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Is Your Kitchen the Key to Healthy Living?

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Is Your Kitchen the Key to Healthy LivingNutrition in the modern world has become increasingly elusive. Even with the rising trend of personal health awareness over the last few years, choosing nutritious meals on a consistent basis remains and ongoing challenge for millions of people, many of whom still choose speed and convenience over health. As of 2013, over 25% of Americans consume fast food every day. So what's the value of not choosing fast food, and does a home-cooked meal really make that much of a difference to your health?

Analyzing Home Meals vs. Dining Out

To compare the benefits of eating at home to dining out, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future analyzed data from the 2007-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey which contained more than 9,000 participants aged 20 and older. In the survey, participants were asked what they usually ate during a 24-hour period as well as their fast food eating habits of the last 30 days.

Results showed that 8% cooked dinner only once a week. This group consumed—on a daily average—2,301 total calories, 84 grams of fat, and 135 grams of sugar. Forty-eight percent cooked dinner six-to-seven times a week, consuming 2,164 calories, 81 grams of fat, and 119 grams of sugar on an average day. Other results from the study showed that those who prepared meals at home more regularly relied on frozen foods less and were unlikely to choose fast foods on the occasions when they did eat out.

"When people cook most of their meals at home, they consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar, and less fat than those who cook less or not at all—even if they are not trying to lose weight," says Julia A. Wolfson, MPP, a CLF-Lerner Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and lead author of the study.

The Culture of Dining Out and Making Holidays Healthy

Although studies show eating in is can be healthier there are certain times a year, mainly holidays, when there are concerns about eating at home. One of the main holidays for eating in—which is almost upon us—is Thanksgiving. However, there's still the concern of overeating at family gatherings. Keeping your holidays healthy can be simple with a few easy steps. If you know you are going to have a major meal like Thanksgiving dinner and you want to limit your intake, be sure to eat a decent breakfast. Often, people try and "save room" for Thanksgiving or other holiday meals, which can easily lead to overeating.

Here are some other quick tips for making this Thanksgiving holiday season a healthy one:

  • Use fat-free chicken broth to baste the turkey and make gravy.
  • Use sugar substitutes in place of sugar and/or fruit purees instead of oil in baked goods.
  • Reduce oil and butter wherever you can.
  • Try plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream in creamy dips, mashed potatoes, and casseroles.

Let Home Be Where the Health Is

It can be easy to fall into the habit of eating out or buying prepared meals in our on-the-go society. But studies have shown that home-cooked meals can allow you to exercise greater control over your daily intake of calories, fats, carbohydrates, and sugar. The more you're able to control your daily diet, the better you'll feel and the easier it can be to make healthy decisions. Be your own healthy personal chef throughout this holiday season.

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Changing the Food Landscape: The Current State of the Non-GMO Movement

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Changing the Food Landscape: The Current State of the Non-GMO MovementWhat's in your food and where it comes from has been a continuing topic of debate in recent years. As we covered a few weeks ago, nutrition labels can be an important part of creating a healthy lifestyle, yet many people still don't take advantage of them. Federal rules and regulations, as well as a conscious push by society towards healthier living, have opened up the doors for changes in what goes into your foods—or in this case, what doesn't go into them.

Genetically modified organisms, better known as GMOs, have become a lightning rod of debate in food production and manufacturing over the last few years. On the positive side, however, these discussions have raised awareness about the need for greater transparency and understanding in food labeling.

Understanding the Benefits of Non-GMOs

The tug of war between non-GMO proponents and GMO backers mirrors that of a political debate. Those who support GMOs say there is nothing harmful or unhealthy about using them in foods. Those on the non-GMO side claim that more natural, organic foods and diets are better for society as a whole, and that proper regulations are lacking.

Because of the rise in personal health awareness over the past decade, consumers and regulatory agencies alike have called for clearer identification of GMO and non-GMO foods, especially the labeling of non-GMO products. The Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization that has worked both publicly and behind the scenes with manufacturers and retailers, has made much progress in educating consumers, raising awareness, and making the verified Non-GMO seal a modern staple on healthy foods a reality. The Non-GMO seal now apperas on over 25,000 products produced by over 2,000 companies and it is making an obvious impact on consumers: Total sales of Non-GMO Project verified products have reached over $8 billion.

