Is All Exercise Created Equal?

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I am a huge advocate for physical activity, and believe that moving our bodies daily has a tremendous impact on our minds, our bodies, and our spirits. But, as with diets, there are many different theories around exercise and the types we should be doing. From yoga to running, CrossFit to spinning, there are many opportunities, so which is best?

I approach exercise just as I approach eating. Everyone is different so individual preference, age, personality, and many other factors need to be considered. Ultimately, find something that you enjoy doing, that way you will be far more likely to make it a habit.

There are four categories of exercise. Try to find something from each category that feels right for you. Here are some examples:

  • aerobic/endurance – increases your heart rate, works cardiovascular system
    • running, walking, swimming, dancing, cycling, hiking, rowing
  • strength – increases lean muscle mass
    •  weight lifting, push ups, pull-ups, crunches, squats, lunges, tricep dips, yoga
  • balance – improves ability to control your body’s position, find center of gravity
    • yoga, tai chi
  • flexibility – improves range of motion, stretches muscles
    • yoga, tai chi, stretching
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Aside from promoting heart health, losing weight, and toning up, exercise has many other great benefits. It can calm the mind, reduce stress and anxiety, create feelings of happiness, boost energy, and improve memory and thinking skills.

When considering what exercise will be best for you, think about your personality and your typical day to day activities. Are you always go, go, go, with a busy schedule and a restless mind? Perhaps yoga or tai chi would be a great option to help eliminate physical stress and promote relaxation. On the other hand, if you are often sedentary and have low energy throughout your day, something more energetic may be good for you, such as spin class, zumba, or brisk walking. The key is to find balance.  Too much energy in our days will eventually burn us out, and too little energy will facilitate the growth of disease in our bodies.

If you are a person living a sedentary lifestyle looking for ways to increase your mobility, there are ways to encourage yourself to keep on track. Many watches and fitness trackers are a great tool to track steps, count calories burned, and allow you to compete with friends/family if you are a driven competitor. It is recommended that people take around 10,000 steps per day, and trackers are a great way to give you an estimate of your progress. If you respond well to group training rather than going at it alone, perhaps you could get together with friends, family, neighbors, or members of the community for group walks and activities. Trying out state forests, parks, and local trails may be a fun way to start.

Be easy on yourself when adopting any new lifestyle. Moving even a little bit is better than not moving at all – and keep in mind that you don’t have to be pouring sweat and out of breath to have done wonders for your health and wellbeing.

 

With love,

Brittany

 

 

 

Finding Balance to Promote the Most Vitality

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I believe that life is meant to be a journey of growth and evolution for everyone who walks this earth. We are all students throughout the entire course of our lifetime, and even the greatest teachers are never done learning. We will never have all of the answers, but by seeking out truths within ourselves, and striving for balance in our lives, our time here in our physical bodies can be lived with the most vibrance possible.

I am currently a student at IIN (The Institute for Integrative Nutrition). I went back to school to become a health coach because deep in my soul I believe that helping others to achieve health and happiness is my calling. My passion and desire comes from wanting to achieve these things in my own life, and we teach what we’re meant to learn. Few people have a perfectly balanced life, but by being a guide to help others take a look at the big picture and uncover the origins of their symptoms, together we are getting closer to harmony.

At IIN, we are taught about The Circle of Life. This consists of 12 areas that effect your vitality. These areas include:

  1. joy
  2. spirituality
  3. creativity
  4. finances
  5. career
  6. education
  7. health
  8. physical activity
  9. home cooking
  10. home environment
  11. relationships
  12. social life

By looking closely at these aspects and rating them on a scale from unsatisfied to satisfied, you will be able to see where you need to focus a little more of your time and energy.

To live your best life, we must strive for balance within all of these areas, so I highly encourage everyone to check in with yourself often. It is important to make note of any symptoms you are currently feeling. After you’ve completed your scale, consider your symptoms and your areas of least satisfaction. Could they be related? Do you notice any patterns?

For example, a client of mine is often tired, has troubling focusing, has an irritable bowel, and frequent headaches. Looking at her circle of life diagram, I see she ranks joy, social life, relationships, and home environment the lowest. Is it possible that there is trouble within one or more of her relationships causing these symptoms? This exercise requires honesty with yourself. Listen to what your body is telling you. Sometimes we don’t notice our underlying causes until they’re written down and spelled out for us.

Once you’ve completed this exercise. take action on the areas that need to be addressed. Like anything, this will take time, dedication, and love for yourself. But remember, you are worth it. Love yourself first and everything else will fall into place.

