Taking a time out to reflect on your overall wellness

health path

Can you believe we are already in March 2014!! Time seems to goes so fast. Especially, the busier your lifestyle, the faster it seems to go.

So with 2 months of the year done and dusted, it may be a good time to  take a time-out and evaluate how you are tracking towards your 2014 health and wellness goals, and consider whether a change in strategy or game plan is needed!

Some of the metrics that you could take some time to reflect on are:

  • Healthy daily habit formation – By far and large, what ultimately defines how you look and feel is what you do on a daily basis. Your routine. The stuff that you do every day easy to do, but also oh so easy not do to. We are talking about your eating patterns, your exercise /activity, how you sleep, your mindset, your stress and happiness levels.
  • Investing in your health– Do you supplement? Do you invest in maintaining you mental well-being and positive mindset. Simple investments of time can include things such as taking a short holiday break to recharge the batteries, saying affirmations and reading self improvement books . A fantastic smartphone app that I recommend is called Positive Thinking – it sends a  daily stream of positive images and affirmations.
  • Working with a goal – Have you set SMART goals for 2014? Are you working towards something that is meaningful, specific and timely? Have you set a reward for achieving your goals each step along the way?
  • Investing in help – We all have times when things are not working, when times get tough and we feel like giving up. But it is what you do and how you react during these times that defines you as person. It’s okay to admit that you need some support and guidance to get you back on track. A coach (be it a peer or a professional) can help you improve your self-awareness and partner with you to set a realistic plan of action that empowers you to get back on track.

Hopefully some of the above, has either affirmed that you are on track with your wellness journey and goals or has jolted you for a moment to stop and reconsider whether a change of course is needed. We are either moving away from or towards what we want. One small change in direction one way or other can end up in dramatically different results at the end of the day.

Any motion is better than no motion

walking

Do you know that new research has shown that exercise aids in the prevention of over 40 different diseases?

Despite this, so many of us struggle find the time or the energy to exercise. Exercise normally implies that you  set a side a dedicated  time aside to go to the gym or for a walk or run. For some people, the picture that comes to mind is an activity that is not really the definition of “fun”.

At the end of the day, its all about moving your body. The name of the game is getting into motion. Any motion is better than no motion!

Often it can be hard to find a “dedicated” time to go to the gym, or for a walk or run. Especially when the weather is no good.

But there are so many small ways that you can accumulate steps throughout the day. This is just a matter of making small decisions throughout the day. One obvious example that comes to mind is taking  the stairs over the lift. Or even just getting up from your desk every hour and doing some pacing or a walk to the kitchen or bathroom. It all adds up and it all counts. They say that simple walking is the best form of exercise.

Measuring and tracking your daily step count using a pedometer device or smart phone application (such as Pacer)  is a great way to get objective feedback as evidence that you either need to increase your daily motion. What measures, improves.

Common belief in exercise and weight loss circles is that you should aim to do 10,000 steps a day.  Start small and look to improve day by day, week by day. Don’t go for the ‘all or nothing’ approach. Again, any motion is better than no motion!

Like forming any new habit, it takes time to develop a pattern of moving more and making deliberate choices to get into motion. But once this pattern of living is ingrained it will become second nature. You wont have to think about it. In the long run, who knows how beneficial this could be for your health and wellness?

Restoring Discipline with your Health

discipline

The word discipline is a word that gets thrown around alot in health, fitness and weight loss circles now-days, but what does being disciplined really mean?

The dictionary meaning of the word discipline means:  “Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement “. Discipline can mean different things to different people. My personal favourite is “Discipline is doing what you don’t want to do, when you don’t want to do it”.

Staying disciplined is hard! When we set out to achieve a goal or even maintain what we have, it requires sacrificing things we love and sometimes going against the grain. Temptation, distractions and obstacles are everyone around us, as well as social and family pressures. If your friends are all doing one thing , and you want to do another, what choice do you make? There is always going to be friction and tough choices to make. Do you “jump on the bandwagon” or stay true to yourself?

If you take an honest look in the mirror (both literally and metaphorically), it is easy to establish if you are disciplined or not with your lifestyle patterns of behaviour. Too often,its so easy to pass the  blame and make excuses like “that health program doesn’t work!”. No, that program does work, its that you haven’t worked the program!

There is a reason that over 60% of the population is overweight. Pure lack of discipline and control! We all have the best of intentions but to actually act on those intentions with our busy lifestyle, and then follow through on a consistent long term basis (rather than it being a ‘phase’)….that requires discipline. That is a big part of why you should consider investing in a personal trainer or health coach – that extra bit of accountability and push from someone else can make all the difference in helping you to staying disciplined with your health and fitness.

