ATEs- Alternatives to Eating

Our culture seems to revolve almost exclusively around eating and drinking these days. It requires no energy whatsoever – “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know, let’s go eat.” And living in a city like Houston, where the dining possibilities are endless, why not? Well, unfortunately dining out most always involves overindulging and adding inches to your waistline. But wait! There are actually plenty of other things to do in and around Houston that don’t involve eating (gasp!), and with the weather as nice as it is, it’s definitely the right time to get out and about!

Here is a list of activities you can try solo or with your spouse, family or friends:

  • Reading in the park or other ambient setting
  • Attending events at the Rodeo (turn a blind eye to all the concession stands!)
  • Museums! Check out the Bayou Bend Gardens on a nice spring day or the Museum of Natural Science for some great exhibitions. If you haven’t taken your kids to the Children’s Museum, boy oh boy, you and your family are missing out! It’s a really great place for everyone to run around and learn a thing or two as well. Great news- most museums host free nights! Museum of Fine Arts is free Thursday evenings.
  • Performing Arts- Check out www.goldstar.com to sign up for half-price tickets and other shows going on weekly in Houston.
  • Sports & Concerts- go see your favorite team/band in action!
  • Tours- A ghost tour doesn’t have to be saved for the month of October! http://www.houstonghosttour.com/index.html
  • Take a walk in a park! If you haven’t been to Terry Hershey Park, it’s a must for those who love the outdoors and a scenic walk/run/bike ride.
  • Attend an event at Miller Outdoor Theatre! It’s free and with so many events, there’s bound to be one that fits your interest.
  • Take a swing at a driving range! Even if you are a far cry from Tiger Woods, it can be fun to whack some golf balls!
  • Pamper yourself- book an appointment for the spa, get a manicure/pedicure, or treat yourself to a facial, all calorie-free and a great stress reducer J
  • Get on the water- rent a kayak, go to the beach or lake, or paddleboat through Hermann Park.
  • Find your creative side- sign-up for a painting, pottery, or jewelry-making class.
  • Shop! – Try things on for fun even if you know you aren’t going to buy them. It burns calories and is a great way to treat the new slimmer you! Just be sure you get rid of the baggy clothes that no longer fit.

Www.culturemaphouston.com is another great resource to see what’s going on in and around the city. What other things can you think of to see and do in Houston that are A.T.E.s?

Plant your Good Habit Seeds in 2013

Let this truly be a new year. Refocus your energy on positivity and think goals, not resolutions. Think small, positive changes with long-term health benefits. For example – “I am going to drink 16 oz. Of filtered water every morning when I rise” or “I will perform 15 minutes of resistance exercises each evening before rest”. Making these small, simple changes will add up quicker than you think. By drinking 16 oz. of filtered water every morning, you’ll increase your intake by 480 oz. In an average month, that’s 60 glasses of water more than you’re drinking now!

Too often we put our health aside until the “new year”, and then expect ourselves to magically wake up on the 1st with renewed vigor and a disciplined mindset. We think we’ll have this overnight tada! transformation that will allow us to go from couch potato to marathon runner. Well, I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but that simply is not how it works. If you do in fact want to run a marathon and are indeed a couch potato – start small. Begin by walking 10 minutes daily (at the same time for consistency). Then turn that walk into a 10 minute light, brisk jog. Then maybe your next progression would be to add 5 minutes on each week thereafter. Do you see where I’m going with this? Make a small positive change, create space for that change, or habit, to exist by being continuous, then grow that habit.

I suppose one could call this planting a good habit seed.

So, do it. Make this the year of small changes dedicated towards self-growth and personal creation. Take time for yourself. Train yourself to become a master in planting good habit seeds. And whatever you do, do it for you. You are unique, you are special, you are you. We all work so hard to create something – whether it be a product, an art piece, a service – that we forget to create ourselves; even worse, we forget to cherish and nourish our health. Please share what good habit seeds you’ll be planting!

Stress is a mess – clean it up!

S-T-R-E-S-S.

As with all things – there are good and bad types of stress, and stress affects both our mental and physical health. Our bodies are hard-wired to react to stress in ways meant to protect us against threats from predators and other aggressors. Such threats are rare today, but that doesn’t mean that life is free of stress. On the contrary, we are under more stress than ever by living in a fast-paced society where work comes first and health comes last. Long-term, unhealthy stress – heavy workloads, financial instability, family responsibilities, and rush hour – can have detrimental effects on our health, longevity, and overall quality of life. Stress has no right to be in your life, get rid of it!

Understanding the natural stress response:

If your mind and body are constantly on edge because of excessive stress in your life, you may face serious health problems. That’s because your body’s “fight-or-flight reaction” — its natural alarm system — is constantly on.

When you encounter perceived threats — a large dog barks at you during your morning walk, for instance — your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.

Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation and fear.

When the natural stress response goes haywire:

The body’s stress-response system is usually self-regulating. It decreases hormone levels and enables your body to return to normal once a perceived threat has passed. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline levels, and other systems resume their regular activities.

But when the stressors of your life are always present, leaving you constantly feeling stressed, tense, nervous or on edge, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on. The less control you have over potentially stress-inducing events and the more uncertainty they create, the more likely you are to feel stressed. Even the typical day-to-day demands of living can contribute to your body’s stress response.

The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including:

  • Inflammation
  • Mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal heart beats
  • Menstrual problems
  • Acne and other skin problems

Clean up the mess of stress by making time for yourself, exercising regularly, and eating a wholesome, clean diet! It’s your life and your time – you have the freedom and choice to increase the quality of your life…do it!

References

  • Karren KJ, et al. Mind Body Health. San Francisco, Calif.: Benjamin Cummings; 2010:28.
  • Creagan E (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 10, 2010.

 

5 Exercises for Awesome Abdominals!

Strengthening your core is not just about getting six-pack abs, but about developing strong abdominal, back, and pelvic muscles. A strong core promotes good posture, makes sitting more comfortable, can prevent injury during physical activity, and improves balance.  Try these awesome abdominal exercises that can be done in the comfort of your own home.

Plank  Lie face down resting on your forearms with your palms flat on the floor or with hands interlocked. Push off the mat onto your toes, resting on your elbows. Keep your back flat in a straight line from head to heels. Tighten your abdominals to prevent buckling or sagging. Hold as long as possible, working up to 1-2 minutes.  Repeat for 3-5 times.

A. B.

Plank Up Downs Start in the plank position as described to the left (a). Push yourself up to your hands, first with one arm and then the other, so that both of your arms are completely extended (b). Lower yourself back down to the plank position one arm at a time (a).  When you return to the start position, you have completed one set. Repeat 10-15 sets.

A. B.

Side Plank Lie on your side with your body in a straight line and your elbows underneath your shoulders. Stagger your feet with the foot of the top leg in front (a) or stack your feed for more difficulty (b).  Lift your hips off the ground to create a straight line from shoulders to ankles.  For added challenge, raise your arm above your body to open your chest and shoulders. Aim for 10 seconds and build your strength to hold for 1-2 minutes.  Repeat on other side.

Abdominal Hold Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair with your hands on the edge and your fingers pointed toward your legs.  With tight abs, lift your feet 2-3 inches off the floor.  Lift yourself off the chair and hold as long as possible.  Aim for 5 10-second holds.  Work to increase the time you can hold the position.

A. B. C.

The Hundred  Lie on your back with your knees bent at a 90° angle with your shins parallel to the floor.  Tuck your chin to chest and lift shoulder blades off the mat. Bring your arms down by your side parallel to the mat. Focus can be on your abdominal area (chin to chest) as seen in A with laying version or with seated versions B, C, focus should be up above the knees keeping your head in alignment with your spine. Vigorously pulse your hands up and down as you inhale for 5 breaths and exhale for 5 breaths, completing 10 sets in succession for a total of 100 breaths/pulses while holding the position (a).  For variety and challenge, bring your lower back off the floor (b) while grounding your heels to the mat, or try the 100 pulses in a V-shaped position (c).

16 Ways in 16 Days – #16

Have fun and explore new foods!  Challenge yourself to incorporate one new food each week, and make it a colorful one…colored frosting does not count ;)

16 Ways in 16 Days – #15

Increase the volume of your nut butter by mixing it with Greek yogurt or canned pure pumpkin (keep in mind pumpkin is a starchy vegetable, so pair accordingly).

16 Ways in 16 Days – #14

Make a light and refreshing salad with 1 head live butter lettuce, 1/4c cooked quinoa, 1/2-1c shredded carrots, and fresh mint and basil leaves.  Try!  Then top with 1t olive oil or 1T vinaigrette if desired.

16 Ways in 16 Days – #13

Combine 2″ ginger (grated) with 2T low sodium soy sauce, 2T pure maple syrup, 1t sucanat, and 1/2t red pepper flakes.  Use mixture to top 2-4oz portions wild caught salmon.

Cook at 425′F for about 15-20min (about 15min per inch in height of salmon)

16 Ways in 16 Days – #11

Popcorn, a whole grain and you get to eat a whole lot for one serving!

Buy the whole kernels, place 2T in a brown paper lunch bag and pop for 3min or so (until you hear about a 3 second delay between pops).  Transfer popped corn to a bowl, spritz with olive oil and sprinkle with your favorite seasonings.

16 Ways in 16 Days – #10

Consider purchasing your canned items from companies that do not use BPA in their cans – Muir Glen, Eden, Amy’s.