Many people make New Year’s resolutions, aiming to make their lives better and improve their well-being over the next year. Sadly, most people give up on those goals within the first few weeks of the year. There’s no reason to wait until January 1st to start working towards your goals. In fact, winter provides ample opportunities to stick to your typical healthy routines while also developing new, healthy habits that will have you entering the New Year a healthier you.
Meditation is a growing trend among people from all walks of life, from busy professionals to self-development gurus, and everyday people like us. When you examine the benefits of a few minutes of meditation each day, it’s easy to see why. Just 15 to 30 minutes of meditation each day can change the way you approach life, give you more balance, and actually cultivate the development of new, positive connections and neural pathways in the brain while breaking down existing and less-beneficial connections.
Commit to a daily meditation practice, and you’ll develop greater empathy, be better able to manage your emotional response to situations outside your control, have less anxiety, and overall become more centered and less easily influenced by other people and events.
Meditation is sometimes viewed as a subset of personal development. While meditation alone can be helpful, there are other aspects of personal development that are equally beneficial for furthering your goals. If winter for you means more downtime, more time spent curled up in a blanket to stay warm, more time spent in idle traffic during snowstorms, or less opportunity to enjoy your favorite outdoor summer pastimes, then there’s no better time to kick your personal development efforts up a notch.
Listen to a podcast in the car or on the train on your way to and from work each day. Choose a few personal development books to enjoy in front of the fireplace in addition to your favorite fiction novels this winter. Sign up to take an online course to further your career or explore something new.
Those comfy, bulky sweaters many people wear in the cooler months certainly help to keep you warm, but they also help to hide an extra inch or two around the waistline. If you’re normally a healthy eater, don’t sacrifice your usual habits just because it’s winter.
Think ahead to the goals you’ve set for the spring or summer. Planning on taking a cruise this spring? Heading to Jamaica in early summer? Keep these goals in mind through the winter, but don’t deny yourself the occasional indulgence.
If your diet hasn’t been quite up to par, use your downtime this winter to make some positive changes, develop some clean eating habits, and experiment with cooking some healthy alternatives to your usual not-so-healthy fare.
There’s truly no better time than to spend some time or resources giving back to your community or to a worthy cause than over the holiday season. When you’re taking time to think about the many things you’re thankful for, think about ways to help out those less fortunate.
From donating and wrapping gifts for children in need to raising funds, assembling care packages for military personnel serving overseas over the holidays, helping to prepare holiday meals for the homeless, donating ready-to-cook meals to families in need, and much more, there’s no shortage of possible ways you can contribute to the greater good this winter. Plus, you’ll get to experience the good vibes and positive energy that come from performing selfless acts.
Winter makes it easy to skimp on your workouts. Shorter days mean less sunlight, thus less Vitamin D, and subsequently less energy (for many people). Plus, snow storms can put a bit of a damper on your plans to hit the gym.
You only need a few items to equip a home gym of your own and eliminate excuses that get in the way of reaching your goals. Buy a few dumbbells or kettlebells, resistance bands, a yoga mat, and perhaps a balance trainer and pull-up bar, and you have everything you need for a total body workout in the comfort of your home. There are even workouts that rely entirely on body-weight resistance, no equipment needed.
If you’ve been thinking of making some changes in your life, your season of renewal can begin today. There’s no need to wait for the New Year or for spring to start making a difference in your own life and in the lives of others. Start developing healthy habits that you’ll stick with all year long.
Image via Pixabay by langll
Jennifer Scott is an advocate of mental and overall health who has used her experience to inspire others that they too can maintain a healthy body and mind. More about Jennifer and her blog can be seen at Spirit Finder http://spiritfinder.org
While many love the flavor and color, I like the fact one serving adds up to more than 10 percent of vitamin A, and 25 percent of vitamin C for the day. Vitamin A is essential for our vision, skin, bone formation, and immune function. Vitamin C is an antioxidant to protect body cells from damage, it is also involved with our collagen formation, nervous system, and it helps to enhance iron absorption into our bloodstream. In addition, this recipe contains eight percent of our iron needs, and the allyl sulfur compounds from the garlic and onion may help to protect against stomach and colon cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Tomatoes are also rich in potassium, and lycopene. Potassium is necessary for muscle contraction, and helps to reduce blood pressure. Lycopene, a carotenoid, is a phytochemical (natural plant chemical) that is known to help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Lycopene is better absorbed when tomatoes are cooked, and this recipe can either be made with raw or cooked tomatoes depending on how you like your bruschetta to be served up. Either way, it’s always a perfect dish to have at your summer gathering, or to bring to your next party.
