Daily junk food or weekend binge?

Are Weekend Binges as Harmful to Gut Health as a Regular Junk Food Diet?

 

junk food

Eating healthily during the week and filling up with fast food over the weekend is just as bad for your gut health as eating junk food
every day of the week, according to a new study from the University of New South Wales.

In the study, two groups of rats were either given constant access to either a healthy food or junk food, while another group cycled between the two diets, receiving healthy food for four days and junk food for three days, over 16 weeks. A variety of metabolic markers were analyzed, including body weight, fat mass, insulin and leptin.

At the end of 16 weeks, rats on the cycled diet were 18% heavier than the rats on the healthy diet. In addition, the rats who were fed the junk diet food had reduced levels of microbial species which metabolize flavonoids, which have been linked to weight loss.

Researchers also established that the microbiota of cycled rats was nearly identical to the microbiota of rats on the junk food diet, with both groups’ microbiota being substantially different to the rats on the healthy diet.

Head researcher, Professor Margaret Morris, the Head of Pharmacology at UNSW said, “While these findings are yet to be replicated in humans, those who are strict with their diet during the week may be undoing all their good work by hitting the junk food over the weekend.”

Professor Morris believes that “The study suggests certain gut microbiota, including Ruminococcus and Blautia, may be promising targets for future therapeutic strategies to treat metabolic disorders”.

Source: University of New South Wales. “Weekend binges just as bad for the gut as a regular junk food diet, study suggests.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 January 2016. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160120112112.htm

Think Big. Act Small

Think big-act small

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Every year feels like a good time to start fresh new projects or launch into new goals and activities. Everyone knows what they need to do to improve. So what stops us from making those ideal personal improvements? The classic mistake is attempting too many changes in too short of a time with no plan on how to make it happen. Then you get frustrated with no progress or not achieving those high level goals in one week and give up altogether.

Does this sound familiar?  This concept applies to mastering new skills, setting up a healthy eating plan or new exercise program.

What is a better way to make positive change?  Here are some ideas that will make your changes last.

Start with the why. Why do you want to make this change? Why is it important to you? What will improve in your life if you achieve this result? Make your why personal, important and clearly define all the reasons that you really want to achieve this change. Connect your change with what is important to you on a daily level.

Step two. Be very clear on your expected outcome. What does success look like? How will it feel to achieve this result? What does it mean to you? How important is it to make this change?

Step Three. Think big. Act small.  Go for the ideal end result.  Take small action steps that will be easy to achieve.  What do you need to do on a monthly basis or weekly basis to reach your goal?

The key to success is to start with small actions on a daily basis that you can commit.

Small daily changes will create a habit that builds towards your overall goal.  Journal about your progress. Write out your daily goals and check them off.

Final thoughts are to be patient with yourself as you move through any change process. Be kind and forgiving when you stumble or take extra time to get your new habits going. Every change needs time to become a habit. Every person needs a support team or system to help them make changes. Need a platform to get started? Get a free on line secure journal from Spiral Coaching.  Get Your Free Journal

What you focus on grows.

Why tracking success makes you feel better

Why does tracking your success make you feel better?
Do you stop and celebrate completed projects or successful actions ?
If you are like most of us, you are too focused on mistakes or failures to pay any attention to what you did accomplish this week, month or year. The habit of keeping failure or mistakes in mind negates our success and allows us to be discouraged about any hope of self development or improvement. This year try starting a new practice of keeping a success journal. Writing down your successes helps you become more empowered. Once you write something down, your subconscious reminds you that you are successful and accomplished. Celebrate actions steps as they get completed. The ability to acknowledge your self for a completed task reinforces the habit of getting things done.
Why is it important to celebrate success? Taking the time to remind ourselves of what we 4are proud of achieving builds self confidence and motivates us to strive for new goals.
What do you consider worth celebrating? That answer is very personal. Anything that you have worked hard on or been persistent in making happen counts. I make a year end list of everything that I have accomplished. My list this year includes reducing my paper files by one drawer, swimming twice a week, getting a twitter account and facilitating a leadership retreat for women. I am proud of one hike on a very high steep trail. If I had tried this alone, I would have turned around because I am not comfortable in high exposed places. I let friends help me through the tough spots. The reward was the most amazing view of the summer: once I could sit down and enjoy the view. Your list will be unique to you. Try this as an exercise. Sit down in a quiet space. Use paper or computer. Write for one hour everything that you can think of over the last year that you accomplished. Don’t censor it or analyze the list, just let your thoughts flow out. Enjoy the feeling of success as you read and review that list.
Here are some questions to help you with your flow of accomplishments.
What did I learn?
What challenged me?
What habits have supported my self care?
How have I contributed to my community?
What have you achieved that surprised you?
What smaller steps have you made towards bigger goals?
What are you most proud of?
Now decide how you want to celebrate all these amazing accomplishments. Do something just for you that is nurturing and rewarding. Paying attention to your success steps will build confidence and your overall appreciation of your skills and expertise. Enjoy and have fun with this new habit of celebrating your success.