Still Work to Be Done

While greater health awareness has emboldened organizations and educated consumers on the ingredients and additives in their foods, there are, however, some facets that lessen the impact and potential scope that the non-GMO movement is trying to accomplish.

Funding, as with anything on a large scale, is important to the progress of a cause; especially one that may cross paths with large corporations. While businesses and companies do pay attention to consumer behavior, at the end of the day their bottom line and fiscal projections are what matter to them the most. Studies and tests required to help purport the health benefits of non-GMO foods are also very expensive. Experts have stated that the lack of scientific evidence, along with the pro-GMO community outspending the non-GMO side 10:1, have affected the outcome of label laws in certain states where these referendums were put to vote. However, the referendums for the non-GMO side were only barely defeated, despite the contrast in spending, which shows that there is public interest in more accurate food labeling laws.

Continuing the Slow, Steady Push for Health Awareness

True power for instigating change lies within the hand of consumers, not with lawmakers or those attached to corporate entities. Many feel part of the problem is the mixed messages and heated debates that take away from the goal the non-GMO side is trying to accomplish, turning it into a political issue instead of a health one. As the public becomes more educated about what is in their food, how it was made, and where it came from, this will lead to you having a greater say in what goes into your body.

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Easily Accessible Mediterranean Diet Can Impact Your Health

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Easily Accessible Mediterranean Diet Can Impact Your HealthMetabolic syndrome is defined in the medical community as having three or more risk-related factors that can contribute to a variety of heart and blood sugar concerns. Some risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high glucose levels. Due to many elements such as a lack of exercise, poor diet, and genetics it is estimated that as many as 34% of adults in the US may have metabolic syndrome. However, what if there was a particular diet that could reverse the progression of these risk factors? A recent study in Spain sought to find the answer.

A Dive Into the Mediterranean

Prior studies on the Mediterranean diet have confirmed its positive benefits to cholesterol health and blood pressure, but researchers wanted to see how great an impact this diet could have on people already at risk with metabolic syndrome. The team of researchers analyzed adults, both men and women, ages 55–80 who were at risk for cardiovascular concerns. A total of 64% of the adults assessed for the study qualified as having metabolic syndrome. The subjects were then put onto one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, or a regular low-fat diet.

Following up after almost five years, the results showed that the patients who adhered to both types of Mediterranean diets saw a decrease in blood glucose levels as well as abdominal obesity. A total of 28.2% of the men and women who followed the Mediterranean diets also no longer met the criteria to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome at the end of the study period.

Add the Olive Oil and the Legumes

The Mediterranean diet eschews butters, trans fats, saturated fats, and unhealthy oils in favor of olive oils, omega fatty acids, and unsaturated fats. As one would expect, it also centers around a reduction in meat intake, replacing it with seafood—especially fish that are high in omegas such as salmon and tuna—at least twice a week. However, poultry, eggs, and dairy can also be consumed for meat and protein requirements. The Mediterranean diet also covers other nutrition groups by calling for high fruit and vegetable consumption.

For some people, the tricky part of the Mediterranean diet is getting the good fat content. Luckily, you can satisfy this part in a variety of ways. Apart from olive oil there are a number of foods that provide good fats including avocados, whole grains, nuts, and other various legumes.

An Easier Path Than You Think

Some may think that switching to a Mediterranean diet means having to use exotic ingredients for their meals that are both expensive and restrictive. Many of the foods required to follow this diet, however, are readily available in your grocery store—all you need to do is make a few crucial, yet simple, substitutions which will allow you to enjoy many tasty, healthy meals. And because there are actually many foods containing the good fats and nutrients required, the Mediterranean allows for plenty of variety and experimentation. Evidence continues to mount about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, so while many can get sucked into fad and crash diets, the Mediterranean diet can be a nutritious and fulfilling option out there to help support not only a healthy heart, but greater well-being.

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Finding Healthy Facts in Nutrition Labels as a Guide to Better Living

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Finding Healthy Facts in Nutrition Labels as a Guide to Better LivingSince the late 1800s the government has set standards which regulate how companies and industries can claim or market what is in their food products, paving the way for modern nutrition labels. Nutrition labels continually go through changes and updates as our knowledge about certain foods, ingredients, and what it means to be healthy evolves. These labels are designed to be a guideline so that you know the true health value of the foods you consume. But in spite of the availability of this information, do people actually read them?

