tonight’s dinner, we have a few tips to make your next meal even healthier. Here are five tips to improve your family’s diet as you grill away.

1. Buy Lean Meats
While cheeseburgers are grilling staple, you should vary your outdoor menu. Try lean cuts of meat like chicken, fish or pork. When you’re craving a burger, pickup the leanest beef you can find. Look for 93/7 marked on the package. That means just 7 percent is fat. The leaner the meat, the healthier it is for you.

2. Grill Your Veggies
Every meal should have veggies, so when you’re grilling, add a few peppers or zucchini to the grill. Try grilling sweet corn or make veggie kabobs as a side dish. A spinach salad with light vinaigrette dressing is another nutrient-packed addition that is a favorite amongst many people.

3. Use Gas Rather Than Charcoal
Depending on who you ask, some doctors have suggested that charcoal used during the grilling process can expose you and your food to cancer-causing chemicals.
If you want to use charcoal to cook, it’s recommended that you don’t overcook the meat and keep it out of the smoke as much as possible. If you can, doctors recommend using a gas grill. Not only is it a cleaner way to cook, you also avoid the possible side dish of a well-known carcinogen. 

4. Marinate Your Meats
Who doesn’t love a steak marinated in a honey garlic glaze, or lemon pepper pork chops?
The good news is that marinating doesn’t just improve the taste of your dinner, it may actually improve your health. When meat is cooked at high temperatures or cooked over charcoal, there are some concerns about cancer-causing chemicals seeping into the meat. Marinating the meat, however, is believed to help eliminate these chemicals by up to 99%.

5. Try Healthy Alternatives
If burgers and steak are your go-to grilling options, you can always take to the Internet for some inspiration. There are all sorts of creative and surprising recipes for the grill. For example, have you ever tried making a pizza on the grill? It’s an option. Grab some whole-wheat dough at the store, turn the grill on high and add some sauce and veggies to grill something other than beef.

While summertime is usually synonymous with grilling, when the weather starts to chill and the seasons change, you can also try a small electric grill that you can use indoors. It will tide you over until you fire up the barbie once again.

Why Summer Is Good For Your Health

Get your dose of vitamin D
Perhaps, the most obvious benefit of the extra sun is getting a daily boost of Vitamin D. Maintaining a steady supply has been shown to slow down aging, prevent inflammation, improve bone health, and improve immunity and resistance against diseases. Recently, a study found that the vitamin can reduce the risk of early death in people diagnosed with heart problems.

The season of the fruits
With all the fresh produce filling up grocery stores and farmers markets, it can be difficult to avoid fruits during the heat of the summer. Due to the high levels of humidity, we are more likely to crave a few slices of watermelon or a delicious mango smoothie. Other healthy summer fruits including berries, pineapples, kiwis, oranges, and peaches can prevent dehydration and provide a generous diet of vitamin C and vitamin E. 

You're sweating and that's good!
The more you sweat, the cooler your body gets and the more your blood circulation improves. Perspiration also helps clear out your skin by purging bacteria, dirt, oil and other impurities. The benefits aren't just limited to physical health. Prolonged sweating is associated with the release of endorphins which improve your mood and overall mental health.

Nature and the great outdoors
Ecotherapy simply cannot be underestimated and summertime means no more excuses to hide indoors. A 2016 study found that spending just 30 minutes in nature every week would reduce the risk of high blood pressure and depression.
Exposure to fresh air is important, particularly for those who live in a busy city and are subject to pollution. Breathing cleaner oxygen can increase your levels of serotonin, promoting happiness and well-being.

Rejuvenate with a vacation
Research has suggested that taking a break from your usual life and schedule to travel and relax is required to keep yourself healthy and productive in the long run. No matter how old you are, taking some time away from the corporate and academic environments can provide some well-rounded benefits that include reducing stress, boosting creativity, improving focus, and developing family bonds.  

Your heart is healthier

Studies have shown that the risk of heart disease peaks during the months of winter, but reaches its lowest point during summer. Experts have yet to identify the exact cause but the aforementioned benefits may suggest why your overall health is better during summer. Good cholesterol levels are said to be higher during this season compared to colder months, possibly since the hot weather is not as likely to constrict blood vessels.

How To Embrace Chaos For A Happier Life

We live in chaotic times. Our days and weeks are taken up by fast paced modern living, mad rushing to get a lot done each day, crazy amounts of information and messages vying for our attention, and more and more stuff going on around the world. Plus, uncertainty about so many aspects of life; who knows what next week will be like? Life is chaotic, inherently so. The very nature of life is quite chaotic and we often use a lot of energy attempting to create some order of it.

The pain and positivity of Chaos:
Chaos is new, unexpected and sometimes even undesired and distressing. It can often have a darkness to it. But embracing chaos as a positive in our lives is a wonderful way to deal with the unknowns and the possibilities of how things might be; it’s where and how we learn, explore and find meaning. When we attempt to tame the innate chaos in life and control all that cannot be controlled, it can cause us to feel depressed, anxious or sad.

Most of us experience times when the chaos feels like it is too much for us – when we feel overwhelmed and swamped, where life is out of control and where we fantasize of a simpler way of being, that takes less out of us.

The impossible promise:
What’s wrong with chaos anyway? Chaos is one of nature’s greatest forces, and it has brought forth much more wonder and joy than we realize and typically tend to imagine. It is probably unrealistic to think or hope to control chaos. Today, let’s focus on why we should and how we can embrace chaos. How we should let it wash over us from time to time, and focus more on the things we can control.

By accepting and embracing chaos as our friend or guide, we manage to organize a work life that is conducive to both performance and happiness.

Most of the time we’re multitasking. That’s just what it takes to live modern lives like ours. But that doesn’t mean it is ultimate chaos, it is just how our minds work. That is how we work. We do multitask, but when we focus on one specific task, it is with the greatest of our attention. We get in the zone. By accepting and embracing chaos as our friend or guide, we can manage to organize our life that is conducive to both performance and happiness.

How to Embrace Chaos in Life? 
Here are some ways…. Only Attempt to Control “the Controllable”
DO not try to control the uncontrollable! We can plan for the future, but most of the variables that can change our plans in the future are unpredictable, so focus instead on what you can control.  Most of us want to feel like we are in control of things, but when it comes to people and situations beyond our control we have to let go.  Stuff happens.

Most of the thoughts stored in our brain are not totally true, outright false or not applicable. If you have set up, ahead of time, criteria to judge a thought, you have the ability to discern, distinguish and judge a thought. Once you realize that imagined fears are baseless (which is the 1st test), then you understand there is no immediate need for action on your part, and you can choose to consider the thought further and select it or deselect it.

