A great post reinforcing my view on “fitspo” I wrote in an article last year.

Empowering Fitness

What isFitspo?

It’s a popular buzzword, short for Fitness Inspiration, and it’s used to inspire and motivate people to get fit and healthy. It usually involves photos of super fit, lean women, often accompanied by motivating words or phrases like “never give up” or “strong is the new skinny.” Sometimes Fitspo includes photos of fresh healthy food, green juices, or women doing awesome yoga poses in beautiful places. There are tons of blogs devoted to finding, making, and sharing fitspiration. It’s kind of like Thinspiration‘s healthier and happier big sister. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with thinspiration, it’s typically glamorized photos of dangerously thin girls, often passed around as willpower motivation for anorexics. It is a whole new level of horror for those of us in the body-acceptance business.)

So what’s my problem? Fitspo sounds like a great way to motivate the unhealthy masses to…

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Feta watermelon saladjpg

It seems like an odd combination, but this salad is surprisingly delicious.

Ingredients:

2 cups cubed watermelon

2 tbsp chopped fresh mint

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 tsp olive oil

1/4 cup crumbled feta

fresh black pepper

Directions:

Combine all ingredients together in a bowl. That’s it! Serves 4.

Nutrition (per serving or 1/4 of the recipe):

  • Calories: 70
  • Carbs: 6.7 g
  • Protein: 1.8 g
  • Fat: 4.5 g
  • Fibre: 0 g

change3By Shirley Ley, Certified Canadian Counselor

Success in staying physically fit and eating healthier all starts with how “ready” you are!

Have you ever wondered how some people are able to set exercise and nutrition goals, carry through with them, and achieve them successfully? You may have thought to yourself, “What’s their secret? What do they know that I don’t?”

The truth is, there is no secret.  You may have all of the right information and tools you need to obtain your exercise and nutrition goals. You may have even consulted with a trusted nutritionist or fitness trainer.

But even with the exact prescription for diet and weight loss, I can say with some confidence that you still won’t be able to make those very important lifestyle changes, unless you have one thing  – READINESS.

Said plainly, you may not be ready to make the changes that you need for a healthier you.  If I asked you if you were ready to start exercising or eating healthier your answer won’t be as black and white as “yes I’m ready” or “no I’m not ready”.  In fact, your answer will lie somewhere along a continuum.

And that continuum is what researchers call the stages of change.  To increase your chances of successfully reaching your exercise and nutrition goals, you will need to find out which of the five stages you’re in.  Each stage requires different strategies, tools, and action steps that help you move you closer to your health goals.

Research has shown that people who are successful in reaching their goal of making positive behavioral changes, like adding exercise to their daily routines, cycle through the five stages of change.

Have I piqued your interest? Find out which stage you’re in and what you should do to move yourself to the next stage of change below:

1. Precontemplation

-You have no intention exercising or eating healthier, deny you have a problem with your health, or resist change.

*What to do: Learn more about exercise and eating healthily, think about the pros of changing, and feel the emotions about the effects of unhealthy behaviors.

2. Contemplation

-You start to seriously think about solving your health problems like inactivity or eating unhealthily.

*What to do: Think about the kind of person you would be if you changed your unhealthy lifestyle and learn more from the people who behave in healthy ways.  Reduce the cons of changing your unhealthy habits.

3. Preparation

-You are making plans to change your current lifestyle within the next month.  This stage is extremely important.  People who cut this stage short will lower their chance of successfully achieving their health goals.

*What to do: You’ll need to develop a firm, detailed plan for action to carry you through.  Find support from people that you trust.

4. Action

-You make the move that you’ve been preparing for (eg., start exercising and eating healthily).  This stage requires the commitment of time and energy.  Others might start noticing and complimenting on the gains that you’ve made.

*What to do: Substitute activities relating to unhealthy behavior with positive ones, reward yourself for any positive changes you’ve made, and avoid people or situations that may tempt you to behave in unhealthy ways.

5. Maintenance

-This is where you maintain the gains you’ve made in the action stage to avoid going back to your old routine. This stage is a long and ongoing one. It’s not uncommon for someone to lose many pounds on a diet and exercise plan, only to regain them all in a few months.

*What to do: Seek support from people you trust, spend time with people who behave in healthy ways, and find effective ways of coping rather than turn to unhealthy behavior (eg., forgo your diet plan or skip exercise).

Bottom line is this: You’ll set yourself up for failure if you set up goals for yourself that you’re not ready for.  Similarly, if you choose goals that you’ve already achieved, then you you’ll lose steam and delay your progress.  BUT if you match your goals to your stage of change, then you’ll maximize your chances of successfully reaching your exercise or nutrition goals.

