Tuesday, October 16, 2012

31: a little flax in your life

I have fallen off the 31 days wagon. I apologize for that!

This week I want to share some nutrition and food related tips. Maybe I'll actually get more than three posts up for the week too.

If you read health or nutrition magazines or articles, you may have heard of flax or flaxseed. Or maybe you haven't.

Flax is a small seed that is sold whole or ground (flaxmeal). I buy mine whole in bulk and then grind in small amounts in my Magic Bullet.

Three reasons why you should add flax to your diet. (from Dr. Oz)

Flax is a great source of fiber, and there is a strong possibility your diet is lacking in fiber.

Flax is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and again--most of us don't get enough of this essential nutrient. Your body cannot make omega-3's, you must consume them. Omega-3's are part of the anti-inflammatory system in our body--and with cold and flu season coming up, you want your system working well!

And lastly, flax contains lignans which reduce the risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.

Two tablespoons of ground flax a day is a perfect dose. I typically mix flax into my morning oatmeal (after the oatmeal is cooked). You can also add it to a smoothie or yogurt; sprinkle it on your salad or mix it into sauces. Add it to cookies, pancakes or other baked food. There are so many options.

When my kiddos were babies and toddlers and were constipated (which happened a lot it seemed) I'd mix a little ground flax in with their baby food. It has a slightly nutty flavor but you get used to it. I buy golden flax because I think it has a little better flavor.

Give it a try and tell me what you think! You might want to start with a tablespoon and increase over a week or two to two full tablespoons.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

31 Days: Find a Friend

You've heard it before, accountability is key in a multitude of areas.

We are social beings. Wired for relationship, motivated by community. I could link to all sorts of studies and facts. But I don't think I need to. Because you know.

If you want to making activity, movement, exercise, a regular part of your life: find a friend or a community. And if you don't feel like you have people around you who have similar goals, recruit some.

My sisters are some of my greatest accountability partners. They too want healthy eating and regular exercise to be part of their life. One of my sisters and I used to text each other early in the morning to make sure we were up and moving to start the day. There was something about going to bed knowing your sister would be texting you at 5:30 or 5:45am to see if you were up. Sure, sometimes I'd ignore the text or mute my phone in the middle of the night. But usually, I was already up.

One of my favorite things about my iPhone is group texting. Currently my two sisters and my sister-in-law and I have an ongoing texting conversation about our daily exercise and eating. Sometimes when it's late at night and I know I don't need to eat, but I want to eat--I text my sisters, and the mere confession stops me from putting food in my mouth.

I have participated in communities on various fitness and health website to keep my motivated. I've found people to follow on Twitter who are runners or love Jillian or Insanity like I do. There are Facebook groups, and even Instagram hashtags to help you recruit a new community.  There really isn't any excuse for not having accountability.

Just put yourself out there. You aren't bragging or showing off. You are using the power of community to reach a goal. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

31 days: a monthly goal

We are on a 31 day journey to a healthier you and healthier family. I'm sharing simple tips and ideas for change in your daily life. This week the focus is on fitness, exercise and activity.

Have you been planking this week? I've become successful with planks on my hands (which is especially good for arms & shoulders too). But this week I switched back to planking on my forearms, and wow---it's like I'm starting at the beginning again. Sunday night I did 1 minute and last night I did 1 minute and 15 seconds. By the time I'm done, I'm breaking into a sweat and it takes all my willpower to hold those last several seconds.  I'd love to get to two minutes by the end of the week!

So today, my challenge for you is to set a monthly activity goal. When we think of exercise routine, we usually think in terms of "times per week" or "30 minutes per day." But sometimes, life gets crazy and a week goes by with very little activity. Then you are discouraged and feel like it's pointless to get back into the habit because something else will come up and thwart your efforts again.

Even though running and exercise are vital to my mental and emotional well-being, and so I keep it as a priority--there still are weeks that I don't get as much done as I'd like.

Over the summer, one of my favorite bloggers started setting monthly mileage goals for herself. I thought it was a pretty ingenious way to keep exercise as a priority. Some of her miles are walking, some of them are running. Some with a stroller, some on her own. A few were even barefoot.