Wishing you only love and happiness,

Brittany

“Reeses” Peanut Butter Protein Bars

Let’s be honest about something. Most store bought protein bars are glorified candy bars disguised as health food. They are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients, highly processed, and some even contain unhealthy trans fats! Eating most protein bars is the equivalent to reaching for a snickers – and does that sound like a good weight loss or body building strategy? I think we can all agree – absolutely not.

With this knowledge, could there possibly be a way to enjoy a protein bar while not sacrificing taste or sabotaging our health goals? I am here to tell you, YES. The best way to achieve this is to make your own at home. This way, you can select the best ingredients, you will know exactly what you are consuming, they will be fresh, and will not contain any preservatives (anything on a store shelf contains some level of preservative ingredients). But, of course, always enjoy in moderation to reap the most health benefits.

I never want my family to feel deprived, but I also put our health at the top of my priorities. Finding ways to enjoy all food groups with my children will hopefully result in a healthy relationship with food and an understanding of what it means to care for ourselves from the inside out. I want to instill healthy ways of cooking, baking, and daily living in my children while they are young, because these early developmental years are crucial for establishing their habits and preferences as they grow into adulthood.

This recipe was inspired by my family’s love for sweet treats, my desire for convenience, and my constant quest for healthy alternatives. It has minimal ingredients and is super easy to make. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

 

To start, make the bottom layer.

Peanut butter Dough

Ingredients:

1 16 oz jar organic peanut butter (or any other nut/seed butter of choice)

¾ cup coconut flour

¼ cup raw stevia or 3 tsp stevia extract (I used powdered extract)

Method:

  1. Blend ingredients in a high speed blender
  2. Spread into a baking dish. (I used an 8×6.)
  3. Put in freezer to set while you make the chocolate.

 

Dark Chocolate 

Ingredients:

1 cup cacao butter

1 cup cacao powder

¼ cup raw stevia or 3 tsp stevia extract

1 tsp vanilla

(Note: this makes a bitter dark chocolate. Add more/less sweetener to your taste preference)

Method:

  1. In a double boiler, melt cacao butter.
  2. Add cacao powder and stevia. Mix well. Add vanilla.
  3. Remove pan from freezer, and gently pour chocolate over peanut butter evenly.
  4. Top with any extras you’d like – coconut, walnuts, fruit, cinnamon, etc.
  5. Place back in freezer until chocolate hardens.
  6. Cut into portion sized pieces and enjoy!

 

(I often enjoy mine broken up into pieces over a morning smoothie bowl. How will you enjoy yours?!)

 

Always remember, you have the power to take control of your health. Think of how your food is serving you. Thank you reading.

With love,

Brittany

The Greatest Gift You Can Give to Yourself

 

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I recently gave myself something that I desperately needed. Something I had been putting off for a while. With the encouragement and support of my husband, I gave myself the gift of time.

For me, this gift came in the form of a hiring a nanny. Our nanny provides me with some much needed weekday hours to myself, and enables my husband and me to get some time alone together as well.

I am a stay at home mom so wrapping my head around hiring a nanny seemed absolutely ludicrous at first. So many questions and judgements ran through my head at  – How much will this cost? Why do I deserve a nanny? Why can’t I manage this on my own? What will everyone think? Am I a bad mom? Will my kids be upset with me? But you know what? I put all of that aside. All of that noise in my head wasn’t reality. I have found that this decision has made me a better mom and a better person. I am more present, more patient, and softer with my children, and I know everyone will benefit from this choice in the end. The gift of time that I give to myself is ultimately the gift of more quality time for all of us when we are together. 

Before hiring our nanny I felt that my identity as an individual was long gone. I felt my only role was in the household – mom, caretaker, and wife. I absolutely love the role I play in my family, and I am extraordinarily grateful for it, but I need time for me.  I crave time to be creative, to learn, and to truly relax and recharge without distractions. Some of the things I do with my new found time are school work (I am studying Integrative Nutrition at IIN), podcasts, audiobooks, blog posts, quiet time to reflect, yoga, and the ability to get anything done that’s difficult to accomplish with two young children in tow.

These days we all wear many hats, and sometimes we have to remind ourselves to take those hats off. It’s so important to offer ourselves the time and space to take a deep breath, relax, and do things we love and things that simply make us feel good inside. If we don’t make our self care a priority, we will not have the opportunity to show up as our best selves. When we are run down, exhausted, or anxious, we (and the people around us) pay the price.

I think many of us have a tendency to view self care as selfish, but what is selfish about being kind to ourselves? There is a big difference between being self absorbed and having self love. Treat yourself like you would your child, your parents, or your best friend. Give yourself the advice you would offer them. Changing the vantage point will help remove all the judgements and fears getting in the way of taking care of yourself.

