Back to School and Healthy Habits

Back to School and Healthy Habits

It is hard to believe that summer is wrapping up and fall is just around the corner.  Depending on where you live, many kids are already back in school or will be starting school soon.  With the start of school and often fall sports and activities, many are facing a routine change.  Some might have more time with their kids back in school, while others are busier with the additional activities.  If you do not have kids or school-age kids, fall still might represent a change in routine with many heading back into the office or less travel as summer vacations wind down.

Take a close look at your current exercise, nutrition and sleep habits.  Are these systems working for you or is an overhaul in order? 

Exercise

As days are slowly becoming shorter and possibly cooler, exercise routines might need a revamp.  It might not be possible to get in an early morning run as it is darker later. Yet, with temperatures cooling down, outside workouts might be more available to many in the afternoons when this time might have been normally avoided due to hot temperatures.  A few questions to ask yourself include, have you been doing the exact same routine all summer? Have you been exercising inconsistently due to summer vacations and other activities?  Have you only been running/riding outside; though a great form of exercise, have you avoided strength training?   As we begin this new season and often more consistent schedule can you try or add a new group exercise class to your routine?   Can you commit to exercising 2-3 days a week on a consistent basis?  Take a moment and think about your goals or set some new goals as the season begins. 

Nutrition

Fall is considered harvest time for much of the United States and numerous fruits and vegetables are at their peak and fresh produce is in abundance this time of year.    Early fall is a great time to enjoy fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and more. Squash, apples and other heartier produce will start to be available at this time as well.    With school back in session, many are looking for quick, healthy and relatively easy dinners for school and sport nights.  Take the time to plan some meals around all the amazing produce available. Fall signals new flavors and as the cooler weather starts to set in, hearty soups and stews are not only easy but a perfect way to consume lots of vegetables and therefore nutrients.   Slow cookers and easy to assemble dinners will help busy nights be less stressful. 

Sleep

A third and most often overlooked crucial aspect of wellness is sleep.  Fall is a great time to look at your sleep habits and routines. Slowly we are moving away from often staying up late with the sun in the summer; time to get back on a consistent sleep schedule.  A solid sleep schedule is especially important for kids to thrive in school.   With it cooling down, fall can bring ideal sleeping temperatures.  Windows might be open at night to keep rooms nice and cool.   Our bodies should naturally change with the season so you might find yourself craving a bit more sleep with the sunrise later, and sunset earlier.  Listen to your body and try to follow that feedback.  Sleep is when our body and brain are resting and recovering.  Do not underestimate the importance of sleep; make it a priority for everyone in your family to help everyone perform at their best. 

As the seasons change, take a step back, evaluate your current wellness habits and routines.  Fall is a great time to set some new goals and get back on track with healthy habits. 

Originally published on www.elevationcorporatehealth.com-September 2021

Navigating Eating at Summer BBQs and Celebrations

Navigating Eating at Summer BBQs and Celebrations

It has been a while since I have blogged.   I went off social media almost completely last March, as I felt it was detrimental to my mental health.  However, I have had quite a few clients and followers telling me that they missed my posts and recipes.  So I will be blogging every month as I still want to educate and help busy families with healthy living.  I would love to hear from you and what you might be interested in reading about!

As the world starts to open up, we might find ourselves actually having social events back on our calendar.  We have missed so many milestones and gatherings this past year that getting together with friends and family is definitely something to celebrate.  However, just because we are celebrating with food does not necessarily mean throwing all healthy choices out the window.   Read below for a few reminders on how to enjoy social occasions while still prioritizing health. 

  • Focus on the people, not just the food 

Food is part of our culture and is made to be enjoyed.  However, if going to a gathering is causing you anxiety thinking that you will overeat, then the gathering will not be as special or enjoyable.   Yes, food is likely and should be a part of the celebration but there is more to the celebration than the food.  Especially since this past year and half, we have not gathered as frequently, focus on the people you are with.  Enjoy some food but mostly enjoy the ability to gather and socialize again. 

  

  • Taste everything, don’t overeat anything 

Parties are often filled with great food, maybe food you don’t always get to enjoy.  Give yourself permission to have at least a little bit of everything you want.  The key is a small amount.  If you use willpower to try to stay away from the brownies that you really want to try,  you will be left feeling unsatisfied which can often lead to even more cravings.  A tip that is helpful for holiday eating as well,  select foods that you love but don’t often have.  Grandma’s famous potato salad?  Have a little bit and enjoy.  Plain chips and salsa?  Maybe skip it this time. Moderation really does work.

  • Don’t exercise or skip meals to buy calories before or after the gathering.