Having a monthly goal might be more manageable. So what if you have a crazy week? Just keep working towards your monthly goal. It may mean fitting in extra miles or time the next week--but when you see your totals getting close to your goal, you may be extra inspired.

Where to start? How about with 20 miles in a month? That's 2.5 miles a week. Totally doable. Walk around the park while your son or daughter is practicing soccer. Walk to the park or library instead of driving.

If walking or running isn't your thing, how about 10 appointments with Jillian in a month? Or 10 trips to the gym.

We are just over a week into October. So what if you set a goal for the next 3 weeks? Or just the last two weeks of the month?

Go on. You can do it. Believe in yourself!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

31 days: plank it out

Well, I've missed the last few days of the 31 Days series, but such is life and with 1200+ bloggers participating, I'm sure I'm not the only one.

So instead of cramming extras in, let's just start fresh for this week.  I'm sharing easy tips for a healthier you and a healthier family.

This week I'm going to focus on the fitness side of health. Don't worry, nothing too crazy or difficult. I know what you're thinking, the crazy, double-stroller pushing mama runner is going to tell me to register for an ultra-marathon.


Today's tip is: do a plank a day.


For 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute. However long you can hold it.

Then do ONE again tomorrow and try to hold it for a little longer.

A plank is a fantastic whole-body exercise that you can bust out anywhere, anytime. Now you're probably not going to plank out in the cereal isle at the grocery store.

But how about a commercial break during your favorite evening show? Or one in each room of the house as you go about cleaning up. Close the door to your office and bust it out during your workday, bust out a few!

The plank will work your arms, shoulders, back, abs, glutes (butt), legs and more.  I have given up crunches and sit-ups. I don't know if I'll ever do them again. They strain my neck (a weak area for me) and I have split ab muscles (diastasi recti) from pregnancyx3 and crunches and sit-ups are the worst thing I could do. Planks are my BFF.

Here's proper form for a plank.

You want a straight line from your shoulders down your legs. Keep your butt pulled down and focus on engaging your core. If you feel the need to push your butt up, then drop the plank---you're getting too tired.

There are a thousand variations of the plank. But just start with a simple plank. Having a strong core is one of the most important  things for our bodies. Not just for exercise purposes, but general life function.

So, get to it. And report back here! (I bet your kids will do this one with you too. Or challenge your spouse!)

An update for you: I have not had any of my favorite frosty goodness in 7 days now.  That's easily the longest stretch in a few years. The first part of the week was pretty easy, but later in the week I was really wanting some. It killed me to drive through In-n-Out and not order a Diet Coke. But I did it. And I'm happy about it. Onward ho!

Now, I'm going to plank it out and see how long I last.  This week: no frosty goodness, and a plank a day.

Let's go!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

31: No poo + a little honey

Last night I wasn't home, so I didn't end up posting. So today you get two quick tips instead of 1!

First tip is: get rid of your shampoo!! Did you know the main ingredient in shampoos and soaps that makes them "suds" is sulfate? And sulfate is very drying! We have been programmed to think "the more bubbles, the cleaner I'm getting." But in fact, the more bubbles, the dryer your hair may become.

Several years ago I read Curly Girl and was surprised to learn this little secret about shampoo. By nature, most curly hair is dry, so regular shampoo is a big no-no. The book talks about a "no-poo" method that involves "washing" with conditioner (that also is sulfate free if possible) or sulfate-free shampoo.

Even if you don't have curly hair, you may find this information useful. I have used a few different sulfate-free shampoos. I think even some basic brands of shampoo are coming out with sulfate-free versions. I know I've seen them on the shelf, but I don't remember which brand. If you think about it, our hair doesn't get that dirty and most hair products are water soluble.

I use sulfate-free shampoo maybe once a week. I do break down and use a dandruff shampoo from time to time because I get dry scalp that flakes. (If I have time, I make an exfoliant with brown sugar and shampoo and rub it into the dry spots in my scalp and this works really well too.)  When I wash my hair, it's typically with Suave Naturals Conditioner.