 

Developing new habits for a new year

habit

The power of daily habits should not be understated. Habits can quite literally either make or break your life. The results you achieve are a direct results of your habits!

Your lifestyle habits play a major part in whether you are to be successful at achieving your health, weight loss and wellness, as well as other life goals. This is well described in Stephen Coveys, 7 habits of highly effective people.

Once habits are formed and ingrained into our lifestyle, they become second nature – something you don’t have to think about. They say it takes 21 days for a new habit to form. That’s almost 3 weeks of trying to do an activity or task that most probably unnatural, something that you have to think about and put effort into. In some cases, this may be something that you don’t enjoy doing. Take for instance ones sleep patterns. As you know, Sleep is a crucial component of ones health and well being. For someone who is used to staying up late, and then asking that person to start going to bed earlier, there is always going to be an initial resistance and inertia to overcome in order to firstly start this new pattern, and secondly maintaining it consistently without deviating night after night. Wow – talk about doing it tough!

So with a new year, 2014,  just newly upon us, its a perfect time to have a think about your habits. Which ones help you, and are worth keeping, and which ones are counterproductive to the full fulfillment of ones goals and progress with your health? Once you have worked this out, this puts you in a great position to start devising some strategies and a plan-of-action, to help develop new habits in order to get new and enhanced results.

Setting Healthy New Years Resolutions

goal setting 2014

2014 is almost here, and as the last few weeks of the year wind down, why not take some time out to reflect on how you went in 2013 and what you can achieve in 2014?

Here are five pointers to help you set goals and get into motion moving forward into the new year:

1) Start NOW

Instead of waiting for the clock to strike 12 on the 31st of December,  why not at least start getting mentally prepared for what you want to achieve and what activities and commitments it will take to reach your new years goals?

Reading a book about general goal setting, or about health and wellness is a great way to stimulate your imagination, and learn new ways of thinking. When you read it isn’t you talking to yourself. Rather someone else, normally an expert in their field is talking to you. Sometime we can be conditioned or ‘trapped’ into thinking a certain way, and especially if you not happy with you went with your health and well being endeavors in 2013.

A fantastically simple, but yet so powerful book, we at EH&B recommend is “The Slight Edge” – by Jeff Olson. The bottom line of this book, is there are NO magic bullets to achieving optimal health.

2) Set realistic goals

Setting unrealistic goals is one sure fire way to get discouraged and give up. Sure, you may have big dreams, and big goals, but it can be all too easy to get overwhelmed when the going gets tough and you have a huge mountain to climb. Instead, why not set a goal that you believe you can achieve but is still a challenge, and also set a stretch goal to aim for if you are really wanting to push yourself to the limits. For example, for someone who sets a goal to run a marathon, why not start with setting a goal to first run a half marathon?

3)  Baby Steps

Once you have set a goal that you believe in your heart that you can achieve, break down your goal into small, bite size chunks or modules that can be achieved we regular consistent effort.  Doing the small, basic steps consistently over time is the key to reaching your goals.  The trouble for most of us is, what is easy to do, is just as easy not to do!

4) Set a Reward

Human beings by nature either seek the pursuit of pleasure or the avoidance of pain. Think about how good it will feel when you achieve your goal, and what the prize will be for getting there. Choose a reward that is worth fighting for, something that is extra-ordinary, and something that you will motivate to keep going get times get tough. Only you know what this is.

5)  Find an accountability buddy

Its all too easy to let ourselves off the hook. But when we have someone (like a friend, family member or health coach) who you have given your word to, you are more inclined to not give  up and do what needs to be done to reach your goal. What makes things even more powerful, is when you both have set similar goals and are BOTH keeping each other accountable. This introduces a social and fun aspect too!  With the array of consumer health gadgets out there it is easier than ever to track and monitor each others daily activities remotely.

Here’s to an Exceptional 2014…best of luck in reaching your goals!

Getting back to basics with your health

Healthy Lifestyle Sphere

With so much information and choices available online about health it can be easy to suffer from information overload and get confused when it comes to what choices to make to achieve your health and wellness goals.

You may be asking yourself questions like:

– Whose advise should I follow?

– What diet, activity, approach or method will work for me?

– What is the best way for me to achieve my health and wellness goals?

– What are the best products or services to consume in line with my budget and family circumstances?

