New Year’s Resolutions to Improve Your Health

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A new year offers a new beginning and an opportunity to set an intention for the months to come. Many people forget about the goals they set by the end of January, and perhaps this is because they try to achieve unrealistic goals or don’t actually do anything to manifest the change they wanted to implement in their lives for the months to come.

Setting a huge goal is not always the best method as we often overlook the small steps it takes to actually get there. There are a number of small changes we can implement in our daily routines that will lead to a happier and healthier lifestyle in the long run with less stress along the way. The following are some new year’s resolution ideas that you can use as a guide for a happier and healthier 2019:

  1. Form a morning routine to kickstart your day in a healthy way
  2. Make it a habit to stretch, meditate, or read every morning before checking your electronics
  3. Hydrate more often, particularly first thing in the morning
  4. Incorporate more steps into your day, whether that means walking for 30 minutes a day, taking the stairs, or taking short breaks throughout your day
  5. Meal prep once a week or make time to prepare a few homemade meals throughout the week
  6. Clean out your pantry and toss out junk food and unhealthy snacks
  7. Prepare healthy snacks to take with you to work to help curb cravings and give your body nutritious energy
  8. On that note, practice mindful eating by focusing on your food rather than electronics or other distractions during meal times
  9. Try a new workout for a month, whether it’s yoga, running, swimming, and incorporate a buddy to participate with you and hold you accountable
  10. Practice self-care as often as possible by scheduling time to exercise, nap, get a massage, or have an at-home spa day
  11. Volunteer a few hours every month, which has proven mental health benefits
  12. Practice daily gratitude by writing down thoughts in a journal or thinking about what you are grateful for upon waking up and before bed
  13. Make an effort to maintain a healthy relationship with friends and loved ones and see them often
  14. Keep up with your regular doctor’s visits and checkups
  15. Exercise your creative health by practicing an activity you enjoy or trying something new and enjoy the mental benefits it brings
  16. Establish a sleeping schedule, go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day in order to regulate your circadian rhythm
  17. Form a night time routine and practice sleep hygiene, including cutting down on electronic use and stressful or strenuous activities before bed
  18. Turn your bedroom into a relaxing oasis where you can unwind and decompress after a day of work

Little by little, making small changes will form long-term habits with lasting impact. It doesn’t matter whether you’re implementing multiple changes or just one, as long as you are taking a step toward bettering your wellbeing for a happier and healthier you!

How to Stay Healthy and Motivated in the New Year

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With a new year comes a realm of possibilities for new beginnings. Although many people make new year’s promises and resolutions they can’t keep, there are plenty who look back at the end of the year and realize they have accomplished far more than they planned for.

Setting a goal or intention for the new year doesn’t have to be drastic. In fact, taking small steps or implementing small changes here and there can actually lead to bigger and better overall results. The following are a few tips to stay healthy and motivated in the new year in different areas of life including at home, at work, and at play.

At Home:

  • Set a budget for healthier foods and groceries, include vitamins and supplements
  • Set time aside to keep your home neat and tidy which will help your home feel more comforting and relaxing
  • Set reminders to pay your bills on time rather than relying on memory
  • Try not to miss your doctor appointments and checkups
  • Spend leisure time with your family and involve everyone in activities that can be fun for all
  • Follow a regular sleep schedule for improved quality of life in all aspects

At Work:

  • Make time to prepare home cooked meals and snacks to keep you feeling full and energized throughout the work day
  • Keep an organized written list of tasks in order to improve efficiency and reduce stress
  • Take a 10-15 minute break to go outside and walk, this has both mental and physical benefits
  • Bring water and drink it throughout the day rather than relying only on caffeinated and sugary beverages

At Play:

  • Establish a fitness routine, even if it means going for a short walk once or twice a week, to get your body moving and feelings its best
  • Set time aside to socialize and see your closest friends at least once a week
  • Take care of yourself by doing relaxing activities you truly enjoy
  • Set time aside to rest
  • Exercise your creative health by finding something you enjoy doing either on your own, with friends, or with family

These are only a few tips to stay healthy and motivated in the coming year, and hopefully, they can be a starting point for an overall improved lifestyle. Find what speaks to you and what will help you, and always remember that you can start anywhere! As long as you implement little changes, they will slowly become habits that can improve your health.

