Thursday, January 3, 2013

Holidays Are Over, Now What.

The hustle and bustle of the holidays draw to a close and, if you are anything like me, you have a messy house, kids in pajamas taking up space on the couch, and/or are dreading the fact that you have to start a 5-day work week on Monday.  Not to mention, you look at the scale as your enemy.  How much of that holiday cheer has left pockets of reminders on your thighs, hips, butt, and stomach?  It might bug you a little that the scale is impartial: sitting there waiting to tell you the truth but not caring one way or the other about your emotions.  In the end, that scale is not a friend of yours, just as much as it is not your enemy.  It doesn't judge you, deny you of anything, or even lie to you.  It is just a tool to remind you to get on track again, that's all.

Well, first thing is first, start slowly.  Most people put off exercising until the madness is over.  Who can blame them? December is a very busy month.  There are endless birthdays and/or anniversaries, 4 major holidays, 2 or 3 other holidays for a small percentage of the population, a few engagements here and there, a dozen parties to attend, and less than 23 real shopping days until Santa shoves himself down your chimney.  On top of all of that, you still have to work, clean house, and be able to muster enough energy to be who you need to be.  So start off slowly.  Remember to stretch right after getting out of bed.  Try doing 5 -10 minutes of light cardio per day until it becomes easy (usually 7-10 days).  Add weights to your cardio sessions and increase the duration slowly.  Your goal is to work up to 60 minutes of moderate exercise per day at a minimum.  Getting there should take 6 - 8 weeks.  A total of 90 minutes of total exercise is ideal; switching the routine up daily and cutting the time in half or thirds.  Day one might include walking your dog in the morning and cleaning the house in the evening. Day two might include swimming or basketball, day three might be spent at the gym or in front of a workout video, and so on.  Switching it up fatigues the body more, which is actually a good thing.  It will increase muscle tone, burn more fat, and improve heart health.

Slowly work back in vegetables in your diet.  Ultimately, your meals should be 3/4 plants, 1/4 protein, 1/4 everything else.  Eating two salads per day is the way to go for the busy person.  Loading up a salad with all sorts of vegetables and lentils will do just fine.  Adding meat or cheese (not both) to the salad will also meet these requirements.  Veggie sandwiches, vegetable stir fry, meatless spaghetti, and other heavy vegetable dishes also do the trick. I always tell people that they can eat whatever they want, if they eat it with or along side vegetables.  I also tell people not to worry about bananas, avocados, seeds, and other "fattening" plant foods. It is a common theory that ALL fats are bad.  But recent science has suggested that animal fats are the main culprit to inflammation and cardiovascular disease.  In the holistic medical field, eating a variety of plants provides a healthy assortment of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and phytosterols which ward off diseases like diabetes and even cancer.  On this note, avoiding canola oil, vegetable oil, and animal grease is a must.  Opt for safflower oil, sesame oil, or coconut oil for cooking.

Lastly, take it easy.  The most important thing you can do for yourself is to compress the stress.  Exercise will help tremendously, but also add some meditation in your routine.  Listen to soothing music or soundscapes while imagining yourself sitting on the beach or in the middle of a beautiful forest. Do this at least once per day for a minimum of 5 minutes.  Being where you want to be instead of where you have to be will relax your body, your mind, and most importantly, your spirit.                          

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