Tag Archives: Nutrition

New Study: Even Light Drinking is Deadly

We often hear that moderation is key to good health. In fact, I regularly preach this. But sometimes our definitions of “moderate” can vary, and what we think is a helpful amount of a food, beverage, supplement or form of exercise, is actually harmful. I love me a glass of wine, let me tell ya what. And right now, going into month six of pregnancy, I’ve got to confess that I miss it. So, trust me when I say that I’m just as disappointed as you may be to learn that a drink a day doesn’t in fact keep the doctor away. Read on for the latest research published earlier this month…

 

Before I dive into the findings, I want to say that I understand this is a niche topic finding its way onto my blog, but I think it’s important that we all stay current on relevant research. It can make a difference in our health habits and intentions.

For better or worse, it takes a while for new information to change our habits. Even when repeat studies are done it can be difficult for many of us to accept something that disproves our existing beliefs or biases. As an example of how long health information can take to impact the masses, let’s look at the history of cigarettes (which I feel parallels the history of alcohol use and research).

 

A Lesson from The History of Cigarette Smoking

Around the end of the 19th century, cigarette smoking became popularized. At the time, doctors were largely unfamiliar with lung cancer because it was such a rare condition for someone to have. Medical professors even often told students they would likely never see a case of lung cancer!

Around the 1940s to 1950s, cigarette manufacturers became aware that smoking had negative health consequences but, trying to protect bottom lines, worked to dispute such scientific claims. This wasn’t hard to do because the public was still trying to tease apart how many emerging cardiopulmonary issues were linked solely to cigarettes and how many were attributable to other issues of the era such as asphalt dust, air pollution, exposure to gas during WWI, and long-term effects of the 1918 influenza pandemic.

 

 

After multiple studies released undeniable evidence of the negative health effects of tobacco use, some of the American public began to buy into the idea that cigarette smoking should be avoided. Even still, with evidence on the table and a growing number of lung cancer patients, in 1960 only 1/3 of American doctors believed that cigarette smoking “should be considered a major cause of lung cancer.” In fact, 43% of all doctors were smokers themselves. Now, let’s pause for a moment to think about how this situation created a medical bias, misinformation for patients, and a preservation of a smoking culture for many more decades.

*Pause for contemplating* 

To this day, cigarettes cause 1.5-2 million deaths per year, 95% of which are believed to be entirely preventable. And we know they’re bad for us.

 

Alcohol Consumption is up Against an Even Greater Public Challenge for Two Reasons:

1) Alcohol has been around much longer than cigarettes. Alcohol is frequently referenced as far back as the Bible; both its abuse and its use for celebratory and spiritual occasions. Alcohol is highly cultural and prevalent throughout human history.

2) Studies on alcohol render conflicting results. For a long time, it was difficult to determine how “moderate alcohol consumption” should be defined. Even then, moderate consumption has rendered differing results; correlated with positive cardiovascular health effects (to the extent that some doctors have recommended a drink a day for certain patients) but negative impacts on cancer rates and conditions.

This is confusing stuff!

How much is okay? How much can we drink in moderation? And if we drink in moderation, is it possible to do so without drastically raising the risk of getting cancer?

 

 

The Study that Addresses Many of Our Burning Questions:

The latest study on the pros vs cons of moderate alcohol consumption was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental ResearchResearchers felt compelled to analyze the effects of moderate daily drinking (defined as 1-2 alcoholic drinks) on overall mortality rates because of conflicting research showing that moderate drinking is beneficial to cardiovascular health but simultaneously raises the risk of cancer.

The researchers analyzed two data sets; one of 340,000+ people from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and another of 93,000+ people from the Veterans Health Administration (VA). Both data sets were analyzed for associations between the frequency of moderate drinking (1-2 drinks at a time) and overall mortality.

*The Results*

Researchers found that moderate drinking (again, defined as 1-2 drinks) four or more times per week increases the risk of premature death by a whopping 20% across all age groups, both genders and non-smokers. These results were consistent across both data sets with very different populations (NHIS vs VA). This is fairly shocking because these findings refute what current guidelines say is healthy; 1-2 drinks/day. In other words, daily drinking cancels out the positive benefits for cardiovascular health and poses serious risks.

Moderate drinking with low levels of frequency is deemed safer than daily moderate drinking. The study discovered that moderate drinking (1-2 drinks) approximately three times a week or less is considered a safe range. With regards to overall cancer risk, abstinence from alcohol is the best bet.

Another recent study, published by The Lancet, evaluated over 700 studies on alcohol consumption from around the world and concluded that “no level of alcohol consumption improves health.” This study looked at both moderate and binge drinking.

 

 

Implications for the Future

It’s becoming more apparent that our culture’s enjoyment of alcohol is largely detrimental to our health. With these new studies emerging, doctors may suggest patients with heart health concerns have an occasional drink to help cardiovascular function but avoid daily drinking. More doctors will likely advise people to cut way down on alcohol consumption, especially patients with a personal or family history of cancer. Again, the safest consumption level is none followed by no more than three days a week consuming 1-2 alcoholic beverages at a time.

My personal stance:

I don’t plan on giving up my red wine entirely but I will definitely take this new information into consideration if I feel like I’m slipping into the habit of pouring myself a glass to unwind at the end of every day. I will keep myself in check and make sure I’m not drinking in moderation more than three days a week. Thankfully, this is fairly in line with my current alcohol habits. But, my eyes have been opened and I will be more cautious moving forward. That’s how I’m planning to use this information based on my individual health, family cancer risk factors, *and* enjoyment of a good Cabernet. But first, getting through my 9-10 months of sobriety in pregnancy.

