Being More Active: Three Simple Steps To Succeed. Step 1.

Sihouette jump from 2019 to 2010At each new year, gyms fill with humans hopeful of helping themselves to better health by being more active. They come earnest and determine to really follow through this year with the resolution to get fit, and stay fit.

How do they do? The data don’t look good.

By Valentines Day, a full 80 percent of people have abandoned their oh so well intentioned resolution. Unfortunately, many assume that they are the problem, when in fact it may just be their approach. This year, let’s take a new path for fitness by avoiding the three main causes of Resolution Dissolution.

 

Step 1: No Pain No Gain. Instead find the fun.

Man grimaces during pushups

The mantra from television commercials is that you have to work so hard at the gym that it hurts. But how is it that hurting yourself is a good thing? You want you to cause pain to yourself? How weird is that?

Unfortunately this is exactly the attitude that many take with them into their fitness resolutions, and one of the key reasons it is unsustainable. Why?

First of all, if you’re working so hard that the experience is unpleasant, you’re not going to line up to take that beating for long. You’re just not. A week or two into the process and there will be some reason for not hitting the gym, and then you start the slide down the slippery slope of canceling that gym membership.

small man holding a "we're number one" foam finger

Don’t get me wrong, the “No Pain, No Gain” mantra is excellent for Olympic athletes, professional sports players, and the like. But for normal people in a normal life, this approach is a recipe for failure.

Unless you honestly think you’re going to get drafted by the Steelers this year or outrun Usain Bolt at the summer games, the No Pain No Gain mantra is way overkill. Plus, no healthy culture has this approach. In healthy cultures, they are certainly active daily but the activity is something they enjoy doing. It doesn’t have to make you sweat, or grunt, or hurt yourself.

For Mediterranean Wellness, find something that you find fun: bike riding, walking with friends, getting in a sports league, Zumba, ballroom dancing, etc. If you love what you’re doing, clearly you’ll stick with it much longer. This is a key step to a sustainable approach.

Swiss Chard with Raisins and Pine Nuts

A unique dish that makes wonderful side dish! Swiss chard is a great green to start adding more of into your diet.

You’ll Need
  • 1 ½ pounds Swiss chard (preferably rainbow or red)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (2 ½ ounces)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup water
Directions
  • Tear chard leaves from stems, then coarsely chop stem and leaves separately.
  • Toast pine nuts in oil in a wide 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over moderated heat, stirring constantly, until golden, 1 ½ to 2 minutes, then transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain and season with salt.
  • Cook onion in  remaining oil in pot, stirring occasionally, 1 minute, then add chard stems and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes.
  • Add raisins and ½ cup water and simmer, covered, until stems are softened, about 3 minutes.
  • Add chard leaves and remaining ½ cup water and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until leave are tender, about 3 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with pine nuts.

 

 

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Is Caffeine Okay For Me or Not?

Chemical formula of a caffeine molecule

Here’s the issue.

An amazing 80% of adults take some kind of caffeine each day mainly in the form of coffee and tea. But caffeine is an addictive drug that can contribute to a raft of side effects including anxiety, insomnia, loose stools, blood pressure spikes, heart palpitations, and rebound fatigue.

Given all this, should we avoid caffeine altogether?

Like so many things, the answer is “It depends”. If you consume 400-600 mg of caffeine per day, it’s not associated with adverse effects for most people. The amazing thing is that this is equivalent to about four to six CUPS of coffee!

That’s a lot of coffee!

Woman with funny face holding a cup of coffee

Of course, different people are more or less sensitive to it, so some may get symptoms of hypercaffeination with only a cup of coffee and others may have a huge tolerance for it.

Developing A Tolerance

One interesting aspect of caffeine consumption is that the body can develop a tolerance for it. In other words, if you are drinking a cup of coffee in the mornings, two cups of coffee will make you jittery. But if you continue to drink more coffee, your body will adapt to the higher level.

The opposite is also true. If you drink a lot of coffee because you feel like you need it, you can lower your need by simply dialing back your consumption. Your body will get used to this level as a new baseline amount for you.

Finally, according to an article in the Journal of the American Heart Association regular caffeine consumption doesn’t create atrial fibrillation, despite the fact that high doses can spike your blood pressure and heart rate.

Vegetable Frittata

Enjoy this recipe with ingredients of your choice. That is the wonderful thing about making a Frittata they are very flexible and can be changed based on what veggies, meats and cheeses you choose to use.

You’ll Need

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped (or other vegetable of choice)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

  • In a frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat.
  • Add onion, garlic, and zucchini; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft (about 5 minutes).
  • Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  • Beat eggs lightly with, salt, pepper, and oregano.
  • Stir in vegetables and cheese
  • Pour into a greased 9-inch pie pan.
  • Bake in a 350 F degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until puffed and brown.
  • Serve hot or at room temperature.

