Easy Ways to Lose Weight

I know, I know, I don’t want to beat this chunky horse to death, but after yesterday’s post when I went on and on about how hard it is to lose weight and how it took me nearly two years, buckets of tears, and more than one program (Medifast is what I’m trying after also doing Weight Watchers, for the record, it works too), I don’t want you to get discouraged.

I challenge you to choose one of these tweaks to make every day this month and see if you don’t feel lighter, fitter, stronger, better!*

Easy Ways to Lose Weight: 10 Tips That Won’t Kill You but Will Make You Stronger

1.  Take the stairs.  All the way.  Half way.  Just down.  Whatever.
2.  Use a smaller plate.  Like the one you give your kids.
3.  Wait for seconds.  After you wolf down your first plate of food at the dinner table, you may be dying for more mashed potatoes.  But, take a beat.  Wait 15 minutes and see if you still feel hungry.  If you do, go for it.  But, chances are you will be over it once you give your belly time to realize it’s full.
4.  Slow your roll.  I know, all day you waited for this Philly cheesesteak sandwich and now it’s on your desk all hot and delicious and you really just want to smash your face into it.  Pump your breaks.  No, cut it in half.  Wrap that up and walk it back to the fridge.  Then sit down and SLOWLY savor the hot and delicious HALF of sandwich you have left.  If you really, really, really want to get up, walk all the way back to the fridge, warm up your other half, and eat it when you’re done, by all means, help yourself.  Just maybe high knees all the way to there and back as punishment (yes, even if you’re in your office, shoulda thought about that).
5.  Take exercise breaks.  At work? Close your door and spend your 15 minute break not stuffing chips in your gullet but doing a little lunging.  At home, grab the baby and hit the floor for some play time.  When The Dudes were little I’d lay on my back and lift them up above my head a dozen times, or put them on my legs and lift them.  They love it because they’re all, “Woohoo! I’m an airplane and mommy is talking to me and breathing hard in my face, she smells like lunch, yes!” and you get a work out.  No job and no baby?  Um, workout?
6.  Tell everyone about your weight loss and fitness goals.  Peer pressure and the desire to succeed while everyone is watching might prevent you from reaching for that first second donut at the staff meeting.  Support and accountability make everything easier.
7.  Stop eating kid snacks.  I used to blame The Dudes and their snacks for my inability to lose weight and eat healthy.  I told myself I had to have all of these snacks in my house for them and not eating them was just too hard.  Then I realized, uh, they don’t need crap snacks either.  Fruit and yogurt and veggies work for them too.  And, when they did desire a treat, I’d just make it something I don’t like.  Oatmeal raisin cookies for example.  Those.  I hate those.  But kids, love them.  They get a treat and I get to not be tempted by chocolate chip cookies.
8.  Write down what you eat.  It’s called food journaling and it’s designed to give you insights about your eating practices and keep you accountable.  And you can’t be a liar about it.  If you eat 16 of those oatmeal raisin cookies when you swore you wouldn’t, write it down.  Then, when you’re done in the bathroom, think about why you did that and how you can never do it again.
9.  Drink more.  Not wine.  Sorry.  Water.  Drink a full glass before every meal and when you start feeling like you need a snack.  You might just be thirsty.  And water also fills your belly.  Water not really your jam?  That’s cool, but pick a good alternative.  No sweet teas or grape sodas.
10.  Try meditating.  I didn’t get much about the topic out of my episode of Dr. Oz about meditating; it was 35 seconds.  But, what I did get was a spark of interest and Russell Simmons’ book, Success Through Stillness.  Chapter 9, “How Meditation Helps Your Body”, is all about how practicing meditation can reduce stress, alleviate medical conditions, and help you lose weight! He explains that meditating helps you become more mindful of the food you put in your body and more conscious of your choices, including those involving food.  Ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmm

How to lose weight over night - I lose 100lbs

You know I am not obsessed with that number though. My motivation always was and always will be my health – but society is so obsessed with the number on the scale and people can’t see the changes to my health as much as they can see the changes of my appearance, so it is sometimes easy to talk about the number. People react well to a number.

