Helpful Hints to Track Your Progress

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Making a change in your life can seem like it’s taking forever to notice progress and stick to the ritual.  But if you push through the long hours, annoyances and in some cases, the pain, the changes become routine.  After something becomes routine and habitual in your life, you barely even worry about why you wanted to make those changes in the first place!  As this Huffington Post article explains,  something as simple as making your bed every morning can kick-start positive changes in other aspects of your life: “first the bed, next the world.”  In the case of working out and eating clean (unprocessed foods with no chemical additives), I have found several strategies to be especially helpful.

  • Join My Fitness Pal online and download the app on your smart phone to keep track of what you ate, when you ate it and the nutritional facts as they pertain to your weight loss goals.  The app even has a barcode reader so you can scan items for instantaneous answers.  Medical studies show that maintaining a food diary doubles your weight loss and this online tracker is free and easy to use.
  • Use a separate calendar for tracking and staying on top of your fitness.  It’s nearly impossible to squeeze a description of the day’s workout and meal plans in the same box that you scribbled your [school]work obligations.  Referring to separate calendars for different types of schedules and goals will help ease the stress of balancing the already-busy life you have with your new ‘fit and healthy’ life.
  • If you get discouraged looking in the mirror day after day, tape newspaper over your full-length mirror so you won’t be tempted to obsess after your shower or workout and complain that you can’t see any differences.  Take a ‘before’ picture on the first day of your routine and only take the newspaper off the mirror every 30 days to take monthly progress pictures.  Compare the pictures after three months and I guarantee you will be much happier with what you see.

It takes a lot of time to get that beach body but stick to a plan and repeat to yourself, Just Do It!

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Let it Be: Ladies Edition

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As the Beatles preached in their 1970’s single album, “Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.”  How do you let a close friend know that they are making a mistake?  Are you upfront and open about the problem?  Do you let something carry on for so long that the conversation finally pours out of your mouth with frustration and anger and spirals out of control?  Or are you the type of friend who holds their breath and says nothing until the friend has dug a hole for him/herself without even realizing they were doing anything wrong?  There are some things in life that you can and should let pass you by for the other person to figure out on their own but there are also times when that friend could use some good, straight advice in a way that doesn’t sound condescending.  We’ll call this section ‘straight talk’ and give instances when you should “let it be” or not let it be.

  • Your girlfriend is frying her curly hair everyday with a straightener/dying it way too often:  It’s ok for someone to use the chameleon tactic to disguise their natural hair’s color or style but that chameleon could turn into an unruly dragon if there aren’t regulations.  Try dropping subtle hints to her like “I miss seeing your pretty curls/waves” or “Oh you should try this great leave-in conditioner but you can’t use heat on your hair for a week!  It worked great for me!”  Letting her think you are looking out for her from personal experience will make her feel that you are being honest and helpful rather than harsh.
  • Your friend is seeing a guy/girl that you don’t get good vibes from and could mean trouble or heartbreak: Try to let this one be for a while.  If you are noticing negative behavior rubbing off from the significant other to your friend, just give them enough space to figure out what they want.  Nobody wants to be nagged about possible love choices.  If there are no improvements in the next few months, sit your friend down and get them to openly talk about aspects of their relationship and determine if it’s healthy or hindering before taking further action.
  • Your friend is mooching: You’re generous enough, letting friends wear clothes or borrow makeup or eat your food.  But when it gets to the point that it’s taking a toll on your budget or wardrobe, it’s time to put them in their place and let them know that you don’t appreciate them treating your possessions and belongings like their own.  Suggest that they buy their own versions of whatever they are mooching off of you.

(Image borrowed from sheenalashay.com)

Hair’s to Change!

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As the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, 2014, millions of people lifted their glasses and toasted to a new year with new resolutions to which they swore to follow. “One drink/piece of chocolate/cookie/a million other things won’t hurt me.”  But giving in one time turns into ten times and before you know it, you are no closer to reaching your goals and in fact, you may be further behind than before.  This scenario has already played out for me twice thus far; but for the past week, I have pushed past temptation and ignored ailments and negative thoughts.  The hardest hurdle for me to jump over when working out and eating healthier is reaching four days in a row.  If I can push myself on day five to work out and avoid unhealthy foods, I look forward to extending my willpower to day six.

I ombred my roommate’s hair last night for four long hours, applying dark brown to the crown of her head and bright red from the chin down.  Over these four hours, I felt productive and skillful which inspired me to write about how something as simple as dying your hair a different color or several colors can be exciting and refreshing, helping you accomplish resolutions and goals that the old you couldn’t/wouldn’t.  You can also use this tactic to motivate and reward yourself; once you have worked out for x days/months in a row, treat yourself with something that you have been craving or wanting to do.  Try using these tips to push yourself closer to your resolutions:

  • Reward yourself to frozen yogurt instead of ice cream at the end of every successful workout week.  Frozen yogurt has a load of healthy benefits but use caution with size and toppings! http://bit.ly/1bKZWek
  • Get a manicure or pedicure–What could be better than a stranger massaging your hands, legs and feet making them soft and beautiful?
  • Buy a new form-fitting top to show off your progress at the gym and your newfound abs

Whatever you are working for or toward, just keep your imagined result in mind and repeat to yourself, “I am the only one who can make this vision a reality”.

Take a Bath!

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As the week ends or nears, the pressures of work, relationships and personal goals can be overwhelming and stressful to your mind and body.   The weight of the world feels as if it’s resting on your shoulders, back and brain.  Some people thrive on this stress for success but for many, the combination of a tired body and brain can and will cause a built-up psychotic breakdown.  How ever shall one deal with these problems quickly enough to regain composure?!  Take a bath!

Research from Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that soaking in warm water daily for eight weeks is more effective at reducing stress than a prescription drug.  From the second I slide into the warm water, I feel the weight leaving my body and soul as I float to the top.  I prefer to take a bubble bath, one with lots of moisturizers for my skin, but researchers say bath oils containing lavender are likely to produce the best results in the tub.   Psychologically positive mood changes were found after the bathing regimen for energetic arousal, tense arousal, hedonic-tone and anger-frustration (Morris, 2002).  Also, negative perceptions/responses about one’s future were selectively reduced after the lavender oil baths.   A hot bath also works as a muscle relaxer, cold inhibitor, mind-sharpener and sleep aid.  The steam from the hot water opens nasal/sinus passages to soothe stuffiness and pressure and produces the pain-killing endorphins released with relaxation to sooth sore muscles.  Transitioning from hot water to cold air produces melatonin, a sleep inducer, so it’s best to take your bath before a good night’s sleep.

As I soaked in my tub for the first time in three months last night, I realized how much I missed my relaxation ritual.  I like to light lots of candles and keep all the lights off in the bathroom for a sensual feeling.  After all, that bathtub is yours and only yours for 30 minutes to an hour, so why not feel comfortable in your skin?!  Try putting on a soothing soundtrack, like my “Calm Meditation Radio” on Pandora, rather than the adrenaline-pumping music you might listen to at the gym.  Close your eyes and let the sounds of the rainforest or crashing waves take you to your happy place, wherever that might be for you.  Reflect on your past, present and future and know that you are in control.

The effects of lavender (Lavendula angustifolium) baths on psychological well-being: two exploratory randomised control trials: N. Morris–Complementary Therapies in Medicine

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