Yes, exercise is important.  And if you know you will be eating a bit more, then sure, adding a bit more movement is fine but do not exercise solely to earn calories.  Do not skip meals because you feel guilty for having some treats.  Guilt has no utility when it comes to behavior change or making good choices.  Feel like you did not make the best choices at the gathering?  Simply make a healthy choice for the next meal and get back on your regular exercise routine.  One party will also not erase all your hard work or exercise efforts.   

  • Focus on lean vegetables, protein, fruit 

Fill your plate mostly with vegetables, lean protein and fruit.  All of these foods will give you the most bang for your buck.  They are the most nutritionally dense with higher water and fiber contents which will fill you up with less calories.   Once you have a good amount of these foods on your plate, add small amounts of the food you enjoy. 

  • Pay attention to liquid calories 

Sure, a cold beer or glass of rosé  on a hot summer day can taste amazing.  But at around 80-150 calories per drink (more for fruity concoctions) liquid calories can add up!  Try alternating with a glass of water or seltzer.  Luckily, there are many new, low calorie, non-alcoholic beverages on the market to choose from.  Staying hydrated with water will also help with not over-indulging on food as thirst can be mistaken for hunger.   

It is so wonderful to be able to gather again.   However, as we learned how vital our health really is this past year, do not let a few parties derail your efforts to eat well.  You can still enjoy the food and more importantly the company. 

I would love to hear from you.  What do you struggle with when it comes to social eating?  Comment below! And as always, thanks for reading. 

Originally published on www.elevationcorporatehealth.com-July 2021

Returning to Work

Returning to Work

The choice to return to work after having a baby is a very personal decision. I believe every mama has to figure out what will be best for their family. Unfortunately, society seems to shame mamas if they do return to work and also if they stay home. We often cannot win. I chose to return to work and though there are of course days I wish I could stay home with my kiddos, 6 years later, my husband and I both agree it was the best decision for our family. I might change my mind later on and want to stay home but right now it works for us.

As I have a few friends and clients returning to work in the upcoming months, I wanted to share a few tips that were either helpful to me or what I wish I had known when returning to work.

Returning to work after maternity leave can be very challenging and anxiety producing. Regardless if you are ready to head back to work and might look forward to your job, it is often not an easy transition. You might have anxiety about leaving your baby with someone else, feel guilty for returning to work, worries about pumping and milk production and wondering how you are going to balance it all; and those are just a few of the emotions you might experience!

Finding a nanny or daycare that you trust and feel comfortable with can help make the return to the working world a bit easier.

Here are a few tips to make the transition smoother:

  • Consider trying out your childcare before returning to work. If you are using an in-home daycare or a daycare facility, ask about a few trial days during the last few weeks of your maternity leave. This way you can practice your morning routine of getting ready and getting out the door. Try a half day or even just a few hours at first and then maybe one longer day. If you are using a nanny, have the nanny come for a few hours, then a half day and maybe one full day before you return to work. Use this time for any self-care you might need as it is likely you have not had much alone time since the arrival of your baby. Get a massage, grab lunch with a friend, take a yoga class. Enjoy some time to yourself. Having a trial run can hopefully ease some of the anxiety of those first few days.
  • Instead of returning to work and starting daycare on a Monday, see if it is possible to start on a Wednesday or Thursday This way, you and your baby can ease into the routine without jumping head on into 5 days.
  • Remember, the first day is most likely the hardest. It is normal to be sad to leave your baby but it is also normal to be excited to return to work. It often gets easier with time but remember the joy you will feel picking up your baby each day after work!

Tips for Pumping:

  • Pack your pumping bag the night before and make sure you have extra bottles, bags, cooler and ice packs if needed. Pumping at work can be stressful so the last thing you want to realize once you get all the way to work is that you forgot anything essential.
  • Make every attempt to pump at the same time you would normally feed. It is common for milk production to drop with the reduction of actual breastfeeding and with the stress of a change of routine. You might see an initial drop in production, sometimes, regular production returns, but your body might also adapt to producing less since the pump is less efficient than breastfeeding your baby. Try not to stress and do what works for you and your baby. (Legally, employers have to give you breaks as well as a space to pump. If you are not given breaks or a private space, talk to your HR representative.)
  • To help minimize the decrease in milk production, make sure you are still getting enough calories and staying hydrated to support your body in producing milk. Eating well at work can be challenging but take the extra time the night before or morning to pack a healthy lunch and snacks and carry a reusable water bottle to refill often.
Spending time with Caleb on my last week of maternity leave.