Anyway, with this being a blog about my weight loss and health and everything I ate/eat to keep it that way, I have spoken in detail about how I lost the weight, but I thought it might be nice to condense it down into bullet points of what I did. Obviously there is much more too it than bullet points and this list is not intended to make it look easy (it definitely wasn’t), but it gives you an idea of all the changes that I made.
We all have to find what works for us, so just because all of these things worked for me doesn’t mean they will work for you. I tried a lot of things that worked for other people, but they didn’t work for me. It doesn’t make them all wrong. It comes down to trial and error.
Here goes……………
  • Set myself small goals
  • Made one change at a time
  • I didn’t focus on losing 100lbs – I focused on losing 5lbs at a time
  • I bought a Wii Fit so I could workout at home
  • I went swimming
  • Walked everywhere
  • Did workouts during the breaks whilst watching TV
  • I found workouts that I enjoyed
  • I became aware of portion sizes
  • Cooked healthier versions of the junk food that I loved
  • I counted calories
  • Found a balance with clean eating and still eating the things I liked
  • I educated myself and read everything I could have health and fitness
  • Signed up to weight loss forums/health and fitness Facebook pages and blogs
  • I cut out processed food
  • I started cooking everything myself
  • I didn’t beat myself up if I ate something I shouldn’t or skipped a workout
  • Fit my workouts in where I could – like doing squats whilst cooking
  • Stopped making excuses
  • Made sure I was sleeping enough
  • Stopped being scared of lifting weights (they won’t make you bulky)
  • Stopped dieting (it is a lifestyle, not a diet)
  • Quit the artificial sweeteners
  • Always had breakfast
  • Switched to wholegrains
  • Stopped saying “I can’t”
  • Cut out the negative people in my life
  • Ate more fruit and vegetables
  • Listened to my body and rested when I needed to and ate when I was truly hungry
  • Celebrated my success without food (a pair of shoes or a trip to the cinema)
  • Worked out 5 days a week for 45 minutes to an hour
  • Made sure I was drinking enough water (but not too much)
  • Gave up fizzy drinks and only drank water and green tea
  • Gave up alcohol for 3 months (it helped me cut out other bad habits too)
  • Dealt with my emotional eating
  • I made time for my workouts – I didn’t find time
  • Always reminded myself there is no such thing as perfect
  • Stopped comparing myself to other people
  • Bought myself nice workout clothes so I felt good during my workouts
  • Did some food prep for the week
  • Planned some of my meals for the week
  • Ate less calories than I was burning, but still made sure I was eating enough
  • Took my body measurements each week to track my progress (kept me motivated)
  • Snacked wisely
  • Reminded myself that there was no end date. I was getting fit for life
  • Started thinking more positively
  • Started each day as a new day and left yesterday in the past
  • Stopped seeing food as the enemy and stopped labelling it as good and bad
  • Always changed my routine to keep my body guessing
  • Made time to relax
  • Made appointments for my workouts just like I would a meeting
  • Put motivational quotes around my house
  • Put up photos that motivated me
  • Made sure there was plenty of fibre in my diet
  • Ate lots of healthy fats
  • Didn’t go back for a second portion of dinner
  • Ate slower
  • Did yoga – great for releasing stress and toning up
  • Identified my eating triggers
  • Bulked out pasta dishes with spinach
  • Ate berries with my breakfast
  • Got creative with salads
  •  Added herbs and spices to boring clean meals
  • Used my slow cooker a lot
  • Still allowed myself the foods I liked, but in moderation and not all the time
  • Tracked all my food (in the beginning)
  • Was honest with myself – lying about what I ate to my food diary didn’t get me anywhere
  • Limited animal fats
  • Included protein with every meal
  • Started reading the labels on everything I bought
  • Stopped ordering pizza and fries to be delivered
  • Never gave up (despite many falls and wanting to many times)

That list might seem like a lot, but like one of the first points says – make one change at a time. I didn’t do all of these things straight away and I learnt them along the way. Make changes that are going to make you feel healthy and stick with it. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for.

5 Last-Minute Interview Issues That'll Throw You Off—and How to Prepare for Them

Sometimes, no matter how much you’ve prepared and researched before your interview, something completely unexpected happens. And no one would blame you if it threw you off your game. After all, interviews are stressful enough even when everything goes pretty much how you imagined it would. The good news is: There are ways to prepare for the unexpected. You can still make the best possible impression—even when everything goes awry.
Here are five situations that come up more often than you think, and how you can be ready for them so you don’t get caught off guard.

1. The Replacement Interviewer

When you apply for a position, more often than not, you’re contacted directly by the team who’ll be hiring you. (Or, at the very least, you’ll see a schedule in advance with the names of the people you’ll be meeting with.) So, you spend days checking out your interviewer’s LinkedIn page and background. You’re well-versed on his position, and how it relates to the position you’re interviewing for.
Then, when the door opens, a completely different person walks in.
Your stomach may have dropped to your ankles, but don’t panic—or dwell on how you researched someone else. Instead, use the opportunity to get to know your interviewer and let her get to know you. Ask questions about her position, specifically how her job relates to the one you’re gunning for, and ask about her career background in case you have something in common.
Although it can be disquieting at first, after you get over the initial surprise of the switch, you’ll likely find that you can talk just as much to this person as to the one you planned on interviewing with originally. That displays your adaptability and willingness to take on an unexpected challenge. Remember: No reasonable company would expect you to be fully prepared for this switch—and it’s completely OK to ask those introductory questions.

2. The Time Mix-Up

There are plenty of great articles out there about what to do when you’re running late for your interview. But what about when you made a simple mistake of getting the time wrong?
One of the worst moments of my career came right before I interviewed for a position I was incredibly excited about at Clopay Door. I was 15 minutes early and took a seat in the waiting room to get ready when a woman my age walked in and sat down next to me. I noticed she was also dressed for an interview and had her resume out. A bit flustered at thinking I might be sharing this interview, I started looking through my notes and stopped in horror when I saw that although I had written 2 PM on my calendar, the notes from my initial call said 1 PM.
The key in this situation is to remain calm, apologize sincerely, and ask what works best for the interviewer. Make sure you’re not overdoing the apology, as this demonstrates a lack of confidence and can actually backfire.
In my situation, I was tempted to just walk out from sheer embarrassment, but the interviewer was very understanding and let me schedule for a later time. Remember: The hiring manager is human and makes mistakes, too. Even if you sense a little frustration initially, odds are high he or she will understand.
Want proof of that? I ended up getting the job!