I also use this product on my kids hair. I hardly EVER use shampoo on their hair. Unless maybe it's full of sand.

And now, your next tip.


It's like food for your hair. Full of vitamins, minerals and adds moisture to your hair. My sister actually uses honey to wash her face.

So what you do, is keep a cup in your shower. And a jar of honey. Make sure it's real honey, not honey colored fructose syrup.  Fill up the cup with warm water from the shower and put a squirt or two of honey in it. Stir it up a bit with the handle of your razor.

At the end of your shower, pour the warm honey water on your clean and rinsed hair. I usually pour a little bit over the top of my head, then flip my hair down and pour the rest over that way.

Someday I'll do a whole series on curly hair! I do a lot of funny things. But it works. Especially since carrying and nursing three babies sucked the life out of my hair!

And there you have it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Day 2: You put the lime in the coconut

Today's post is going to be short and sweet. And I'm not going to link anything, haha!! Maybe later :) It's a doozy of a school week and add in kids and sports and practices and life and I'm barely hanging on. But all is well. We will get through.

Today's tip on a healthier you is COCONUT OIL.

Coconut oil is good for a variety of things. Right now I primarily use it in my bathroom. My mom always has a supply, and I have a little jar I put some of hers in every month or two. I've been using coconut oil as my nightly moisturizer for some time now. I also will use it in my hair before I go to bed. When I wake up in the morning and wash my hair, it's extra soft and shiny and the curls are really healthy.

A friend from college recently posted on her holistic health page how she washes her face with coconut oil and a warm washcloth--no soap or anything. And her skin glows!! I am now going to start doing this. I've read before about oil cleansing, but it involved mixing a few different types of essential oils I didn't have on hand, and have yet to purchase. My skin tends to be dry, but it's also a little blemish prone so I'm curious to see how this works in the long run.

I have decided it's time to purchase my own coconut oil and begin to use it in the kitchen. All oil has a smoke point--the temperature at which it begins to smoke, and change it's structure. The right oils are good for you in the right quantities, but putting oil in your system that's altered from it's original form may not provide the same benefits.

We typically cook with olive oil. I often use olive oil in baking as well as it's a poly-unsaturated fat (this is a good thing). But I'm ready to give cooking with coconut oil a try. I've heard a few people involved in nutrition say it's one of the only oils they will heat in their kitchen because of it's high smoke point.

So, what do you think?? Will you give coconut oil a try?

(and yes, I did give you one link--gotta hook a friend up, ya know?)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Day 1: bye bye sweet nectar

Welcome to Day 1 of my 31 Days posts.  I will be linking each day to my original post. This month I'll be writing about 31 Days to a Healthier You (and family).  I will share small, easy, sensible changes you can make to better the overall health of you and your family.

This first post is actually what inspired my topic for the series. In playing around with various ideas, I wasn't sure I could land on one that would be "do-able" for this season in my life. Then this morning I was working on assignments for my nutrition class (I'm in my first semester of nursing school) and was feeling convicted once again on an area in my life and it hit me---this is my 31 Days. Implementing things I'm learning, things I've already known and encouraging you to do the same. Some changes I've already made, some are in process. And some began today.

It's 10:04pm and I haven't had even a sip of Diet Coke today. I don't drink Diet Coke everyday. But almost everyday. And sometimes everyday for several days in a row. I blame my parents and their TAB drinking turned Diet Coke drinking habits when I was young. It was all we ever had in the house, so when I reached my teen years and they allowed me to make more of my own nutritional choices--I started drinking Diet Coke.

Then I went to college where Diet Coke was available from a fountain, several hours a day. And I had a reusable mug that was probably 20oz. I confess that I'd go to 8am classes with Diet Coke. I didn't drink coffee regularly then.

I've always struggled with weight, so Diet Coke was a great way to put something in my mouth and my stomach that had no calories. And I'm pretty sure it's addictive. It's known as "sweet nectar of the gods" and "frosty goodness" in our house. Yes, I got my husband addicted to it too. A few years ago McDonald's started selling their 32oz drinks for $1 or less, and they have the BEST carbonation mix in their sodas. Not good for the Diet Coke addiction.