Counter Negative Thoughts:
Since many of the thoughts stored in our brain are skewed, we need to create a health-producing filter to accept or reject each thought. If you have already prejudged the criteria for assessing a thought, by expecting a positive outcome, you then have the ability to discern, distinguish and judge a thought from a perspective of hope.
Find out whether it is your own thought, or someone else’s. Also, decide whether it is for your own good to follow. This will lead to more control over your thinking process. 

Be Present:
Be present. Be mindful. See the flowers in your neighbor’s garden, hear the birds in the early morning, feel the warmth of the sun on you while you are driving. Stop being in another place in your mind all the time. Stop cluttering your brain with what happened yesterday and the discussion you are going to have with your partner because of his/her misbehavior, and what you are going to cook for supper.
Be present – really BE where you are, stop being somewhere else in your mind.

So often we can’t name the emotion we are feeling. We just know that we are not comfortable with what we feel. And we dwell in that feeling of discomfort – whether it is sadness, jealousy, anger, fear. It is just easier to really settle into the comfort of your discontent.

Attempt to be your own observer and explore your emotions. What emotion am I feeling? What triggered this emotion? Why?

Thinking about your thinking. How can I change this? What can I do differently next time? How can I handle this situation NOW? Responsibility really means “the ability to respond”, to make an active choice. You can make an active choice in terms of how you interpret things and how you act on them.  Research on the brain also reveals a direct link between patience and a vivid imagination. When we can counter an initial impulse, it leads to better decision making at a later time.

David Rock in his book, “Your Brain at Work” refers to this process as “reappraisal”. How to interpret what things mean to you differently. If you can shift your interpretation, your emotional response will shift too.

Do this 3-step exercise:
Step 1: Awareness. Think of an example last week you responded in a “less favorable” way; in other words, you had a strong emotional reaction to this situation. For example, when you were stuck in traffic for hours, someone said something very negative about you, or perhaps a business meeting that was canceled on short notice. Think of such an example now.

Step 2: Label it; give this emotion a name.

Step 3: See if there is maybe another way of thinking about what happened to you. Try to reinterpret, normalize, reorder, or to reposition.
Next time you become aware of the fact that you are experiencing discomfort in terms of your emotions, apply these 3 steps. It will create a greater awareness of your emotions and your reactions.

Be brave enough to explore alternative ways of thinking and be bold enough to embrace whatever insights come your way.

“In the space between chaos and shape, there was another chance.” – Jeanette Winterson.

When there is a sense of chaos, raise your arms in the air and embrace it, let it happen, resistance is futile. Embrace the chaos.

Why You Should Strengthen Your Core Muscles

Core exercises improve your balance and stability
Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in harmony. This leads to better balance and stability, whether on the playing field or in daily activities. In fact, most sports and other physical activities depend on stable core muscles.

Core exercises don't require specialized equipment or a gym membership
Any exercise that involves the use of your abdominal and back muscles in coordinated fashion counts as a core exercise. For example, using free weights in a manner that involves maintaining a stable trunk can train and strengthen several of your muscles, including your core muscles.

You may also try several specific core exercises to stabilize and strengthen your core. Some examples of core exercises include planks, situps and fitness ball exercises. A bridge is another example of a classic core exercise. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Keep your back in a neutral position, not arched and not pressed into the floor. Avoid tilting your hips. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Raise your hips off the floor until your hips are aligned with your knees and shoulders. Hold the position for as long as you can without breaking your form.

Core exercises can help tone your abs
Want more-defined abdominal muscles? Core exercises are important. Although it takes aerobic activity to burn abdominal fat, core exercises can strengthen and tone the underlying muscles.

Strong core muscles make it easier to do most physical activities
Strong core muscles make it easier to do many activities, such as swing a golf club, get a glass from the top shelf and bend down to tie your shoes. Strong core muscles are also important for athletes, such as runners, as weak core muscles can lead to more fatigue, less endurance and injuries.

Weak core muscles can also leave you susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries. Strengthening core muscles may also help improve back pain.

Core exercises can help you reach your fitness goals
Aerobic exercise and muscular fitness are the primary elements of most fitness programs. But to have a well-rounded fitness program, consider including core exercises in the mix as well.
Whether you're a novice taking the first steps toward fitness or a committed fitness fanatic hoping to optimize your results, a well-rounded fitness program is the best way to reach your fitness goals.

Tea Has Amazing Benefits

At the very least, it’s a flavorful way of getting enough fluid into your body each day. On top of that, studies have shown teas can help protect your teeth and your heart, as well as possibly even helping to stave off cancer.

Which type of tea you drink can make a difference. All non-herbal teas are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. The amount of time the leaves are processed determines whether you end up with a green, black or oolong tea.

The green teas are the least processed and tend to have the highest amounts of polyphenols, and the only type that contain the polyphenol, catechin, which is why many studies have been done using only green teas. Certain herbal teas are known for their medicinal values, including soothing the digestive system.

Here are health benefits of tea and some options for delicious teas to try:

Tea contains antioxidants. 
Antioxidants work to prevent the body’s version of rust and thus help to keep us young and protect us from damage from pollution. Load up on antioxidants with a white tea, which is less processed than black or green tea so it retains more beneficial antioxidants.

Tea has less caffeine than coffee. 
Herbal blends have no caffeine, while traditional teas have less than 50 percent of what typically is found in coffee. That means you can consume it without those pesky effects on your nervous system. If you're trying to switch from coffee to tea, try a chicory root tea which has a mouth feel and flavor similar to coffee. Chicory root is also known to help reduce stress and is a prebiotic so may be helpful to your gut. Bonus: this tea will give you a kick of energy without the caffeine.

Tea may reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
There’s a lot of literature out there on tea and heart health. This is a health effect for which there is the strongest evidence. In fact, a study published earlier this year that combined data from a host of earlier reports found a nearly 20 percent reduction in the risk of heart attack and a 35 percent reduced risk of stroke among those who drank one to three cups of green tea a day. Those who drank four or more cups of green tea daily had a 32 percent reduction in the risk of having a heart attack and lower levels of LDL cholesterol. Four cups of green tea may keep you running to the bathroom, but you can get the same benefit from drinking one cup of matcha tea, which is made from ground green tea leaves and is said to be the nutritional equivalent of 10 cups of regular green tea.

Tea may help protect your bones.
Data from recent animal studies has shown that green tea may prevent bone loss. Moringa, a plant that's native to South Asia, has been known for its medicinal properties and is now quickly becoming a mainstream superfood. With more calcium than milk, as well as iron, vitamin A and K, moringa tea is a great addition to help keep those bones strong.

Tea may help you smile bright.
Japanese researchers have found that tea can decrease tooth loss. It changes the pH in your mouth when you drink it and that may be what prevents cavities. Beyond that, tea, unlike many other beverages does not appear to erode tooth enamel.