I wish we could all allow ourselves the gift of time. The world would be a much better place if we all took time to slow down, find our center, and focus on what really matters. For me, what really matters is my family. They deserve the best version of me possible, and each day I am taking steps toward that.

What will you do for yourself today?

Brittany

 

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Intentions for Year Thirty

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I turn thirty in a few weeks. For some, this number is scary, daunting, and depressing, but for me, I am truly excited and looking forward to this decade with an open mind and heart.

Many of my friends have already turned thirty, and instead of a eagerly looking forward to their special day, like they had done in the past, they completely dreaded it. When I observed this pattern, I decided that I was going to try to change their mindsets, while also reaffirming mine.

We recently celebrated three thirtieth birthdays at once, so I gave my friends an assignment to prepare beforehand. I asked them to write down their intentions for their thirtieth year, and we discussed our thoughts over dinner. I didn’t know who would actually do it, but to my surprise, everyone had something to say. The conversations that exercise sparked was really wonderful and eye-opening. It gave us insight into each other’s lives on a level we had never gone to before.

It’s so interesting what one question can unlock in a relationship. We learned so much about each other in minutes, and I gained a newfound appreciation for each of them in unique ways. Asking open ended questions and looking at a situation in a different light can makes all the difference. Saying, “I am turning thirty, my twenties are over, and I am getting so old” sounds so dispirited and sad, but saying, “I am turning 30! Here is a list of my intentions for my next decade and what I am going to accomplish” sounds so inspiring and optimistic.

Our minds are powerful and we cannot underestimate the abilities it has to impact our lives. We have the power to decide whether we will breed positivity and growth or fear and anxiety. We are not the result of our circumstances, but rather how we react. Growing old is inevitable, but many who reach a certain age start to focus on the negative instead on the positive, and in turn start looking backward instead of forward. Growing old needs to be celebrated more because the more years we are here, the more we learn to enjoy what life has to offer in more abundant ways.

I want to encourage everyone, no matter what your age, to come up with a list of intentions for your years ahead.

To get you inspired, here is mine:

  1. Take time to go outside and be in nature as much as I can
  2. Schedule phone calls with family and friends in my calendar and treat it as an important task
  3. Sing more
  4. Start creating content for my blog and stay focused on my end goal
  5. Just be me and put less pressure on myself in every day life
  6. Continue to make myself a priority, and schedule daily acts of self care
  7. Start morning pages and meditation to release anxiety and spark ideas
  8. Reduce social media usage
  9. If it’s not a “hell yes”, say no to invites
  10. Plan “Goddess” days with my favorite ladies to rejuvenate, inspire, and support each other  – I learned this term from Melissa Ambrosini 
  11. Stop judging myself and others
  12. Practice being more mentally present in my everyday actions and conversations
  13. Talk less, listen more
  14. Focus less on the future and more on the now
  15. Establish “no phone hours”  at home
  16. Stop caring how other people perceive me
  17. Avoid being defensive and try to understand alternate points of view
  18. Be kind to myself, especially in front of my girls

 

This is a lengthy list. It is in my nature to get excited about things and get carried away, but often times that leads to a loss of focus. While I listed many ideas, I am only working on a few at a time. I recommend starting with a few and growing it as you start to check off line items.

This is going to be a great! I hope you feel inspired and ready to make positive changes to improve your quality of life.

 

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Wish you health & happiness,

Brittany

Is Sleep Deprivation Effecting Your Ability to Thrive?

For most people today, life is very fast paced and overloaded. We have packed schedules, pressures to perform at work, pressures to perform at home, relationships to care for, and an overwhelming amount of information to process. How do we keep our heads from spinning off?

Society is moving at an unnatural rate, and to help manage this, we over consume in every possible way. We over consume food, drinks, alcohol, caffeine, artificial light, information, and life experiences. This may work in the short term, but if we constantly rely on outer sources to keep up going, we will eventually crash.

Lack of sleep has the potential to lead to weight gain, loss of mental clarity, depression, and an overall decline of general health. Many people are effected by sleep deprivation and aren’t even aware of it. Often times this is because what we interpret as “rest” really is not rest at all. Leisure activities, recreation, drinking, smoking, and watching television are not forms of true rest. We are in such a constant state of hyperarousal that our bodies and brains have forgotten how to do nothing. This hyperarousal has led to a dramatic incline in the use of sleep drugs, and millions of people suffering from insomnia, sleep apnea, and depression.

