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Give Me An “M”!

How to Stay Motivated 

Day to day it becomes difficult to keep motivated toward your health and fitness goals. You are not alone. So, below is a list of suggestions that might just trigger that “ah-ha” factor. Remember, it’s an 80/20 rule. Keep on track 80% of the time and indulge a bit 20% of the time. Everything in moderation. It’s about a healthy lifestyle, not a diet.

  1. A friend of mine, and co-soccer coach, recently put his current weight and % body fat on the screen saver of his iPhotoddne. He realized it’s the thing he looks at most often every day. It’s his motivation to improve. FACT: People look at their phones, on average, 110 times a day.
  2. Schedule a regular workout routine…and don’t let anything get in the way. Often when you say “maybe I will do it later” without a committed time to exercise, it is very easy to get wrapped up in your day and run out of time. Schedule it on your calendar and make it happen.
  3. Set yourself a goal with a deadline. Whether it’s a wedding, an event or a reunion, set a goal on what you want to achieve by that date. It can be lose 10 pounds, go down a dress size or gain more definition in your arms. “The difference between a dream and a goal is a deadline.”
  4. Chart your progress. This can be lifting heavier weights week to week, longer mileage on the treadmill, extra workout or weight lost. Literally keep track of your accomplishments. Look at it as a daily reminder of how you are kicking ass.
  5. If weight loss is your goal…lift the weight you lost. Or want to lose. It’s a literal way to show yourself how much extra weight you were or are carrying.WW
  6. Put a motivational quote or picture on your mirror or desktop. Something that really resonates and keeps you on track. Note mine to the right ->
  7. Get a fitness device. Whether it’s the FuelBand, FitBit or a pedometer, set yourself a goal to hit and hit it every day. Then try to beat it. It’s like having a trainer in your pocket (or on your wrist). For more information on devices, check out our blog entry under “devices”.
  8. Only check the scale once a week (I think Fridays are a choice day). This keeps you in check throughout the week and gives you something to look forward to in seeing your progress.
  9. Think about how hard you pushed yourself in your workout – do you really want to give up all that hard work for a bag of chips? Don’t let the chips win.
  10. Track your monthly costs for your gym membership, trainers and classes you attend. Let the number be a reminder of how much you have put into your health. Seeing that investment is a really good motivator to not let that money go to waste.
  11. Make yourself accountable. Announce publically what your intentions are: I am going to run a 5K, I am going to fit into my skinny jeans by April, I am going to cut sugar out of my diet. If you participate in Lent – this is a great time to commit to something (starts March 5th). For me, it’s giving up the chips and night snacking. Damn. Now it’s out there.
  12. Think about how awesome it feels after a workout. Stress is relieved, you think more clearly, you feel accomplished, you feel strong and anything becomes possible.
  13. Momentum. It’s a scientific fact – something in motion tends to stay in motion. Momentum builds quickly and can lead to great results. Suddenly, you’re not only working for the goal, but also to keep your streak alive.
  14. The “wow” effect. Think how powerful you will feel when you run into someone you haven’t seen in a while and they gawk at how good you look. Or, hell, even a stranger.
  15. MUSIC. There is no doubt there is a song that will get you going. Or a playlist. Put it on…and let it psyche you up. Music changes everything.

Keep this list for reference and feel free to add more. We love to hear your thoughts.

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Boost Your Mood With Food

imagesMost of us are aware, at least on some level, that what we eat can affect our mood.  However, we generally don’t understand why or how.  There are many different avenues in which our food consumption can affect our mental health, but the primary physiological explanation is neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters are the chemicals in our brain that regulate mood and behavior, and they are affected by our food intake.  Some of the most important neurotransmitters are serotonin, dopamine and endorphins.

  • When the brain makes serotonin, we tend to feel happier and more relaxed and are less likely to suffer from mood swings and depression.  Serotonin is also linked to feelings of satiety and satisfaction – which is very important when trying to avoid overeating or emotional eating.
  • High levels of dopamine are related to feelings of pleasure.  And, dopamine also helps with appetite control, focus and muscle coordination.
  • Endorphins, possibly the most well known neurotransmitter, are associated with euphoria and can act as natural painkillers.

Below are some of the foods that aid in the production of these and other neurotransmitters and have been shown to boost mood and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. 

Dark Chocolate:  There are scientific reasons why you feel happy after eating chocolate and one is called anandamide.  This is a neurotransmitter produced in the brain that temporarily blocks feelings of pain and depression.  It is also believed that other chemicals in chocolate slow down the breakdown of this chemical, so it stays in your system longer allowing the ‘happy’ feelings to last.

Additionally, serotonin and endorphins are released when chocolate is eaten.  And, if all of this is not enough, chocolate also contains magnesium, which helps the body manufacture serotonin, that all-important calming brain chemical.

Bananas:  Bananas are rich in tyrosine, which is needed by your body to make dopamine, a natural chemical that boosts your mood.  They are also rich is B vitamins, especially B6, which helps sooth your nervous system.  And they are a good source of magnesium, another nutrient associated with positive moods.

Complex carbohydrates:  Foods such as whole-wheat bread, pasta, oatmeal and brown rice are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to serotonin in the brain. Other nutrient-rich carbohydrate choices include starchy root vegetables (such as sweet potatoes and corn) and legumes.

Foods Rich in Omega-3:  Coldwater fish, (such as wild salmon and mackerel) walnuts and sunflower seeds, support healthy function of the brain and nervous system and have been shown to elevate mood and reduce anxiety and depression.  Some studies have shown that omega-3 fats can be as effective as anti-depressant medication in treating depression.

Dark Green Vegetables:  Vegetables like spinach, asparagus and broccoli are all high in folate, a B vitamin, that is needed in the brain for the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine. One Harvard Medical study found that raising the level of folates in the diets of depressed patients helped improve their mood. 

Avocados:  Healthy fat like that those found in avocados helps raise dopamine levels and increase endorphins.

Purple Berries:  Anthocyanins are the pigments that give berries like blueberries and blackberries their deep color. These antioxidants aid your brain in the production of dopamine.

Probiotics:  These have been shown to improve mood.  Our bodies have serotonin receptors in our gut, and an imbalance in good and bad bacteria can disrupt the production/reception of serotonin. Probiotics keep levels of bad bacteria down. You can find probiotics in yogurt, cottage cheese and some cereals.

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