Added to this,  there is often no agreement amongst health professionals and consumers alike on the best practice,  with many differences in philosophies and research data often contradicting each other.

Despite this, there does  seems to be a common consensus on what lifestyle habits constitute basics  health and wellness. Its not rocket science either. The basics of quality nutrition, staying active, getting adequate sleep, managing stress, minimizing toxins (drugs, alcohol), are both easy to do but at the same token easy not to do.

To achieve sustainable results and success with your health, requires ongoing dedication and making basic, small choices regularly. These all compound over time in either direction. Unfortunately, there are no easy  or quick fix shortcuts to success. Like anything worthwhile in life there is a harvesting phase after the initial seeds are sown. This requires having some ‘blind faith’ that if you keep doing the basics, you will see the ongoing results  you deserve. This is many ways no different to sowing a seed in the ground, watering and nurturing the soil ever day. It takes time for a beautiful flower to grow.

With this sentiment in mind, why not set a goal for 2014, to get back to the basics with your health?

Measuring and Tracking Your Lifestyle

lifestyle_tracking

With the digital age we live in it is easier today, more than ever, to get  feedback on how you are tracking towards achieving your health, activity and weight loss goals. We all have a good intentions to regularly check the status of our weight and activity levels, but with our busy lifestyles it can be easy to forget. These devices really do make things easier by automatically collecting data what we are up while we are awake and asleep.

Take FitBit for example, they have a whole ecosystem of smart devices and web/mobile applications that allows you to track and monitor your weight (with smart scale), your sleep,  activity level, calories burned (using their wrist bands). The greatest thing about these devices is that you set them up once, and they automatically log your normal activity, whilst sending the data to cloud for you or your coach to view later.

They say what measures, improves. The need to track and measure our activity is especially apparent we have commenced a weight loss journey or for  basic weight management. These types of digital fitness devices take the guesswork in terms of tracking and monitoring towards a achieving your a minimum daily exercise  goal of  10,000 steps. For those in occupations, that are fairly sedentary, this can be a challenge, however, by knowing your step count, you can be deliberate about the small choices you make, all of which ad up to surprisingly large amounts. For example, you can take the stairs instead of the elevator, park further away from your work building, take mini-breaks to walk to the kitchen, things like that.

Sleep, is also a very important lifestyle factor that can be measured and tracked over time using one of these devices. They can tell you both the quantity and quality of your sleep, and knowing this and relating back to how you look and feel allows you to make decisions and changes like changing your environment, what time you go to bed,  or whether you may be suffering from a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, which is fairly common.

Nutrition is a vital element to your lifestyle that can be challenging to track and monitor. There are a whole host of applications and some devices such as Fit Bit, that provide useful nutritional information or allow you to manually enter and keep track of what you are eating but this is not practical for most people. It will be interesting follow the progress  of up and coming devices such as Airo, that claim to be able to automatically measure and record what you are eating. This will be a real breakthrough.

Collecting health and lifestyle data is great, but its what is actioned and done with that data to make decisions is what really counts. Your health coach can help to interpret your lifestyle data and give you important insights and feedback on how you are travelling. You can then work with him/her towards making decisions and setting goals to move you towards achieving an optimal state of health and wellness.

Why choose an organic multivitamin

The term “organic” seems to be thrown around quite freely nowadays.

But what does organic really mean for you and your health? Is it just “marketing hype”? And why choose a certified “organic” multivitamin over a regular multivitamin?

Organic products traditionally refers to being sourced from pure, natural sources (from nature), with no synthetic preservatives or additives.

An organic multivitamin refers to an multivitamin in which the extraction of the material of the vitamin, is from seed to the supplement is natural, free of use of pesticides or herbicides.

Most vitamin companies manufacture their vitamins synthetically, producing many vitamins and minerals at mass quantities in test laboratories and manufacturing facilities. This allows them to produce large quantities at low cost, improving their profit margins. The problem with these products is, yes, they do contain the pure vitamin content that our body requires (eg: pure ascorbic acid or Vitamin C), but absorption is a problem. The body has smart mechanisms of knowing if  something is from nature or is synthetically produced, and tends to reject or not absorb as easily vitamins that are produced synthetically. This means the vitamin tends to go straight through you, leading many to refer to supplements as “expensive urine“.

