Do you feel guilty about this?

You have so many demands on you. Your family relies on you for money, food, transportation, and a myriad of permission slips, bills and paperwork. You hardly get a moment to yourself at the end of each day, and even less now that school is back in session. It’s hard not to feel guilty about taking a moment to care for yourself.

From the moment that your day starts, with making meals, getting ready for work, and getting the kids to school on time and yourself to work on time, you have demands on you minute-by-minute. It’s easy to start feeling like there’s nothing left for yourself, even though the benefits of self-care are well known.

How important is self-care?

Every time that we board an airplane to jet to another city, we are reminded of the importance of caring for ourselves before attempting to care for others.

“In case of emergency, air masks will drop the ceiling. If you are traveling with a minor, please put on your own mask before helping the minor.”

The reasoning is simple: if you are not in good working condition (i.e. gasping for air) then you will not be as effective when attempting to assist others around you in getting their air secured.

This concept applies to everyday life, not just while soaring at 39,000 feet. Everyday you have the ability to put your air mask on first before assisting others. Now it’s easy to feel like putting your air mask on first isn’t even an option – since the dependents in your life are so good at making their needs known, and your own needs are quieter and easier to shove aside.

Let’s take this moment to assess what your self-care needs are…

Sleep: Getting adequate sleep is essential for good health, and doubly essential when you lead a busy, demanding life. Unfortunately, sleep is one of the easiest things to skip out on, as you attempt to get everything done each day.

A normal, healthy adult needs at least seven hours of consistent sleep each night in order to function well. And while allowing yourself time to sleep may feel like a luxury, remind yourself that it is a necessity.

Nutrition: Keeping your body well fed with nutritious meals throughout the day is another key component to functioning as your best self. Most of us tend to let meal-planning slide, in order to meet the immediate demands in front of us, and end up scrambling to piece together less-than-nutritious meals.

Making the habit to pack a few meals that are rich in protein and veggies doesn’t actually take that much time out of your morning, and the benefit is extreme. The funny thing about meal planning is that it ends up saving you time in the long run, since it removes the need to scramble around for food throughout the day. And the steady energy that you’ll experience once your body is being consistently fueled with good nutrition is priceless.

Hydration: The number of adults that are suffering from chronic dehydration is staggering. Part of the problem is that we are drinking fluids throughout the day that are filled with caffeine and calories rather than plain old water.

That plain old water is what your body really needs to thrive, so remind yourself that proper self-care includes making hydration a priority. You could jazz your water up by adding in a few slices of lemon, some fresh herbs or a piece of fruit.

Relaxation: Relaxation!?! What the…!? Here is where you may feel the urge to tune out of my little talk on self-care. How in the world are you going to find the time to relax with everything that you have going on in your life?

I know it’s not popular to talk about giving yourself time off to relax, but the benefits of reducing your stress levels are too huge to ignore. I want to suggest that you try the technique of relaxing throughout your day by giving yourself a mental break. This doesn’t mean that you walk away from your desk at work or skip out on your responsibilities, just that you consciously take moments throughout your day to focus on deep breathing and to clear any cluttered or stressful thoughts from your mind.

There is also something to be said for making a practice of relaxing when you do have time off from work. Rather than trying to do a million things on your day off, make the effort to take some of the time to simply be. Deep breathing and calming thoughts will do plenty to help reduce your stress level.

Exercise: Lol, yup. You knew this one was coming! Yes, exercise is self-care. Exercise is NOT indulgent, or optional, rather it’s absolutely necessary for taking good care of yourself. Some people will tell you that their exercise time is also their relaxation time, which might not make sense when you first hear it. But when you walk into your workout with the worries of your day on your mind, and you walk out with a clear mind and the incredible rush of endorphins then you’ll understand perfectly what they’re talking about!

And there you have it.  Take the time to consciously practice better self-care. Remember all of your loved ones who rely on you and your stamina every single day. You’re needed, and you owe it to them to keep yourself in the best shape possible.

Keep on keep’n on!

When the “Right Time” is RIGHT NOW

Why are you still waiting for the right time to get fit?

You are busy and hectic. Your family member is sick. Your job is demanding. You are focused on planning a big life event. Your kids are pulling you in a million different directions. You’re an emotional eater…and now is an emotional time.

There are a million and more excuses for why you haven’t made your body a priority…yet. At the back of your mind you believe that the day will come when you are ready to take action in getting back in shape.

But that right time hasn’t come.