How do you plan to adapt your drinking habits? What do you need to do?

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

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Perfect Health Doesn’t Exist

I opened my email inbox the other month and had a newsletter from a health professional in my network. I clicked through to read what she had to say about the germ-infused winter season and immediately felt my insides prickle. She said that we need to start pointing the finger of blame back at ourselves when we’re sick, citing that our immune systems aren’t doing their jobs because of physical and mental stresses that we aren’t keeping in check. I like this health professional and trust her a lot. I get her point. But I can’t agree with her.

Yes, it’s true that our immune systems are the foundation for our health. And we have a lot of control over how resilient (or not) our gut health is based on what we eat and how healthfully we live. But it’s also true that there are quite a few things out of our control from one season of life to the next. Take me as an example…

This past winter I cut way down on alcohol and caffeine, started sleeping longer every night, and replaced lots of household products with plant-based, plastic-free, fragrance-and-dye-free alternatives. I also dialed down my high-stress workouts and replaced them with some yoga and plenty of quality strength training for hormonal balance. Lastly, I’ve stuck to my routine of eating plenty of fruits/veggies, whole grains and lean protein, but added a boost of healthy fats to balance out omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in my diet. All of these lifestyle choices would suggest that my immune system should be fairly strong. Maybe even ironclad. Right? Wellll…

 

 

Ironically, winter 2017-2018 was not just a miserable flu season in America but also a miserable time in my household. I got sick more in the last few months than in the last 10 years combined. Three stomach bugs, countless colds and sore throats, and hormones responding to the inflammation by bouncing all over the place. Needless to say, my complexion went down the tank, too. I’ve been looking like I just hit puberty lately. Lol.

But I’m trying so hard to be healthy!” my mind has been screaming. “This isn’t fair!” Sometimes, it’s not enough. Sometimes, toddlers aren’t good about covering their sneezes and you end up with projectile snot literally in your mouth. Enjoy that visual. Sometimes, stressful life events occur like family deaths, job changes, seasons of travel, and physical injury. The list goes on. Sometimes, life just isn’t under our control. And that’s okay. Because nature didn’t intend for our bodies to be perfect. It intended for them to be flexible and resilient.

(Random aside: I took strange comfort in Lindsey Vonn’s reaction to falling short of the podium in the 2018 Olympics; she reflected on how one moment in life you’re on top and then things can change quickly. The fact that even the most impressive athletes in the world are not removed from struggle demonstrates how connected we are as humans in our plight. It’s nothing to badger ourselves over or feel shameful about.)

The idea that our health should be perfect sets us up for false expectations and failure. It’s the reason why people come into the gym and think they have to hold themselves to a lofty standard of exercising every day or else they’re falling short. And then they quit because of the fear of failure. If perfect health is as easy as following “all the right steps” then why do healthy and active individuals get cancer? Why do we get sick when we’re actually eating healthier than ever before? Why are we more prone to injuries and wrinkles as we age? We can eat all the health-food-junkie products on the planet and exercise every day, and we will STILL fall ill at times. We will still have moments of weakness and pain. And that’s okay, too. This is normal. I’m telling you: THIS IS NORMAL. Because perfect health doesn’t exist.

 

 

Our DNA isn’t stagnant. I’ve talked about this before. It ebbs and flows just like our gut health does. In this way, Mother Nature designed us to be able to respond to life’s inevitable challenges on a cellular level. You see, our DNA expresses itself differently under varying degrees of inflammation and stress. Sometimes, there’s little we can do to control the way that certain genes express themselves because we may be more predisposed to a health condition according to our genetics. While it’s true that there are lots of gene-testing services out there, many people are still unaware of their own situation and what they are more (or less) predisposed to. But we don’t necessarily have to know all the answers up front… if we’re willing to live in wellness.

When we’re dedicated to being flexible in body, mind and spirit, we open ourselves up to transformation throughout the lifespan. Staying active about self-care is all we can control. We get the privilege of choice in our lives! And I like to think that makes us a lot more powerful than perfectly-designed, stagnant beings.

One of my favorite quotes of all time by Michael J. Fox:

 

 

Choose a healthy lifestyle because it will help you through the inevitable challenges ahead, not because you think it will clear your path of all obstacles.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

 

Find Healthy Fast Food Eats

Just to be clear, I’m not a raving fan of eating at fast-food establishments on a regular basis, buuuutttttt I’ve found that I have more lately. Why? I moved to a new area that has fewer grab-and-go, order-at-the-register, local eats and a whole lot more chain restaurants. Sweet Green, where art thou?!? I was pretty bitter at first, feeling like I only had two options: 1) eat at home or 2) go to a sit-down restaurant. But then I opened my mind a little, looked at the menus of restaurants I used to curse under my breath, and discovered a few really awesome, quick options for meals on-the-go or when I just can’t bring myself to cook salmon, broccoli and quinoa again.

So, here’s the roundup of fast-foody chains: Starbuck’s, Chick-Fil-A, Chipotle, Tropical Smoothie and…drum roll, pleaseMcDonald’s.

Funny story. I spent three years living in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of DC, exactly one block from McDonald’s. I swore when I moved there that I would never set foot inside it, even when occasionally stumbling back from bars in my early 20s. And I didn’t. A while later, my husband and I owned a town home near a DC metro stop, once again just a couple blocks away from the golden arches. In all five years of living there, I went to McDonald’s only a handful of times, typically to grab a quick breakfast and coffee when getting up early for a road trip. So, the fact that I’ve been to McD’s as many times in 8 months as 8 years…*gulp*… is a bit scary sounding.