Tips for Fitting in Exercise

  • It might take a few weeks or even a month to get into the routine of not only returning to work but now being a working mom. Things are quite different now as you have a baby to worry and think about. Don’t beat yourself up if you are not able to exercise as much as you would like initially. Give yourself some time to establish a routine.
  • Though you might feel like you literally have no more physical or mental energy for one more thing on your plate, finding time to exercise is so crucial for your wellbeing. A few ways to get in some exercise include:
    –Take periodic walks during the workday
    –Can any of your meetings be walking meetings or can you take a conference call while walking?
    –After you get home, a great way to spend time with your baby is to go on a walk or jog or take a class where the baby can attend.
    –Make a schedule with your significant other that allows you both to take some time for yourself and exercise while the other is with your baby.
    –If you are not finding much time to exercise during the week, make sure you are getting some exercise on the weekend.

Tips for Healthy Eating

Healthy eating can be a challenge while on maternity leave and navigating taking care of newborn but now you might feel that you have even less time to prepare meals. However, just like exercise, proper nutrition is crucial for you and your baby.

  • Find some easy grab and go breakfasts such as protein smoothies filled with fruits and veggies, hard boiled eggs or low sugar yogurt.
  • Spend a bit of time on the weekend planning and grocery shopping for healthy lunches and easy and fast dinners. Bagged salads, pre-cut veggies and other semi-prepared foods can really help with time and stress. Spending a little time getting organized on Sunday can really help throughout the week and help busy weeknights feel a little less stressful.

Again, returning to work is a personal decision that must work for you, your baby and your family. Regardless if you want to return to work or need to return to work, leaving your baby can be challenging but by following some of the tips mentioned above, hopefully your transition will be a bit easier.

I would love to hear any other tips that were helpful to you when returning to work that you would like to share with other mamas.

XOXO

Sara

Spending some outdoor time with Madelynn on my second maternity leave.
Eating Candy with No Guilt or Shame

Eating Candy with No Guilt or Shame

Last year I posted how Halloween is the only day of the year that I do not regulate my kid’s sugar intake and actually allow our kids to eat as much candy as they want.   I received a lot of comments on social media and I liked learning about how other families approach such a big candy holiday.

Halloween is such a fun and memorable holiday and my family loves it.  As a kid, the concept of dressing up and just knocking on your neighbor’s door and getting FREE candy? Amazing.  Halloween used to be a one day holiday but now it seems that there are endless trunk-or-treat events and other Halloween themed activities.  With all that fun comes so much candy.  Though I am not a huge fan of the endless amounts of candy, it is the reality of the holiday.  Yet, for many, with all that candy comes a lot of guilt.

My ninja and Batgirl (who is actually nocturnal) at a Trunk-or-Treat Event.

The days after Halloween we often hear about parents sneaking their favorite candies from their kid’s baskets or how all the candy is going to be thrown away because of the temptation to eat it.   We are then inundated with pictures on social media of how many burpees we have to do to work off the bite-sized Snickers bar. Some of us might overindulge and experience guilt and feel that we have to increase our exercise time or we stay completely away from the candy because we are too worried about the extra calories, fat, and sugar.

We all know that healthy food is critical for our overall well-being.  However, having a healthy relationship with food is also very important. One of our greatest responsibilities as parents is to teach our children how to take care of their bodies with good food and movement.  What our children learn, observe and eat as young children can have an impact on their preferences later in life. Just as they learn about healthy food from us, they also learn what kind of relationship to have with food.  Most of our food choices should be nutritious and fuel our bodies but some foods are eaten occasionally and though maybe not best for our bodies, taste good, are fun and part of holidays and special activities. If our children never see us eat a piece of candy or eat it and then feel riddled with guilt what are they learning on how to approach treats?  Can we simply eat a few pieces of our favorite candy once in a while and enjoy it without shame and guilt?  Don’t get me wrong, I think as a country we consume way too much sugar and do really think it is linked to many, many of our health problems.   Most of the time, I think we should eat a low sugar diet.  However, I think constantly restricting ourselves from small indulgences can backfire as well. 

It took me years to get over the guilt and even sometimes shame with certain food choices.  In past Halloweens, I would often overindulge because I was ALWAYS restricting and then the next day feel guilty and feel that I need to workout harder or longer to burn off those extra mini-candy bars I consumed.  As I have talked about in the past, now I approach my nutrition with a much more moderate approach and consume small treats more often but probably much less overall.  I no longer feel the need to eat an entire bag of candy because I have not had any in months.  I honestly have a small sweet almost daily which I believe is much better for me physically and mentally.

So how do I approach special occasion eating differently now?

