Beat Stress, Beat Belly Fat


If you haven’t heard, stress is a huge enabler of weight gain, and specifically to the abdominal area. Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” is a hormone that is secreted into the bloodstream in response to stress. The higher the stress level, the higher the secretion of cortisol, and the higher the secretion, the more prone your body is to storing fat…right in the belly.

Don’t let yourself be a victim to stress-related weight gain. Although it’s much easier to reach for the remote control and lounge around while chomping on high calorie and high fat foods, try to make the better decision – like hitting the gym, going for a walk, and eating the healthier, belly-fat fighting snacks, like fruit and yogurt, and other foods high in fiber. Not getting enough sleep also contributes to high-stress levels, which will cause your cortisol levels to be higher, so don’t forget to get a good night’s sleep.

 

 

Advertisements

Take care of You

A while ago, I wrote a post about pampering yourself, as it is a key to stress relief.  Well, I just recently pampered myself for the first time since having a baby, and wow did I feel good!! It felt like a whole new experience to get my nails done and go to the mall just to stroll! No changing diapers, no feeding, no rocking a baby to sleep, I was all by myself, enjoyed a long mani-pedi with a small back massage and it really did change my entire mindset! I went from feeling so stressed and tired to being super relieved and really happy :). Pampering myself has become a new priority, because I learned that going almost 3 months without any self-care really caused my sanity to spiral out of control! Whatever it is that is keeping you from taking care of yourself, drop it now and put yourself first.  Find a friend, spouse, parent, or a babysitter to take care of your kid(s), or set a goal to treat yourself to something after a big assignment, or leave work early if you are guilty of over-working yourself! Just take an hour (or five) to spend on yourself, and do whatever it is that you really miss.

I know a lot of people who have let stress take over their lives. Some people are affected physically by it, and you can tell by their deteriorating health that they are not taking care of themselves, and others are affected mentally by it, which is scary since it is not as obvious to the people around you.  Whether you let stress affect you physically or mentally (or both), you need to learn to stop and take a time out. I learned a lot just from taking a personal break, and I hope you can find time to do the same.

Cucumber and Feta Salad Recipe

Since it’s Ramadan, I may be more inclined to post a lot of recipes this month. I admit, however, I probably won’t be making most of them, as I tend to crave my mom’s Fatoush and Lentil Soup during Ramadan. But that still doesn’t stop my mouth from watering when I see something like a Cucumber and Feta salad pop up on my home page. This salad sounded so refreshing, I had to share it (I am not a jalepeño fan, so I will take that out of my personal recipe).

Ingredients

  • 1 pound(s) fresh garden cucumbers
  • 1/4 cup(s) crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup(s) Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 small jalapeno, diced
  • 5 mint leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 2 teaspoon(s) fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) ground black pepper

Directions

  1. With a potato peeler, peel strips of skin off the cucumber in alternating strips to leave half the skin on. Cut into one-inch cubes.

2. Add remaining ingredients and mix. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving if you have the time.

I found this simple recipe on this website.

Natural Energy Boosters

Well, so much for my “fitness week” blog posts! I successfully gave you only one fitness tip the entire week (I hope you all got to try out a spinning class)! Unfortunately (or maybe I should say fortunately?), the only excuse I have for you is laziness – pure laziness. I just have not had the energy lately to write when I’m at home, and I’m too busy at work to try on my lunch break.

So, today’s stress relief advice is to introduce natural sources of energy to your diet. We all get low on energy, and many of us make the mistake of loading up on sugars or “bad for you” snacks to get a short-term boost. I happened to come across an article on WebMD about how food is linked to one’s energy and mood. If you want to read the details of how food can affect your energy, click here to read the full article. I will let you know which foods to make sure you add to your diet 😉

1)      “Smart Carbs” – carbs are not our enemy as many may think, whole grains like whole wheat bread and pasta and brown rice are good for you! They are also sources of fiber, which stabilizes your energy flow (other sources of fiber include beans, fruits and veggies)

2)      Cashews, Almonds and Hazelnuts – magnesium-rich foods, and Brazil nuts – a source of selenium to boost your mood

3)      Lean Meats – good sources of protein keep you alert and focused

4)      Omega 3 and Folate – both can be found in leafy greens, and Omega 3 can also be found in fatty fish like salmon, both can counter depression

5)      Water – water should be your best friend throughout the day, keeping yourself hydrated throughout the day will fight fatigue. Also, you may be thinking you are hungry when, in reality, you are dehydrated and thirsty.

