Achieving a goal is a powerful thing.
Sometimes we lose motivation along the way. We beat ourselves up for slipping, doubt our ability to make it. We can’t work up the drive to work out. The cruel things we’ve heard in the past echo in our head.
To fight these demons, we need to summon our strength. And music’s a great way to do it.
Some of these suggestions will inspire you and some of them will make you laugh. Either way they’ll shift your mood and get you out of the funk.Â Feel free to contribute your own via comments!
I Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty
Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey
Mama Said Knock You Out – LL Cool J
Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
We Will Rock You – Queen
You Gotta Be – Des’ree
Fighter – Christina Aguilera
Stronger – Britney Spears
I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
Crazy – Seal
Hero – Mariah Carey
Lose Yourself – Eminem
I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack
Survivor – Destiny’s Child
Yesterday we explored the buzz surrounding theÂ H1N1 virus, and identified some holistic preventative measures.
Today I must inform you that Harvard Med School has released a new iphone app that will let you know about swine flu outbreaks in your area. This is perfect for hypochondriacs, conspiracy theorists, and epidemiologists.
Not for anyone else.
One key to creating health is to listen to ourselves and our bodies. Being aware is a powerful tool, one that allows us to understand clues and symptoms of both health and disease. These tips come in the form of cravings, moods, or physical cues and can make the difference between losing weight and looking great or being frustrated with our health.Â Here are five quick ways to tell how your health stacks up today:
Never Let ‘Em See You Sweat– Not true! Sweating easily is a sign of physical conditioning and health. It removes toxins and too much sodium from the body and helps regulate body temperature when you exercise. One of the goals of any fitness routine should be to work up at least a light sweat. Sweat can also give you clues into your health. A lack of sweat can mean you are dehydrated while night sweats can mean trouble with your thyroid.
Blue Mood: You might not think that nutritionÂ has much to do with fatigue, but think again. Ditto PMS, and mental fogginess–
- Many times, fatigue, especially in the middle of the day or early evening, is directly related toÂ not getting enough complex carbohydrates, enough water, or enough iron.
- the bloating and moodiness associated with PMS can be caused by not getting enough calcium and magnesium and by eating too much sugar.Â Taking a calcium supplement that also includes magnesium (for proper calcium absorption) and cutting back on sugar can really help ease the symptoms of PMS.
- Depression can also be exacerbated by poor nutrition, mainly not getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids, which is why many people on a low fat diet can experience sadness, anxiety and anger. Supplementing with wild caught fish, nuts, and flax seed oil in dressings, sauces, and soups is a great way to make sure you are getting enough healthy fats.
- A lack of vitamin E and/or iron is associated with mental fogginess. This can also be caused by not eating enough vegetables and a lack of antioxidants. Nuts and seeds are wonderful for vitamin E while leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and chard are good sources of antioxidants and iron.
Craving Health:Â They come in so many forms and can really spell torture for those of us trying to get ourselves healthy.
- Craving carbs? You might not be eating enough calories. Not only are you slowing your metabolism butÂ you aren’t getting enough vitamins for good health.
- Craving salty foods? Exhausted adrenals might be to blame. Try drinking more water, sleeping more, and relieving anxiety.
- Sugar getting to you? An overabundance of yeast may be to blame. Chances are, if you cut sugar out ofÂ your diet for a week or two those cravings will begin to disappear. Drinking water with lemon and avoiding white flour, vinegar, and mushrooms for a bit may also help.
A Sensitive Topic: Not many of us like to look at, let alone talk about our eliminations, but poo really does show us how healthy we are.Â Healthy poo should have the size and shape of a banana, shouldn’t smell, should float, and should be golden brown in color. Some common abberations?
- Color–dark colored eliminations can mean you aren’t eating enough vegetables or are eating too much salt. Greenish poo can mean too much sugar in the diet.