First, I acknowledge just that.  It is ‘special occasion’ eating. I do not eat like this all the time.  I eat very well 85-90% of the time.  The rest of the time is for enjoyment. Second, I no longer correlate exercise with burning off any specific foods consumed. Exercise should not be done solely to burn off what was eaten. Exercise should be done to become stronger, move our bodies in ways that feel good, for stress reduction, mental health benefits, among countless other benefits.    I do not workout the day following a holiday because I ate one too many mini Butterfingers, I workout because I love to exercise.   Sure, calorie burning is a benefit of exercise but trying to burn a certain amount of calories based on what you consumed the previous day is making exercise punishment. As a fitness professional, I will no longer make comments to my class or clients about working out extra hard because of an upcoming special day or after the holiday to burn the calories off.    Again, exercise should not be a form of punishment.  If you view exercise as something you have to do because of the choices you have made, how likely are you to stick with it?  Will you truly enjoy it?   Lastly, if I do feel guilty about overindulging, I acknowledge it but I am not going to waste mental energy berating myself or feeling guilty.   I remind myself that it is simply time to move on and get back to making good choices most of the time. 

So as I approach one of my all-time favorite holidays, I am not ridden with anxiety that I will either not be able to control myself with all the candy around nor will pretend that I do not want any candy.  I will simply go through my kids trick-or-treat buckets and pick out a few of my favorites and enjoy them, no guilt, no shame.

Hope you and your family have a very happy and safe Halloween!

The entire Batgirl/Ninja Gang!

4 Mindset Shifts That Can Significantly Impact Your Health

4 Mindset Shifts That Can Significantly Impact Your Health

Back in February I posted a blog about the most important things you could do for your health right now. However, some of those listed are easier said then done.  Most of us know that we should sleep more and eat more vegetables, but why don’t we do it?   Our mindset around exercise and food impacts our actions greatly.  If our mind is not in the right place, then no amount of health advice will help us actually put these tips into action.   Read on for 4 mindset shifts that will hopefully help you with healthy behavior change. 

1 . Stop complicating everything. 

I love exercise physiology, biochemistry and nutrition science.  And yes, those topics can be complicated and I went to school to study all these topics but healthy living is really not that complicated.  It is not necessarily easy but it should not be that complicated.  Can we stop counting macros, minutes of exercise in various zones, how many intervals we did and just move a lot and eat mostly healthy food, most of the time?   Do not get me wrong, I love training programs and planning workouts as that is my job, but I work with so many people who are just overwhelmed with information overload.  They are confused what to eat, when, how much to exercise, how intense to exercise, how many rest days they should take and so on.   Yes, there is a science to training, certain things do work better than others and your program should not necessarily be totally random but our society is not suffering from overtraining.  We are suffering from lack of movement and are overfed but undernourished.  

Move as much as possible throughout the day, eat as many vegetables as you want, eat good quality protein, eat moderate amounts of fruit, whole grains, healthy fats and dairy.  Drink a lot of water.  Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep a night. If you can even just pick one of these tips to focus on for a short while, you should see improvements in your health.  

  2. Get rid of the all or nothing mindset.

Many clients I work with are either totally focused, working out consistently, watching what they eat, working on other health habits or are not working out at all besides maybe once with me, not paying attention to what they eat, not focusing on sleep or other self-care practices.  

Our society has a hard time living in the middle.  We do not like moderation.  We tend to be all in or all out when it comes to our health.  Hence, the popularity of New Year’s Resolutions. After 6 weeks of over indulging, we switch to 6 weeks of restriction and hard core exercise and dieting.   Living in the middle with consistently good choices is much more sustainable in the long run then trying to be perfect for 5 days a week to throw everything out the window come Friday night.  Or training really hard for 3 months followed by 3 months of inactivity.   Consistency beats perfection; EVERY. TIME.

Workout often, enjoy some treats once in awhile, take some rest days but not too many.   Don’t eat everything you want all the time but also don’t restrict too much or too often.

3. Do the best you can with what you have available.

You do not need any fancy equipment, clothes, shoes or space to get in a good workout.  If you are in the habit of exercising at a gym or going to certain classes and are unable to go for some reason, then many of us choose not to do anything. Or when traveling, if we  do not have a well equipped gym, then we decide to just not exercise at all.   Or if we do not have our normal food available to us then we decide to screw it and just order whatever want vs. the best option available. 

Do the best you can in those specific situations.  No gym?  Walk, walk, walk and throw in some body weight exercises. All movement counts.   Only fast food options available?  Hit up a grocery store or gas station and grab some fruit, vegetables and cheese and if those are not available, grab some jerky and nuts.  

It doesn’t have to be ideal or perfect all the time.  Work with what you got. 