I’m not saying fast food is ideal for your body’s health. But I AM saying that the eats I’ve found below aren’t too bad, either. In fact, these five little go-to’s have gotten me through moving with my family to a new area and adjusting from city to suburban life. And guess what? I’ve LOST five pounds since moving even though I don’t have easy access to lots of farm-to-table restaurants like I used to, and even though I don’t have to take my dog on twice-a-day walks to go #2. She has a yard full of squirrels and chipmunks to chase now! The point is: Even in a world full of fast-food chains, WE HAVE A CHOICE TO MAKE. We don’t have to choose the unhealthy stuff. Even when we’re in a rush. Even when we’re low on cash. Even when we are airport hopping due to work travel. We CAN find a way to be healthy. If we put in the effort. 

 

My 5 Favorite *Mostly* Healthy, Low-Calorie Eats at Fast Food Places:

 

 

Starbucks; Protein Bistro Box

“A hard‐boiled cage free egg, sliced tart apples, grapes, and white Cheddar cheese served with multigrain muesli bread and honeyed peanut butter.”

The Breakdown:

Calories: 370 | Total Fat: 19 g | Dietary Fiber: 5 g | Sugars: 18 g | Protein: 13 g

Likes: I love that this meal packs in meatless protein, making it a great option for carnivores and vegetarians alike. And since there are Starbucks on basically every city block and in every airport, this protein box is easy to find for a heavy snack or light meal. It definitely beats getting a scone. I even let my toddler eat half of it sometimes!  

Dislikes: I don’t love that this meal is 18 grams of sugar but, at the same time, it’s almost all from the fruit so the sugar is natural. Also, if you’re sensitive to gluten, dairy or peanut butter, this little meal probably isn’t a great choice.

 

 

Image result for chick-fil-a cool wrap

 

Chick-Fil-A; Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap

“Sliced grilled chicken breast, nestled in a fresh mix of Green Leaf lettuce, petite red and green lettuce, and shredded green cabbage with a blend of shredded Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses, tightly rolled in a flaxseed flour flat bread. Made fresh daily.”

The Breakdown:

Calories: 350 | Total Fat: 14 g | Dietary Fiber: 15 g | Sugars: 3 g | Protein: 37 g

Likes: This meal is FULL of protein for very few calories. Woot woot! It’s also packed with fiber and low in sugar. The mix of greens, flaxseed flour and grilled chicken mean it’s also nutritious. It’s a pretty stellar combination for a grab-and-go lunch, if you ask me.

Dislikes: The pros of the cool wrap can be easily outweighed when paired with french fries, soft beverages, and dressing toppings. Any time you enter a fast food establishment you must APPROACH WITH CAUTION.

 

 

Image result for chipotle salad bowl with chicken

 

Chipotle; Salad Bowl with Chicken

Make-your-own salad bowl topped with; romaine lettuce, chicken, black beans, fajita vegetables, fresh tomato salsa, and tomatillo-green chili salsa.

The Breakdown:

Calories: 380 | Total Fat: 8.5 g | Dietary Fiber: 10 g | Sugars: 8 g | Protein: 42 g

Likes: I appreciate that Chipotle comes with options. So while my husband woofs down a burrito, I have lighter meals at my disposal. This combo of ingredients for the salad bowl is my go-to when it comes to Chipotle. It’s full of vitamins A and C, and gives me a solid boost of iron. Not bad on calories either, right? This meal stays low-calorie by avoiding calorie-laden toppings like cheese, sour cream, queso, and rice. Heck, if you’re really hungry just throw some healthy guacamole on top for an extra 200 calories and stay satiated for even longer!

Dislikes: It’s extremely tempting to dive into the lime-salted chip bag of the Chipotle kingdom. They’re so good. But the salad bowl is already chocked full of sodium (1485 grams!), so tread lightly. And drink plenty of water.

*To calculate how your favorite burrito or bowl’s nutrients add up, check this out: Chipotle Nutrition Calculator.

 

 

Image result for tropical smoothie cafe detox island green smoothie

 

Tropical Smoothie; Detox Island Green Smoothie

“This smoothie is made with spinach, kale, mango, pineapple, banana, and fresh ginger.”

The Breakdown:

Calories: 180 | Total Fat: 0 g | Dietary Fiber: 5 g | Sugars: 29 g | Protein: 4 g

Likes: I love that this smoothie packs in power veggies like spinach and kale. The ginger gives it a zing and is great for digestion. Believe it or not, this smoothie is actually far lower in overall calories and sugar than the vast majority of the other ones on the menu. People love to think of any “smoothie” as healthy, but some of Tropical Smoothie’s drinks have up to 780 calories and over 100 grams of sugar! Yikes! Stick with this one or another lower calorie/sugar option. Your tummy will thank you for not destroying your gut health with sugar overload.

Dislikes: It’s important to mention that you don’t want added sugars or sweeteners with smoothies. Don’t forget this crucial step when ordering or you’ll end up with something that is less healthy than you planned. Also, if you want to make this low calorie smoothie into a meal, choose your wrap, salad or flatbread carefully. Calories can quickly add up, especially when a smoothie + sandwich combo results in a “free” cookie or bag of chips. They get me nearly every time with those Salt & Vinegar chips, darn it! 

 

 

Image result for mcdonalds oatmeal

 

McDonald’s; Fruit & Maple Oatmeal w/o Brown Sugar

“Our oatmeal starts with two full servings of whole-grain oats and a touch of cream. Loaded with red and green apples, cranberries and two varieties of raisins. And you can have it just how you like it, with or without brown sugar.”