A Study in Purchase Habits

To investigate how often people really look at nutritional labels, researchers at the University of Minnesota took 203 volunteers and gauged what information they looked at when making a food purchase. The test involved a computer-based-shopping program where participants were shown 64 different items—including products such as cereal, soup, crackers, cookies, and ice cream—posing the question of whether or not they would buy the item. Synced with the computer program was an eye-tracking device that monitored what the shopper was viewing, tracking up to 1,000 eye movements per second. Once the buying task portion of the study was done, participants were then asked to fill out a questionnaire about their usual real-world grocery shoppping and buying habits.

What the Numbers Really Say

What researchers discovered was that there was a big difference between consumers' viewing habits and what they self-purported in the questionnaire. Thirty-three percent of participants stated that they "almost always" look at product's calorie count, 31% said they looked at total fat content, 24% looked at sugar content, and 26% claimed they paid attention to serving size. However, the eye-tracking data showed that only 9% of people looked at calorie count for almost all items—while only 1% of the participants looked at each of the other components, including fat, trans fat, sugar, and serving size.

Authors of the study say that the biggest problem with food labels is their confusing nature and sometimes concealed placement on certain boxes and packaging.

"In the simulated shopping setting, participants could see Nutrition Facts labels without having to turn, rotate, or otherwise manipulate a food package. In contrast, Nutrition Facts labels on food packages tend to be in locations that cannot be seen by consumers looking at the front of a package (e.g., when viewing a shelf of items in a grocery store)," the authors wrote.

Monitoring Serving Size to Avoid Overeating

Many people desire a road map to better health, not realizing that every box, container, or bag of packaged food already provides insight into what you are eating, allowing you to monitor what your body is getting each day and align it with your daily needs. One of the main things people often misunderstand is what serving size means when it comes to individual food items. Serving sizes are determined by the FDA and USDA to provide an average calorie count of certain food items. However, many people don't take into account the serving sizes of snacks or foods such as cereal, crackers, or candy bars, which can lead to the consumption of excess calories.

Recognizing What to Avoid and What to Focus On

Another point to note is the fat content of food. Nutrition labels separate the fat content by total fat, trans fat, and saturated fat. If you are focusing on a heart-healthy diet, watching for foods that are both low in saturated and trans fat content is crucial.

Salt and sugar are other ingredients that warrant attention. Salt is associated with heart health; in particular, blood pressure. Balancing out your salt intake with nutrients such as potassium can help keep your blood pressure levels within healthy ranges. Sugar, in the form of high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners, can be a source of "empty calories", which are calories that provide little or no added nutritional value, so be on the lookout for these, too.

Giving the Label a Look

Nutrition labels are often misunderstood and underused resources for better nutrition. Utilizing the nutritional information that is already available to you can help you develop healthier eating habits day in and day out. Along with following daily exercise recommendations and supplementing your diet when needed, you can start seeing the results you always wanted.

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What Is in That Energy Drink and Is It Worth the Trade-Off?

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What Is in That Energy Drink and Is It Worth the Trade-Off?Despite national health movements encouraging people to lead healthier lifestyles, consumption of energy drinks continues to rise. According to data compiled by Bloomberg last year, energy drink sales increased nearly 7%, reaching $9.2 billion by the end of 2013. From office workers to athletes, people are consuming energy beverages for a variety of reasons. But are they really that helpful?

Measuring Effective Performance

A recent study on energy drinks carried out by experts from Camilo José Cela University (UCJC) sought to analyze the positive and negative effects they may have on athletes. In the study, top athletes who participated in various sports including soccer, climbing, swimming, basketball, rugby, tennis, and hockey were given the equivalent of three cans of energy drink or a placebo energy drink before their competitions. Their performance was then measured with GPS devices which tracked their average speed and distance covered. Other devices were used to track muscle usage in certain sports. Results of the study showed a minimal 3%-7% percent increase in total performance for those who had taken the energy drinks. However the results were not all positive.

An Unhealthy Trade-Off

While an increase in performance was noted, it was not without a cost. Athletes that took the energy drinks before their competitions also experienced an increased frequency of insomnia, along with nervousness and an inability to calm down after their activities. The placebo group did not show the same signs or frequency of any negative side-effects such as nervousness, anxiety, or insomnia as those who were given the energy drinks.