4.  You can make healthy choices at any time.  

I have worked with a lot of clients who always seem to be waiting for something.  “I will start healthy eating on Monday.”  “I will start going to the gym regularly when work isn’t as busy.”  “Once my kids are back in school, I will eat better and more regularly.”  You do not have to wait until any special day, time or period in your life to make a healthy choice.  If you had a doughnut for breakfast, you do not have to wait until tomorrow or Monday to make a better choice the next time you eat.   You can start with the next meal.  If your schedule is a bit off one week and you miss your regular exercise routine, you do not have to wait until your schedule returns to normal to exercise again.  You can incorporate some other type of exercise or movement later that day or the next day.

Don’t wait for any special circumstance, day or time to make healthy choices.  You can start at anytime. 

Getting your head in the right space is crucial for behavior change.    Changing your thoughts around exercise and food can help you stay motivated and hopefully help you take action and help you live your best healthy life.  

 

6 Ways My Relationship with Food has Changed-Part II

6 Ways My Relationship with Food has Changed-Part II

The following post is a continuation from my blog last week.

4. I do not make body specific number goals anymore. 

At the beginning of every year, my sister and I write and share goal lists.  I usually have categories such as financial, career, health etc.  I used to always have number goals for my health.  I wanted to be x amount body fat or weigh x amount by this date. I associated a certain weight or body fat with success. Ironically, these goals appeared on the list every single year for a long time.  So either I had unrealistic goals as I was not achieving these numbers and maintaining or by setting a number goal, I was just continuing my quest/obsession to weigh a certain amount.  Now, if I have any numbers associated with my health goals, they are performance driven such as running a 10k in under 55 min or increasing all my max lifts. 

5. I do not plan when and what my next meal will be and therefore do not spend nearly as much time thinking about food. 

These are game changers.  I used to literally always be planning my next meal, usually while eating the meal prior. It was as if I could never live in the present and enjoy the meal I was eating because I was obsessing how that would affect my next meal.  For example, when writing this, I was on a plane at 5:15 AM.  I woke up at 2:30 AM and had coffee on the way to the airport and threw a few snacks in my bag in case I got hungry before I was able to get a real meal when I landed in California.  I was not stressed about it.  I will eat when I get hungry.   In the past, I would have either packed a healthy breakfast (at 2 freakin AM!)  or worst case scenario buy the healthiest thing I could find at the airport so that I would have food with me on the plane in case I got hungry during my 2 hour flight.  I would need to make sure I had a meal with me because if I did not eat, then I might be starving when I landed and then not make the best choices and then probably overeat for that meal.  Then I would not be hungry for my pre-planned snack but if I did not eat my snack at a certain time, then I might overeat at dinner and then I would be worried that eating too much, too late would mess me up the next day on my regimented eating plan. OMG.  I read this now and kind of laugh but also feel embarrassment as this was seriously my mindset.  So much time and energy that I want to spend doing other things. 

6. I do not do food guilt anymore.

This has by far been the hardest but most significant mental switch for me.   Gulit and often associated shame are brutal emotions.  I was giving so much power to food that I would literally feel down on myself for consuming too much of this or that.   I was associating my worth and self-value based on what I was putting in my mouth.  I struggled being a fitness professional who was supposed to have this all figured out.  How could I help my clients eat right and have a good relationship with food if I didn’t?  I often felt like a fraud.     Now, if I over consume or do not make the healthiest choices, I acknowledge the fact that I did not make the healthiest choice and I might not feel great later due to those choices and MOVE ON.   I do not keep thinking about my choices or promise myself to workout extra hard or long or that I can only have salad and water the next day.  I move on.  This shift did not come easily and really did take years to master.  I had to come to realization that one unhealthy meal or even one or a few days of unhealthy eating was not suddenly going to make me out of shape and gain 20lbs.  I had to consciously decide to not let food have that much power and that I wanted to spend my time and energy focusing somewhere else, mainly my kids and family.   Ironically, once I became good at implementing and practicing #1-#5 mentioned in this blog and not restricting myself anymore, the guilt started to diminish significantly.   You know what also happened?  I have maintained the same weight, the weight I was prior to my pregnancies and the weight I feel is appropriate for my height, genetics and body structure with significantly less effort than ever before.  

Though my relationship with food has improved so dramatically there are still times I feel my old mindset creep in and I have to make an effort to not let my old habits and mindset take over.   As someone who has struggled with food issues for years, this will probably always be some type of work in progress but work I am happy to do if it means not going back to where food and guilt ruled me.   

How was your relationship with food changed over the years?   I would love to hear from you, please leave a comment below!  If you are still struggling with your relationship with food or finding what works for you, shoot me an email!  I would love to chat.