Tea may boost the immune system.
Studies have shown tea can tune up immune cells so they reach their targets quicker. Holy basil or tulsi tea has been used by Ayurvedic practitioners for centuries to help keep the immune system strong after injuries or illnesses thanks to its antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties.

Herbal tea may smooth the digestive system.
Herbal teas, in particular chamomile, can be good for people with irritable bowel syndrome because it is an antispasmodic. And ginger teas can calm nausea. Get a dose of both with a ginger chamomile tea.

Tea -unadulterated, that is- is calorie free. 
It’s a great no-calorie alternative to water.  It provides so many options for flavor and versatility. You can have it hot or cold. And you don’t have to put anything in it, though you might want to add a cinnamon stick or some ginger. That means you’re able to hydrate with something other than water alone.

Stay Motivated and Reach Your Fitness Goals

Set Realistic Goals and Expectations
Planning to lose 20 pounds in one month? Unless you're a contestant on The Biggest Loser, it's unlikely you're going to do that. Unrealistic goals actually set you up for failure; you won’t stay motivated to continue when it doesn’t work out.

If you read about a diet or exercise plan promising super-speedy results, remind yourself of the adage we’ve all heard a million times: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!” Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint and lasting results take time and effort, so get real!

Keep a Photo Diary of Your Successes
Having a collection of progress photos is an awesome way to keep your spirits high! One study even shows how a photo diary can keep dieters motivated, making them more likely to reach their target weight.

It makes sense. When you look at your body in the mirror every day, it's hard to see a difference. But having photographic proof of what you looked like before and after (and during) your weight-loss journey will show you how far you’ve come. For even more motivation, post your photos on social media to share with supportive friends.

Enjoy What You Do for Exercise
If you hate running on the treadmill, chances are, you won’t do it. It’s hard to stay motivated if an activity feels like torture! But there's good news: Exercise comes in so many forms; you just need to find something you love!

Like to dance? Check out Zumba classes or online videos. Eager to squeeze in some quality friend time? Enlist your buds for daily walk and talks. Not sure where to start? Grab a class schedule from the local gym and see if any of the options pique your interest. Sometimes an inspiring instructor is a motivation you need to get your butt to class! Find a workout that you truly look forward to, and motivation won't be a problem.

Get a Full Night’s Rest
This might seem like an unlikely tip for motivation, but it works. Why? When we're tired, our ability to think straight falters and our emotions take over. And who hasn’t reached for a pint of ice cream when feeling yucky? Seriously, sleep could be the sup rising reason you aren't losing weight! 

Buddy Up!
Finding a partner in your weight-loss efforts will make a huge difference in your success. Having someone to hold you accountable is extremely motivating. You’re less likely to skip that workout if you know your friend is counting on you, right?

And even if you don’t have someone to lose with, you can find support from all over the world, courtesy of social media. There are so many inspirational weight-loss groups on Facebook that you can join. Get involved!

Finding a partner in your weight-loss efforts will make a huge difference in your success. Having someone to hold you accountable is extremely motivating. You’re less likely to skip that workout if you know your friend is counting on you, right?

And even if you don’t have someone to lose with, you can find support from all over the world, courtesy of social media. There are so many inspirational weight-loss groups on Facebook that you can join. Get involved!

Reward Yourself
Who isn’t motivated to succeed by the promise of reward? Choose something that correlates to your weight-loss success. Drop a pants size? Buy yourself a new pair of jeans! Are muscles sore because you’ve been working out hard? Sounds like you’ve earned yourself a massage. There are even apps and group challenges that promise financial rewards for weight-loss success... Put your money where your mouth is!

Don’t Live or Die by the Scale
Yes, the scale is the most tangible way to monitor weight loss, however, we put too much weight (pun intended) into the numbers. Many factors affect your weight, like how much water you’ve had to drink that day and how much sodium you consumed the day before.

If you weigh yourself daily you may lose motivation. I recommend picking the same time once a week to weigh yourself. Wear similar clothing when you weigh in. And to really grasp your progress, use other things, like the fit of your jeans and those photos I mentioned!

Don’t Be a Perfectionist
Get rid of that all-or-nothing attitude. It's awful for motivation. When goals become un-achievably rigid, we give up. One inevitable slip-up, and you'll want to throw in the towel.

Don’t be that way. Be kind to yourself. You're only human, after all! Setbacks are normal. You don’t have to give up all your favorite foods when dieting; that's a total weigh-loss myth.   Remember that, and weight loss will get easier. 

Stay On Track Over Memorial Day Weekend

1. Hydrate!
You may indulge in a few alcoholic beverages this weekend so be sure to drink lots of water! Alternate alcoholic beverages with water. This will prevent dehydration and prevent a hangover. Add lemon to your water to replenish electrolytes. You'll feel great the next day and won't miss a morning workout! 

2. Get up early and get in a good sweat!
You may overindulge a little this weekend and that's ok, however it's a good idea to crush a PPW before the barbecues and festivities begin!  If you wait too long the day will get away from you and chances are you won't fit it in, so get moving early!! 

3. Go for lean meats when barbecuing this weekend!
Load up on chicken, fish and veggies! And stay away from condiments! Those sauces are loaded with sugar and fat and those calories add up! Choose fruit instead! Make a fresh pineapple salsa to add to burgers, brats and hotdogs. It's also a great dressing for fish and chicken. 

4. Weekend Parties: NEVER go hungry!
Grab a handful of almonds or an apple with all natural peanut butter before heading out to parties. 
This will prevent you from overeating and you will make better choices. If you don't love it, leave it!… Indulge in the things you love but don't pick at foods that aren't worth your calories. 

5. Most importantly, enjoy yourself!
Portion control is important but don't stress out over every calorie. Get in a few PPWs this weekend, hydrate and have fun with family and friends. 

Do Workout Supplements Give Us An Edge?

Maybe, but results vary from person to person. When scientists study these products, mixed reviews are pretty common. Also, most research focuses on highly trained or pro athletes, so your results might be different. But if you're healthy and have no problems with your heart, kidneys, or liver, the most popular sports supplements are safe and inexpensive.

It's best to talk with your doctor before you take any product, even if it's natural, in case you have any conditions or take medications that it could affect.

Caffeine for Endurance
Caffeine gives you a pick-me-up in the morning, and it can pick up your game, too. If you take it about 30 minutes before your race, game or workout, it could improve your endurance. For long challenges, like a marathon, caffeine during the event can help, too.
Tennis players, cyclists, soccer players, runners, rowers, and others got an edge from caffeine in scientific studies. In some trials, the stimulant boosted athletes’ speed. In others, it helped them last longer before they spent all their energy. Some studies show that it can curb soreness after exercise, too. This means you could get back to your training sooner.