Other studies done on the short-term physical effects of energy drink consumption showed alterations in short-term heart function. Researchers took cardiac MRIs of 15 healthy men and three healthy women with an average age of 27.5 years before and one hour after they consumed an energy drink containing 400 mg/100 ml taurine and 32mg/100 ml caffeine. Comparing MRI images, researchers discovered that there was increased strain on the left ventricle in the "after" images.

While more research about the long-term effects of energy drinks on the heart and body in general is needed, study author Dr. Jonas Dörner from the University of Bonn, Germany, commented that it was clear that energy drinks can affect short-term heart function.

Choosing a Path to Healthy Energy

While public scrutiny often falls on the soft drink beverage industry, the ingredients in energy drinks do not vastly differ. Some energy drinks contain up to three times the amount of caffeine as a normal cup of coffee. As recently as 2013, a group of 18 doctors jointly urged the FDA to restrict the amount of caffeine companies were allowed to put into energy drinks as reported in the NY Times.

When looking for a healthy source of energy—whether it's for exercise or help you endure the work day—it's important to be aware of how these sources can affect your body. Instead of constantly turning to caffeine or sugar-filled foods or beverages, choose foods high in fiber or proteins such as eggs, nuts (including trail mix), and whole-grain cereal for longer, more sustained energy. When it comes to beverages stay hydrated with plain old H2O. Water helps transport nutrients through the blood and can support the efficient removal of waste that can build up and lead to fatigue during exercise.

For the healthy, long-lasting energy your body needs, be sure to choose the right fuel. Proper nutrition and hydration can provide the right daily balance to help keep your energy levels where you need them all day long.

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Why Knowing Your BMI can be the Beginning of Better Health

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Why Knowing Your BMI can be the Beginning of Better HealthBecause every person's body shape can vary in size, proportion, and weight distribution, having a particular set of measurements to calculate your ideal weight in relationship to your height can be helpful in assessing the current state of your overall health. The body mass index measurement, or BMI, can give you a specific idea of what your target weight should be. However, figuring out your BMI is only the beginning. Integrating the proper nutrition and exercise into your lifestyle - in manageable, realistic steps can help you reach your target BMI index and achieve the greater health you desire.

Your BMI and Its Importance

Your body weight is tied to many areas of overall well-being. From blood sugar to blood pressure to overall heart health—and even the internal pressure of your organs and other systems—weight is one of the single most important aspects of assessing how healthy you are. This is why the BMI can be a great tool. This formula can help determine whether your body type and size is putting you at a higher risk for serious health problems and allows you to pinpoint specific areas you need to target to set you on the path to better health.

To determine your BMI number, start with your weight (in pounds) divided by your height (in inches) squared, and multiply by 703. Once you get your BMI number you can look at the unhealthy and healthy ranges. For adults age 20 or older, if your BMI is 30 or higher, you are considered obese. BMI measurements 25-29 and beyond are categorized as "overweight", while numbers from 18.5 to 24.9 are considered "normal" weight. Anything less than 18.5 is considered to be "underweight", which also can put you at risk.

A Realistic View of Health

While it's always sensible to maintain a healthy weight for lifestyle reasons, fad diets and unattainable body images have led many astray in the process of attempting to lose weight. Health starts from within. Not everyone can or should want to look like models in TV commercials or magazines. With that in mind, knowing your BMI number and what your ideal range should be can help you set realistic goals when it comes to weight loss.

However, in addition to knowing your BMI number, you should also know what it doesn't take into account. BMI doesn't factor in age and gender, or differences between fat and muscle mass, Athletes or those with more muscles mass may have a higher BMI, but are not necessarily unhealthy. In the same respect, age and gender can skew your BMI reading. According to the CDC, women tend to have more body fat than men, on average. Also, as you get older your body tends to store more fat.

Another important factor to consider, therefore, is waist circumference. Abdominal fat has been linked to heart concerns and higher blood pressure. For women, a high waist circumference can mean anything above 35 inches, and for men, anything above 40 inches. Because each individual is different, including genetic history, nutrition, physical activity, and body type, your area of focus might not always be the same as another.