6)      Caffeine – the article also makes mention of caffeine, which I will not elaborate on (even though I am a big fan of coffee, I do not depend on it for energy), but caffeine includes tea, coffee and chocolate, which all have their great benefits

7)      Breakast – you can visit “Start your morning off Right” for more on this  

Load up on your healthy grains, fruits, veggies and healthy proteins – keep your diet balanced and you’re sure to have an energy boost. I will try my best to keep my diet in check so I can throw my lethargy out the window and continue blogging! 🙂

The Power of Chocolate

I don’t know about you, but chocolate has a special power over me. A power that brings a nice, satisfactory smile to my face. For those of you who don’t like chocolate, I’m sorry (and I’m kind of envious), but for those of you who do love it, like me, then I think you may know where I’m coming from! If you need a nice, genuine smile, go get a piece of chocolate. I usually don’t crave sweets until the afternoon, but I was craving a piece this morning and after I took a bite, I found a huge smile on my face…that’s when I realized I had to write my post on it, today. What a simple and great stress relief! Thinking and writing about it, now, makes me smile and remember the women in my life that love chocolate so much – from my mom who hides it in every drawer in the house to eat a piece as she walks by, to my grandma who has tried every single dark chocolate made in this world, to my aunt who craves white chocolate on a daily basis and my sister, who you can always woo with a dark chocolate and mint bar.

And for all you chocolate lovers out there, I’m sure you’ve heard the good news that a piece of chocolate actually can be good for you! Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, has antioxidants in it (to learn more about antioxidants, visit this post).  Furthermore, dark chocolate is said to be a heart-healthy food.  A small piece of dark chocolate a day is keeps your heart beating and can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels – who would have thought? As mysterious as this sounds, it’s true! And the best part about it is that it is also said to stimulate endorphins and act as an anti-depressant (now this, I have no doubt about!). 

I also love thatthe See’s Candy chocolate boxes say “A Happy Habit.”  So go enjoy a piece of chocolate so you can de-stress and keep smiling :).

Pump some Iron

When I work out, I like to have high-intensity exercises, I like to sweat, and I like to see the calories burn. So, naturally, I am a cardio person. I never used to work out with weights, because in my mind, I don’t sweat enough, so I must not be burning calories.  Plus, who wants to get bulky, anyway? So, I kept putting off the weights, and deeming them unnecessary.

I have read and heard that there are so many benefits of including strength training to your work out regimen, but the encouragement never really sealed the deal for me. Even though I heard that it increases lean muscle mass and that it keeps your body burning calories for longer, the verbal benefits didn’t really give me the desire to go lift weights.  I finally started going to some cardio and weight training classes right before my surgery, and then that had to stop, so I didn’t try long enough to see any results.  It wasn’t until after I spent an entire month hopping around on crutches, that I noticed my arms getting toned.  This is when my interest in weights began to peak, and I learned that persistence is key.

Now that I have tried to maintain the toned arms, I’ve started to work on making my entire body toned through strength training.  And now that I have finally incorporated it into my workouts, I think differently and I feel differently, and believe me, it’s a change worth making.  I definitely feel the increased energy, and, although I cannot feel the calories burning throughout the day, I feel the changes in my body.  The best part is that sore feeling when you know you’ve challenged new muscles in your body. When we challenge our bodies in new ways, we force our muscles to work harder, and, in turn, it jumpstarts the fat-burning and weight-loss process.

So, now I can speak from experience when telling you why you everyone should pick up some dumbbells and turn up the resistance for a change. Incorporating weights into your work out routine will let you feel the burn, feel the strength, and, eventually, start seeing the changes. If an extra 10 minutes off the machine means 100 less calories to you, believe me, those 100 calories at that moment will probably add up to 150, later.  Try for yourself and try to find the results you’re looking for.  Then, you can gradually increase your iron-pumping sessions to 2-3 times a week.  Good luck and have a great weekend!

You are what you Eat

We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat,” but we know it doesn’t mean we will become nuts if we eat nuts! It is simply a way to say “eat well” – if you eat healthy foods you feel healthier, if you eat unhealthy foods feel unhealthy.  So, making an effort to put healthy foods in our diets is essential to living a nutritious lifestyle and feeling well.

Eating foods that benefit your body will reward you in the near and far future. Not only does healthy food have long term benefits to our overall well-being, but it also provides natural “cures” for people suffering from specific ailments.  You can find a food that is rich in just about every vitamin and mineral you may be lacking. If your memory is failing you, eat some fish, if you feel sad, eat some dark chocolate, if you need a brain boost, eat some walnuts, if you are cramping, eat a banana! There is almost always a remedy in natural foods, so imagine how strong your body can be if you put these plentiful foods in your daily diet.

I understand that it’s easy to choose a meal based on what our eyes and taste buds may be shouting for, but have we ever thought about how our stomachs and bodies will react and respond to it? I think most people can agree that if they take fried foods out their diet, their stomach will reject them when reentered into the digestive system. The same idea goes for processed foods.  If you train your body to forget the unhealthy foods and digest and accept raw, natural, and wholesome meals, our stomachs will realize that processed foods and packaged snacks are foreign objects that do not benefit the body. And, I promise, eventually, your eyes and taste buds will be jumping for the beneficial foods.