Let’s be honest with each other right now. The right time to get fit won’t ever magically appear. There will always be another life event to navigate. There’s always going to be someone you know who is sick…and you’ll even get sick at times. You will always have a reason to emotionally eat, if you allow yourself that chaos.

So what’s the solution? Drift through life in a body that you aren’t happy with? Avoid mirrors and bathing suits and sleeveless tops? Comfort yourself with the thought that you’ll dial in your fitness one day…just not today?

I’d like you to consider that the right time to get fit is RIGHT NOW.

Not despite your current life challenges but BECAUSE of them.

How much more effective do you think you’ll be dealing with a busy schedule, sick relatives, big life events and active kids when you’re living in an energetic, functional, fit body? Loads more effective!

Consider your current challenges as reasons why you MUST get fit NOW rather than excuses as to why you CAN’T get fit now. I know you can do this. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Keep on keep’n on!

Is Afterburn Real?

You’ve probably heard that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) produces an afterburn effect, which means your body continues to burn extra calories at an elevated rate for 24 hours after the completion of your workout.

Sure that’s sounds amazing, but is it too good to be true?

The Science of Afterburn

There is a scientific term for afterburn: excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPEOC). This refers to the oxygen that your body needs to restore after a heart-pounding workout.

So afterburn is indeed real.

While you exercise your body needs fuel to keep your muscles firing, and this requires oxygen to transport the fuel into the muscles. This causes your metabolism to rev up to an elevated state during and after exercise.

Intense Exercise = Intense Afterburn

Studies show that there is a direct correlation between the intensity of your workout and the amount of calories burned during the afterburn period.

In order to get the most afterburn bang for your buck, you must push yourself to 70-85% of your max heart rate during your workout. The more intense your workout, the more bonus calories you will burn in the hours afterwards.

Intense and vigorous exercise keeps your body burning calories hours after the workout is through. And this is not the only benefit to HIIT workouts – there’s also the bonus of increased muscle tone, fat loss and an increase in your aerobic capacity.

Keep this in mind the next time that you push yourself through a workout. Remember that intensity pays off, and an HIIT workout has more proven benefits than a steady state cardio workout.

Cut back on sugar (28 day plan)

If you love sweets then you know how easy it is to eat more sugar than you should. You’ve probably had a doctor warn you to cut back and know that you have at least a few pounds to lose.

Candy, cookies, pastries, and other sweets are high in sugar, which is quickly and efficiently stored as body fat. And the more sugar that you eat, the more you crave it. It’s a rough situation for you and your sweet tooth, it’s as if your sweet tooth is against you ever meeting your summer body goal!

Don’t lose heart! It is very possible to gradually reduce the amount of sugar in your diet in a way that that’s painless and practical. I have a 28-day plan here to help you to cut back on sugar consumption without going crazy. By reducing the refined sugar in your diet you’ll experience an automatic drop in body fat – this means inches and sizes lost! Sound good? Here we go!

Cut Back Sugar: Week One

In this first week your goal is to get an accurate idea of how much sugar you are currently consuming. You’ll act as a reporter on your eating habits for a full week, recording down everything you consume.

This week is only for reporting. I don’t want you to change anything about your diet yet. Eat as you normally do, but tally sugar grams at each meal and snack. Yes, even your drink at the coffee shop and your wine or cocktail at dinner. Look up the sugar content of everything you consume and record it.

By the end of this week you will have a clear picture of how much sugar you are eating and which items in your diet are most sugar-filled.

Cut Back Sugar: Week Two

In this second week your goal is to eliminate liquid sugar. It is all too easy to consume large amounts of sugar in beverages, often without even noticing. You know which beverages in your diet contain sugar, from your reporting last week, so target and cut out these beverages.

Sweetened coffee drinks, smoothies, alcoholic beverages, sweetened sodas and teas should all be replaced with zero calorie options. Try liquid stevia for sweetening beverages without adding sugar, it has a more pleasing flavor than powdered stevia. Avoid super processed sweeteners like splenda or aspartame as these may cause bloating and cravings for more sugar.

In addition to focusing on removing sugary drinks this week, I also want you to focus on drinking lots and lots of water. Drink 8 ounces of water before, during and after every meal and snack.

Cut Back Sugar: Week Three

In this third week we are now going to focus on eliminating the food in your diet that contain refined sugars.

What’s great about this gradual approach to cutting out sugar is that over the course of the first two weeks, while you recorded your sugar consumption and then cut out sugary liquids, you likely found yourself instinctively beginning to choose items that are lower in sugar. That’s great! That’s going to make this week all that much easier as you begin to pass on those sugar-laden snacks and desserts.