Smaller Steps to Greater Health

When targeting your ideal BMI, experts say your initial weight loss goal should be losing 10% of your total weight. It's also important to set a realistic target date; you're not going to change your lifestyle or general health in one week or even one month. True and lasting change takes time and repetition. Introducing the appropriate amount of calories into your daily diet will take trial and error. Experts suggest it can be helpful to start by eliminating one unhealthy meal or food item from your diet a time instead of trying to totally change your diet at once.

Checking with your physician to know your limits as far as physical activity is concerned is important, as is maintaining consistency. Again, smaller steps can help ease you into the lifestyle change you desire. Trying to not be inactive can be easier than trying to immediately go from not exercising to trying to exercise five days a week. Walking three times a week or small forms of aerobic exercise a few times a week is a good starting point on the road to greater well-being.

Information Equals Better Decisions

People are motivated and driven by different things when it comes to health. For some of them it's realizing that they can't perform a physical activity as easily as they once could; others see something on TV that speaks to them in a way that hits home. No matter where your motivation comes from, it's important to get all the information you can before you set out and try and enact your healthy change.

Start by seeking the proper expert advice and using the tools that are available to you—such as BMI, blood pressure, and waist circumference measurements. There are also a number of technological applications that can help you track your weight, remind you to exercise, or figure out how to properly structure your diet. All of these can be valuable resources when it comes to making the small changes that lead to a world of difference.

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Going Beyond the Numbers: Learn How You Can Support Good Cholesterol

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Going Beyond the Numbers: Learn How You Can Support Good CholesterolCholesterol has been a major focus of daily health for many years, especially when it comes to the heart. For a long time doctors and experts focused on a certain set of numbers based on LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels to assess heart health. But recent studies have shown that cholesterol management is more than just a numbers game.

A Change in Approach

Almost everyone who watches their cholesterol knows there are two different types: LDL, otherwise known as "bad cholesterol", and HDL, known as the "good cholesterol". According to the Mayo Clinic, acceptable ranges for LDL cholesterol consist of anything below 70 mg/dl while anything between 130 mg/dl and 159 mg/dl is borderline high. For the good HDL, the higher the number the better. Healthy ranges consist of anything between 40 mg/dl up to 60 mg/dl.

A recent report released by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, however, gave updated insight into how other potential risk factors—not just cholesterol numbers—play a role in determining your cholesterol health. Cholesterol numbers by themselves sometimes don't always tell the full tale as the same numerical values can bear different meanings for different people.

In order to give a more accurate evaluation, doctors and health experts looked at other factors such as genetics, age, physical activity levels, diet, and blood sugar levels to assess what type of daily support an individual may need. Any one of these factors can raise your risk of heart concerns, which is why it's important not to focus on a single aspect, but rather the big picture of your well-being.

Ways You Can Influence Your Cholesterol Numbers

There are several controllable factors that you can engage in to support not just your cholesterol number readings, but other aspects that go into your health. Diet, for instance, can play a crucial role. Studies have shown that legumes can positively influence your cholesterol numbers. Foods like beans, nuts, peas, and lentils can cut cholesterol by 5%, which, in turn, can cut your risk factors for other heart health concerns by 5%, making a world of difference.

There are also supplementation options for a more natural approach to supporting cholesterol. The clinically tested Bergamot fruit continues to show promise for cholesterol health as well as balancing blood sugar levels. Other ingredients such as folic acid, omega-3 fish oil, and flaxseed have also shown the ability to provide positive daily support when it comes to managing cholesterol.

Depending on your personal variables, exercise is another often-cited factor in influencing cholesterol health. You don't have to dedicate yourself to workouts to see a difference, but adding 30–40 minutes of moderate-intensity workouts three-to-four times a week can support healthy cholesterol and blood pressure ranges according to the American Heart Association.

Other lifestyle components include resisting more obvious bad habits such as smoking and drinking too much alcohol, as well as not monitoring stress levels as they can impact blood pressure and your overall heart health.

It's More Than Just About the Numbers

While many people measure their cholesterol strictly by the numbers, there's much more to it than figures on a piece of paper. Your overall lifestyle—depending on how healthy or unhealthy it is—indirectly affects your heart. However, no matter your age, weight, gender, or family history, it's never too late to enact positive changes starting today that can bear great health rewards tomorrow.

