Welcome to New Year Better You Boot Camp!
Each week, we're going to focus on 3 challenges. Some may seem big and some may seem small but they'll all add up to make you an even better version of yourself. This week, we're focusing on getting moving for 30 minutes every day, resetting our sugar cravings and reducing our stress and boosting our metabolism by exercising our soleus muscles. An in-depth explanation of all of these goals are below.
Don't forget to set your own goals too! I'm going to give you 3 goals each week but we all have things that we want to work on in life. What are 1 - 2 changes that you've been wanting to make? Create 1 - 2 goals that are specific, realistic and easily measured. A few examples are "I will skip dessert six nights per week.", "I will read one book per month" or "I will have coffee with a friend once per week." Notice how each goal is very specific so you'll know when you've hit your goal. Remember, this goal is all yours and can be anything that makes you happy.
Don't forget to write your goals on your tracker.
Let me know if you have any questions. Have a a great day!
Challenge #1: 30 Minutes Per Day of Moderate Intensity Activity
There are so many benefits of exercise that if we could bottle the effects and put them in one pill, everyone would be taking it! Exercise not only helps to improve our mood, energy, strength, bone density, cardiovascular system, brain health and memory but we also tend to sleep better! As if that's not enough, exercise helps to reduce stress, inflammation and our waistline.
Sometimes, we forget that our heart is a muscle. Cardiovascular activity is especially great at increasing the strength of our heart muscle!
This week, we'll work on building a habit of 30 minutes per day. You can break it into 10 minute chunks or accomplish it all at once. This will also get you one step closer to your daily step goal.
Since exercise is often the first thing to go when we get busy and stressed and it is also the very thing we need most when we get busy and stressed, this is our first assignment! Aim for 30 minutes per day of moderate intensity* activity like walking, running, biking or swimming.
*What's moderate intensity? Think of cardiovascular exercise on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 is super easy. 10 is an all out effort that you could not sustain for too long. Moderate is about a 5 to 6 on that scale
Sugar Detox! Reset Your Sugar Cravings.
Challenge #2: Reduce Added Sugar Intake to Less Than 24 g of Added Sugar*
Have you ever noticed that the more sugar you have, the more you want? This week we're going to reset our sugar cravings.
Why? We all know that if we consume too much sugar, we can gain weight. But, too much sugar has other effects on our body as well. Sugar has has been shown to cause inflammation in our bodies and tax our immune system. Studies have also linked too much added sugar to:
- Heart disease
- Worsening of conditions such as depression and anxiety
- Memory and learning difficulties
- Increase in triglycerides
- Lower levels of HDL
- Disrupted sleep
Sugar also tends to put us on a blood sugar roller coaster which causes our energy levels to go up and down. When we're in the low energy phase, we want more sugar. And, as if this isn't enough, sugar has even been shown to accelerate the aging process! Yikes!
In fact, a recent study in JAMA views overconsumption of added sugar as an independent risk factor not only for cardiovascular disease but also for diabetes, dementia and liver cirrhosis. Added sugar does not include naturally occurring sugars that we find in foods like fruit and milk. Rather, the study looked at added sugar in items like soda, candy and other added-sugar foods like bread and pasta sauce.
Why are we concentrating on added sugar? Naturally occurring sugar like the kind we find in an orange isn't as concerning because the orange is also packed with fiber, antioxidants and vitamins. All the good stuff in life!
Tips to reduce added sugar this week?
- One of the big questions I get is, "what do I do if I have a birthday party?" If you have a special occasion like a birthday and want to have a piece of cake, go for it and enjoy it. You can also reduce your portion size, not finish the whole thing or even skip it. I promise you'll still have fun at the party.
- Be on the lookout for sugar's code words on food labels. If it ends in an -ose, say adios. It's probably sugar. Here are a few other code names for sugar:
- Glucose Solids
- Maple Syrup
- Agave Nectar
- Invert Sugar
- Cane Sugar
- Cane Juice
- Corn Syrup
- Add some flavor to your water by tossing some fruit or cucumber in your water. If you like gadgets, there's a product called a Zinger to help you flavor your water on the go.
- Choose unsweetened cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, etc and add your own sweetener. You'll use much less than the food manufacturers will put in the item.
- Use spices like cinnamon, vanilla extract and cardamom to add flavor so you'll need less sweetener
- Craving dessert? Try some berries. If you really need something sweet, top your berries with some 70% or more dark chocolate which has less sugar.
- Are you using sugar as a reward? Notice if you're using a sugary treat as a reward for getting through a tough day or something else that you didn't want to do. If you do notice you're doing this, think of an alternate reward.
- Don't buy it. A great way to make sure you don't eat sugary items is to simply not bring them into your house. Then, you won't be tempted by that Klondike bar staring at you in the freezer.
Here's your challenge for the week. Since we all want to look and feel our best, our challenge is to consume less than 24 g of added sugar/day (1 tsp- 4 g.)*
*The latest proposed sugar guidelines from the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization.
Reduce Stress and Build Up Your "Secondary Heart".
Challenge #3: Become a Tree Every Day!
This challenge is simple but effective!
By doing tree pose each day, we're not only working to reduce our stress by focusing our minds for 5 - 10 breaths. But, we're also working to strengthen our soleus muscles. Why are our soleus muscles so important?
Our soleus muscles are often referred to as our "secondary hearts" because of their role in returning blood and fluid back to our hearts. Our sedentary lifestyles can often lead to these muscles weakening which allows pooling of fluid in our lower body. This not only reduces our RMR (resting metabolic rate) but can also impact how well our hearts can pump blood with each beat. This is because the amount of blood our hearts can pump depends on how much blood is being returned. A great way to strengthen our soleus muscles are with long-duration and low intensity exercises like tai-chi or yoga. So, tree pose is a great option!
Tree Pose is a balance exercise from yoga and is as much about our minds as our bodies. In order to stay standing, we need to quiet our thoughts. As you stand in tree, try to let any thoughts that come up simply be released when you exhale. In other words, find them interesting and then let them go so they don't distract you. Breathe in for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 4. Do this for 5 - 10 breaths. This is essentially a meditation.
A more detailed look at tree pose is here. I'll also include this link with each email this week so it's easy to refer to each day. Remember, you don't have to get changed to do a tree. You can do this in your normal clothes and any where. Enjoy being a tree!
Good luck with your 3 Challenges! Don't forget to check them off on your tracker.
I'll see you on Tuesday with your first exercise of the day!
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