Just a note, I do believe that a healthy diet is essential to a healthy lifestyle, and if you can completely take out all of the “bad for you” foods from your diet, then more power to you! But, I do not want to be a hypocrite, because I know more than anyone that I am a sucker to many processed snacks and junk food! But, I only let myself have them in small doses. I do not, by any means, make them a part of my daily diet.  Just make sure you’re “good” the majority of the time, and let yourself have a moment of weakness every now and then. 

“The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine.”  – Hippocrates

Boost your Immunity

It seems as though everyone around me is getting sick. Make sure you fight off anything you may see sneaking up on you, so you can enjoy your weekend! Today’s stress relief tip is to boost your immunity, so you don’t have to deal with the added stress of getting sick!  These are my favorite tips to stay healthy and well during “flu season,” “cold season,” “allergy season,” ok – all seasons!

Drink LOTS of tea – there are many different teas that help fight colds.  The trick is to add Lemon and Honey to them, because Lemon is high in Vitamin C (and my mom always tells me it’s good for stomach aches and cold and flu symptoms), and Honey is good for the immune system and for sore throats.  And, I have read that Ginger is considered a natural remedy for the cold/flu, among many other ailments. 

Also, I prefer to drink a lot of Echinacea Tea (I drink the Yogi Tea brand, but not with tea and honey).  Echinacea root is considered an herbal remedy for a weak immune system.  I feel that drinking lots of Echinacea tea helps prevent oncoming colds and strengthens the body and immune system when feeling weak.  If you don’t like the tea, many people opt for the Echinacea supplements. 

Vitamin C – I think we all know the benefits of vitamin C, and who doesn’t have a stash of Emergen-C or Airborne in their medicine cabinet? I think it’s important to boost your immune system with natural vitamin C, but you can always increase your intake by drinking lots of the supplement packets with water, or the actual vitamin C pills.

 Finally, get LOTS of sleep! I know we don’t always have time to sleep during the day, or we may not sleep enough during the night, but your body will not repair itself fully until you are at total rest.  Try to sleep as much as you can so your body can re-energize.

These are my immunity boosting “secrets,” so hopefully they will work for you, too!  Hopefully, you can fight it off before you have to take the actual medicines to make you feel better, or to sleep through the night.

Have a great weekend!

Antioxidizing the Fish Tank

This morning I took out some blueberries to eat with my breakfast and the inside cover said “Start a healthy relationship with your body. Enjoy our blueberries! #1 Antioxidant.” I think it’s about time I start bringing nutrition into my blogs, because living in an unhealthy body is the easiest way to increase your stress levels and add unnecessary weight (as in pounds and burden!) to your life. So, since my blueberry box gave me such a great message this morning, I’m going to try to put more antioxidants into my diet.

In researching the benefits of antioxidants, I found an article that compares the human body to a fish tank. Basically, antioxidants enter our body and prevent the formation of harmful “gunk”, just like the bottom feeder fish cleans up the waste in the tank to prevent harm to the other fish. It sounds gross, but at the same time, sounds like a nice cleanse, right? The “gunk” in our bodies forms by the creation of free radicals, which are unstable molecules in the body that, in excess, can be extremely detrimental to our health. They can cause our cells to be weak, effecting our organs, tissues and skin. Antioxidants prevent the creation of these free radicals, by slowing down and preventing the oxidation of molecules.

I am a big believer in adding important vitamins and nutrients to your diet through food, rather than supplements.  Increase your antioxidant intake by adding healthy foods to your diet. This article that helped me research the benefits of antioxidants, also provides a list of foods that are good for your body.  You can see it at the following link: http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/health-benefits-of-antioxidants/   

Have a great weekend!

Let it Out

 

There is an article that is posted up the bulletin board in my office kitchen that says “Small Business Enemy #1: Stress.” I don’t know why I didn’t notice it before, but I just read it. The only thing I’d change is the title, so that it reads “Business Enemy #1: Stress.” Before leaving my old job to work for a small company, I worked at a very large company, where you can consider each department a “small business.”  Of course, the underlying similarity between me and my direct coworkers was our high stress levels. Half of my department was counting down the minutes to happy hour and the other half the minutes to just get home.

The article states that “modern social norms don’t allow us to act out in ways that our ancestors did to release built-up stress.” Did all of you have an image of cavemen screaming? I just did! But, if that’s what it takes, don’t go put on a cavemen suit but do go yell into a pillow if you have to. Sometimes it just feels better. Basically, what the researcher is saying is that stress triggers an increased need for physical activity due to the hormones released by stress. We end up suppressing or denying our stress because our environments are not conducive to relieving it. So, I think step one should be letting the stress out, rather than internalizing it.  Whether it’s venting, yelling into a pillow or walking it out, try to release your stress so that it won’t build up.

By the way, I just learned from this article that in 1992, the UN named stress the “20th Century Epidemic.” Let’s not allow this epidemic to take over our lives!

Previous Older Entries