Healthy Habits

How Vacation Improves Your Health

How Vacation Improves Your Health

As Americans, we work hard; sometimes too hard. We are stressed, anxious and downright tired. (You know you can relate...) In fact, we work so hard that statistics show that Americans don't even use half of the vacation time we are allowed from our employers.

While working is necessary, working from morning until night, day after day including the weekends is not.

Here's why it's so important to give your mind and body a vacation…

Eating Clean on a Budget

I know it sounds impossible, but I can assure you it’s not! I agree that it is unfair that we have to pay more for healthy food than for junk, but that is something that we just have to grit our teeth and bear. Just the other day I found a 10 pack of little bear-shaped cookies for $1 but had to spend about $5 on a bag of little oranges for my kids. This is when we have to decide where our priorities are and how badly we really want to make a change in the way we eat.

My husband and I don’t go out to eat that much; we choose to spend extra money for healthy groceries and therefore sacrifice a weekly dinner out. One meal for two people at a restaurant can easily cost $50. Think of how much that can buy at the store - definitely more than one meal. Even eating fast food can cost more than a homemade meal. We have three children and just to take them to a fast food restaurant is at least $20. For $20 at the store, I can buy five pounds worth of chicken, a marinade, a two liter bottle of sparkling water, a bag of vegetables for steaming, four sweet potatoes, and probably get back some change.

Let’s say you have a $100 budget and need to buy groceries for a week for you and your significant other. Here is a sample meal plan and grocery list that will keep you under budget:

Meal 1- 2 scrambled eggs, ½ cup oatmeal
Meal 2- 1 can tuna, 2 rice cakes, 1 tbsp. natural peanut butter
Meal 3- 4-6 oz. chicken breast, ½ cup cooked brown rice, 1 cup steamed veggies
Meal 4- 1st Step Pro-Wellness shake and 1 banana
Meal 5- 4-6 oz. marinated chicken breast, 1 small sweet potato, 1 cup veggies
Meal 6- 10 almonds, 2 boiled eggs

*7 lb. of chicken (1.99/lb.) = $14 *14 bananas= $2.50
*2 Large bags frozen veggies ($7.50 each )= $15 *2 Bottles Marinade= $5
*Oatmeal = $3 *14 sweet potatoes= $7
*14 cans tuna ($.68 each) = $9.52 *bag of almonds= $8
*2 pkg. rice cakes = $4 *5 dozen eggs = $9
*Peanut butter = $3 *Bag of brown rice = $3
*1st Step Pro Wellness Protein Powder = $17

That makes a grand total of $100.02! Not too shabby.

There is a good rule of thumb when purchasing food: fresh is better than frozen, and frozen is better than canned. Depending on what your budget is, we all understand that you just have to make the best decisions possible. Just remember, eating clean is essential to losing weight, but most importantly, being healthy.

How to Get Your Kids Involved in Being Active

A lot of times when we set out on our own fitness journey, people get left behind.  We concentrate so much on making sure that we are active that we forget that everyone, especially our kids, needs to be active.  About a year into my new fit life it suddenly hit me, my kids need to be active too. As a child I was always in the house reading or watching TV. I was never encouraged to get active. When I think about it, I was never an active adult because I was never an active child. Our children develop habits early, so it is important that getting active at an early age is emphasized.

Coming from someone who has been down that road, kids aren't always ready to “go exercise”. As a parent, it has been my duty to find ways to get my kids active that they will enjoy. Here is my list of fun activities that you can do with your kids to get them moving around and off the couch:

1. Take a walk
2. Go for a hike
3. Go bowling
4. Go on a family bike ride
5. Go on a nature scavenger hunt
6. Go to the pool
7. Go play mini golf
8. Go to an indoor trampoline or bounce house
9. Sign up for a family sports league
10. Play laser tag
11. Do a running plan together such as couch to 5K (my kids loved this)
12. Get a fitness video game
13. Go to the park
14. Do a downtown scavenger hunt, exploring your city
15. Walk to the grocery store
16. Go mall walking
17. Take a family karate class
18. Do a race together (many 5k's have kid fun runs)
19. Go to the zoo
20. Go to an amusement park
21. Go to a rock climbing facility that is kid friendly
22. Require mandatory active commercial breaks where you and your kids do exercises (jumping jacks, jog in place) during a commercial break while enjoying a show together
23. Create a backyard obstacle course for the family
24. Play tag
25. Have a water balloon or snowball fight

While this is just a short list to get you started, I am sure with enough creativity you and your family can come up with many more. The important thing is to get up and get the whole family moving and active. You won't regret it.