3. The Bad Interviewer

As I just stated, the person sitting across from you, asking you all these questions, is human. Not everyone’s going to be good at interviewing candidates for a position. A few reasons you may encounter a bad apple could include inexperience, unpreparedness, distraction, or a negative outlook on the job or company.
So what can you do in the event you’re meeting with someone who doesn’t know how to interview you?
Make sure you have in mind the points you want to discuss about yourself and the questions you want to ask about the position. Then, take an active role in directing the conversation to keep the person on topic. For example, if there’s a lull, you could say, “Would you like to hear more about my experience working at my last company?” Or, “Did I answer your question, or would you like to hear another reason why I’m interested in the job?” Or, even if the interview’s not winding down, you could give it a kick in the pants by asking one of the questions you’ve prepared.
This strategy will help keep the interview going and ensures you’re coming across as the right candidate for the job.

What Your Eye Color Tells About You

They tell us not to judge a book by its cover, and yet we do. At the same time we actively promote the idea that our facial and body features can directly betray elements of our personality and character. One example of this is that our eyes can tell us something about our personality, both their colour and their appearance – they are after all the 'window to the soul'.
But could such a concept genuinely have any scientific credence? Well interestingly there is some evidence to suggest that it could and correlations have been found between various aspects of our features and our personality (though the correlations are minor and far from conclusive). Of course with such findings many explanations have been developed as to why this might be. Of course it could be a result of genetics, that somehow there is a link between our eye colour and another element of our genetic makeup that affects personality. There are many seemingly random connections in our body, so if our arm span can accurately predict our height, maybe our eye colour can predict our behaviour?
A more likely explanation is that this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is to say that our appearance creates certain expectations regarding our behaviour and that affects how other people act towards us, and how we see ourselves as a result. In this sense then it could be that our eye colour comes first and then dictates our behaviour to a degree. Alternatively it could even be that our eye colour affects or is correlated with the way we see and that this somehow affects behaviour, though this seems to be perhaps the less likely explanation.
Regardless of the reason however, we all hold stereotypes about eye colours and there are certain studies to suggest these and other things may be true. Here we'll look at what your eye colour might mean about you and where this belief comes from.
Blue: Blue eyes are highly common despite being a recessive gene. At the same time they vary greatly from a 'piercing' blue, to a softer more gentle blue. This eye colour is thought to be very desirable and alluring and is also associated with youthfulness (possibly due to the term 'baby blue') and with this comes playfulness and innocence. Piercing blue eyes are thought to be very sexy and striking (think Superman), while the lighter colours are thought to be more mesmerising and calm. Interestingly though, studies have correlated blue eyes (along with blonde hair) with a slightly lower confidence and self esteem and lower levels of aggression. Intriguingly recent research also suggests that all blue eyed people have a single common ancestor from 16,000 years ago when the very first mutation took place. Before this, we were all thought to have had brown eyes. The same is likely then to be true of green and hazel eyed people.
Brown: Brown eyes are considered soft, gentle and trustworthy. While many people find the colour 'plain' and less desirable than something less common, they inspire faith and a sense of loyalty – possibly associated with the big brown eyes of dogs. As such they are often thought of as 'puppy dog' eyes and the darker they are the better. Interestingly, while blue eyes were shown to be the least confident, brown eyes were more associated with self confidence, drive and determination.
Green: Green eyes are far less common than blue or brown and perhaps for this reason they are considered to be more 'mysterious'. Many magical characters in comics and films are portrayed as having green eyes and this is also perhaps due to their piercing and stand-out nature. They are also very feline and show up well in the dark which adds to this sense of the 'magical'. They are also associated with the fiery red-head as the two often go together and so are thought of as having a high energy level and a high sex drive. In one study of the eye colours of fish, those with green eyes were found to attack those with eyes of the other colours.
Hazel: Hazel eyes are another slightly rare eye colour which changes between green and brown depending on the light and some say on your mood. In some lights they can even look slightly 'golden' as the green and brown create an almost yellow. This changeability is often associated with fun and spontaneity and the element of green is thought to show a mischievous side. Due to the light shade of brown it is also considered a very approachable colour.
Grey: Grey eyes are really a very soft form of blue and so many of the same rules apply. Here though the eyes will be associated with age (grey being a colour that is often associated with age due to the way our hair greys as we get older) and a gentleness. You will thus be portrayed as wise and gentle individual, which may ring partly true with this being the lightest colour and so statistically the least aggressive.