Meet the Author:

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Shirley Ley is a Canadian Certified Counsellor, a people enthusiast and an aspiring legacy maker. She thrives off of engaging, meaningful, and life changing conversations and is driven by her passion to enhance positive mental health wellness through one counselling session, one blog, and one workshop at a time.

You can learn more about Shirley and read her blog at: http://clearpointcounselling.com/

Reference: Prochaska, J.O., Norcross, J.C., Diclemente, C.C. (1994). Changing for Good. New York: Avon Books.

beet endive apple saladThis salad makes a refreshing side dish for a summer barbecue. Beets are high in fibre and folate, endives are rich in vitamin A and apples are a source of vitamin C.

Ingredients:

2 medium-sized beets, peeled and cut into matchsticks

1 medium apple, peeled, cored and cut into matchsticks

1 cup thinly sliced endive

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon honey

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Toss the vegetables together in a medium-sized bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat. Serves 4.

Nutrition (per serving, or 1/4 of the recipe):

  • Calories: 90
  • Carbs: 14 g
  • Protein: 1.2 g
  • Fat: 3.7 g
  • Fibre: 3.2 g
  • Folate: 22% DV

This is a post I recently wrote as a guest blogger for Clearpoint Counselling of Vancouver, B.C.

morning-exercise-3Regular physical activity has been repeatedly shown to be associated with improved emotional wellbeing.

Research shows that regular exercise is correlated with a reduced prevalence of anxiety disorders and that prescribed exercise can be an effective treatment for anxiety symptoms.

For example, in one Swedish study that followed participants for two years, those who participated in more than two hours of physical activity per week had fewer symptoms of anxiety than those who didn’t.

The physical activity in this study included aerobics, dancing, swimming, playing football and gardening.

How does exercise reduce anxiety?

It is unclear exactly how exercise reduces anxiety symptoms, however there is scientific evidence from both humans and animals that supports several theories:

  1. Exercise can affect your stress levels by altering stress-related hormones.
  2. Exercise can have the same effects as antidepressants. It can increase your serotonin levels which contributes to your feelings of well-being and happiness.
  3. Binding of beta-endorphins in the brain following exercise causes mood elevation, induces euphoria and reduces anxiety.
  4. Exercise may decrease a person’s sensitivity to anxiety through exposure to the physical symptoms they fear, such as increased heart rate.
  5. Exercise works as a distraction from negative thoughts, similar to meditation and quiet rest.

How much exercise is recommended?

According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, in order to achieve health benefits, adults aged 18-64 years should accumulate 150 minutes  (or 2 ½ hours) of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.

What type of exercise is best?

The best type of exercise is the activity that you enjoy the most.

If an activity is enjoyable, you will be more likely to stick with it. For some it could simply be taking the dog for a walk, and for others it could be joining a dance class, hiking or playing tennis.

How to start exercising and doing it safely

If you are new to exercise, it is recommended to first get the go-ahead from your doctor.  The Physical Activity Readiness Form (Par-q) will also give you an idea of whether or not you are ready to start exercising.

While exercising, it is beneficial to monitor your heart rate. This ensures that you are obtaining the most benefit from your exercise, while still staying within a safe intensity range. The recommended range for aerobic activity is between 60% and 85% of your maximum heart rate. If you are new to exercise, stay within bottom half of this range.

(You can calculate your target heart rate range here).

For example, the heart rate range for a 35 year-old would be between 111 and 157 beats per minute.

References:

Anderson, E. & Shivakumar, G. (2013). Effects of exercise and physical activity on anxiety. Frontiers in Psychiatry, doi:10.3389fpsyt.2013.00027.

DDHS. (2002). Physical Activity Fundamental to Preventing Disease. Washington: US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.

Jonsdottir, I.H., Rodjer, L., Hadzibarjramovic, E., Borgessen, M. & Ahlborg, G. (2010). A prospective study of leisure-time physical activity and mental health in Swedish health care workers and social insurance officers. Preventative Medicine, 51(5), 373-377.

Sarris, J., Moylan, S., Camfield, D.A., Pase, M.P., Mischoulon, D., Berk, M., Jacka, F.N., & Schweitzer, I. (2012). Complementary medicine, exercise, meditation, diet, and lifestyle modification for anxiety disorders: a review of current evidence. Evidence-Based Alternative and Complementary Medicine, doi:10.1155/2012/809653.

Zschuke, E., Gaudlitz, K., & Strohle, A. (2013). Exercise and physical activity in mental disorders: clinical and experimental evidence. Journal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, 46, 512-521.

roasted salmon with asparagusThis recipe is nutritious, easy and delicious–and it is ready is less than half an hour. Serve with a side of mashed sweet potatoes, whole grain bread or cooked grains for a complete meal.