You can get caffeine from energy drinks and shots, tablets, chewing gum, sport gels, and sprays. Each product will give you different doses, so read the label before you take it.
You don’t need all that much caffeine to get the effect, and it is possible to overdo it.  No matter what form you take, make sure you don’t get more than 400 milligrams a day. And don’t forget to count your other daily sources of caffeine -- there’s about 100 milligrams in your morning coffee.

Too much caffeine can cause headaches, irritability, stomach upset, dehydration, and trouble sleeping.

Creatine for Reps
Are you a sprinter or weight lifter? Creatine monohydrate could help with these and other repeated short bouts of intense exercise. It doesn’t seem to benefit players of other types of sports. And, like studies of many supplements, not all studies show that it benefits athletes.

Your body makes creatine naturally, and your muscles use it to do high-intensity exercise. When you do a lot of reps, you use up your natural store of it. That’s one reason your tenth rep is so much harder than your first. A supplement boosts the amount your body has to work with. You also can get creatine from beef and pork. If you already eat plenty of these, you won’t notice as much of a difference from a supplement as a vegetarian might notice.

Experts consider creatine safe for healthy people. Some people take a higher dose for the first week -- about four servings of 5 grams each per day -- to “load” their muscles with the supplement. Then they drop to a “maintenance” dose of about 2 grams per day. Others skip the loading phase and start with the lower dose.

Some studies have shown that creatine could increase fat and not muscle. There’s also evidence that high doses could cause kidney, liver, or heart damage, but it's unclear how much might be too much.

Beta-Alanine for Burning Muscles
When you do short bouts of exercise at maximum effort for 30 to 90 seconds (think indoor cycling classes), your muscles make a lot of lactic acid. That’s what makes you “feel the burn.” Athletes take beta-alanine in a capsule or a drink powder to curb that burn so they can push through their workout.

Does it work? Cyclists and runners who took beta-alanine for 4 weeks improved their game in scientific studies. But not all studies agree.
Some studies show a benefit. Others don’t, so it’s not completely clear yet. We need more studies on it.

Protein for Muscle Growth
Like branched chain amino acids, many athletes take protein, usually in a protein shake, after workouts to try to curb muscle damage and boost growth.
There’s a window of about at least 30 minutes after you stop exercising during which you can take in protein and promote [growth] of lean muscle mass. A number of scientific studies show that protein after exercise helps reduce muscle damage or promotes its growth.

Protein seems to work best after resistance exercise, like weight training.  But you don’t have to get the nutrient from a supplement. A high-protein meal after a workout would do the job, too. A protein shake on top of that might give you an extra boost.  Whey protein is a popular go to protein source, however, it is dairy derived which makes it hard to digest.  Whey is also acidic in the system.  Soy is also a common source for protein shakes.  Be mindful of soy because it mimics the effects of estrogen so it can impact your hormones.  Also, soy is a highly processed making most of it Genetically Modified.  Other vegan sources have become quite popular in the last few years, some examples are yellow pea, brown rice and cranberry.  Do your homework when choosing a protein supplement.  

Rules To Building Muscle Mass

Rule #1: Building Muscle Mass Requires SMART Goals
Wanting to add more muscle mass is a good goal, but it’s vague. SMART goals are designed to ensure you can actually reach them. Here’s how to make your muscle mass goal smarter:

Specific. Do you want particular muscles to get bigger? Are there areas of your body you want to create more definition?

Measurable. It’s reasonable to gain 1-2 pounds of muscle a month. Decide how many months you will invest in this goal and pick your pounds accordingly. Remember you might gain pounds faster at first, so don't set your long-term weekly goals based on the first few weeks of gains.

Achievable. Consider what else you have going on in the coming months. Adjust your goals accordingly.

Relevant. Remind yourself why you want to reach this goal. If it’s hard to stay on track, find ways to remember your reason on a daily basis, like hanging a picture of the physique you want where you’ll see it.

Time Bound. Determine how long you want to spend on this goal. Make a plan on your calendar in that timeframe.  A goal is not goal unless it is time activated.

Rule #2: Be Prepared
No one builds muscle mass by accident. If you want to reach your SMART muscle gain goals, you’ll need to have a plan and stick to it. Your plan will need to include a muscle mass workout program and a nutrition program, plus you’ll need to factor in more rest.

Besides your planning, you’ll need to have access to the right gym equipment. Strength training equipment and a wide range of free weights are important. 

Rule #3: Modify Workout Plan
Have you ever heard of a fitness plateau? That’s what it’s called when you’re working hard and a regular at the gym, but you just aren’t making visible progress towards your goals. Often, small adjustments will make the difference.

Some simple but effective changes you can make to your workout regimen to add muscle are:  

> Start with your free-weight exercises, then move onto machines
> Ask for feedback on your form since it’s easy to stand, grip, or lift improperly
> Do more compound exercises because they are simple and let you increase weights faster
> Lift heavier weights using more muscles instead of isolating a few and lifting less
> Try to move slowly as you lift weights
> Change your routine every 6-8 weeks because otherwise your muscle adapt to your usual exercises and progress slows down
> Pick exercises that pair large body parts (like your shoulders) with smaller muscle groups (like your traps)

Rule #4: Eat to Gain Muscle, Not Lose It
It’s easier to gain weight in the form of fat than it is to put on muscle. Just like with weight loss, what you eat matters. You’ll also need to be eating more calories than you are burning. A great rule of thumb is to have your diet be 12 to 15 percent protein, 55 to 60 percent carbs, and 25 to 30 percent fats.

Of course, not all calories are equal. Opt for healthy protein, carbs that are nutrient dense (like whole grains,) and fats that are good for you. Basically, aim to eat meals like steak and potatoes with greens. Snack on proteins like nuts or meats between meals, and definitely find a few good protein smoothie recipes.

Rule #5: Hit Snooze
Believe it or not, rest is one of the most important factors when building muscle mass. You need to take at least one day a week off from working out so your muscles have to adapt and rebuild. Avoid performing concentrated exercises on the same body parts two days in a row for the same reason.

Muscle building is a lot of work for your body. Getting anywhere from 9-11 hour of sleep a night is recommended. If that’s not possible, don’t dip below 8 hours. Your muscles need it.

Exercise Helps Your Gut Bacteria

Something new emerges from the world of gut bacteria seemingly every other day.  That's why it's worth taking a look at a study from the University of Illinois that was published near the end of 2017.