The best way to get better sleep is to be mindful of the choices you make throughout the day. You can limit your caffeine and sugar intake, eat a well balanced diet, exercise regularly, and avoid late night snacking. It’s also been shown that creating a peaceful environment does wonders to promote restful sleep. Some ideas are to paint your bedroom a calm color, diffuse soothing essential oils, replace your mattress, clean out clutter, remove electronics, reduce light with black out curtains or an eye mask. and reduce sound with a barrier under your door, such as a towel or white noise machine.

Another key factor in getting efficient rest is to decide on a regular bed time and stick to it. Having a bed time will reduce time spent doing things that can hinder sleep like binge watching tv, eating, or doing busy work, such as checking email and keeping active around the house. As bedtime approaches, try calm activities instead, like yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and, for some, reading works well too. These will all help relax your mind. Although there are people who claim they can function on 4-5 hours per night, 7-9 hours are highly recommended for optimal health and wellbeing. Knowing this, decide your bed time based on the time you have to wake up in the morning.

As you experiment with different methods of sleep and relaxation, I suggest you keep a journal of your results. Record the evening practices performed, the number of hours slept, the quality of sleep, your energy levels the next day, your overall mood, and any other information that may be relevant. Once you learn what works best for your body, you can align your habits to better suit your needs.

Getting on track to better sleep will take time and practice, but the positive effects will ripple across all areas of your life and you will love the results. Never underestimate the power of a good night sleep.

 

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Wishing you Health & Happiness!

Brittany

 

 

 

Clean Eating 101

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Clean eating is one of the simplest ways you can improve your health. But what is “clean eating” exactly? With so many theories on health these days, that is a very good question.

To eat clean is to consume foods that are closest their natural state. This may look different for each individual, but the goal for everyone should be to load up on fresh, whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limit sugar, highly processed/refined foods, alcohol, and sodium. Some people may choose to include animal products, but overall it is suggested to cut back on meat and dairy.

Here is an example of a clean eating shopping list:

  • apples
  • bananas
  • blueberries
  • strawberries
  • raspberries
  • pears
  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • tomatoes
  • avocado
  • romaine lettuce
  • arugula
  • kale
  • celery
  • cucumbers
  • peppers: red, yellow, orange, green
  • sweet potatoes
  • butternut squash
  • onions
  • cauliflower
  • quinoa
  • rice: brown, wild, jasmine, basmati
  • oats (steel cut or old fashioned)
  • Plant-based milk: almond, coconut, flax, etc.
  • nuts/nut butters: almonds, walnuts, cashews, brazil nuts, pine nuts, etc.
  • seeds/seed butters: pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, chia, flax, etc.
  • oil: olive, coconut, avocado, sesame, flax
  • pasture raised egg
  • pasture raised chicken
  • grass fed beef

I encourage you to buy organic when possible, but definitely focus on the “dirty dozen”. This includes:

  1. strawberries
  2. spinach
  3. nectarines
  4. apples
  5. grapes
  6. peaches
  7. cherries
  8. pears
  9. tomatoes
  10. celery
  11. potatoes
  12. sweet/hot peppers

 

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I recommend mainly shopping the perimeter of the grocery store. There is where you will find mostly everything you need, except maybe your oils, grains, nuts, and seeds. The isles can be dangerous because that is where much of the processed, packaged, sugar laden junk foods hang out.

If you are used to eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), this way of shopping may be an adjustment. Once you’ve taken your clean foods home, you may think to yourself, “what do I do with all of this?” Well, I am here to help.

Here are some meal ideas to inspire you on your clean and healthful journey:

Breakfast:

  • steel cut oats with nuts and blueberries
  • green smoothie with almond milk, spinach, cucumber, pear, apple, and banana
  • sprouted whole grain toast with almond butter and sliced banana
  • pasture raised eggs with sautéed spinach and tomatoes

 

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Lunch:

  • arugula salad with apple, walnuts, red onion, and avocado
  • quinoa with sliced almonds, shaved carrots, chopped kale, and olive oil
  • rice bowl with roasted butternut squash, brussel sprouts, and dried cranberries

 

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Dinner:

  • grass fed steak with sautéed peppers and onions
  • baked sweet potato, roasted broccoli, and baked chicken thighs
  • grilled tofu, brown rice, and sautéed spinach

 

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Cooking at home will definitely help promote a cleaner way of living. Knowing how your food is prepared in what is in it is crucial for staying on track with your health goals. You may even find you enjoy your food even more when you prepare it yourself! Take your time, enjoy the process, and don’t forget to infuse everything with the most important nutrient – vitamin L, love.

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With love and gratitude,

Brittany