Healthy' Not 'Health Freak': How to Be Healthy Without Becoming Unpopular

Have you ever noticed how it's not particularly popular to be healthy? How people tend to celebrate the lazy, the greedy and the overweight? Homer Simpson is practically a hero thanks to his love of beer and donuts and about the least popular thing you can say on a night out is that you aren't going to be drinking…
The same goes for saying you don't want desert, or even letting on that you regularly attend the gym. The minute you let on that you're willing to forego immediate gratification in order to protect your health and wellbeing, you tend to become less popular.
It's even worse if you're already in good shape. Tell your friends at work you 'need to go to the gym tonight' and often they'll respond in exasperation: 'you don't need to lose any weight!'. What they fail to recognise is that it took going to the gym in order to get into that shape and that if you stopped, then you'd lose your current physique. That, and you probably quite enjoy pushing yourself in the gym too.
Still, the assumption is that you must either be mad to keep going to the gym, or just no fun… Nice.
Why Being Healthy Is so Unpopular
The first question we need to ask is why being healthy is so unpopular in the first place.
This comes down to a number of factors but one of the biggest is that training to become healthier or dieting for the same ends, will tend to make others feel guilty. They know that they shouldn't be following dinner up with that huge piece of cheesecake if they want to lose weight, but they have decided to go ahead with it nevertheless. If you now show enough strength of character to turn down desert, you'll then only be drawing more attention to their perceived failure and this will make them feel worse as a result. Had you joined them in their cheesecake however, they could have made the excuse for themselves that 'everyone does it'. And whether or not you actually are, they will probably feel as though you're judging them for their decision. 

The other issue in this particular scenario, is that by saying no, you've now put them in a situation where they're going to be eating cake on their own while you watch. This is neither very sociable, nor very fun for them. The same goes for going out drinking: it's a lot less fun when you do it on your own. As such, if you have made the decision to go t-total, and people want to have a 'wild night out', you're not going to be the first person they call. In fact they might avoid calling you – as you'll serve as a constant reminder that they're being unhealthy and you'll make them look all the more drunk. 

Another issue is that being incredibly strict with your health isn't terribly relatable. If you have never been overweight, then someone who is overweight will feel like they can't really talk to you about the plights that come with that – you wouldn't understand. Likewise, if you have rarely been drunk, then people won't feel they can share their drunken stories with you. 'To err is human', and if you never err, then people might start to feel as though they can't relate to you and that you can't understand them… almost as though you were a different species. This is why Superman comics often struggle to make Superman relatable – he's in perfect shape, he never drinks and he never binge-eats.
These things don't just apply to being healthy either: they apply to making the right moral decisions, to being conscientious and to being disciplined in every area of your life. 

What to Do About It
This may seem rather unfair at first: you've gone to all this trouble to try and do the right thing by your body and to maintain your health, but instead of being happy for you, it seems that people don't want to spend any time with you – and even seem to hope that you'll fail. 

So you're left with two options: remain unpopular, or relent and start being unhealthy just to please others. The latter may seem like the more tempting option, but really you shouldn't have to compromise your own health just in order to fit in with your friends and acquaintances.
Instead then, the better option is to look for a way to stick to your goals and beliefs, while not making others feel bad about it or coming across as inhuman. 

Here are a few strategies you can use to that end:

Explain Your Reasoning: Sometimes, one of the easiest ways to get people to understand your position is just to explain it to them. In many cases you will have reasons for wanting to remain healthy that don't apply to other people and that 'let's them off the hook'. This can also help to make you appear a little less 'perfect'.
For instance, in my case the main reason I'm currently on a diet is to reveal my abs more. The reason I want to do this is that I'm running a YouTube channel and I need to demonstrate to viewers that my techniques work. So when someone asks me why I'm not eating desert, I explain that it's for my YouTube channel. This doesn't apply to them, so they can eat guilt-free, and it shows that I'm human – ultimately I'm motivated by money and fame after all! If your reasoning for not drinking is that you can't handle your drink, then say that. Now instead of being highly disciplined, you'll just sound like a lightweight. People can laugh about that and continue to enjoy their own beverages. 'I don't like the taste' is also fine.
Find Allies: With the best will in the world, differences in lifestyle do lead to differences in behaviour and that means that you're not always going to 'fit in' if you're completely different from your other friends. Don't let that offend you – just view it as a fact of life. 

What is a good idea though is to have multiple groups of friends, and to make sure that you have at least some people to chat to who share your views. These are the people you can go out and enjoy a chicken salad with, or who you can exchange gym notes with. They will give you an outlet, and that way you won't feel so put out when there are things you feel left out from while socialising with other groups. 

Find Ways to 'Join In': When I don't have desert and my friends want to, I will often join in nevertheless be sociable. Usually this means having a coffee which is a social drink that I can enjoy while they eat pudding. Joining in with alcohol is harder, but my t-total friend does it by drinking other drinks when playing drinking games, and by getting his own amusement from the antics of everyone else. 

Likewise, don't turn down a night out because you need to exercise or you're essentially telling your friends that you value that one workout more than time with them. Just find another night to exercise, or do a quick one at home before you set off. Usually you can do both! 

Be Genuinely Non-Judgemental: Perhaps what's most important, is not to judge others for their choices. This means genuinely not being judgemental, because even if you don't say anything judgemental that doesn't mean that people aren't going to be able to pick up on the general vibe that you're judging them.
While you should be applauded for putting your health first, recognise that this is not the right approach for everyone. You can make a very solid argument for prioritising health over everything else and ensuring that you're going to be healthy and happy into your old age. At the same time though, some people just want to have fun and would rather indulge themselves now – even if that means taking some risks.