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A Joint Effort: Tips to Help Influence Healthy Joints

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A Joint Effort: Tips to Help Influence Healthy JointsThe importance of supporting healthy joints throughout your lifetime is no secret. Many factors—from exercise to diet to lifestyle—are discussed at length when it comes to how and why you should take care of the joints that are tied so intricately to your overall well-being. But the fact remains that many people still suffer from joint stiffness and discomfort. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as of 2012 nearly 52 million people are diagnosed as having a common type of joint concern. While natural wear and tear on your joints and muscles occurs throughout your life, taking some minute daily precautions can be the difference between ultimately helping or hurting the health of your joints.

To Stretch or Not to Stretch?

It's hard on your body to expect your joints and muscles to go from zero to fully exercising, but in the same respect stretching cold joints, muscles, and tendons is not good either. Even if you're not about to exercise you should stretch daily, or at least three times a week, to maintain joint flexibility. However, warming up before doing some dynamic stretches to keep your joints, ligaments, and tendons loose is necessary.

Warming up literally means raising your body temperature a little before stretching and exercising. Jogging in place, rotating your arms, or even moving your body around can help you warm up to properly stretch and allow you to protect your joints from injury when you eventually engage in physical activity.

Low-Impact Exercise Still Has an Impact

As you get older, joint discomfort may mentally deter you from being physically active. While everyone's limitations change as they get older, it's important to know that even if you have joint concerns there are low-impact exercises that can cater to your capabilities and still allow you to get the exercise your body needs.

Walking, cycling, and swimming are some of the main types of low-impact exercises. Different types of sports can be jarring on your joints, but these simple ways of moving about without the high impact of your joints stomping the ground can provide a good cardiovascular workout while giving your joints the movement they need to stay in shape.

Other Helpful Tips for Keeping Joints Healthy

Sometimes joint health isn't just about focusing on your joints. Light exercises for muscles around crucial joints can actually help strengthen the joints themselves. Research has shown that having weaker thigh muscles can increase the risk of joint concerns. In addition to the muscles around your joints, make sure to workout your core. Having a strong core, midsection, and back can help you have better balance and a fuller range of motion, allowing you to put less pressure on joints.

Supplementation can also give your joints the well-rounded support they need. Ingredients like hyaluronic acid can help lubricate the joints to support mobility and flexibility while collagen, a main component of joints and skin, helps nourish cartilage to keep the connective tissues strong. MSM is another well-known ingredient for joint support as it supports tissue rejuvenation, nourishes cartilage, and is a major key for collagen production and overall joint support.

Understanding the Ins and Outs of Joints

To understand joint health is to know how the rest of your body is connected to movement. Just because you may experience joint discomfort, it should not be a reason to give up all hope for engaging in some type of consistent exercise. Of course, it is always important to know your limitations and be sure to check with your doctor before pushing your boundaries. Giving your joints the support they need is possible through both internal and external factors. Exercise, nutrition, and understanding how to best protect your joints can lead you to the healthy and active lifestyle you need.

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Knowing Your Daily Stressors and Taking Steps to Avoid Their Effects

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Knowing Your Daily Stressors and Taking Steps to Avoid Their EffectsStress and anxiety can come from a variety of places; whether it's deadline driven or due to life's sometimes overwhelming responsibilities. Everyone feels a little bit of anxiety and stress now and then, but when you are unable to properly deal with the daily anxieties of life they can build up and put excessive physical strain on your body. However, there are some simple techniques to dealing with the everyday stressors that can help you relax in the moment in order to keep your body from feeling the residual effects that stress can cause.

Concentrating on a Constant: Breathing

Breathing is an essential, unconscious process needed to sustain life. There are, however, many techniques which can help you control your rate of breathing. Whenever people feel stress or anxiety they naturally tend to breathe faster, which is part of the ingrained fight or flight response. By focusing on your breathing and taking slow, methodical breaths to avoid shallow breaths, you can slow your physical reaction to stress. One method is to produce long, deep breaths holding it, and then slowly exhaling over a few seconds. This type of deep breathing can reduce the effect those waves of anxiety can have on the body.

The Human Connection

Sometimes, relaxation is easier with company. Human beings are social creatures and throughout our lives we create deep, meaningful bonds with others. These connections to the people you love and care for can also be useful in reducing anxiety or stress when you're feeling frustrated. A positive word of encouragement from someone you love, or even a pat on the back or hug, can do wonders for your mood. Stress can make you tense and reserved, making you reluctant to open up and share your feelings. But having someone to talk to, or even just rant with, can relieve stress almost immediately. The power of the human connection should never be underutilized.