How to Beat The Holiday Weight Gain

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This is the time of the year when holiday parties and family dinners are happening on a weekly basis, and with great company often comes deliciously tempting food. Many people tend to gain a few pounds over the holidays, but the real issue is that most of them can’t shed them afterward.

The holidays are a time to enjoy ourselves, to be grateful, and have fun. Luckily there are ways to do this in moderation so you don’t end up making choices you’ll regret later on (such as overeating)! Keep reading to find out a few ways you can beat the holiday weight gain this year.

  1. Have a plan, and write it down. Jotting down specific (and attainable) fitness and eating goals and keeping them somewhere visible can help you keep them in mind before parties and dinners.
  2. Eat Mindfully. Serving up your food on a smaller plate can trick your brain into thinking you’re eating more versus having a larger plate with empty space, try out this trick next time you go to a buffet style dinner.
  3. Wait it out. Many of us are tempted to go for seconds when we see an abundance of food readily available, but waiting a few minutes and asking yourself whether you’re actually hungry before grabbing more foods can help you think twice and avoid consuming unnecessary calories.
  4. Limit your alcohol intake. It’s easy to get carried away this time of the year, but limiting the number of drinks you consume and drinking water in between will really help you cut down on liquid calories. Additionally, it will help to avoid overeating if you tend to get hungry after a few rounds of drinks.
  5. Be picky. Whenever faced with a selection of desserts, that is. Rather than feeling like you have to try everything, pick and choose which desserts you really want to try and stop once you feel full.
  6. Stay active. Many people slip up and then forget about their goals, but true discipline comes with continuing your routine even after a slip-up. Try to involve the family in physical activities that you can all enjoy together as part of your holiday traditions rather than only doing sedentary activities like watching movies.
  7. Weigh yourself. Weighing yourself a few times a week, or even daily, can help you stay mindful throughout the day and may help you make better eating choices.
  8. Keep self-care in mind. Avoiding stress and getting enough sleep is extremely important when watching your weight. Not taking care of your mental and physical health can lead to cravings and making poor food and drink choices that are more readily available during this time of the year. Thankfully, this can easily be avoided by staying mindful and adopting healthy habits.

There are a number of ways to avoid gaining weight over the holidays, the key is finding what works best for you. And keep in mind that it’s okay to enjoy yourself, and one or two slip-ups are nothing to beat yourself up over. Continue to keep up with your goals and you’ll be proud by the time the new year rolls around!

Helpful Ways to Fight Holiday Stress

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The Holidays are a cheerful time of the year to spend with family, friends, and loved ones. Unfortunately, though, this can also become a time of high stress. Whether it is overspending, overeating, overworking, or taking in more family members than the number of beds in your home, some people perceive the holidays as a happy yet stressful time of the year.

In order to enjoy the holidays and time with loved ones to their greatest potential, it’s important to put your keep your mental health in check. This will ensure that you avoid getting sick, fatigued, and most of all that you have a good time!

The following are a few ways to help fight holiday stress:

  1. Exercise: it may sound counterproductive, but putting your body under physical stress can actually help you cope with mental stress. Whether it’s dancing, running, walking, or yoga, physical activity releases endorphins that will help improve your mental state.
  2. Be Mindful: tuning in with your thoughts and your emotions through meditation and breathing exercises can help you cope with stress by releasing tension and lowering blood pressure, so try to stay in the present rather than worrying or stressing over things beyond your control.
  3. Eat Right: making poor food and drink choices around this time of the year can have negative impacts on your mood and lead to unwanted weight gain. Try to avoid processed food, sugary drinks, and caffeine. Opt for mood-boosting foods instead such as fresh fruit and vegetable juices and homemade meals whenever possible.
  4. Relax: even a few minutes of decompressing is better than nothing. Light a holiday candle, take a warm bath or shower, and practice muscle tension-reducing activities such as stretching, foam rolling, or using a lacrosse ball against the wall to relieve knots around different areas of your body.
  5. Laugh: being around funny friends, family, co-workers, or watching a funny show can help you stay positive by reducing anxiety and tension.
  6. Socialize: studies show those who have strong ties to a close group of friends are generally happier individuals, so maintain good relationships and enjoy the mental benefits that come with good friends.
  7. Cuddle: kissing and cuddling with your significant other or your pet has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. With the weather cooling down around the holidays, it’s the perfect time to get together and snuggle up!
  8. Avoid Procrastination: avoid leaving tasks for last minute. Planning and budgeting for holiday parties, dinners, and gift shopping ahead of time will save you hassle, stress, and frustration later on.
  9. Practice Positive Thinking: setting daily goals and repeating affirmations to yourself can all make a huge impact on your perspective and your relationships with yourself and others. Make it a habit to practice positive thinking, even in negative situations, in order to help yourself deal with stress in a healthier way.
  10. Be Grateful: be grateful for the good things in your life, although the holiday season can be a high-stress time of the year there are still plenty of reasons for you to give thanks.