Tomato Bruschetta Recipe Number of Servings: 10
6 Plum tomatoes, cut small
4 Medium vine ripe tomatoes or garden fresh, cut small
½ Cup red onion, chopped
2 Garlic cloves
½ Cup fresh basil, chopped
2 Ounces balsamic vinegar
1-1/2 Tsp olive oil
¼ Tsp fresh ground black garlic pepper (or regular pepper)
15 Slices of 100% whole grain bread or homemade grain bread
Chop tomatoes. Finely chop onion, garlic, and basil. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Mix in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and pepper – add more for flavor.
Toast bread on one side under broiler, then cut the bread in half. Serve cold bruschetta on top. Serve on a platter or individual plates.
- Spray bread with a light coating of olive oil, rub with garlic, and broil tomato mixture with mozzarella cheese on top. Note this adds calories to the stated amount below.
- Use tortilla chips in place of bread, and use bruschetta topping as a dip in place of salsa.
Calories: 150-170 depending on the size of bread. Average Carbs: 28g, Protein 7g, Fat 4g, Fiber 7g
Vitamin A 10%, Vitamin C 25%, Iron 8% based on percent of daily values for a 2,000 calorie diet.
Kathy LaBella, RDN, CDN, CSSD, ACE-CMES/CPT
Clients’ who work with me know there is not one food or one day of eating that can make it or break it. That is, if you are eating well most days of the week, and you are consistent with a healthy lifestyle five to six days a week, then there is no reason why you can’t have fun with food and enjoy a little extra pleasure; it’s the same as you do with taking a break from your exercise routine. Breaks are important from the mundane, especially if you are focusing on losing weight because you also have to realistic. Allowing yourself a bit of pleasure food is important to prevent you from “dieting” or becoming too strict where you eventually crash, give up, and then overindulge. Eating well and living life is not about becoming a fanatic who is too focused on trying to be perfect with everything you put into your mouth, or exercise to a point where you forget how to enjoy some of the simple pleasures of life that is essential for overall wellbeing.
One of my favorite things to do almost weekly is to have an appetizer night, wwhether I’m out with friends in a restaurant, or dining at home alone. Appetizer night is way of having some of your favorite foods along with incorporating higher nutrient rich foods that include fruits,vegetables, and protein for the benefits of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Small plates or tapas are often less time consuming to make, yet more enjoyable to eat. If you work weekdays, opt for a Friday or Saturday evening for an appetizer night to help you wind down from the week while granting yourself the time to taste your food.
Some simple quick fixes can include a salad with shrimp cocktail, oysters, fruit, cheese and crackers, or a slice of bakery multi-grain bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Purchasing some pre roasted meats or fish can help as well with less cooking, or explore by making homemade mini pizza’s with fresh grated cheese and sliced veggies. Whatever it is you choose for appetizers, have fun with food for wellbeing by making the moment memorable and relaxing to rejuvenate.
“Savor the Flavor of Eating Right” is this year’s theme for National Nutrition Month® that is focusing on cooking at home, following your traditions, and expanding your tastes by trying new adventures with food.
Eating right and eating healthy can be made simple with a little planning, especially now that spring is here and local fruit and vegetables stands are opening up all over. Eating right can actually save time and money with simple quick meals made at home or packed daily for your lunch and snacks.
Fruits and Vegetables – I encourage many fruits and vegetables for their abundance of nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, as well as the ability to be a quick fix we can grab on the run from bananas and apples, to berries and grapes, to carrots, celery and peppers to take on your way out the door. Whether you opt for weekly shopping or daily stops along small markets, adventure out to try something new by adding a variety to prevent boredom. While at home, bring on the flavor and add a little cinnamon or nutmeg to your cut up fruit. And be sure to enhance your vegetable dishes with sautéed or grilled garlic, onion and herbs!