Moving to Stay Ahead of Stress

Whether you realize it or not, stress can also be a motivating factor that can be used to your advantage. This is aptly referred to as stimulation and engagement. When you feel bouts of anxiety or stress, you often feel as if you need to move around, which is why it's common to picture a person pacing back and forth when they're fretting on their problems. This idea can be used in a positive way if you engage in physical activity during instances of anxiety. Whether you work out, go for a walk, or even just dance around your room to a favorite song, you are naturally letting off steam and helping your body relieve the symptoms of anxiety.

Paying Attention to Your Stress Levels

Many people don't pay attention to stress and anxiety until it has a hold on them and sends their mood spiraling downward. Being aware of certain reactionary cues throughout your day such as changes to your voice, having sweaty palms, feeling burned out, or faster breathing can alert you to the fact that you may be dealing with unwanted anxiety.

Modern society is filled with things that can constantly make you stressed, from major nuisances (job, money, marriage, and relationships) to minor ones (traffic, cell phone service, and grocery shopping). By knowing what your trigger points are and being proactive in calming yourself through simple techniques, you can avoid stress before it takes hold and gain peace of mind, a healthier immune system, better focus, and more energy to concentrate on the things you love.

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The Triggers of Emotional Eating and What You Can Do

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The Triggers of Emotional Eating and What You Can DoBad day at work? Going through some issues in your personal life? Is your first response to grab the ice cream from the freezer or rip open that bag of chips and have at it? Human responses to stress can take various forms, many of them unhealthy. Whether it's anger, sadness, frustration, or stress that has infiltrated your daily life everyone needs to find an outlet to relieve the tension. Unfortunately, many people turn to food as their outlet. Binge eating or emotional eating can happen without you realizing how serious it can become. Understanding how to deal with powerful emotions, stress, and reactions can help you avoid the pitfalls of emotional eating so that you can resolve your issues in a healthier way.

What Induces Your Emotional Eating Response?

Sometimes the most important question to ask yourself is, "Why am I eating?" In the case of overeating, especially if it's emotional, pinpoint your triggers. These triggers can range from internal feelings to outside influences. Some people eat to fill a void; when they're bored, have no plans, and can't figure out what to do with their evening, they may eat as a way to pass the time. Others may be trying to fill an emotional void due to loneliness, anxiety, and stress. Sometimes the root of stress or anxiety can be connected to your thoughts on your body. Having a negative self-image can cause a cycle of destructive behaviors that includes finding solace in food.

Other triggers can be social, such as eating to fit in or being encouraged to eat by those around you. Physiological responses such as headaches or stomach aches due to skipping meals may also convince people that they need to eat more to curb their hunger.

Identifying your triggers and analyzing the issues in your life to find the problem can be the first step in pinpointing the question of "Why?" To help keep track of possible triggers, keep a food diary and write down what you ate, when you ate it, and what stressors, thoughts, or emotions you experienced while eating. Once you've spotted the pattern, address what you can do to change your lifestyle, stress factors, and other things that may be causing the reaction of overeating.

Spot the Pattern, Break the Cycle

For many, emotional eating can become a routine part of getting through situations. To break a cycle, no matter what it is, you have to change the pattern of repetition. Simple activities throughout your day, even if they only take up a small chunk of time, can alleviate the urge to use food as a coping response and finding a passion can go a long way to avoiding the static cycle of negativity. Going for a walk, exercising, reading, talking to a friend, or finding a hobby can replace the tendency to choose food as a means of filling up the emotional void in your life.

Taking Steps for a Healthier Future

Nutrition should always be a focus when it comes to your everyday diet. By focusing on healthy eating and learning about what your body needs you can help facilitate the lifestyle change you need. A recent study by USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and at Massachusetts General Hospital recently revealed how a low-calorie, high-fiber diet along with the right behavioral counseling can actually increase one's cravings for healthy foods and minimize those for unhealthy ones.

While everyone responds differently to triggers and their surroundings, there are ways of overcoming emotional overeating and turning your lifestyle around. If you or someone you know struggles with overeating or emotional eating, learn how you can help that person reverse their negative behavior and deal with their emotions in a healthier way.

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