Whether you only choose to apply one of the tips above or a combination of a few, implementing these coping mechanisms will help you fight stress this holiday season and beyond and in keeping your mental wellbeing in check.

What is The Flexitarian Diet?

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In today’s world there are so many diets and eating restrictions that it’s hard to come by which one may be the right fit for you. Many diets claim to be cure-all wonders that will be suitable for everyone, but the reality is that every person has individual and unique needs in order to achieve optimum health.

One popular diet that has been named a lot in the health industry is the Flexitarian Diet. The term was created by Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner in her book The Flexitarian Diet and it’s focus is on including more plant based foods and proteins into our food choices rather than placing restrictions. More so than a diet, becoming a Flexitarian is part of an overall healthier lifestyle.

The basic principles of the Flexitarian Diet are as follows:

  • Including more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes into our diet
  • Including more plant-based proteins
  • Incorporate animal-derived foods occasionally
  • Focus on whole, natural form of foods
  • Cut or limit processed and refined foods and sugars

As you can see there is room for flexibility in the diet, hence the “flex” in Flexitarian. The diet has different “levels” where animal derived foods are incorporated in different amounts. For example, beginners eat 6-8 meatless meals out of 21 total meals a week. Advanced should eat around 9-14 meatless meals while experts eat 15 or more meatless meals per week.

As mentioned before, the idea is to eat meatless meals that still offer an adequate amount of protein and an abundance of nutrients from plant-derived food sources rather than processed foods. Doing so will ensure Flexitarians enjoy a healthy lifestyle free of nutrient deficiencies and enjoy the benefits the diet has to offer.

The following are some of the benefits of the Flexitarian Diet:

  • Reduced risk of heart disease due to an increased consumption of fiber and healthy fats
  • May experience weight loss due to eating low calorie and nutrient-dense plant based foods rather than high calorie processed foods
  • Eating a predominantly plant based diet may help reduce the risk of diabetes
  • Increasing consumption of antioxidants and nutrients can help prevent some forms of cancer
  • A predominantly plant based diet can help reduce your carbon footprint and decrease greenhouse gas emissions
  • Helps save money by reducing expenses from animal proteins

Overall, the Flexitarian diet is a fairly easy to follow way of eating and lifestyle. Some people may not want to cut their consumption of animal proteins while others may have suffered nutrient deficiencies from doing so, and the Flexitarian diet offers a way of balancing out your diet in order to reap the greatest amount of benefits from the food we consume. Overall, it’s emphasis on eating more whole, plant based foods and animal-derived foods on occasion can have long-term benefits for our health.

Dynamic Stretching vs. Static Stretching

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As young kids we were taught to always stretch at the beginning of P.E. class in order to prepare our bodies for the physical activities that were to come next. Although the idea of stretching was not wrong in principle, the type of stretching we were taught was. That’s because there are different forms of stretching, dynamic and static, and proper times to do them in order to increase physical performance.

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching is a term used to refer to stretching done with movements. In other words, it is an active warm-up. Experts recommended beginning all workout sessions and physical activity with dynamic stretching whether you’re running, swimming, lifting weights, competitions, or playing a sport.

The purpose of dynamic stretching is to get the body prepared for physical activity by boosting circulation, activating the central nervous system, and warming up the muscles using light motions. This form of stretching not only increases power and range of motion but has also been proven to boost athletic performance while reducing the risk of injuries.

Static Stretching

On the other hand, static stretching is essentially the opposite of dynamic stretching as it requires us to stretch and hold a muscle in place for about 15-30 seconds. So while dynamic stretching emphasizes movement, static stretching does not. Ideally, static stretching is best done after a workout as it helps to wind the body down, relaxes the muscles when they are warm, and improves flexibility.

