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.

 

 

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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

Love Your Body

This is one of my favorite comics. I had it on my bulletin board all throughout college, and I just came across it the other day. This scenario is so true, but it’s also unfortunate. These girls are already afraid of what they will see on the scale, and they are so young. Don’t fight the scale, just don’t weigh yourself! At least that’s what I do! J The truth is, we need to learn to love our bodies.  Everybody is built differently, so we can never compare ourselves to others.  I know that is something that is hard for most women (and a lot of men, too). And, especially if you have kids, don’t let them grow up seeing you complain about what you see in the mirror or on the scale, it will affect their own body image as they grow up.

Look at your own body and accept yourself the way you are – whether you are pear shaped or hour-glass shaped, you’ve got big boobs or small boobs, big thighs or chicken legs, no butt or a big butt, or big build or a petite build. Just how will things change if we complain about them? It’s important to realize the benefits of our bodies and what we can do, instead of how our bodies look, and what is wrong with them. If your body parts are functional, then there is nothing wrong with them. I personally think that if I could appreciate my body more, I would take better care of it. And, the more you nurture your body, the more you will love it. After all, “If you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?” (Kobi Yamada). Your body is your home; maintain it, love it and care for it.

The Easiest Breakfast

As I’ve said before, start your morning off right. And the best way to do this is to have a satisfying and healthy breakfast. Today, I just want to share my favorite weekday breakfast.

Prepare one pack of instant (organic) oatmeal (oatmeal + boiling water); Add a banana; Add crushed walnuts; If needed, add your preferred sweetener (please try to stay away from unnatural sweeteners!)

And, voila! Breakfast is served!

Total time – maybe 2 minutes for the boiling water and that’s about it

Just as a note: Oatmeal is considered a “heart-healthy” meal, which helps control weight. It is a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and it is said to lower cholesterol.  

If you don’t like any of my additions to oatmeal, try your favorite fruits and nuts. My only recommendation is to stick to the original flavored oatmeal, don’t buy the ones with added flavors. Those oatmeal boxes claim to be “healthy breakfasts,” but in reality, they are packed with high, unnecessary sugars. If you like the cinnamon flavor, add your own cinnamon! Same with vanilla, apple, etc. Just make it as natural as possible.

Try it out and see what you think 🙂 Happy Eating!

Hit the Gym!

I choose my first tip to be about working out – because I really miss my endorphins! Now don’t think I’m a workout-aholic, I just think that it is truly uplifting and enjoyable, and what best to have a great workout and know you can eat that dessert later, completely guilt-free? So…Stress Tip #1 – Hit the Gym! Whether your goal is to lose weight, relieve stress, feel good, or possibly check out guys/girls?…working out is never a bad option. However, the only way to get motivated is to keep your workouts exciting…don’t make your routine too repetitive.

Switch it up, go to classes, work out with friends, and enjoy “lazy” workouts sometimes! Don’t be intimidated by the classes, either. Keep on trying out new classes until you “hit it off” with one. Once you do, you’ll find yourself excited to go back each week, and once the instructor is familiar with you, you’re hooked! If you’re an at-home exerciser, there are so many options for you, too (workout  vidoes, stationary cardio equipment, magazines, etc.)!

Just one thing – when it comes to “time” remember that you can have a great workout in 45 minutes. And in the grand scheme of things, it’s only 45 minutes! Even if you feel yourself getting tired or lacking motivation, just look at it this way – you go in there, push through, and bam 45 minutes later, you’re done! You’ll feel GREAT and you have the rest of your day or night to enjoy!

On a humorous note, remember this: “The advantage of exercising everyday is that you die healthier.”