- Frequency–going once to twice a day is ideal. Less means that toxins aren’t leaving your body properly and can mean you are allergic to dairy or wheat, aren’t eating enough vegetables, or are not drinking enough water.
- Consistency–your eliminations should be the consistency of an unripe banana. Pebble like poo means you aren’t getting enough fiber while more liquidy stool can point to allergies or lactose intolerance.
What do these people have in common: J.K. Rowling, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Winston Churchill, Michael Jordan, Walt Disney, and Henry Ford? Besides being household names, these are only a handful of extremely successful people who credit FAILURE with making them achieve greatness.Â Yep, failure.
So what, you may ask, does this have to do with health and weight loss? Simply this: The theories and practice of accepting failure can actually contain the seeds of success when it comes to transforming your health and body. This is because failure, scientists are learning, seems to be hardwired in the brain to equal learning–the more wrong we are, the quicker we learn. By utilizing this understanding, we can actually temper ourselves to setbacks and get the most out of them. Here are a few things that failure teaches us:
- Resiliency: Simply put, the more we fail, the more we understand that we are always a work in progress and nothing about our lives is fixed in stone–this includes our bodies, the way we eat, and the way we look. This gives us incredible freedom to change.Â Instead of beating ourselves up every time we slip up with our diet or because we didn’t know something about what makes us healthy, we see it as a learning opportunity. And the more we learn about ourselves, the more we know in the future what will and won’t work for us.Â For our brains, failure is all about making our thinking more efficient. So you will learn that eating every three hours doesn’t work for you and move on, each time getting closer to the real changes that will transform your health.
- Opportunity: Successful people are people who have put themselves out there and tried whatever they could get there hands on. They are not more talented, or smarter, or luckier than anybody else–they have simply tried more and different things until something worked. They aren’t afraid of failure, of falling down. They know how to get back up. Apply this to your own life–what would you try if you were notÂ afraid of failing?Â Just take the example of exercise. We know that it is one of the most important lifestyle choices in being healthy, but it isn’t always easy to find the perfect sport or activity. For those of us who aren’t afraid of failing, trying everything is seen as an opportunity–so get out there and try it–run, bicycle, do aerobics, swim, yoga, rock climb and find what you are passionate about. It’s out there just waiting to transform your life.
- Perspective: Finally, becoming fearless in the face of failure gives us perspective, that is, where we are now is tempered by where we have been and that has the amazing ability of putting our fears, our cravings, and our emotions in their proper place. Perspective soothes our anxieties; it calms us. And when we are calm our emotions cease to rule us.Â We know that if we slip up and eat junk food we are not bad people, we are simply having an off day and we can recommit ourselves the next day. If we go two weeks without exercising we don’t throw in the towel, we shrug, love ourselves, and get out there at the next opportunity. Perspective allows us to understand that our lives are made up of a million small moments, that we will always fall down, and that it is the getting up that is important, the constant getting back up that makes the difference between an average life and one that is extraordinary.
When embracing your own ability and need to fail, think about how children learn. Take running, for example. We are not born with the ability to run, we learn it slowly. First we learn to roll over, then we learn to push ourselves up, then crawl, then stand, then walk, and finally run. Throughout this whole process, we fall down over and over again and over and over again we stand back up and we keep falling now and again throughout our whole lives.Â So let’s keep the perseverence and innocence of children in everything we do and be willing to put ourselves out there because that is how we learn, always.