The Breakdown:

Calories: 290 | Total Fat: 4.5 g | Dietary Fiber: 5 g | Sugars: 18 g | Protein: 5 g

Likes: This oatmeal really sticks to my ribs. It fills me up and was a lifesaver when we were moving into our new home this summer, kitchen cupboards empty and entering each day in a craze (plowing through as much work as possible while the toddler was under Grandma’s care).

Dislikes: When topped with brown sugar, this oatmeal quickly skyrockets in sugar; up to 33 grams! Also, the oatmeal is a mix of slow-cooked and instant oats, meaning it’s not *quite* as healthy as it could be…but that’s fast food for ya.

 

 

Again, I’m not saying everyone should live off fast food. I try to keep it to a minimum in my diet, but every now and then, it’s helpful to know where to find healthy fast-food eats. They’re out there. Just gotta find ’em.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

Remedies for Neck Pain and Stiffness

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 20% of adults report that they experience some degree of neck pain. Many of us will encounter at least one bout of neck stiffness or discomfort in our lifetime, whether from a bad night of sleep or poor posture from computer work. Recently, I’ve heard a cascade of complaints from friends and clients that their necks are bothering them and it makes my insides squirm to see them in discomfort. Let’s try to change that, shall we? Here’s my experience with neck pain and why I empathize, followed by at-home remedies and an upper cervical chiropractor’s expert advice.

 

Benefits of Natural Posture

As a young child, I thought it was normal that I could tilt my head ever-so-slightly and relax my gaze into double vision. It wasn’t until high school, body bent forward over text books and SAT-prep exams, that I realized I couldn’t see clearly when I shifted my visual attention from close to far (ex: it was difficult to read the time on the clock when I looked up from studying). I thought I needed glasses. It turned out that my vision was just fine; however, I was diagnosed with a “convergence insufficiency.” This condition, while minor, has caused me to tilt my head to reduce eye strain since childhood.

In a perfect world, I should be maintaining a straight gaze and posture, and forcing my eyes to work together to see clearly. But our bodies LOVE to be lazy. Instead, I’ve compensated and caused myself neck problems and tension over the years, especially during graduate school and when I was a nursing mom. So for all of you in pain, I feel ya! Been there many times. Every time my neck is out of alignment it strikes me how much it affects my energy and overall well-being.

You see, the neck is like the gateway for the entire nervous system. When part of it is inflamed, tight or out of alignment, unexpected problems can happen in the rest of the body, too.

Ideal neck alignment results in a happy nervous system.

When the body is in “neutral” or “ideal” alignment there are three natural curves in the spine; the lumbar, thoracic and cervical curves. These three curves make an “S-shape.” This is considered natural, healthy posture.

Other benefits of natural posture include:

  • Reduced back pain
  • Less frequent headaches
  • Regular bowel movements
  • Improved attention and mental clarity
  • Corrected scoliosis
  • Healthy pregnancy and female organ function
  • Improvements in asthma
  • Improvements in arthritis and joint pain
  • Lower incidence of ear infections
  • Lower blood pressure
  • ….and more: http://bit.ly/28QsqHw

If you have a minute, check out this video, from Chiropractors Without Borders!, where a nonverbal, wheelchair-bound child goes from a near-vegetative state to walking after one simple neck adjustment that frees up his entire nervous system, allowing it to jump start for the first time in years:

 

 

How to Relieve Neck Tension and Prevent Future Problems:

First, it’s important to bring attention to the one thing we tend to overlook when it comes to spinal health; NUTRITION! 

Poor nutrition and inadequate water intake can result in inflammation which consequently places stress on the nervous system. So, hydrate well and eat REAL food! You may even try giving inflammatory stuff like processed foods and alcohol a big break for a few weeks to months and see if that alone makes a difference in your quality of life and neck comfort.

 

Other Remedies for Relief…

  • Make sure your computer monitor is at eye level and directly in front of you

 

  • Avoid long periods of consecutive driving or looking down at your smartphone

 

  • Sleep in a neutral position; avoid pillows that cause your head to tilt up in one direction and try to regularly alternate your sleeping position to avoid tight muscles on one side of the body

 

  • If you find that the tension radiates from your neck down to shoulders, try to sit more upright during your work day (better yet, stand!) and hug a pillow at night to keep shoulders “stacked” and from rounding forwards

 

  • Get your partner, a professional or YOUR OWN HANDS to massage tight areas of your head, neck and shoulders. Some pressure points you can target with your fingertips include:
    1. the middle of the back of the skull
    2. behind the middle of your ears
    3. top of the jaw
    4. eyebrow line
    5. on your face slightly down from your nose (both sides)
    6. your temples
    7. all 10 fingertips on top of your head to massage various aspects of the head/scalp
    8. the top of the neck, right below the occiput (i.e., back of the head/skull)
    9. the inside front of your shoulder/top of chest
    10. the back of your shoulder/rear deltoid
    11. space between the clavicle and shoulder
    12. several inches below the armpit on the side of the chest
    13. …and last but not least; INSIDE YOUR MOUTH! This is crazy to try but SO EFFECTIVE thanks to the complex relationships between your facial and neck muscles. With *clean hands* try pulling the inside of your cheek out to stretch/rub it. Try the same with the inside of your lower lip all the way into the bottom of the cheek.