They are not wrong, and neither are you. Everyone has to get through life in their own way. Unless they ask for your help, or they are putting themselves at serious risk, they don't need your advice or opinion.

10 Simple Ways to Keep a Happy, Healthy Mind

  1. Eat Healthily – We all know that what we eat has a big impact on our physical wellbeing, but it also affects your mental happiness. As the old saying goes; a healthy body makes a healthy mind, so think about your diet and what foods you maybe eat too much of. While it’s easy to forgo healthy foods for those that are convenient there are lots of quick and easy meals that are much better for you. Eating three meals a day will keep your energy levels up and keep you feeling good all day long. As well as eating healthy foods, drinking lots of water will keep you hydrated and boost your metabolism; making you feel and look better.
  2. Watch what you Drink – While a lot of people drink alcohol and caffeine to change their mood, their effect is only temporary. When the feelings of energy or excitement fade you will often feel a lot worse than before you drank, which has a big effect on your mental wellbeing. Most people only drink alcohol or caffeine in moderation which can often be good for you. However, some people carry on drinking to delay the onset of these negative feelings, or to escape underlying feelings of nervousness or depression. This is very dangerous and can cause long-term health problems or cover up existing conditions. Try to drink no more than four units of alcohol a day if you are male and three if you are female, and try not to drink caffeinated after seven o’clock at night.
  3. Take some Exercise – Doing a little exercise every day has many different benefits; both mental and physical. When you exercise your body releases endorphins which can greatly improve your mood. You don’t have to spend a lot of money and join a gym to get some exercise; walking or cycling to your destination instead of driving, cleaning the house while listening to music and gardening are all easy ways to get the blood pumping. After a while you’ll start to find doing tasks easier as well looking better, which in turn will also make you feel better about yourself.
  4. Talking to Others – In today’s world it has never been easier to keep in touch with friends and family. Feeling connected with other people is an important part of what makes us human and neglecting this part of life can have detrimental effects on your mental health. Many mental health problems have their roots in trouble with communication and can be helped or even prevented by keeping in touch with others and maintaining strong relationships. If you are having difficulties then some of the best help can be given by friends or family, so talk to them about how you feel as well as listening to their thoughts and emotions.
  5. Getting a Change of Scenery – Sometimes we get stuck in a rut, it happens to all of us! Taking a holiday is a great way to relax, improve your mood and see more of the world. However, not all of us are lucky enough to jet off into the sun whenever we feel like it. But there are much simpler (and less expensive) ways of taking a break from our day-to-day routine which can do just as much to improve your mental health. Taking a different route to work or just moving the furniture around will help your mind in being able to experience new things and cope with different situations.
  6. Get a Hobby – So much of our lives are taken up by the pressures of work these days that we can sometimes forget about what we enjoy. Maybe you love to paint, play a musical instrument or have always wanted to build the best railway set in the country. Taking some time out to dedicate just to yourself will help you cope with stress, focus your mind and allow you to express yourself. If you are feeling blue, conveying your thoughts in a painting, a song or in a poem will help you understand how you feel and make you feel much better.
  7. Accepting that You are Unique – Many people are unhappy or self-conscious about their appearance, the way they speak or their background; comparing themselves unfairly to others they see in magazines or on television. These kinds of feeling can lead to an entrenched sense of worthlessness or even bring about conditions such as depression or an eating disorder. By talking to others and expressing your feelings you will be able to get a better understanding of both your weaknesses and strengths. If you find it helps, take five minutes every day to list the qualities that make you unique, thinking of one positive and then one negative, and try to accept that you are you; which is the best person you can be.
  8. Care for Others – It’s only natural to be concerned for other’s welfare, whoever they are. Part of maintaining healthy relationships is returning concern for those who care for you. This could be as simple as signing a ‘get well’ card at work or calling an elderly relative to ask how they are. Getting a pet makes you exercise these emotions constantly as you are the person they rely on for food, shelter and love. Really caring for others can help greatly improve your mental health and allow you to explore feelings you may have grown out of touch with. You may even find you enjoy it so much that you want to volunteer to help others in the community who are less fortunate than yourself, but this is only an extreme example of caring. Allowing yourself to have feelings for others helps you understand why other people care for you and why you should care for yourself.
  9. Exercise your mind – Just like the rest of your body your brain needs exercise too in order to stay healthy. There are lots of different ways you can do this; from computer games to doing the cross word. Instead of working out your bills on a calculator straight away, try calculating the sums in your head first before checking if you were correct mechanically. Learning a new word every day is also a good way of making sure your memory stays in full working order, which will help as you get older as well as in day-to-day life. Your mind is your most valuable tool so keeping it fully functioning is very important to staying happy and living an active life.
  10. Remember that Help is at Hand – By following these simple steps you should feel better in and about yourself. However, if you are feeling anxious, depressed or think you may be suffering from a mental illness it is important to remember that there are lots of places you can go to where you will be offered plenty of support. As well as your G.P. there are many different services based locally around the country such as charities and support groups. The most important thing is to let someone know how you are feeling, be it a friend or family member, a confidential service like the Samaritans or professional services offered by your local health trust.

