Friday, April 29, 2016

Tips for Decreasing Your Cholesterol

Maybe you just heard from your doctor that your cholesterol is high and now you have to either take medications or try and bring it down before your next appointment. So, why is this important? Elevated cholesterol levels are just one of the risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Having too much cholesterol in the blood will lead to a build-up in the walls of your arteries.  This then leads to "hardening of the arteries" and subsequent slowing of the blood flow to the heart. If this blood flow becomes cut off by a blockage, you could find yourself with a heart attack.

Below, I have 5 tips to get you started on the journey to lowering your cholesterol with your diet!

Tip #1: Increase Your Fiber Intake
Not only does fiber fill you up, but it also binds to cholesterol and excretes it from the body. Aim for at least 25g per day if you are a female and 38g if you are a male. You can find fiber in foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. One thing to remember with fiber is to not go from eating only 5g per day to 25g day in one shot. Slowly increase your intake and drink lots of fluids to avoid any GI discomfort!

Tip #2: Opt for Healthy Fats
Everyone has been demonizing the fats and it is really the type of fat you want to be mindful of. Include more healthy fats like nuts, seeds and avocado, which contain the unsaturated fats that decrease inflammation in the body and also increase your HDL (good cholesterol).

Tip #3: Watch Trans and Saturated Fats
Trans fats are pretty well known for the negative effects on your health; however, the jury is still mixed on saturated fats. While new research shows that saturated fats don't necessarily increase your cholesterol, they also don't offer any benefits like the unsaturated fats do. You can find trans and saturated fats in baked goods, chips, fried foods and more.

Tip #4: Decrease Your Refined Sugar Intake
More and more research studies are showing a link between refined sugars and an increased risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association also found that sugar increases triglycerides in the body. The AHA recommends no more than 24g of added sugars per day for women and no more than 36g for men. This means watching out for the cakes, cookies, ice creams, and sugary beverages.

Tip #5: Make Time for Exercise
Exercise helps to increase your good cholesterol (HDL) and decrease the bad (LDL). It also helps with weight control and decreasing blood pressure. Aim for at least 30 minutes per day (if not more) and mix it up between the cardiovascular (biking, walking, running, swimming, etc) and resistance (push-ups, chest press, leg press, etc) exercises for the greatest benefit!
**As always, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Hopefully, you can find something in this list to start working on to help manage your cholesterol levels. Remember, the best way to start is by evaluating your current diet or exercise program and setting goals for improvement!

Resources: NIH

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Tips for Motivating Yourself to Lose Weight

How many of you reading this post have a general idea of what to do to achieve a healthy diet, yet still aren't doing it? Ever think about what is holding you back from jumping in and getting going? Maybe, you tend to start eating healthy and by the end of the week or even day you give up? I would say this sums up the majority of my clients. Recently, someone said to me, "I know I should eat more fruits and vegetables, I just don't do it." A lot of people simply lack the motivation to lose weight or improve their diet.

So, how do you get yourself motivated? Start by being honest with yourself. It is easy to convince yourself that you are eating enough vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins. Want to put this to the test? Keep a food diary for 1-week and see how your perception is measuring up to reality. If you are drinking enough water, eating at least 3 fruits and 4 veggies per day, limiting the refined/sugary carbohydrates and getting in lean proteins, then kudos to you :) If not, start by picking one aspect that you can change to improve your diet.

Going along with that, motivate yourself by really giving healthy eating your all. It is great to do small changes in order to break the bad habits; however, don't make changes that are so small you don't see any results. Minimal changes will only mean minimal results. Do you really think that will keep you motivated on your healthy lifestyle journey? Instead, go in strong and build the momentum that will push you through the rough patches. By really giving your best effort, you are more likely to see improvements and success faster, which will only motivate you to keep going. Also, those first few successes will really prove to yourself that you can do it. One thing to remember here, don't expect to give it your all and see results the next day. I always say to my clients, "You did not get to this point overnight. It is going to take time for you to get where you want to be." That being said, set small goals for yourself (monthly or even weekly) to keep pushing towards something positive.

If you feel discouraged throughout this journey, remind yourself, "Why am I doing this?" Maybe, it is to control your Diabetes, look better for the summer, feel good about yourself, have more energy, reduce knee pain...The list goes on and on. If you are only losing weight or changing your diet because your doctor told you to, stop now and think of one reason why it is important to YOU.

Everyone always says that you should find support when trying to lose weight or eat healthy. Now, this doesn't mean you need to go out and find a support group or pay money online. You can find support and motivation in friends, family, and even social media. Join groups on Facebook, follow healthy bloggers, look for other people in your shoes, create an Instagram dedicated to healthy living, etc. There are so many ways you can find the support you need to motivate you daily!

My last piece of advice for how to motivate yourself is to stop the negativity. Stop that train of thoughts that starts with, "I'm such a failure..." or "I'll never lose weight..." or "I'll never be as thin as I was back..." These statements are not productive and certainly won't motivate you. Change that negativity into something that is productive like, "I did not eat such a healthy lunch, but for my dinner I am going to plan better and have..." or "I did not lose weight this week, but I do have more energy from eating better..." or "I looked great in my 20s and am going to look great in my..." You are your biggest motivator and supporter, so don't let your inner demons sabotage your health.

Give yourself the best chance you can to succeed by really giving it your all. Build your momentum, get excited, and motivate yourself to start (or continue) on that healthy lifestyle journey!