 

  • Put your neck into a gentle extension stretch to correct poor posture – this is often done through the use of a special “pillow” for support: http://bit.ly/2jNvjRU

 

  • Try the following gentle exercises for your neck, recommended by the Cleveland Clinic:
    1. Roll your shoulders backwards and down 10 times
    2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together 10 times
    3. Push your head backwards into your car head rest or hands and hold for 30 seconds
    4. Bring your ear to your shoulder 10 times on each side

 

 

  • Strengthen your posterior muscles for overall improvements in posture through the following exercises (note: these are best done for alignment maintenance and after knowing your body is in a neutral position. If you’re in pain or think you have a misalignment, seek a chiropractor first):
    1. Reverse flies
    2. High-to-low rows
    3. Lat pull downs
    4. Rotator cuff exercise
    5. Cable pulls in different angles for general back strengthening and endurance
    6. “Superman” back extensions
    7. Static cobra pose and/or cobra press-ups
    8. Back extensions from mat with gentle twist at top

 

  • Use heat or ice to provide relief from tension. A rule of thumb I tend to suggest for clients is to use ice if the pain is acute and heat if the pain lasts more than 48-72 hours. Note: Most professionals advise against sleeping with heat pads due to the risk of burns and interference with deep, quality sleep. Also, using ice for prolonged periods (over 15 or so minutes per application) can be bad for your nerves. So, use both in moderation and listen to your body for what it needs!

 

Misalignment in the Cervical Spine (i.e., neck)

A person’s neck can become misaligned due to one of the following reasons:

  • “A vertebra going out of place (‘misalignment’) because of a slip or fall (i.e., ‘macrotrauma’).
  • The entire spine misaligning globally due to poor posture.
  • Joint swelling caused by damage done to the intervertebral joint.
  • An inflammatory response caused by a poor diet, lack of pure water or psychological stress.
  • Osteoporosis or degenerative changes of the spine or intervertebral discs.
  • Trigger points and tight back muscles that pull the vertebrae out of place.”

Read more: http://bit.ly/28QsqHw

 

 

How to Identify Misalignment in the Spine

True misalignment can be present with or without pain. In both scenarios, misalignment lowers the optimal function of the body due to changes in internal health and physical performance. Note: Physical performance doesn’t just pertain to athletes. It can encompass how effectively one squats or stands up from a chair, and much more.

According to Upper Cervical Chiropractor Dr. Lauren Dodds, when a spinal misalignment is present, the body’s level of function is altered. Its fight-or-flight response becomes dominant. Although the body is trying to help itself survive, the fight-or-flight response can actually hinder the body from healing and growing, perpetuating more stress to an already overtaxed system.

Dr. Dodds explains that “thoughts, traumas and toxins” can all cause spinal misalignment. In other words, our spinal health is impacted by our emotional/personal lives, physical state and external environment. Dr. Dodds adds that although the strongest motivating factor for people to visit a chiropractor is pain, that shouldn’t be the only reason since, as mentioned, the impacts of misalignment are profound.

So, how do you know if you’re misaligned if you’re not experiencing pain?

Dr. Dodds suggests looking in a full-length mirror to see if you notice any asymmetries. You might notice that one shoulder is a little higher than the other or that one side of your hips juts forward. You can also have a trusted personal trainer or Pilates instructor do a postural analysis for you. In short, if you find that you’re out of alignment (or even if you simply suspect that you are), it’s a wise idea to find a chiropractor near you to visit.

Good news… *most* insurances will cover the visit and *most* chiropractors will accept it, so cost shouldn’t be a giant hindrance in a lot of scenarios. Either way, when you take care of your health through preventative measures like visiting a chiropractor and getting hands-on about relieving your own neck tension, your WHOLE BODY feels better and you prevent future problems from arising!

Cheers to living with optimal function and health! You deserve it.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

Where Does Belly Fat Come From?

Belly fat is both bad and good (yes, good!). Hoarding fat around the stomach is nature’s way of ensuring the survival of the human race during times of stress and unpredictable food intake. Why is the stomach the place it’s stored? Here comes the “good” part… Because fat in the abdomen is the most metabolically active fat. This means that just as easily as a little extra pudge can accumulate, it can be rapidly recruited for energy and burned off. When you think about it, it’s really quite clever. It’s like a squirrel tucking some acorns into the fold of its cheek for safekeeping. Our caveman bodies do the same thing. But belly fat accumulation isn’t just about what we eat and how active we are. Let’s take a look at some of the ways it gets put on our waistlines…

The Usual Suspects for Belly Fat

You guessed it; the usual suspects for belly fat include nutrition, physical activity and genetics. Let’s do a brief review…

Nutrition

This is perhaps the most obvious source of stubborn fat in the tummy. It should come as little surprise that sugary foods, trans fats, low-protein diets and alcohol can be detrimental when it comes to keeping off this kind of fat.

What You Can Do: Eat lower-sugar, healthy, natural and unrefined foods that are high in fiber or protein, and keep alcohol in check.

 

 

Physical Activity 

You’re more likely to get a spare tire if you’re sitting at a desk all day and doing little to get moving during your free time. This is fairly obvious. But, what’s less obvious is that just 5-15 minutes of movement in small segments throughout the day can truly help keep your metabolism and calorie-burning engine going. So, formal exercise isn’t always a “must” if you’re leading a truly active and healthful lifestyle. Although it certainly never hurts.

What You Can Do: Be consistent and realistic about your exercise habits and goals. One of the worst things we can do to our bodies is workout like a dog for two or three weeks and then take a month off. Equally taxing on our bodies and minds is setting unrealistic expectations for the kinds of routines we should maintain. Over-lofty plans for exercise do us no good if they end in failure and guilt. Decide how you plan to lead an active lifestyle and/or get in formal workouts. Make sure your plan is integrated into the rest of your life’s priorities and schedules to ensure successful commitment.