How to manage your stress

stress does not have to wreck your day

stress does not have to wreck your day

Stress is a normal reaction to events that occur around us. How we manage or react to stressful situations is the key to stress being a positive challenge or a negative impact on our health. Here are some ideas to put into action so your life feels more under your control.

  1. Practice gratitude. This one action alone has been linked to increased happiness. Start small with writing down one thing that you are grateful for at the end of every day.
  2. Positive self talk. Too often our internal self talk is negative and critical. How helpful is that to learning from our mistakes? Listen to your own self talk. Be kind to yourself and consider what you have achieved every day instead of what is left undone
  3. Learn to say no.  Stop saying yes to all requests or taking on new responsibilities. This is the path towards overwhelm. Stop and consider what each request really means. Does this request fit my goals? What will I learn? What will I have to give up to start this new project. Then only say yes if this new idea fits your needs.
  4. Plan ahead. Take the time to plan out your day or your week. You make better decisions on what is important when you are focused on what you need. Identify one most important thing for each day.
  5. Avoid negative people. You know who they are. These are the people who complain, blame and point out the negative of every situation.
  6. Reduce your clutter. I know why we get piles of things, there never seems enough time to deal with the  stuff on our desk or in a closet. Start small and take 30 min to sort out your piles.  See how it feels to clear out one area.
  7. Socialize with friends.  Being out with other people in a social setting gives you a different perspective on life. A strong connection with other people supports your own wellbeing and emotional health.
  8. Play. Play with your kids, your friends and your pets. Do something fun. Laughter and play are great ways to lighten your mood.
  9. Practice self care. Be aware of what you need to recharge or reenergize at the end of a busy day. Take the time to do something nice for yourself today.
  10. Appreciate beauty around you.  Sometimes we get so stuck in the clutter of our brain that we forget to focus on the external environment. Stop and notice the bigger things in life. Admire a sunrise, clouds, work of art or anything that grabs your attention.

Any change takes a while to become a habit. Try one of these ideas and see what happens. A healthy lifestyle is based on making small changes over time. Get started by takin this stress assessment. Do you know your stress triggers?

Healthy Food Habits for Busy People

Healthy habits are small choices that you make each day that support your larger goals and vision of living well. This list will give you some ideas on how to turn your ideas into action steps that move towards a higher quality of life. Keep it simple when it comes to food choices. That is what works when you balance a busy life with healthy eating habits.

 

  1. Plan meals ahead. You know that if you have a plan for the week you make better choices. Set up a time each week to plan out your meals, snacks and needs so that you have healthy choices on hand when you need to eat.
  2. Use a list at the grocery store. This will save you time, money and avoid impulse decisions at the store.
  3. Buy the bulk of your food on the outer isles of the grocery store in produce and protein. Avoid the center isles where the processed food lives.
  4. Read labels. Start looking for added sugar with words that end in –ose: Frutose, dextrose, glactose, or syrup, barley malt, fruit juice concentrate.
  5. Stop drinking soda. This is the one thing that could make the biggest difference to your health. Diet soda with artificial sweetener is no better when it comes to keeping you in a cycle of craving sugar.
  6. Drink more water. Have a water bottle or glass of water close to you. Just the habit of having water in front of you will increase your intake. Ideal is 8 cups/ day.
  7. Cook ahead or cook double portions so that on hectic days you have food ready when you get home or leftovers to pull out of the freezer.
  8. Eat out less at restaurants. You can both save money and calories by cooking your own food. When you do eat out- choose foods that are baked, grilled and not fried. Ask for salad dressing on the side so you can control how much you use.
  9. Make a large pot of brown rice on the weekend when you have more time. That rice will last all week to add to your protein and vegetable dinners. Try quinoa as a grain that is healthy and easy to cook as your side for meals.
  10. Make open face sandwiches that only use one slice of bread- you can have lettuce on top to hold everything in. Pack your sandwich with protein and veggies. Try mustard instead of mayonnaise to flavor it.
  11. Avoid late night snacks. Put up a closed sign in your kitchen as a reminder

 

Here are some ideas of healthy snacks that you can grab and go with.

  • Fruit- it is a fast food
  • Vegetables with hummus
  • Cheese- like mozzarella sticks
  • Almonds or nuts that are raw and unsalted
  • Protein shake
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Yogurt- Greek – plain- you can add your own vanilla or nuts

The bottom line is to make your food choices ahead of time so your system makes it easy to eat healthy at the end of the day when you are tired or low on energy.