Healthy Habits: 15 Strategies to Keep Them

1. Ask Yourself “Why?”  – Perhaps the most important step in breaking bad habits is to make sure you’ve chosen ones that you, personally, want to change.  This ensures that you’re doing it for the right reasons.  Is this bad habit something you want to change, or something that someone else wants you to change?  If you determine that it’s really for someone else, reconsider.  Although research does support that people can still benefit when forced to change–for instance, when court-ordered to AA meetings or treatment for a DUI, or when directed by their doctor to change a health habit to prevent surgery or disease–we get much further when we buy into the change ourselves. This doesn’t mean that you cannot work on something that someone else wants for you. In this case, think about which of your values underlies the requested change.  For instance, if your doctor recommended that you lose weight but you’re happy with how you look, can you identify a personal reason to do it?  Maybe “family” tops your values list.  Will losing weight allow you to enjoy more activities with them, or extend your time here on earth with them?  Different reasoning can underlie growing healthy habits.  Align yours with your values in order to grow your motivation for change.
2. Create a Vision – Once you’ve identified the habits you’re willing to work on, visualize how succeeding in changing them will modify your life for the better. Pull out all of the stops, here, and forego reason.  Really dream about what can come of your life when you experience success.  Now, see yourself “as if” you are already there.  Note the feeling state.  Chances are good that it’s something positive:  peace, love, joy. The problem is, that most of us live from the “Have-Do-Be” sequencing principle:  “When I ‘have’ _______, I’ll ‘do’ _________ and I’ll ‘be’ __________.”  For instance:
  • “When I have the right job, I’ll earn and save more money, and I’ll be successful”, or;
  • “When I have the perfect body, I’ll find a great spouse, and I’ll be happy.”
This is a set-up, and it’ll make you miserable. Instead, take a “Be-Do-Have” approach.  Let yourself be happy, then go about the work toward achieving a specific goal.  Chances are good that with this mind set, you’ll attract what you desire.
3. Assess Your Readiness for Change – Sometimes we’re just not there yet.  We want to be there.  We definitely want the end result– healthy habits –but we aren’t ready to pound the pavement to make it happen.  Setting a goal or strategy that sounds good, but one to which you’re unwilling to commit, sabotages your success before you even start.  According to Dr. James Prochaska, there are five stages of readiness for change:
  1. Pre-comtemplation (Denial – “No need for change!”)
  2. Contemplation (Thinking about changing, no action yet)
  3. Preparation (Making small changes towards a big change in the next six months)
  4. Action (Making the big change!)
  5. Maintenance (Sustaining the change)
Develop a good understanding of the different stages, and then determine where you are. The goal is to help nudge yourself along the continuum, not drag yourself.  You want to develop goals and strategies that are somewhat challenging, but not too overwhelming.  If you’re not quite ready to do something yet, ask yourself what you are willing to do.  For instance, if you’re not yet willing to exercise every day for 30 minutes, ask yourself:
  • “Am I willing to exercise three days a week for 30 minutes?”, or;
  • “Am I willing to exercise three days a week for 15 minutes?”, or;
  • “Am I willing to take a five-minute walk at lunch 5 or more days per week?”, or;
  • “Am I willing to put on my work-out clothes and step out the door (or get in my car)?”
The trick here is back up the strategy until your answer is a resounding “yes”.  Not because you’re already taking that action, and it’ll therefore be ultra-easy, but because you can commit to it, and it’s a step forward.
4. Break it Down -Breaking bad habits needn’t be overwhelming.  Taking into account your readiness for change and to what you’re willing to commit, break your large goal into small, tangible objectives.  Effective goals that encourage breaking bad habits are:
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Relevant
  • Realistic
Instead of “lose weight”, which is too general, decide how much you’d like to lose and by when.  Keep it realistic.  While losing 40 pounds in three months may happen with laser focus and unwavering commitment, establish a more realistic goal, such as:
  • “Lose 20 or more pounds by April 1, 2013”
This allows for the additional weight loss, should it occur (i.e. “or more”), but it sets you up to succeed.  A great rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “What would I like to be doing differently in three, six, nine, twelve, months?”  Again why are you setting the goal? What would you be doing more or less of if you reached your goal?  For instance, using the weight loss goal as an example, perhaps it’s:
  • walking up the foyer steps without experiencing knee pain, or without being breathless
  • wearing my size 8 wardrobe
  • throwing the football with my son for one hour without needing breaks
After all, you want to know when you’ve met your goal.  Consider creating goals for each quarter of the year, and then break them down into monthly and weekly goals.  Then, daily strategies.
5. Do Whatever You Want – Yes, really! When you begin to develop strategies to meet your goals, don’t forget who you are!  We often think that changing habits needs to be arduous and painful.  Not so!  Choose strategies that fit with your personality and likes.  For instance, if you’re  highly organized and love routine and structure, a work-out in the gym at a set time each day might fit.  A creative or brainiac?  Not so much.  In these cases, try walking park trails with your camera in tote, or listening to interesting scientific or business podcasts as you work out. There is no one, right method.