Nuts and Grains – Incorporating nuts and seeds are easy to pack along in a small container, or spreading peanut butter on whole grain bread for the road is simple while providing protein, and fueling your body with carbohydrates and healthy fats for the energy to get you through a few hours. In the evening making long grain rice only takes 30 minutes while you prep the rest of your meal or cut vegetables. If you have no time for rice, try thinly slicing a sweet potato for indoor grilling combined with your other vegetables and sprinkled with pine nuts; it only takes about 10 minutes to grill up a healthy meal. Another simple quick fix is adding nuts and seeds to a salad mixed with fresh herbs for dinner, combining taste, color and nutrients.
Protein – There are many choices today for protein that you can add into your day from Greek yogurt or soy yogurt to protein packed smoothies for a quick nutritious breakfast or a snack while at work that will keep you full without all the calories. Pack lunch the night before by adding lean fish, poultry, or beans in with a salad for lunch consisting of dark greens such as spinach with cut up broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and a few olives topped off with a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or pack leftovers from your dinner to take to work or school the next day to ensure you’re eating well. Top off your meats and seafood with rosemary, oregano, pepper, fresh squeezed lemon or orange for flavor.
Savoring the Flavor – Take the time to enjoy your meal! It does not take any more time to put your food onto a nice plate, add a little flavor with your favorite spices and herbs, and pour yourself a cold water in a nice glass with a lemon wedge, or add fresh chocolate mint leaves to green tea. Use a cloth napkin, light a candle, relax and enjoy your meal. It doesn’t have to take long, only long enough to enjoy and savor the flavor.
I recently read a headline ad about building confidence. At first I thought, oh how nice, a therapist must be giving a talk to people on how to build their confidence. Then I read on, no it wasn’t this at all. It was an ad for face lifts and cosmetic surgery for the body. I sighed, and thought to myself if you want to build confidence it has to start with inner peace.
Wrinkles or a few extra pounds are not necessarily high on the priority list of genuinely confident or successful people. If confident people were that fixated on changing their outer appearance they wouldn’t be as successful, focused, or as happy as they are today. Cosmetic surgery is not a solution to true inner confidence because the outer results often do not last.
My advice has always been if you want to change your looks start with treating your body well. As I’m known for saying if you want a bigger chest do some bench presses or push ups. Want a firmer butt? Try some squats or go for a walk. As for the face; hydration and a good moisturizer, sun screen, or an anti-wrinkle cream work well along with a healthy diet.
In a recent conversation with a male friend he said to me “I’m glad I’m not a woman so I don’t have to wear make-up”. My response back was “I don’t need make-up, I just like it”. He laughed, but he also knew where I was coming from having seen me comfortably walking around without make-up. There’s a difference, there’s nothing wrong in dressing up and having fun, but to permanently change your body or face thinking it would build confidence is not the real solution.
Real confidence is within, and if you want to build your confidence while reducing your waist size, and enhancing your appearance, start with proper nourishment for your brain and body. For a long term sustainable solution, begin with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) versus cosmetic surgery. Not only is it more cost affective and non-invasive, it’s feeding your body, and building your mind that boosts your inner feeling of well being, and confidence.
A registered dietitian nutritionist can’t take the place of a therapist; we do however council and often work in conjunction with a therapist for a client to receive better treatment for the mind, body, and self love. RDN counseling helps to change how you feel inside and out because improved nourishment fuels the mind, increases your energy that leads to a greater fitness level, decreases stress and disease risk and in turn leaves you truly feeling more confident on the outside, and most importantly peaceful and strong from within, and that’s a genuine and sustainable change that will last forever.
I once heard Steve Vai say during an interview, “I never worked a day in my life”. Vai is a Grammy award winning guitarists and songwriter who has produced several albums and performs world tours that have ranged from playing with top rock bands to symphony orchestras, yet Vai says he has never worked a day in his life. That’s because Steve Vai is doing what he loves; it does not feel like work to him, it’s a passion that is clearly exuberated as he performs, a passion he only happens to make a living at it.