But today I was doing research for a short paper on sugar substitutes. I've eliminated almost all sugar substitutes from my diet and my families as well. For a few years now I've KNOWN Diet Coke needed to go too. For multiple reasons. I know it's not good for me overall and I don't want my kids drinking it, so I need to stop. They are old enough to know and talk about it and ask for drinks and sneak drinks. I don't want my kids addicted to Diet Coke.

I happened upon this little article. Now, I know it's not scientific. But I know that I (and other frosty-goodness addicts in my family) have experienced some of the things cited in this article. I've read various articles over the past few years saying basically the same kinds of things.

Often I crave actual sugar with my Diet Coke or after drinking it. I am super thirsty all day. I drink so much water. I hate that I wake up at night to pee because I drank too much water before bed. (this may or may not be related to Diet Coke. I may just be a water freak, which is better than a Diet Coke freak). All my years of consuming Diet Coke has not necessarily helped me lose weight.

I cringe to confess that I drank Diet Coke during a few of my pregnancies. I figured if the caffeine in a cup of coffee was safe, so was the caffeine in the soda. But, I didn't think much about the aspartame and that it probably was passing to my babies.

So bottom line, I'm done. For reals. And this 31 Day exercise is going to help me with it.

Here's my question for you. What in your diet do you know isn't good for you and you can't seem to give it up? Now sugar or fatty foods or something broad isn't what I'm looking for here. Try to be more specific. Do you drink a sugar-loaded fancy coffee drink every day? An energy drink? A donut every morning? Maybe a super-processed food that has a ten year shelf life.

Day 1 is all about owning it and saying adios to it. And perhaps finding a healthier substitute.

This is my savior when it comes to not drinking Diet Coke.

Vons is less than 5 minutes from my house (it may be called Safeway in your area) and they sell naturally flavored seltzer water that has no sweeteners or sodium in it. It's fizzy, cold and has a slightly sweet flavor. Multi-berry and Mandarin Orange are my favorite flavors. I plan to keep plenty on hand to counteract my Diet Coke cravings. Often, I'm just looking for something cold and fizzy to drink.

If you don't have Vons or Safeway in your parts, you can probably find this at Target or Wal-Mart.  Arrowhead flavored Sparkling Water. These bottles are bigger than I prefer, but I've been known to buy them. As well as Perrier lime sparkling water.

So there you have it. Tomorrow I'll be back with another small change you can make for a healthier you.

I'd love to hear in the comments what you are considering giving up.

31 Days (and links to all my posts)

31 Days Posts:

Bye Bye Sweet Nectar

You Put the Lime in the Coconut 

No Poo and a Little Honey

Plank It Out

For the last week or so I've been seeing talk of The Nester's "31 Days" series. It seems to be an annual thing that bloggers participate in. You choose a topic and write a short post each day in October on that subject. I enjoy participating in these types of things and it's a good creative outlet as well.

I've been thinking on and off of what I might write on. Being that I'm in nursing school and have three kids and try to work part-time too, I don't have a lot of time to research or compose complex posts.

This morning as I was doing a short research paper for a nutrition class, an easy but meaningful topic hit me! The last few years, my interest in health and nutrition for myself and my family has increased. Part of this has been due to becoming a runner and reading a lot on running, which leads to exercise and nutrition topics as well.

Slowly, I've been making small changes to my own health and nutrition, and my families as well.

So, without further ado I present to you:

31 Days to a Healthier You & Healthier Family

These will be small, simple things you can do for the good of your body. They will be varied and usually inexpensive.

Let me preface this also by saying, by no means are we an extremely healthy family. We eat things we "shouldn't." We have bad habits. We are busy and sometimes lazy. BUT, we are trying. I am trying. I don't have the money or the time to make huge changes. But instead of being overwhelmed by the enormity of health and nutrition info out there, I just pick small things to work on.