In the human study, 32 obese and lean individuals were tested. They did supervised cardiovascular exercises for 30-60 minutes three times a week for six weeks.  Short-chain fatty acids—in particular, butyrate, which promotes healthy intestinal cells, reduces inflammation, and generates energy—increased in the lean participants as a result. Short-chain fatty acids in general are formed when gut bacteria ferment fiber in the colon. In addition to butyrate's specific role, these fatty acids also improve insulin sensitivity and protect the brain from inflammation and neurodegenerative disease.  

Butyrate's role in your gut manifests itself in a variety of ways: if you have Crohn's disease, an increase in butyrate production can strengthen your intestines.  It also plays a role in guarding the body against diet-induced obesity.  

The study also found that lean individuals produced more butyrate than in obese individuals. Why this happened is still unknown and represents the next question for researchers to explore.

Perfect Your Push Up

The push-up has long been used to develop strength in the arms, shoulders and chest. However, the push-up is also a great core exercise. During the exercise, the trunk and hips should remain as stable as possible to create a lever for the working muscles. The deep core muscles, such as the transverse abdominus, become actively engaged to stabilize the spine and pelvis so that the force generated by the pectoral, deltoid and triceps muscles can move the body around the axis of rotation at the toes (or knees, for modified push-ups).

Before one can learn the push-up, it’s important to first develop the strength of the deep core muscles to maintain stability around the spine so the arms and shoulders can move the body. This is the role of the first three exercises described below—they create the foundation. Perform these exercises consistently for at least four to six weeks before progressing to the more challenging exercises described later in this article.

The first step is to develop the proper strength and placement in the wrists and shoulders. This can be done in a quadruped or all-fours position, which reduces the amount of weight directly on the arms. Position the wrists under the shoulders, the knees directly under the hips and keep the spine in a neutral position. Push the hands into the floor while pushing the upper back and shoulders up to the ceiling.

The goal is to push the hands down into the floor while pressing the shoulders in the opposite direction to create tension in all of the muscles. The hands have a high number of sensory nerve endings; when they are placed directly on the floor for a plank, the pressure of the hands pushing into the floor helps to engage and activate many of the muscles responsible for shoulder strength and spinal stability. Hold for 20-30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds and repeat for three to four repetitions. This exercise should be performed as part of warm-up when working on improving the push-up.

Modified High-plank
A common way to do the plank exercise is with the elbows on the floor directly under the shoulders. This position does not allow for proper strength to develop between the hands, shoulders and the muscles responsible for stabilizing the spine (see above). Doing a modified plank with the knees on the floor (instead of the feet) and the hands on the floor helps strengthen the connection between the palms, shoulders and spine by using a shorter lever (the distance between the hands and knees versus that between the hands and feet), which results in less resistance. This is helpful for developing the strength to do a push-up. Start by holding for 20 seconds, gradually progress to holding the modified plank for 45 seconds. After each plank, rest for the same amount of time you held the plank and perform three to four sets. Once you can do four sets of 45 seconds, your are ready for a greater challenge.

High Plank
The high plank is basically the “up” position of the push-up; practicing high planks helps develop the wrist, shoulder, upper-back and core strength to maintain a stable body throughout the entire range-of-motion of the exercise. Place the hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart so that the thumbs are pointing toward the midline of the body and the fingers are pointed the same direction as the head. To increase stability while pushing the hands into the floor, rotate the elbows to point back toward the feet to increase the strength and stability in the shoulder joints. Squeeze the thigh and glute muscles to increase stability around the pelvis (this is a more effective than “contracting the core,” which doesn’t address any specific muscle). Start by holding the high plank for 20 seconds and rest for the same amount of time as the plank; perform three to four sets. Gradually increase the time up to 45 seconds. Once you can hold a high plank for four sets of 45 seconds, it is time to work harder.

During the lengthening phase of muscle action, there is more tension within the muscle fibers so the muscle is capable of generating higher levels of force. Placing the emphasis on the lengthening phase of muscle action by practicing the lowering phase of the push-up can help develop the strength to control movement of the body through the entire range of motion.  Perform the following exercises for three to five weeks before progressing to the full range of motion of the push-up.

Modified Negative Push-ups
The word “negative” is used here because the weight is going down (as opposed to up), which causes the muscles to lengthen and increases the tension in the fibers. This is an effective strategy for initiating strength gains. Start in a modified high-plank position with the knees on the floor and the hands slightly wider than the shoulders. Slowly lower the body to the floor for a count of five or six seconds. At the bottom of the movement, return to the starting position in a way that feels comfortable. Working on the lengthening phase of muscle action can help develop the strength that will be used later for the complete range of motion of the push-up. Begin with two sets of six to eight repetitions, rest for 45-60 seconds after each set. Gradually add one or two repetitions each workout until the client can perform 10-12 reps with control. Complete four sets, resting 90 seconds between each one.

Negative Push-ups
Once you can easily perform 10-12 reps of negative modified push-ups, it’s time to progress to the full version. Assume a high plank position with the feet approximately shoulder-width apart. Keep the hands pressed into the floor and the thigh muscles squeezed while slowly lowering the body toward the floor. At the bottom of the movement, place the knees on the floor and return to the starting position. Start with two sets of six to eight repetitions and progress to performing two to three sets of 10-12 reps.

Modified Push-ups
Many people are familiar with modified push-ups, but these are obviously not the best starting point for learning the push-up, especially not for those who first need to develop a foundation of core strength. While the normal push-up has the feet and hands as the points of contact, bending the knees and placing them on the floor shortens the lever of the body significantly thus reducing the amount of resistance. Place the knees together on the floor so that they are bent and the feet are in the air. Keep the hands about shoulder-width apart with the fingers pointed away from the knees. Slowly lower the body to the floor and then push the floor away to return to the original starting position. To increase stability of the core, encourage your clients to grip the floor with the hands and squeeze the thighs to engage the deep spinal stabilizers. Start with two sets of six to eight repetitions and rest one minute between sets. Gradually progress to performing 10-12 repetitions and then start adding sets. Once you can perform three to four sets of 10-12 reps of modified push-ups, it’s time to progress to full push-ups.

Full Push-ups
To perform a full push-up, start in a high-plank position with the legs hip-width apart. Press the hands into the floor with the fingers pointed away from the feet. Contract the thigh and glute muscles to increase stability and slowly lower the body toward the floor. Press the hands into the floor to return to the up position. Start with two sets of five to six repetitions, resting for one minute between sets. Gradually add repetitions until you can perform two sets of 10-12 repetitions and then start adding sets.

April Is Financial Literacy Month

Financial Stress

Let's begin with stress. Stress is the body's response to any demand made on it. It affects almost every system of the body, including heartbeat, breath, muscles and our brains. A little stress can be a good thing, if it motivates us to respond constructively to a threat or opportunity and if it doesn't last too long.

Unfortunately, stress resulting from financial challenges is often chronic, affecting 26% of Americans most or all of the time.  Unexpected expenses, the need to save for retirement and out of pocket health care expenses are major culprits.