I can’t say I never worked a day in my life, but being a registered dietitian nutritionist and an advanced health and fitness specialist with American Council on Exercise, I can say I never exercised a day in my life! I may be affiliated with exercise, but yet I don’t feel I’ve ever done it. I say this because the word “exercise” sounds like work to me, it projects a negative connotation. Who wants to exercise? It’s like telling someone they have to do something and it’s saying you have to work at it. Adult physical activity guidelines indicate we need a minimum of 150 minutes of activity or exercise per week that include a combination of cardiorespiratory, resistance, flexibility, and neuromotor exercises such as balance. I agree we need to be active and I educate people on what the guidelines mean and how to achieve them, but the guidelines can be a little overwhelming if you’re not sure where to begin. I prefer to play, have fun and enjoy activities I choose to make part of my lifestyle. It only happens to be that I enjoy activities that keep my body and mind in motion and in return it keeps me more fit than many people who are half my age who choose to be inactive.
I grew up swimming, skiing, biking, dancing, walking and running through trails in the woods. This was never felt like exercise, it was fun; doing what I loved and trying new adventures as they came along. As children, we don’t think about the correlation of exercise and the prevention of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and bone density, or maintaining a waistline; children only think about the activities that are enjoyable to them. At the age of fourteen, I was introduced to weightlifting machines in gym class. It wasn’t exercising for me because it was too much fun! I was tall and I was much lighter in weight than other kids in my class due to my small bone structure, but I discovered I was one of the strongest of my female classmates. Therefore, I found something that was both fun and easy for me to do. That’s the key, enjoying what you’re doing. Weight training and feeling comfortable in the weight room only became a passion of mine once I entered into my twenties, a lifestyle I continue in my home gym today at least four days a week that begins at four in the morning following meditation and before my workday. But I never exercised. It is relaxation to me that ensures a happier day to follow, a ritual that’s only part of my life along with several other activities that became passions, but never exercise.
In college I remember classmates frantically studying for exams without taking a moment to relax. I would see their jaws drop at times when I would get up in the middle of studying to run to the gym for an hour. Some thought I didn’t care about my studies, but the reality was it was my way of regrouping, clearing my mind, relaxing my body, getting rid of any anxiety by doing what I enjoyed. What many didn’t realize is that a one hour break away to the gym helped me to perform better on exams.
Throughout most of my twenties, I taught at a modeling school and agency that included teaching group exercise classes in addition to the runway, communication, and media classes. It was the exercise classes that were my favorite to teach because to me it was fun, it was a pressure-free high energy class that felt more like dance and left everyone feeling good at the end. During my prior runway days, I was fortunate enough to have a group of close friends I worked with who truly loved going out dancing and not drinking. It was our way of socializing and having fun while staying fit.
In my mid to late thirties, while having a private practice as a sports nutritionist and consulting dietitian, I ventured out to try other activities. It went from golfing a few days a week to cycling long distances through the hill towns near surrounding Northampton, Massachusetts where I lived at the time, too long hikes through the mountains, to trying my hand at rock climbing and learning whitewater kayaking. I also skied at least one day a week in the winters. Much of it was part of my career at the time where I was affiliated with a fitness club where I had an office location, and I also lifted weights there, but never considered any of this to be a form of exercise.
Activity can change as we change and age, unexpected injuries or illness can occur, and there’s marriage, family, children, divorce, the death of a spouse, child, or parent, to the loss of a job and financial changes or moving away to new demographics. Staying active and finding new passions are all part of the change and I found it’s important not to let roadblocks get in the way. I’ve been through many of these changes, one event, in particular, was before moving away from Northampton, Massachusetts I had an automobile accident that caused a cervical spinal cord injury, a fluid-filled cavity in my spinal column referred to as Syringomyelia that caused inflammation and pinching of nerves along with numbness and excruciating headaches. Being intolerant to medication I opted for nothing or an occasional Aleve. I was told I would never lift weights again and told to never ski or run, and I was given a diagnosis with a possibility of being wheelchair bound before my fortieth birthday. I was thirty-eight years old at the time…
I was told I would never lift weights again and told to never ski or run, and I was given a diagnosis with a possibility of being wheelchair bound before my fortieth birthday. I was thirty-eight years old at the time.