Keep it simple and start with small changes that fit your needs. If you need more ideas on how to simplify your life: take action and Contact Gwen for a complimentary coaching session

 

 

Lessons from the Colorado Trail

Lessons from the trail

I am fortunate enough to live in Colorado and spend time outside in the wilderness. What I love about back packing is my physical body gets challenged and my brain has to stay focused on the current situation.  A day on the trail is an experience in gratitude where I can embrace the sounds, smells and beauty of nature. This practice of being mentally in the moment is not that easy to accomplish in a busy hectic world of multi- tasking and ongoing interruptions.

Here are some lessons from my exploration of a passion that took me  step by step over parts of the Continental Divide Trail last month.

  • Self care is critical to your overall enjoyment  of the day
  • Self awareness  and immediate action  based on your needs will prevent exhaustion
  • You could miss the whole experience if you are too focused on the end result
  • You need food, sleep and good energy to tackle the tough challenges ahead
  • There is a mental freedom in doing the thing you most want to do for yourself
  • Preparation and planning are part of the process
  • You are the expert in taking care of your own needs- don’t let others tell you differently
  • Confidence comes from small steps of daily accomplishments
  • Ask for help and support when you have big projects
  • Be flexible in your goals
  • Celebrate what you achieve every day

My biggest lesson was in the power of monitoring my emotional, physical needs on a regular basis over many days. When you walk into the wilderness your safety depends on your physical ability to travel the distance and be mentally able to make smart decisions based on your environment. How does that translate into self care in a busy hectic world? Try asking yourself these questions every hour for one full day.

How am I feeling? What do I need? Then what actions can you take to get what you need for self care today? When you hit a big challenge- slow down and breath. It only takes a moment – yet that breathing exercise will allow you to keep focused on your path.

If you get exhausted by the end of a day-what do you need to do differently to end the day feeling satisfied and accomplished? I would invite you to spend time doing what you are passionate about. Allow yourself to fully embrace that activity. Enjoy the feelings that you experience in your own daily adventure. If you are struggling with your current path: ask me about coaching and how that could make your travels easier. Contact me for a strategy session on how to make your path simpler.

Why I flunked Meditation

I know the value of slowing down, deep breathing and allowing yourself to focus inward with meditation. It gives your brain a rest.  Meditation has physiological benefits of lowering your heart rate and improving your blood pressure. Meditation can be a powerful tool to reduce stress. So ,why do I have trouble meditating? I can only answer that sitting still for periods of time without doing something is difficult for me. I can sit and read, I can sit and make out lists or review my projects for the week. I can sit and have conversations or interact with friends. I can even sit and watch birds or the weather outside- for a little while.

I do have one visualization play list that I use at night. This is a short meditation that I listen to laying down just before going to sleep. This sequence seems to be very effective in signaling my brain that the day is done now I  drift off to sleep. Many times I don’t hear the end of the program.

I firmly believe that finding quiet time to allow your mind to be calm is necessary for refreshing your brain and restoring calm to your overall well being. Sitting still is just not calming for me. I have decided that meditation for me needs to be movement focused.

When my mind is working overtime- I need to move. I walk, I swim, I bike, I stretch, I move. To give my brain a rest, I use physical movement that allows me time to focus on the pure joy of  some type of activity.  I have had great bursts of creativity while swimming. I can let ideas flow while I am physically focused on breathing in the water. I refresh and soak up the energy of nature while hiking in the woods. Even just 10 minutes of gentle stretching or yoga help me end the day with a calm peaceful feeling.

I hope that I have given you some ideas to use when get  stuck or feel like you failed at something. Instead of giving up, turn it around.  Coaching is all about you finding the unique path that works for you. Just like meditation- there is no one coaching program that fits all- each coaching session is based on what works best for you.

Are you a critic or a coach?

I have had clients who feel or believe that pushing themselves harder is the best way to get good results. They strive for perfection and are overly critical of the outcomes even when it appears that they are successful. I recently read a good description of this pattern in Leaders Playbook* by Reldan Nadler. Nadler asks if you are on your side or on your case?

Here are the consequences of being your own worst critic

  • You are never satisfied with your performance-which leads to low self confidence
  • You are disappointed in the outcomes which leads to feeling unhappy and miserable
  • You unconsciously –  treat others the same way you treat yourself- being very picky, negative and never satisfied

All of those results lead to a frustrating cycle with no end in sight. Consider how you could instead focus on learning and ongoing improvement acting as you own coach.

What are the indications that you are acting as your own coach instead of a critic?