While static stretching should be done following a workout rather then prior to it, it is still an important part of fitness that should not be overlooked. Static stretching, like dynamic stretching, also helps range of motion and in keeping your body and joints healthy. Some experts recommend incorporating this form of stretching multiple times a week and even as a separate workout, such as yoga, due to its mental and physical benefits.

Bottom Line

Dynamic stretching and static stretching are two different forms of activity that have immediate and long term benefits on the muscles and physical performance. Dynamic stretching helps to warm up the muscles using light motions, and in turn, increases athletic performance. Static stretching is a way to relax the muscles and the body following a workout. While dynamic stretching should be done before a workout and static after a workout, they both help keep your muscles and body healthy and injury free. Incorporating both forms of stretching into your routines is highly recommended by experts and beneficial in the long-run whether you are a professional athlete or a beginner in the fitness world.

All About Cranberries

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Cranberries are one of the world’s most nutritious superfoods and also happen to be one of North America’s native crops. Typically grown in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington, cranberry peak season is typically from October to November. Although cranberries are famously known to be a staple for Thanksgiving dinner, they have much more to offer year-round.

Nutritional Benefits

Cranberries are known to contain a number of vitamins that are beneficial to our health. Of all the berries, cranberries contain the least amount of sugar and the highest level of antioxidants per serving. Additionally, the fruit is packed with fiber and vitamins C, A, and K. Overall, the high doses of vitamins and minerals found in cranberries are proven to be heart-healthy as well as cancer and disease-fighting.

Health benefits

As previously mentioned, the nutrients found in cranberries have been proven to be beneficial to our health by helping reduce the risk for certain diseases. The following are a few of the health benefits of cranberries:

  • Help prevent Urinary Tract Infections due to the antioxidant proanthocyanidins, which stops bacteria from sticking around in the urinary tract
  • The nutrients found in cranberries have been proven to slow down tumor growth in cancer patients
  • They are highly anti-inflammatory, easing symptoms for people with inflammatory diseases such as arthritis
  • Polyphenols found in the fruit may help reduce blood pressure and help with other cardiovascular diseases
  • They may also help stop bacteria from binding to our gut and our teeth, benefitting our oral health and helping those who suffer from stomach ulcers
  • They may help improve digestion as they are packed with fiber, which is great for overall gut health
  • They will help keep your immune system strong due to high levels of vitamin C

How to Enjoy

Many people don’t know what to do with cranberries outside of the holiday season. Although the fruit makes for a great sauce, it can end up loaded with added sugars. Additionally, its tart taste may be a difficult one for most people to enjoy in its raw state. A few ways to enjoy cranberries include:

  • Adding them to smoothies
  • Adding them to your homemade oats and baked goods
  • Make homemade popsicles
  • Make homemade compote using a natural, low-sugar sweetener

Experts recommend avoiding cranberry juice as well as dried cranberries due to the high levels of added sugars. The sweeteners added may make the fruit easier to consume, but the negative effects of consuming the sugars will outweigh the wonderful benefits cranberries have to offer.

Lifting Weights? Here’s Why You’re Doing It Wrong

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When it comes to setting fitness goals and reaching them, many experts can agree that balance is key. While a lot of people seek out ways to lose excess body weight, others may want to become stronger, leaner, and improve their overall physique. Many experts recommended mixing a variety of physical exercises including weight training, cardio, yoga, and even adding in the adequate number of recovery days in between.

Today we’re only going to focus on one form — weight training. Weight training is known to help improve body mass and physical performance but it’s not an easy activity at first. There are a number of common mistakes that can lead to adverse effects such as injury or lack of results. When lifting weights, it’s important to seek out professional help if you have any doubts.

Whether you work with a certified personal trainer or refer to credible sources on the internet, the most important part of weight training is form, and referring to a professional will help you perfect it. Improper form can have serious negative impacts on your body that may impair you from advancing in your fitness goals or from working out at all.

A second and extremely common mistake people make when they set out to start weight training? Not warming up. Warming up should be part of every physical activity you do whether it’s lifting, running, swimming, and even yoga. Dynamic stretches can make a huge difference for the workout and your muscles, joints, and ligaments will thank you by performing at their optimum.