6. Elicit Support – It’s no surprise that having someone on your team helps you in breaking bad habits and instilling healthy habits. First, telling someone that you are making a change says “I’m serious!”.  Second, enlisting support helps you to hold yourself steadfast when you feel like giving up.  Having supportive “cheerleaders” helps hold you accountable, helps boost motivation, and helps you to hold your vision when you’d rather quit.  There are many means of support.  Of course, most ideal is to find a few supportive friends or family members.  Be careful, however, that they:
  1. Know you well
  2. Can “lean in” and support, without “leaning on” and controlling you
  3. Can remain objective and not just tell you what you want to hear, thus letting you off the hook too easily
Should none of your friends or family members fit the bill, or even if they do, consider external means of support, like hiring a life or health coach who can remain objective and hold your best interest in mind at all times.  Other avenues of support include self-help change websites.
7. Set Yourself Up for Success – This strategy dove-tails all of the aforementioned material in this article.  One of the most effective strategies is to start with the easiest change first, and then build on this success.  Think about it.  What brings us down faster than perceived failure?  Start with a goal you feel pretty confident that you can manage.  For instance, perhaps healthy eating or exercise has been difficult in your quests to lose weight in the past.  Then try daily strategies like “drink 64 ounces of water” or “eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables” until you master them, and then move on to the more challenging tasks.  Babies don’t learn to walk because of their failures.  If they did, they’d never learn to walk. They build on the steps that they’ve successfully taken. Take some baby steps first, and build on these successes to help pull you forward.

8. Manage Your Environment – Environmental controls go a long way towards busting unhealthy habits and developing great ones. Temptations arise when that which you are trying to avoid is immediately available.  Yes, you can go to the store for ice cream or cigarettes, but chances are much greater that you will dig to that Haagen-Das in or puff away at those Marlboros if you have these items within arm’s reach.  Not keeping the cornerstones of your vices at your disposal bides you time when you’re tempted.  Identify ways you can change your environment to discourage your old habit, and support your new one.

9.  Automate – Employ the power of technology when possible, or establish routines that support your new habit.  For instance, if you’re trying to save money, divert a percentage of your paycheck to an IRA or savings account through direct deposit.  If using technology isn’t an option or doesn’t make sense, automate your daily habits.  For instance, if you’ve decided that taking a daily vitamin is an important habit this new year, set your vitamin bottle beside your coffee cups or water dispenser each day in order to remind you.  Set an alarm.  Use an app. Think about your habit, and determine what you can systematize to increase the chances of follow-through.  Cook healthy meals on Sundays and place into single-serving containers for meals throughout the week.  Cut up fruits and veggies weekly for evening snacking. You get the idea.  Automate for success.

10. Reward…Often – We often mistakenly see our end result as our sole reward, and we fail to set meaningful, regular rewards for ourselves along the way.  One of the hallmarks of an effective change strategy is to reward–early and often.  Seeing success early increases motivation.  Always keep a carrot dangled in front of you to edge you forward.  Be certain to make rewards relevant, enjoyable, but not the behavior you’re changing.  For instance, don’t indulge in a day of desserts after losing five pounds.  Instead, reap the benefits of your success, by buying yourself a new skirt or accessory to match an outfit you have your eye on to purchase once you’ve met your weight loss goal.

11. Make an Investment– In yourself, yes.  But also, a financial investment.  When things are free, they lose their perceived value.  When you’ve got no skin in the game, you can always do it later, right?  Spending some money on yourself, and also investing time and effort, raises the stakes.  You want a good return on your investment. So you work harder.  This could be as simple as spending some money on a quality gym membership, supplements, a health or life coach, or constructing a good old winner-takes-all contest with family members, friends or co-workers.  Fresh out of ideas for how to invest? Here’s a website that allows you to donate to your favorite charity as you master pre-established hurdles, or conversely, to donate to a charity you abhor if you fail to reach your goal (while research suggests that reward is more effective than punishment, experience tells me that goals are usually achieved through a combination of both – on the one side lies something we want; and on the other, something we really don’t want.  These both together push us toward our goal).
12.  Find Healthy Alternatives – While you’re busy changing behaviors, try to determine how your old habits served you.  Most will say, “They didn’t!”  While that can definitely be true, there might very well be something in it we think serves us.  We don’t repeat habits that don’t help us in some way, even if the word “Help” is used loosely.  Habits may provide comfort, companionship, excitement, distraction, or be ways of indirectly communicating needs and feelings.  De-coding why you have been doing something remains extremely important so that you can replace that habit with an alternative healthy strategy.  Determining the function of bad habits, and pinpointing obstacles for creating new habits is sometimes tricky.  Consider asking someone you trust if they can help you develop some insight.  If it’s a deeply-ingrained habit, consider hiring a professionally-trained counselor, therapist or coach to help you figure it out so that you can put it behind you, once and for all.  Without such insight, you’re bound to repeat the pattern.
13. Take a Breather – Build short breaks into your master plan.  We can do almost anything for short periods, but when we think about doing just about any behavior for a lifetime, we’re bound to stop short of our goal. Limit action strategies to specific time frames or periods.  For instance, if your goal is to “organize my home”, then set aside 30 minutes five days per week to organize a drawer, cabinet or closet.  When that time is up, stop.  If you’re looking at more of a lifestyle change, discard all-or-none thinking about it, and enjoy a moderate break. Have a sweet treat (outside of your home) once every two weeks.  Or, if you have more will power, stick to a firm plan for 4 to 6 weeks, and then take a week off.  Be certain that during your “off” time, that you don’t undo all of the progress that you’ve made. Make the goal to maintain or sustain, tread water, so to speak, instead of indulge and backslide.