The Myth of Spot Reduction

Everyone has a body part that they think is the best. On the flip side, they also have the body part that they would probably sell their first born for in order to change (not really, but I have to throw some humor in here somewhere). The truth of the matter is, there is no such thing as spot reduction. You can’t focus on burning the fat from one body part. It just doesn’t work that way. To burn fat, you must burn it over the entire body through a combination of weight training (yes ladies, lifting weights!), cardio, and a healthy diet.

Doing just one of those three you will not produce changes. You must do a combination of them to see results. Fat cells are released by the body to be burned for energy, and unfortunately, you cannot choose which part of your body the fat comes from.

You also can’t focus on lifting for one body part in hopes that the fat will come off of it. Take your abs for example. You can do 1,000 crunches a day and still not have a visible “6 pack.” That comes from…you guessed it! Cardio, diet, and weight training. Many times the muscle you focus on when you try to spot train is so small that you aren’t doing your body a bit of good. When you try to target the larger muscles then you inevitably hit the smaller ones.

So the next time you hit the gym with every intention of focusing on one small muscle, work the whole body part instead. You’ll not only hit the area you’re trying to improve but you’ll increase your overall level of fitness!


How to Keep Going after the Honeymoon is over

You know how it goes. It is new and even though it may be challenging, it seems so doable. But then it hits you like a ton of bricks, the honeymoon is over. I know what you are thinking. Honeymoon? What does that have to do with fitness and a lifestyle change? Actually it has everything to do with it. For many people who decide to live a new fit life, the beginning can be quite rewarding. You see changes quickly, and you get the results needed to motivate you to continue. When the honeymoon is over the results aren't happening as quickly. It becomes difficult to continue. You are working as hard as you were before but with fewer results. The important thing is to keep going. I know it's easier said than done, but it can be done. I have a few tips to help you along your journey.

Have realistic expectations! Do not expect to run an eight minute mile after two weeks of training. Do not expect to lose 10 pounds every week. Do not expect to squat 300 pounds. Do some research and set realistic goals. At the same time, don't get discouraged if you don't achieve those results at first. If you are working hard, you will get there. Just give it time.

Do what you enjoy! I remember when I first started working out I heard that sprint intervals on the treadmill were the best form of cardio. Every workout session I would do my sprint intervals. I hated every minute of it. Then I noticed myself making excuses to get out of my sessions on the dreadmill. I finally decided that I would much rather do a form of cardio that I enjoyed than totally avoid cardio that I hate. In the end, no matter how effective it is, if I don't do it, it doesn't work.

Treat yourself! Don't be afraid to treat yourself every now and then. Keep in mind this is a lifestyle change, and the new habits that you are implementing need to be habits that you will actually be able to continue with. Don't set unrealistic expectations for yourself such as I will never eat chocolate again. If you want chocolate, eat it, and then get right back on track. Occasional treats can help you stay on track in the long run. I have a treat day every two weeks where I allow myself to eat something that I really want (usually pizza). After that meal, I jump right back on my plan. This treat fulfills my cravings, and also gives me something to work toward and look forward to.

Look for the changes! This may sound silly because you are probably thinking OF COURSE I am looking for changes. But what changes are you looking for? I give myself every opportunity to see what progress is being made. I do not limit myself to only looking at the number on the scale. I take measurements, and I take frequent progress pictures. I also keep track of the amount of weight I lift. This allows me to use all of these factors to determine the progress that I am making. While I may not always lose on the scale, I know if I really look, I will be able to find improvements in my body.

In the end the important thing is to keep working toward your goals. No matter how difficult it may be to reach them, it will be so worth it in the end. 

Meet Pro-Wellness Ambassador: Jessica

My name is Jessica Pages, and I am an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer, R.I.P.P.E.D Instructor, 1st Step Pro Wellness Ambassador, Sweat Pink Ambassador and aspiring NPC bikini competitor.

I was born and raised in North Carolina, and am married with three children ages 22, 17, and, 4.

I have not always been into fitness. I have always been overweight by about 10-15 pounds, but that never bothered me.

In 2009 I became pregnant for the third time. During my first two pregnancies my weight gain was minimal, so I thought I really didn't have to worry about gaining weight the third time.