A coach would focus on what you learned from the day along with your results. How could you improve is important but not the only factor. A coach is encouraging and challenging expecting your best effort to be something to be celebrated.  A coach expects you to reflect monitor and adjust your actions to keep moving towards your expected goal. As  a coach here are some questions to ask yourself that will develop the habit of ongoing learning.

  • What did I learn today?
  • What did I accomplish today?
  • Where could I improve ?
  • What to I want to focus my efforts on next?

Start by just being aware of how you talk to yourself through the day. Are you realistic or overly critical about your actions?

Check that your expectations and goals are realistic.  Be your own coach instead of a critic.  See how that impacts your feelings and ability to recover and move forward.

 

Inner-Critic

* Nadler, R. (2007). Leaders Playbook- how to apply emotional intelligence keys to great leadership. Santa Barbara: Psyccess Press

Extreme Kindness Week

Collegiate West CO Trail/ CD 12,548

I live in a mountain town, where extreme sports and outdoor adventures are common.

People will spend weeks and months getting ready for a local event because they enjoy the challenge and like to be in top physical shape. I enjoy outside exercise and it does reenergize me by just spending time outside. I think it is important to recognize and start any exercise program right where you are. Recognize that most of us are not and will not be top competitive athletes. So rather than compare our performance on anything to the top elite competitors, what if we appreciated ourselves for where we are performing right now.

What if there was a competition for extreme kindness?

What if you had to practice being considerate of others and kind to yourself every day to get ready for this event?
How would you treat yourself if being kind to yourself was the key to success?

I am going to define kindness as when you recognize all the positive things in your day and appreciate what you have accomplished. Unkindness would be to point out and focus on any mistake, disappointments or things not done exactly right. Then you would berate yourself for all of them repeatedly.

For extreme kindness week take up this challenge for yourself.

Be aware of how much of your talk is positive.

Can you rephrase things to point out the positive side first?
Listen to your self-talk this week and be aware of what you are saying to yourself.

How much of your talk is negative?

How much of your talk is positive?

Do you allow for mistakes and learn from them?

Do you review every mistake over and over again feeling worse each time your review it?

How would your treat yourself if extreme kindness was your only focus?

Take up the extreme kindness week challenge with a friend and see what you learn

Kindness is part of the ability to be optimistic. Optimism is a key characteristic of resilient people: those people who are good at handling stressful situations. Looking for the positive aspects in self and others is a way to build up your own internal optimism, while practicing kindness.

Amazingly when you focus on kindness  in your own life, you will find kindness does exist everywhere.

Why Solitude is Important

Have you ever just craved some quiet alone time?

Little girl with a book

I have had two clients last week who brought up the issue of needing some more space and time to themselves. The hectic pace of their lives and the sheer volume of interactions with people in their own home were becoming an irritation instead of a joy. This brought up the discussion of the effect on not getting quiet time as an adult. This I understand. I was the kid who climbed up into a tree to read- so no one would bother or interrupt me. My mom understood this need for quiet time- because she pretended not to notice where I was- even with all three of the family dogs sat patiently under the tree waiting for me. Now I understand the term introvert and how well that fits me.  According to Susan Cain one our of every two or three people out of the population are considered introverts.  Cain has a TED talk and a book-Quiet- on The Power of Introverts. Yet how many quiet spaces are there in your work environment? Most of our work spaces are designed for interaction and extroverts. In a busy household with different schedules and tasks that need doing- where is the quiet conversation? If solitude is part of what matters to you- then finding the time to be quiet is important to your ability to cope with the rest of the day.

What are the benefits of solitude? Solitude allows you to unwind and rest your brain. The absence of stimulation allows your brain to slow down and stop processing information. Solitude gives you time and space to consider your own needs and choices- rather than just going along with the group. It is easier to focus and concentrate on a specific issue or project with no outside distractions. You think more deeply about a topic when you are alone. I consider solitude the antidote to too much outside stimulation. I avoid big box stores partly because of the noise, lights and general level of activity there. Am I a hermit? No. I like social settings with friends where you can talk and interact. I am not as comfortable in a loud, crowded environment where you have to talk over loud music. Solitude for me is a choice that allows be to replenish and recharge my brain, my energy and my emotional levels.  If a quiet space fits your needs- then make choices that give you that space to recharge.

  • Schedule time alone
  • Walk outside at lunch for a change of environment
  • Swimming- or exercise outside can provide solitude
  • Get up early
  • Meditate
  • Pause before you start on weekend projects- enjoy your morning coffee outside

I have found the simple solution for me is to drink one cup of tea alone in my office without doing anything else. Just sitting and doing only one thing is enough to provide a calm  start to my day. This week – be aware of where you can find moments of solitude and enjoy them for what that quiet moment gives back to you.

If you have trouble finding a calm space- contact me for more ideas.

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