Stress Spiral No. 1: Physical Health

Chronic stress is linked to physical health issues. High stress causes a fight-or-flight reaction, releasing adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones can suppress immune, digestive, sleep and reproductive systems, which, if sustained, may cause them to stop working normally.

Employees with high financial stress are twice as likely to report poor health overall and are more than four times as likely to complain of headaches, depression, or other ailments. The chart below shows how much sicker people with "debt stress" were during the depths of the financial crisis.

Stress is also associated with high-risk behavior including alcohol and drug abuse: overeating, sedentary behaviors like web surfing and TV watching. These behaviors can worsen one's health and finances.

The potential feedback loop then is financial challenges leading to poor health, directly and indirectly via unhealthy behaviors. Poor health can worsen money challenges and financial stress by increasing medical expenses, reducing productivity at work and making it harder to make good financial and medical decisions.

Stress Spiral No. 2: Delayed Healthcare

Financial stress can also harm health when lack of financial resources causes people to delay necessary medical treatment. One in four Americans has trouble paying medical bills, with some delay treatment. Cost-related non-adherence may be most important for people with chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, asthma and diabetes. Fifty-six percent of Americans with common chronic diseases say they've have missed medication because of cost.

This leads to the second feedback loop: a medical condition results in unexpectedly high out of pocket costs, increasing stress, which worsens the condition directly and indirectly as the patient delays needed medical care and medication. This spiral may become more widespread as more employers switch to high-deductible health plans, which put a greater financial risk on patients.

Stress Spiral No. 3: Mental Health

Of course, we experience financial stress mentally as well as physically. People with debt are three times more likely  to have a mental health issue, especially depression, anxiety and psychotic disorders. Financial stress is the second most common cause of suicide, after depression.  Unfortunately humiliation among the financially stressed makes it harder to seek help as it worsens mental health.

Mental health challenges can impair financial (and medical) decision making, self-control and employment possibilities. Those with dealing with scarcity suffer from greater cognitive loads  from managing the various challenges of making limited means work, impairing executive functioning including creativity, empathy, planning for the future and problem-solving.

So we have our third vicious cycle. Financial stress is associated with mental health challenges, which impair financial decision making and employment, further worsening the financial situation. This can increase stress, which may then worsen the mental health condition. 

Breaking the Chain

Left to themselves, vicious cycles like these can spiral out of control, with grave consequences for individuals, employers and societies. Fortunately, there are things individuals and organizations can do to break these loops.

Individuals can take steps to improve their financial behaviors, by better controlling spending and increasing savings. This begins with empathetically planning for one's future and creating a budget designed to make you happier.  Others may benefit from the advice of a financial advisor or credit counselor. We can also work on developing "pride in good money habits instead of money itself,"  exercising, using relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation, and obtaining support from friends, family and, perhaps, a therapist.

Governments, healthcare providers and businesses have a moral responsibility and a direct interest in breaking these loops which destroy welfare, social capital and shareholder value. They should sponsor financial  (as well as general and mental) wellness programs to help people control their spending, attain resiliency with emergency funds, and plan for the future. Financial institutions need to support such programs and provide products and services more appropriate to low and middle-income consumers.

In short, the status quo for millions of Americans is not sustainable. The typical American is stressed because she lives paycheck-to-paycheck, saves nothing for retirement, has little financial literacy and is increasingly being asked to shoulder the costs and uncertainties of healthcare and retirement. The resulting stress can cause physical and mental health to spiral along with financial health. It's time we do something about it.

Natural Seasonal Allergy Remedies

1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar might just be the most useful condiment in your kitchen. It can help you clean showers and sinks. It’s wonderful in dressings. It adds a pop to marinades. It can remove odors from sweaty clothes, reduce heartburn, and treat dandruff. Like we said, it’s a rock star.

Apple cider vinegar is also an amazing natural allergy remedy, as it can help reduce mucous production and cleanse your lymphatic system. The quick and dirty approach is to swallow a tablespoon. For a more palatable option, try adding a tablespoon to a cup of hot water with a small bit of honey.

2. Exercise
Yes, the last thing you probably want to do when you feel crummy is workout. But, researchers in Thailand found moderate to intense activity for just 30 minute can result in substantial allergy relief. The hypothesis is that this relief occurs because exercise produces an anti-inflammatory effect in your nasal passages, helping to naturally reduce allergy symptoms.

If pollen counts are extremely high, an indoor workout will most likely be more beneficial as it will reduce re-exposure.

3. Local Honey
Allergy symptoms are your body’s reaction to a substance it deems hazardous to your health. The runny nose and watery eyes are your body’s attempt to flush the foreign substance from your system.

Unfortunately, you can’t simply tell your body that grass and pollen aren’t bad for it. But you can help your body learn that the local habitat isn’t deadly. You do so by giving your body small doses of the grass and pollen that are irritating it.
This is where local honey comes in so handy. Bees create their honey from what’s around. Thus, their honey contains trace amounts of the very pollen that could be making you feel sick.

While a tablespoon (or two) won’t immediately relieve your allergy symptoms, it can help naturally reduce your allergy symptoms over time. Start administering it immediately to begin seeing results. 

4. Neti Pot + Saline Rinse
Your nasal passage is an elaborate system of tiny passageways. For most of us, these passageways are filled with nooks and crannies where dirt and pollen can easily be trapped.
Until that foreign substance is expelled, your body will most likely keep trying to flush it from your system. This can mean lots of mucous (aka a runny nose), coughing, sneezing, and watery eyes.
With a neti pot, you can use saline to flush your nasal passages and help relieve your allergy symptoms.

5. Nasal Sprays
Not sure you want to pour liquid in your nose? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Neti pots aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. A nasal spray is an alternative. By spritzing saline solution in your nose once a day, you can help flush those same harmful irritants from your nasal passage.

6. Bee Pollen
Like honey, bee pollen contains the natural substances where the bees live. It offers an alternative way to introduce these substances into your immune system. Because sometimes we all want to add a little variety to out diets.
Great sprinkled on fruit or tossed in salad, it offers a bit of a sweet crunch.

7. Acupuncture
Acupuncture treats a wide variety of health issues, including depression, digestive issues, pain, muscle weakness, and immune deficiency. And, as a study in the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reveals, it can help naturally reduce allergy symptoms.

8. Probiotics
In some cases allergy symptoms are a result of your body’s immune system being imbalanced. This can cause you to have a more severe reaction to foreign stimuli – like pollen, dust, and grass.

Probiotics give your immune system a boost by introducing beneficial bacteria into your digestive tract. A good source of probiotics can be found in fermented foods, like kimchi. Kombucha is another great source of probiotics. Both make yummy additions to nearly any meal!