 

Genetics

Body shape, appetite and metabolism can be strongly influenced by genes.  Some people are prone to being more “apple-shaped” (i.e., retaining weight in the middle) while others are “pear-shaped” (i.e., retaining more stubborn, less metabolically active, but less dangerous fat in the hips and thighs). Leptin levels, a hormone that controls hunger and calorie intake, can vary according to a person’s genetics. Cortisol regulation can vary family-to-family and influence weight, too.

What You Can Do: If you’re trying really hard on the exercise and nutrition front, and belly fat still refuses to come off, then your genes may be at play. But, this doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do about to help your body. Focus on being holistic and putting more energy into the following…

 

The Sneaky Culprits of Belly Fat

Sleep

There have been lots of formal studies demonstrating the power of ZZZ’s on our health and weight. Both short and poor-quality sleep can lead to hoarding fat around the mid-section. Unfortunately, our busy-busy lives lend themselves all too easily to skimping on sleep, going to bed late and ignoring the snowball effect of increasing cortisol, inflammation and insulin resistance.

What You Can Do: Apparently, the later we go to bed the more we are skimping on deep, non-REM sleep, which occurs in the earlier part of the night. Pay attention, night owls! According to Time Magazine this is a serious problem that is linked to obesity and other health problems. So, go to bed earlier instead of only counting the total hours of sleep you get. Help yourself commit to this by creating a soothing bedtime routine for yourself about 45-60 minutes before you plan to fall asleep. Kids need a bedtime routine…and we do, too!

 

 

Stress

I can always tell I’ve had a few extra-stressful weeks because my stomach will start to feel a bit softer and fuller, even if I’ve been eating healthfully and exercising. Stress takes its toll on my body, and I know I’m not alone in this. Some people are more sensitive to stress than others by nature of their personality, goals and preferences, but none of us, even the most laid-back individuals, are 100% immune to its effects. Studies have shown that some women, with higher waist-to-hip ratios, may be more prone to the negative effects of cortisol production in response to stress than others.

What You Can Do: Sometimes we are in a stressful season of life and there’s not a ton we can do to move through it any faster. In these times, it’s especially important to care for your health through good nutrition, sleep and exercise so that the effects of stress on your waistline are minimized. Finding a relaxing or enjoyable activity to turn to on a daily basis can help release a bit of the tension and keep it from spilling over.

 

Gut Health

Brace yourselves…this one is pretty mind-blowing…apparently, there are different kinds of bacteria in your gut linked to obesity vs leanness, and overall gut health. In other words, obese individuals tend to have more of certain kind of gut bacteria that changes their energy absorption levels from food (i.e., causing them to absorb more calories from food). Say whaaa? This is part of the reason some experts blame baby formula for contributing to the obesity epidemic – the baby’s gut flora is not developed in the same way that a breastfed baby’s is and thus, energy absorption and overall inflammation may be different. This is also part of the push from some doctors who encourage both children and adults to use daily probiotics, to build up the good bacteria in the gut as a line of defense against a “hostile” gut environment and the damaging effect of processed and sugary foods.

What You Can Do: Probiotics can be expensive but worth it. You might be able to bargain hunt on brand prices online, or strike a better deal by buying them in bulk. Either way, search for a probiotic that has at least three of the five main helpful bacteria strains your tummy will appreciate: L. acidophilus, B. longum, B. bifidum, L. rhamnosus and/or L. fermentum. I have personally heard debate over whether the number of total bacteria in a supplement is important or not. Science is unsure just how helpful the total number is, but I figure it can’t hurt to have more. If you want to play it “safe,” I suggest a supplement with over 10 billion bacteria. For more information check out this article: How to Choose the Best Probiotic Supplement.

 

 

Hormone Changes

Here comes the miserable truth, ladies…menopause changes things. If you’ve been through menopause then I’m sure you know this firsthand. A dramatic drop in estrogen about a year after a woman’s last menstrual period triggers the body to shift from storing fat in the thighs and hips to the stomach. Gooooood times. There’s not much women can do to change the course of nature; HOWEVER…..

What You Can Do: Weightlifting is an excellent way to keep extra tummy fat and those pesky hormones in check. By increasing lean muscle mass, women can help their metabolisms stay sharp through peri-menopause and post-menopause. Bonus: Lower levels of estrogen might allow women to acquire lean muscle mass more easily in later age. With effort, of course.

Best of luck as you figure out how to battle the bulge! It’s something we ALL do throughout our lives so please don’t stress and feel like you’re alone, unattractive or unworthy if your pants are a little tight. No need to stress – just take action and express self-love through the process!

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

Proper Nutrition for Healthy Skin

It might surprise you that what we consume is just as important as the products we use when it comes to keeping our skin healthy.  It’s important to get the nutrients we need to keep our skin looking great.

So, what foods can help keep our skin healthy?

  1. Eat foods rich in Vitamin A.  This vitamin is important for overall skin health.  Foods rich in vitamin A are carrots and low-fat dairy products.
  2. To help prevent age related issues caused by sun exposure, make sure you get plenty of Lycopene in your diet. Some foods that contain Lycopene are tomatoes, guava, and watermelon!
  3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids help nourish the skin and regulate oil production. Fish, flax seeds, and eggs are all examples of foods high in Omega-3s.
  4. Vitamin C. This vitamin can help fight wrinkles. Some foods that are rich in Vitamin C are sweet potatoes, squash, melons, and citrus fruits.
  5. Vitamin E helps repair damaged cells. Get the benefits by eating nuts and seeds.

A healthy digestive tract is also important to keep your skin looking great.  These are some additional nutrients you should include in your diet to help keep your gut and skin healthy:

Fiber – Foods rich in fiber will help your digestive system remove waste.