The nervousÂ system,Â made up of cells, tissues, and organs that regulates the body’s response to internal and external stimuli, is extremely important for the high-maintenance functioning of the body.Â In humans it consists of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, ganglia and receptors on/ofÂ certain organs.Â For years now, scientists have shown that the nervous system plays aÂ role in weight gain, one that may be genetically predisposed, but may also be tweaked by following certain habits. The neurotransmitter seratonin, familiar to most people because of the role it (or a lack of it) plays in clinical depression, also has something to do with the way fat is metabolized in the body and the way our bodies interpret hunger. The more seratonin in the body, the less appetite we have and the quicker fat is metabolized. The nervous system is also responsible for the creation of other hormones that affect our weight–such as adrenaline and cortisol. Some ways to soothe and support your nervous system:
Sleep. Getting a full night of sleep (7-9hours) is actually considered by many experts to be the number one change you can make to improve your health. Sleep removes waste products from your nervous system, particularly excess hormones that lead to weight gain.Â A chronic lack of sleep has been proven to lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
If you have trouble sleeping, the herb valerian is your best bet–potent and gentle at the same time, it works wonders for fighting insomnia. If you are just too busy, try taking cat naps throughout the day–fifteen minutes to a half an hour really can add up. Whatever you do, however, don’t try to make up for sleep deprivation by sleeping all day on the weekends. This can actually make insomnia worse since it disrupts your sleep-wake cycle.
Chill out, man.Â Meditation is a proven nervous system soother. It increases the levels of alpha brain waves, proven to relax the entire nervous system. It is also thought that meditation can help increase the seratonin in your brain, decreasing depression and weight gain. Meditation can take many forms–from simple Zazen sitting meditation, to walking meditation, running, or listening to soothing music.
Eat your Oats and Stuff.Â Including nerve friendly food and herbs in our diet is another tried and true way of relaxing our nervous system and supporting it at the same time. Oats–in the form of oatmeal or oatstraw tea is considered a tremendous nervine tonic. In addition, the fiber in oatmeal is a great weight loss aid and helps lower cholesterol and lessens the risk for heart disease.
To increase seratonin in the brain try taking a supplement of St. John’s Wort, Siberian Ginseng, and/or licorice–all are proven natural anti-depressents that help with nervous system support and healthy eating and metabolic patterns.
Some people love to exercise–they find running meditative, hiking relaxing and spiritual. They go to the gym daily and can’t live without it or faithfully bust out the exercise videos at home….And then there are the rest of us.Â “Exercise is boring,” we sigh, “it hurts. I don’t have time. I’d rather be relaxing…”
We know that we must exercise, that our bodies must MOVE, that it is an essential part of being fit and healthy and so we force ourselves into it, find a million ways to trick ourselves into sweating.
There is, however, another way–or more precisely, other ways.Â From the wild to the wacky to the just plain common sense fun, here they are–brilliant and crazy ways to fit in fitness without even knowing you are exercising (who knows, you just might learn something hardly anyone else knows!)
Join the Circus: When I was little I dreamed, like many children, of running away with the circus. Now I can. Circus workouts are springing up around the country and exercise physiology studies show that an eight week circus training course can improve overall body strength by up to 20% as well as burn 200-400 calories an hour.Â Workouts vary but most are centered around trapeze workouts, which strengthen the core, back, and arms and tightrope walking which tightens the core, legs, and increases balance.Â Both also increase flexibility. Along with these fun (and some swear sexy!) tricks, many circus workouts also train the brain and funny bone with juggling, magic tricks, and clown school tips. The workouts are so much fun and such a unique challenge, that you will often forget you are working out.
Hulahooping: In the last few years, classes in the childhood art of hulahooping have become popular. Using weighted hula hoops, the classes mainly work out and chisel the core and hip area but can also get the heartrate up for some fun cardio. There is one catch however–women are typically better hulahoopers than men–our hips are good for more than just child bearing it seems.
Retro-robics: The 80′s are back. And it’s more than just headbands and members only jackets out there–Eighties aerobics and jazzercise have made their own comeback! So if you enjoy bopping around in unitards and legwarmers and dancing to Cyndi Lauper and a Flock of Seagulls, these classes are for you.Â Some instructors are faithful to the exercises and others have updated them to be a bit kinder and gentler on joints and muscles, so ask around. And if you have enough friends interested, have your own retrorobics party–A million Jane Fonda tapes are still available on E-bay (I looked). Dress up, break out the Tab and wail out ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ to your hearts content.