9. Dietary Changes
Our diet plays a huge roll in your overall health. It contributes to your mood and ability to get a full night’s rest. It’s a major factor in energy levels, skin appearance, and weight balance.

It can also play a big role in how our body handles allergies. The healthier you are, the better your body will respond. Additionally, some patients have found that certain foods can trigger more intense allergy symptoms. For example, many allergy sufferers experience an allergic response to the following foods:

Sunflower seeds

10. IV Drip Therapy
When your body is missing key vitamins and nutrients, dietary changes and adding probiotics can often a long time to start having an effect. This means you’re stuck, suffering through the symptoms.

IV drip therapy bypasses your digestive tract, delivering they key vitamins and nutrients you need directly to where you need it. Administered through an IV in the comfort of our clinic, you can get a cocktail tailored just for you.

11. Nettle Leaf
Nettle leaf can help naturally block your body’s ability to produce histamine, which can provide allergy relief naturally. While you may be able to find nettle leaf grown locally, we think it’s easiest to buy it.
You can get it in capsules or buy the leaf whole, which is our preference. Steep it with peppermint leaves and a small amount of honey to create an herbal tea that will be as tasty as it is beneficial.

12. Water
Hydrate like it’s your job. That sounds simple, right? You’d be surprised how many people are dehydrated!

And, the side effects of being dehydrated are immense. It can cause you to be moody, make you hungrier, and make it harder to lose weight. Being dehydrated can make you tired and make it difficult for you to get a full night’s rest. It can cause headaches, breakouts, and bloating. And, it can heighten any allergy symptoms you’re experiencing.

In short, being dehydrated is bad for your health. The more water you can drink, the better you’re going to feel.

13. Immunotherapy
Like local honey, immunotherapy introduces small amounts of the allergen into your system to train your body’s immune system to have a better response. The treatment typically takes 3 to 5 years. However, once it’s done, most patients are allergy free for the rest of their life!

What Is Reflexology?

Reflexology is the application of appropriate pressure to specific points and areas on the feet, hands, or ears. Reflexologists believe that these reflex points correspond to different body organs and systems, and that pressing them creates real benefits for the person's health.

For example, reflexology holds that a specific spot in the arch of the foot corresponds to the bladder. When a reflexologist uses thumbs or fingers to apply appropriate pressure to this area, it may affect bladder functioning.

Reflexology foot maps
Reflexologists use foot maps to guide their work. The left foot corresponds to the organs found on the left side of the body and the right foot to the organs on the right side.

How does reflexology differ from massage, Reiki, or acupuncture?
Many people confuse reflexology with massage, Reiki, or acupuncture, but there are essential differences between these therapies.  Massage therapists manipulate larger areas of soft tissue in the body while reflexologists apply pressure to specific points on the feet, hands, and ears.  Unlike either massage or reflexology, Reiki does not involve any physical manipulation or pressure, but instead uses light touch to work with the subtle vibrational field thought to surround the body. Finally, while acupuncture and acupressure, like reflexology, use reflex points on the body to influence other parts of the body, the points are not the same and acupuncture uses points over the entire body.

While these are different practices entirely, one thing they all have in common is that they are sometimes used to help manage symptoms associated with stress. 

What does reflexology do?
Although reflexology is not used to diagnose or cure disease, millions of people around the world use it to complement other treatments when addressing conditions like anxiety, asthma, cancer treatment, cardiovascular issues, diabetes, headaches,  kidney function, PMS, and sinusitis.

Why You Should Stretch

1. Increases your flexibility
Regular stretching can help increase your flexibility, which is crucial for your overall health. Not only can improved flexibility help you to perform everyday activities with relative ease, but it can also help delay the reduced mobility that can come with aging.

2. Increases your range of motion
Being able to move a joint through its full range of motion gives you more freedom of movement. Stretching on a regular basis can help increase your range of motion.

One study found that both static and dynamic stretching are effective when it comes to increasing range of motion, although proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) - type stretching, where you stretch a muscle to its limit, may be more effective for immediate gains.

3. Improves your performance in physical activities
Performing dynamic stretches prior to physical activities has been shown to help prepare your muscles for the activity. It may also help improve your performance in an athletic event or exercise.

4. Increases blood flow to your muscles
Performing stretches on a regular basis may improve your circulation. Improved circulation increases blood flow to your muscles, which can shorten your recovery time and reduce muscle soreness (also known as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS).

5. Improves your posture
Muscle imbalances are common and can lead to poor posture. One study found that a combination of strengthening and stretching specific muscle groups can reduce musculoskeletal pain and encourage proper alignment. That, in turn, may help improve your posture.

6. Helps to heal and prevent back pain
Tight muscles can lead to a decrease in your range of motion. When this happens, you increase the likelihood of straining the muscles in your back. Stretching can help heal an existing back injury by stretching the muscles.

A regular stretching routine can also help prevent future back pain by strengthening your back muscles and reducing your risk for muscle strain.

7. Is great for stress relief
When you’re experiencing stress, there’s a good chance your muscles are tense. That’s because your muscles tend to tighten up in response to physical and emotional stress. Focus on areas of your body where you tend to hold your stress, such as your neck, shoulders, and upper back.

8. Can calm your mind
Participating in a regular stretching program not only helps increase your flexibility, but it can also calm your mind. While you stretch, focus on mindfulness and meditation exercises, which give your mind a mental break.

9. Helps decrease tension headaches
Tension and stress headaches can interfere with your daily life. In addition to a proper diet, adequate hydration, and plenty of rest, stretching may help reduce the tension you feel from headaches.
Stretching techniques

There are several types of stretching techniques, including:
active stretching

The most common forms of stretches are static and dynamic:
Static stretches involve holding a stretch in a comfortable position for a period of time, typically between 10 and 30 seconds. This form of stretching is most beneficial after you exercise.
Dynamic stretches are active movements that cause your muscles to stretch, but the stretch is not held in the end position. These stretches are usually done before exercise to get your muscles ready for movement.
Use dynamic stretches before exercise to prepare your muscles.
Use static stretches after exercise to reduce your risk for injury.

How to start a stretching routine
If you’re new to a regular stretching routine, take it slow. Just like other forms of physical activity, your body needs time to get used to the stretches you’re performing.

You also need a solid grasp of proper form and technique. Otherwise, you risk getting injured.

You can stretch any time during the day. On days you exercise:
aim for 5 to 10 minutes of dynamic stretching prior to your activity
do another 5 to 10 minutes of static or PNF stretching after your workout

On days when you aren’t exercising, still plan to schedule at least 5 to 10 minutes of time for stretching. This can help improve flexibility and reduce muscle tightness and pain.