Probiotics – These healthy bacteria will help balance your digestive tract

Digestive Enzymes – These can assist in helping you get as much nutrition from the foods you eat as you can.  Look for a quality digestive enzyme.

I hope you learned something new from these tips.  Check out our infographic below that illustrates the importance of how proper nutrition and a healthy gut can help keep our skin healthy!

Personal anecdote from Maggie, author of WellnessWinz: When I started taking probiotics and eating veggies at every lunch and dinner, my skin improved dramatically! Wellness is in the little details and adjustments we make in our lives. 

Healthy Skin infographic non-branded

This article was contributed by Samantha Thayer at USANA Health Sciences.  Infographic design by Taylor Romney, and used with permission.  For more information on how you can love life and live it, visit us at our blog, What’s Up, USANA?. Thank you, Samantha and Taylor! I know I learned something and I’m sure readers did too!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz blue sea

#1 New Year’s Resolution and Why People Fail to Achieve It

Time and time again, we see that “getting fit” or “losing weight” makes it to the top of New Year’s resolution lists. Sure, getting out of debt, spending more time with family and staying more organized also make the list, but exercise seems to appear and reappear as a resolution. This redundant theme suggests that we’re not on the mark. We’re not successfully integrating exercise into our lives. Why?

resolutions

Fitness industry attrition rates are pretty darn stinkin’ high. As many as 30-40% of gym-goers cancel their memberships every year. As a fitness professional, I can testify that a lot of these cancellations are because of inappropriate goal setting and expectations.

To kick-start 2016, let’s jump over the hurdles that cause us to fail. Let’s learn some lessons, once and for all, so that maybe…just maybe…next year all you have to be concerned about is organizing your closet and squeezing in an extra weekend visit with your favorite aunt. Maybe she will help you monogram that tote bag you found stuffed behind a pile of old boots?


EXERCISE GOAL SETTING MISTAKES

Mistake #1: Too High in the Sky

You’ve been a self-proclaimed couch potato for the majority of your life. You like to rotate between work, happy hour and your comfy sofa, in that order, most days of the week. After noticing that your tummy has recently begun to spill out and over the waist of your jeans, you’ve decided that a new gym routine is a must. You resolve to workout a solid 5x/week and envision that by early spring you will be sitting on a beach somewhere south of the equator, donning a string bikini to show off your taut stomach. Of course, you will also be sipping a well-deserved margarita by then too.

You’ve seen clips from workout videos and gym advertisements. The people in them look sweaty but they’re also smiling and kicking butt! How hard can it be, right? You just know that you will be one of them in a matter of weeks.

And then…oh dear, then you face the music. After kicking off your new routine with boot camp on Monday morning, Pilates on Tuesday evening, and an early and exhausting cycle class on Wednesday, you can hardly believe you still have two workouts to go (and you’d prefer to fit them in before the weekend). Your legs are so tired that you’re breathless walking up the stairs when you get home. In short, this bites. Why did you ever venture away from your satisfying remote control, TV and iPad combination?

This is the old, “overcommit then quit” scenario. Your ideals were just a tad too high in the sky from the start. When you begin a new routine, it has to be manageable for what your body and lifestyle can handle. Most people can’t go from zero to 100 on week one. Even if you can manage to find the time and motivation to workout 5x/week at the outset, the workouts will need to be gentle or involve recovery days in order to build up your stamina and tolerance. Sadly, even though a lot of clever advertisers would like you to think differently, you can’t hit the ground running with a boot camp style workout every day. Anyone who says that you can have the body of your dreams in 21 days is just trying to get you to open your wallet. No joke. 

high in the sky

Tips to avoid this mistake:

  • Envision your ultimate goal. For example, working out 5x/week to help with weight loss and toning. Now, think about what a realistic starting point is.
  • Don’t assume you will start at your end game. In other words, set the bar low in the beginning so that you can achieve success early on. For example, aim to get into the gym 2x/week for two weeks. On week three, bump it up to 3x/week for three weeks. Keep progressing until you’re in a full routine and are feeling physically capable of handling it all.
  • If you can’t always hit your goal week after week, don’t give up or consider yourself a failure. If springtime rolls around and you aren’t where you’d like to be, think critically about how you can motivate to get started on your goals or can modify them to be more realistic. It’s better than waiting until next January, that’s for sure! And it’s WAY better than quitting altogether. Do you really want to feel the guilt of discarding your goals and progress, only to pick up the same mind-numbing and frustrating cycle down the line? Didn’t think so…

 

Mistake #2: Vague Goals Yield Uncertain Results

“I want to lose weight in 2016.”

Oh, you do?! Welcome to club. So does everyone. Sadly, proclaiming this doesn’t mean peanuts.

The problem with vague goals is that they don’t have any oomph or substance to back them up. It’s like a high school senior saying “I want to go to college.” Great! Now what?! Has she taken the SATs? Has she looked at school options? Does she know whether or not her parents are prepared to help her financially or if she will have to take out loans? Saying she wants to go is only a very small part of the process.