This week target and eliminate the food items in your diet that contain refined sugars. These are packaged candies and snacks, dressings and sauces, desserts and sweetened yogurts. Read labels and check sugar grams. Swap these items out for naturally sweetened treats – sweetened with fruit or stevia.

Cut Back Sugar: Week Four

You are on the home stretch! As you enter week four you should already be noticing your clothes feeling a little looser, and your energy levels should be stabilizing. During this week I’d like you to once again record everything that you eat and drink. Tally up the sugar grams and take notice of anything that you’re still consuming that’s high in sugar.

This week should reinforce the healthy changes you’ve implemented and keep you accountable. If you find yourself really missing a certain sugar-filled item then look for healthier, low-sugar replacement foods to enjoy instead of reverting back to your old habits.

The key now is to maintain your new, low-sugar, habits. The first month is always the most difficult, as new habits are formed, so you’ve already done the hardest part! Going forward, whenever you find yourself getting hooked back on sugar then go through this four week process again to get back on track.

Now lets go get’er done!

Why did you do that?

Have you ever acted against your better judgment? Ummmm, of course you have. We all have. Sometimes you do things that you later regret. And this keeps you from achieving those fitness results you’ve been striving for.

  • You hit snooze rather than waking up early to exercise before work.
  • You blow off your healthy eating plan to indulge in a hamburger and fries.
  • You start an exercise program only to drop out two weeks into it.

These regrettable actions prevent you from achieving your goals and keep you stuck.

Most of us are all too familiar with this frustrating paradox. It’s almost as if there are two sides inside of you, raging war on each other. Your sensible side versus your emotional side. What you want versus what you do.

A psychologist named Jonathan Haidt came up with a mental model that explains exactly why you do things that you wish you hadn’t – and how to take control to finally do the actions necessary to get what you really want.

“The image I came up with for myself, as I marveled at my weakness [of willpower], was that I was a rider on the back of an elephant. I’m holding the reins in my hands, and by pulling one way or the other I can tell the elephant to turn, to stop, or to go. I can direct things, but only when the elephant doesn’t have desires of his own. When the elephant really wants to do something, I’m no match for him,” explained Haidt in his book, The Happiness Hypothesis.

Human decision making is like a tiny rider on a massive elephant. The rider may think he’s in charge, but the elephant’s will always wins. The Elephant, The Rider, and The Path are a great framework for understanding yourself and what drives you. All human change depends on it.

Here’s Haidt’s mental model for creating lasting change in greater detail…

The Rider: is your rational and analytical side. The Rider is a visionary that has the ability to think long-term, to plan, and that is willing to make short-term sacrifices for long-term payoffs. The Rider loves to contemplate and analyze, has limited reserves of strength, suffers from paralysis by analysis, and relentlessly focuses on problems rather than solutions. Most crucially, the Rider is so small compared to the six-ton Elephant that anytime they disagree about which direction to go, the Rider will lose.

The Elephant: is made up of your emotions and instincts. The Elephant prefers the comfort and security of a well-trodden path, even if a new path leads to a better outcome – this is why it’s so difficult to change your habits. The Elephant has enormous strengths: love and compassion and sympathy and loyalty. The Elephant is the one who gets things done.

The Path: is your surrounding environment, the context in which the Rider and the Elephant operate. A rocky Path makes change hard, if not impossible, even when the Rider and the Elephant work together.

There are three steps to lasting change:

  • Direct the Rider
  • Motivate the Elephant
  • Shape the Path

1) Direct the Rider:

Change begins with a plan, and it’s the Rider who comes up with plans. Direct your Rider to analyze what’s right, on what works. When you’ve lost weight and made progress towards your fitness goals in the past what worked for you? Focus on these bright spots rather than on potential problems related to your desired change. Once you’ve come up with a plan, move on. It’s important to move quickly and to avoid getting bogged down with paralysis by analysis.

2) Motivate the Elephant:

In order for the plans of your Rider to succeed, your Elephant must feel emotionally invested in the outcome. Find an emotional connection that you feel deep down in relation to the goal. Don’t just think about why you want to achieve your goal – feel why you need to achieve your goal.

3) Shape the Path:

Make change easy. Reduce obstacles in your life, so that the new desired behavior is frictionless. Move the barriers between you and the actions that you want to take. Lay out your workout clothes the night before. Spend time in the morning to prep all of your healthy daily meals. Get a trainer to hold you accountable to showing up to your workouts.

The key to effective change is getting the Elephant and the Rider moving together on a smooth path to success. Do this and you’ll stop doing things that you later regret.

Keep on keep’n on!