When stretching, focus on the major areas of your body that help with mobility, such as your calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, and quadriceps. For upper-body relief, try moves that stretch the shoulders, neck, and lower back.
Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and avoid bouncing.

You can stretch after each workout or athletic event, or daily after your muscles are warmed up. Try this 5-minute daily stretching routine to get started.  

Risks and safety tips
Stretching may not always be safe:
If you have an acute or existing injury, only perform stretches recommended by your doctor.
If you have a chronic or nagging injury, consider talking with a sports medicine specialist or physical therapist to design a stretching protocol that fits your needs.
If you have any physical limitations that prevent you from properly performing a stretching exercise, consult your doctor for alternative exercises that can help increase your flexibility.
Regardless of your fitness level, there are a few standard safety tips for stretching that you should follow:
Don’t bounce. Years ago, ballistic stretching was thought to be the best way to increase flexibility. Now, experts suggest you avoid bouncing unless these types of stretches have been recommended to you by a doctor or physical therapist.
Don’t stretch beyond the point of comfort. While it’s normal to feel some tension when stretching a muscle, you should never feel pain. If the area you are stretching starts to hurt, back off the stretch until you don’t feel any discomfort.
Don’t overdo it. Like other forms of exercise, stretching puts stress on your body. If you’re stretching the same muscle groups multiple times a day, you risk over-stretching and causing damage.
Don’t go into your stretches cold. Cold muscles are not as pliable, which makes stretching a lot more difficult. The best time to stretch is after you work out, but if you’re not exercising before performing your stretches, consider warming up for 5 to 10 minutes with some light cardio, such as walking or jogging.

The takeaway
Whether you’re new to exercise or a seasoned athlete, you can benefit from a regular stretching routine. By incorporating 5 to 10 minutes of dynamic and static stretches into your daily workout, you can increase your range of motion, improve your posture, and ease your mind.

What You Need To Know Before Taking Collagen Supplements

Your body uses amino acids to build muscle, bone, cartilage, skin, hair, connective tissue, and much more. There are many different types of amino acids, but the type found in collagen are the most abundant in your body thanks to the role they play in forming your connective tissues and skin.

When you consider that your body’s collagen production declines as you age, and that adequate collagen is needed for strong bones, joints, and skin, it seems like adding collagen to your diet is a no-brainer. That’s why many supplement makers have started selling collagen powders and pills, which are made mostly from "animal parts" — usually bones or skin of cows, or scales of fish. (Vegans, take note.)

But do these supplements really do anything? Here’s what you need to know.

1. There are different types of collagen.
There are more than a dozen types of collagen, each composed of different "peptides" or amino acids. Different types form skin and tendons as opposed to cartilage. Figuring out which may help your health has proved tricky. (More on that in a minute.) Also, supplements containing collagen vary a ton.

In most cases, if you’re buying a collagen peptides powder, you’re buying "hydrolyzed" type-I collagen that has been extracted from animal hides or bones, or fish scales.Hydrolyzed simply means that the amino acid chains have been broken down into smaller units, a process that allows it to dissolve in both hot and cold liquids.

This type of collagen has become incredibly popular due to the fact you to add it to everything from hot coffee and soups to cold brew and smoothies. It also packs a protein punch, with a two-scoop serving of most collagen peptides delivering around 18 grams.

2. The most-complete research focuses on joint health.
Going back to at least the early 1990s, studies have linked collagen supplementation with reduced symptoms of arthritis. In one 2009 study in the International Journal of Medical Sciences, four out of five osteoarthritis sufferers who took a daily 40 mg dose of undenatured type-II collagen ("UC-II") saw their pain drop by an average of 26%. (Unlike type-I collagen, mentioned above, type-II collagen is derived from chicken cartilage — not cow bones and hides or fish scales.)

What’s not clear is how the collagen in the supplement actually helped the OA sufferers’ joints. Rather than contributing to your body’s supply of collagen or cartilage, these supplements may reduce inflammation, which would improve OA symptoms, the authors of that study write. The effectiveness of collagen when it comes to arthritis and joint pain is still questionable, but there’s enough promising research to give it a shot.

3. The beauty benefits are sketchier.
Talk to nutrition scientists, and they’ll tell you one of the biggest mistakes they hear when it comes to food and supplements is assuming that something you swallow turns into the same something in your body. That’s not really how digestion and biochemistry work.

In terms of collagen supplements offering skin and hair benefits, Adam Friedman, M.D., an associate professor of dermatology at George Washington University, says, "No way.""The collagen is going to be digested by your GI tract because it isn't built to survive the massive pH changes in the gut," he explains.  There’s research to back him up on that. A 2002 study found your gut’s digestive enzymes and acids break down hydrolyzed collagen, which is the type found in most powders. But the same study found type-II (UC-II) collagen may be able to slip through your gut without losing its chemical structure.

Of course, we're still learning about the human gut. More research has linked some collagen peptides to reduce skin wrinkles and healthier skin, so it’s possible some new finding will explain the anecdotal evidence linking collagen powders to nail and hair benefits. But at this point, there are many more questions than answers. There’s some evidence that certain amino acids found in collagen — in particular, one called glycine — may reduce GI inflammation and aid digestion. But again, the evidence is mixed. Most of it didn’t involve collagen powders or supplements, but instead looked at specific amino acids in a lab setting.

5. The FDA doesn't regulate these supplements.
As is the case with any supplement, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration does not monitor collagen powders for safety or efficacy unless a manufacturer claims its supplement can cure disease, or something goes wrong and people get sick. For this reason, it's important to do a little research before stocking up.

How to Choose a Collagen Supplement
Any type of protein isolate could help you meet your protein needs if you require more (due to disease, injury, sports, or skin conditions) or you’re experiencing loss of appetite. Regardless, it’s crucial to look for the following when buying a collagen supplement:

1. Choose ones with as few simple ingredients as possible. Collagen protein powder should just be collagen protein isolate, a.k.a. collagen hydrolysate, hydrolyzed collagen, or collagen peptides.

2. Skip the flavored versions. These can contain added sugars, which could upset your GI tract or just add calories where you didn’t want ‘em. Go for the plain version and add a sweetener to desserts yourself.

3. Look for a third-party certification. Given the lack of FDA regulation, any time you're choosing a dietary supplement, check if a credible group like the NSF, UL or USP has tested it for safety before.

If you want to try a collagen supplement for two to three months, the health risks should be minimal and there may be some benefits.  Regardless, it's always better to choose food over supplements no matter what. We know tons about the benefits of eating protein (among all other nutrients), but very little about the benefits of eating it in isolated form.

For most of us, as long as you’re eating regular meals and snacks made from a combination of different types of protein (from plants, seafood, or animals), you’re good to go!