 

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It’s January. Should I Get A Happy Light?

Pic of stethoscope, SAD letters, and the brain

You may have heard of the “winter blues and blahs” and wondered why in the world the chilly months of the year would make any difference at all for your emotional health. But this condition of being more likely to feel down during winter months is a real thing. And this is just one of the many ways that elements of your life can impact your emotional health without you even realizing it.

Think of your emotional state like a big playing field. On one side of that field is a more positive sunshiny attitude, and on the other is a more negative cloudy state. Events in your life can tilt that field toward the gloomy side and away from the sunny side. And once your field is tilted, it makes it much harder for you to schlog your way to the more positive side all on your own!

From a neuroscience perspective, certain stimuli into your brain can cause this emotional shift, and can also be completely imperceptible to you. So if you don’t know they’re even there, you won’t know why you have feelings of sadness or even depression.

What are these silent inputs that sneak into your brain without your awareness or permission to tilt the emotional playing field toward gloominess? One of them is simply the amount of light you perceive. It turns out that your emotional brain needs light. Not your retinas. Don’t go staring at the sun, shouting to the heavens, “I feel happy!” Obviously direct sunlight on the retinas would be damaging to your eyes.

Woman with gray clouds over her

Rather, your brain needs bright ambient light around you, which brings us back to the issue everyone faces with the winter.

  • You wake up in the morning and it’s dark.
  • You work all day in an office and never see the sky.
  • You go home at the end of the day and it’s dark again.

Chronic low light can produce something called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD (link to a good review article by WebMD.).  SAD is a condition that can influence your mood during late fall and winter months. One solution to mitigate the impact of SAD is a light therapy box. This provides bright light and is normally placed around one’s workplace desk or other environment where you spend a great deal of time during your day.

Light Therapy Lamp

This research from UNC Chapel Hill states that … “bright light treatment and dawn simulation for seasonal affective disorder and bright light for nonseasonal depression are efficacious, with effect sizes equivalent to those in most antidepressant pharmacotherapy trials”.

But don’t think that light therapy is some kind of one-stop-shopping for emotional health. Lots of things can tilt the emotional playing field you’re working with. Some of them are going to have a huge impact and others will have a small impact. So seriously, speak to your doctor about the possibility of light therapy and whether you need to combine that with other solutions as well.

By the way, light therapy boxes are portable and relatively affordable with costs ranging anywhere from $20 to $60 dollars. Here is a review from Health.com for the best ones currently out there.

 

Vegetable and Garbanzo Bean Couscous

Couscous is a featured grain in many regions of the Mediterranean. Enjoy this side dish as a complement to some fish.

You’ll Need

  • 1 ¼ cups water or chicken broth
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup couscous
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
  • 2 small zucchinis, thinly sliced

Directions

  • Bring the water to a boil.
  • Add the butter, couscous, salt and pepper, garbanzo beans and zucchini.
  • Stir.
  • Cover.
  • Remove it from the heat and allow to stand 5 minutes.
  • Stir with a fork to fluff up and season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Mindfulness Month! Go Slow, You Know?

There is no better time than December to practice mindfulness. So all month our theme will be the mindfulness methods that can help make this the most wonderful time of the year.

Sign on clothes clip saying to Slow Down Relax and De StressSometimes we just try to do too much, and your schedule can become overloaded, pulling you in too many directions. When this happens, even activities that are normally fun can feel stressful.

The solution is to slow down. One strategy for slowing down is to be comfortable saying “NO”. It’s okay to respectfully turn down a request when your schedule is already filled to capacity.

Also, you budget your money, but you should also budget your time. Plan what must be done, then allocate some relaxation minutes in your day as well. This could be meeting with coworkers after hours, walking your dog in the park, or attending a book club.

Slowing down in this way is important because if you become too busy, then activities you planned to be a stress reliever may not even serve their purpose!

Ginger Snaps

One of the most perfect holiday cookies, but really it can work at any time of year. Give this ginger snap recipe a try.

Yields: Approximately 3 dozen cookies

You’ll Need:

  • ¼ cup softened, butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (you can leave out 1 to 2 Tablespoons) 
  • ¼ cup dark molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup crystallized ginger


Directions:

  • Preheat to 375 degrees F. 
  • Combine butter, sugar, molasses, and egg. Beat well. 
  • Sift all dry ingredients together. Add the dry to the wet mixture. Mix well. Add ginger chips and mix throughout. 
  • Chill mixture for one hour. 
  • Form 1-inch balls.
  • Roll balls in granulated sugar (this is optional).
  • Place on a greased cookie sheet, approximately 2- inches apart. 
  • Bake 8-10 minutes.