Of course, there is power in knowing what you want. Vocalizing your intentions to supportive friends and family can even help put you on the path towards success; however, you have to have skin in the game. You need some kind of tangible details and actions to accompany your grand plan or else you’re just saying that for the umpteenth time, you will lose weight…and then, you don’t. Bah, that’s the worst feeling. 

goal setting

Tips to avoid this mistake:

  • Put tangible figures and timeframes to your goal. How much weight do you want to lose? When will you lose weight it by? Write these details down.
  • Next, write down how you plan to manage nutrition, your workout schedule, stress, social events and more. This will help you guarantee specific, measurable progress.
  • Consider how much you are willing to pay to achieve these results. Should you sign-up for a 24-hour access, low-cost convenience gym that will fit well within your budget or should you stretch yourself to pay for a few boutique workouts at a studio every week? Which environment will be the most motivating and the least stressful? If you commit to something that adds stress, chances are that it will become more of a negative versus positive addition to your life…increasing the chances that you’ll quit.
  • Ask yourself the toughest question before you begin: “Am I being realistic?” Are you really willing to pay top dollar for an amazing personal trainer? What if it takes twice as long to achieve your results? How will you handle it or, better yet, pay for it? Also, do you have enough time for the workout program you planned? Do you need to reduce some days to 30 minute workouts instead of 60 minute ones, in order to fit them in? Can you expect to see results without changing your diet or do you need to more carefully consider cutting back in a few areas?

 

Mistake #3: No Back-up Plan

So you’ve hit your stride and then suddenly you come down with the flu or another illness. Your workout regimen is derailed right when you were feeling at your best and in a rhythm. This happens to people more often than I can count. You’re not alone. Right when you’re feeling better and plan to hop back into Barre or Zumba class, you’re given the mega-deadline of all deadlines at work. It’s nose to the grindstone for about two weeks. You’re exhausted and spent when you finally come up for air. Things are slowing down and you even have a personal day built in for some recovery (mostly because you need to catch up on errands). You’re packing your tennis shoes into your gym bag for your first workout and realize with a gasp; it’s been almost a full month since your last workout! What do you do?

It’s always important to have a back-up plan for exercise. We all get sick, busy or distracted at some point. Generally speaking, it’s not going to be the end of the world if you don’t exercise for a few weeks, but, more often than not, this kind of inconsistency really throws people. They either can’t seem to get back on track once their schedules and health allow them to or they try to jump back too quickly and suffer negative consequences.

travel back-up plan

Tips to avoid this mistake:

  • Write down “contingency plans” for the following scenarios: 1) You get sick, 2) Your work or life gets overly busy, 3) You go on vacation, 4) You have a series of special events that threaten to derail you (think open bar, delicious multi-course meals, a birthday bash, etc.), and 5) You just plain lose motivation.
  • Acknowledge that having a “Plan B” is better than giving up or trying to figure out how to reach towards your goals in the wake of such stress. If you have a plan in place ahead of time, you can take a deep breath and rely on it.
  • Keep in mind that if you’re injured, low on sleep or sick, it’s an excellent time to focus on healthy eating. You may even find that you become better about your food choices in the short term and that this accelerates your results once you’re back lifting weights too.

 

Mistake #4: Do you know why you’re REALLY doing this?

I hear all the time that people want to get into a regular exercise routine. Fabulous!! But now, I must ask, “Why?” Why does it matter to you?

It may sound trite, but it’s important to dig deep into the real reason that weight loss, getting fit or running your first road race matters. Is it because you need something to focus on and control while the rest of your life feels chaotic and messy? Are you trying to funnel negative stress into a positive outlet instead of an unhealthy one? Perhaps you know that if you can get over the intimidation of the gym, that you will exude confidence in other areas of your life?

Whatever the case, working out is rarely just about the calories we expend. There is an emotional reason behind it. If you can hone in on what that reason is for you, there’s a greater chance you will commit and recommit to movement. Whether it’s for your confidence, to grow old and play with grandkids, to prevent disease or to fit into better jeans, there’s a deeper layer under every spandex-clad, gym-goers’ facade. Find yours. 

motivation for goals


 

My 2015 Goal & How I Succeeded All Year

In 2015, my goal was to keep up with this blog every week. By no means has it been easy to fit blog writing in with completing my Master’s degree (and oh man…allllll the writing that came with my thesis), work and being pregnant for the first time, but I planned carefully for how to succeed at it. Here is how I avoided the aforementioned mistakes:

Mistake #1: Too High in the Sky

I knew that if I expected to write more than one blog post every week that the task of maintaining WellnessWinz would be overwhelming. I decided to keep my goal realistic by proclaiming in my post “A Message from Paris” that I would publish at least one article a week. It was rare that I got to two, but I’m proud that I didn’t miss a single week. In 2015, WellnessWinz went from reaching women in 36 countries to 117, all from just one post a week! Even I’m blown away by that.

Mistake #2: Vague Goals Yield Uncertain Results

I tried to be specific about my goal: Write one post a week for a full year. I had timelines and specific, measurable values for what I needed and wanted to accomplish.

Mistake #3: No Back-up Plan

Of course, there were weeks when I was too busy to write. How did I deal with them? Sometimes it would work out that a guest blogger or fitness professional was interested and willing to write a post for the week. Bless you all! I would still help them edit and prep the article but their contributions significantly cut down on the amount of effort on my end.

Other times, I would plan in advance to frontload my writing, tackling a few articles in a single week before my schedule got busy or I left town. I would set them up for publication and voila! A few weeks “off” from writing and time to focus on other important things (like making sure my investment in grad school wasn’t in vein, haha).

Mistake #4: Do you know why you’re REALLY doing this?

If I ever felt a total lack of motivation, I would remind myself that my weekly post only needed to positively impact ONE person for me to feel like it had been worthwhile. I found that posts written on those weeks when I had to dig deep for inspiration were perhaps a little more heartfelt. Ironically, it was usually following these posts that a reader would reach out to me directly and thank me for some aspect of what she had read. Those reassurances made the process well worth it! Talk about karma!


I challenge you to commit or recommit to your goals this season. But don’t just write them down or fantasize about achieving them…plan for them. Avoid failure by being prepared and determined.

I know you can do it and so do you. 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz blue sea