14. Get Cozy with Your Emotions – This strategy sounds unfitting, right?  Well, emotional intelligence–getting acquainted and comfortable with your emotions, both difficult and pleasant ones–remains key to success in all areas of life.  Often, we participate in a bad habit because of poor self-esteem, faulty thinking or in an effort to resist feeling challenging emotions.  It’s not life’s events that we so fear.  It’s the emotions that accompany the life event that we work most to avoid.  Learning to label, tolerate, communicate and let go of emotions is a skill we can all learn and benefit from.

15. Get Back on the Wagon – We all fall off.  Because our human nature is to be “perfectly imperfect”, be rest assured that, you too, will fall.  But you won’t fail.  Take each mistake as an opportunity to assess the obstacles, so that you can use them to refine your plan.  Take each slip-up as an opportunity to be curious about yourself, and use what you learn to get back on track.  You may have taken an ineffective path at a “Y” in the road (i.e. your “slip-up”).  Now, consider yourself at a second “Y”.  You can either:
  • beat yourself up endlessly, which will likely result in further ineffective action, or;
  • choose an effective path by taking the opportunity to learn, refine, and recharge
The good news?  Just making a New Year’s resolution increases the likelihood of success:   Research supports that people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions. Perhaps author and motivational speaker Steve Maraboli said it best when he said:
 “Renew, release, let go. Yesterday’s gone. There’s nothing you can do to bring it back. You can’t “should’ve” done something. You can only DO something. Renew yourself. Release that attachment. Today is a new day!”
It is a new day.  In fact, it’s a new year. Stop “shoulding” on yourself. Instead, take the reigns.  Hold firmly. Till and cultivate. Manifest your life’s vision  in 2015.

Healthy and active ageing

Healthy and active ageing

Being healthy, physically active and socially engaged throughout your life has many benefits, especially as you grow older.
Some simple tips to help you to achieve healthy and active ageing include:
  • maintain a balanced diet. This is important for a healthy body and healthy brain
  • do regular physical activity. This is essential for your body and mind. Regular physical activity builds muscle and helps to control weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, pain, as well as bone and joint problems such as osteoporosis and arthritis. It can also reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, some cancers, and help prevent falls and injury
  • actively participate socially and engage with others. This contributes to your overall health and wellbeing by strengthening your sense of belonging and creating social relationships.

How do I maintain a balanced diet?

To maintain a balanced diet, you should try to eat a variety of foods from different groups. This means trying to eat:
  • fruit and vegetables – two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables every day
  • foods such as bread, cereal, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods, preferably wholegrain or wholemeal
  • milk and dairy foods – use low fat milk and yoghurt and hard cheeses
  • meat, fish, eggs, beans such as broadbeans, soybeans and lentils and other non-dairy sources of protein
  • fish – at least two portions a week, including one portion of oily fish such as trout, salmon and sardines
  • smaller amounts of food and drink that are high in fat or sugar.
It is also essential to drink lots of water and other fluids in order to keep the body hydrated.
Visit the Australian Government’s healthdirect website for more information about eating healthily, or browse the eatforhealth website.

What types of physical activity should I do?

It is important to remain active as you age. For active ageing you should try to do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most, preferably all, days to help keep your heart, lungs, muscles and bones working well. It’s a good idea to do a range of activities that help with fitness, strength, flexibility and balance.
For more ideas, download a copy of the Choose Health Be Active brochure from the Department of Health website.

What types of social activities should I do?

Joining a local group or taking part in regular social activities with family, friends and neighbours is a good way to keep involved and connected with the community.
There are also social support services that can help you to maintain an active social life by having someone visit you in your home, or by arranging visits and outings in the community.

Can I still enjoy alcohol?

Alcohol affects each individual in a different way, so there is no amount of alcohol that can be said to be safe for everyone. Always drink alcohol in moderation.
If you choose to drink you should be aware that there is always some risk to your health and social wellbeing associated with drinking. To minimise this risk you should:
  • consult your doctor if you are taking certain medications (either prescription or over the counter), or have any physical or mental health problems that could be made worse by drinking alcohol. It may be especially important for older people to note that alcohol can affect your balance
  • drink no more than two standard drinks on any day.

Can I smoke?

There is no healthy level of smoking, it harms people of all ages. Scientific evidence shows that if you smoke you face much higher risks of death and or illness from many different cancers, heart disease, stroke, atherosclerosis, emphysema and other respiratory diseases, pregnancy complications and many more conditions. Those who smoke are also less physically fit and have more breathing problems.
Quitting at any age has benefits, with the largest reduction in risk in those who quit the earliest.