As a trainer, I am constantly coming across new "fun" exercises and healthy recipes, but what is the use of learning all this great info if I don't share it? So, in February I wrote a "favourite things" blog (for a mantra to keep you on your "health horse," read tip number four). I had such fun compiling February's list that I decided to write a "favourite things" blog regularly.
This month's list is very summer-centric; the things that made the cut -- including my yummy protein popsicles -- are in honour of our current beautiful weather!
Now -- drum roll please -- my list...
1. Favourite healthy summer snack: Protein popsicles.
I love Fudgsicles -- I mean I LOVE them -- but since they are sadly not exactly made of broccoli, I try to limit my consumption.
To give me the feeling of having a fudge bar without the artificial additives and nutritiously vapid calories, I make proteins pops. Instead of having a shake post workout, I have a yummy and ice cream-esque hit of protein!
I usually blend ice with protein powder, almond milk, and maybe half a frozen banana, but feel free to throw in anything you want; try cocoa nibs, almond butter, flax, or frozen berries. A client swears by almond extract -- she says it makes her pops taste like cookies. Experiment and see what works for you!
2. Favourite way to improve my mood: Walk or run outside.
Simply moving will put an extra pep in your step -- exercise itself has mood-boosting effects. Plus, the sunshine has added mood-enhancing benefits. The amount of serotonin (the neurotransmitter that affects our mood) our brain produces is directly related to how much daylight we are exposed to.
I like to think of running outside as my instant "happy pill."
Amp up your walks or runs with fartlek intervals. After a five-minute warm-up pick a random landmark -- such as a stop sign -- and speed up until you get there. Recover and repeat until it is time to go home or you get to your destination.
3. Favourite and most appropriate words of summer wisdom; Respect the power of the sun!
Yes, the sun has mood-boosting effects, but the heat can be debilitating and dangerous!
Solution? Be sun smart AND active!
- Avoid the heat of the day; be active early in the morning or after dinner.
-Wear light clothing and -- this should go without saying -- a hat and sunscreen.
-Listen to your body. Stop if you feel overheated or dizzy. Don't be too stoic -- the heat of the day is not the time to push through discomfort.
4. Favourite thought of the summer: Ditch the war metaphors. Instead aim to "trend positive."
Wars end. Your health process does not.
For the most part we use aggressive language to talk about health and weight: "Fighting the battle of the bulge" becomes about going to "war" with one's body. The problem is, the discourse of "weight loss as war" does not set anyone up for long-term success. If you launch a full-on assault on your body, it will inevitably fight back.
The language of war simply reinforces the unhealthy assumption that weight loss has to be aggressive to be effective, and that losing weight or adopting a healthier lifestyle, like a battle, has an eventual end date.
Instead of aiming to "win a battle," I suggest you aim to have more healthy habits this month then you did last month. Aim to "trend positive."
The experiences of the Biggest Loser contestants are a perfect -- albeit extreme -- example of this problematic war-and-weight discourse. Virtually all of the Biggest Loser contestants regain any weight lost after the completion of the show. Of course the contestants' metabolism and hormonal profile react negatively -- Biggest Loser contestants are expected to suffer through seven plus hours of exercise on a low-calorie diet. Exercise stresses the body; it is only a positive stress in appropriate doses -- and only then when you give your body the tools (like food and rest) it needs to recover. Most athletes don't even train seven hours a day. When they do, they mitigate the damages of intense training by periodizing their workouts (cycling through different types of training) and recovering appropriately. The Biggest Loser contestants train like athletes without recovering like athletes. They go to war with their bodies. Of course their bodies fight back.
The aggressive methods contestants used to lose weight are perfect examples of what not to do; they are unhealthy and ultimately unproductive.
When you buy into this battle-the-bulge-at-all-costs mentality, you risk actually missing the huge health benefits of exercising and eating well. Exercising regularly and consuming a nutritionally dense diet have merit, regardless of weight lost. Building muscle produces a cascade of positive health effects; muscle helps you preserve the health of your cardiopulmonary system (heart, lungs, and circulatory mechanisms), positively affects your metabolism, helps to sustain the mineral density of your bones, aids in retaining a healthy blood glucose tolerance, improves functional fitness and athleticism, increases energy, and improves mood and sleep quality.
Everyone should prioritize movement, but not everyone needs to lose weight to become healthier.
If you need to lose weight for your health, aim to lose weight. But don't let the process turn into a full-on assault against your body -- it is the only body that you have.
This summer embrace the fact that it will take time to negotiate and foster new habits and build healthier preferences. Health is a long-term process. Persevere.
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