Ingredients (for 2 servings):

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp grated lemon rind

2 tbsp minced red onion

1 tsp olive oil

1 tbsp drained capers

1 tsp fresh thyme

3/4 lb fresh salmon (enough for 2 servings)

1 lb asparagus (or one bunch), trimmed

1 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Whisk the first six ingredients together in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the asparagus in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn to coat. Place the salmon atop the asparagus and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until the salmon is just opaque in the centre, about 15-20 minutes. Cut the salmon into two pieces and top with sauce to serve.

Nutrition (per serving):

A note about farmed salmon nutrition: If you eat salmon for the omega-3’s, then be careful of buying farmed salmon. Because of their diet, wild salmon is high in omega-3 fats. If you choose to buy farmed salmon, try to find out what the salmon are fed. Often farmed salmon are fed corn and soy (which is cheap, but low in omega-3) and the salmon meat is therefore low in omega-3. However, some farms feed their fish fish meal and fish oil such as this farm: http://www.creativesalmon.com/, which results in a salmon that is high in omega-3.

  • Calories: 378
  • Carbs: 10 g
  • Protein: 39 g
  • Fat: 20 g
  • Fibre: 5 g

Vitamin A (12% DV), B1 (57% DV) B2 (72% DV), B3 (98% DV), B6 (123% DV), B12 (225% DV), Folate (41% DV), Iron (44% DV), Magnesium (20% DV), Phosphorus (65% DV), Potassium (28% DV), Zinc (15 % DV)

DV= Recommended Daily Value

Photo credit: http://www.apeekatparadise.com/

If you ever hear someone say “I don’t have time to exercise. I have too much work to do!”, tell them that along with its many other benefits, exercise can actually improve your performance at work and school.

In fact, research shows that exercise can increase your learning, focus, memory, creativity and cognitive performance. In this video Wendy Suzuki, a faculty member in the Center for Neural Science at New York University, discusses her research on exercise and the brain.

Kale saladIf you have never tried raw kale, then here is your chance! I borrowed this recipe from Chef John on foodwishes.com, which might be my new favourite recipe site (check it out; you won’t be disappointed).

Salad ingredients:

1 head green kale, washed and chopped
1 persimmon, sliced
1 apple, sliced thin
2 seedless oranges, cut into segments (aka supremes)
1/4 cup chopped almonds

Dressing ingredients:

1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp orange zest
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp orange juice
2 tbsp rice vinegar (or white wine, apple cider, or sherry vinegar)
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Place the kale, fruit and almonds in a large bowl. Shake the dressing ingredients in a jar, or whisk together in a small bowl. Toss the salad with the dressing. Serves 4.

Nutrition (per serving or 1/4 of the recipe):

  • Calories: 234
  • Carbs: 25 g
  • Protein: 5 g
  • Fat: 14 g
  • Fibre: 5 g
  • Vitamin C: 250% DV
  • Iron: 14% DV
  • Calcium: 17% DV
  • Vitamin A: 86% DV

SONY DSCWhen deciding to make positive changes in your diet and health, you don’t need to do a complete overhaul. In fact, changing too much at once can be overwhelming and cause you to be more likely to give up. Instead, try making one simple change in your diet per week. Here are a few examples of very easy changes that can make a big impact on your health:

  1. Swap out a sugary snack for an apple. This change will add 4 g of fibre to your day and 14% of your daily intake of vitamin C.
  2. Cook brown rice instead of white. Brown rice contains 4 times the fibre and much higher levels of vitamins and minerals than white rice.
  3. Instead of a muffin for a snack, try a serving of yogurt. This will add  30% of your daily intake of calcium and save you at least 200 calories.
  4. Switch potato chips for hard pretzels. Pretzels are salty and crunchy, but 50 g of pretzels contains 190 calories and 2 grams of fat, compared to 275 calories and 18 grams of fat in potato chips.

2013-02-12 14.07.20This is a very easy bar to make. There is no baking, barely any prep time and only four ingredients. For those of you with food allergies, they are gluten-, dairy-, and egg-free. For more flavours, check out this awesome blog (from where I adapted this recipe). Makes 6 bars.

Ingredients:

1 cup dried, unsweetened pineapple

Warm water for soaking

1 cup cashews (I used blanched almonds)

1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1 tsp lemon zest

Directions:

Soak the pineapple in warm water for 5-10 minutes. Drain. Add all ingredients (except water) to a food processor and process until the mixture sticks together (about 60 seconds). Press the mixture evenly into a loaf pan. Chill for 10 minutes then cut into 6 bars. These can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Nutrition (per 1 bar):

  • Calories: 223
  • Carbs: 25 g
  • Protein: 4.5 g
  • Fat: 13 g
  • Fibre: 2 g