To Be Continued…
I immediately started thinking of things that I could do for work and activity if by chance I would lose much of my mobility, and at the same time being single and self-employed I had to keep going and couldn’t miss a day of work! I was accepting of what could be, but at the same time tenacious and determined to regain strength in my upper extremities by imagining holding invisible dumbbells, and soon started lifting actual weights at home until I moved onto five pounds and up. I eventually regained 75 percent of my strength and I skied cautiously as tolerated, and accepted not to do the activities that weren’t tolerated such as sea diving, whitewater kayaking, and at the time underwater swimming, in general, was painful.
In my early forties, I moved to Essex, CT located near the Connecticut shore at the mouth of the Connecticut River. It was a new lifestyle, and new activities to venture out to. I built a new home, office and nutrition and fitness practice where I had a large industrial home gym all in one location. Although I missed my old activities, I immediately wanted to emerge myself into this new area and explore new passions to be learned and I wanted to learn what my future clients might be doing for their activity. I took a few days of sailing lessons and later discovered many of the shoreline bike trails, but my real passion became sea and river kayaking without the Eskimo rolls; it was absolutely incredible! I found my new love! At the time, I was still having problems road running, although I did run one race and decided road races weren’t for me, just not all that fun to me. Instead, I learned of the many trails near where I lived and the softer ground was the way to go. Not only was I connecting with nature and animals, but it was easy on my neck, back, legs and feet. Trail runs and hikes were fun and stress relieving, not at all like exercise or work. After moving to Essex, I decided that driving to Vermont to ski on a regular basis was a bit too far at three hours away and opted for snowshoeing. It’s not quite the feel of downhill skiing, but it was a good compromise that gave me a challenge in the snow and it was free! Therefore, I accepted, adopted and loved the new activities brought into my new life. And then there was gardening… massive gardening in the new two plus acre house I built! It was another new discovery that was fun and active, but it wasn’t in anyway exercise.
Now in my fifties, I have moved onto Waterford, Connecticut, leaving many Essex adventures and my former practice behind, and while discovering new activities along with playing music again, I spent two years researching to form a new practice based on the special nutrition needs for musicians, particularly active and touring musicians. While living on the mouth of the Niantic River that opens up into Long Island Sound, it gives me the ability to paddle in my kayak frequently as the water’s edge is in front of my cottage. In the winter, I resort to using my indoor rower and I discovered beach running is more enjoyable than the wooded trails, yet soft on the spine. And this year I stopped using a landscaper to mow my yard and bought an electric push mover that’s become an enjoyable weekly ritual following a weekend beach run.
Music helps with activity along the way. I’m always plugged in and have portable speakers for the Kayak, and yes, sometimes Steve Vai is playing, along with my many other selections of music.
As for today, I will continue to kayak, beach run, meditate, and lift weights in my small cottage gym because it is not like work or exercise, it is only a way of life, and an extra forty to seventy minutes a day that takes the place of what could be wasted time otherwise. Being active at whatever it is you enjoy is important. It’s only a bonus that fun activity keeps your body and mind fit while staving off arthritis, preserving muscle mass, preventing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and increasing endorphins all while reducing stress, enhancing immunity, memory, and quality of life. Activity keeps you younger than your chronological years.
So as this evening falls when many people are sitting on their sofa watching their television and I’m a bit tired after a long day of activity and work, I turn off National Public Radio that’s playing in the background. I sit down in silence and at first, turn toward my piano but instead, I pick up my guitar to play before I go to bed, and then think Steve Vai has never worked a day in his life, and I an exercise specialist and dietitian nutritionist has never exercised a day in my life.
I encourage you to find your passion- a new activity, get out and play or learn a new musical instrument, and remember to eat well, stay healthy, happy, and active because the benefits have endless rewards!
Kathy LaBella, RDN, CDN
This video, Healing Outside the Box , is about balancing diet and activity. Discussing a realistic approach to nutrition with balanced portions and activity with Rosemary Lachance and Jimmy Driscoll. How to incorporate healthy nutrients without giving up your favorite foods.