Strippercize: Alright, this one steps away from childhood memories a bit. For women who want to workout while learning some sexy skills. There are strip-aerobics, lap-dance oriented workouts, and the challenging but a wee bit dangerous (watch those spike heels ladies!) pole dancing courses for whatever strikes your fancy. Like the more sedate bellydancing, strippercize is great for both cardio and strength training–it works out your abs, back, arms, and legs as well as your machisma muscle. And it can also double as a valuable work skill in these hard economic times!
Unicycling: Often called ‘the best workout available on one wheel’ unicycling is a challenging skill as well as a great workout. It is hard to do and takes intense concentration, which is good for the brain, builds patience, and is great for weight loss,Â core strength, and the leg muscles. It also builds stamina and discipline. It helps that unicycling is also relatively inexpensive–the only cost being the machine itself. After that, learning comes from joining a unicycling club (they exist all over the country) and learning from fellow members. The comraderie of this relatively small group is great for the spirit and knowing such a rare skill is always a good ace up the sleeve.
photo credit: ilvana *.*
Obstacle Courses: Used in gym class and the military for years, obstacle courses have now evolved to offer fun diversions while providing a whole body workout–rope walls and hurdles work out core muscles, climbing walls work on the arms, back, core, and endurance, cones and tires provide training in agility and cardio–all the while providing a challenge that is really fun. Creating your own obstacle course is easy as well–plan a jog past a playground and use the jungle gym or bicycle to a park and use your natural surroundings to test your agility.
Want to avoid getting sick this winter? The answer might lie in meditation. Researchers have found that people with an active meditation practice have been found to have higher amounts of antibodies in their bodies, leading to improved immune response and giving them the edge when it comes to fighting off seasonal colds and flu. Along with ramping up the immune system, meditation has been found to balance mood, lose weight, increase the ability to handle pain, and even protect the brain against ageing. Here is a quick introduction to different kinds of meditation:
Zen Meditation: Also known as Zazen, or sitting meditation, is perhaps the most well known of all meditations and is practiced by Zen monks. It involves sitting in a cross–legged position with the hands in a mudra, or prayer gesture and a very straight spine. You breathe deeply from the belly and focus on the the breathing. When thoughts arise you acknowledge them but don’t fixate on them. Let them go and return to the breath. If you wander off into your thoughts come back to the breath. Sometimes it is helpful to have a mantra or special word to repeat or count numbers to keep from thinking. This is one of the simplest kinds of meditation and can be done anywhere.
Walking Meditation: Easier for many people than sitting meditation, walking meditation is just as simple and has the added benefit of exercise. It can be done outdoors or inside. It can involve walking in a pattern–a square or circle, walking a labrynth shape (which is found in many churches and meditation centers), or just free walking outside. It involves keeping the eyes open, focusing on the breath and the body, feeling the ground beneath your feet, and releasing thoughts instead of grabbing them.
Kundalini Yoga: Kundalini Yoga is a physical and meditative discipline, comprising a set of techniques that use the mind, senses and body to create a communication between “mind” and “body”. Kundalini yoga focuses on psycho-spiritual growth and the body’s potential for maturation, giving special consideration to the role of the spine and the endocrine system.Â It consists of kriyas, which are sets of exercises that help to balance the body and the mind, and different meditations that involve music, mantras, mudras, and visualization. These meditations range from ‘Meditation for Prosperity’ to ‘Meditations for Peace’. They can last anywhere from between 5 minutes to several hours and some have even been adopted by psychotherapists, after rigorous clinical trials, into the treatments of obsessive-compulsive disorder and chemical addictions. Here is a list of popular kriyas and meditations, though finding kundalini classes in your community is highly recommended.
Although these are tried and true ways of engaging in a healthy meditation program, don’t overlook other forms of meditation–running, singing, dancing, driving, even chopping vegetables–almost anything can be turned into a meditation practice if it involves attention, mindfullness, and paying attention to the breath and to disengaging our selves from our thoughts.