With an organic multivitamin on the other hand…because of the natural, purity of its contents,  the body cannot tell the difference between the supplement and the equivalent fruits and vegetables containing those vitamins and minerals. Hence, the body will absorb the multivitamin like if would had you eaten fruit or vegetable from the ground and thus derive the full nutritional value. The other important factor of an organically sourced mutivitamin/multi-mineral is that due to organic farming process, the phytonutrient content is preserved. Phytonutrients, are plant compounds, that have been shown to be important anti-oxidants and the research into their immense benefits is only slowly begging to emerge.  Here is an example of a company that has been around for over 70 years and is the only global vitamin and mineral brand to grow, harvest and process plants on their own certified organic farms

Although organic multivitamins are slightly more expensive than regular multivitamins, what is the price of your health and wellness?

Body Composition & Your Health

body composition

I recently took a body composition analysis, and it provided quite a bit of insight into the state of my health. I was quite impressed in how a quick and cheap test like this could provide such wide variety of useful metrics.

So what exactly is a body composition analysis?

A body composition analysis is a non-invasive analysis that provides a number of different health assessment results. These results provide a profile of your current body composition health status, which aids in helping identify areas of your lifestyle that may need modifying.

Here are the different metrics that are provided when you take a body composition analysis:

1) Body Mass

This is a standard measure of your body weight (in kg or pounds), which is normally obtained if you keep a weight scale in your home.

2) Body Fat Percentage

This is a measure of the amount of body fat as a proportion of your body mass. A certain amount of fat is essential to maintain bodily functions. However, an excess level of body fat has shown to increase the risk of certain chronic conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer).

3) Basal Metabolic Rate

Your BMR is a minimum level of energy your body needs to function effectively while at rest. This includes the energy required to maintain function of the respiratory and circulatory organs, nervous system, liver, kidneys, skin and muscle. About 70% of calories consumed each day are used for your BMR, and more energy is used when undertaking any form of exercise. The factors that influence your BMR include age, genetics, weight, body fat percentage, diet and exercise.

4) Hydration Level

This is expressed as total body water percentage, which is the total amount of fluid in your body as a proportion of body weight. Water is essential for our body for a number of reasons.

4) Visceral Fat Rating

Visceral fat is the fat located within the internal abdominal activity (around your stomach and waist). People with high levels of visceral fat are more at risk of chronic disease. As people age, the distribution of body fat is likely to shift to the abdominal even if the individual maintains a constant body weight and body fat percentage. It is possible to have a low total body percentage and high visceral fat rating. Males are more likely to have a a higher rating than femals, however, the gap between genders diminishes for post-menopausal women.

5) Bone Mass

Bone mass is the amount of bone that is present in your body. Bone is continually being broken down and renewed.  It is essential to maintain health bones through regular exercise and a balanced diet (vitamin D and calcium) in order to prevent osteoporosis. 

5)Waist Circumference

For men a healthy waist circumference is under 94cm and for women it is under 80cm. The pattern of body fat distribution is recognized as an important predictor for certain disorders.

As you can see, a body composition scan provides alot of useful information about the state of your health and how your weight relates to your health.  Sometimes one needs to get some objective evidence of how they are tracking, and going for a scan is a great way to get this evidence. Once you know where you are at, it gives you a baseline to prioritise and set goals to achieving healthier lifestyle behaviors.

Staying Beautiful with Sun Protection

UV_beach

We all know that the sun is both our friend and our enemy when it comes to our skin health and beauty.

Everyone loves summer vacations &  sunny days. This gives us the opportunity to go outdoors and enjoy the sunny weather down at the beach, the park, on the sport field etc. In addition, the UV rays of the sun contain Vitamin D, a vital nutrient required for our general health, in particular to keep our bones and muscles strong and healthy. During winter, when sometimes there is little sunshine (depending on where in the world you live), there is a risk of getting a Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sun exposure.

On the flip side of this,  the UV rays of the sun can cause damage to our skin  (and eyes) causing  sun burn damage (increasing risk of skin cancer) and premature aging. Most people know  this. And since the skin is the largest organ of the body, all parts of it need to be protected from possible damage.

What is needed then, is to maintain a balance between getting enough sunshine to enjoy the benefits of the sun exposure, whilst protecting oneself from the potentially harmful effects of UV radiation. There are a range of options available including wearing a hat, protective clothing as well as sun screen that is waterproof with sufficient SPF rating  and skin protection against the various UV types.. This is common sense 101, but it can be easy to forget to take these measures, and knowing when to reapply sunscreen can be tricky. But by planning ahead, staying proactive and informed  about the current UV levels and ways to protect your skin, you can get into a habit of protecting you and your kids so that everyone looks and feels as young and beautiful as possible.