Rushing through repetitions is yet another common mistake that people often misjudge. Remember what we said about form? The two are related, as rushing through a set can compromise your form and therefore negatively impact your results. Rather than rushing, allow the muscle to extend to its full range of motion and work against gravity in order to get stronger.

Finally, the last common mistake people often make during a weight training session is using momentum to help them finish a set. Using momentum means you are using less of your actual strength… in other words, you are cheating your workout (and yourself) by doing this. Many people don’t actually realize they are doing this, but if you catch yourself in the act try checking your form and keeping your feet grounded. If you can’t even complete two reps go lighter and work your weight up with time without compromising your results.

No one is born an expert, in order to improve a skill you must practice and be consistent. This applies to your gym routine and weight training goals. The above mentioned are a few of the common mistakes that beginners make and luckily catching them in time will help performance and to avoid injuries. If you think you may be doing something wrong, seek out help from a professional and speak to them about what you can do to keep improving and working toward your goals.

Best (and Worst) Sleeping Positions for the Spine

pathmed5Do you ever feel like your back pain and neck pain are never ending? You’ve tried it all, physical therapy, yoga, even pain relievers and nothing seems to get to the root of the problem. If this sounds like you, perhaps it’s time to analyze some key factors about your sleeping habits that may be negatively impacting your body.

Your sleeping position can have a huge impact on your posture and cause pain in the back and neck. Your pillow, bed, and position can all make or break your quality of sleep and affect how you feel in the morning when it’s time to get up.

Resting right: the best sleeping position

Overall, laying flat on the back is the best sleeping position. This position evenly distributes your weight on your body and keeps everything aligned, keeping in mind that your pillow should not prop your head up too much. Although some people find this position difficult to sleep in and it may cause others to snore, adopting this position can help those who suffer from pain due to bad sleeping posture.

Runner up

If laying flat on your back is not an option, the second best sleeping position is on your side. Note that the best practice is to sleep with the legs stretched, not curled up. Additionally, adding a firm pillow to the mix by placing it in between the knees will help keep the hips, legs, and spine aligned to avoid issues. A pillow to help align your head and neck into a straight line with your spine will also help.

One to avoid

Sleeping on your stomach is probably the least recommended of all positions due to the fact that most people will turn their neck to the side which causes a strain on their cervical spine. If sleeping on your stomach is your preferred position, try using a pillow or rolled towel to sleep with the head facing the mattress while still allowing room to breathe, this will help keep the neck aligned with the spine.

Sleep Hygiene

There are a few important tips to follow in order to get the best quality sleep, implementing these regularly can have a positive impact on sleep and overall health.

  • Change your pillows every 12-18 months and research the best pillow for your preferred sleeping position
  • Change your mattress every 10 years and avoid very soft mattresses
  • Turn off electronics 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and strenuous workouts in the evening
  • Establish a regular sleeping routine, try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day (including weekends)
  • Wind down before bed by taking a warm shower, reading, or doing a physically and mentally relaxing activity

Vitamins Explained: Vitamin C

pathmed3Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that is beneficial to the human body in a number of ways. Since it’s an essential vitamin, though, it is not produced naturally by the body. The best way to consume vitamin C is through natural sources such as fruits and vegetables, although vitamin C supplements are also available in the market.

Vitamin C, which is a strong antioxidant, is needed for the proper function of different parts of the body and helps to maintain a healthy immune system as it can strengthen the body’s defenses against disease and inflammation. The recommended dose of vitamin C is about 65-90 mg per day with a limit being at about 2g per day. Although over consumption of vitamin C is usually caused by mega doses of supplements, it is typically urinated out. In other cases, it may cause headache, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and even kidney stones.

Vitamin C serves many functions such as:

  • Treating the common cold
  • Treating infections
  • Treating skin conditions
  • For depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s
  • Helps memory and protects thinking
  • Increase iron absorption from foods
  • Heart and blood vessel issues including high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Treating long-term pain after injury
  • Protecting skin from the sun
  • Anti-aging
  • Healing wounds in the body
  • Maintain and repair bones and cartilage

The following are some foods containing Vitamin C:

  • Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, lime, and grapefruit
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Mangoes
  • Kiwi
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Papaya